Monday, December 17, 2007

It's begining to look a lot like Chistma... huh?

Christmas is just a few days away, and I am 100% hit with the X-mas bug.
The tree's up, of course. The daughter's presents are all wrapped and hid. The car is blaring Xmas Carols out of the speakers instead of the "Cars" soundtrack of recent past. I've either rented or purchased the mandatory Xmas movies, namely:

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
A Christmas Story
Miracle on 34th Street (the Natalie Wood version)
The Santa Clause
Santa Claus is Coming to Town (the late 60's stop animation)
Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer (ditto)
It's a Wonderful Life

And I've never actually seen It's a Wonderful Life, I figure it's about time.

And for A Christmas Story- It wasn't released in Japan (that I can find), anybody wanna help me do a Japanese fan sub so my wife can enjoy this wonderful jewel as well (next year)? I'll need a scribe for the English script (unless someone can find the original) and a couple of translators.

But anyway...

So here I am these days, bubbling over with the Xmas spirit. When one is in such a mood, where does one go?- That's right, to the mall!

So at the local mall, the family and I are looking around for more crap to buy this Xmas, not exactly this crap, courtesy of a local geisha, but other crap. It was then that I saw this:

Parents with there kids waiting in line for something around a huge Christmas tree.

Bob is thinking: Holy crackers! The local mall brought in a Santa!

Now imagine you're me... what would you do in this situation?

I bet you'd do what I did- wake the daughter up (whose been passed out since the car ride to the mall) "Hey guess what! Santa's here! You can sit on his lap and tell him what you want for Christmas!"

Turns out the Xmas spirit bubbling over in me made me forget where I live...

Here's what was on the other side of the tree:

(faces blocked out to protect the innocent)

Just goes to show that you can live in a foreign country for years, learn to speak a new language, work for a domestic company and other than your ethnicity, be able to live day to day completely assimilated. Then you have kids, and your true self comes through, giving you culture shock even though you should've seen it coming.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

2 more videos, then back to more regular blogging... I swear!

Part 1: Where she opens some videos, and you can hear me busting out the theme song to "My Neighbor Totoro". (Yes I still brake out into song at random times, there is no help for me)

Part 2 is shows her opening a huge radio controlled Lightning McQueen from the Pixar animation "Cars".

(In addition to Anpanman, she loves the movie, soundtrack and characters from Cars... go figure)

Back by popular demand

Here's a quick video of the daughter at dance practice.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Happy 3rd Birthday!

Yesterday the daughter turned 3! here's the video.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

M-I-C-K-E-Y, M-O-h my god you didn't just...

It was a beautiful day. The sun was out, it was a moderate temperature for early December, and we live less than an hour drive from Tokyo Disney Resort. Guess where I took the family.

I bet you guessed right, but I love tangents, and this story needs a little more set-up.

Now all grown up and with a family of my own, I sometimes regret watching the National Lampoon's Vacation movies over and over as a kid- looking back, I think something rubbed off... My top 5 "vacation happenings" are:

5. This story. (yeah, I know you're probably feeling let down already, "Only number five?", but please humor me as I stroll down memory lane...)

4. Going home for winter break from college and having my car break down on the Mass turnpike. (Yes this car-natsukashii deshou- only mine was missing the front grill and the side-view mirrors were usually duct-taped to the side)

3. Walking from Amherst to Boston on my "Musha shugyou" during Spring break (1st week of March that year) only to be confronted with a blizzard and having to "camp" in the woods along route 9 with a blue tarp and bungee cords to make a tent. (Stupid-but-Manly points for this one though)

2. Braking my collar-bone during a family vacation in high school, and toughing it out for 2days before going to the hospital towards the end of the vacation. (Stupid-but-Manly points for that one too)

1. Getting pulled over in a car whose registration had expired causing that car to be towed away and leaving me and my thoughtful friends trying to throw me a bachelor party stranded in front of a closed Stop-n-Shop for a few hours until some other thoughtful friends could come to pick us all up (grant it, not a 'vacation happening' per se, but a big enough mis-adventure to override any selection criteria). And even without the big bash that was planned, I still slept through my 8am final the next morning!

So in true Bob style, something has to go awry or it wouldn't be a true family outing. Now back to the other day.

So it's 9am, the kid's up, dressed in new clothes we bought a couple of weeks back to enter the GAP kid's model contest: (yes 100% GAP, and that in itself is funny if you know where I work!)

Jeans: 70 bucks, sweater jacket, 60 bucks, printed T-shirt 30 bucks. Needless to say, we don't go shopping there very often.

We all pile into the car and are off. To set the tone, I've got the stereo pump'n with all the classic Disney tunes-both the English and Japanese lyrics. Hi-ho, Hi-ho, Shigoto tanoshii.

We're about 10minutes from the exit for Tokyo Disney...
That's when I heard "the sound"...
The one that every parent learns within the first few days of being a parent...
I hadn't heard it for a while, but none the less I could recognize it just as the little mermaid was belting out something about how she wishes she could be 'part of my world'
If only Ariel knew... the kid just got car-sick and puked everywhere!
Byebye 70 dollar jeans, byebye 60 dollar sweater jacket and 30 dollar T-shirt.
Hello stains on automobile upholstery, and that wonderful scent of what daughters are made of: sugar, spice, and everything she ate for breakfast coming from the back seat!
So I did what I've always tried to do in a "vacation happening" moment:
1. Continue right along to the Disney parking lot while me and the wife try to calm the daughter down (while the wife is cleaning everything up- thanks again honey!).
2. Buy a new outfit at an exorbitant price at Disney.
3. Have a great time anyway!!

(At the gate)

(First roller-coaster)

(Mission accomplished)

And then drove home with the windows down the whole way home...followed by lots of fabreeze...

I KNOW I get Manly points for this one!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

We now return to your regularly scheduled program

The Angry guy from the last post is the Hamburger Kid, a character from the children's cartoon Anpanman.
Anyone with small children in Japan has seen this show at least once, the namesake main character pictured above. For some reason, and not brilliant sinister marketing (I was a Tobacco brand marketeer for 5 years- I've been on the lookout) Japanese kids go through an Anpanman stage, my daughter is no exception. The basic storyline of almost every episode is the same:

1. Baikinman (yes bacteria-baikin) starts some trouble.
2. Anpanman comes to the rescue, but his head gets wet, or dented, or dirty (which causes him to lose all of his power) from something that baikinman does.
3. Someone is sent off to get JamOjisan's help (consisting of baking Anpanman a new head)
4. Anpanman gets his new head and then polishes Baikinman off with his AnPunch! (after being hit, Baikinman always exclaims "BaiBai-kin"(yes a play on words of bye bye and baikin, oh how clever).
5. The world is now back in order again until the next 15min. episode.
(oh, yeah, I almost forgot the thing where he rips off parts of his face to give to people to eat(well he IS made of Anpan after all)

Since I know the majority of readers to this site are either single, aren't parents yet, or not high, here is a glorified edited version I found on Youtube that you should find at least palatable.

My first reaction to the show was indifference; just another kids show that becomes the black hole that sucks the money from your wallet faster than a night in Roppongi. They've got everything from DVD's (we own 5, have rented over 50), stuffed animals (yeah, got the whole collection), cups, towels, books, toothbrushes, pajamas, the list goes on and on in the Japanese tradition of taking a cute mascot and slapping it on absolutely everything ala hello kitty

But when the kid's into it, and with over 2,000 individual characters (which just happens to coincide with the number of Joyou Kanji characters, but I digress) to memorize, I've found myself being able to do more than just go-along; I've actually started to enjoy this dumb-ass show too...

So with all this merchandising, what's left? Why of course, to complete the formula one needs to have a theme park. And the Yokohama Anpanman Museum just opened this year and that's where I took the family last week.

I have to say it was a lot of fun, and only 1,000 yen admission. The shops are all located outside of the pay area so you can buy useless crap at your leisure. If you have a 2-4yr old and live anywhere near Yokohama definitely check it out. Some of the cool stuff they have:

Make your own DVD of you in an Anpanman episode (3,500 yen): yes we did it, it involved greenscreens and was cool, though now I have to watch it with the daughter almost every night. Great memorabilia though! I'd of course post it on Youtube so you all could laugh at me, but alas, it's copyright protected and I wouldn't want to break that right?

JamOjisan's bakery: Since a lot of the characters are made out of bread, how fitting they have a bakery outside of the museum. All of the pastries are shaped like the characters, are only 100 yen a pop, and actually taste good too.

Check out the HP at

One other reason to tolerate the show is with all the characters, you can always find one that reminds you of someone you know. Takers on who the guy on the left could be?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

We interrupt Bob's second post to bring you this important announcement

If you live in Japan, you've undoubtedly heard that starting last week, ALL non- Japanese need to be fingerprinted and photographed the next time they re-enter Japan.

This is a something that has been brewing for quite a few months, and any background I could give here is best explained at debito-san's site or a good write-up by the NY times on the subject. (And yes, I only gave you a general link to Arudo Debito's site, because it is worth reading everything on it if you haven't already)

My 2 Yen on the subject:
My reaction to this entire fiasco has been disappointment, not precisely anger,but getting there.

As everyone that knows me knows: I love being here: I have a great career here, a great family here, I love just about everything about living here day to day, and it's crap like this that turns those Great feeling into Shitty feelings:

no "Great" to "Good" to "So So" to "Hey, it's better than" to "I don't know about this" to "Damn this stinks" to "Shit".

Straight from "Great" to "Shit" (and you can quote me on that!)

Yes I know the US does something similar: my wife has to go through it every time we go back- but A. we don't live there, so she doesn't have a "visa" other than her passport, and B. I don't agree with that either but at least we can go through the same line.

It's things like this that make you wonder how to raise your child:

Do you do the activist- "this is all crap that mommy or daddy has to go through" speech every time they pass through the border, or do you just shrug it off in front of them so they get used to living in a world where when they go to one of their "home" countries, one of their parents will be treated as a criminal...

(Although my daughter's still so small, she'd probably want to do the fingerprinting thing with us just because it looked fun!)

Re-entry Japan's got a great start on at least something to do! There is also an online petition that you all should sign (yes, I've never heard of an online petition before either, and also semi-doubt its effectiveness- especially in Japan- just don't be the idiot that signs it anonymous) but at least if you're not happy also, you have something!

Oh and also get your T-shirt now! and fight the power!

Meanwhile, I have half a mind to simply just not leave the country for a while- they can't get me if I don't leave to have to come back, right? (I say to myself with tongue in cheek)

Back to more day to day cool- life things: the next post will be more about the above picture:

But trust me both he and I are not amused about fingerprints!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I ran until my veins pumped battery acid... then I ran some more...

Yes, it is Bob, back with a new blog.

Just got back from the Tsukuba marathon, where I ran the 10km race. Yes me, beer-belly-Bob runs. I even have the Nike+ module with my ipod and have logged over 100km so far (running off and on since this January)For not running for a while I think I did well- 1hr 7min 58secs net time including a pit-stop from eating too much leftover Thanksgiving turkey the night before...

The day itself seemed doomed from the start though. I woke up on time and drove to Tsukuba (apx 1hr away) leaving myself plenty of time to register. However traffic was backed up trying to get to the parking lot and not moving at all. The 10km race started at 10:20, but registration ended at 9am, and I was still still 2km away from the parking lot at 8:30. "My first actual race since gym class in high school and I'm going to miss registration and have to sit on the sidelines" I'm thinking to myself.

(for those of you that are just tuning into my life- I've never been a runner- I preferred a combination of Shaolin-kenpo, Kendo, and shooting guns- i.e. I've always tried to be the guy that DOESN'T NEED to run...)

Then for some reason I wonder if I will have to pay for parking and decide to get my wallet out since I don't have anything better to do.

That's when the day got worse...

Because my wallet was not in my pocket, it was sitting back at the apartment on the computer table. My wallet that has my driver's license in it (so I'm driving without a license), my wallet that has my money in it (so I'm TSOL if I want to buy a sports drink or something), my wallet that has my foreigner registration card in it (so if a cop stops me on a BS gaijin-check I can contribute to the "rising foreigner crime rate" by not carrying it, in addition to possibly getting arrested).

That's why it's great to be married: the bride had money, her driver's license so she could take over, she didn't have my registration card but I figured I'd chance it and everything was good again.

Except for that whole 30minutes until registration closes and stuck in traffic thing.

With the bride at the wheel, I decided to let her park the car and I took off (what else?) running to get to the race on time. Registered with 5minutes to spare.

All and all it was a good warm-up for the race and now have my first official time.

When is the next race you ask: February 3rd at the Ome marathon- next time 30km!!!