Japan’s a Scam

I was drinking with Sandy in the park recently. It was dark and naturally we were on the swing set.

“I’ll just never be happy here,” she said.

“Congratulations,” I replied, “you’re finally Japanese. Here, have a chu-hi. It’s got real lemon flavor.”

Then we kampai-ed as our swings passed, which is hard to do without spilling. The great thing about Japan is it has these little dirt plots that serve as corner parks, complete with rusty jungle gyms and broken see-saws where you can drink at night. I guess theoretically kids could play there during the day too, if the population hadn’t all died off. Anyway I figured it kind of worked in our favor. Continue reading “Japan’s a Scam”

Why Japanese People Lie

A reader named Furansujin recently described his stay with a Japanese host family:

“They showed complete hysteria when I told them I loved curry or could eat takoyaki . . . the only reason i can think of for so many grins, laughs, and exclamations is acting. Like people were overly polite because they felt they needed to be.

“We also tried calligraphy. Everyone was doing a terrible job, me especially. But someway somehow our Japanese teachers inspected our work saying “Joozu, Joozu”—-you’re good at this. But they would also talk with each other in Kansai dialect. One of our students had a good understanding of it and told us that in fact they were saying that we sucked badly. So much for politeness.”

You know, they say you shouldn’t generalize. So I won’t. But if I was going to generalize, Continue reading “Why Japanese People Lie”

Crime in Japan

You never know what the day will bring—that’s the exciting thing about waking up. So this morning, just as I was heading out for a fresh can of coffee at the corner 7-Eleven, I noticed somebody’d pasted a scary Japanese note to the windshield of my car.

“Contract parking place!!” it said in large, crimson kanji, written with what appeared to be a stubbly red crayon. “Never park here!!” Heh, and they say Japanese people are subtle. Sure they are, until you do something wrong. Anyway, I had to admit I felt a bit of pride in that I could read the terrible note, and also that I finally owned a car in Japan. Yet all things considered, somehow I felt bad. Emotions sure are confusing. I really wished it was night, so I could buy beer, which solves that problem. Continue reading “Crime in Japan”

One Japanese Book You Must Read

You should think twice about taking any advice Ken Seeroi’s got to give. I mean, we’re talking a guy who ditched a sensible life in a first-world country for a freezing, tiny apartment, sleeping on the floor, and eating rice with sticks. So, really? Well, it’s not so bad once I move the shochu boxes and cockroaches out of the way. Just trying to put things into perspective, you know.

How to Take a Bath in Japan

There’s a lot of information on how to do things “right” in Japan. How to take off your shoes, bow, give small gifts, blow your nose, take a bath. It’s like a country that comes with its own instruction manual. Continue reading “One Japanese Book You Must Read”

Is Speaking English in Japan Unavoidable?

A reader named mintyroll recently commented:

The “Japanese People Don’t Want you to Speak Japanese” part is one of those minor things I’ve always been afraid of whenever I think of how my first trip to Japan will be . . . Consequently, it’s made me want to reach at least fluent level of Japanese before I ever make the trip.

So mintyroll—-is that a Spanish name?—-well, I can’t say what Your Japan will be like, but I can tell you about My Japan. And maybe we can extrapolate a bit.

Life in Japan as a Foreigner

Take yesterday, for example. It was a hot, gray day, and I finished work early then hustled to the station. Running up the stairs, I found myself surrounded by school kids, who immediately began yelling, “Hello! Hello!” in English. That warms my heart. Or maybe it’s just the humidity, I never can tell. Continue reading “Is Speaking English in Japan Unavoidable?”