Kumamoto –TV and ¥100 Shops

I just spent the last two or so hours watching Japanese TV. One program featured a segment that pulled drunken salarymen off the street after the bars closed and put them in a sort of ad hoc quiz show. At one point an announcer drilled a fat guy who had downed eight beers that night about the origin of turmeric. The fat guy retorted that his house burned down a few days before and he didn’t have a place to sleep.

On the news, the big story was that family of four in Fukuoka was mysterious murdered and their bodies were dumped in the ocean. The other big story was that soccer player and Sting impersonator David Beckham stopped by Japan to shoot a commercial where he was beset upon by half the female population of Tokyo. The announcers all clucked about how cool he looked and about how much then looked forward to watching his commercial. The other day, on an Entertainment Tonight like show I saw a PR puff piece about a Canon digital camera commercial that was in production. It strikes me as depressingly inevitable that there would be hype about something that is supposed to hype something else.

Today was another low-key sort of day. The highpoint was probably going to a massive ¥100 (85 cents) shop. I when there to pick up a Japanese style notebook so I could practice Kanji but they sold everything there: Potato chips, photo albums, underwear, plush toys, Halloween masks, ashtrays, cocktail glasses, electrical cords, Japanese-English dictionaries, soda and (Japan being Japan) cheesecake DVDs all for ¥100.

Then R and I went to a Starbucks knockoff downtown (there are, by the way, three — count ’em three — Starbucks in a two block radius of downtown) where I read an article about the parallels between the Iraq war and Frank Herbert’s Dune in the latest issue of The Believer. As I looked up from my magazine, I realized that every single table in the shop was populated with women in their early 30s who were either studying English or composing email messages on their cell phones.

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June 2003

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