Life and Death in Japan

Life and Death in Japan

I woke up, and a beautiful geisha was serving me tea. Ah, every day should be like this.

“Here is tea,” she said in a dream-like Japanese voice.

“Here is Ken Seeroi,” I replied, “nice to meet you.

“You’ll like it. Just try a little.

“Think I’ll just go back to sleep now, thanks.

“How about a few sips?” she continued, gazing at me with big, doe-like eyes.

For a geisha, she sure was annoying. I briefly pondered the correlation between attractiveness and irritation before everything went dark and I passed out cold.

Inside a Japanese Hospital

When I woke up, I was in a room of pink curtains and gurneys, with a beautiful nurse handing me a paper cup half-full of green liquid.

“Have a little more, she said, with her breasts leaning over me.

I had no idea where I was, or how I got there, but I didn’t want to let on, so I drank a bit and pretended like everything was cool.

“So,” I said nonchalantly, “my…condition…has it, um, stabilized?

“Let’s walk to the bathroom now,” she said.

“Oh no,” I replied.

That was completely the last thing I wanted to do. I had no desire to move, as something seemed to be terribly wrong downstairs. But eventually, through a combination of tea and annoyance, I was forced up, and noticed I was attached to an IV pole, which I clutched to shuffle down the hall in yellow slippers. They didn’t match my pastel blue smock at all, and I began to realize I was trapped in a dingy Japanese hospital with a horrible 1970’s design scheme. If the Japanese ever had any aesthetic sensibilities, they clearly ended in the Meiji era.

I briefly recalled something about a hernia operation and being told that I might experience “some slight discomfort” afterward. They probably should’ve said, Look, we’re gonna cut you open then stitch you up like a pair of boots, so expect it to feel like that. Guess that’s one of those read-between-the-lines things about speaking Japanese. Such a mysterious language.

Pretty Japanese Nurses

After the bathroom, I reshuffled down the hall and climbed back into bed, but a bevy of pretty nurses were having none of it.

“Oh, Mr. Seeroi,” they giggled, “you have to go to your room now.

“But I like this room.

“Let’s walk down the hall,” one said, sternly.

“I just did that,” I protested.

Walking. If there’s one thing a guy who’s just been on the losing end of ritual seppuku does not want, it’s to walk. Then again, I know there’s no sense arguing with Japanese women. They’re cute as cats, but rub them the wrong way and…well, ever heard about somebody who had a bunch of cats and then died? The cats freaking eat them. Really, true story. The small critters spend their whole lives pretending to be soft and cuddly, until one day you die and they freaking eat you. Just saying. Four of them stood over me, smiling, staring, and blinking their dark cat eyes, just waiting. So we took a little stroll.

Still, whoever the hospital administrator was, I’d like to shake his hand, because all of the nurses were incredibly beautiful and completely stacked. Two walked on either side of me, and with my pastel robe and slippers, I had a brief Hugh Hefner moment.

“How’s my hair?” I asked.

“Oh, Mr. Seeroi,” they giggled.

“No really,” I said. I have a thing about my hair.

“You look like you just had an operation,” one said, still laughing. Oh, they’re very subtle, the Japanese.

In the Japanese Cancer Ward

After about an hour-long march involving two elevator rides with apparently dead people on gurneys, we reached a small, slightly dirty room of eight beds and seven old Japanese men. There was a tiny jail-cell window at one end. I lay on my side and tried not to move. A guy who looked older than Yoda came and stood at the foot of my bed.

Konnichiwa,” I mumbled.

“Oh, you speak Japanese,” he said with great relief. “We were worried when we saw your name.

“What’re you in for?” I asked.

And that was it. He spent the next ten minutes in a rapid monologue of medical terminology, detailing operations and procedures involving organs and body parts I didn’t even know existed. In short, he had cancer. They all had cancer. They were in the room for months, occasionally left, then eventually came back.

“Do you like fish?” he said, finally. “Cause we’re having fish.” I think maybe I drifted off somewhere about the time he was describing his spleen.

“I like it,” I replied.

“Today is white fish with mustard sauce,” he said with apparent pride, and suddenly a pair of beautiful nurses breezed in with trays full of miso soup, rice, seaweed, salad, and the fabled mustard-sauce fish.

“Want some tea?” a nurse asked. Jesus, she was stacked.

“Do I ever,” I replied.

But if I really didn’t want tea, I really, really didn’t want to eat, my plan being to avoid going number two for several months until my groinal region had completely healed. Still, it seemed rude to waste a meal, so I tried a bite.

You know how food in American hospitals is consistently bland and awful? Yeah well, apparently the Japanese never got that memo, because the food was fantastic. The green salad was topped with little cherry tomatoes and a delightful sesame dressing. The mustard sauce on the fish, a stroke of genius. I devoured everything.

“Food’s pretty good, huh,” said Yoda.

“It’s like an izakaya in here,” I replied.

“Yeah, and the nurses aren’t too bad either.

“I’m thinking sponge bath.

“We’ve been working on that for months,” he said.

The slight possibility of living out an internet porn fantasy was, however, offset by the miserable TV situation. Why does the universe always have to be so balanced? Ah, physics, how you beguile me. Anyway, what I mean is that the hospital had generously placed a vintage TV with earbuds beside each bed, and then in a moment of supreme miserliness, decided to charge for viewing by the minute.

“How does the TV work?” I asked the next busty nurse who came by.

“You have to walk to the end of the hall and buy a 1000-yen card from the vending machine,” she said.

“Walk?” I replied in horror. “How about if I give you 1000 yen—-could you do the walking?

“I’m going to check your heart now,” she said, and began hooking me up to prehistoric PC, from an era when computers came in beige. Jeez, what a color that was.

“So I suppose a sponge bath’s out of the question?”

To my great disappointment, it was, along with buying the damn TV card. To which I’ll just note that, for a nation with such tiny rooms, they sure make some powerfully long hallways. My gut felt like it was going to explode, and it took a good half hour to crawl to the vending machine and back. I kept envisioning my stitches bursting and me dying in a grimy Japanese hospital while people stood over me trying to speak English. God, that would suck, not to mention that I’d miss dinner. We were having sautéed shrimp, which clearly seemed worth living for. I crawled with extreme caution.

High-Tech Japan

Now, I know some people have a vision of Japan as “high-tech,” and I’ve learned that when people say that, half the time they’re merely referring to the nation’s ability to manufacture really excellent toilet seats in China. As for the hospital, it was decidedly no-tech, with none of your Mayo clinic neurosurgeons doodling on their iPads with laser scalpels. In Japan, it’s like going in for an oil change. The Doctors and nurses have a stolid, workman-like quality about them. They’re capable enough to cut you open and sew you back up, but that’s about it. You get the feeling that if the whole hospital biz didn’t work out, they’d be fine to going back to the sawmill and the garment factory.

I spent one delirious night there. Before the operation, a beautiful and well-endowed nurse asked if I wanted to stay overnight, or just go home afterward, a question that now strikes me as straddling the borderline between absurdity and malpractice. Even after twenty-four hours, I could barely pull myself into a taxi and endure the trip back to my apartment. During the elevator ride to my floor, I hallucinated that I was in a space capsule. When I finally reached orbit, I then I spent two days floating motionless in bed, and on the third, got up and went out to teach English. Hey, nobody’s paying you to stay home and recover in Japan. If the 10 year-olds don’t learn the English words for Eyes, Nose, and Knees, how will they ever pass high-school entrance exams and eventually become little surgeons and nurses? It’s all a big circle, and we’ve got to fulfill our roles in society. So on Monday, I slammed a handful of Advil, limped my way to the station and somehow made it to work. But Seeroi sensei’s not picking up Fat Joe again for a while, I can promise you that. That guy’s like a little lead statue of a Japanese kid, only packed full of donuts.

But in the end, getting an operation in Japan was, eh, all right, I guess. I didn’t die, so I feel pretty good about that. More importantly, the sautéed shrimp was every bit as delicious as I’d hoped, glazed with a sauce of yuzu and mirin, and served atop a bed of shredded cabbage. Could’ve used a hint of red pepper perhaps, but okay, that’s just me. And not to re-overstate the obvious, but the nurses were exceedingly pretty. I came out of the hospital with a bunch of phone numbers. Unfortunately, they were all from the old men in the cancer ward, but hey, who am I to be picky? Foreigners can’t be choosers. Pretty sure that’s a Japanese proverb. Anyway, they were a fine bunch and I plan to keep in touch, if only find out what that sponge bath is really like. Man, I can hardly wait to go back.



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58 Comments

  1. Man, I wouldn’t be afraid of getting sick if I lived in japan. I’d check in if only for the hot nurses.

    • Or just frequent the izakaya around the corner from the hospital on Friday nights…not that I know anyone who’d do something like that.

  2. Once again a satirical CM Seeroi Sensei. Loved this piece and hope you are back on the way to mending. BTW, did they use a kevlar patch to prevent potential re-injury of the hernia tear?

    See, I knew you were starting to channel Hef, so go fight, win and populate Ken!! Hmmmm, I didn’t see that many Japanese girls in Okinawa, but none of them were stacked, (though I’ve seen a few on vids that were…) so you must have hit the Oppai motherload Ken…LOL!

    • Well, they put in some kind of patch, so hopefully its Kevlar. Then I’d be bulletproof, which would be cool. Motherload, eh? Interesting choice of words.

      • This link is pretty funny stuff. Just saw this last night and thought you might be interested in how the “SPECIAL” hospitals in Japan treat their patients… or at least how they’re portrayed on TV:

        http://www.dramago.com/japanese-drama/masshiro-episode-1

        I thought you might enjoy comparing the nurses in this drama with the ones you dealt with during your visit…LOL! I just loved the chandeliers in the nurses break room…lol!

        • That actually looks like a pretty cool drama. I might watch it. Thanks for the suggestion, Bud.

          And that hospital, man, about a thousand times nicer than the one I stayed in. Although my nurses were prettier.

  3. My experience of Japanese nurses is that there are lots of them, mostly young and within distinct competence limits. It’s as if they can hire four or five starter level nurses for the price of someone really qualified, and that’s better.

    • For all the recent talk about gender equality in Japan, it seems like a number of young women choose professions such as flight attendant and nurse specifically because they fit the typical, feminine gender roles. Then they play it up. Does a nurse really need fake eyelashes and a rhinestone-studded manicure? Okay, some might argue yes, but still.

      • I recently interviewed about a thousand grade schoolers for a spoken English test. The final question was about what you want to be when you grow up. Of the girls, it was a coin toss between flight attendant and pastry chef.

        One girl even admitted to being afraid of planes but is set on that career anyway. Because if she eventually gets in, they’ll give her cute scarfy neckwear. ANA is her first choice. Theirs is blue.

        • Oh, I love those kind of questions. They give a real window into the psyche of the nation. I once gave a similar writing test with the open question, “What do you want to do in the future?”

          Best answers: “I want to have a bed” and “I want to eat until I’m full.”

          Gotta love kids.

      • What is Japan actually talking and doing when it comes to gender equality and stuff?

        I don’t know how informed you are about The West, but here things like feminism have become so obnoxiously silly, that is laughable at best.

        • From what I read on Google News, feminism is now a thing. I don’t know exactly what kind of thing it is, but apparently it’s some kind of thing.

          Japan’s quick to pick up on trends, so they’re like “feminism?” We want in. Only they don’t seem to know what it is any more than I do. There’s some talk about equality, but then does that mean both mom and dad work till midnight? Who takes care of junior? Who’s going to vacuum the house and wash the towels every single day? I actually know a 24-hour day care center where women drop off their kids on the way to their all-night hostess jobs. Right now, the choice seems to be either work 80 hours a week and live in a dingy little apartment eating cup noodle for the rest of your life, or get married, have kids, and join the housewives who meet at the cafe every day and have occasional affairs with their English teachers. A lot of women seem pretty okay with the latter. So if we ever do get equality in Japan, then I’m all for it, because I want in on that option too.

          • The less you know, the better really. Considering women are starting to massively denounce it, you can imagine yourself what a wild thing it has become. It is also know as the “sex-negative” feminism and I am sure Japanese people still like banging each other, right?

          • After posting the last post it felt a little wrong, so I probably should add, the young ones at least.

  4. I’ve been there, but rather than nod on all “yeah, yeah, I know,” I found your images, descriptions, and word choice illuminated my experience. Fresh, evocative writing, Seeroi-san.

    • Thanks much. It’s pretty scary going in for surgery, in any country, so I just tried to make the best of a, well, trying situation. As we say in Japan, glad you enjoyed.

  5. These Japan nurses are in what hospital in which city? I wait with pen and paper in hand!!

    • I think it’s not a hospital you want, but a hostess club. Don’t think you’ll have much trouble finding one in any Japanese city.

  6. Beautiful nurses and wonderful food, huh maybe I should plan a hospital visit whenever I visit Japan.

  7. Excellent, i guess hitting the izakaya close to the hospital is on the To-do list for next friday. I hope you feel better and have a fast recovery.

  8. You’re back and you’re fine (hopefully)! How long did you stay in the hospital? Seems short , from my understanding of your post.

    • Just one night, which was crazy short. Cause, you know, Japanese people don’t want you lazing around too long. Even granny’s out raking up the park leaves and she’s 80 years old, so quit griping about your operation and hurry up and jog home. But it’s all good, I’m better and stronger than ever. Raking leaves like the Bionic Man. Bring it on, fall.

  9. Pure gold. As usual I wet my pants laughing (which was problematic seeing as I was in bed with my fiancé and that makes for awkward pillow talk). Thanks for brightening my day whenever I’m feeling a bit tired and fed up with the Japanese experience. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to explain how funny your blog is to my fiancé, only to be met with bewilderment. I’d love to see what would happen if you wrote one in Japanese. I wonder whether or not the humor would translate. I guess it’d have to be all one-line gags and kotowaza. なんて日だ?ダメよ〜ダメダメ、ごめんねごめんね!

    • Thanks much. Some people aspire towards a Pulitzer or Nobel Prize. I’m much simpler. For me, it’s enough if I can get you to pee the bed.

      While it would be cool, I doubt I’ll ever be able to convey humor the same way in Japanese. I’m not even sure it’s linguistically or culturally possible. You don’t really see a lot of Japanese stand-up comedians on the world stage, and I think there’s a reason for that.

  10. Hi Ken,

    This has to be one of the best blogs I’ve discovered about life in Japan. I found your blog about a month ago and have read all your posts, they’re so funny and insightful (did I forget well written!?). It’s been really helpful because I’ve been considering an ex-pat program with my company in Tokyo (I’ve been to Japan and going again end of May). I’ve been taking Japanese for the past year at NYU and all of your posts regarding learning the language, especially Kanji, have been very insightful. By the way, our whole class now follows your blog. I work in the automotive industry and I highly recommend you going down to Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix (Formula 1) in October, its one of the best tracks in the world (Honda’s test track) and the passion/costumes the fans show up in (Ferrari Samurai gear) is unlike anything I’ve seen at a Motorsport event. Do you have an Instagram account that your fans can follow? The pictures you post in your blog are awesome and it’d be nice to see more. With all the users that are on Instagram this could be great way for you to promote your blog. Quick question, was there a catalyst moment in America that you can share that ultimately led to your decision to move? It seems like a big jump to go from being in the technology industry to teaching (sorry if you answered this in one of your posts). Please keep on posting and I hope you’re feeling better after your operation.

    • Thanks so much for the props. I don’t have Instagram, but that’s a pretty good idea. So yeah, I’ll put it on my list, right after “File 2013 income tax.”

      As for my history, well, I’d moved from tech to Education back in the States. After a few years I got tired of spending all day pushing a mouse around and realizing my legacy to the world was going to be creating a really nice database. There’s a lot of demand for technology in Education these days, so that move was fairly easy.

      The catalyst for coming to Japan was a trip to Tokyo. I’d eaten Japanese food for many years, but never had an ounce of interest in the nation of Japan. I mean, maybe you like spaghetti and meatballs, but that doesn’t mean you want to move to Naples. Anyway, maybe because I liked the food I decided to take a week’s vacation to Tokyo, and—holy crap!—all that neon, and the subways, and the temples, and the girls, and all-you-can-drink beer . . . I just lost my mind and decided to move here. It took a few years, but that was the catalyst.

      The upshot of the whole thing is that it was really a massive exercise in self-deception, abetted partly by the writings of others who’d visited the country briefly and had similar reactions. It really isn’t such an amazing place; I just got suckered in, like someone who goes to Disney Land then decides his career’s gonna be that dude wearing the Mickey Mouse costume. Like, that’d never get old.

      Which isn’t to say that Japan’s a bad place. It’s really okay. But it’s got good and bad that balance each other out, just like anywhere. Damn you, well-ordered universe. And moving here, well it isn’t free, and I don’t mean money. You just have to give up everything you’ve ever loved. But well, at least there really is a lot of good food. That’s something.

      • I just recently stumbled across this website and I have to say it’s extremely entertaining. Glad you made it through your operation with no complications!

        One thing I have to ask after scanning the comments and especially reading this one: what, in particular, makes you stay? I don’t mean to sound crass, but I just seem to come across a lot of negativity about moving to and living in Japan on the net. I definitely understand that there’s hardships and it’s not like the Orientalism you see in the media, but, assuming you voluntarily left a comfortable, stable life in a first world country to live there, there’s got to be something keeping you, isn’t there?

        • There is, but what exactly is really hard to say. I grapple with this question pretty much on a daily basis.

          You know, negativity seems pretty much built in to the human condition. The internet just made bitching about a thousand times easier. Like no matter who you’re married to, sooner or later you’re gonna have some problems. I mean, you’re so in love that you throw a $20,000 party in front of the whole world, pledge your future earnings in perpetuity, buy a dining table, chairs, and dishes from Pottery Barn and then three years later you’re planning ways to make them die. So I figure if you can’t be happy with the one person in the whole world that you hand-picked, the chances of you being happy with anything isn’t real great. (Italics, mine.) Anyway, Japan. Kinda like that. Probably the best thing you can do is just laugh it off—oh, you with your flatulence problem—and remind yourself of the good things. Maybe your partner can blow up balloons or something, I dunno.

          But I digress. Hey, first time for everything. Partly what keeps me here is America—I already know that place sucks. Okay, kinda kidding there. Americans, so cute with your over-sensitivity. But what I mean is that having lived there for many years, I have a good idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the nation. Don’t get me started on the food and the toilets again, jeez. And I’m starting to think that, if America sucks, and Japan sucks in other ways, well, what’s the chances of anywhere being perfect? Well, maybe Vietnam. I still have dreams.

          So that’s just how I reason through this problem. Sure, I could make a little listy-list of the 10 Best Things About Japan, and sometimes I do, but that’s really a little weak. Cause you can make that list about anything, and if you don’t at least acknowledge the ten worst things, then you’re just lying to folks.

          Anyway, the food in the convenience stores is delicious, there’s lots of Starbucks, and the beer’s pretty cheap, so let’s just go with that.

          • Thanks a lot for the response, I appreciate the way you engage in dialogue with your readers. If you don’t mind, I’d really like to continue it further.

            I agree with you and everything you said, at least in principle. I think the reason I take issue with some of the negativity isn’t so much due to the measurable, practical aspects of the lifestyle or even humans being negative about things in general, but it’s because of how voluntary a choice something like moving to Japan is. Even your comparison to marriage, while meaningful, still isn’t quite the same. We are often socially pressured to find someone to settle down with and do all of those things you listed for social utilitarian reasons like child rearing. But as far as I know, nobody is pressuring you into moving to Japan. There’s no greater benefit to society (that’s immediately apparent anyway). If anything, society and your family especially, are probably all discouraging you. It’s got to be about as voluntary and self-oriented a choice as you could make.

            Maybe I’m a naïve optimist, but in light of all of that, I prefer to hear the positive things. Not to say the negatives are ignored, but, I like it when the negatives are talked about with regards to how they can be overcome, and not only that, but why they are WORTH overcoming. I don’t know if this comparison is as valid, but, I read about a guy who quit his job and gave away all of his stuff to trek across America as a homeless person. Similar to moving to Japan, this is not a decision anyone would ever recommend making, but he did it anyway for himself, to gain some sort of personal fulfillment. Due to the nature of his choice, I looked forward to reading about what he learned, how it bettered him as a person, and how his thoughts on society changed given a totally new perspective. But, imagine if he just went on youtube and said, “Wow, being homeless sucks”.

            Not that I’m trying to tell you what or how to write, I actually really enjoy your style as is. Just my opinion anyway.

            • Well, setting aside the irony of complaining about others complaining for a moment, I’d venture to say that there’s actually a lot of positivity that comes from such negativity.

              You know, people pay a lot of money so somebody will listen to them bitch about their problems. Near as I can figure, that’s about 85 percent of what psychology is. And there’s a good reason they pay for it—because it makes them happier, or at least keeps them from going postal.

              So when I hear guys in a bar bitching to each other about their wives and kids, I reason they’re doing it because they’ve finally found one other person who knows where they’re coming from. Somebody to say, No you’re not crazy, it actually is really hard being a decent husband. That doesn’t mean they hate their wives and children. And for me as a single dude to rock up to and say “if you don’t like it, leave” would be missing the point. Their families may actually be the best part of their lives. They’re just complaining because it feels good to vent to others who can validate your feelings.

              So yeah, lots of people bitch about Japan, including Japanese people. But it doesn’t mean they don’t like it.

              As for crossing America as a homeless person, yeah, I’ve done that too and it was freaking great. But I knew I wasn’t going to be homeless forever, just like folks who come to Japan and plan on leaving after a few years. Because if you knew it would be permanent, that’d change everything. (Which is why marriage is so hard.) It’s all fun and games until your options dry up. At which point complaining seems like a pretty valid thing to do.

  11. Hilarious as always. I agree with the Technology myth. Inaka Japan is not the superbly high tech, if not slightly dystopian, bladerunner-esque urban jungle I imagined it would be. I still recieve my lesson plans by fax. And I am currently writing this on an equally beige computer.

  12. Wow, I’m so glad you’re all right. Any surgery performed under general is nothing to sneeze at. Did you really have to go back to work so quickly?? That’s insane! Almost as insane as having the option to be sent home right after!! How could anyone, especially a medical professional, think that that would be a reasonable course of action?

    • Maybe it’s not that crazy. I had a hernia repair done outpatient in the States, and was home within 3 hours and walking the next day.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inguinal_hernia_surgery#Meshes

      Ken, maybe like me you will get “foreign body sensation” (now anatomically as well as culturally), or feel like cold water is running down your thigh. But that will go away. I also discovered that, compared to the normal side, the repaired side creates a pleasant tingle when rubbed. That and the oxicontin amounted to a net win for me. Take care!

      • I had a bit of numbness afterward, but it eventually got better. I didn’t take any painkillers, other than beer. Maybe drugs would’ve helped to get me up and walking around, but actually I kind of doubt it. I just felt like my insides were going to burst out. I’m kind of a hypochondriac like that. I guess a more American “Ah, just a flesh wound” sort of attitude might’ve helped. John Wayne I am not.

  13. I just bought Calbee chips from the local Mitsuwa market…yes they are delicious! I like the seaweed kind..have you tried the other brand Koikeya?

    • That would be like cheating on Calbee’s, and that’s not how Ken Seeroi rolls. Well, maybe if I get drunk enough and Calbee’s is in the other isle, I might just take a little taste. Thanks for the tip.

      • on a side note…did you know Calbee’s is a product of Hong Kong?

        • Did not know that. But unlike a lot of Japanese people, I don’t automatically distrust everything that says “Made in China.” I mean, thanks for making me a sweet iPhone, Chinese people. So if they make the best chips in the world then I guess it just goes to show that the future really does belong to China.

  14. Sorry, Ken, about the stacked nurses – they’re mostly tissue paper and padded bras. A friend told me. They’re out to catch doctors, not foreigners and geriatric cancer patients.

  15. Hi Ken,

    I’ve been reading your posts for a while now. Thanks for all the wonderful writing! You remind me of Charles Bukowski. Your writing style is pretty different from his but, like him, you’re intelligent, sarcastic, perceptive and critical of the society you live in. You’re also funny as hell.

    As a side note, if you’re halfway as good with girls as you say you are, you should write a post about how to pick up women in Japan. I’m sure a lot of guys would like to read that. The so-called “pick up artists” write nothing but a bunch of bullshit.

    Keep up the good work, man 🙂

    • Thanks, that’s high praise. Bukowski was certainly a major influence on me. Someday maybe I’ll have half the balls he did and actually write down what I really think, in a horribly misguided glory-or-death last stand. Then we’ll see how many Facebook likes that gets.

      Yeah, you know, the whole “picking up Japanese girls” thing—guess I’d have to write something like How to Win at Slot Machines. I mean, given enough time and an infinite supply of nickels, you’re bound to get a row of lemons once in a while. I will say though that it’s waaay harder to meet women here than in the U.S. But that should be obvious if you really think about it.

      • I definitely agree it’s harder to meet women here in Japan than in the US. I’ve got some theories of my own, but I (and all the rest of your readers I imagine) would be interested in hearing why you think that is.

        • There’s certainly a few reasons, but the biggest is simply that most people don’t date outside of their own race and culture. The world over, people tend to choose partners who share their own background, values, and appearance.

          I remember in the U.S. when it was surprising to see a mixed-race couple, and no doubt there are still regions where it would raise some eyebrows. And that’s the U.S.—touted as the world’s melting pot. Compare that to Japan, where there’s widespread belief in racial homogeny. We’re Japanese, and you’re not. Done and dusted. Well, at least you can be thankful for clarity.

          So even if 90% of women wouldn’t date a “foreigner,” the remaining 10 percent is still a lot of ladies. It’s just a matter of finding them. I think maybe distributing a questionnaire would help.

  16. Hi Ken. You are a very skilled writer with a great sense of comic timing. You are extremely observant and your character sketches are really interesting and throughout, despite your mixed feelings about the Japanese, you still portray them with a great deal of affection. I look forward to reading any book you publish. FWIW, the American author John Scalzi has a lot of information on his blog (Whatever) about self-publishing, negotiating contracts, and the like.

    Regarding raised eyebrows about mixed-race couples, I live in Toronto, Canada where we have a wide variety of peoples from all over the world. It is very common here to see these couples holding hands, both gay and straight, and no one really bats an eye about it. This is not to say that both homophobia and racism are not alive and well but the overall trend is towards more tolerance and acceptance. It could also be just a big case of who gives a f&*k, another Toronto trait.

    As to Japanese culture here in Toronto, there has been, in the last few years, an upswing in interest. A few Japanese musical groups gave sold out shows here (Babymetal and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu) and a local restaurant has had great success offering what is the best Japanese food Toronto has had ever (Guu Izakaya). The service is very much like what you describe: fast, uber-cheerful, and loud. The staff, all 20 of them, yell loudly whenever a new patron enters. They also yell loudly when you leave but that might have something to do with the tips.

  17. Hi there, hope everything is fine and that you are enjoying your beer right now.

    I had been reading your blog for the past few days and I have got to say that it is tremendously fun to read. Though nothing come as a surprise but I now know to what extend the unhappiness in the nation is. Thank you for the insight.

    Although, I can’t say anywhere is better or worst than Japan because discrimination happens everywhere depending on your race. Even the most developed country had such issue. And a number of Asian countries has overwork problem. And no one really cares because no one is interested. Though chances are it is still avoidable if you had a decent degree or skillset. If you are lucky you may still be able to get a workplace with friendlier environment.

    Anyway, I remember you had mention in your previous post that before the bubble burst Japan use to be different. More lively? I wonder if their stiffness are due to that fact that they do not want such terrible thing to happen again?

    Well, Here is hoping Japan will one day impose a rule where no one should work over 8pm. ( like France did, albeit a little earlier at 6pm) And have more holidays. People will probably get use to it after a long period of time and maybe they will be happier and so will the expats.

    So Yeap! Thank your for your hard work. Maybe miracle would happen. Have a nice weekend!

  18. What happened to the mythical legend named Ken Seeroi? Has the Calbee’s black pepper and chardonnay distracted you from writing any new posts lately? The damn bits of chips that always decorate my couch while eating… anyway, stop taking trips to the convenience store, just buy the chips in bulk! I just discovered this gem of a blog and I’m going to read this post over and over again until the return of the king.

    But on a serious note, what have you been up to?

    • Ah jeez, nothing good. I started hanging out with this new girl, and it’s really messing up my writing, since she wants to do things like go out to dinner and have sex. So annoying really, women. I really gotta work on being gay more.

      Anyway, let me finish doing my U.S. taxes two months late, and then I’ll see if I still have the strength left to push the keys. You’re right, this calls for more chips.

      • This response seems so Japanese, you are now truly one with the Nippon way. Congratulations and best wishes with this one Ken; fight, win and populate!

      • Gosh, in Canada, we usually go out for dinner and then have coffee and desert afterwards. Gotta love these Japanese customs!

      • Did I tell you I put in my (Australian) tax returns 14 years late? I was so scared, I actually came to Japan to escape. And it turns out, I had a refund due!

        But I love Japan where they just take the money and that’s it. Also, unlike the US, if Australians qualify as a non-resident for tax purposes, they don’t have to file an Australian tax return while they are away. I read somewhere that US citizens have to file a return no matter where they are – scary stuff.

  19. Hope you’re feeling better, Ken. Did you know Seeroi means “400” in Thai?
    It’s better than samroi, “300” But not quite as good as haroi. “500”
    I look forward to your next post.

  20. To (literally) top my comment off, I started reading your articles about two weeks ago. As my interest in Japan drew me to your blog. I read the one where you mention your friend who was a programmer worked non-stop. I just finished this article today during the morning of my work (I am 17) when my boss walked away I had to read more Ken Seeroi. I had read all of your blogs and was disappointed that I had eaten the whole candy bar so quickly. I am going to ask two questions later in a minute but I want to tell you why I read your articles. I have been interested in Japan my whole life but recently I have been studying Japanese and doing more research on their culture. I even have a few Japanese friends that I made but screw all of that. I was reading your stuff because your writing skills and relaxed nonchalant form is kick-ass.
    My two questions are; Do you use memrise (as it has been suggested to you( and if you do which ones do you study) and what Anki card sets do you use ( and have you created any). So yeah yeah, I know what Ken Seeroi is going to say, “Dude, that was like, four questions.” Thanks for reading this comment, and after searching today I can not find anyone who writes about Japan as good as you do.

    • Let’s see, hmmm. Well, first thanks for writing. As for Memrize, I tried it for about ten minutes, then switched to Anki. I worked with a Heisig deck for half a year, in which time I rewrote most of Heisig’s horrible keywords. I think that’s still on the Anki shared deck site somewhere. Then I did Core 10,000. That was very helpful, but I don’t have that deck any more.

      Over the years, I’ve also made half a dozen decks of my own, either of grammar phrases or vocabulary. Lately I’ve been working with about 500 sentences, just random stuff I come across that I want not to forget.

      Ultimately, I’ve become less and less convinced that SRS actually works as advertised. It’s really good for memorizing a couple hundred things, but seems to break down once you try to memorize a few thousand. But that’s just my experience. Anyway, I still use it because it gives me something to do while I’m waiting for trains.

      Hope that helps. Thanks a lot for reading, and for all of your encouragement.

  21. It’s been two months; I think maybe Ken Seeroi died.

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