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June, 2011

  1. How to keep your cool in Tokyo’s sweltering summer

    June 29, 2011 by yuming

    I spent a week in Singapore and returned to exactly the same weather in Tokyo…#$%&@!!! My non-Singaporean friends are always surprised when I tell them Singaporeans really hate the heat. Yeah, I know, we should be used to it but we’re real wusses when it’s hawt.

    Recently, I was amazed by the number of “cooling” products at my local drugstore. I think this is more of a recent trend because I heard from friends that Tokyo summers were not so scorching a mere 8-10 years ago. And I think this year, there’ll be a lot more sweating since we are trying to save electricity thanks to the reduced energy situation at the moment.

    I wonder why Singapore hasn’t been so inventive when it comes to these keep-you-as-cool-as-a-cucumber products. It gets really f–ing hot in the Little Red Dot, but I suppose, there is freezing air-conditioning indoors so you don’t really have to do much to fight the heat. From personal experience: my top and bra could be soaked with perspiration but they would dry up in about 30 min to an hour in the office. I don’t think anyone I knew would change in the office due to over-sweating in Singapore (do you?), but here, it’s normal to bring out an extra shirt and a small hand towel because indoor temperatures are a steamy 28 degrees.

    Anyway, onto the snazzy products I spotted….

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    A cooling shirt spray where you spritz your shirt before putting it on and it should keep you cool for several hours.

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    These are Gatsby Body Sheet wipes…though I suppose they are no different from wet wipes for babies and this is just packaged for adults.

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    The above picture shows adhesive cooling gel sheets…basically they are mini gel packs that can stick onto the skin for about 10 minutes.

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    You can use them when you’re running a fever, or having a toothache, or nursing a burn, or seeking relief while working or studying.

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    These are cooling bath salts which I kinda don’t get. I know it’s summer and all but does anyone really want to sit in a cool bath? I mean does tap water get so hot it doesn’t feel cool? Even if it’s hot out, I still wouldn’t want to be in a cold bath. It makes me think of people who are suffering from severe fevers or something…

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    Okay, this pile of dehumidifiers does nothing for keeping cool but I chucked this one in because I think it really helps to fight mould from sneaking into your belongings in wardrobes and shoe cupboards. I don’t even see such horrific mould in hot and humid Singapore!! I just threw out a bunch of bags and shoes because they have gone mouldy from disuse.

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    I was at a Starbucks today and saw a group of six women simultaneously fanning themselves. I only caught two of them on my iPhone camera but it was quite comical to see them tittering away and fanning themselves furiously. Starbucks is definitely doing its national duty by keeping to the setsuden campaign. My companion bemoaned it was way hotter than her 29 degree C office. Whoo…

    So what have you been doing to keep cool?

    PS: I really have to get this one off my chest. One of my students cancelled lessons for an indefinite period of time because she has to cover for her co-worker who is depressed. At first, I just thought it was an excuse to quit but she went on to explain her colleague is by nature clinically depressed and has done this before in the past. Apparently, the most recent thing to push him over the edge despite being on medication was that he killed his pet monkey by mistake. He would sleep with his monkey in his bed, and being a small creature (who probably slept too soundly), it got squashed to death when it got rolled on. So now he has been given a long leave of absence to deal with his depression. Bizarre, right? Welcome to my world…


  2. Why Japanese women prefer Korean girl groups

    June 23, 2011 by yuming

    Sorry for the long MIA… I’ve been preoccupied with work and life (are there any other excuses?) and might I be a bit honest here? I think I’ve graduated from being so surprised by everything here in Tokyo. Good for me in terms of getting accustomed to Japan but bad for this blog.

    But I was intrigued by something one of my students brought up yesterday. We read an article on Super Junior taking Paris by storm with two of their concerts earlier this month and our Korean wave conversation drifted to talking about Korean girl bands, namely Girls’ Generation. I’ve vaguely heard of them before but sort of dismissed them as being similar like AKB48, a hugely popular girl group in Japan.

    My student promptly corrected me, “Korean singers are much more professional.”

    “In what way?” I asked.

    “They sing and dance better. Japanese singers just move their hands when they dance — they don’t look like they know how to really dance.”

    And she’s absolutely right. I can really see the difference in their performing styles…Check out these two videos…

    Girls’ Generation’s Run Devil Run video:

    AKB48′s Baby Baby Baby video:

    Why would a grown woman like me be so interested in girl groups? Just bear with me…

    What I found intriguing was my student said that Girls’ Generation is insanely popular with Japanese women (wow, really?!) while AKB48 appeals to Japanese men. She feels that the Korean girl band emanates confidence and sensuality while the AKB48 girls appear infantile in their schoolgirl outfits and skinny bodies. Japanese women aspire to be as strong and sexy as Girls’ Generation while Japanese men are fixated on the sweet and innocent teenage girl who is kawaii on the outside but a naughty minx in the bedroom (just watch the intro of the AKB48 video).

    Somehow, that just explains a lot about men and women in this country. I always hear sarky comments by Japanese women about Japanese men, “Yeah, they [Japanese men] only like cute and young girls.” So it seems if you are not cute and young, you are doomed like expired cake — you are left in the refrigerator to rot. Whoo, it is a tough crowd in this country to be an older woman, it seems. And that also explains why some women still cling onto the old-fashioned notion that men like their women unsullied and child-like…because some men really dig it.

    BUT, may I stress that this is a stereotype and I’m sure there are many Japanese women who get married after 30 and some Japanese men prefer their women smokin’ hot as opposed to pretty and cute.

    I know a one-source story is bad journalism but hey this is a peek into the type of opinions I hear daily from my students.


  3. If you love Japan, you will love watching this

    June 1, 2011 by yuming

    Hayaku: A Time Lapse Journey Through Japan from Brad Kremer on Vimeo.

    This video kind of sums up how I look at Tokyo as a city — futuristic, fast uber-modern, traditional, busy, peaceful…

    By the way, the local news is still full of Fukushima matters and the aftermath of the Mar 11 earthquake. People aren’t talking about it as much in person but you can definitely feel the consequences…For example, “cooling” clothes (i.e. easy to absorb sweat but also easy for sweat to evaporate) are really hot right now because everyone is anticipating an arduous summer due to air-conditioning set to 28 degrees C in a bid to save energy because the electricity grid is still not back to 100% with fewer operating nuclear plants.

    On a personal level, I think my life has pretty much gone back to normal though friends and family are still worried about radiation and a surprising number of people are going to our Singapore wedding, instead of the one in Hokkaido. Perhaps it’s still too early to assume that and it could change in the next three months.

    Yowsers, I’m quite the walking-talking bride who is up her arse thinking about wedding stuff all the time now… Bear with me. I will go back to normal soon.