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Mandy Mand Goes Bowling in Japan
‘You can do it!’ the poster read ‘Do you like bowling? Let’s play bowling, breaking down the pins and get hot communication.’

If you survived last month’s bumper special and made it through to the end, then you will probably remember me oh so casually mentioning my birthday, which took place on the 12th, and celebrated in style at a hairdressing salon called `dig dug`.

The night was hair - larious! (oh dear - cheesy puns have started already!) Thank you so much for all my lovely cards, pressies and emails! It was a tip top tastic day and I felt extremely ‘special’ (please note the `special` in inverted commas). Birthday celebrations started early on the night before where, dressed up in ukattas (summer-style kimonos) - we let down our hair to party at the hairdressers. Anyone wearing a ukatta got their hair done for free and so I ended up with lopsided poochie bunches true japanese styley!

The party was mainly all Nova teachers and so we had lots of fun playing around with the automatic hair washing machine whilst happily tucking into vino and nibbles. Automatic hair washes are fantastic! You lie back in a dentist`s chair which raises you up to the height of the sink. Your head is then inserted into what looks like a giant space helmet and with the push of a button - the process begins. It’s almost like being in a car wash as various jet sprays, scrubbers and squirty things attack your head. I often get the giggles too and so it’s a pretty mad sight for anyone walking in when they see a huge glass capsule rumbling away with two legs sticking out and fits of `tee hees` filtering out across the room.

Tres bizarre - but tres fab too. Sadly there was no Karaoke to round off the night as we had a big day ahead of us. Instead, it was home for a midnight feast of pizza and dumplings and an early night as on birthday day - we were going bowling.

‘You can do it!’ the poster read ‘Do you like bowling? Let’s play bowling, breaking down the pins and get hot communication.’ bowling is a little different in Japan.

The game is pretty much the same except all your names are typed into the computer before you arrive so you don't have to do anything. A TV camera is set up by the pins so you can watch in close up from your TV screen as your ball completely misses the target! I guess Japanese fingers are pretty tiny too as the holes in the bowling balls managed to trap our fingers everytime to the point that we were almost rolling down the lane heading straight for the pins along with the bowling ball itself which just wouldn`t let go! Consequently - we spent most of the game frantically trying to unwedge our poor hands, which had swelled to the size of those evil mean and nasty bowling balls! We soon cheered up, however when we saw cute Japanese girls dolled up in teeny tiny micro mini skirts, high heels, fish net stockings and Lois Vuitton bags suddenly become very short as they traded in their 10inch stilletoes for a pair of ickly diddy bowling shoes.

And the best thing about bowling shoes here in Japan is that you get them from a vending machine! Each locker has a shoe size, put your coins in the slot and out pops a pair of shoes - magic! During the game - play is stopped every hour and the lights are all turned out. Two very genki Japanese bowling stewards kitted out in Hawaiian shirts and flower garlands ramble away in Japanese where everybody whoops and cheers in unison.
Everyone except us that is because, as per usual, we didn't understand one goddamm word so hadn't a clue what was going on! All of a sudden little red lights lit up each lane and the pins turned ultra violet white. The music played and a bowler from each group had a go at knocking down the pins.

It was ‘our Allison’ who managed to knock the most pins down and so a big cardboard cut out of a bowling pin was thrust into her hands. An extremely chirpy little bowling steward happily snapped away at her camera whilst making us chant "We’re number One! We’re number one!".

Normal bowling then resumed shortly after along with another round of beers which were consumed in order to help us overcome that somewhat bizarre experience which had just taken place. At the end of the game you are each presented with an individual score sheet printed up from the computer telling you exactly what you managed to knock down, or miss, as well as helpful tips on how we could improve next time. None of this was any use however as it was all written in Japanese and reading Kanji just ain't my bag baby! I did however manage to get a strike and so did Michelle which was pretty fab considering it was the first time she had been bowling in her life - I love first times!

Sorry! - tend to say that a lot in my lessons when two students have never met before and it’s time to introduce themselves. Anyway, back to birthday bowling! So the day ended with our ‘number one bowler’ Allison (who is the Canadian answer to Delia Smith - fab chef tastic!) cooking a fantastic feast of pesto pasta followed by birthday cake and sparklers on the verandah. It was certainly a sparkle tastic ending to a birthday bowling tastic day - was bowled over with happiness!! Hurray.

August has been pretty much the month of parties both birthday and Sayonara (goodbye) as many folk are hitting the shores and heading homeward bound. There have also been plenty of firework festivals taking place including the biggest display in the whole world which was held in Osaka recently and over 120,000 were let off in the space of just one hour - it was dazzling but also slightly bonkers considering the fact that the Japanese economy isn’t too good at the mo.

You`d think that thousands of fireworks would be the last thing they’d want to spend their money on but when it comes to brands and keeping up good appearances - the Japanese are the first to reach for their Lois Vuitton purses. One of my Japanese friends is always complaining that she works too hard and hasn’t got any money for food and clothes or even a vacation poor thing. Meanwhile her wrist is weighed down by a mammoth sized diamond encrusted Rolex accompanied by a Tiffany’s matching bracelet, earring and necklace set! Another student has just spent 300,000 yen, which is about 1500 ($3600 Canadian) on a face peeling machine. It peels off the top layer of skin so that your face looks like new, fresh, baby like and wrinkle free. Even pets are pampered in Japan.

Always known for wanting to be that little bit different - dog owners often tend to dye their dogs’ ears and tail bright colours such as pink, blue or yellow as well as adding cute little hair bows and ribbons.
I even saw a Guide dog dressed up in a little pink floral number complete with frilly pants and bonnet.
The dog looked - well - embarrassed and I couldn’t help feeling for the poor thing as I guess a little bo peep outfit doesn’t really do much for your doggy street cred.

Another one of my students has set up a doggie pooch parlour in the USA where costumers range from belly dancing boxers to superman spaniels and Afro Hounds. You may have heard of a new craze called 'Afro Ken' which all started here in Japan alongside Hello Kitty - the Queen kitty kat of kitsch!! There are plenty more things to write about pets in Japan but sadly, I’ve rambled on for far too long already even though I promised not to do so - oops!! Sorry!

So instead, I will save that for next month along with various other little observations I’ve discovered during my time spent in Hello Kitty land. Hope you are all keeping well and will be back to hound you again next month with more doggy tails, (tee hee) Loads of love and cuddles

© Mandy Mand September 2002


Mandy Mand in Japan - Summer Hols in Okinawa and Tokyo
Sadly, you're not supposed to stare or even look at the monkeys...

World Cup Fever Continues
Japanese soccer hooligans went crazy and threw themselves off the famous Totomi bridge into a river in the middle of Osaka

you MUST have at least one Louis Vuitton bag, a Tiffany's necklace
and of course that essential pink sparkly phone!

I realised that wearing a black and white polka dot lace thong was not the best move!

From Hollywood to Dollywood
The Japanese folk looked on in horror - tragic thing was that these weren't actually hooligans but English teachers from Australia

More about Japan in Hacktreks

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