How Japan Killed my Vegetarianism

“Okay, how ‘bout a sheep. Would you have sex with a sheep?” I asked.

“Mmm,” Ryan replied. “Boy sheep or girl?

“Like it matters?

“If it’s a boy sheep, that’s gay. Okay, let’s say I bought a hamburger, would you eat it?

“Nope,” I said, “No way.

“For a hundred dollars?”

This was twelve years ago. Ry and I were driving Route 1 down from San Francisco, winding through Big Sur as the sun and clouds painted patterns on the Pacific. We had loads of time to dream up sophomoric questions.

“Would you eat a person for a hundred dollars?” I replied. “Like a manburger? Continue reading “How Japan Killed my Vegetarianism”

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”

Making Friends in Japan

People say Japan’s a lonely place. But people say a lot of things, including that America’s the greatest nation on earth. Well, they do have a lot of eagles, cheeseburgers, and guns, so I guess it must be true.

Anyway, recently a reader asked if it was hard to make friends in Japan, to which I’m tempted to answer “well, yes and no.” But since that’s the world’s most dickish answer, I’ll just go with “yes.” Yes, it is, for a few simple reasons.

By way of illustration, let me first tell you about my good friend, Imada-san. We’ve been naked together many times. Maybe in the West, men don’t bathe together much, but really, how can you call somebody a friend if you haven’t seen his junk? Eh, maybe it’s a cultural thing. Anyway, moving on. Continue reading “Making Friends in Japan”

Fitting in in Japan

Now, here’s a conundrum for you: let’s say that you’re working in a Japanese office, and it’s the end of the day. Of course, all the Japanese folks are typing like mad, as they’ve done since dawn. You want to be a team player but Hey, it’s 6 p.m., and let’s add that it’s Friday and you’ve been at work since 8:30. What to do?

A reader named thompson recently put it like this:

Everyday, after 8 hours, can I just stand up, say “sorry for going early” and then “HAHAHA, time for japaneseruleof7!!!” while walking out with big steps while ignoring that feeling that someone wants to stab you?

And maybe the bigger issue is: are you going to move to Japan and be a perpetual outsider, or not? Not be “that gaijin,” and try to actually fit in? Let’s see what Magic 8-Ball has to say. Continue reading “Fitting in in Japan”

Taking a Japanese Name

Living in Japan long enough will make anyone mental. I’m pretty sure I can convince you of this.

But let’s back up, to when I lived in the U.S. There, I dated a Taiwanese gal named Amy. She had long black hair, an incredibly tight body, and loved karaoke. She was quite good at it too, among other things. So on random Saturdays, I’d call up my buddy Steve and his buddy Warren Benter and the four of us would drink a mess of terrible Coors Light, pile into Benter’s van and head out singing. The only thing is, Amy’s name wasn’t really Amy. It was Chiaolauhu. And Steve’s was, in actuality, Esteban. And Benter’s family name originally sounded like someone with a terrible cough. When his grandfather came through Ellis Island, he shortened it by simply removing every other letter.

So this got me thinking—-why not take a Japanese name? Continue reading “Taking a Japanese Name”