Japan and What the Hell to do With Foreigners

Crumbling Japan - Japanese Rule of 7

The Tokyo Olympics has been a steady topic of conversation in recent months. Although to hear Japanese folks tell it, they might as well be discussing a collective ice bath. Can’t we just put off this horrible thing a little longer? No? Mmmnn, could we at least make it less awful? Okay, how ’bout if nobody watches? And here we go . . . whew, glad that’s over. Now, why’d we do that again?

If nothing else, this year’s Olympics did a great job of reinforcing Japan’s longstanding image of foreigners as a bunch of wacky bastards who’ll never fit in here. Athletes and staff jumping on beds, openly consuming alcohol, intermingling between teams, being arrested for cocaine, and running off to go sight-seeing in the face of Tokyo’s highest-ever COVID-19 levels did little to improve Japan’s traditional perspective toward visitors from the outside world. Well, bring on the Paralympics.

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Climate Change in Japan

climate change in Japan

Sometimes it feels like I just imagined the whole thing. Thinking back, I remember a time when Japanese men wore dark suits, neckties, and leather shoes. Women wore short skirts and heels. That really happened, right?

Or did I just dream it? Because these days, the ties are gone. And on weekends, so are a lot of long pants too, replaced by cargo shorts, Teva flip-flops or, horror of horrors, Crocks. Women rush by in baggy, full-length skirts, black arm covers, and Darth Vader masks—dark plastic shields, like a sunglass lens for your whole face. I’m excited just to catch a glimpse of an ankle. And today—I honestly never thought I’d see this—two Japanese guys strolling through a crowded business district with no shirts on at all, just bare chested. I was like, holy shit, Japan’s become San Diego. I gotta try that. Although somebody’d surely stick me with tranquilizer gun and haul me off to Ueno Zoo. Is it possible to wax with duct tape? Let’s find out.

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Real Japan: Why Everything You’ve Heard is Wrong

Japanese cedar

When Asami wiped out on her bike outside Ueno station, she lay on the sidewalk with a broken wrist “and everybody just stepped around me. Not one person tried to help.”

She recounted this accident as we sat out at Starbucks, between sips of a Frappuccino with her left hand, the right being bound in a light blue cast.

“Japanese people are terrible,” she concluded.

“Maybe they’re just shy,” I suggested. Folks here love that excuse for avoiding anything difficult or unpleasant.

And yet, I knew what she meant. Japanese people are terrible. Some of the rudest bastards you’ll ever meet. Except for the nice ones, of course, Asami included. At least part of the time.

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Japanese Values

Japanese Ramen Shop

“OK, you got me, why do they make things so difficult?” —St Germain

As a not-so-casual observer of Japanese girls, something I’ve always wondered was: Why are they so sad? They weave through crowds staring dejectedly at their platform shoes, or scrunch over their phones on the train, trying desperately to tune out the world. So I consulted Seina, since she’s got an answer for everything.

“Why,” I asked, “are Japanese girls so sad? That’s something I’ve always wondered.”

“Because they’re not happy,” Seina replied. I don’t know why I’m consistently surprised by the obvious.

“Well, why aren’t they happy?” I pressed.

“Probably they don’t want to be.”

“Who doesn’t want to be happy?”

“People who are sad.”

I could find no flaw in that geometry. You gotta appreciate a perfect circle.

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Do You Sound Like a Japanese Girl?

Japanese wind chimes

Recently, a reader posed an interesting question:

When you speak Japanese is it men’s version or women’s? I’ve known a few Americans who were taught by women and live and work in Japan. They usually get no respect in the business world because they sound effeminate.

This brought to mind a conversation I had with the fearsome Sachiko. Now, some people say the truth is elusive. Clearly, those people have never met The Sachiko.

“Look what I got you,” I beamed, “A Rirakkuma handkerchief! Check out the embroidering—see the little bear? He’s so cute! Eating a tiny stack of pancakes! Do you love it?”

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