Shoichi Nakagawa: The Piss-Head Politician’s Biggest Boozy Blunders

February 27, 2009

In this climate of global financial crisis, it can’t be heartening to discover that the guy in charge of your country’s economy is a bumbling booze-hound. This was the case in Japan a couple of weeks ago, when the finance minister, Shoichi Nakagawa, showed up at a G7 summit in Italy, as shit-faced as a 17-year-old sailor on shore leave, and proceeded to slur his way through a nonsensical, factually-innaccurate speech on live television for all the world to see. For the Japanese, who routinely hand over a sizeable chunk of their monthly wages for their government pensions, to witness that blundering dipsomaniac’s performance in the knowledge that he was in control of their life’s savings, must have been like finding out that your priceless Ming vase had been entrusted to the Three Stooges.

Nakagawa blamed his bad behaviour on taking too much cold medicine, but he wasn’t fooling anyone, and was forced to resign (let’s see how unemployment affects his alcohol problem!) The nation collectively bowed their heads in shame and embarrassment, as opposed to the cackles of glee that the disgrace of a statesman invariably provokes in western countries, where people love nothing more than having the opportunity to mock and poke fun at snooty authority figures.
Which is what I shall proceed to do now!

A bit of research reveals that Nakagawa’s a typical, old, out-of-touch politician, who got his job via an expensive private education and his Dad pulling strings (his father was the prominent Hokkaidō politician, Ichiro Nakagawa).
And, much like a spoiled Hollywood brat, he’s been getting up to a lot of booze-fueled tomfoolery over the years.

Even though I can hardly blame the guy for turning to the bottle during the worst financial crisis in decades, by nature I find Nakagawa’s humiliating alco-antics pretty funny, and will catalogue them below. here they are:

Shoichi Nakagawa’s Top 6 Most Hilarious Drunken Mishaps!

1: Appearing on Global TV, Totally Rat-Arsed, and Disgracing a Nation.


2: Setting off a Security Alarm in the Vatican
During the same fateful trip to Italy, the bungling politician caused a scene in a Vatican museum, with slapstick antics worthy of Inspector Clouseau. While being shown around the museum by the ambassador and other local dignitaries, the accident-prone minister wandered around the museum like he owned the place, touching an off-limits priceless statue, not once but twice, and setting off a security alarm. Reportedly, he even sat on a precious exhibit, almost as if it were a bar-stool.

3: Freaking People Out by Screwing Up a Festive Tradition
In Japan, it is common practice for politicians to paint one eye of a traditional Daruma doll before an election for good luck, then to paint the other eye if they win, to show that their wish has been fulfilled. In June 2000, when a swaggering, inebriated Nakagawa found out he’d been elected for a sixth term in office in Obihiro, Hokkaido, he stuck his brush in the inkpot to paint the doll’s eye. Unfortunately, the clumsy nitwit put way too much ink on the brush and ended up splattering the doll’s face with black ink. Witnesses to this cock-up were horrified- black tears were not exactly the symbol of optimism that voters were looking for on election day.

4: Showing Up Wasted for His first Cabinet Meeting
In September 2004, then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi decided to have a Cabinet re-shuffle. At the time, Shoichi was somehow minister of economy, trade and industry. On the day that Koizumi was to announce his new team, Nakagawa, perhaps anticipating that his glory days were over, held a farewell news conference, before leaving the ministry for the nearest pub to get totally pissed-up.
Surprisingly, however, Nakagawa was reappointed and, still smashed, he had to rush back to the prime minister’s office. As a result, Nakagawa spent his first Cabinet meeting utterly shit-faced.

5: Causing a Massive Slide in Stocks by Being Hungover
Last October, in the midst of the financial crisis, as bankers around the world were pulling their hair out in frustration, the Japanese government decided that Nakagawa should hold a news conference to inform the public of his emergency measures to stabilize the market. Nonchalant Nakagawa sauntered up to the podium 15 minutes late, and didn’t have anything helpful to say. He hadn’t actually come up with any decent emergency measures. Somehow, this useless announcement dragged on well into the afternoon and, consequently, the worst slide in stocks in decades wasn’t stopped in time. Japan’s economy was buggered. The notorious drunkard Nakagawa was rumoured to be hung-over at the time, and was slammed by the press for his lax response. Nice going, Shoichi!

6: Late, Drunk, Almost Bumping into a Pillar
In 2006, when Nakagawa was somehow head of the government’s “Policy Research Council”, he indulged in a little old-fashioned Mr.Bean-style physical comedy. Most people, when asked to attend a high-profile meeting between various important political figures, would work hard to be punctual and well-prepared. Not our Shoichi!
When expected at a conference in a plush Tokyo hotel, between the the Policy Research Council bosses, the secretaries general of the ruling parties, and the governent affairs chiefs, Shoichi arrived late, was too trashed to walk in a straight line, and very nearly bumped into a concrete pillar. D’oh!

All of this would be acceptable if he were a nice guy, but Nakagawa’s an out-of-date chauvinist. In a (surely drunken) interview with the UK’s Daily Telegraph, about Japan’s declining birthrate, he boorishly declared that “Women have their proper place: they should be womanly. They have their own abilities and these should be fully exercised, for example in flower arranging, sewing, or cooking.”
The woman’s place is in the kitchen, eh, Shoichi?
That might be the case in your house, pal, but I suspect it’s because you, yourself, are either too smashed to cook without burning the house down, or because you’d be drinking all the cooking sherry.
And if the birth-rate is declining in the Nakagawa household, it may well be because you’re too pissed to get it up.

Hold on. Drink problems? Sexist? Following in Daddy’s footsteps? He’s the Japanese Charlie Sheen!

Pickup Artists Named and Shamed in “Book Off”

February 23, 2009

The “Book Off” chain of shops in Japan sells second-hand books, games, CDs and DVDs. Its amusing name leads to pun-laden exchanges such as this:
“Where are you going?”
“Book Off.”
“Well, there’s no need to be rude. I was only asking.”
(Their sister-store sells hardware, and goes by the even more ridiculous name of “Hard Off.”)

In Book Off’s CD section, they draw attention to popular musicians with signs which say “Pickup Artist.”
This is to recommend that customers “pick up” a copy of the CD but, at first glance, appears to condemn the likes of Sting and David Bowie as womanizing gigolos.

Ed Jacob’s Titillating “Love Hotels” Book

February 8, 2009

In a country so populous that entire families share the same bedroom and youngsters live with their parents well into their twenties, it must be quite a mammoth challenge to have a good shag in privacy. That’s why love hotels are so successful in Japan. These gaudy sex palaces, where randy couples can go for uninhibited nookie, can be easily spotted in the backstreets and roadsides of Japan, and are a source of fascination and amusement to westerners like me. To cater for this curiosity, Ed Jacob has lovingly written an entire book about the places, and the titillating tome makes for an entertaining read.

In “Love Hotels”, Jacob traces the history of the love hotel from its roots in the discreet backrooms of the tearooms and noodle shops of the Edo and Meiji Eras, before beds and lockable doors had made it to Japan (prior to the tea-rooms, people used to openly rut in parks like wild beasts. Sadly, the pesky white folks put a stop to this charming ancient custom when they arrived in their black ships and disapproved of the al-fresco action); all the way up to the hi-tech Disneyland-influenced pleasure pits of today, with their 50-inch flatscreen TVs, playstations, mind-boggling sex toys, and karaoke machines.
Ed Jacob lets us know the social context, fads and fashions of the times, and he fills us in on the hoteliers’ battles with the law, as well as prevailing Japanese attitudes to sex and romance. And there are plenty of pictures (which makes reading the book on the train difficult, as I discovered!)

One voyeuristic pleasure is the translation of the hotel guestbook comments, with thrilling confessions like “my husband doesn’t know I’m here,” “I love my 60 year old sugar daddy,” and “I’m going to to kill myself.”

Equally entertaining, are the lists of inexplicable and un-sexy love-hotel names, such as “The Hippo Doctor”, “Hello Clown”, “Penguin Town”, “Love Monster’s Room” and “Banana and Donuts”.

Ed clearly has an encyclopedic knowledge of Japanese weirdness, and can now lay claim to the dubious honour of being the English speaking world’s leading authority on love hotels.
The book is so well researched that the guy has either really done his homework, or gets laid more often than Gene Simmons.

We even learn about the poor bastards who have to clean the rooms after the guests leave.
Indeed, the love hotel business is not all fun and games, as we learn from dark news reports of prostitution, adultery, murder and blackmail.
How would you feel if you discovered a rotting corpse under the mattress you’d just made sweet love on?; or if you walked into a video shop, only to discover a DVD on the adult shelf, featuring secretly filmed footage of you shagging somebody in a love hotel? These things have actually happened. Yikes!

Nevertheless, any adventurous couple traveling to Japan should definitely add a trip to a love hotel to their “to do” list.
The most useful part of Ed’s book is the listings and reviews of love hotels, ranging from the romantic to the totally bat-shit bonkers.
Among some of the more demented destinations that I’m keen to investigate (for a laugh, honest!) are a “Hello Kitty S & M”-themed room (?!), and an entire hotel themed around Yakuza-Snowmen (which can surely be erotic for no-one but the criminally insane).

“Love Hotels” is certainly an education, even for the most jaded of Japanophiles. You might, however, need to take a shower after reading it!

You can order the book or read samples at Ed’s site, Quirky Japan.

Mickey Rourke in Vintage Japanese Commercials

February 7, 2009

Ever wonder what comeback king Mickey Rourke got up to in those wilderness years between appearing in 80s movies like Nine and a Half Weeks and Angel Heart, and his recent award winning performance in The Wrestler?
He was appearing in these Japanese ads. They are worth watching for the weird and inane dialogue, and Rourke’s barely concealed disinterest.

Cinderella, rewritten by a Japanese Kid

February 4, 2009

One of the perks of my English teaching gig is that I occasionally get to read the bizarre and entertaining stories that Japanese kids write, like this Star Wars-influenced interpretation of Cinderella:


A far far time ago Ther was a Cinderella in Tatoieene. And she was washing a bathroom. She don’t like here becaus it’s so hot and only 5 friends in here. She lived alone. And she have a idea. She go to police and get a rocket. But how? So she go to magic potato to Think about it. She go to magic potato’s house and she look. It was a dance party and she say hey magic potato! Yes, yes Said he. Can you take me to police? said Cinderella. I can do it so I need a a carpet Said potato. And she throw a carpet, and potato said po-pi-pa-de-da-daw and the carpet change to car. And Captain said I where drive? And u.h.t.b said nothing. So they drive to police. And u.h.t.b said Can we have a rocket? Police said yes I can. So they go to earth.
And nothing hapend.
The end.

So, if you want a free rocket from a police station, you just have to ask. (In reality, of course, the police would assume you were high on Angel Dust and lock you up for your own good. Isn’t reality rubbish?)
Who needs TV when you’ve got dynamite like this to read?

Boobs and Tits in Japan

February 2, 2009

I can understand why the owners of a surf shop for women might choose a name for their store which reflects the gender of their target market, but surely these shopkeepers in Sumida, Tokyo, could have come up with something better than “Boobs.”

There must be alot of disappointed male customers in brown raincoats trudging out of that shop.
The same, no doubt, can be said for the following establishment, a quaint and charming tearoom in the historical city of Kyoto. It’s called “Tits Cafe.” The poor proprietors must have been innocently thinking of the little birds rather than mammary glands when they decided upon that name. I’m sure Tits gets alot of business, though!

Ex-Celebs in Old Japanese Commercials

February 2, 2009

Japanese drinks corporations, most famously Suntory Whisky, are known for paying vast sums of cash to international superstars such as Harrison Ford to add a little glitz and glamour to their products by appearing in their TV commericals. The companies agree not to show the ads outside Japan, to avoid damaging the stars’ classy reputations by exposing them as shameless sell-outs.
However, when profits are low and booze companies and forced to make cutbacks, they have to hire the likes of Jan Michael Vincent instead, (who must have thought all his Christmases had come at once when Suntory waved the cash in front of his face. “Holy shit! Where do I sign?! Somebody get me a pen before they change their minds! Quick!” He probably sneaked a few of those bottles of whisky into his bag after filming when no-one was looking, too.)
In these times of global financial crisis, Screech from “Saved by the Bell” must be sitting by the phone just waiting for that call from Suntory Whisky.
Here are a selection Japanese booze ads featuring cut-price celebs who were probably pleased to get the call. I don’t blame them (hell, if anyone from Suntory wants to put me in a commercial, I’d be more than willing.) At least they actually need the money, unlike Harrison Ford.

Actually, I feel bad putting Phoebe Cates in there, since she looks phenomenal and I worshipped her as a kid, in Fast Times at Ridgemont high and Gremlins. I’m guessing the rights to the Elvis Presley song cost more than her fee, though!

I’m off!