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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There is No Japanese Breakfast

Japanese Breakfast

Japan has no breakfast. That’s a natural fact. So a lot of mornings, I find myself munching down cold rice balls in the park, simply because there’s nowhere else to sit in this bloody country. It really speaks volumes about a place when it’s specifically designed not to provide seats at bus stops or even a low wall where you could just rest for a moment. But nope; throughout Japan, there’s a lack of horizontal surfaces. This keeps salarymen, housewives, and children in school uniforms shuffling forward, wandering the streets like an army of exhausted zombies. Well, wheels of progress and all.

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The Top 10 Mysteries of Japan

Sexy Japanese Girl

I’d like to say Japan makes complete sense. I’ve lived here a long time, and come to understand most of the mysteries of Japan. Like, I get why we don’t have screen doors and a stereo is a crime against humanity. Or why we have to sit on the floor, slurp our noodles, avoid talking on the bus, and why the prettier a woman is, the more pissed-off she looks. That’s all reasonable. But then I’d like to say a lot of things, like Japan’s so efficient that the whole country doesn’t run on stacks of paper, unbridled nepotism, and rubber stamps. Sorry, just came from the real estate office. How is it renting a freaking room involves over forty pages of forms and someone who appears Japanese? Explain that, Japan.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, right. So, not much in Japan is really remarkable any more. That’s known as being jaded. Still, no amount of jadedness seems to solve the mysteries of Japan, such as:

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Ken Seeroi Interview With the Author

Salt Factory 2 Ken Seeroi

What I like the best is when I’m in line at the supermarket behind a woman with a kid. And the kid’s like six months old, not even vocal, yet already he knows. He’s just glaring at me, not even blinking, like, There’s something different about that dude—the eyes, the nose, the amazing fashion sense—what is it? And I’m like, uhh, the term you’re searching for is “gaijin.” Congratulations to me; I just beat out “mama” as your first word.

But the little guy keeps staring, like a midget superman trying to melt my eyeballs with his x-ray vision. I’m like, Jeez, lady, rein in your infant before he turns me into a pillar of salt.

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