Japanese cat deterrent


It seems to be pretty universal that people (in particular parents of young children) are not too happy about neighbourhood cats using their garden as the toilet (I’m sure most people wouldn’t be happy about the neighbourhood dogs using their garden as the toilet either). A garden covered with cat faeces which might contain Toxoplasma gondii (a parasite that causes neurological problems) is extremely incompatible with young children, who are drawn to dirt and fail to resist putting random things in their mouths and licking anything from a daffodil to a rake.

The only group of people that might not mind cats using their garden as the toilet are the cats’ owners. But paradoxically, cats tend to prefer their neighbours’ gardens to their own.

In Japan, catless people tackle this problem with PET bottles filled with water (see photo above). I’ve understood that the use of these is based on three assumptions.

1) Cats don’t like water. (I’m giggling just typing this silly argument!)

2) When a cat goes close to the bottle, they see their own reflection on the bottle, thinks it is another cat (probably a size of a tiger due to the bottle distorting their reflection) and consequently runs away. But cats are intelligent animals, they wouldn’t fall for this, would they!?

3) Maybe more convincingly, cats don’t like the prism that sunlight creates in the area surrounding the bottles.

I was going to suggest that instead of taking the drastic measure of buying a dog (or your own cat!) you, my non-Japanese catless reader, could use PET bottles instead, to make your garden less attractive to cats, but then it dawned on me that this would only work in places with lots of sunshine (e.g. the Sahara and Japan). Given that we have only about a week’s worth of sun per year in Finland (and even less in England), in these countries, the use of PET bottles would be as effective a cat deterrent as gluing a photo of a dog on your garden shed.

One of those days

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Graffiti – Ximen, Taipei.

I had one of those days yesterday. One of those days that you occasionally have when the universe seems to be determined to get one over you.

Yesterday was the first day of teaching this academic year. In case you’ve just checked whether this is a 6-month old blog post, I might need to quickly add that unlike in Europe and America where academic years start in the autumn, in Japan, the start of the academic year is the 1st April, and at my university, teaching starts the second week so April, after about a week of orientation.

Regardless of when the start of the academic year is, most teachers and university lecturers/professors know that the start of a new term is stressful. Most academics are very busy planning teaching, attending meetings and finalising their own research projects before the teaching starts. And so was I. But I had already planned my classes for weeks ahead, I had already been to most of my meetings and I had done a fair amount of my own research during the two-month long winter vacation. So it was all good.

On the first day back at work, I was to have a 90-minute session with some second year students at 9am, but more importantly, I was to meet my new first year students during a 3-hour orientation session in the afternoon. I was a little nervous, as I wanted to make a good first impression on my new students.

My alarm woke me up at 6.40am, but after having been up half the night with problems with my daughter’s blood sugars I wasn’t on full form.

During the night, probably due to stress, I had developed a cold sore on my lip. Bloody marvellous, given that in Japan you never see cold sores. If a person has one, they will most certainly wear a surgical mask to hide it.

I however did not want to wear a mask on the first day of meeting new students because (maybe influenced by my Western mindset) I felt like wearing a mask would give them an everlasting first impression of a person with weak constitution. Besides, I wanted the new students to see my face on the first day, partly so that they would see that I am tough but kind, but also so that it would be easier for them to understand my British English, given that most Japanese people are more familiar with American English. Then again, I don’t know what kind of an infection-ridden message a cold sore on my lip would make… In any case, I decided not to wear a mask.

We didn’t have any Zovirax (cold sore cream) in the house, so in desperation I decided to slab some toothpaste on the cold sore, which, supposedly, will dry the blister and get rid of the cold sore very quickly. Since I wanted to get rid of it fast, preferably before my afternoon class with the first year students, I applied an extra thick layer.

Not only was yesterday the first day of teaching this academic year, but it was also the first day for our new au pair to help out with the kids’ morning routine and school run. The word bedlam doesn’t quite capture our morning activities yesterday morning, but somehow we got the kids kind of ready for school on time, I got changed into my dress and suit jacket and pounced out of the apartment around 7.50am to make it to the 9am class.

On the train I get some subtle curious looks. I say subtle because in Japan people rarely stare. If you have done something wrong, like talk on your phone on the train, no-one will tell you that you are not allowed to make phone calls on trains or on train platforms in Japan. They just give you this ever so slight eye-roll and you are supposed to figure out that your fellow passenger is sending you a clear message. So, I’m there standing on a packed commuter train trying to figure out what the seemingly obvious message is, until I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the window. And I notice the blob of blue Colgate on my lip.

I probably don’t need to mention this explicitly, but as subtly as the Japanese roll their eyes, I removed the toothpaste on my lip, and pretended it never happened.

On a positive note: I noticed the toothpaste before I reached my university, and even more importantly, before I started teaching my 9am class.

On a negative note: I share the tube to work with those people several mornings a week. And I might have just managed to acquire a new nickname, maybe something like The blue lipped Western lady amongst those commuters. But hey, I’d rather it was Colgate on my lip than, say, half a tomato stuck to my tooth! This – the half a tomato incident – has happened before, not to me, but to a colleague who had his work ID card photo taken straight after lunch with a tomato skin covering his front teeth. To me, toothpaste somehow feels like an easier thing to brush off than a tomato skin (no pun intended).

After the somewhat uncomfortable tube journey, I get to work and think that my dress feels a bit funny. I go to the toilet to realize that the lining has frayed and become detached from the dress. Every time I take a step, the detached part of the lining is pulling my dress higher and higher at the back of my legs.

It occurs to me that maybe the eye-rolling on the train was not about the toothpaste on my lip (after all, it wasn’t half a tomato). Maybe it was about my dress and its slit at the back of my legs that was revealing maybe a little more than it should have.

On a positive note: I noticed the dress ‘malfunction’ before my classes.

On a negative note: I can’t take a single step all day unless I’m willing to walk on the edges of every room, literally my back glued to the wall. Since I don’t have a spare dress at work and because there is no time to go and change at home, I decide to glue my back to the wall, and so all day yesterday, while my colleagues took the shortest route from point A to point B (as one would), I tried to keep up with them by taking sidesteps somewhere on the periphery of the room. And with teaching, I just stood there in front of the class like a meerkat spotting danger across the desert, and made sure I didn’t  move a paw.

Somehow I got through the work day without, so to speak, revealing too much. And the Colgate seemed to have worked wonders as my cold sore was not covering half my face (as it usually does). It was a mere one small blister on my upper-lip, which I was able to hide with make-up.

On a positive note: Today, i.e. the second day of teaching, was a dignified, incident free day.

On a negative note: I know one of those less dignified, incident-rich days will happen again. I’m just hoping it won’t be tomorrow or anytime soon, but I know it’s there somewhere lurking in the horizon, maybe making a devious plan for the first day of the second semester.

Take outs


Even though I am nearly as huge a fan of food as I am of wine, the title of this blog post does not refer to take away food, it refers to censored material that never made it to my published blog posts (until now).

Most bloggers know what I am talking about. You write your blog, and before you click the ‘publish’ button on your computer screen, you read the post again (maybe 75 times) and cut out or add words/sentences to improve the original version.

I personally cut out quite a lot in the editing phase, partly because I suppose, one could kind of say that I maybe occasionally, or actually frequently, write maybe in a rather long-winded way, but also because some of the material that I originally produce, is not suitable for publication. I bet some of you thought that I let pretty much anything slip through in the published posts but I actually do go through my blog posts before I publish them and tend to cut out the sections which in the drafting phase sounded like a good idea, but on second thought are way too inappropriate, immature, intimate or personal.

But (like most bloggers) sometimes I find it very difficult to cut out sections of my blogs, namely because I find that the most inappropriate, immature, intimate and personal sections are often the most entertaining.

So, I might show poor judgement here but what I will do below is to give you an idea of the kind of stuff that did not pass my editing stage (when originally posted).

I would like to emphasise the fact that this is material that I had the sense not to publish in their original contexts, so please if you are my current/future employer or either one of my children (in 20 years time) try not to judge me based on the excerpts below. I know they are in rather bad taste (and I’m starting to think posting them maybe isn’t such a good idea after all).

In any case, below you’ll find a couple of excerpts of my blog posts that never made it to the final, published, versions. I’ve added a link to the relevant blog post for each excerpt, in case you want to compare the censored and published bits.

1. TOO ROUGH (from blog Computers vs. swimming pools, first paragraph)

Many people have an image of Japan as extremely high tech – maybe induced by Japanese toilets that seem to have a higher IQ than Stephen Hawking.  But the reality is that Japan is not really all that high-tech and people are not all that technology savvy. The reality is that Japanese toilets don’t have a higher IQ than Stephen Hawkins, even though Japanese toilets and Stephen Hawking both have an interesting perspective on black holes.

2. TOO MUCH INFORMATION (from blog: Love hotel, last paragraph)

When we got to the lobby my husband and I headed to the pay machine but before we could reach it a female member of staff appeared from a room behind the reception and came and help us with the payment. She looked friendly but she didn’t say anything or really even look at us. We thanked her and sheepishly walked off. I assume they had seen in their CCTV that we had struggled to figure out the procedure of booking a room and payment. This means that they had seen us take photos of the lobby, lifts and corridors. I’m hoping that the hotel staff was convinced that we were there solely for research purposes. Although, I might be a tad optimistic with that one, given that we showed up in the same hotel also the following night.

(If you are 18 and reading this, you probably think: ‘Eww! 40-year olds don’t go to love hotels.’ Well, surprise surprise! They do.)

3. TOO OFFENSIVE (from blog: Gamblers’ hell)

Going off on a tangent, my husband thinks that when it comes to everyday probability, the easiest prediction of all is predicting which women on the beach/pool side in Tenerife, Mallorca or Kos are Finnish. You see, for some reason Finnish 30+ women pretty much all have a (styled) short hair, which is dyed much darker (black, dark brown or red) than their natural colour. So when on a holiday in Finland or elsewhere you see a pale short-haired person wearing a sarong or some other gown-like garment and sandals, you can be pretty sure it’s a Finnish woman, or alternatively Friar Tuck from Robin Hood.

(By the way, who is it that we need to blame for the Finnish ladies’ uniform Friar Tuck hairstyle? – the women or their hairdressers?)

4. TOO INAPPRORIATE (This last one is actually a take out from the current blog post! The following appeared in the original version after the first paragraph).

My husband is well aware of my love affair with food. A couple of days ago I sent him a long list of things that I would like him to bring with him for the UK when he comes to Osaka next week (like squash, teabags, Galaxy bars, toxin free sun cream). Jokily I added at the bottom of the list: ‘Some kinky sex toys’. As a response, my husband sent me this email.

How about this?!




Believe it or not, but there are actually some other ones that I edited out that are even worse than the ones above – they are so bad that it’s not a good idea to publish them even in ‘take out’ blog posts.

Chubby hostesses

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My husband and I recently spotted the above billboard in the Shinsaibashi area of Osaka. You might think that the picture promotes Korean lessons or cookery classes, but it is actually a hostess club.

If you are not Japanese, you might wonder what a ‘hostess club’ is. In short, it’s a club where beautiful young women entertain (salary) men, mainly by pouring their drinks, lighting their cigarettes and having (flirtatious) conversations with them. If you currently have an image in your head of Bada Bing (the strip club from the Sopranos) erase it and replace it with something that does not involve nudity or pole dancing or bazookas. At Japanese hostess clubs, the hostesses usually behave in a more ladylike manner than the girls at Bada Bing, and unlike Tony Soprano’s gang, salarymen do not carry bazookas. You might see a hostess on a podium singing Karaoke to entertain the client, but you will not find Bada Bing style shoving of notes down hostesses’ knickers, and there is usually no expectation of sexual interaction. In fact, the girls do not receive money from the customers directly, instead, the club pays hostesses a share of the drink sales.

However, client-hostess relationships are not unheard off. If a particular client visits the same club frequently, he might start seeing his regular hostess outside the club as well. This can result in stronger commitment, so much so that the man might treat the hostess similarly to that of a lover, i.e. see her on a regular basis and expect favours that are not limited to her only pouring his drinks and lighting cigarettes. He might even buy her an apartment! Usually his wife (if he has one) is aware of this and she gives her husband a monthly ‘allowance’ for the lover.

You are probably thinking the same as me – Japanese marriage, in particular when it comes to monogamy, somewhat differs from Western conventions. I’m of course not saying that there wouldn’t be people in Europe or elsewhere who have extramarital relations, but I can’t see many European wives allotting some of their household budget to pay for their husband’s lover (at least not before they’ve filed a divorce and dipped their husband’s condoms in hot chilli powder).

I’ve never visited a hostess club, partly because I have no real desire to visit one and partly because many hostess clubs will not accept Westerners as clients, but it seems rather commonplace for groups of Japanese salarymen to visit these types of clubs. Apparently many important government meetings are also held in hostess clubs. Maybe Japanese politicians tell their wives that it would not be wise to have meetings in their offices, which are potentially bugged left right and centre by North Korean spies. I suppose one might say that in the name of national security all important government meetings absolutely must take place in drinking establishments where beautiful women flirt with the government officials.

Anyway, the interesting thing about the hostess club in the picture above is that it is (in my opinion) in rather bad taste.

First, the club is called La Potcha Potcha ‘Chubby’.

Second, the billboard and the club’s web-page (you can find the address on the bottom right hand corner of the billboard) state that their hostesses have the following qualities:

  • a healthy appetite
  • a bodyweight that is nearly twice that of an average Japanese man
  • chubby cheeks (so much so that you can lose your index finger in them)
  • bingo wings
  • large breasts (unusually for Japan, you can find big bazookas in this club)
  • Romanian weightlifter’s thighs

Third, in the club, the hostesses apparently entertain the clients, for instance, by telling them that they are hungry, disclosing their weight and fighting over food.

So, with reference to La Potcha’s hostesses’ size and behaviour, they are not quite your typical Japanese hostess clubs’ ladies, or actually your typical Japanese ladies full stop.

If you have visited Japan or have been reading my blog you know that most Japanese women are extremely slim and petite. To convince you that I am not only saying that to belittle the fact that I could do with losing a stone or two (5-10kg), check out these stats:

In 2014, a 20-year old Japanese woman’s average weight was 50kg. A woman closer to my age is not much heavier: a 40-year old Japanese woman’s average weight is 52kg.

Considering these stats, La Potcha Potcha’s girls probably represent something unusual and interesting for Japanese men whose stereotypical image of a woman’s (and a man’s!) body considerably differs from that of La Potcha’s hostesses’ bodies. Maybe this novelty factor contributes to the fact that La Potcha Potcha and other similar clubs are (currently) relatively trendy and popular in Osaka.

Also, considering the above stats, you can probably understand why (similarly to La Potcha’s girls) I feel like a hippo over here. Or a tank. Or maybe a hippo driving a tank when I squeeze into the 8am commuter train and park my tank in between the gazelle and a stick insect.

But ha-haa! Maybe from hereafter I can just think to myself that the reason why Japanese men or women practically never make eye contact with me is because, instead of my eyes, they are admiring my Romanian weightlifter tights.