I got thinking today about the cultural implications of artificial flavourings. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? What prompted it was the fact that twice in the past week, I have had some foodstuffs flavoured with artificial ’grape’ flavouring. The second of these was grape juice. On the front of the pack it said “100% fruit juice”, but listed the ingredients on the side as grape juice and...flavouring. Hang on, that’s not 100%... So Dole (the manufacturer): you suck.

I wouldn’t have bothered to read the ingredients list but for the fact that I can always identify the artificial ’grape’ flavour. I put this down to the fact that it is not a normal flavouring in Britain, so I haven’t been exposed to it at a young age. As a result, I can’t put up with it. I just find it a little unpleasant. On the other hands, countries where artificially-grape-flavoured foods are common, such as America (and evidently Japan) are apparently so accustomed to the artificial flavour that they can’t accept the genuine article unless it has been adulterated with the artificial flavour. That’s a sad state of affairs.

Maybe I should start a Campaign for Real Food.

I have acquired a mobile phone, putting me back in touch with the world. Believe me, it’s a big advantage in a country where payphones have no booths and are situated in non-air-conditioned locations. (The temperature here in Osaka was apparently 35C today). It’s with J-Phone, a tentacle of the Vodafone monster. If you want to know why I didn’t get NTT Docomo, look here. J-Phone are very accommodating of foreigners, even having a sheet explaining the sign-up form in English. All their cameras have a tiny built-in camera, which sounds great until you see the pictures. Whilst digital cameras typically offer 2-, 3- or 4-megapixel resolution, this humble apparatus boasts a meagre 0.014 megapixels. Nonetheless, it’s a fun feature. And my phone can send and receive email messages of up to about 6kB. There’s no technical reason why UK GSM operators couldn’t offer a similar feature—even just the 160 characters of SMS as an email would be a bonus—except for incompetence, intransigence, or greed (hoped-for revenue from people dialling up with WAP). Here in Japan, you can see what would be possible elsewhere if the operators sorted themselves out.

My job search seems to be going well. I shan’t go into the details here, but I’m hoping for some good news in the next few days.