26 January 2010

Product Test: Suntory "Chocholate Sparkling"

"Chocolate Sparling", or チョコレート・スパークリング, is chocolate flavoured soda and is about as disgusting and horribly misguided as it sounds.

Let me preface this by saying that in English "sparkling" is an adjective and not a noun, and is translated into Japanese as 発泡 (happou). Just to make sure, I checked out Yahoo's Japanese dictionary, which had no entry for スパークリング (supaakuringu) at all. And for the record, this drink has NO BLOODY BUBBLES AND IS NOT SPARKLING IN ANY SENSE OF THE WORD. So congratulations, Suntory. You've managed to fracture both the English language and the Japanese language in one go. That's a new one I think.

I was sceptical, but like with many impulse purposes in Japan, it had to be done for science.

It obviously doesn't have any chocolate in it, and it tastes less like real chocolate and more like scratch n' sniff chocolate. Or more specifically, at one of my schools the language lab key's key chain has a small scented plastic mock-up of a bun with chocolate syrup on top, and Chocolate Sparkling smells exactly like it smells. Chocolate Sparkling tastes like a key chain.

Since I began this article, I finished the bottle. I had to stop halfway for a while because I began to feel nauseous and dizzy. Less than 200mls to go and I began hallucinating and was rambling and speaking in tongues and imagining surviving snails on the edge of straight razors in no time.

Here's an after picture:

In short, stay away from this.

25 January 2010

Follow-up: I Want You Under My Wheels

I felt kind of bad for writing that, because I was definitely kind of hard on Saga. But since then, three very telling incidents have occurred:

1) An old man in a small truck almost hit me when he was driving on the wrong side of the road.

2) A woman almost hit me when I was crossing on a pedestrian crossing on a green, and she slowed down and just managed to avoid killing me, and when I passed she sped up again and went through the red.

3) Just today a woman was blocking a cross walk and she had a black courtin covering her driver's side window.

This is within the space of four days.

18 January 2010

I Want You Under My Wheels

FACT: The Japanese verb for "to run somebody over" is hiku (轢く). The kanji for hiku is made up of two kanjis: "car" (車) and "fun" (楽しい, or 樂しい in it's classical form).

If you have ever driven, rode a bike or walked in Saga City, even if for a single day, you've almost been hit by a car. You might not even have been aware of it, but your life was in grave danger. If expressed as a percentage, there is a 99% chance as a cyclist that you will be hit within 24 hours if you don't absolutely watch where your going, because god knows the drivers aren't.

FACT: This isn't just a(nother) gaijin complain-a-thon!

Saga is also well known in Kyushu for it's drivers. A quick search around the Japanese internets for the words 佐賀 (Saga) 運転 (driving) 怖い (frightening) gets some interesting responses.

"Saga has a lot of wild drivers, so it's scary -- (*breaks down in tears*)"

One user, asked their worst memory in the entire island of Kyushu, gave Saga drivers as one of many Sagan examples:

"The drivers are bad and cars are scary. Crash, SA-GAAAAAA."

On the same page, another user wrote,

"Sagan drivers have the worst manners in Kyushu. Go back to driving school and learn from the beginning!"

So as you can see, Saga well known for it's colourful driving culture.

For example, the other I was riding my bike to the mall, and I passed the entrance to a parking lot. The driver was sitting across the sidewalk (stupid mistake #1), well across the solid line marked with "止まれ" , or "STOP!" (stupid mistake #2). She was looking right to see if traffic was coming her way and kept her head at a 45° angle as she began to pull out (stupid mistake #3), barely avoiding hitting me (stupid mistake #4-- well, while technically #3 and #4 are the same, almost hitting *me* put her own life in immediate danger). A half second away from being under her wheels, I swung my hands wildly, and said "What the HELL do you think you're doing??" in English. She had a stupid look of shock and horror on her face similar to Sadako's victims in "The Ring".


A couple of weeks ago, I was riding to the station with my friend, and we almost got hit twice within three kilometres. This is not a joke. Luckily my friend was in-between me and the car both times, which would have probably provided cushioning for me to survive if worst came to worst, but between a guy not looking to see if anyone was coming before pulling out (and already well across the solid line marked, of course, with STOP!), and a guy flagrantly going through a red light in front of the biggest train station in the prefecture, it's almost comically ridiculous.

One theory is, that similar to the film Maximum Overdrive, the cars in Saga have somehow gained senscience and are waging a terrible war against mankind which have enslaved them for over a century; their hapless drivers watching in horror from behind the wheel as pedestrian after pedestrian, cyclist after cyclist is mowed down like so many toy soldiers under the feet of wanton boys.

On the highway home from Fukuoka, there's a big sign saying "Be careful. Fatalities due to car accidents are increasing." Right there on the highway bus, I muttered between my teeth, "No shit!"

And when I say I have close calls on a nearly daily basis, I'm not kidding. I have no idea how I've made it this far. I've come to the conclusion that I'm not a victim here. I'm a survivor. And I used to live in Montreal! I know stereotypically bad drivers when I see them.