If you live in Japan, you know that the Japanese are dog crazy. With a plummeting birth rate, the dogs are clearly filling a gap.

This little fellow is in the pet store down the street. Take a guess at the price.

2014-05-10 14.02.46

You are probably wrong.

2014-05-10 14.02.54

That translates to roughly $20K CDN. Premium, for sure. If you are going to have a dog that expensive, you better buy a dog stroller.


You better buy a carrier too.


Of course, if you are having a tea party, everyone needs to be dressed up – bow in the hair and all.

2014 04 20 Shrine sale_-30

Japanese love their dogs. Check out this site from some amazing Japan dog photos.


I am often perplexed by the way that English is used in Japan. A couple cases in point.

Why is the title of the car wash in English and the content in Japanese?


Why is this Crunky bar advertised in English? (Yes .. Crunky bar)



Why does is this sign in Japanese have only a few English words? (Most people will not understand that this means that the entire city is smoke free – it is illegal to smoke in public (awesome)).


This is just funny (At the entrance to the big Buddha)


This just makes me wonder, what were they thinking? (although this is not Japan – this is in Singapore)


And last but not least, I point the finger squarely at the Canadian consulate in Japan. Really? English and French hand-washing instructions .. but nothing in Japanese. Figures.



From around town.

“The quality sleep”. Japan has a different definition of what constitutes a quality mattress than North America.


I was grabbing a bottle of Sake at a local shop and this wine advertisement (among others) caught my eye for the unique use of English in the marketing – specifically the “desire for being drunk” phrase. Quite the sales pitch.


I am glad this guy caught up with my taxi. Look closely … (from my iPhone). He is in the rain, holding an umbrella, in a suit, riding a bike, with no helmet while talking on the phone. I don’t understand why no one wears a helmet …


Another interesting use of English in the ANA line at Narita. I laughed at the sign giving us an update on when we will board.


Living in Japan is a little like a Monty Python movie. There are some obvious things that make you laugh, but the best laughs require that you pay close attention or you will miss them.


In Canada (or the US or anywhere else in the world) a police speed trap involves a police person with a radar gun hidden to the side, someone to wave the victim down and a few chase cars just in case.

Not in Tokyo. This is what it looks like; one with a wand and the other standing to the side with white gloves. Yes, white gloves.


On a personal note, this is how I got a $70 ticket for turning the wrong way on a stop sign. Seriously .. taken down by a police office on foot! Funny thing is that after being pulled over by the officer on foot, 9 additional officers showed up quickly to assist with the whole communication thing.

I am not too distraught over the ticket as the 1st time I got pulled over I played the language barrier card and after saying “No, sumimasen (apologies), no ticket, warning please, arigato (thank-you)” about 40 times over 10 minutes, multiple mystery conversations on the walkie-talkie,  I got let off by 2 very confused police officers.

Every day is an adventure.


They are to be avoided at all costs.

When I say plastic bags, I mean the $1 store plastic bags with zippers or perhaps a plastic bag in the form of a duffle bag. In a customs line at the airport it never ends well.


This has now happened to me 3 times, watching the spectacle unravel in front of you.

I will admit, I smiled as the I watched the Chinese customs official pull out 3 bottles of liquor (carefully wrapped in tube socks), three bottles of assorted drinks, scissors and a brand new Zippo lighter still in the packaging. However, the ensuing loud voiced, arms waving argument between the man and his family with the 3 customs guards just went on and on. I politely tapped a customs official on the shoulder and indicated that it would be great to be passed through using my hands and a smile as I do not speak Mandarin.

I would have rather watched it from a line over.


There is always a line around a stairwell near Shibuya in Tokyo. Why? Popcorn of course.

2013 08 17 Tokyo_

It was a Saturday and the “feels like” temperature is 42. Perfect temperature to line up for an hour to get some hot popcorn right? The parasol helps.

2013 08 17 Tokyo_-21

It is right around the corner from this incredibly quirky street, Takeshita Street.

2013 08 17 Tokyo_-5

2013 08 17 Tokyo_-2

Costume shops, punk rock clothing and a hundred things in between including great outfits for your dog.

2013 08 17 Tokyo_-6

Not sure marvel would appreciate the cross-dressing Spiderman.

2013 08 17 Tokyo_-7

Crepes on the corner, ice cream and chocolate or tuna and lettuce? Would you like that in a cone?

2013 08 17 Tokyo_-14

Absolutely must get to this place before we head back to NA. Stock up on Halloween costumes.

2013 08 17 Tokyo_-15


I have thought about blogging about this before, and will instead make a simple reference. In Japan there are almost no t-shirts with the Japanese language on them, only English (which is an oddity). Furthermore, the Japanese use English words in odd ways and it is very clear that they do not understand the cultural implications of some words.

In an overly formal and polite society which does not have swear words in the language (In Japan, you swear through voice inflection – there literally are no swear words), it makes their prominent display of the f-word quite surprising. My son once pulled me aside to show me a 80 year old woman with the word prominently displayed on her shirt. I recently walked behind a young man who had it written all over his shorts.

It isn’t quite “everywhere”, but surprisingly common. Walking down this street, I counted it on 7 items of clothing including this young, well dressed girl’s hat as she strolled through a shop (I cropped the picture).

2013 08 17 Tokyo_-16

I really do think someone needs to sit them down and explain the word. Stranger in a strange land.


Mark your calendar. I am saving up for this day (actually, from Bali)


In Hong Kong they build buildings with bamboo scaffolds. In Canada, you climb up the sides of a scaffold. In Japan .. it as one would expect.


Amazing how this product looks suspiciously similar to the Dyson innovation. By Toto Japan. Mitsubishi has one too.


As seen in a Japanese parking lot. I have been warned, in a rather contradictory manner.



Sure, you can find “different” things in those out of the way shops in North America. What we would consider “different” in Canada is the mundane in Japan, even common.

At Tokyu Hands (best described as a big craft, DYI and everything in between store), you wander from the mundane to unique in moments.

On a Sunday we had to get craft supplies for my son’s science project. Here are a few things that caught my eye (I had my 5D with me as we were heading over to Yoyogi afterwards).

The street outside the store. Busy, busy.


This diorama of a kitchen is valued at …. wait for it … $3500. You can almost smell the rice. Who would buy it? Not sure. Remarkable detail.


This one made me laugh out loud. After all, how can marketing “Girl und Panzer” not be a winner? Right? (far right side of box in English)


Who feels it necessary to buy these for the house? Not sure. But they are “Home Sign’(s).


Japanese people LOVE their dogs. I mean LOVE. So much so, that they dress them up non-stop. For that special pooch in your life, look not farther than Tokyu Hands my friends.


Check out for some great Tokyo dog shots and their crazy outfits.


I am not sure why you would buy these coloured specimens, but there is lots of choice .. although they are not cheap. Our boys were looking at the bottom shelf, which had the $400 specimens.


This is from the popular mobile game Touch Detective Mushroom Garden. I found it disturbing.


Always an adventure.

ALBA NUADH (Nova Scotia) IOMALRTEAN NA GALDHLIG (Ministry of Gaelic Affairs)

Imagine my surprise while in Halifax when I walked into the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal to see the below – the Office of Gaelic Affairs. One of the things that I love about Canada, immigrant history remains strong – in this case Scottish (oops – corrected from Irish). The Gaelic language is spoken frequently (didn’t know that) and remains a strong part of the culture.

Ministry of Gaelic Affairs Nova Scotia

I was also told a funny Gaelic story. When the G8 was held out there, an ad was put in the paper for a bilingual taxi driver to shuttle dignitaries and staff. When they hired the guy, someone tried to speak French to him. He didn’t speak a word. They hauled him in and said ‘Right here on your application you said you were bilingual’. ‘Yes’ he responded, ‘I also speak Gaelic’.

Another funny story.  While I was in Halifax I was told about the European tourist who mistook Sydney, Nova Scotia with Sydney, Australia. Via:

Joannes Rutten should fire his travel agent. Or pay closer attention. The 71-year-old Dutch tourist and his 14-year-old grandson Nick thought they were flying from Amsterdam to Sydney, Australia. Through a mix-up, they ended up flying to Sydney, Nova Scotia in Canada.

Air Canada arranged hotel rooms in Sydney, NS for the pair, until they could arrange flight back to Amsterdam where they could sort out their flights.

It turns out Rutten said they didn’t know there was another Sydney. He’s not alone. Other tourists have ended up in the wrong Sydney before.

The weather was bad (very Irish – rain and wind), but the sunset was spectacular as we caught a quick flight over to St. John. And yes, that is a prop. Luckily it was not a Dash 8 that we flew in on (which is about as smooth as a roller coaster ride).

Flying to St John NB


There are many cliches that we hear in life, but I think that this is the one that I have heard most frequently. Candidly, it is a good general piece of advice, but consider this situation:
My wife saw a unique picture frame set up at a friend. The set up – 4 picture frames high, 4 picture frames wide, a total of 16 picture frames in a nice big square on the wall. The decision was immediate – execute that model.

Off to IKEA we go, 16 frames acquired. Kitchen prepared, tools laid out, time to begin the project when the conversation begins: “Now, take your time. We know what has happened before” (Correctly referring to errors made in the past).

I am bound to succeed. I work it all out on a grid. I calculate every measurement. I spend more than an hour preparing before a single hole is drilled. I check and recheck measurements. I re-measure, 2, 3 times. Confident in my cautious and fool proof approach, I drill 16 holes. I insert 16 screws. I put up the first frame.

I put up the second and third frame … DANGER Will Robinson .. they don’t fit.

What? But I measured, I prepared, I checked and triple checked? I KNEW THAT FAILURE WAS NOT AN OPTION.

You see, when I prepared my measurements, I used the dimensions that are printed on the IKEA frames to create the grid. Turns out those dimensions are internal dimensions not external dimensions. My measurements were off by 3 CM per frame. So while this is a good cliché and ‘generally’ true. There are exceptions.

Next time, travel to the store – hire a handyman. Much better plan.


I have stated in the past that I have done stupid things, just part of life. It is good to laugh at myself, helps to ensure I never take myself too seriously. On that note …Last week, my wife was doing a fast/natural cleanse. On Wednesday night she offered to share the fibre drink with me. I declined, but decided to participate by drinking a double dose of Metamucil. The next day, I felt great and was laughing with a buddy about cleansing. He mentioned an interesting stat, the average male has 10 lbs. of gunk stuck in the digestive track from red meat and the like. From Colon Complete 3000 (As seen on TV):
A toxic colon is a major factor in the development of food intolerance leading to chronic ill health. You cannot expect to be well if the main organ responsible for ridding the body of toxic waste is under-functioning. When the colon is irritated by diet, stress, drugs, chemicals, and other substances, it tries to protect itself by producing more mucus. This additional mucus can bind with the sludge from refined foods, such as white flour, and build up on the wall of the bowel, narrowing the lumen. This layer of gluey, hardened feces can weigh several pounds and is a good place for harmful organisms to breed.
This got me thinking … So when the fibre drink time came on Thursday night, I doubled down. Well actually, I 8X down. That is right, 8 times the recommended dosage (Note: Don’t try this at home kids).
The first clue that this was a bad idea should have been how quickly the drink became thick and undrinkable. I had to add water three times. The first warning that I had made a terrible mistake was after I gagged the drink down. I started reading the label which stated that Metamucil can expand rapidly and cause choking. Uh, OK … In the back of mind, I knew I was in trouble (my stomach was sending signals) as I went to bed. But I hoped that it would pass (no pun intended).
At 12:30AM I woke with such excruciating stomach cramps that I thought I was dying. Was it the mushroom soup and food poisoning? Was it the 24 hour Norwalk flu that my son had a week earlier? I had yet to clue into the Metamucil link. The night was not pleasant, I was in a LOT of pain.
To make it worse, I had a very important meeting at 730 the next morning with our global VP, new Canadian president, managers and and directors to announce our new boss. No call in allowed, in person only. What am I going to do? I sent an IM to my current boss explaining that I was dying, he said no problem .. You can call in for the first 15 minutes. 7:30 AM arrives, I am in my office when Narda comes in … There is someone on the phone for you (** groan **). Sure enough, the entire room has called my house. Not the type of profiling I am looking for … ‘Hi, is Michael there?’… ‘Who is this?’ (Kids fooling around in the background) … ‘It is the office. Is he there?’ .. ‘One sec’ ..(Everyone listening) ‘MICHAEL PHONE’
Around 10AM, I start to worry. It is not getting better, I am dying or giving birth (Note to women: I know, it is nothing like birth. But having never experienced it and as I have a lower tolerance to pain, it is all relative). So I call the Metamucil hotline (Yes, they have a hotline). My anxiety grows as the prompt states ‘If this is a medical emergency, please press 1’. I get (what sounds like) a kid on the phone and explain my situation. After his snickering subsides (In his defense, I was laughing about it too), he explains that while he is not a ‘medical professional’, Metamucil does have the side effect of causing gas and bloating. It is up to me to decide whether or not to go to the doctor.
** GROAN ** I decide to hang on and spent until 4:30 PM in agony, when it finally breaks.
So be warned, exceed the recommended dosage at your own peril. That being said, I feel very detoxified. I just did it the hard way.

Scope in that distance please

I came across this picture the other day – where I got got. I was in a golf tournament with a practical joker and he said ‘Can you tell me how far it is to that pin?”. The pin was over a hill so I had to climb on my cart to use my handy dandy laser scope. Little did I know that he was snapping a picture …..