Comatose commuters

Despite suffering often long and stressful journeys, Japan’s hordes of commuters (furtive fiddlers aside) aren’t exactly the most imaginative bunch. Well, not according to a nationwide survey that has been kindly translated by the always informative What Japan Thinks.

The study of 5,625 train travelers – which admittedly allowed multiple answers – found that a staggering 69.6% of commuters spend their journey sleeping. Both surprising and something of a feat considering that bagging a seat is generally a novelty; an occurrence to fondly remember on the majority of other, less fortunate treks.

japan train
a rare, conscious commuter this morning

After sleeping, the second most popular pastime it seems is sending text messages. A practice that between naps a hefty 64.1% of train riders indulge in, quite possibly mailing other, similarly soporific slumberers.

Yet it’s only when we arrive at the third most regular routine that the word ‘unimaginative’ really rings true. Perhaps it’s the reason why people end up sleeping so much, but a whopping 62.2% of those questioned while away the hours by, erm, reading in-train advertisements. Now maybe I’ve got an attention span disorder, or my inquisitiveness in regards to cleaning products and diarrhea tablets is sadly lacking, but there has to be a more productive way of spending hour after hour, day after day, doesn’t there?

japanese train
some riveting reading yesterday

Apparently not it would seem, as sneaking in just behind playing mobile phone games is the mind-boggling dull commuting custom of ‘chewing gum and sucking sweets’. Those advertised on the train perchance? Either way, a hefty 44.9% of entertainment-starved travelers indulge in such sugar-based banality, monotonously masticating themselves silly.

japanese gum
a packet of gum last week

Now admittedly the list does include the rather more worthwhile habits of reading, listening to music, and even conversing with other commuters, but I’ve conveniently omitted them, as they have no amusement value whatsoever. Unlike ‘doing nothing’, which a rather worrying 14.9% of commuters do – or indeed don’t do – everyday.

And finally there’s the 0.4% of people who do ‘other’ things, which quite possibly brings us back to furtive fiddling again…

Cabbage confusion

How the humble cabbage ever managed to become a decorative device never ceased to amaze me; a decidedly unusual choice over the more generally accepted flower or plant.

japanese cabbage

Anyway, it turns out that they aren’t cabbages after all.

japanese cabbage

Which is a shame.

Gorilla grapple

Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo held a training exercise this week, the aim being to practice capturing animals that may escape during a major earthquake; an Elephant near the Emperor’s Palace or a Giraffe in Ginza probably being the last thing that rescue teams would want to deal with.

Presumably being disorientated and afraid, any roaming beasts would be both dangerous and unpredictable, so this year’s exercise was made as authentic as possible – the latest advancements in make-up and synthetic material allowing officials to effortlessly achieve this. A tactic that proved hugely successful, as despite knowing that underneath the ultra-realistic gorilla suit was Suzuki-san from sales, the fear amongst the staff is practically palpable.

gorilla suit

Pimply perfection

Perhaps a little run-down due to her anti-spyware campaigning, all-round celebrity and big-time blogger, Kaori Manabe, has turned her attention to more personal matters; joining forces with facial cream manufacturer Proactiv in the quest for better skin.

kaori manabe
Manabe (left) and some other woman

At this week’s promotional event, the 24-year-old claimed to have suffered in the past with spots, resulting in her being quite withdrawn as a youngster. However now that they’ve cleared up – all down to the power of Proactiv of course – the boil-beating blogger has a new and confident outlook on life, happily boasting, “I want to show off my skin.” Her pimple-free and positive approach amply conveyed in the bubbly and bouncy picture below.

kaori manabe

As well as delighting both her sponsor and the nation’s adolescents by adding, “I want to dress up and go out, and find new love,” Manabe-san also had hordes of gamers frantically fiddling with their joysticks, claiming, “I’m into video games now.”

kaori manabe

Final Fantasy being a good bet…

Monroe meal

In an area where people mustn’t get out much, residents of Susami, Wakayama Prefecture, are currently going wild about an unusually shaped daikon (Japanese radish).


Found in the garden of 74-year-old Keiko Tanaka, this mildly interesting member of the mustard family is being likened in appearance to a woman crossing her legs. In fact, so uncanny is this resemblance, that locals have gone as far as naming the daikon ‘Monroe’; presumably after the famous movie icon and rumoured radish lover.

However whilst currently on display, the demure daikon’s time is almost up; as after eyeing up its luscious ‘legs’, Tanaka-san drooled to reporters, “I’m hoping that it will taste better than regular ones”. A comment that will surely dismay the entertainment starved residents of Susami.

Beastly backpacks

For Japanese elementary school students, these bulky and bland bags are standard issue; kids the length and breadth of the country weighed down with their colossal size and cumbersome design.

japanese school bags

Yet for parents looking for something just a little bit different, help is finally at hand, this collection of beast-skinned backpacks offering a real alternative.

japanese animal bags
(click image for added animality)

As a mid-range introduction, the wild boar option could be a wise move – its furry finish a definite plus point. And it’s a snip at only 500,000 yen (2,436 pound).

wild boar skin bag

However for those on the look out for a bag with a little more class and colour, the zebra clad carryall is ideal; although priced at a steady 1 million yen (4,853 pound), it’s not for the faint-hearted.

zebra skin bag

Yet for the truly ostentatious, this heady mix of snake and frog skin is arguably unbeatable – the inclusion of a liberal amount of gold further adding to its allure. Plus with a price tag of 1.3 million yen (6,307 pound), it’s guaranteed to cause something of a stir on the school bus.

snake skin bag

And if you somehow remain unconvinced, just look how cute they are.

animal school bags

Altogether now: One, two, three, awww!