I eventually made my way to the counter and ordered a beer, plus some cabbage with miso from the pickled Japanese geezer behind the clear curtain. His mask was pulled down into a decorative chinstrap.
“What?” he yelled into the plastic.
“What?” I yelled back.
So we stood and yelled “what” a few more times before he handed me a glass of potato shochu and a plate of grilled flounder. Well, those were my second choices, so good enough. I returned to my assigned space between two tall, translucent dividers.
A young Japanese woman from a nearby table leaned around a roll of plastic descending from the ceiling and announced in slurred English, “I’m a golf club.”
Continue reading “COVID Japan: Venturing Into a Japanese Dive Bar”
The Tokyo Olympics has been a steady topic of conversation in recent months. Although to hear Japanese folks tell it, they might as well be discussing a collective ice bath. Can’t we just put off this horrible thing a little longer? No? Mmmnn, could we at least make it less awful? Okay, how ’bout if nobody watches? And here we go . . . whew, glad that’s over. Now, why’d we do that again?
If nothing else, this year’s Olympics did a great job of reinforcing Japan’s longstanding image of foreigners as a bunch of wacky bastards who’ll never fit in here. Athletes and staff jumping on beds, openly consuming alcohol, intermingling between teams, being arrested for cocaine, and running off to go sight-seeing in the face of Tokyo’s highest-ever COVID-19 levels did little to improve Japan’s traditional perspective toward visitors from the outside world. Well, bring on the Paralympics.
Continue reading “Japan and What the Hell to do With Foreigners”
Sometimes it feels like I just imagined the whole thing. Thinking back, I remember a time when Japanese men wore dark suits, neckties, and leather shoes. Women wore short skirts and heels. That really happened, right?
Or did I just dream it? Because these days, the ties are gone. And on weekends, so are a lot of long pants too, replaced by cargo shorts, Teva flip-flops or, horror of horrors, Crocks. Women rush by in baggy, full-length skirts, black arm covers, and Darth Vader masks—dark plastic shields, like a sunglass lens for your whole face. I’m excited just to catch a glimpse of an ankle. And today—I honestly never thought I’d see this—two Japanese guys strolling through a crowded business district with no shirts on at all, just bare chested. I was like, holy shit, Japan’s become San Diego. I gotta try that. Although somebody’d surely stick me with tranquilizer gun and haul me off to Ueno Zoo. Is it possible to wax with duct tape? Let’s find out.
Continue reading “Climate Change in Japan”
When Asami wiped out on her bike outside Ueno station, she lay on the sidewalk with a broken wrist “and everybody just stepped around me. Not one person tried to help.”
She recounted this accident as we sat out at Starbucks, between sips of a Frappuccino with her left hand, the right being bound in a light blue cast.
“Japanese people are terrible,” she concluded.
“Maybe they’re just shy,” I suggested. Folks here love that excuse for avoiding anything difficult or unpleasant.
And yet, I knew what she meant. Japanese people are terrible. Some of the rudest bastards you’ll ever meet. Except for the nice ones, of course, Asami included. At least part of the time.
Continue reading “Real Japan: Why Everything You’ve Heard is Wrong”
“OK, you got me, why do they make things so difficult?” —St Germain
As a not-so-casual observer of Japanese girls, something I’ve always wondered was: Why are they so sad? They weave through crowds staring dejectedly at their platform shoes, or scrunch over their phones on the train, trying desperately to tune out the world. So I consulted Seina, since she’s got an answer for everything.
“Why,” I asked, “are Japanese girls so sad? That’s something I’ve always wondered.”
“Because they’re not happy,” Seina replied. I don’t know why I’m consistently surprised by the obvious.
“Well, why aren’t they happy?” I pressed.
“Probably they don’t want to be.”
“Who doesn’t want to be happy?”
“People who are sad.”
I could find no flaw in that geometry. You gotta appreciate a perfect circle.
Continue reading “Japanese Values”