August 09, 2006

The best blog about Japan

The best Japan-related blogger is Peter Payne. He's not so much a blogger as a columnist, though if you're logging your columns online for free, that pretty much counts as blogging these days. Payne is in Japan for the long haul (wife, kids, and job), so he knows what he's talking about (he mentioned a while back he's a JLPT 1)

In that sense, he occupies the same editorial ground as Japan Times columnists Thomas Dillon and Amy Chavez. The difference is, I think Dillon and Chavez too often let "pithy" and "witty" get in the way of being interesting and relevant. Without those deadlines hovering over his head. Payne sits back, takes a good look around him, and finds something insightful to say a couple of times a week.

For example, this observation while on vacation in Baltimore, comparing public swimming pools in the U.S. and Japan:

When you go swimming in Japan, there are plenty of rules to follow--everyone must wear a swimming cap and must shower for 2-3 minutes before going in; no one may dive or even jump in from the poolside for any reason; parents must keep within an arm's reach of children until they're a certain height no matter how well they can swim; and of course kids may not horse around by seeing how high they can jump off Dad's shoulders into the pool. But we had a great time swimming here [Baltimore], and even tried our hand at the high dive, a very rare thing in Japan, a country where all the pools contain uniformly shallow water for maximum safety for swimmers.

One little caveat, though. Payne runs a pair of online stores that export made-in-Japan products to the U.S., J-Box and J-List, the latter specializing in, ah, um, porn hentai. He ends every blog entry with a few ads for the latest products. This can include hentai manga along with Totoro plush dolls and the latest edition of Nihongo Journal. It's a discombobulating mix, to say the least.

To be sure, he keeps the ads on the "PG" side of "R," but you're on your own if you decide to click through. At any rate, just keep your finger off that left mouse button and scroll down, because this blog is really worth reading.