Stephen Starts a Diary: May 8th

5/8 Tuesday

Today was a desk day.  I’ve been working part-time at Yoshimoto head office for about a month now, sitting at a desk in the Live Production Department under the guise of helping improve the entire department’s English on my free days.  Really, this job mostly consists of me sitting around on the internet all day, occassionally shouting basic English greetings to people as they pass by on the way to some place or another.

The work’s much easier on the body than my normal parttime job at a ramen shop so I’m not necessarily complaining but, after spending a couple of years away from the officework lifestyle, I’m finding it rough getting back into the flow of things.  Plus, getting paid (however little) to do literally nothing is better than not getting paid to do the same.

I went to work at ten and clocked out at six.  Literally nothing happened during those eight hours.  Yay me.

Stephen Starts a Diary: 5/6

5/6 Sunday

Today was the last day of Golden Week, the hellish week where every single Japanese person gets a week off of work.  Normally owarai comedians, being based in an industry predicated on the leisure dollars of the employed masses, are incredibly busy on vacation weeks like this one but I, after a string of gig cancellations and whatnot, was not.

Unfortunately, I also happened to catch a cold this week so I spent most of today layign around my small Japanese apartment feeling very sorry for myself.  I did get out for a walk (mainly just so my Apple Watch would stop yelling at me to exercise) but with it being the last day of Golden Week, my usual park of choice was supercrowded with families of people who either didn’t get out on their week of vacation or people who came back from their vacation a bit early.  It was not, unfortunately, all that relaxing.

Also, a kid ran over my foot with a tricycle.

Tomorrow brings the return of the working week and I have an English lesson first thing in the morning to get things started off right.  It’s my first lesson with a relatively higher up guy within the Yoshimoto corporate structure so we’ll just have to see how it goes.

Big in Japan, a show

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So now that WHAT’S MANZAI?!!! PART 2 is finally out (though seemingly not in the US) and that part of my life is now completely done with, I’d be remiss in not mentioning the one place where you can hear me discuss Japanese showbiz on my own terms without a Yoshimoto staffer constantly whispering in my ear about not offending my sempai or making sure that I don’t say something about sponsor X, Y, or Z. 

In case you were unsure about it or just went with the narrative of WHAT’S MANZAI?!!! that I am apparently the only non-Japanese person who ever thought about getting in Japanese comedy, there are others out there, and, starting a few months ago, a couple of us decided to get together and talk about our experiences as geinin in Japan because, quite frankly, you need an outlet for these sorts of things.

Those conversations kinda turned into regular thing that we decided to start recording and put out as the Big in Japan podcast, an uncensored, unfiltered, completely unendorsed by our agencies look at the Japanese entertainment world.  I’d like to emphasis the uncensored part of this description because some of the stories shared on the show have been pretty darn raunchy (mostly because, as members of the Japanese entertainment industry, we haven’t had the chance to work blue in years). Continue reading

Something I saw in Shibuya

Sitting around Shibuya, killing time at a Starbucks before my show tonight. A half-dozen college age Americans come in, probably exchange students. Also probably drunk.

They order their drinks, wait, pick up their orders and move en masse to a couple open tables smack dab in the middle of the store. Right away, I can tell something’s a little off.

All is calm for a couple of minutes as everyone enjoys their beverage with minimal conversation and I, way back in the corner of the shop, settle in for a bit of writing. That’s when things get hot.

A couple of chicks start jawing back and forth about being “backstabbed” and “just wanting to talk”. It gets louder and louder and all the Japanese people in the place go deathly silent (even the baristas and random people waiting for their milkshakes disguised as coffee drinks). One of the chicks pushes the other. Their friend tells them to go outside.

“I don’t want to go outside. F*** that b****. I just want to f***ing talk.”

“You just f***ing pushed me, b****. Don’t tell me you want to f****ing talk now.”

They’re practically screaming at each other now. A Japanese couple gets up to leave. One of the dudes waiting in line just sorta back-shuffles out the door like he’s decided now is the best time to learn to moonwalk. Continue reading

What’s So Funny? Comedy in Japan versus America

Comedy in Japan versus America

On Saturday night, I had the pleasure of appearing on abemaTV’s live late night show, Muramoto Daisuke’s The Night, to participate in a discussion about comedy in Japan versus comedy in the rest of the world (namely America).  While the whole fact that I showed up on Japanese TV is a story in its own right, the discussion that we had on the show really struck a chord with me.  What is it about Japanese comedy that makes it hard to enjoy for foreigners and, on that same note, what is it about American comedy that makes it hard for Japanese people to enjoy?

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Obviously, there is a language gap that has to be leapt between the two forms but the gulf between comedic cultures and understanding of how humor works goes beyond that.  This whole discussion of Japanese comedy versus comedy “elsewhere” stems from a tweet by scientist and writer Ken Mogi.  In it, he calls out “major” Japanese entertainers (not by name, mind you, but as an entire class) as being far off from the international standard of comedy and, thus, “finished”. Continue reading

A Good Ol’ Slice o’ Life Post: Taking Down the Lights in Osaki

So one of the many office complexes by my apartment is finally taking down its Christmas decorations.  Of course since it’s Japan there was a half dozen random people and heavy machinery involved.  It’s currently Valentine’s Week, which sort of begs the question:  How late is too late to take your Christmas lights down?

 

 

Slight parenthetical here but Christmas lights here are a purely aesthetical thing that seem completely detached from even the faintest Christmas connection so I suppose you can say that the office complex or whoever is in charge of these things is taking down the winter lights.  Even though winter here seemingly lasts until April.  Tis not the season, I guess.

 

PS:  Here’s a shot of the lights in full bloom (from a different angle).

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Looking Towards a New Year

So with the first month of 2017 almost over, I thought it’d be prudent to finally talk about what I hope to get done this year (not that any of you probably care anyways).

As I “covered” earlier, 2016 was a year full of change and random things and getting fired from your job waiting tables because you had to leave town a couple of woks for a job out in the boonies.  The first month of 2017 has continued this trend.  Not the getting fired part, mind you.  You need to have a job first before you can get fired.  Thus far, the new year has brought me a half dozen stage appearances, a couple of token television appearances, and a steady
succession of bad colds and flu-like symptoms.img_7995

Which brings me to my resolutions and goals for the new year.  Everyone has them.  Almost everyone makes theirs public.  I’m just doing mine a whole month later than everyone else. Continue reading

Winter in Japan, Alternatively Titled “You’re Going to Catch a Cold No Matter What”

As the hordes of old people in their puffy Michelin Man jackets would tell you, the dead of winter has come to central Japan.  Surgical masks are flying off the shelf like magic.  The ubiquitous vending machines all seem to have at least one row devoted to “hot”, well, more like lukewarm, beverages.  There are more sniffles on the train than a whole movie theater of middle school girls watching The Notebook for the first time.  Yes, it’s that time of year.  Cold weather has arrived and with it cold season.

While there are definite benefits to living in the biggest city in the world, nothing can make you rue the day you moved to Tokyo more than the day some old drunk dude coughs right into your mouth on the train home.  I’m sure you’ve heard about how crowded Japanese cities can be and no where is this more obvious than the country’s highly regarded public transit system, clean, on time (when there hasn’t been a suicide by train), and chockfull of sick people just waiting to get you sick.

Make no mistake, Japan might be sanitary on a surface level but it has a dark, dirty, stanky underbelly that’ll drag you down and knock you out with nary a second to spare.  I was naive, too, when I first moved here but three bouts of the flu in two years and countless head colds later I am now a hardened veteran of the Japanese winter.

So Stephen, you ask, how does one avoid getting knocked down for the count by a winter cold in Japan? Continue reading