Sometimes what I like best about Japan is simply that it’s not the U.S. Not that I’m bagging on the land that invented deep-fried Snickers or anything. We all know it’s the greatest country on earth. Just ask any American.
Question those fine, flag-waving patriots about what they value most, and it won’t be long before someone belts out “freedom.” Because that’s the American way. Shouting. Loudness and freedom are baked into U.S. culture like apples to a pie. The Japanese response is necessarily softer, possessed as we are with the Spock-like ability to read each other’s minds. Here, that same question would be answered with “social responsibility,” or perhaps “the righteous thrill of blaming others.” Nyeh, same thing.
Continue reading “Social Responsibility in Japan”
“Washing your own dishes? That’s commendable.”
This is my co-worker Ms. Oshiro, leaning over my shoulder at the office sink. I’ve got a scrubby in one hand, bento box in the other, and my first reaction is, “Well, who else’d wash ‘em?”
But then common sense kicked in. The same person who made my delicious bento: my wife, of course. Because in Japan, that’s the way it works. Ken Seeroi’s wife hand-makes him a lunch box of rice, mackerel, a hard-boiled egg, and mini sausages shaped like octopuses, then at the end of the day he takes his dirty dishes back to her. Honey, I’m home. Japan’s real 1950’s like that. Continue reading “Feminism in Japan”
Uh, sure you do
I made a lot of mistakes with Saki, my first Japanese girlfriend. The most notable of which was attempting anything resembling a conversation.
“So you said you’ve got a sister, right?” I asked. “Does she live in Tokyo too?”
“I think so, maybe.”
“Well, when did you last see her?” I continued.
“Huh. Okay…well, um, does she live by herself? Does she have a boyfriend?”
“Mmm,” she said, “I’m not sure.”
“So you don’t know where she lives then, your sister?”
“Mnnnn,” replied Saki, “maybe Chiba?” Continue reading “I want a Japanese Girlfriend”
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”
Every year, I like to play a little game called “Could I Ever Live in America Again?” That’s where I board a plane in Tokyo, have about ten tiny in-flight wines, watch every movie ever made, then get off in sunny California and ask myself, “Well, how ’bout it, Seeroi?” It’s a pretty self-explanatory game, I guess, but I enjoy it.
Japanese refer to the country as either “The U.S.A.,” which is cute, or simply “America,” since anything south of San Diego clearly doesn’t count. Nothing but fish tacos and cactus there anyway. And you’re not fooling anyone with your donkeys painted like zebras, you know. Continue reading “Japan Versus America – Who Wins?”