Posts Tagged ‘salaryman’

Infiltrating Insurers

Posted 14 Apr 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Only in Japan, Tokyo, Work

Every day during lunchtime my office is infiltrated by the dreaded life insurance saleswomen. Their job is to hang around the entrance saying “Konnichiwa” as the hordes scuttle out to pick over their slimy katsudons and fetid bentos. These saleswomen also leave flyers on all the desks, together with a little packet of tissues (you can never have enough tissues). The flyers are usually of the innocuous “Oi! You got life insurance, punk?” variety, but today’s was something special.

This life insurer was new to the game. For some reason she was compelled to fill her flyers with information about herself, including her date of birth, hometown, hobbies (snowboarding!) and – I shit you not – blood type.

Bizarrely, most Japanese people know what their blood type is: they employ it in a creepy Nazi eugenics kind of way to determine a person’s personality. It’s a bit like star signs, only more ‘scientific’, you see? In other words, it’s total and utter bollocks. But just you try telling someone that. Go on, try it.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make here is why on earth would I want to know her personal details? Is she looking for a husband as well as a big commission? I was both disturbed and confused in equal measure.

Office Life in Tokyo

Posted 03 Feb 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Only in Japan, Tokyo, Work

I’ve spent three years working in the same office, sat at the same desk, seeing the same salarymen day-in, day-out. I still don’t know who everyone is (four hundred people = a lot of names), but I have managed to come up with plenty of nicknames for the most peculiar individuals:

Man Child
This fellow has the head and voice of a man, but the body of a child. His head is absolutely massive: the fact that his neck can support it defies all the laws of physics. He also spends far too long in the toilet, rustling the tissue paper a little bit too vigorously.

The Womble
A sixty-something mumbler with all the speed and grace of a sloth. He has no internal monologue and spends considerable time saying ‘unnnn, sou ka’ (‘ahh, I see’) to inanimate objects. His job is to… well, to be quite honest, I have no idea what his job is. He spends much of the day wandering between floors with a small bag, occasionally picking bits of dust of the floor.

Named after Family Guy’s evil toddler, pint-sized Stewie seems far too small to be at work; he should still be at infant school! He sits at his big boys’ desk all day, his little legs dangling off the chair, issuing commands down the phone like Napoleon’s younger brother.

Bill Gates
Nothing much to say about this chap, apart from that he is the spitting image of Bill Gates (if Bill Gates was Japanese).

The Fifth Beatle
Long straggly hair, enormous Bose headphones and a ‘God you’re so unfair, I hate you!’ teenage pout. He also seems to be something of a hypochondriac, and spends a good portion of his day gargling antiseptic mouthwash in front of the bathroom mirror.

The Weasel
A fifty-year-old silver-haired weasel who is terrified of his computer. Every time he sits in front of it his face contorts into a picture of abject horror, as if he’s watching a streaming video of an Al-Qaida hostage being beheaded. Perhaps someone told him that if you click the mouse buttons too hard the whole internet breaks, so he’s being extra careful.

Do you remember Danger Mouse? (If you don’t, go here.) This guy is the spitting image of Penfold, right down to the glasses and hair (or lack of). The only thing missing is the occasional ‘Cripes, DM!’.

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Posted 24 Nov 2009 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Entertainment, Photography, Shopping in Japan, Tokyo

Gimme some skin!

Japan, like any other country, has an abundant supply of products for the follically challenged male. Do you find yourself weeping in the shower at the sight of your beloved hair flowing down the plughole? Have you been desperately trying to glue your pubes to your head with Pritt Stick? If you answered “Yes! My God man, yes!” to either of these then you might want give the following options a whirl:

Spray-on hair
Essentially a can of hair-coloured spray that dyes your scalp and thickens your remaining strands, thereby miraculously giving the appearance of more hair. The biggest downside to this one is that a bout of exercise will leave trails of brown-coloured sweat soaking into your shirt collar. Plus you also need a fair amount of hair remaining, otherwise you run the risk of people mistaking your head for a conker.

Hair restoring lotion
This miracle of modern science usually comes in a special applicator-head bottle thingy (ie, you massage your head with end bit). Apparently, it treats the root cause of the problem (ho ho!) by encouraging hair follicles to grow. Too much application can, however, lead to a rather sore scalp and the unfortunate office nickname of “Cherry Head”.

Fake hair
This is my favourite, purely because the TV adverts have people with enormously long bits of fake hair stuck to their foreheads, arms, and other entirely random places. They spend much of the advert yanking at it while pulling an “Oooh look, it’s soo strong!” expression at the camera. In short, great for bungee jumping fanatics.

Glue-on wigs
Live in a wind tunnel? Watch a lot of tennis? Then you, my slap-headed friend, need a glue-on wig. This is for the man who has lost enough up top to justify physically sticking a Yorkshire terrier-sized hairpiece to his dome. I, for one, would like to see what this particular option looks like after a day of 30-degree heat and 100% humidity.

The hair transplant
If it’s good enough for Mel Gibson then it’s good enough for the common man. Quite expensive, though, and a poor job can leave you with a strange pattern where the hair was implanted. In some circles this option has earned the nickname “The Chucky”, for obvious reasons.

The barcode
Some men will forego the above options and sweep the last remaining tendrils of hair over the top of the head in a, err, sweeping motion. This look has been falling out of favour in recent years, probably because women are sick of spending their weekends with a wispy-haired pillock:

I believe in miracles

As for me? Well, when the time comes to shave-it or save-it I’m going to stick with creosote and Kiwi shoe polish.

A Gaijin’s Guide to Japan

Posted 19 May 2009 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Books, Entertainment, News, Tokyo

For many English-speaking folks looking to spend a few years in Japan two of the most popular routes are the JET programme and the eikaiwa. Both offer sprightly young university graduates the opportunity to immerse themselves in Japanese culture, learn a new language and get wasted on a regular basis. You could also put your mind to writing a book about Japan an’ that, which is exactly what Ben Stevens did and, look, here it is:


Rather than go for your chapter-by-chapter insight into various aspects of life in Japan, Ben’s opted for an A-to-Z of some of the more intriguing customs, people, places and things that westerners may have heard of, such as fugu, salarymen, the yakuza, and even the phenomenon that is/was Cameron Diaz (although I have to admit her shiny gob has been conspicuously absent from Softbank adverts recently).

For the entry on chikan we have a wonderful quote from economic pundit Kazuhide Uekusa, who was accused of molesting a schoolgirl on a train in 2006:

“My hand touched the student when the train rattled and I may have been misunderstood.”

Misunderstood indeed! What did he intend her to “understand”, exactly?

Anyway, A Gaijin’s Guide to Japan is a lively, entertaining read that remains good-natured when explaining obvious targets of frustration for the “The Problem With Japan Is…” crowd. You can get your mitts on it via Amazon or your local high street bookshop. Retail price: £7.99.

Business hotels

Posted 07 Oct 2007 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Osaka, Photography, Travel

For the busy salaryman, business hotels are a home-away-from-home. I had to spend the night in Osaka on Tuesday night for work, which provided me with an opportunity to experience one first-hand:

‘Cosy’ bedroom:

'Cosy' bedroom

‘Compact’ bathroom:

'Compact' bathroom

‘Stunning’ city views:

'Stunning' city view

The Train Warrior

Posted 01 Oct 2006 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Only in Japan, Tokyo, Travel, Work

Obaasan WarriorOn Wednesday I witnessed my first ever train fight, although it turned out to be somewhat different from how I imagined; which was something along the lines of two guys going at it using finely-tuned ju-jitsu techniques to defend the honour of their briefcases and ¥300 neckties. But anyway, allow me to indulge you…

As per usual Ayako and myself had managed to get a seat on the train (our station is the first stop, so it’s just a matter of waiting for the next train to arrive and then legging it on board to get a seat), and I was trying not to fall asleep. Ayako has to change trains a couple of stops before me, and after she and a few others disembarked all hell broke loose:

A middle aged woman had been patiently waiting to board the train and was first in line to get on, but!… behind her stood a complete tosser of a guy – no older than thirty, typical junior salaryman suit and demeanour – who was absolutely determined to get a seat, AT ANY COST.

Middle Aged Woman sensed the presence of a challenger as she boarded the train, and spied a free seat opposite my position. Junior Salaryman leapt onto the train, side-stepping Middle Aged Woman in an attempt to sit down first. Unfortunately both of them went for exactly the same seat, at the same time, which looked a lot like two highly competitive eight year olds playing musical chairs.

Middle Aged Woman had clearly had enough of dickheads pushing in front of her and, quick as a flash, stood up and elbowed the guy in the head. And when I say elbowed, I don’t mean in a “oh I’m so sorry” kind of way, this was a professional, advanced street fighting-style manouvre. Junior Salaryman looked, well, pretty shocked to say the least, but before he had a chance to say anything Middle Aged Woman decided to give him a few punches to the temple. Junior Salaryman’s legs flicked up in an attempt to shield himself from the blows, while all I could do was stare gormlessly at the two of them (well, what was I supposed to do?).

Eventually an older guy came and broke it up. Amazingly it was Middle Aged Woman who moved to a different carriage. Junior Salaryman, after rearranging his now deshevelled suit, pretended to sleep for the rest of the journey. I wanted to ask “how does it feel to be decked by a grandma?”, but my Japanese skills don’t stretch that far.

So, let that be a warning to you. When in Japan, DO NOT MESS WITH THE OLD WOMEN.