In Japan, Always Know Where Your Towel Is

I was in Japan last week for the Tokyo Game Show, among other things. There are a kajillion sites with direct coverage of TGS better than what I could offer so I’ll hold off on commentary in that area for now until it all sinks in a bit better. In the meantime, I’m going to make a couple of posts this week about Japan. I’ve been going there for about a decade now and it’s still a pretty fun place to visit even when the days are consumed by business topics.

Today’s lesson: you should always know where your towel is when in Japan. While The Guide says the towel should be big, like a bath or beach towel, in Japan you can get away with something much smaller like a wash cloth. Of course, most people don’t actually carry towels, they carry handkerchiefs. Typically these handkerchiefs serve much the same purpose as a small towel, used for drying hands, wiping sweat off your face and wetting to clean yourself up with. Very versatile!

Why is such an accessory which seems relegated to old men with runny noses or fashion statements in the US essential in Japan? Well, many restrooms still don’t have any means to dry your hands. Of course most even moderately trafficked areas will have paper tower dispensers or some kind of air dry system, but many older public restrooms and restrooms in smaller establishments are traditional and without something to dry your hands. Many restaurants will have paper napkins or provide a wet hand towel to clean your hands before eating and you can continue to use it during the meal, but there’s no shortage of restaurants which at best have only tissues as “napkins” or maybe nothing at all. Again, a small hand wash cloth or handkerchief will come to your rescue.

That’s just a couple of cases where a towel could be handy. Next time you find yourself in Japan without a handkerchief, be sure to bring along a small towel from your hotel room when heading out exploring and your day will go by with one less thing to worry about.

Shipoopi Is For Real?

One of this past weekend’s Family Guy episodes was “Patriot Games” which features a crazy musical number called “Shipoopi.” I didn’t think too much of it when it first aired but for some reason I decided to find out the origin of Shipoopi after seeing it again. Not only is Shipoopi a real song (which I guess shouldn’t surprise me since pretty much everything in Family Guy is lifted from something else) but the Family Guy version is more entertaining than the classic Music Man movie version.

Seth MacFarlane’s singing sounds better and richer to me than Buddy Hackett’s rendition. (And we know how awful Peter Griffin sounds.) Still he comes across with more feeling. The direction and cinematography in the Music Man is too distant and feels too much like watching the theater production. I know what they were going for back then, showing the complete choreography and letting audiences know that the performers could really perform, letting them feel like they saw the Broadway original. Unfortunately what it has in energy and synchronization it lacks in emotional connection to that song. Maybe it worked better on the big screen in Cinemascope? In any case, I think really great musical numbers should be able to survive out of context from the rest of their shows which the Music Man’s Shipoopi doesn’t do very well. As much as I sometimes dislike Family Guy’s single track mind of harpooning and reeling in of past works to be put on display for a new generation, the show is unmatched in making that approach work.

Compare for yourself. Which do you like better?
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