Strange English I can’t Understand

Living in Japan, you’re basically trapped in a tiny spaceship, peering down through clouds and picking up intermittent snippets of news floating skyward from earth. I first heard “Poker Face” in a smoky Shinjuku karaoke bar, when some girl belted out Mum mum mum mah. Some complicated lyrics, those. And I learned the results of the U.S. election in a similar joint in Oita prefecture. Okay, so I do a lot of karaoke. Beer helps. Anyway, what I mean is that it’s not easy keeping touch with Western culture, and even harder understanding why singers are now called Gaga and Presidents Trump.  It’s like the world’s gone crazy, and English with it. For example: Continue reading “Strange English I can’t Understand”

Japanese Racism

The first time I had a white kid in my English class, I couldn’t stop staring at him. He was floating among a sea of Asian faces in our sweaty, countryside classroom. I rattled my head and gazed briefly out the window. Steam was rising from the mountains in the distance, and in the foreground a line of wild monkeys dashed across the schoolyard, heading for the pool. Japan’s a weird place. I looked back at Keita, with his curly blonde hair, struggling to pronounce the U.S. states.

“Flolida,” he said.

“Florida,” I repeated, like Please tell me you’re joking.

“Folida?” he said earnestly, his little eyes welling with tears.

“Can you say ‘Miami’?

“Miami.

“Perfect. From now on, just say that.” Continue reading “Japanese Racism”

How to Get a Job in Japan

The way I figure it, jobs in Japan fall into seven categories:

1. High-level corporate
2. Technology
3. Sales and Recruiting
4. Teaching English
5. Washing dishes

Actually, I had seven in mind, but it was late at night when I started this and then I fell asleep on the floor with a glass of white wine and some Calbee’s potato chips, so I ended up typing something like 6. Mmmy handss are alllll greasy and 7. I’m sooo sleeepyzzzzz . . . So apparently now it’s only five.  Maybe I’ll edit this later.  Anyway, I’ve got a mess of tiny, tiny chips to vacuum up, so let’s not get stuck on the details. Continue reading “How to Get a Job in Japan”

How Americans get Shot by the Police

It’s a funny feeling, being surrounded by a gang of cops, what with the yelling and pointing of guns and all. My first thought was, being shot to death on vacation’s gonna suck.

It’d started off well enough. Hidemi and I had breezed in from Haneda two days before. She’d wanted to go to California, but I was insistent we spend our vacation in Thailand, lounging on the white sand with a frosty Singha in one hand and a papaya salad in the other. Which would explain why we were lost in the suburbs of Los Angeles with a car full of McDonald’s wrappers, driving in circles.

“I told you to take the next exit,” she said. Continue reading “How Americans get Shot by the Police”