COVID Japan: Venturing Into a Japanese Dive Bar

Ueno Tokyo, Pre-COVID Japan

I eventually made my way to the counter and ordered a beer, plus some cabbage with miso from the pickled Japanese geezer behind the clear curtain. His mask was pulled down into a decorative chinstrap.

“What?” he yelled into the plastic.

“What?” I yelled back.

So we stood and yelled “what” a few more times before he handed me a glass of potato shochu and a plate of grilled flounder. Well, those were my second choices, so good enough. I returned to my assigned space between two tall, translucent dividers.

A young Japanese woman from a nearby table leaned around a roll of plastic descending from the ceiling and announced in slurred English, “I’m a golf club.”

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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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Enduring Japan During the Crisis

Japanese Baby - Japanese Rule of 7

Yep, nothing like a pandemic to test one’s commitment to a cause. And until a couple months ago, I was largely settled on the idea of living in Japan forever. I appreciate all aspects of this country, from the mountains to the oceans, and all the convenience stores in between. Japan’s a wondrous neon land of late-night karaoke, bullet trains, and spotless neighborhoods, maintained by an upstanding citizenry steadfastly dumping broken stereos and microwaves into the forest. Gotta admire the conscientiousness. I like everything about Japan except the people.

And of course, there were the ladies. Chatting up random birds in bars, restaurants, the Unemployment Bureau. “Come here often for government assistance? Me too. We’ve so much in common. Let’s hang out.” They say working on a hobby keeps your brain healthy, and you know Ken Seeroi ain’t trying to get no Alzheimer’s.

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Cheating in Japan

Kyoto - Ken Seeroi

“Hi Ken,

What do you think of cheating as a subject in Japan? I recently watched this video and it says over 80% of women here cheat. How true is that?”

Okay, so several years ago I met a dude in Osaka, who’d just moved there for work. We were standing in an empty shell of a building, drinking shochu and eating dried daikon with bits of cream cheese. Who says Japanese bars aren’t the best?

Me? Oh, right. Well, anyway, he mentioned a wife and daughter back in Chiba, so I replied, “Must be hard being away.”

“Nah,” he answered, “my wife said I can have a girlfriend.”

And I was like, “Whaaa? She said whaaa?” Probably should work on sounding out my consonants a bit more.

Cheating in Japan

Then fast-forward a couple of years, when I told my girlfriend at the time I was moving out of Tokyo.

“I’m leaving,” I said.

“Yeah, okay,” she said. Really thought she’d take it a bit harder, to be honest.

“I don’t mind if you have another girlfriend,” she added.

“Will you have another boyfriend?” I asked.

“No guarantees,” she replied.

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Feminism in Japan

Feminism 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”