The Daily Bento

Live from Okinawa, Japan


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Posted by dailybento on January 26, 2011 at 12:29 AM Comments comments (0)

Look, it's time to get this peach back on track. I must be the poorest blogger in the history of blogging, but surely I can manage to squeeze something out at least once a week, right? I'm not that blog-constipated am I? Well, possibly.

Since we came back from our holiday up north, it's been so tough to get back into normal life. I MISS HOLIDAYS!!! Anyway, we are in our final stretch in Okinawa now. Only about 6 months left, and then we say goodbye. I'll try to stay on top of this blog stuff, but sadly not a lot to say right now. Boy, this website is a mess. How the hell do I clean this up? It's going to be a big job. Watch this space. Or not.

ダーリンは外国人 (My Darling is a Foreigner)

Posted by dailybento on March 30, 2010 at 2:14 AM Comments comments (1)

We recently saw this movie, based on a very popular manga by Saori Oguri, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's the true story of bridging the cultural boundaries between a Japanese woman, Saori, and her American boyfriend Tony. Other than the obvious relation my wife and I felt towards the characters, it was well written, well filmed, the characters were very realistic, and it portrays true elements of Japanese culture with purity. Although at times Tony looked all too angelic, and Saori seemed to be overly pedantic and easily upset I think this is simply how she sees herself (the author also being the main character she seems to look at Tony with real rose coloured glasses, and look at herself as almost unworthy of his company.) As far as the writing of the characters went, it was fairly good. I thought Saori was written (and acted) extremely well, but at times it looked like the character of Tony had clearly been written by the female protagonist. It made him a little pouty, over-intelligent and pretentious at times, but at times believablility shone through.


If you have any experience of living in Japan as a married (or single) foreigner, then I'm sure you can really relate to the instances when things seem so reasonable to one party, but so unfathomable to the other. It may not have such an impact on those who haven't lived in Japan, and it is clearly made for a Japanese audience, however it also has a very strong influence from Tony Lazslo, and looks like they have strived to make the movie (like the manga, no doubt) as universally acceptable as possible.


From the very begining you can see the absurdities of assumptions made by both parties, Japanese and foreign. Tony stops a man in the street, and asks for directions in perfect Japanese, the man responds by saying 'Sorry, I don't speak English.' From that point on I was moved for the entire movie and relating easily to his experiences. My wife also could relate to the things that frustrated Saori. Furthermore, thanks to small incerpts from other international couples of all races it really gives this movie a slightly wider view and makes it seem less introspective.


Obviously this is going to be no great blockbuster, but... yeh... liked it. If you are in a similar situation it's well worth your time, and even if you just have an interest in the colision of cultures that are so completely at odds at times then I'm sure you won't be dissapointed. I might try to pick up the DVD when it comes out actually.




Scary Bunny

Posted by dailybento on April 6, 2009 at 9:05 AM Comments comments (0)

It just is this weird over here. This video is from a new series called UsaVitch, and it ultimately stars a psychotic, hyper-aggressive rabbit who is in jail, and his apparently happless, room mate who is just trying to stay out of the firing line while the nutter bunny uses all manner of sadistic means to get well-deserved revenge on the wardens of the jail. The latter of which, who appear to be just a series of doors with eyes. I'm sure it's got deep metaphysical meaning, but it certainly defies description. Why not watch a couple of episodes?


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Japanese Darth Vader

Posted by dailybento on March 28, 2009 at 9:37 PM Comments comments (1)

This one keeps me entertained time and again!


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The World of Golden Eggs

Posted by dailybento on March 28, 2009 at 7:53 PM Comments comments (1)

In lieu of a decent introduction (which will be filled in soon) let me just say that this TV program is one of the funniest things that I have ever seen come out of Japan, and this episode is my favourite! Enjoy!


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And today's Japanese lesson:


"Kore, bura janakute, daikyoukenkyousei saporta dayo"

Translation: "This is not a bra, it's a supporter for my pectoral muscles."

Cat in a bag

Posted by dailybento on March 28, 2009 at 5:59 PM Comments comments (0)


Oh boy, this is too funny! At first the cat is in a bit of trouble, but then he is happy just cruising around the house with a bag on his head! One very bored cat! Shot in Japan, by the way.

Japanese Music

Posted by dailybento on March 28, 2009 at 1:15 AM Comments comments (0)

I've been a fan of Japanese music for quite some time, but one of my favourite artists is a sinder called Otsuka Ai. I first started to really like her when I was in Nagoya for a night. We went to karaoke at 8.30am on a freezing Nagoya morning because it was so cheap at that time of day, and a couple of the girls we were with sang a song by Otsuka Ai. The backdrop to the words, on the screen, was the real video clip to the song. It was just so bizarre and unusual that I started listening to her other music.


Here's the video clip, and I'm sure you'll agree that it's bizarre!


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 Sadly, I believe the voice singing in this video is NOT Otsuka Ai. I think the person who posted the video dubbed their voice over it, but it's almost close, and you can see what I'm meaning.

So far so good.

Posted by dailybento on March 25, 2009 at 8:39 AM Comments comments (0)

Ok, so the rumours prove to be unfounded so far, but it's only been a week so far with the new computer. Keep you posted. Anyway, after being prompted to do so I am attempting to make regular updates on my blog. Coming soon will be a bit about studying Japanese in Okinawa (probably applicable in most place) and hopefully a full feature article on WEINERS! That's right, how excited are you right now?!?


This weeks adventures include my trip to the Dentist today. Woah, that was fun. Guess what the news is... I have to go back about 10 MORE TIMES before the work is completed! No kidding! However, the dentists here tend to only do half a job each time, meaning you have to go back twice as often. But 10 more visits? That means about4 months of semi-regular visits to the dentist, oh I am not looking forward to that!


Today's visit included a check up, and an x-ray. A very bizarre x-ray. One that involves me sitting with a stick in my mouth and my forehead on a pad as this futuristic thing spins around me and scans for a brain. Apparently it was set up for Japanese sizes though, because the stupid thing hit my back and stopped working mid-spin. Then the dentists and nurses flooded the room trying to figure out how to get the stupid thing working again.


Oh, and my visit finished with a clean. I think one has to have very sadistic sensibilities to want to be a dental hygenist, because once the scratching, poking and scrubbing is finished, and once the nurse has poked that damn jet of supersonic water at all the areas that hurt most, I am spitting blood and pieces of brain! Oh well, next week the real work starts and I get the worst tooth opened up and cleaned out.


Oh, but all this work (to completion) will happen for the equivilent of about $400 total! That's like $1500 NZD worth back in the NZ of A!

Oh dear, PLEASE let the rumours be wrong!

Posted by dailybento on March 7, 2009 at 10:43 AM Comments comments (1)

Yup, after the hot Okinawan heat finally left my laptop as a sorry heap of plastic and circuitry I finally got around to ordering a new laptop. It is a laptop that fits my needs, fits my work bag, fits my vanities, and surprisingly enough, also fits my budget, however, it is also a laptop that has received a strew of complaints and criticisms. It's the Dell 1330, and has been criticised for, above all things, apparently regularly spitting it's graphics card, and burning out the mother board.

Oh boy I hope that's only the American models and not the Japanese ones also.

Anyway, so the point is, I could in a week or so be knocking out a blog on my brand new blue Dell, or at a Netcafe, leaving my own complaint on CNET.

Oh crap, I hope I haven't done the wrong thing. It's just so damn pretty!

Slippery roads, soggy students, sloppy civil servants

Posted by dailybento on March 5, 2009 at 9:35 PM Comments comments (0)

As the seasons roll on from one to another, we enter what is for many just another, and for some the first real, rainy season. It’s a time when students come into school looking like drowned rats and proceed to strip off all manner of clothing to leave it to dry across the back lockers. It’s a time when one is likely to hear the clumping of a dozen clumsy baseball students pounding up and down the school stairway because they can’t train outside. It means that you need your air conditioner on in your car to keep the windows demisted, until it’s been on so long that the windows start misting on the outside, and it’s a time that makes me ask the most perplexing question of all; In torrential rain, how does one get into the car with an umbrella? The only two options seem to be either open the door, get inside, then collapse the umbrella, but meaning that the door is open unprotected and I have to pass my wet umbrella over my lap. OR, open the door, close the umbrella, and dive into the car, umbrella first. Both methods have their advantages, and both have their drawbacks, but everyone here knows that a few seconds unprotected in Okinawa’s rain could mean the difference between being dry in the car, and being soaked to the underwear.



And talking about wet undies, don’t forget to adjust your following distance, and stopping distance according to the conditions. These roads are horrendously slippery, and from what I’ve been told it’s due to the amount of coral that they use in the road’s construction. This will also affect your speed. Please always adjust your speed to suit the conditions. This means that on a rainy day you may have to limit yourself to only 20 or 25 kilometers over the speed limit. And heavy rain also makes it incredibly dangerous to stop at red lights. Please keep that in mind next time you are hurtling towards an amber light. Stopping may in fact be the most dangerous thing to do.


Of course I say all these things in jest. I am not advocating the breaking of Japanese laws. As with all things sometimes it’s best to just go with the flow and do as others do, and at other times it’s best to drive safely and stick to the road rules.



Having only been here for about a year, I am yet to see a habu, or a jelly fish, or a rock fish, or even a decent sized spider, but I am starting to believe that the most dangerous animal is one I see every day. You can see them on the streets as they swoop and dive for their prey. They defy normal laws of gravity, and physics as they hurtle towards possible prey and stop on a dime. Of course I am talking about taxi drivers. Beware these steel reinforced harbingers of death. They have no fear of man or machine as they dart indiscriminately from one side of the road to the other to snaffle any unsuspecting victim and take them away. Sometimes it leaves me in awe, simply astonished at the extents they will go to and the lanes they will hurl themselves across in order to pick up a passenger. I think the most astonishing thing is that after the passenger sees them hurtle from one side of the road to the other, blind-siding and entire lane of traffic, the passenger still voluntarily gets into the car, which makes me think that this animal also displays some kind of power of hypnosis. Do not be fooled by this elegant display of automotive acrobatics, where they are about, danger is afoot.



And finally, I can’t finish this series without mentioning our ever diligent and hard-working Okinawan police force. Always poised with senses heightened and ready to strike at the slightest hint of someone going into an area of car park where they shouldn’t be, or speaking on their cell phone while driving. The truth is the most activity I have ever seen from the Japanese police was a few weeks ago when I saw a large police van and another police car, both with lights blazing, stopped at the side of the road. I then observed as 4 police officers stepped out of the vehicles and proceeded to encircle an abandoned scooter and start simultaneously scratching their heads and wondering what they will do with it. In all honesty if the streets were HALF as policed as the beaches are then Naha’s roads would be a completely different world! There’s my answer for all problems! Get the beach nazis patrolling roads! Everyone would have to drive nicely, and no horsing around, no one can drive outside of the allotted areas, and at 6.30 pm EVERYONE GO HOME!!!



Anyway, welcome to newcomers, and best wishes to all those going home. I hope you guys can readjust to a land where driving seems to make a scrap of sense. And as always, drive safely everyone.

Okinawan Zen Driving

Posted by dailybento on March 5, 2009 at 9:30 PM Comments comments (0)

If you refuse to feel the flame it cannot burn you.


If you refuse to accept the water it cannot drown you.


If you refuse to acknowledge the pain it cannot stumble you.


If you refuse to see the red light it cannot stop you.



Perhaps driving around Okinawa has reacquainted me with my spiritual side, because let me reassure you that on more that one occasion it has definitely brought me closer to god. Here are some of the moments when Zen Driving can be employed:



When stuck in one of those ridiculously tight little side-roads. It’s at times like this when the only possible solution to getting out seems to be levitation. However, the presence of being that is required when trying to lift an entire Toyota Corsa off the ground is so great that I normally have to resort to a 35-point turn.



One needs the patience of Buddha when trying to do ANYTHING involving the local driving authorities! For example, trying to get car insurance and having to go through a LABYRINTH of different little windows and doors before actually getting the damn thing, and then having to get another form of insurance before you can drive without JTEs worrying. Or when you want to get your Japanese license, and having gone through the many preparations you finally get to the licensing offices ONLY TO FIND THAT THEY ARE OPEN FROM 9am TO 11am MONDAY TO FRIDAY! (Easy James, hummm, chant, mantra, mantra, mantra, shanti, shanti, shanti)



You’re going to need the four faces and eight eyes of Chakramsamvara if you want to see all the scooters that seem to magically materialize out of nowhere, as if through some malevolent force. And maybe, with the help of the Lotus Sutra, you could receive instant enlightenment. That would help you to predict when the obaa in the car in front of you is going to stop completely unannounced.



And finally, the ability to go into a meditative trance is handy when driving around endlessly looking for a place to park your car. When you have procured yourself a tight little area between two little wheeled shoeboxes you are going to have to reincarnate into a habu or a gokiburi to squeeze yourself out of the car!



Oh, and on a more serious note, if you are just starting to try to learn kanji, like me, be careful how much time you spend trying to read road signs. I was up near Onna village a few weeks ago, and I was looking at an oncoming sign desperately trying to remember whether the kanji I was looking at meant left or right. Unfortunately I was paying so much attention to the sign that I nearly crashed into the barrier that the sign was trying to warn me about. Not very Zen, let me assure you, but I can now very quickly recognize the road signs that say, “Keep right”.



Drive safely everyone, and “Be water, my friend”

Driving in Okinawa: and update

Posted by dailybento on March 5, 2009 at 9:28 PM Comments comments (0)

Have the long hours sitting at your desk got you worn out?


Need to have a change of pace? Something completely original?


Well why not try the new craze that’s taking Okinawa by storm!


That’s right SLEEPING IN A CAR!


All you need is a warm day, a nice spot to park (like a car park, under a tree, or at the side of a busy road) and a work vehicle. It doesn’t matter who you are, this is available to anyone, be you a plumber, police officer, taxi driver, or ambulance driver, why not sleep in a car today!



I do more walking every day than driving, and that’s something that really jumped out at me; the amount of busy workers who one walks past sleeping in their cars.



Having now spent nearly 3 months driving here, I have become more accustomed to the Okinawan way of driving, but it is always a new experience every time I get in my car. For those living on the main island, maybe you are familiar with the 330. It’s a convenient way of navigating through the center of the main island, and it’s also a convenient and effective method of taking your life into your own hands. At rush hour that road can be like some mad, life threatening video game, dashing into the right lane to avoid someone who’s stopped unexpectedly, and then squeezing back into the left lane because someone has decided to turn. All the while, knowing that these maneuvers must be done while the car still has momentum, because should you actually end up stopped behind one of these cars then you are dead in the water! Because managing to get out from behind them is next to impossible.  



Sometimes it’s annoying and frustrating, but if you’re in the frame of mind to play the game it can be thrilling and exhilarating. And of course, if it’s ever too much for you, you could always just pull up on the curb (with hazard lights blinking of course) and have a little nana nap.



Drive safely everyone.

First Impressions: Driving in Okinawa

Posted by dailybento on March 2, 2009 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (0)
Well, thanks for all the well-informed advice that we’ve received recently about driving in Okinawa, but as far as I can tell, if there is such a thing as a Japanese road code, then Okinawan drivers have a very loose understanding of it. Maybe down here the road rules are considered inappropriate, or even antisocial, because Okinawan traffic appears to be a life-force unto itself. 
The traffic here seems to live as a slow, viscous animal which melts and flows around any obstacle that may be in the way, be it some tiny bubble of a vehicle that has decided to stop unannounced and go no further, or a shoe box with wheels that has given up waiting to turn and simply decided to drift into oncoming traffic.
On my first day in Okinawa my coworker showed remarkable powers with his “Hand of God Technique” wherein he simply held his hand out majestically when he wanted to turn, and slowly dissolved his way into traffic. This elegant automobile ballet was performed numerous times while I sat in the passenger seat, white at the knuckles, sweating at the brow, and with right foot planted firmly on the imaginary brake.
I’ve become far more comfortable with the roads now, and have even started driving myself, but I just wish the damn
roads had names!
Drive safely everyone.