May
06

Hokuouka! T-shirt

Sunday, May 6, 2007 Posted by

I added two new T-shirts to my online store over at Cafepress:

The text reads “Hokuouka” (北欧か which basically means “Scandinavian?”) and is a play on the famous Taka and Toshi tagline (almost done to death by now) “oubeika” (欧米か)

If you wonder what the heck I’m talking about and who the f*ck are Taka and Toshi, you can check out a clip of them here:

The basic premise of all their “Oubeika” jokes is a regular stand-up routine where suddenly one of them breaks into some non-Japanese behavior or says some English word (where a perfectly good Japanese one exists) upon which the other guy replies Oubeika! (Are you Western or what!?) and then often slaps him on the head for good measure. Classic, good-hearted Japanese comedy when it is as its best…. (Yes, I might have lived here too long now)

UPDATE: Here is a subtitled version of the above video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kiy0QOMVb10

(It’s not a perfect translation, but it gets most of the major jokes across fairly well.)

May
06

Pandora starts doing geolocation

Sunday, May 6, 2007 Posted by

Well I guess it was just a matter of time before Pandora started blocking people outside the US instead of just simply counting on people’s honesty to provide their true zip-code and not just a random US one to fake their way in.

Dear Pandora Visitor,

We are deeply, deeply sorry to say that due to licensing constraints, we can no longer allow access to Pandora for most listeners located outside of the U.S. We will continue to work diligently to realize the vision of a truly global Pandora, but for the time being we are required to restrict its use. We are very sad to have to do this, but there is no other alternative.

We believe that you are in Japan (your IP address appears to be 121.xxx.xxx.xxx). If you believe we have made a mistake, we apologize and ask that you please contact us at pandora-support@pandora.com

It’s really too bad, because it’s simply a brilliant service – I wish they would speed up the licensing agreement proceedings in different parts of the world, but even then, I guess Japan will be very very late. I mean, even Last.fm in Japan blocks the radio function (although using the English client and English homepage in Japan works fine). Anyway, I just signed up for Last FM and it looks pretty darn good. I tried it for a few days a year ago or so, but didn’t like, but now the user base seems to be much bigger and the features of the site and the standalone player have been improved greatly!

May
05

Photos contiuously updated on Flickr

Saturday, May 5, 2007 Posted by

I just wanted to let you know that if you are looking at this page to see if there are any new photos uploaded, you will not see any. I have stopped uploading photos here completely and rely only on Flickr now.

Please see the link below.

Also, to always see the latest photo additions, you can use the following RSS feed:

RSS Feed to Johan’s Flickr Photos

May
05

Top 20 Attractive Foreign Companies in Japan

Saturday, May 5, 2007 Posted by

On Goo Ranking you can find tons of different ranking lists which are created through surveys sent out to a random panel of around 1,000 Goo users. You can find rankings of everything from “best looking movie star”, “presents girls do not want from their boyfriends”, or “famous movie star that looks suitable to run a cafe” (?)

Anyway, I stumbled upon a ranking that I felt was quite interesting, namely “Top 20 foreign companies I would like to work for” i.e. which are the most attractive foreign employers in Japan (Note: this survey was taken in November 2004).

You can see the list below:

  1. IBM
  2. Microsoft
  3. Apple Computer
  4. NIKE
  5. Louis Vuitton
  6. Intel
  7. Hermes
  8. BMW
  9. Adidas
  10. P&G
  11. Coca-Cola
  12. Nestle
  13. Christian Dior
  14. Dell
  15. American Express
  16. Vodafone
  17. Puma
  18. Oracle
  19. Citibank
  20. Pfizer

Some immediate thoughts that came to mind: The company I work for is not on the list….re-do the survey now and we’ll see. 😉 Anyway, it seems the companies fairly well match what is in the Japanese public’s mind so to speak: computers and luxury brands. I must say I was quite surprised to see Nestle and Pfizer on the list! I guess Pfizer has a reputation of being a good employer here and the pharmaceutical market is quite huge, so that can explain it. But Nestle? Is it because all Japanese love Nescafe? Yep, that must be it. They even have their own Nescafe variant here which is totally disgusting: Nescafe Excella. Darn that is one bland cup of joe! Maybe everything agrees with me and wants to join Nestle’s R&D to change it….?

Anyway, when I was searching for a similar, but more recent, survey I actually found an older one instead. It’s pretty interesting to compare: 1. IBM (stable!), 2. Microsoft (same here), 3. Merrill Lynch (status of finance institutions have decreased?), 4. Citibank (dito), 5. McDonalds (hmmm….no comment), 6. American Family Life Insurance (?), 6. P&G (always had a very strong presence here), 8. Coca-Cola (the Japanese are still lovin’ it), 9. GE (don’t know what happened to them), 10. Apple Computer (big winner!)

May
03

A night at a Manga-Kissa

Thursday, May 3, 2007 Posted by

So I decided to visit a Manga Kissa for the first time the other day. “Manga” means comic book and “Kissa” is short for “Kissaten” which means cafe. Originally, a Manga Kissa is a cafe equipped with a lot of comic books where you pay to sit and read comics for as long as you like (you pay by the hour basically).

Lately, virtually all manga kissa have become internet cafes as well, offering not only computers with high-speed internet, but also DVD-players to watch movies, PS2 gaming, and free drinks. The basic layout of a modern manga kissa is lots of small booths with a comfortable chair and a computer in each. All booths have doors which can be closed for almost complete privacy – although the boots look a bit like bathroom booths in the sense that the walls do not reach all the way up to the ceiling, so I guess you won’t get 100% privacy. Further, there are booths for more than one person, pair seats etc. These booths are regulated by law to not have doors – I guess you can figure out the reason why by yourself, you don’t want people….well… doing *that* in there.

Here’s an example of a typical single seat:
Single Seat

and here is a pair seat with dual computers:
pair seat

It’s a really cheap way to get Internet access and play some games for a few hours. Most places charge fixed rates for packs of 3-5 hours. 3 hours cost less than 1,000 yen (depending on the hour of the day though, it’s usually cheaper at night). You can even get an all-night pack (most places are open 24 hours) for around 1,000 yen if you check in at around midnight. The average place has about 20-30 booths I think, but there are huge ones which spans multiple floors and have over 100 individual booths.

It was an interesting experience for sure. When we were there, I spent most of the three hours relaxing in a fairly comfortable couch playing Tiger Woods on a PS2 (I don’t own a PS2 so it was a nice change) whereas my wife spent the whole time catching up on her manga reading. Three hours went by pretty fast, and having unlimited supply of soft drinks, tea, coffee etc as well as cheap snacks and small foods, made it an overall pleasant event. The only bad thing was that only about 30% of the booths are non-smoking, so we had to settle for a smoking one, and the air was a bit stuffy and smoky to say the least. On the non-smoking side, it was completely different, so when we go back, we have to make sure to get a non-smoking seat.

Recently, Manga Kissa have become a social phenomenon because of it’s attraction of homeless people spending the night at such places. Since you can an all-night pack for less than 1,000 JPY, and the cafes often are equipped with showers, it makes for a perfect substitute for a hotel, and much cheaper. It’s a safe & cheap environment to spend the night for someone who is down on his/her luck. Well, the recent development of Japanese society is something which deserves a whole post of itself, so I will not write anymore about it here…