It’s hard to believe I’ve lived in this land for nine years. Time has certainly flown. Before I came here my knowledge of how mad this country was was limited to entries on Fark, and that was about it.

Why do I stay? Well, in part it’s because this land is just a non-stop source of entertainment. I find something to smile about every day. Sometimes it’s things my students say or do. Sometimes it’s something I experience first-hand. Often it’s something I learn about, or read about.

Today has been one of those days already. Let’s just start with the online news service, Japantoday.

We have a story about a police officer. Japan’s police officers are often the source of stories of incompetence, and today’s was no exception. An officer was arrested because he posted photos on his blog of a model gun he owned that had been modified to fire real bullets. He claims he didn’t know it was illegal. That’s a good one.

There’s a story about the Prime Minister putting his foot in his mouth. That’s also a recurring theme in the Japanese press. Today’s story mentions that Hatoyama said in a debate in the Japanese parliament that he may well be “loopy” in reference to a column in the Washington Post. In his own words, he said, ‘‘As the Washington Post says, I may certainly be a foolish prime minister.’’ Even if said in jest, in any other country there would be calls for his resignation from across the board, even in his own party.

Japan’s “research” into the eating habits of whales continues, but this time they’ll be plundering the north-eastern coast of Japan, rather than the Southern Ocean. The take is going to be 60 minke whales. I guess they think the protesters won’t be bothered making the long trip up. The conclusion of last year’s research? “Delicious”.

But this story takes the cake.

Ibaraki Prefecture (near Tokyo) built an airport last year. They currently have a single flight every day – that’s ONE flight – going to South Korea. Compare that to the million or so people expected to flow through Narita during Golden Week (one of them will be my mum!) So, in a half-assed attempt at publicity they sent a delegation to Narita Airport yesterday to distribute 500 sweet bean pancakes to stranded travelers waiting to go home. The problem was that most of the passengers waiting for the Icelandic volcano to settle down had already left, due to the recommencing of flights. The remaining passengers were left bewildered as to why they were receiving a pancake stamped with the name of an airport different to the one they were in. An Ibaraki government official claimed that it wasn’t meant as publicity for the new airport, that the gesture came too late anyway, and could they please go home now. So now we have a long needed answer to a question about Japan: How long does it take to organise 500 sweet bean pancakes to help out stranded hungry people in one of the nation’s largest airports? Five days. I think the phrase “a wet, brown paper bag” was invented for this purpose…

So that’s just a start for why I live here. It’s a weird,wonderful, frustrating and beautiful place. I hope to share a few more stories with you when I get the chance.

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