Thursday, August 13, 2009

Held for Ransom in Japan

Bing Has Made Friends in Japan

Bing has made new friends in Japan, but they want to keep him there. In fact, they have threatened to hold him for ransom unless his American friends and family do two things:

1. Answer questions about Japan/Nippon culture and cuisine.

2. Donate money to help his mother pay the plane fare for his trip.

It's tempting for a young man to stay in Japan, because so far he has found the food to be awesome and the shopping (even in vending machines) to be, let's say, "unique." In fact, the Japanese students think that if he stays long enough he could use his ninja powers to be Emperor someday. I don't think that this would be a good thing for world peace, as Bing has not worked out his "Megalomania" issues and bad things could happen.

So, here are the questions that they want you to answer:

1. In a Japanese restaurant which serves "family style" what is the polite way to move the food from your platter to the plate when dining with close friends?

a. Using your fingers after washing them in the finger bowl.
b. Using a scoop.
c. Using the back end of your chopsticks.
d. Using the front, sharp end of your chopsticks.

2. In a Japanese restaurant, how long are you going to wait for service from your server?

a. No wait. The server will be at your table immediately.
b. Five minutes, as the custom is to allow the patrons to settle before ordering.
c. No wait if you tip the host/hostess before seating.
d. Until you shout "Sumimasen!" moderately loud. Don't wait all night.

3. What is the customary tip for a meal in Japan?

a. Silly American. Don't tip!
b. 15% - it's the same everywhere.
c. A flat 500 yen, no matter the bill for the meal.
d. 25% - everything is more expensive in Japan.

4. The code of bushido of the Japanese samurai is most similar to:

a. Belief in reincarnation and karma by Hindus
b. Practice of chivalry by European Knights
c. Teachings of Jainism in India
d. The Theory of Natural Rights by the Enlightemnent philosophers

5. The name “Japan” is an exonym. Exonyms are place-names not used in the native language nor by the native people. The endonyms for Japan are “Nippon” (formal) or “Nihon” (informal.) The origin of the word “Japan” is traced back to Portuguese sailors who adapted it from the language of:
a. Vietnam
b. Korea
c. Malaysia
d. Hawai'i

6. A valid generalization about early Japanese culture is that Japan:
a. Had a strong influence on the culture of Korea
b. Spread Shinto throughout Asia
c. Maintained a unique culture while borrowing from other cultures
d. Imported nearly all of its cultural heritage from China, resulting in nearly identical cultures

7. The proper way to answer the telephone in Japan is "Moshi, moshi!" What does it mean?

a. I am not a fox so you know you didn't call the zoo.
b. "Say, say!"
c. "Hello! Hello!"
d. "Ring! Ring!"

8. Who was the first sitting U.S. President to visit Japan?

a. Gerald Ford.
b. Teddy Roosevelt.
c. Woodrow Wilson.
d. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

9. What is the largest of the islands that make up Japan?

a. Hokkaido
b. Kyushi
c. Honshu
d. Shikoku

10. What is the game that Japanese children play called "Kancho?"

a. They try to stick their fingers up your butt.
b. Nothing so gross. It's just "tag."
c. "Speed" haiku. The Japanese value teaching their kids literature.
d. Pin the tail on the monkey.

11. According to Nihonjinron, the Japanese are unique because:
a. They are taller on average than other Asians.
b. They evolved separately, from a superior genus of monkeys.
c. Earthquakes and volcanoes made them more resilient to natural disasters than other people.
d. They know how to train sea jellies.

12. What sandwich dressing/ingredient for salad dressing do the Japanese treat as if it was a meal in itself?

a. Vinegar.
b. Ketchup.
c. Mayonnaise.
d. Teriyake Sauce.

13. What percentage of the landscape of Japan is suitable for human habitation?

a. 18
b. 23
c. 10
d. 35

14. The world's longest underground rail tunnel links Hokkaido to Honshu. How long is it?

a. 54 km
b. 33 km
c. 104 km
d. 86 km

15. In World War 1, the Japanese:

a. Joined the Axis.
b. Joined the Allies.
c. Maintained a strict neutrality.
d. Considered it a European War.

Please provide your response in the comments. Once the donations have reached the ransom price, the answers will be published.

Thanks for playing!

Monday, August 10, 2009


When I first got here to Japan I was really excited to take the bullet train. The trains move as fast as a speeding bullet, so fast that superman would have trouble keeping up with it. In terms of comfort and service compared to an airplane, it wins in comfort because there was much more leg room and better cushions, but it looses in service because the trolley guy does not speak English. Uncle Tom said that the bullet trains are never late but ours was 15 minuets late and it might not sound like much, but when a train goes that fast, it should have no reason to run late. What did it do, forget to set the alarm clock?

As an American, the thing that astounded me was that the temples were shrouded in nature. They all had a peaceful and quiet atmosphere. The temples all had something that made them special, the
Kinkakuji (Golden temple) was, well gold. The Kongobuji temple had the largest stone garden in all of Japan. The Kiyomizu temple was very big, had many large buildings, a place to drink holy water, and a (insert a Berry White voice over here) Love stone (end of voice). While they all had their own main attractions, the all had one major thing in common, a money box. They have them everywhere at the temples. They use them as ways to trick you into giving money as tribute to the gods of as a spiritual blessing.
Shrines are the little buildings inside temples where you pray your face off. They usually have a statue that people put food under, at one of them I saw an watermelon! Do you know how expensive they
are in Japan? About 100 dollars! I'm not a spiritual kind of guy, but I can understand the religious importance of these temples.
One good thing about when I went to the temples is that I went in the middle of the week so we bypassed the BIG crowds, but even so, the place was still crowded. There where people from all different countries like France, Germany, China, and the good ol' United States. While the languages were different, the thoughts were the same, "This place is beautiful!".

Saturday, August 1, 2009

An afternoon out in Japan

On one of my first days in Japan, I visited a popular shopping area called Osu Kannon. It was filled with touches of both traditional culture as well as Japanese pop culture. Gajillions of electronic stores. There was a store that we went in to that had all sorts of cameras and computers up front, but in the back room there was a ton of cool little robots. They could walk, talk, and karate kick. Some of them had remotes that you could control them with, others had cameras and talked to you (in Japanese, of course).

Above yet another electronics shop was a magical guitar store. I was shocked at how many unique guitars and bass guitars it had.

At the back of the guitar store was the most amazing drum set that had ever graced my vision. I gleamed with the holy light that Neil Pert gets any time he even thinks of drums. There were only 2 bad things about this sacred place: there was only one guitar that customers could play, and we were limited to only two minutes per person. The other is that I didn't have nearly enough money to buy a guitar.

Many of the clothing stores we passed sold shirts and other articles of clothing with really weird English on them. They said things like "Gentleness in the world to you DELIVERY," and there was a ape mannequin with a shirt that said something very explicit that I can't repeat here.

The whole area was filled with bizarre art

and other unforgettable images.

One of the last things we did was go to a shrine that was used in the Tom Selleck movie Mr. Baseball. I cleansed my hands there in the same place he did. What makes this one special was that it was the first shrine I had ever been to in my life.