Japan and What the Hell to do With Foreigners

Crumbling Japan - Japanese Rule of 7

The Tokyo Olympics has been a steady topic of conversation in recent months. Although to hear Japanese folks tell it, they might as well be discussing a collective ice bath. Can’t we just put off this horrible thing a little longer? No? Mmmnn, could we at least make it less awful? Okay, how ’bout if nobody watches? And here we go . . . whew, glad that’s over. Now, why’d we do that again?

If nothing else, this year’s Olympics did a great job of reinforcing Japan’s longstanding image of foreigners as a bunch of wacky bastards who’ll never fit in here. Athletes and staff jumping on beds, openly consuming alcohol, intermingling between teams, being arrested for cocaine, and running off to go sight-seeing in the face of Tokyo’s highest-ever COVID-19 levels did little to improve Japan’s traditional perspective toward visitors from the outside world. Well, bring on the Paralympics.

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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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Stop Saying “Gaijin” and “Gaikokujin”

Japanese Cats - Japanese Rule of 7

I recently looked for a new apartment in Japan. The very first realtor I called stated flatly, “We don’t do business with foreigners.” I was like, Ohh . . . kayyy . . . This pattern has played out enough during my years here that I’m pretty used to it. I’ll go get my shoe shine box now.

But eventually, I secured a room from someone brave enough to rent to a white guy, then set about getting a parking place. Fortunately, there was a dirt lot full of weeds just down the street advertising open spots, so I dialed the number.

“Sorry, we had past trouble with a foreigner,” said the man on the other end.

“In a dirt lot?” I started, “what could possibly . . .” but then a different thought popped into mind. “What kind of foreigner?”

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Why are you Still in Japan?

People routinely ask, “Why are you still in Japan?” and I guess the answer depends upon which phase of Japanese life we’re talking about. Because first there’s

1. Amazement

Living in Japan’s like being born again. Everything’s filled with wonder, nothing makes any sense, and you’re insanely pleased by the simplest stuff. Look!—-I’m riding the subway. It’s like a train, only underground! So many people! Man, I gotta take a picture of this!

You can’t understand a thing. Not a word, not an action, and it’s hilarious. You can’t even stroll down the sidewalk without knocking over office ladies and soba-delivery boys. Continue reading “Why are you Still in Japan?”

Renting an Apartment in Japan

I recently moved to a new apartment, my sixth since coming to Japan, and I couldn’t be happier. My first place left a wee bit to be desired, consisting of a dreary, small box with alternating views of a machine shop and a cinder-block wall. Well, at least it had two windows, so that was something. In the mornings, the smell of machine oil would mix deliciously with my scrambled eggs. Since then, I’ve been on a mission to consistently upgrade my living quarters.

So when I saw this latest spot, a corner room with a view of a park, I made a snap decision to move. Because Ken Seeroi’s a dude who believes in proactivity. Not that I ever actually get off my ass and do anything, but more in the sense that yep, proactivity does exist. Continue reading “Renting an Apartment in Japan”