Shopping in Japan – Meet Premium Boss

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You can’t go wrong with classic coffee. Especially if it’s smoking a pipe and established the same year Denmark won the european championship. As hip hoppers in Denmark would probably tell you, it’s Premium Boss :)

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Japan – where the Earth definitely just moved, it’s nothing to do with your prowess – and might do so for 37 million stoic people soon

Photo by: P K

Photo by: P K

You know the feeling of someone gently shaking you, to make you wake up?
Being in a minor earthquake is very similar. Except for the fact that someone decided to gently shake your whole room, the house you’re in and the surrounding hundreds of square kilometres.
Being in Japan means that there are a few extra things that are certain, apart from death and taxes. These include earthquakes and typhoons. And that something will make you guffaw and / or go WTF??? more or less every day.
No matter whether we’re dealing with the general weirdness (no, Japanese people don’t think that opera karaoke is strange – why do you think that?) or nature baring its teeth, it doesn’t seem to fluster or bother the locals.
On a side note, I had to try to explain the many different uses of the word ‘bothered’ to a group of high-level students the other day. After going through five-six different uses in different scenarios, they had the look of ‘so you basically just chuck it at anything, all the time?’ Of course, this is true. Interestingly, Japanese seem to have a similar word, which sounds a hell of a lot like ‘so’ or ‘soo-soo’, depending on the situation.
Back to earthquakes. It’s a situation where you can definitely see how the Hagakure, the ancient text on the way of the samurai, is alive and well in the general reaction of people here:
“There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking.”
That said, and the general level of stoicism exhibited by the Japanese in general, I’m pretty sure that any comments like ‘so, did the Earth just move for you too?’ might be one of the few things that can lead to a look of exasperation here….
There are very good reasons for the stoic approach to extreme weather, including the logic that can be deduced from this little snippet from an article about new calculations on the frequency and energy levels of earthquakes:
“According to the calculation, there is about a 17 percent possibility that a magnitude of 7 temble will hit an area centring on Tokyo and Chiba in the next five years.”
There are 37 million people in this area.
To put that into perspective, it means that you know that someone is going to gently rock you, your house, and the surrounding area awake at least a couple times a month. There is, however, also the risk that this someone will get bored of this at some point during the coming five years and wake you with a baseball bat – with what will in no sense of the word be a love tap.
I guess there are two ways to deal with this:
Either you lay awake every night, sleeplessly worrying what will happen – or you, like the Japanese seem to have done, try to learn the lesson from a rainstorm.

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Photos of Japan: Tokyo from above

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It’s pretty hard to get your head around what it means to live in a metropolitan area that is home to roughly 37 million people….the massive, sprawling, living, breathing, pulsating entity…wait, that makes is sound like an enlarged version of … Continue reading

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Photos of Japan: Enoshima

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A few pictures from a recent trip to the beautiful island of Enoshima.

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Everything in Japan is great! Smile!

Japan is a country of smiles. At least if you look at the comic-inspired figures that pop up everywhere. From tiny princesses saying sorry for any inconvenience caused by ongoing road works to…well little notices about cleaning up after your dog, there are cartoon characters with big grins.
Proof? Well how about this boy who seems to be a clear indication that cleaning up after you dog is about as great as winning the lottery and – if libresse and other producers of female hygiene products are to be believed – the most fun you can have with having your period.

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How local news becomes all about crossing your arms….

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Working as a journalist means being part of an industry whose members currently define it by words ranging from ‘beleaguered’ ‘challenged’ and ‘besieged’ to ‘screwed’, ‘f#¤ked’ and ‘dodo’.

Different parts of the industry are using different weapons in their losing fight against lower figures for circulation and the ever-growing red numbers that threaten to burst like balloons on the pages of the financial statements.

The crux of the situation can – somewhat oversimplified (and this is about news, so that’s very fitting) – be boiled down to the fact that traditional media are baffled by the question ‘how do we make (enough) money off various new media technologies to be profitable?’

In local journalism, the focus has generally been on what management describes as ‘creating a flexible and vibrant newsroom with plenty of headroom for new ideas and a solid focus on new media’. What they mean is that they focus on cost cutting and hiring hungry, young interns/trainees who grew up with the internet to replace experienced journalists. Bitter much? Nah, not me. I took the chance to pursue some of the (other) stuff that I love. So my word for ‘redundancy’ would be ‘freedom’.

For those left in local news, ‘vivisection’ is probably a word that many journalists, editors, subs, photographers, et. al. would use to describe what’s been going on, murmuring things like ‘not even giving us any f#¤5ing anaesthesia’ under their breath and looking harried while trying to explain the difference between a critical angle and re-wording a press release to an intern who just got taken to the cleaners by a gruff PR guy from a local business that is known to try a Roy Keane impression to scare journalists into going with his angle.

Personally, I’ve had the good fortune to have many experienced journalists and editors help me through those sorts of experiences, but I’ve also experienced first hand how we waved goodbye to subs and photographers, and put those job functions over onto the journalists….I mean, they’re supposed to be writers, right? So why should anyone else need to look at their work? And just how hard can it be to point a camera at something and click away?

This turne by truth out. Journal is spell good. Not preblam…..actually preblam works…put a hyphen in there and it could be slang for foreplay…..foreplay could, in turn be slang for golf….

It turns out that we as journalists faced with this sort of scenario do roughly similar things with writing and taking photos: we go with what is tried, tested and true. So, we produce 10 stories a day with exactly the same bland lede structure and take a hell of a lot of photographs of local people standing in front of buildings with their arms crossed.

This is, of course, natural. We know how these structures work, and we know that putting someone in front of something and asking them to cross their arms is a sure winner.

Whether we’re talking about authors, volunteers, teachers, athletes, school kids who’ve won prizes, business men, pastors, farmers, pet owners or the local man who just broke the record for most corn ever eaten in a 24 hour period, we want them standing in front of building, crossing their arms. Hell, our first reflex when faced with a heroic dog is to try and cross its front legs. We don’t care if it means it falls face first to the floor, we just want the f#¤ker to cross those paws and pose in front of that dog house.

If you don’t believe me, just take a quick trip over to Local People With Their Arms Crossed….that should convince you…and might leave you crossing your arms and shaking your head….what it won’t do is buy more local newspapers…

The whole news industry is faced by a conundrum in the shape of new technology and new media forms. We’re all trying to figure out what exactly it means to our beloved newspapers and critical, investigative journalism – or even the travel section that we always call ‘not real news’ but are secretly very, very, very jealous of.

I don’t have the answer. I can however state for the record that there is no way cutting back on staff and ask those left with jobs to run twice as fast in the same treadmill. That’s the equivalent to crossing your arms, putting your fingers in your ears, concentrating hard on what’s just in front of you and shutting out all negative thoughts. Now while this might be a new yoga pose, it’s not going to save your newspaper.

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Lost in translation – making your own reality from sea salt

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Living in a different country is a unique chance to experience a new, different culture. In Japan, you add the fact that you very rarely have any idea about what is going on around you, as your run-ins with the … Continue reading

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