A Happy Accident in Japan

Okinawan Fish - Japanese Rule of 7

Occasionally, from tragedy, something new and magnificent is born into this world. Throughout the current worldwide crisis and raging meltdown, Seeroi Sensei stayed locked down and got busy, until the inevitable happened. And so it’s with great pleasure that I’m able to announce the delivery of Ken’s first.

He doesn’t have a name yet, but we’re expecting him in late June. From all indications, he’ll be a healthy 8 inches tall and weigh approximately 1.2 pounds. He’ll be available for sale on Amazon. Stay tuned for further details.

When it Rains Rainbows, it Pours

And then recently, another surprising development, uh, developed.

So Japanese students always ask, “What’s your dream?” That’s because we teach them this phrase in English class, and they think it’s a normal question. Anyway, for several years now, my answer’s been, “to be a Japanese teacher.” And that’s true. Teaching Japanese would be the culmination of years of pointlessly hard work studying this obscure language.

Because you know, if you live in Japan and look like me, people are always asking “Are you an English teacher?” Like there’s no other job a white guy could do. Well, okay, so that’s actually true, but still, it’d be nice to have another reply. And to be able to say, “The hell, I teach Japanese” would surely blow some minds. Although I’d say it in Japanese, so it’d sound polite.

Living the Dream in Japan

Somebody once said, You gotta be careful what you wish for. Actually, I’m pretty sure I said that. Whatever, it’s true. So last week, I got a Zoom call from a language school I work for, and they were like, “Seeroi Sensei, we’d like you to teach a couple more classes.”

“Cross my palm with silver,” I replied. I mean hey, I live one floor above poverty, and I’ve seen what’s down there, so my weekly to-do list starts with “Avoid starving to death.” But of course they didn’t understand that, so I had to rephrase it as, “Could you kindly provide some details regarding the position?”

“Yes,” they said, “we’d like you to teach Japanese, online.”

And I was like, “Is my camera not working? You can see my face, right? Round eyes, high nose…”

“The students are adult foreigners. We think you’d be great.”

Of course I’d be. When is Ken Seeroi not? That’s rhetorical; don’t feel you need to answer. But my guess is they called every single Japanese person in the nation first, until they were finally like, “Ah jeez, guess we’re gonna have to go with the white guy.”

“Let me check my schedule,” I said.

Google Calendar in Japanese

Ultimately, I didn’t take it, because when I consulted Google Calendar in Japanese, turns out somebody’d blocked off Thursday nights until infinity with “drink BEER,” in English. So I was like, Well maybe Friday…strange…same thing. Wait a minute, every night’s blocked off! Must’ve done that when I was drunk. Stupid Japanese Google Calendar.

So while teaching Japanese sounded weirdly prestigious, like a Japanese dream come true, it also seemed like a lot of work, which is in direct conflict with my life goals of improving my tan and putting off till tomorrow what I could do today. So between holding English classes, hanging out with dubious women in shady bars, writing a blog, and now my new baby, I figured I had enough on my plate. Gotta be careful what you wish for in Japan, because you just might get it, is what I’ve learned.

Social Responsibility in Japan

Japanese Social Responsibility - Japanese Rule of 7

Sometimes what I like best about Japan is simply that it’s not the U.S. Not that I’m bagging on the land that invented deep-fried Snickers or anything. We all know it’s the greatest country on earth. Just ask any American.  

Question those fine, flag-waving patriots about what they value most, and it won’t be long before someone belts out “freedom.” Because that’s the American way. Shouting. Loudness and freedom are baked into U.S. culture like apples to a pie. The Japanese response is necessarily softer, possessed as we are with the Spock-like ability to read each other’s minds. Here, that same question would be answered with “social responsibility,” or perhaps “the righteous thrill of blaming others.” Nyeh, same thing.

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Enduring Japan During the Crisis

Japanese Baby - Japanese Rule of 7

Yep, nothing like a pandemic to test one’s commitment to a cause. And until a couple months ago, I was largely settled on the idea of living in Japan forever. I appreciate all aspects of this country, from the mountains to the oceans, and all the convenience stores in between. Japan’s a wondrous neon land of late-night karaoke, bullet trains, and spotless neighborhoods, maintained by an upstanding citizenry steadfastly dumping broken stereos and microwaves into the forest. Gotta admire the conscientiousness. I like everything about Japan except the people.

And of course, there were the ladies. Chatting up random birds in bars, restaurants, the Unemployment Bureau. “Come here often for government assistance? Me too. We’ve so much in common. Let’s hang out.” They say working on a hobby keeps your brain healthy, and you know Ken Seeroi ain’t trying to get no Alzheimer’s.

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Stop Saying “Gaijin” and “Gaikokujin”

Japanese Cats - Japanese Rule of 7

I recently looked for a new apartment in Japan. The very first realtor I called stated flatly, “We don’t do business with foreigners.” I was like, Ohh . . . kayyy . . . This pattern has played out enough during my years here that I’m pretty used to it. I’ll go get my shoe shine box now.

But eventually, I secured a room from someone brave enough to rent to a white guy, then set about getting a parking place. Fortunately, there was a dirt lot full of weeds just down the street advertising open spots, so I dialed the number.

“Sorry, we had past trouble with a foreigner,” said the man on the other end.

“In a dirt lot?” I started, “what could possibly . . .” but then a different thought popped into mind. “What kind of foreigner?”

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Coronavirus, Japan 2020

Japanese Sashimi - Japanese Rule of 7

And then suddenly there was no toilet paper. I first knew things were heating up when the girls at Starbucks all started wearing face masks. It’s not uncommon for people to wear them on the street or in the train, but to see service staff looking like hospital orderlies was a bit disturbing. Of course, I had on a mask too, so our interaction went something like,

“Wrrcome tr Srbucks, mray I trk yr rrrder?”

“Whrt?”

“Mray I trk yr rrrder?”

“Grrrnde crrffee prrease.”

“Whrt?”

“Whrt?”

I also discovered it’s pretty hard to drink coffee while wearing a mask and without touching the cup. So I bought a bag of beans and resolved to start brewing up at home.

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