Fungus Mungus' Weird Stuff in Japan

A chronicle of general weirdness I've encountered during my stay in Japan.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Placing an Order on the Phone: a Study in Keigo Hell

As if Japanese grammar isn't hard enough, it's made even worse by the use of various politeness levels in speech. When you come to Japan with a bit of Japanese under your belt, you'd think you can order something on the phone. Don't be so sure. Enter Keigo.

Keigo is a super-polite level of speech that is used by salaried workers (salaryman) and shop owners throughout Japan. The theory behind keigo is that you speak to people based on your social position in relation to others. For example, if you are talking to your boss, you would use a humble form of speech when referring to yourself while using an honorific form when referring to him or her. Shop keepers always use a humble form of speech when addressing customers because customers are god to them. That's keigo in it's simplest form, though it can get much more complicated than that. The first time I encountered it, I was at a complete loss. It still throws me from time to time.

So I just got off the phone from ordering kerosene. The conversation went like this:

Fungus: Uh...I'd like to order some kerosene but...

Shop: I understand. Where is your honorable address?

Fungus:'s in New Town, uh...10-9., that's
wrong...New Town 10-9. God-Happiness Heights #202. Second floor.

Shop: So let me verify that. New Town 10-9, God Happiness
Heights #202, right?

Fungus: Yes, that's right.

Shop: Please forgive our rudeness for asking your honorable name...

Fungus: Fungus Mungus

Shop: How many honorable tanks?

Fungus: ? Oh! Um...2 containers

Shop: OK, will you be using cash?

Fungus: Yes.

Shop: OK, humble we will take care of it.

Fungus: Wait...umm...I won't be home until 7pm. Can you collect
payment after 7pm?

Shop: If you would please honorably wait a moment...

Fungus: ...

Shop: Please forgive my rudeness (for making you wait). Do you know
where our humble store exists?

Fungus: Yes.

Shop: Then if you would be so kind as to honorably
visit our humble store and honorably pay us then, we would
be humbly grateful.

Fungus: OK, is it alright if I come at noon and you just fill the containers
when you have time?

Shop: Yes. Where do your containers exist now?

Fungus: Uh...

Shop: Inside your honorable house?

Fungus: No, that's wrong...they're uh...

Shop: Outside your honorable house?

Fungus: Yes, that's right.

Shop: I understand. We will fill your containers and you can
pay humble us at noon.

Fungus: Thank you.

Shop: We offer our humble thanks. Please excuse our
rudeness (as we are going to hang up now).

Fungus: Uh...thanks.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Mobile Ayumi Shrine

In the US, seeing a Honda or Mitsubishi dressed up with fender flares, ground

effects, and wings is a fairly common sight. I expected the same in Japan, but
I wasn't prepared for the truly bizarre creations I was to encounter.

To wit, o
ne of the 2 elusive mobile shrines to the JPOP singer Ayumi
Hamasaki in Kamaishi.

Ayumi Hamasaki, if you're not familiar with her, is one of the
most popular JPOP singers in Japan. Although her popularity is waning somewhat,
she is often seen on commercials and billboards throughout Japan. She is known
for her "big eyes" and "small face", traits that are highly admired in Japan.

The other day while I was shopping, I was fortunate enough to spot this.
The fact that this is a VAN is
enough for comment, but the wing on the back
simply takes your
breath away. The secondary wing is really helpful to keep the
vehicle from floating when blazing along the expressway at
80 KPH. It also does a lot to accent the menacing look of the vehicle.

The bumper on the back, you may have noticed, extends
about 1/2 meter or so out, apparently to accommodate the
dancing girls. I haven't seen dancing girls on one of these
yet. The paint job...well, I won't comment on the color, but
the gorgeous mural of Ayumi on the back is inspiring to
drivers behind him. They often follow him for several blocks,
so captivating is her image. Completing the look is the set of
4 shopping car wheels, HID lights, and 3 grill-mounted lamps, the utility
of which eludes me.

I wanted to get a closer look at the interior, but to be quite honest, the
vehicle is so intimidating, I was afraid to get any closer.

There is a white one like this in Kamaishi as well, but I haven't encountered
the elusive beast.
Call it my Moby Dick.

The guy in the picture, btw, is the driver of this monstrosity. He has my everlasting
thanks for providing me with fodder for my BLOG.


Welcome to my BLOG! I moved to the town of Kamaishi, located

in Iwate Prefecture in northeastern Japan, in the summer of 2003.
Having lived in Japan now for 1-1/2 years, I've decided it's
high time that I document some of the crazy things I see from
day to day. I hope you enjoy what you see. Please feel free to
leave comments on my entries.