Dining Out: Little Myanmar In Takadanobaba

Whilst everyone in Tokyo knows that Shin Okubo is the home of all things Korean it is not such common knowledge that just one station along the Yamanote line there is a community of Burmese restaurants and bars. Takadanobaba (also on the Tozai and Seibu Shinjuku lines) possesses a quite surprising number of places serving up delicacies from Myanmar.

Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar shares borders with India, Bangladesh, Laos, China and Thailand. Malaysia is not so far away so it’s no wonder that its cuisine is influenced by elements of all these countries. Generally speaking Burmese food is not as spicy as Thai food and not as dry as Indian food. A lot of these restaurants couldn’t be easier to find assuming you’ve arrived by train.

We decided to sample what these places had to offer starting with the cluster of places alongside the tracks just one minutes walk from the Waseda exit. Nong Inlay (2-19-7 Takadanobaba) specialises in food coming out of the civil war ravaged Shan state of which there is a map on the wall showing its proximity to Thailand, Laos and China with the latter heavily influencing its taste and style. When we went it was a mix of Burmese people and Japanese businessmen who were taking up some of the 10-12 seats on each side of the place for it has two rooms. The restaurant gets its name from a lake in the Shan state. There is a large menu (with pictures alongside the Japanese and Burmese words) with a variety of Shan-style meat and vegetable dishes. Specialities include pei pot kyaw (sour bean condiment) and hmo chawk kyaw (fried mushrooms).

IMG_4147 P1050009

On the other side of the tracks running parallel is Sakae-dori where there’s a couple more  ethnic restaurants. Swe Myanmar (3-5-7 Takadanobaba) is located at the end of the street on the right hand side. The walls are lined with pictures of the 80+ authentic home-style Burmese dishes on offer to the 21 customers which the place holds. This restaurant has the cheapest food on offer with nine lunch sets ranging from 500 yen and the most expensive dish is still under 1000 yen! Furthermore, we were even given a service bonus of mochi.

P1050010 IMG_4208

With an estimated 20,000 Myanmar internationals living in the vicinity, a lot of these places cater for the local community and this one has a monthly magazine and two weekly Myanmar-language publications printed in Japan.

The similarly named ShweO (3-2-13, 4F Takadanobaba) is just across the road from there and among the tangled tapestry of visible pipes, wall rugs, ubiquitous spices and sparse flowers, are 50 dishes on offer which are all displayed in poster form on the wall. The decor may be basic but its a large spacious place with a very professional looking menu folder (not always the way at some of these places!) ShweO is famed for its many salads, noodle dishes, rices and curries containing huge chunks of chewy beef.  Specialities include hand-made tofu, dry noodles, local shrimp and fish curry. There’s also a wide array of alcohol, including 500 yen beer, to help wash the dishes down. Lunch sets range from 550-900 yen and include a pot of tea. Don’t be put off by the owner wearing headphones whilst she serves you! She is friendly and speaks a bit of English.

P1050013 IMG_4269

Perhaps the most sophisticated and modern looking restaurant is Ruby (3-18-11, 1F  Takadanobaba) which has some delicious chicken and potato dishes from the southern part of the country which is where the owner and her husband are from. The place is at its most busy at weekends when there’s a great Sunday buffet service including tabehodai rice, salad, soup, vegetables, tea and shwe yin aye which is a popular and refreshing dessert of agar jelly, tapioca and sago in coconut milk.

P1050003 P1040994 P1040996 P1050002

There are a couple of Myanmar restaurants on the main road that runs through Takadanobaba. As you’re walking away from the station the first place you come to is Minglaba (2-14-8, 3F Takadanobaba) on the left. This place seems to attract families, offers standard Burmese food at lunch and at night. The owner is a very friendly smiling lady who recommended a few dishes which are characteristic of the country. Lape-toh is a salad made of fermented tea leaves, garlic, lettuce, nuts, sesame seeds, dried fish and other ingredients. Perhaps the most famous dish is mohinga which is a highly savoury stew with a fermented fish gravy the consistency of pea soup, and containing chicken, vegetables and fine wheat-flour noodles. Tofu-joh are fried squares of yellow-lentil tofu served with a hot and sweet dipping sauce.

IMG_0973 IMG_0975 IMG_0976 IMG_0978

Whilst you’re waiting for your orders you might wanna try your hand at learning the Burmese alphabet which makes hiragana and katakana seem a doodle. They also have a few packets of imported noodles and spices for sale at the checkout should you be inspired to go home and make your own ethnic dish.

Just over the road is Mali Kha (1-25-9, 3F Takadanobaba) and this one serves up an extensive menu of Kachin food from the country’s most northern state which borders China and India. There is the customary map of the country and state as well as posters of marine and freshwater fishes of Myanmar should you wish to brush up on your knowledge of the country. Possessing a dozen seats on one side and room for plenty more on the other side this oriental kitchen sells home-style dishes like fish steamed in banana leaves, tripe stew and chicken and bean curry.

P1050005 IMG_4158

Almost all of these restaurants have picture menu’s in Japanese and Burmese but no English. Hatch-style service is usually the style and TV’s, used for karaoke at night, are evident everywhere. Expect photos of national landmark Shwedagon Pagoda to don the walls in the majority of these places along with the requisite portrait of political activist Aung San Suu Kyi, practically a national law. They all sell the country’s self-titled national beer ‘Myanmar’ for around 600 yen a can.

After 50 years of nightmare, Myanmar is starting to open up to tourism more and more but if you want to have an introduction to its tastes and smells then you could try Burmese restaurants in Ebisu, Sugamo, Zoushiki, Waseda and Minami Otsuka but for the broader choice you will need to make your way to ‘Little Myanmar’ in Takadanobaba.

Posted in Food & Drink | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tokyo Filming Locations: Pt XIV – House Of Bamboo (1955)

This Sam Fuller directed film was released a decade after the end of WWII and Japan has of course transformed itself quite a bit since then. ‘House Of Bamboo‘ was the first post-war American movie to be filmed in Japan and as you can imagine most of the Tokyo locations (including Ginza and Asakusa) now look nothing like what’s seen on screen. However, there are a couple of locations which have remained relatively unchanged in the six decades that have passed since filming wrapped and the reason for that is that they are places of worship in the form of a temple and shrine respectively.

Now, yes I do know that Kamakura is actually part of Kanagawa prefecture but lets not small things like that get in the way! If it was good enough for ‘Ju-on: The Grudge 2‘ (filmed in Tokorozawa in Saitama) and ‘The Ramen Girl‘ (filmed in part in Yokohama) then it’s fine for ‘House Of Bamboo‘ to be included in this Tokyo-based series!

First up on 33 minutes is the Great Buddha (below) of Kamakura at Kōtoku-in temple (200 yen entry) which appears for less than a minute! The 13.4 metre Daibutsu statue is an awe-inspiring sight even after many visits and it’s quite easy to see why it’s a national treasure.

IMG_6882 DSC07723 IMG_6883 DSCN0094 IMG_6884 DSCN0088 IMG_6885 DSCN0100

Suddenly the scene changes to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine (below) for a couple of minutes and Maiden and Wakamiya Shrine are seen before the guys ascend the 60 steps that lead up to Hongu (Main Shrine).

IMG_6886 DSC07730  IMG_6887 DSCN0108 IMG_6888 DSCN0109

However, the place at the top where they have a discussion is not where it seems in the film. In fact, I’m not even sure where it was filmed. It could have even been shot in the studio but my guess is that it was filmed in the Shrine Museum which costs (200 yen to enter) which features some time-honoured treasures such as weapons and craftwork. Remember that a long, long time has passed since this film was made!

IMG_6889 IMG_6151

From the outset of the film the narration informs viewers that it was filmed entirely on location in Japan and then the magical and mystical Mount Fuji lingers beautifully in the background (a matte painting perhaps given it really is captured so perfectly in the centre of the screen!) as the scene is set.

House_of_Bamboo01 House_of_Bamboo09 House_of_Bamboo14 House_of_Bamboo06 House_of_Bamboo29 House_of_Bamboo30

The film concludes in the city of Yokohama which is actually Japan’s second largest city and just a short train ride south of Tokyo.

House_of_Bamboo50 House_of_Bamboo51

Screenshots appear courtesy of thisislandrod.blogspot (though of course they are just copied from the movie!)

For other Japan filming locations click on the links below:

You Only Live Twice    Lost In Translation    Kill Bill    Babel    Godzilla    Walk Don’t Run   Into The Sun    Monster    Wasabi    The Grudge    Ju:On The Grudge    The Ramen Girl    The Toxic Avenger Pt II    The Wolverine    Memoirs Of A Geisha    The Last Samurai

Posted in Japan Filming Locations | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Films Set In Japan – Cars 2 (2011)

Always keen to add a twist or two to these ‘set in Japan’ reviews here is the first  review of an animated movie. My sister told me at Christmas that ‘Cars 2‘ featured Japan and I had hoped to watch it with my nephew but sadly that never happened and so I ended up viewing it all alone one afternoon which is pretty sa-a-a-a-ad!!

Having been challenged to a series of races by an Italian car, Lightning McQueen and his tow-trucking sidekick Mater head to Japan and Europe to compete in the World Grand Prix. Now I’ve not seen the original ‘Cars‘ (2006) movie so all the characters were new to me but I do now that Lightning McQueen is the prime protagonist. However, in this film the roles are pretty much switched as Mater becomes the main focus as he becomes sidetracked in an international espionage adventure via the classic movie mistaken identity scenario.

Lets start with the positives then. Naturally, for a series titled ‘Films Set In Japan’ it is the scenes set in Tokyo which I was most interested in. There’s plenty of attention to detail here (both automobile-related and otherwise) to please and amuse those who know what Tokyo is like. Alongside some fantastic animated views of Mount Fuji, Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo Tower and the neon-lit city there are references to vending machines, capsule hotels and state-of-the-art toilets and the fight in the latter is quite reminiscent of the pre-title sequence in Daniel Craig’s first outing as 007 in ‘Casino Royale‘ (2006).

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 15.42.24 Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 15.46.40

What this film is lacking in though is any kind of story. The plot is far too convoluted for a kids film and it’s been so over-stuffed that one can’t even remember which plot they should be focusing on at times whether it be the race, secret agent or alternative fuels one. The kids surely want to see racing scenes but they seemed almost incidental at times in this Pixar-produced sequel. Heartwarming moments are few and far between and too many of the characters are just not that interesting or funny!

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 15.43.44 Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 15.44.04

There seems to be too much focus on Mater who doesn’t really cut it as the lead character and his slightly annoying country drawl and demeanour starts to grate a bit as the film drags on. It may be funny when he’s in the supporting role but when it’s the centre of attention it fails to amuse so much.

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 15.44.14 Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 15.49.48

Furthermore, all the stuff about environmentally friendly alternative fuel sources is a bit forced and comes across as a little bit preachy. Cinema is one particular part of the entertainment industry which is disposable and I, for one, really didn’t feel the need for Pixar to climb on their moral high horse and start telling us about how bad the oil companies are. The (far too limited) racing scenes may keep the children happy but I don’t believe that too many of them would have followed the plot about oil companies, mafia and espionage.

cars-2-5212fb639d7cc cars_two_ver2_xlg

Tokyo Fox Rating 4/10

Posted in Review: Films Set In Japan | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meeting A Leicester City Legend

Ask Foxes fans to compile their all-time Leicester City XI and the chances are that one of the centre back positions would be filled by Matt Elliott. The gravelly-voiced former City captain has been working as a match-day summariser for BBC Radio Leicester this season and whilst I was in the city recently I went along to meet one of my heroes.

Signed from Oxford United for £1.6m, Elliott settled into the team in no time and became a Premier League star under the guidance of manager Martin O’Neill who had a knack for making average to good players play consistently way above their level.

matt_elliott_1024_1024x768 5

When Matt arrived at the BBC studios I was on hand to greet him, introduce myself and nervously utter some nonsense before we walked into the actual studios together where he was due on air 15 minutes later to give his views on the Monday night Football Forum (6-7pm).

I was then alone with Matt and talking to him about managing Army United and just generally living in Thailand before I realised my error! I was in the company of a Leicester legend and talking to him about something other than his City days! I soon corrected that by bringing up an article by Mark Lawrenson in his Mirror column in 1998 when he said that Elliott was his player of the year. Matt said that he had that cutting and was well pleased to have received such an accolade from an ex-player like Lawro although he did humbly say that he must have been looking for an alternative to the usual stars of the Premier League at that time.

IMG_6873 IMG_6716

To be fair I thought our meeting was going to be nothing more than asking him for a photo and exchanging a few words (and I would have been more than happy with that!) so to get a few minutes with such a lovely down-to-earth nice guy throughout the evening was an absolute delight.

Once the show had gone off air I was allowed to enter the studio used by him and presenter Ian Stringer to get my photo taken with the man who used to be on my wall in my early 20’s. Yes, I still had pictures of Leicester players in my bedroom at that age!

IMG_6713  IMG_6752

As he was about to exit he asked me where my car was parked after as if to say we could leave together but I told him I had come by train and joked that if he was passing through Market Harborough then I’d accept a lift!! Sadly he wasn’t but worth a try anyway!

Elliott was an absolute colossus in our defence during his 245 appearances between 1997 and 2005 (though he did play a few of them up front!) but it’s probably his goals (a very respectable 26) that defined his time at the club and here is the Tokyo Fox top 10……Matt Elliott moments!

1. v Tranmere, 2-1 (League Cup Final): 27 February 2000 – The game that ultimately defined Elliott’s time at City as he led the Foxes to victory at Wembley with two very similar goals from corners. Watch it here.

images article-2535324-003B735A00000258-367_964x463

2. Premier League Player Of The Year, Daily Mirror: April 1998 – Former Liverpool defender and BBC pundit Mark Lawrenson said in his newspaper column that Elliott was his player of the year for the 1997-98 season.

3. v Aston Villa, 1-0 (H): 2 February 2000 – A great header in the League Cup Semi Final was enough to separate these teams over two closely fought matches. Watch it here.

4. v Wimbledon, 3-1 (A): 1 March 1997 – Quite possibly the match when Elliott really announced his arrival at Leicester with a brace of goals that helped City “do a Wimbledon” against the Dons at Selhurst Park.

5. v Everton, 2-2 (A): 3 January 2000 – In a televised match, Elliott was playing as a makeshift striker and scored twice in five minutes with goals that any striker would be proud of.

6. v Arsenal, 3-3 (H): 27 August 1997 – Bergkamp took all the plaudits from this game for a sensational hat-trick but it was Elliott who got the first equaliser for City as they clawed their way back from 2-0 down late on before the late, late drama. Watch it here.

7. v Sheffield Wednesday, 1-0 (H): 7 May 1997 – City may have finished 9th in their first season back in the Premier League but that was due to back-to-back victories in the final two games as well as other results going their way. Indeed, City weren’t even safe until the penultimate game against Wednesday when Elliott scored four minutes from time to ensure survival for the Foxes. 

8. v Liverpool, 2-1 (A): 13 August 1997 – In the 1980’s City were the bogie team against the Reds and Elliott rolled back the years with the opener at Anfield. 

9. Penalties – Rarely the main taker but never afraid to step up to the spot during the League and FA Cup penalty shoot out victories (1999-2000) as well as league games against local rivals Coventry and Nottingham Forest, Elliott (to my memory) blasted each and every one high down the middle. Watch the Arsenal shoot-out goal here (Elliott’s penalty on 2:50)

10. v Newcastle United, 3-4 (A): 2 February 1997 – Elliott’s first goal in a City shirt was an equaliser which set Leicester on their way to a 3-1 lead before the wheels fell off as Shearer helped the Toon Army comeback to win in front of the Sky TV cameras.  Watch it here.

Bonus: v Faroe Islands, 1-1 (A): 5 June 1999 – Thanks to his Scottish grandmother, Elliott was eligible to play for Scotland and gained 18 caps whilst scoring a solitary goal along the way but it was the tabloid newspaper headline “PRAT ELLIOTT” the day after he was sent off against the mighty Faroe’s which I most remember!

Posted in Leicester City | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

London Filming Locations: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Movie locations being faked has been a bit of a fascination for me these last few years. Many different places have been used to replicate the likes of Afghanistan, Myanmar and Vietnam but who would’ve thought that this Stanley Kubrick film did the same trick. Whilst its no surprise that some of those aforementioned far-flung places have been faked it’s quite rare to see New York city filmed elsewhere but that is what happened in ‘Eyes Wide Shut‘ as Kubrick’s fear of flying meant it was predominantly shot in London.

Don’t be fooled by the edit. Sure, there are lots of New York street scenes featuring the ubiquitous yellow cabs but these shots were picked up by a Second Unit team and are all interspersed with what was filmed on sets at Pinewood. The Greenwich Village street scenes were dressed to look like those from New York.

This erotic thriller actually takes place at Christmas and opens with a big festive party filmed at Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf & Spa in Bedfordshire which has been used in ‘Four Weddings & A Funeral‘ (1994) and as the interior of an Azerbaijan palace in ‘The World Is Not Enough‘ (1999). In the wake of that and the news that his wife Alice (Nicole Kidman) had a sexual fantasy about another man, a rather disturbed Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) goes on a sexual odyssey so that he can feel equal in some way.

He meets a prostitute called Domino but back at her place he does nothing and so leaves and heads on to ‘Club Sonata’ which in reality is Madame JoJo’s (below) on Brewer Street in Soho. It’s here that Bill catches the end of his old pal Nick’s piano performance on 55 minutes at the New York jazz club and manages to get the password to the orgy out of him.

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 10.21.05  Christmas trip 2011-2012 350

Bill returns to Domino’s apartment (by yellow cab of course as it is in the United States right?!) with a gift and her roommate Sally informs him that Domino has just tested positive for HIV. Bill leaves soon after that (120 minutes) and notices someone is following him. That sinister man is on Worship Street with Nicon House (below) at number 21 very clearly visible in the background. Shoreditch High Street station in East London is the nearest station.

Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 23.46.42 DSCN0274

As for Bill, he is actually a couple of miles away on Hatton Garden where New York-style payphones were installed between numbers 32 and 38 and shops were adorned with the 555 phone numbers which are the fictitious NYC dialling code used in American films. He continues on past Diamond House (below) which is at 36-38 Hatton Garden and very close to a couple of locations used in Guy Richie’s ‘Snatch‘ (2000). It is reported that Berner Street and Eastcastle Street also stood-in for other Greenwich Village scenes.

Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 23.48.06  Christmas trip 2011-2012 301

On 124 minutes Bill walks through the revolving doors of Chelsea & Westminster Hospital (below) as he goes in search of Mandy; the beauty queen who he saw in the newspaper had died of a drug overdose.

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 00.16.18  Dec2010-Jan2011 186

The Royal Suite of the Lanesborough Hotel at 1 Lanesborough Place is where Bill meets the Christmas party host (from the start of the film) Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack) who fills him in on many details regarding the ritual orgy and Mandy’s unfortunate fate. This huge complex, located on Hyde Park Corner, was built in the 1830’s though sadly it’s been under reconstruction since the end of 2013 (hence the rather dull photo below) and is all set to re-open this year.

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 09.46.57  IMG_6497

This slightly weird but highly watchable movie concludes on the ground floor of the famous toyshop Hamley’s (below) in London’s Regent Street on 141 minutes as Bill and Alice take their daughter Christmas shopping and have some kind of reconciliation.

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 10.11.46  Dec2010-Jan2011 044

For other London filming locations click on the links below:

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace    Trainspotting    Mission: Impossible    Lara Croft Tomb Raider    The Bourne Ultimatum   Harry Potter & The Philosophers Stone   James Bond    About A Boy    Quadrophenia    Bridget Jones’s Diary    Goodnight Sweetheart    Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels    Basic Instinct 2    Batman Begins/The Dark Knight    The Italian Job    Snatch    Rom-Com Special    Skyfall    Notting Hill    The World Is Not Enough    Paddington    Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (Re-Visited)    Entrapment    Sliding Doors

Posted in London Film Locations | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Japan-Related References In The Simpsons

It’s a fact that one of my lasting images of Japan came not from one of the many movies ‘set’ in Japan but Homer Simpson continuing to just walk through the paper walls when he and his family came to Tokyo (and Osaka) in season 10 of the long running animated sitcom.

Since the dysfunctional family burst onto our screens in December 1989 there have been quite a few Japan-related references throughout the seasons and Tokyo Fox has cobbled as many of them together as possible.

S01E01: ‘Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire‘ – Not long to wait as this reference appears within the first 90 seconds of the first proper full length episode. There is a Christmas Pageant being held at Springfield Elementary and as well as the german equivalent of Santa we also get to meet Hotseiosha, a Japanese priest who supposedly acts like Santa Claus and has eyes in the back of his head so that kids behave better when he’s nearby.

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 10.31.13 Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 10.31.45

S02E11: ‘One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, BlueFish‘ – In a change to the normal Friday night pork chops, the Simpsons go to a sushi bar on 2 minutes called The Happy Sumo.

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 14.25.27     Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 14.27.14     Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 14.27.55

Homer takes a liking to sushi and works his way through the menu before he ends up ordering fugu (blowfish); the poisonous fish which requires chefs to have a license to prepare it. However, the main chef is otherwise engaged so his apprentice has to slice the toxic fish which he tries to do carefully.

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 14.28.32     Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 14.29.23     Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 14.30.07

An impatient Homer is served the fugu but when the chef returns and believes it hasn’t been prepared correctly he tells Homer that he may have been poisoned. Back in February 2007 I wrote about watching a dramatic TV show in the 1990’s that brought me close to tears as I thought a much loved character was about to be killed off. If you’re following me then you’ll have probably guessed that the person in question was Homer Simpson and the reason I had a tear in my eye was because having eaten the badly prepared fugu he is told at the hospital that he has only 24 hours to live and so makes a list of things he wants to do on his last day on earth.

S04E11: ‘Homer’s Triple Bypass‘ – Homer’s health is in a bad way again and having been diagnosed with clogged arteries, he needs triple bypass heart surgery but the $40,000 operation cost is obviously a problem! Whilst in bed with Marge doing their accounts Homer reassures her not to worry as America’s health care system is second only to that in Japan…….Canada and all of Europe. At least it’s better than Paraguay is his consoling thought!

S04E17:Last Exit To Springfield‘ – Mr. Burns is reminiscing about his grandfather’s old Atom Smashing Plant in 1909 when a thin-looking young worker is asked to turn out his pockets having been accused of stealing atoms. He’s taken away and protests that working men can’t be treated in such a way and in the future a union will be formed to aid equality which will go too far leading to corruption and “the Japanese will eat us alive!” In response Burns’ grandfather laughs and calls them sandal-wearing goldfish tenders!  Back in the present and Mr. Burns concedes that they should’ve listened to that young man.

S04E21: ‘Marge In Chains‘ – Homer orders the Juice Loosener on 3 minutes which is packaged in Osaka by someone who has the flu resulting in over 300 cases of the “dreaded” Osaka flu spreading to the residents of Springfield according to News anchor Kent Brockman.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 10.50.57     Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 10.52.04     Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 10.52.48

S08E22: ‘In Marge We Trust‘ – In a subplot to the main story, Homer discovers (4 minutes) that the mascot on the box of a Japanese dishwashing detergent bares a strong resemblance to him. Akira at The Happy Sumo restaurant tells him that it’s called ‘Mr Sparkle’ and so after making a phone call to Japan Homer thinks that the company is using his likeness without his permission. Eventually, a video arrives from Mr. Sparkle’s parent company explaining that the mascot came from combining a cartoon fish and a lightbulb.

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 16.46.50     Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 16.47.56     Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 16.48.40 Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 16.49.23     Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 16.51.31     Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 16.52.00

S09E14: ‘Das Bus‘ – School bully Nelson Muntz represents Japan at the Model U.N. Club; a small group of Springfield Elementary students. After 3 minutes he is seen to be sticking his chopsticks up the nose of the Mexican representative.

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 11.38.43 Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 11.39.21

S10E23: ‘Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo‘ – Naturally, this is the most famous episode relating to Japan as the family snag some mega-saver tickets at the airport and head to the capital of Japan.

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 11.27.34     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 11.27.59     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 11.30.41

This Japanese adventure starts 8 minutes in and is obviously packed with many stereotypical Japanese references like bowing, technological toilets and battling seizure robots. I’ve previously used a fairly large section of this episode in class for a lesson on stereotypes which was fun and a nice break from the book.

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 11.33.01     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 11.33.56     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 11.35.00

Homer is upset about having to go to Japan and tells Marge on the plane that they could’ve just gone to the zoo to see Japanese people…..as the guy who washes the elephants in Japanese! Marge then tells Homer that she liked “Rashomon‘ (1950) to which Homer claims that he doesn’t remember it that way. The underlying joke is that this famous Akira Kurosawa film is about people remembering different things about the same event!

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 11.35.17     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 22.21.06     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 22.21.49 Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 11.36.30     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 22.23.54     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 22.26.15

On their arrival in Tokyo (where the local time is tomorrow!) they head to an American-themed restaurant named Americatown followed by some sumo which results in Homer and Bart being jailed for throwing the Emperor into a washbin for worn mawashi. Whilst in prison they learn Japanese and explore its culture until Marge uses most of their money to bail them out. Homer then stupidly loses their last bill in the wind having made an origami crane out of it prompting him to say “D’oh!” in Japanese.

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 22.26.34     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 22.25.11     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 22.29.19 Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 22.31.04     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 22.32.00     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 22.32.45

To make money they get jobs in a fish-gutting factory in Osaka until one day when Marge notices  a TV game show called ‘The Happy Smile Super Challenge Family Wish Show’. Appearing on the show, they tell the Japanese host Wink that what they wish for is plane tickets back home, but to get them they have to go through a series of stupid, torturous and humiliating activities which are typical of the terrible Japanese terebi variety shows.

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 22.34.34     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 22.35.39     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 22.36.27

Subsequently, Homer scolds the Japanese for their lack of ethics and makes them feel ashamed but nothing changes. Finally, as the Simpsons leave Japan, their plane is confronted by Japanese monsters Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra but Lisa goes to sleep and the monsters let the plane fly off back to Springfield.

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 22.39.01     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 22.40.18     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 22.41.53

This episode has supposedly never been aired in Japan due in part to the scene with Homer throwing the emperor into the sumo thong box being considered disrespectful.

S25E10: ‘Married To The Blob‘ – “Nerds don’t get girls” is what Comic Book guy tells his competitor Milo who is now married. On 8 minutes, Kumiko Nakamura from Osaka walks into his store to which Stan Lee tells him not to waste the opportunity.

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.12.01     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.10.41     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.14.23

They go on a double date with Homer and Marge and some time later Homer meets Kumiko’s father outside the comic book store and tells him that Comic Book Guy is an obese nerd thus prompting Mr Nakamura to take Kumiko away.

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.17.22     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.18.10     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.18.50 Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.20.58     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.22.27     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.23.51

Wanting to fix things, Homer takes Mr Nakamura to a Japanese bar where they both drink habushu (snake rice wine) and subsequently stumble home intoxicated, where Springfield turns into a wonderland based on a host of Studio Ghibli films.  Mr Nakamura learns he will be taking his daughters life away if he objects to their relationship and so they subsequently get married in Comic Book Guy’s store.

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.23.18     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.25.10     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.27.54 Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.28.50     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.29.51     Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.31.20

S26E03: ‘Super Franchise Me‘ – Neighbour Ned Flanders discovers that Homer has been stealing electricity (2 minutes in) from him to power a ferris wheel and a freezer full of meat. The “freezerino” actually belonged to Flanders and he takes it back but not before explaining that it was made in Okily Dokahama which is an area near Mount Fuji. Given that Ned’s catchphrase is “Okilly-dokilly” the name is an apt one!

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 18.47.35 Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 18.46.58

Although the characters have been used to advertise C.C. Lemon ‘The Simpsons‘ has never really been popular in Japan. It’s not shown on a popular TV channel and probably doesn’t translate very well. Japanese people tend not to understand its sarcasm, irony and cultural references. 

No doubt there have been a few other Japanese references on this long-running animated sitcom that I’ve missed so please let me know. You can either comment below, mail me at tokyo_fox@hotmail.co.uk or tweet me @tokyofox 

Posted in Japan Life, TV Shows | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TF Flashback: New Zealand v England One Day International (2002)

The ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 begins on Valentines Day with Australia and New Zealand sharing hosting duties and England play their second game against the latter in Wellington on February 20th which has brought back memories of the one and only time I saw the England cricket team play live.

Flashback to 2002 and I was travelling around New Zealand for a few months and whilst I was in Auckland there happened to be a One Day International game between the New Zealand Black Caps and England on February 23rd and I was in attendance.

IMG_6840 NewZ1

Before I left my hostel (Nomads Fat Camel Backpackers in Auckland) that morning I sprayed my hair red and when I got to Eden Park, which was about an hours walk away, I met three guys from Bournemouth called Dave, Pete and Matt who put some face paint on me in the form of a St George cross.

England won the toss and chose to bat first but as soon as they came out on to the pitch it began to rain lightly. Worse was to follow as Marcus Trescothick was bowled out on the third ball and a couple more wickets also fell in quick succession. Just as I thought England were doing really bad, things started to  improve (almost unnoticed to me!) with Nick Knight scoring 38 and Michael Vaughan reaching 59 although a few silly wickets were lost too.

Graham Thorpe also scored 59 and was not out as England scored 193 in a reduced 40-over match due to the frequent rainfalls – one which was very heavy and meant the players were off the pitch for about an hour. In the meantime, I had to protect my hair dye and face paint from running by wearing a plastic bag on my head as well as partly sheltering under my inflatable hand.

NewZ2 NewZ4

Due to the Duckworth-Lewis method; a scoring system designed for weather affected matches, New Zealand had to score about 226 in 40 overs to win. However, they were bowled out for 189 in 38 overs with Chris Cairns getting a respectable 58 runs. This levelled the series at 2-2 (though the Kiwis would go on to win 3-2 a few days later!). Whilst celebrating the wickets we English fans were pelted by a load of missiles including plastic bottles, beer cups, tomatoes, water melon pieces and bits of meat!

NewZ3 NewZ5

After the match, I went with the Bournemouth boys to an English pub in the city for some post-match celebration drinks. Due to my tiredness, these celebrations were very tame and I arrived back at the hostel at around 1.30am receiving a few strange looks along the way as my face was still painted. I took a much needed shower before collapsing into bed.

Posted in Australasia Travel, Sport | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment