How to be Popular in Japan

I’m the most popular guy in town.  And given that about a million people live in my town, that’s quite a distinction, seriously.  So recently I bought a jump rope.  Look, it’s not easy keeping in shape in Japan.  Like I’d just gotten home last Thursday night when I got a call from this old guy that I teach English to.  He’s about seventy years old and some president of a company or something.  Actually, I don’t even know his name.  I just call him President-san.  Anyway, I pick up the phone and he says, “Can you sing The Beatles?”  And I’m like, “Who is this?”  Continue reading “How to be Popular in Japan”

How to Bow Like a Japanese

What could be more typically Japanese than bowing?  Every other book about Japan has something to say on the subject, so it must be important, right?  Certainly a lot of foreigners come to Japan and start bowing like crazy, so maybe they all read the same book.

It’s common knowledge, if not entirely correct, that bowing is a sign of respect, gratitude, or apology in Japanese society.  And there’s no shortage of information on how to do it properly, how deeply one should bow, or what to do with your hands.  There’s just one missing piece . . . Continue reading “How to Bow Like a Japanese”

Navigating a Japanese Starbucks

The first time I walked into a Japanese Starbucks, I thought I was ready.  It’s pretty easy, really.  “Large” translates to “Grande,” in some bizarro Italian-English-Japanese-word hybrid, and “coffee” is just a bastardized pronunciation of the same:  “ko-hee.”  Even “Hot” is, well, “Hotto.”  So it’s not rocket science.  Coffee’s just about all they sell, so they’ll definitely figure it out.  Anyway, that’s what I thought. Continue reading “Navigating a Japanese Starbucks”

After the Last Train, it’s Ramen, Amen

So somehow it came to pass that I found myself in Ikebukuro at 3:30 a.m., drinking malt liquor, eating kimchee and a really fabulous grilled mackerel, helping this random izakaya owner translate his signs into English.  If you go into a bar there and see a “Customers must pay when they order” sign, then yeah, that was me.

Though I’m happy to finally be teaching in Japan, I’m certain that hummingbirds on crack lead more relaxing lives.  Continue reading “After the Last Train, it’s Ramen, Amen”