Making Friends in Japan

People say Japan’s a lonely place. But people say a lot of things, including that America’s the greatest nation on earth. Well, they do have a lot of eagles, cheeseburgers, and guns, so I guess it must be true.

Anyway, recently a reader asked if it was hard to make friends in Japan, to which I’m tempted to answer “well, yes and no.” But since that’s the world’s most dickish answer, I’ll just go with “yes.” Yes, it is, for a few simple reasons.

By way of illustration, let me first tell you about my good friend, Imada-san. We’ve been naked together many times. Maybe in the West, men don’t bathe together much, but really, how can you call somebody a friend if you haven’t seen his junk? Eh, maybe it’s a cultural thing. Anyway, moving on. Continue reading “Making Friends in Japan”

Taking a Japanese Name

Living in Japan long enough will make anyone mental. I’m pretty sure I can convince you of this.

But let’s back up, to when I lived in the U.S. There, I dated a Taiwanese gal named Amy. She had long black hair, an incredibly tight body, and loved karaoke. She was quite good at it too, among other things. So on random Saturdays, I’d call up my buddy Steve and his buddy Warren Benter and the four of us would drink a mess of terrible Coors Light, pile into Benter’s van and head out singing. The only thing is, Amy’s name wasn’t really Amy. It was Chiaolauhu. And Steve’s was, in actuality, Esteban. And Benter’s family name originally sounded like someone with a terrible cough. When his grandfather came through Ellis Island, he shortened it by simply removing every other letter.

So this got me thinking—-why not take a Japanese name? Continue reading “Taking a Japanese Name”

What’s Japan Like?

This is partly the tale of three Japanese women.

Erika Lives in Hokkaido

In the winter, she walks to the station past mountains of snow piled higher than her head, but she can usually get a seat on the train, and her apartment’s nice and warm, so she’s happy. Plus, she likes wearing high leather boots and flowing scarves. Erika’s into accessories. She works as a lab technician in a hospital. On sunny summer days, she walks a little extra to the next station, just to enjoy the trees and flowers, and because she likes how she looks strolling past the plate glass windows in a skirt. She has a small band of friends, and on weekends they sometimes meet by the river to drink Sapporo beer, listen to American hip hop, and barbecue. “I love steak,” she says. Continue reading “What’s Japan Like?”

How to Write Japanese

You gotta love Anna. Seriously, because everyone loves Anna. She’s a busty, blonde Swiss-German who grew up playing the piano and speaking Swiss. And German. And English. And now she speaks perfect Japanese. God, I hate her.

Nah, just kidding. Anna’s okay. In high school, she “picked up” French, Spanish, and Italian. Well, they’re all like the same language, but still she deserves credit for one. Then in college, she majored in Japanese and ended up moving to Japan and becoming an interpreter. Not an English teacher like, um, some people. Okay, now I hate her again. Continue reading “How to Write Japanese”

Why Your Japanese Sucks

It’s not Romaji That’s Evil—-It’s Hiragana

I have a new co-worker, who just so happens to be white. It’s very exciting, finally speaking with a real foreigner. I really gotta practice the English more. I think she’s from some place like Kansas, probably because she reminds me of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, albeit minus the little dog and red shoes. Maybe it’s the pigtails, and the fact that her aunt is named Em. Or is that M? Whatever. On Thursday, apropos of nothing, she turned to me and announced,

“I’m heading over to Japanese class tonight.”

“Oh,” I said. “That’s great.” Foreigners are always heading over to Japanese class. “How’s that going anyway?”

“Wonderful,” she replied, “we’re learning hiragana.” Continue reading “Why Your Japanese Sucks”