Tuesday, 27 July 2004

Had to listen to the cricket on Test Match Special last night so that was why there was no post, apologies to regular Monday evening viewers. Something odd about the England cricket team at the moment, mainly that they keep winning - six out of the last seven - which seems somewhat unbecomming of an England Cricket XI. Certainly feels like the first time in my lifetime that we've been doing it (though I can, just about, remember the '81 Ashes with Botham et al), but in modern times, not really. So hey, isn't the internet fantastic in that I, in Japan, can listen to TMS in real time whilst watching the score on Cricinfo and not have to worry about the tube strike?

Japan in hot water (again)
Except for another scandal. Now it is getting a bit dull, to be honest, writing about all these scandals. They just keep coming, thick and fast, so it is hard to keep up with who has bribed who, to cover up what, to protect someone else's arse etc, but this one, I thought, just had to be reported. It is the tail end of the whole thing, in truth, but I think it is important to tell as it shows the truly dark side of Japan, the canker eating at the soul of the nation, the sort of thing, in short, that the country is either going to have to deal with or end up at the bottom of the pile socially, economically, morally, ethically and any other ~ally you can think of.

You may think I'm building this up too much and that in reality it won't be so bad. You are wrong.

So what's it all about? Well, in the mountains of Nagano there are two things in abundance: ski slopes and onsens (or baths fuelled by hot springs). Now the ski slopes are all well and good in the winter, making pots of cash as they do, but the onsens are the real money earners as they are open all year and everyone, *everyone* in Japan likes a good hot bath, especially if it comes out of a mountain.

Now naturally all this water is gushing through the rock and out of the ground, where it is collected by onsen owners and put into big wooden tubs, whereupon one relaxes and, if one has any sense, has a beer or two to savour the moment. These rocks, of course, impart their minerals and things into the water, making them good for things like flatulence and arthritis and turning the water all sorts of different colours. And the more minerals the better, can cure you (or give you more) of whaterever it is you have.

But for some nefarious, no, downright evil, onsen owners this wasn't enough. Oh no. They had to be better than their neighbours, didn't they. "Doesn't matter if it is all the same water", they said. "Ours is different, another kind of rock in back garden makes my onsen water better". And the people trusted them, so they went and bathed and said "ooh, innit' nice, I can feel my flatulence returning good and proper".

And then the Inspector of Onsens came along and took a water sample.

"Now then sonny jim" said the Inspector "what's all this about a different kind of rock in your back garden?"

"Yeah, that white one there, very good for healthy toenails, or something..."

"Right. and the fact you've been adding bath salts to your onsen water wouldn't have anything to do with that, now would it?"

"Ah...Er...it's a fair cop?"

That's right, dear readers especially those not in Japan. The nation's onsen are not safe from the corruption that is sweeping the land. And the Inspector didn't just find one, he found loads. Dodgy 'onsen' owners were filling their wooden baths with tap water, adding a few salts and then charging punters to take their waters to give them back their flatulence and basically conning them all and coining in the cash.

And for a regular Japanese person, you can forget the sumo, to hell with the summer fireworks and even the cherry blossom can be put aside - just don't fuck with their baths.

So now there is a task force, the Inspector has some Constables who, I guess like the Michelin people (foodies, not tyre makers), visit establishments, sample the delights on offer and then grade the place on the quality of it's fart inducing products. This should, hopefully, put a stop the practice and make bath time safe for eveyone again.

Otherwise it was just another week in Tokyo, with ex-Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto accused of pocketing a 100 million yen bribe, sorry, donation, back in 2001 from the Japan Dental Association. Business as usual, really.

Actually, I like the story above for one redeeming factor, because of the way the Japanese media translate things. The bribe apparently was made by Nisshiren (I think that is the English spelling) which has been translated as 'the political wing of the Japan Dental Association', which I just love. The 'political wing' just sounds so cool. I can imagine their annual conference:

Main Hall: Japan Dental Association General Conference
Rose Room: JDA Political Wing
Jade Room: JDA Tactical Operations and Counter Insurgency Unit
Ivory Room: JDA Steering Committee for the Establishment of the World Revolution and Clean Teeth Brigade

Almost worth becomming a dentist for.


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