I've decided to put the blog on hold temporarily while I focus my energies elsewhere. Let it be known that I am still in Japan, and that I am still collecting anecdotes and interesting factoids for future use on this blog.
Some possible post titles and/or topics include, but are not limited to:
-Japanese Footwear: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
-Why Snowboarding in Japan is Such a Fashion Show
-The Agelessness of Asian Women
-McDonalds in Japan: What McDonalds in America Could Be
-Most Useful Phrases in the Life of an ALT: #1. Ginko e itekimasu.
-And Kindergarten Story Time
In the meantime you can enjoy some of my other writings which I published under a pen name - J. K. Rowling - perhaps you've heard of it?
Until then, Genki dene.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
The twelve days I spent at home over the holidays did me wonders. There’s really no place like home – my warm, insulated parent’s house complete with a fireplace and my mother’s cooking. I got to New York to see my brother’s new place, Philly for New Year’s, ate buffalo wings, a cheesesteak, some good pizza, and tons of Christmas cookies. A friend of mine who has been in Japan for over ten years goes home every Christmas as a matter of course. I think it’s important to get out to decompress, to get back to a place where things make sense for a while.
But now it’s back to work, back to strained communication and Hoka Hoka bento boxes, back to screaming kids and Sukiya beef bowls, back to incomprehension and bewilderment, back to driving on the left hand side of the road and being stared at, back to things that are gradually starting to make a modicum of sense.
Happy New Year!
Saturday, December 22, 2012
A taxi ride to the bus terminal at Yonago Station: 15 minutes.
A night bus to Hamamatsu-cho Bus Terminal in Tokyo: 10 hours.
A brief subway ride to Tokyo Station: 8 minutes.
A ride along the JR Line to Narita Airport: just over 1 hour.
An All Nippon Airways flight to Washington DC: 12 hours and 30 minutes.
A two-hour-and-forty-five-minute layover: 2 hours and 45 minutes.
A fifty-eight-minute flight to Philadelphia: 58 minutes.
And finally, a one-hour drive along the Atlantic City Expressway: 1 hour.
From door to door, just over 28 hours and 36 minutes. It’s quite a journey, but just imagine how long it would have taken 100 years ago… I don’t think I would have ever left the house.
Saturday, December 15, 2012
I am an outsider in Japan and normally I am treated as such. Everywhere I go strangers eye me suspiciously or titter at my otherness, sometimes treating me as an exciting novelty, sometimes as a leper. Normally, when dealing with staff in the service industry, I am most likely to receive the latter treatment. Recently, however, I enjoyed a small victory at one of the restaurants I frequent.
A young Japanese man walked in just ahead of me and took a seat at the counter. As it was a slow part of the day, and we were the only two customers, the waiter could not have mistook the order we had entered. So, a repeat customer though I was, I fully expected to be waited on second, and was completely taken off guard when the waiter came from the kitchen with our glasses of water and took my order first. If I didn’t order the same thing every time, I would not have known what to say. (“Cheese gyuudon, please.”)
I’d been so accustomed to being treated as a second-rate citizen that I almost felt guilty. A small victory but a victory nevertheless.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Perhaps it’s just me, or perhaps it’s the language barrier, but Japanese people seem far too willing to discuss the quality of their bowel movements. On countless occasions my adult students have given me much too much insight into their private lives in this manner. I suppose they don’t know English well enough to know that an upset stomach or stomach virus is code for watery stool.
You may think that this is due to there being a more flowery, less ugly word for it in Japanese but this isn’t the case. The Japanese word for diarrhea is “geri” (げり) and it is a “suru” verb. It must be a cultural thing.
The kanji looks like this: 下痢
The first symbol means “below” or “descend” and the second one means “diarrhea,” which kind of makes you wonder why they need the first one.
Saturday, December 1, 2012
I thought a few of my students were showing some imagination and initiative, but there is also a very real possibility they were yelling out “P-P-Penis” rather than “P-P-Peanuts” like I had thought at the time.
Up to that point I had been trying without much success to elicit words that began with certain letters of the alphabet, so when they finally got one without me having to paint them the Mona Lisa I was enthusiastic in my praise.
“Goooooood! P-P-Peanuts! That’s great!” I exclaimed with a thumbs up.
In hindsight, I’m certain they were yelling “Penis” because why else would they have been so enthusiastic? Why else would they have had that all too familiar mischievous gleam in their eye? And why else would the Japanese teacher have disapprovingly glared at them after I just finished so exuberantly praising them?
She must think I was a tad inappropriate for praising them under such circumstances. But when all is said and done, the little bastards did show a certain amount of imagination and initiative, and what more can a teacher ask for really?
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
In recent years Japan has been making considerable efforts to change its global image from “Weird Japan,” to “Cool Japan.” One part of the campaign is a TV program subtly named “Cool Japan.” With recent news of how the government is misusing tsunami relief funds, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that that some of the money funding the campaign is drawn from these sums.
But despite these recent attempts to mold their image, Japan will always be “Weird Japan” to me: sometimes things are just inexplicably weird. There is a peephole on my apartment’s bathroom door, for instance. Perhaps it doubles as a panic room but it’s best not to dwell on these matters.
One thing I’ve spent more time than I should have wondering about is that the doors to convenience stores say, “Pull,” on both sides. Do they expect me to pull the door open when both entering and exiting? It swings both ways after all. And while I’m on the topic of convenience stores, I think it’s a strategic blunder that porn mags are displayed next to the restroom.
And what about those 200 years (1641–1853) of self-imposed isolation when Japan cut itself off from the rest of the world? Talk about weird. And perhaps on the same scale – the existence of squatter toilets still persist. No, I don’t think Japan will be considered “cool” by western standards for many generations to come.