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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What I’ve Learned About Japanese Customs

Rirakkuma - Japanese Rule of 7

It rained last week. And as I walked into the lobby of my Japanese office building, there was my coworker in front of me, the strawberry-blonde gal who speaks pretty good Japanese. And perhaps because she’d mostly mastered the language, it was surprising to note she’d failed to successfully navigate the entire minefield of Japanese customs: she hadn’t wrapped up her umbrella. You know that little strap you wind around to hold the umbrella closed? Yeah, she hadn’t done that. This is the Japanese equivalent of not zipping up your fly.

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Getting Japanese Permanent Residency

Cute dog. (c) Japanese Rule of 7

After Japan’s lukewarm reception to my halfhearted proposal of becoming a Japanese citizen, I decided to re-think the whole strange project. Would citizenship even change anything? Certainly not as much as a quick trip to Korea for plastic surgery and coming back looking like a Japanese 18 year-old. Would it help to invest another ten years improving my already awesome Japanese? Or should I just scotch the whole thing and hang out with topless ladies on the beach in Polynesia like Paul Gauguin? Wow, so many good options.

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Applying for Japanese Citizenship

Step One of the Japanese citizenship process is apparently sitting on a blue plastic bench in a frigid concrete government building staring at the number in your hand. Mine was 12. This was a semi big deal, not the number but the whole procedure, since it meant renouncing U.S. citizenship and basically scotching my chances of ever living or working again in the greatest country on earth. But since I’d been in Japan this long and it was looking like I’d eventually die here, I figured Hell, might as well go all the way. I mean, people get face tattoos, undergo plastic surgery, get married, have kids…maybe I needed to put an end to this hedonistic Peter Pan existence and start screwing up my life too. Can’t just keep on having fun forever, right?

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A Week in Tokyo

Tokyo festival

I was flat on my back in the dark grass, pressing my eyes shut while bombs exploded overhead. “Are you watching?” Mizuki asked.

“Intently,” I lied.

After five years away, I’d come back for a week in Tokyo, to visit old friends, old neighborhoods, and apparently endure a fireworks festival on the banks of the Arakawa river, crowded in with a million Japanese people.

Our small group finally found an unlevel spot in the weeds of the riverbank, where we laid on blue plastic sheets and drank cans of chu-hi while colorful shapes exploded overhead and the crowd went oooo, then ahhh. Then oooo again. Only in Japanese. Continue reading “A Week in Tokyo”