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Far-out news headlines from the Far East

by Amy Chavez

Sometimes I yearn for lies. Like sensational news items that everybody knows aren’t true:

“Japan pushing for 150-hour workweek”

Japan, already known for its workaholic culture, is pressing for a 150-hour workweek. MOBS members (Mothers of Bachelor Salarymen) are protesting, claiming that with only 168 hours in a week anyway, there would be just 18 hours left to eat and sleep. But the government white paper is proposing a “no exceptions” policy designed to get the economy back on its feet. The new work hours are sure to increase incidences of on-the-job “karoshi,” death from overwork. As if to compensate, since more and more women are entering the workforce, there is sure to be an increase in the number of babies born at work.

“New hobbies: collecting fallen hankies”

Ms. Okamoto of Osaka has a collection of over 100 handkerchiefs. “I started by picking them up off the ground where people had dropped them by mistake,” says the 34-year-old “office lady.” “After that, it became an obsession.” Okamoto, who in the days of the bubble economy used to buy expensive designer handkerchiefs, says that these days she can’t afford to keep up with the new styles every year. To satisfy her shopping urge, she started picking up and laundering other people’s. “It’s just like having something new!” Okamoto says.

It used to be that Japanese people would pick up lost items in the street and tie them to a post to make it easier for the owner to find their lost article, but this has obviously changed. Okamoto actively seeks out people who look like they’re going to lose their hankie. She says sidewalks and trains are the most popular places to find these fallen beauties. “I’ve gotten so good at spotting lost hankies,” confesses Okamoto, “I can usually grab them before they’ve hit the ground.”

“Gift-giving hits new heights”

The less polite younger generation has spurred a gift-giving surge. Retailers are raking in sales of “apology” gifts, snapped up by parents and grandparents embarrassed by the faux pas of their children and grandchildren. The crass younger generation has really created a glut of gifts sitting in closets. Receivers are finding unique ways to get rid of their thoughtful, but useless, gifts such as passing them on to their dead ancestors as offerings. It appears, however, that even the dead are offended sometimes. As one woman confessed, not one of her five ancestors has touched the crystal Tiffany Winnie-the-Pooh she set on the family shrine two years ago.

“New shoes drag your feet for you”

The Go Geta shoe company has introduced a new autumn shoe that is guaranteed to break cultural barriers. The shoe, dubbed the “duragga” shoe, is made with a reverse high heel that dips down below the level of the toe.

Especially for returning “nissei” (second-generation Japanese abroad) who may have been taught in their countries that dragging your feet is rude, this shoe will launch them into a heel-dragging, sole-scraping walk in no time. The shoes were originally marketed to the younger generation of Japanese who are too lazy to drag their feet. This niche market has been a fertile testing ground for other recent shoe phenomenon including the roller skate shoe and the soleless sandal.

“Be the lightweight you’ve always dreamed of being”

Too tired to make it through another night of drinking with your office mates? The latest Tokyo trend is to inject “mizu-wari” directly into your bloodstream. “Salarymen” claim that this new cost-cutting, hangover-free remedy makes drinking into the wee hours more bearable knowing that they’ll get through the next day of work with ease. Inserted through the ear, this one-shot injection makes you look genuinely intoxicated while fooling people into thinking that you can’t hold your liquor. Some users even pass out. But in the morning, you’ll feel good as new, as if you had missed only a few hours sleep rather than an entire evening of brain cells. Walk into the office the next morning beaming, and earn the respect of your heavy-headed coworkers who carried you home the night before.