Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pachinko! (And a Brief Review of Kaiji 2)

Before I know it, it is already the end of the month, and I haven't written a thing (other than the first day of the month post). So. Seriously. Busy. Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the looney ice-berg. I doubt I have time to write a single post for December. So better to write something while I can.

Amidst all the craziness in November, I managed to steal in some movie time with Samurai T on his birthday. Instead of doing the high brow like visiting the ArtScience Museum for the Titantic exhibition, we decided to watch Kaiji The Gambler: Part 2, even though we did not watch Part 1, and know nothing about the manga series, other than it is in Japanese, about gambling (duh!), and acted by Tatsuya Fujiwara from Death Note.

It is a moderately interesting, occasionally head-scratching movie (probably a result of our ignorance of the background story), although Samurai confessed to falling asleep mid-way through the movie. I kept awake because I was trying to practice my Japanese (again, was not very successful), and scrutinising Fujiwara's slightly bloated face with my newly Lasiked vision. Unfortunately I do not find him hot, unlike my dear Kimura-san, but he is passable. (He was apparently in Singapore for the movie opening, but as usual, I knew of it after the fact. Sigh.)

Although he does not rock my boat, it does not mean I cannot post a gratituous pic of him. ;P

The biggest thing I remember from the movie was this SUPER extended scene of Kaiji Ito, the titular character played Fujiwara, playing a monster pachinko machine. (In my not-so-humble opinion, that scene was WAYYY too long, making a supposedly climatic scene anti-climatic in the end.)  Prior to my first visit to Japan in 2008, I have already read a number of news articles about the Japanese aunties (obasan) and uncles (ojisan) becoming addicted to this pachinko game, forsaking family and friends, and money, of course. And I thought to myself, I must check this thing out and see what the fuss is all about.

Therefore, during my visit to Shibuya on my first trip to Tokyo back in 2008, I dragged the Samurai into the first pachinko parlour I saw. And this was what we saw:

To me, it looked like rows and rows of jackpot like-machines and there was a cacophony of noises coming out of these machines, and the players looking quite zombie-like, having obviously sat there playing for God-knew-how-long. Instead of money, they had trays and trays of small steel balls next to them. I tried to figure out how the game was played, but unfortunately with my language handicap, it was all Greek to me. I mean, I never really knew how to play jackpot too.

According to Wikipedia, which I finally researched after watching Kaiji, the objective of the pachinko game was to feed the steel balls into the machine to TRY to win MORE steel balls, which at the end of the day could be exchanged for cash. The reason for using steel balls instead of cash in the game was that gambling is OUTLAWED in Japan (I learn something new every day), so those steel balls are exchanged for cash at a separate site from the parlour (probably managed by the Yakuza!). There are apparently a zillion permutations of the number of steel balls you can win, in short, it IS like a jackpot machine - but a Japanese modified version.

I almost fell asleep trying to describe what is pachinko, and hence totally fail to see why this is such an addictive activity. Give me mahjong anyday!

In  any case, the highlight of my little visit was when I saw a series of "Winter Sonata" pachinko machines. I am a fan of the Korean drama series, which had also garnered legions of Japanese fans. I used to be CRAZY over Bae Yong Jun, so it was funny to see pictures plastered all over parlour and inside the machines. I guess even the obasans need motivation to sit there for hours to play. 

 Winter Sonata Posters

A Winter Sonata themed machine.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Good News to Start Off November!

I got 89% (or 160/180 marks) for my JLPT 5 Mock Test 1!!!

After all the agonising and fretting prior to the event, I actually passed.

I was actually surprised by my excellent results, because I found the test rather difficult, and to be VERY honest, I DID NOT even finish studying all the given materials (probably only read through a quarter of them). So a combination of dumb luck and paying attention during class paid off in spades. Of course, I am not going to take it for granted that I would naturally pass come the actual exam on 4 December. In fact, Sensei has already warned the class that Mock Test 2, to be held in another 3 weeks, would be significantly more difficult (むずかしいですね). Shudder.

Even the Evil One, who has been travelling non-stop for work, has passed the test. She was practically doing cartwheels in class when she received her results because she was sure she would have failed. In fact, the entire class passed, and it was hard to tamp down the celebratory mood! (And it was not even the real thing. We are so easily satisfied, no?)

The best part of my day was that my results topped the class. I marginally scrapped past my 19 year-old classmate (89% to his 88%) who is always very good in his Japanese. (It was a funny moment when he realised he lost by ONE percentage point.) I am *er-hem* ALMOST twice his age (not quite) but SUCH satisfaction and a sense of achievement I felt. My older brain is not dead yet! There is still life and vigour! Take THAT, young brains! Take THAT, spring chickens! (Hmm, all this hidden resentment against youthfulness is rising out of nowhere.) Maybe if I was 19, I would have gotten 100%!!!!!!!! (Ok, I am probably stretching it.)

Well, enough of gloating. It is a good start to November nevertheless. Hopefully I will have more time to write a few more posts but don't hold your breath. I have got to keep my top dog position in class.

Gonna frame this up! :D