Monday, December 15


Attended the closing film of the 12th annual Japanese film festival in Sydney, Depatures (or Okuribito in Japanese) last week Tuesday. I had seen one of the festival's movies the week before and had not been especially impressed by it; being the closing film I was hoping this movie to be more interesting.

Sadly, Departures, as a movie, was only slightly better than Closed Note; the storyline was relatively easy to figure out. What did make this a worthwhile movie however was finding out about death rituals in Japan and funerals. I've lived in Japan for over 10 years and I knew the way funerals are held is quite different from the West but I didn't know much about the specifics.

There is a whole tradition/ceremony around washing the body that I knew nothing about. Watching it being performed almost made me think of the Japanese tea ceremony, how everything is done in a specific order and fashion. I also came out with a question. Why do we in the West embalm bodies? Everything being equal it seems like a waste of money.

P.S. If I've picked your interest about Japan and funerals, another great film on this topic is "Ososhiki" (Funeral), a film by Juzo Itami. It deals more with the grieving process and is another eye-opener.

Friday, December 12

Closed Note

Last week we had the 12th Japanese Film Festival in Sydney. There were quite a few films I wanted to see but unfortunately most of them played over the weekend and was gone to Melbourne for the diplomacy DON cup. I did manage to get two films in, the first being Closed Note (or クローズドノート in Japanese).

The film was OK, but to be honest, for a film festival I had higher expectations. The premise of the story had a lot of potential but I don't feel it was put to full effect in the movie. There were also a lot of cheap and mishandled tugs at the heart strings. Not a bad movie but not something I would put up for viewing at a film festival.

Then again maybe there was nothing great that came out of the Japanese film industry last year and this was the best we could hope for? Doubtful since Beat Takeshi put out a great movie in 2007, Glory to the Filmaker. I was such a hit that the Venice Film Festival named an award after it.

All in all, I'm not impressed with the film choices ... I hope this is just a fluke.

Wednesday, December 10

First Sydney Poker Night

Finally! I've been missing my Tokyo poker games with the gang and have been in withdrawal ever since moving here. I did get a couple of games in at the casino in Auckland when visiting with Scott and some amateur poker games here in Sydney but nothing is as much fun as playing at home with friends.

I'm glad to report that I haven't lost my touch. I've always been a top contender with the guys back in Tokyo but I've always wondered if it was because I was good or they were not. Well, after giving my friends here two consecutive servings of whoopass my mind is at rest. I'm good.

Monday, December 8

Brand Name Pricing Power

It's been a while since my last rant on life in Australia, though my post on Australenglish might be considered ranting, so here's a new one. Actually this post is not so much about Australia but about the craziness around consumer prices. Point in case: colas.

See the nice picture above? Two fine examples of very similar products. Probably even made at the same place, just different labels. But one is a very famous brand and the other is a generic brand. And guess what being famous allows a company to do? (besides plaster pictures of Sara Jessica Parker on it's cans)

It allows Coca-Cola to charge roughly 250% more for it's product! I remember that brand names were cheaper than the generic brands in Canada and Japan but not by so much! Someone please tell me that atrocities like this are not being committed there also?

Wednesday, December 3

Air Hockey a la Oz?

Once upon a time in Tokyo, we used to love playing air hockey. Finding a place that actually had a table was rare and if we found one we'd have a go at a few games. It could get very competitive and I remember even getting scrapped knuckles!

On my walk to Manly beach I just happened to see this table at a pub in Manly and had to have a game. I was happy to find out that my Swiss friend who joined me on the walk was also keen to play! We had a blast and I totally trashed him three games out of three. All that practice in Tokyo sure paid off!

One thing to note, this table has the goals set up like a proper hockey rink! As opposed to 'regular' tables like those in Japan, there is space behind the goal for the puck to go around. So it's possible to send the puck across, have it round the nets and come back to you. This definitely adds another level to the game!

Monday, December 1


I was warned when moving to Australia that the fauna here can be deadly. From venomous snakes, to killer spiders and jellyfish. Australia, it can kill you. It's not a country for the weak. But man, no one told me to watch out for moving plants! Thank God for the signage or a poor tourist like myself could get run over by one. My threat level has just gone up another notch.

(Finally, after years of making fun of English signs in Japan we can now make fun of English in Australia)

Holy Memories of MJG

A few months back I did the Manly to Spit walk, a very nice scenic walk that starts from the Spit bridge and goes on for 9 km all the way to Manly beach. The trail winds it way along the coast and offers great views of the ocean and inlets around Sydney. I never realized how many small bays and inlets Sydney has. It's a great walk, offering a lot of panoramic views and the trail is mostly either covered or in the shade, a very important thing with the incredibly harsh Australian sun.

Once at Manly I took a stroll on the beach and saw this kid which made me think of Mike and his love of digging holes. Obviously this little one has nothing on Mike's hole-digging abilities but maybe someday ... Is this perhaps what a young Mike looked like when left own his own at the beach?