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Archive for January, 2012

NEWSFLASH: sick

Yesterday I woke up with a sore throat, which slowly deteriorated into a full-on cold, complete with body aches and a bad attitude. I’ve never really had a particularly good experience with Japanese doctors, but it’s necessary to go to qualify for a sick day at my job, so I went down the street and popped into the local 内科. “Erin-san, can you please take your temperature?” Under the armpit, like a baby. I went in a turtleneck so this was not an easy task. The first time I pulled it out it read something like 96F. “I think this is a little low?” I can’t imagine how this could be accurate, but whatever.

Anyway, the doctor said it was probably a cold unless it wasn’t a cold (??) so he gave me pain relievers and some ge gen tang and sent me on my way.  1520 yen (about 20 dollars) for the exam and 4 days worth of three medicines– not bad, except I pay 200 dollars a month in premiums. Oh well.

Let’s talk about weddings. No, let me take that back: let’s talk about stationery. My mom came up with the idea of doing wedding announcements, which probably ended up being my favorite thing to do ever. Thanks mom. I love stationery. Please send me letters on pretty stationery. Here’s what we sent out (I deleted our address at the bottom and our last names and uglied it up ahh but whatever you probably know them already):
They are letterpress and so pretty and bumpy! Designing it was so much fun and also so much pressure (we only get ONE design!?!?! i have so many ideas….) and so exhausting. I imagine doing a wedding is like this but 1000 times more annoying(/fun??). I think I spent three weeks straight looking at different invitations and announcements and refreshing etsy until my eyes bled.

My parents (especially my dad) were so great and were in charge of printing the envelopes and posting them out, which I bet was an ordeal. It has been so fun to hear people’s impressions when they arrive. I hope none got lost. We also did a little website with some pictures from our supervised elopement which I can’t link here because it is full of all kinds of juicy personal information, but if you haven’t seen it and want to, let me know.

I love letterpress and wish there were more occasions that call for CUSTOMIZED STATIONERY (be still my heart!!). When we get a cat, can I send out announcements like we had a baby? But for a cat? Is that okay?

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on pops

Since the lovely Sarah recently published a post about her thoughts on AKB48, adding some disjointed musings on the matter.

AKB48 represents a lot of sad things about what ‘female’ can often mean in Japan– specifically: infantilizing, superficial, male gaze oriented, problematically sexualized etc. AKB48 has become a high-profile symptom/reflection of these problematic gender roles in Japan, but it’s sadly nothing new– Akimoto Yasushi did the exact same formula with success in the 1980s with Onyanko Club. Nothing ever changes! That doesn’t get them off the hook, of course– they perpetuate the stereotypes, play into the fantasy, turn GIRLS BE AMBITIOUS to GIRLS BE CUTE– but let’s put all that aside because it’s too depressing to think about being a lady in Japan sometimes not to mention a terribly complicated issue.

Generally speaking, the bar is set pretty low for tarento/models/idols in Japan compared to America. They make less money and there are less expectations with regards to the whole, you know, being good at something. Japan is actually quite egalitarian when it comes to talent and beauty. Anyone can sing, anyone can BECOME CUTE!!!, anyone can do some ridiculous diet and be super skinny etc. In some cases it’s actually in a celebrity’s benefit to give some transparency to their imperfections– they become attainable, aspirational to the consumer. Television is typically the platform of choice for this “distance-closing,” by giving endless opportunities to see famous people being interviewed, interviewing people, eating food, playing games, taking off their makeup, being punished or humiliated in some kind of way etc. Just. Like. Us!! Part of this also involves heavy media inundation (“Why is XYZ EVERYWHERE?”) because there is one thing that Japanese celebrity banks on: personality. They may be terrible at whatever their main job is supposed to be, but damned if they aren’t good at something (see: SMAP) and television is the main medium in which their personalities are put on display.

AKB plays off this for both their male and female audiences. I’ve heard the concept of the group described as being comprised of “the 10th cutest girl in class,” basically glamorized being average. They become a figure that feels both close but elevated, which is amplified by the performances in Akihabara, the handshake events where they interact with fans directly. They lose the intimidation factor that might come with the Perfect Woman (or even just An Adult Woman, judging by the 2ch crowds fear of them) by playing young girls, which I would imagine contributes to the strength of their male otaku fan base (not typically known for their healthy relationships with women). The sheer number of members guarantees “something for everyone” and the direct connection between fan support and member exposure (specifically the general elections) rewards fan enthusiasm. For AKB48, too, television provides the primary gateway for non-fans to “get to know them” with the hope that some aspect (one member, one song etc.) will hook them too.

Still, this isn’t very far off from the way Johnny’s Entertainment works– especially the “add a crapload of members, give them a platform to show off their personalities, and see who ends up popular” part. AKB48 has a bigger fanbase (the coveted “highschool girls and 30-something otaku” demographic!), but it’s generally the same thing with genders reversed. There’s almost nothing unique about AKB48 or the way they are presented, packaged, and sold– even if the product is still problematic.

Women’s rights and politics are two things that make me so angry about Japan that I try not to think about them at all. Basically, I must view all issues through media studies glasses to avoid a rage blackout.

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hello coat

Noji and I went out shopping for a coat for him, but I ended up getting this at sunaokuwahara:

If only it was warm enough to wear it! I am so sick of you, winter.

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Non! Stop! Action! We got back from Noji’s below-freezing family house on Monday night and I went back to work Tuesday morning still in zombie-mode, certain I was going to get there and realize that work actually started on Wednesday (nope, it was Tuesday), but now we’re finally well into our 3 day weekend and I can start killing this sleep deficit. zzzz

I think I’m now like two months behind on blogging, so I’m going to start with all the beauty stuff I bought in America. Japanese beauty stores are great if you’re looking for snail masks and/or fake eyelashes, but I miss the variety (& price) of products available at ye olde Target or Sephora. Most of the standard department store brands are available in Japan, but they are even more ridiculously expensive. Here are some examples:

MAC Studio Fix: 24USD (America) vs 4200JPY/54USD (Japan)
Makeup Forever HD Foundation: 40USD (America) vs 6300JPY/82USD (Japan)
Essie nail polish: 8USD (America) vs 1890JPY/25USD (Japan)

In other words, at least 2 or 3 (!!) times the price, despite the weak dollar. In fact, I don’t think they’ve adjusted the prices at all since the yen strengthened. Retailers are all living in a 123JPY to a dollar world. SO! I don’t buy imported makeup in Japan. (Not that the American prices are much better.)

Anyway, it was a long week in America away from Noji, so I occupied my time first in Northern California playing with kittens and eating salsa and then later in Glendale lurking around Sephora and the mall. I bought a lot of junk (nearly 20 pounds of it!), but my favorite product so far has been Origins Night-A-Mins night cream. My skin is all glowy and smooth after just a week of using it. Less impressive was the Seche Vite top coat I bought after hearing raves that it is the Best Topcoat Ever. It dries really quickly, but my nails chipped within three days. Bummer.

This year I only went home for a week because Noji didn’t get Christmas off from work and was staying in Tokyo, but it really went by so fast. I say this every year, but going home once a year is not enough time to soak up the proper amount of family togetherness. So many missed opportunities to stuff my face! Hopefully we can figure out a schedule to go home together for GW that is not absolutely insane. I need a few more Jack in the Box tacos to hold me over for 2012.

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I went from San Francisco to Burbank, then back to San Francisco to Tokyo, took a nap, then off to Gifu on the shinkansen. It has been a crazy week! Once we get back to Tokyo, it’s back to work right away.

Happy New Year! It’s already 2012 in Japan– so far so good! See you all there soon.

A more reflective post to come.

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