Saturday, February 24, 2007

Construction worker turned samurai?

Ever since coming to Tokyo almost three years ago, I've wanted to post a picture of the clothing that a typical construction worker wears. I've seen these uniforms in dark blue, medium blue, gray, and sometimes white.

I can't imagine how these "uniforms" can be practical or more important, safe! It seems to me that all that extra fabric would get caught in things, and the foot covering that is typically worn looks like soft-soled, high-topped slippers. In America, construction workers usually wear steel-toed boots, in case something heavy falls on their feet. I'm not sure, but I think the wide-legged pants are tucked into the shoes somehow.

Usually, I see the construction guys wearing bandanas wrapped tightly around their heads, and in the summer, the bandanas are usually replaced with towels. They wear matching jackets in the winter, and in the summer they wear sleeveless t-shirts or sweatshirts. Often their heads are either shaved or their hair is pulled back in ponytails. In a way, the outfit has somewhat of a samurai look to it. Maybe that's why it's so appealing to the young, tough-looking guys who wear them.

NOTE: By no means should anyone assume that construction workers in Japan look this hot !

UPDATE: It must be spring. I just saw a guy dressed in a lavender version of this outfit!

Parasite singles

According to Wikipedia:

Many young Japanese adults choose to live with their parents, rather than seek a separate residence, a phenomenon known as parasite singles (パラサイトシングル). A 1998 survey by the Ministry of Health and Welfare indicated that about 60% of single Japanese men and 80% of single women between the ages of 20 and 34 lived with their parents.

That survey was taken almost 10 years ago. I wonder if it's changed any since that time. With the cost of living in Tokyo, I can imagine that the numbers are even higher now.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Snow-less in Tokyo

"For the first time in 130 years, Tokyo has gone without snow. In what has been a very mild winter, retailers have been disappointed with the lull in sales for winter related goods."

This winter was a big disappointment for me as well because of the unusually warm temperatures. Many days in January were in the 50s and the month closed at 59 (15C) degrees. In mid-February, we got all the way up to 64 (18C).

We never even hit freezing at all this winter, and now spring is already here, or so it seems. Ume, or Japanese apricot, bloomed the first week of February, and the sakura, or cherry, blossoms will soon follow. My heavy winter coat never made it out of storage, and most of my sweaters and wool scarves have remained folded in a drawer. The previous two winters in Tokyo were bitter cold with ferocious wind.

While I'm not crazy about the cold, I'd prefer it any day over the hideous, sweltering heat that permeates this country for six months. I dread its return. Maybe it's my Irish genes, but I think cooler weather is much healthier.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Totally hysterical!

This is one of the funniest videos I've ever seen. It's a tongue-in-cheek version of how to eat at a sushi restaurant. It focuses on the Japanese view of preciseness, perfection and, most important, manners. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

I hope you get at least one taste of delicious chocolate today! Don't these chocolate-dipped strawberries make your mouth water?

For those of you uninitiated in the Japanese culture of Valentine's Day, this is the day that WOMEN give chocolates to men! Somehow, this Western tradition got, um, reinterpreted.

The custom did a backwards somersault. Men don't give chocolates until a month later, on March 14, called White Day. This is apparently the day when they reciprocate and give chocolates to the woman or women who gave them chocolates on Valentine's Day. In my twisted mind, I can't help wondering if the men just recycle their Valentine's Day chocolates. Japanese men, I hear, aren't known for being especially romantic, or even for remembering their wife's birthday, or their wedding anniversary.

According to Wikipedia, White Day started in 1965 when a marshmallow manufacturer thought men should reciprocate and give candy to women. It was originally called Marshmallow Day. You can probably understand why something called Marshmallow Day wasn't especially catchy.

So, in 1980 a chocolate maker decided that it would be a great marketing ploy to create White Day and make white chocolates for women. Since most women don't like white chocolate here (too sweet), the chocolate makers added dark chocolates to their holiday selections. It's still called White Day, but it's OK to give white or dark chocolates.

Puzzles of Daily Life in Tokyo

Here's a great video from Mediatinker. It will give you an idea of some of the things I've experienced since living in Tokyo. I never learned Japanese, except for sumimasen and arigatou, and a smattering of a few other short phrases. And, as much as I've tried, I also don't know kanji, katakana or hiragana, but somehow I've managed to stumble through my three years here. I'm hopeless when it comes to languages other than my own.