Me and J-Girls

Today I’m going to take a detour from my normal post topics.  I’d like to talk about something that comes up with just about any guy you will ever meet in the following moments after “Japan” is mentioned in a conversation: J-girls.  More specifically, J-girls and their relation to the quest for most men to copulate with anything and everything they can.

Disclaimer: lewdness ahead. 

From my understanding, Japanese girls are the holy grail for the male sex drive.  First, Japanese girls are just cute.  There’s no way around this.  And who doesn’t like sexing cute things?  Also, Japanese girls are brought up in a society where they are taught to be subservient to their male counterparts.  So, most Japanese girls hold a rather giving personality.  This extends to the bedroom, or at least the thinking goes (it does).  There is something about all this that plays to the male psyche.  It’s a carrot held out in front of the mule, except here it’s a funny walk or coy little “cooh”s that are held out in front of the male’s most primal brain.  A brain that has previously been devoid of proper thinking-enabling blood by the cuteness of the J-girl. 

Where all this gets us is to the situation: a great percentage of males in Japan spend their time chasing, and bedding, Japanese women while a great percentage of males outside of Japan spend their time wanting to come to Japan to chase, and bed, Japanese women.  Or so we are told.  Is there truth in this?  Is this just a stereotype?  Are Japanese girls really that easy?

Here’s what I can say:  Everything is true, except that which isn’t.  I think I would divide Japan into two sections.  One section is the larger cities like Osaka and Tokyo, extending to slightly smaller cities with an active night life.  The other section comprises town-ey Japan, not just the inaka but also bigger cities that just happen to be in areas of the country that are otherwise inaka.  This describes my former town of Takamatsu.  The city itself was over 300,000 people, but it was still had town characteristics.

Japanese girls in the city have earned a reputation as willing to sleep with any foreigner after just a tiny convincing.  For the record, I’ve never tested this myth.  Not for lack of not wanting to, either.  I’ve simply never found myself in a position to do so, less geographically than relationship-statusy (coined, bitches!).  However, I’ve heard stories.  Boy have I heard stories.  I’ve even heard stories from some of the less lady loving and more monogamous people about hooking up with girls from their conversation classes and the like.  Places like Gaspanic in Tokyo exist almost solely for women looking for foreigner sex to get their weekend thrills.  For the record I’ve heard Gaspanic described as a place that if you have a pulse, you’re getting laid.  Furthermore, I think anyone who has lived in Tokyo can speak about the very casual nature that Tokyo-jin look at sex. 

Out here in Buddha’s country things appear to be different.  Clubs like Gaspanic don’t exist.  Yes, there are clubs but I’ve yet to find one that is basically a mating stable in dance club form.  Foreigners out here are also a more rare sight than in big cities so girls are a bit more reluctant to open up to them (pun intended) as quickly.  Still, I’ve heard about many foreigners who pull their weight in medium size cities like the one in which I used to live. 

Being a person that has had 2 women worth of experience in as many years in Japan, I’m probably slightly unqualified to talk about bagging chicks in Japan.  Still, I know a thing or two.  One time-tested method is the age-old ritual of ナンパ (nampa), the equivalent of “poon huntin'” in America.  Basically, it largely consists of groups of horny boys (think 20 years old) hanging around a bridge or outside a convenience store yelling “do you want to get some tea or something” to every woman who walks past.  Tea being the Japanese equivalent of coffee.  And I do mean pretty much every woman.  Once in a while there’s a bite, tea is had and then the couple goes to a “different place”, which means a love hotel where they proceed to have empty sex for the rest of the night.  The first part of all this is creepy, the second not so much.  I’ve seen this nampa done and it’s really quite saddening.  It usually also consists of the men following the women down the street barraging her with requests and pleas to have some tea.  Sad times, J-dude.

Obviously, there is the bar scene and picking up girls in the local Starbucks is always a popular activity.  Some of this is similar to back home except you’re dealing with a culture of people so shy they can’t even hug their own kids.  Watching an attempted pick up in a bar can be a truly amusing experience. 

Then, there’s the aforementioned conversation school/language exchange pickup.  Actually, this isn’t so much a pickup as it is the girl doing these activities with the purpose of letting some foreigner have their way with her.  Japanese girls are very sly about it all.  They are the librarian race, if ever one existed.  Cute, wholesome looking, coy, and generally just do-gooders; however, secretly they are hiding some hot fire underneath their demure. 

In my experience Japanese girls come off as more reluctant at first.  However, they warm up to the idea of sex faster than their western counterparts and are generally much more hesitant to say no to an advance.  Maybe this is part of the appeal for many guys.  Outside of club life big city places where it is possible to bring a girl to a love hotel 15 minutes after meeting her, it usually takes a date or two to kick off a one nighter in Japan.  However, the work to get there is less, and an easier route attracts many a shark. 

Yes, most foreigners have a great deal of success in Japan.  It’s hard to find guys here that haven’t been around the block a few times just by virtue of the fact they have so many options.  However, I’ve found that the number of guys that are off bedding a new girl every weekend to be on the low side.  It’s probably no more than it is back home.  However, casual successes are much more common than back home.  As far as the women go, there are really only 2 differences: 1) Japanese don’t consider a one night stand to be anything bad or controversial.  They don’t have Christian and westernized moral thinking weighing them down.  Sex is sex and part of life.  2) Foreigners are the same in Japan as someone from Italy is in Midwest America.  It’s foreign, it’s exciting, it’s sexy, it’s lustful.

One other thing to mention here and it might be the topic of an upcoming post:  Japanese girlfriends and wives typically don’t frown on their partner having sex with a prostitute.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Sometimes this is extended out to “high school girl you paid to sleep with” or “girl you picked up at the bar for one night”.  Again, you read that first part correctly.  Housewives aren’t above playing the field either (entire books have been written about foreigners landing all the housewives in their town).  So, there are a bit more oppotunities for males to explore even when it might appear at face value there wouldn’t be.

This weekend I’m going snowboarding with the guys.  Hopefully no big spills.  I haven’t seen the girl for over 2 weeks, which might be partly responsible for me posting about landing J-girls.

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Japanese Comic Strip

So, I found this little comic strip about teaching English in Japan.  It’s pretty accurate and gives a realistic view of coming over to Japan out of the blue to teach some English.  Unlike manga and anime, which pretty much give you a fantasy view of Japanese culture, this one gives a completely authentic view of life as a foreigner in Japan.  This also means it’s not as action packed as manga and anime.  Still, I think people will enjoy it.

The comic currently has around 90 “pages” to it.  It’s a bit short but the authors add a new page every week.  My favorite part is that after each episode there is usually a comment by one of the authors giving a brief backstory to the segment. 

Check it out.  Enjoy.

Warning:  Some of the language is vulgar.  As I said, it’s an authentic strip. 

http://www.teachenglishinjapan.ca/

Hakuba Trip

For those of you who don’t know, snowboarding is big in Japan.  Actually, both skiing and snowboarding are fairly big in Japan, but snowboarding seems to be all the hype these days.  From what I can figure out, skiing is the traditional winter activity most of the adults in Japan grew up doing.  Did I mention yet Japanese people love them some tradition?  So, there are still a lot of skiers out on the hills, including many 4 year olds that look like they could do a slalom run at the olympics.

There’s another thing Japanese people love them some of too, however:  being hip.  Really, this pertains to the youth of the country but boy is this allure strong.  Many youth are desperate to appear cutting edge cool all over Japan.  In Tokyo, they have taken this to a near-syndrome like addiction.

Which explains this, I guess.

Don’t even get me started on double eyelid surgery.

Sometime in the recent past snowboarding caught on and now tons of teenagers and 20 somethings can be seen taking to the slopes many nights of the week and on weekends wearing snow pants around their knees, beanies that seem to mimic rap videos from 1998, and for the girls giant fake eyelashes that you have to weave your way around while going down the hill. There are many TV commercials that include snowboarding as part of the ad for no reason other than it makes the ad exciting or cool. I guess the fact that snowboarding is fun as hell doesn’t hurt to add to the number of participants.

Because of all this love for winter sports, and the close access of good ski resorts, people in Japan are keen to spend their weekends travelling the country for some good skiing or snowboarding fun. Perhaps the biggest place for this is a place called Hakuba.

Hakuba is located in the northern part of Nagano prefecture and hosted parts of the 1998 Nagano games. The name is actually the name of the tiny village as Hakuba hosts something like 10+ ski resorts. It has some of the most challenging runs in the country and is also a great place for novices to come to learn how to ski or snowboard. It’s also a very popular destination for foreign visitors to come for a skiing vacation. From what I’ve heard there are many people who will travel to Hakuba from Europe just for the weekend to get in some skiing. Nuts.

This past weekend I tagged along with one of my 5th grade teachers, his family, and a few of his friends for a trip to Hakuba. We stayed in a nice little bed-and-breakfast type place with a friendly older couple who ran it. I guess it’s called a “pension”, a name that is widely used throughout Europe and other parts of the world, or so I read. I’ve never heard of a “pension” before in my life so I am thinking the word is not used in America. I was a bit confused about what this whole pension deal was and had to do a bit of googling to find out what type of place we were headed to.

Somehow the guy knew all about Minnesota sports teams. He even knew about the American Football team and their current season. Needless to say, I was a bit shocked at that.

My teacher had said his daughter was really excited about the opportunity to speak English with a real living foreigner. I originally thought she was a University student studying English but it turned out she was a high school student who had English classes. So, her English level wasn’t quite as good as I was expecting, but it was certainly better than I thought it would be for a high school student. Either way, she ended up being far too shy to converse much on Saturday. Eh, that’s expected. On Sunday she gave snowboarding a try and as she was busy trying not to break her tailbone we spoke primarily in Japanese. Luckily, as I helped demonstrate a few of the basics she warmed up a bit and seemed to be much more open to talking to me by Sunday afternoon. This included doing away with English altogether and just speaking Japanese to me, which I really didn’t mind.

Another notable standout was one of the teachers that came with. She teaches P.E. at an elementary school a bit south of my town but still in the same valley. Her personality is quite unlike most Japanese people. She’s animated, talkative, loud (even though she barely had a voice due to a 3 week long cold), very sporty, and even a bit butch. Also, at 29 years old she’s single, which alone is just about enough to boggle many a Japanese person’s mind. She was the snowboard master and ended up teaching Yumi (teacher’s daughter) and Miyuki (another teacher who came with) for their first snowboarding lesson.

It ended up being a great weekend. One of the things I really want to do while I’m here is spend my time around Japanese people who don’t know English, and I got to do that a bunch on this trip. I got to learn many a good Japanese word, some youthful slang, and recognized some more guyish speakisms I’ve probably heard a bunch but have just now caught on to.

The only downside to the trip was that I took a few big spills. One, which I ended up landing on my shoulder and ribs, was somewhat bad. It was my first snowboarding fall that had me “unnhhh” as I hit, groan as I slowly rolled to my back, and then scoot off to the side to lay there and wonder how long before I feel like getting up again. Ironically, it happened on one of the flatter parts of the entire mountain. In fact, every one of my falls happened on flat areas, indicating that I need to practice 2 things much more: going straight (which apparently is a big problem for many people on a snowboard), and turning while moving slowly. The only problem I had with Hakuba was that some of its runs were very narrow. Think 10 feet narrow. On one side you had the hill/mountain wall, on the other side a drop that basically was the side of the hill/mountain. I have no idea how far down the drops were. I didn’t want to find out. You can see where not being able to turn, even though it was on flatter portions where I struggled, would be a problem.

Anyway, that was Saturday. It’s now Wednesday and my shoulder is still sore. So, this means that once again I’ve missed ju jitsu and fallen out of any rhythm I tried to establish. This is a frustrating trend.

Book Review

I finished the book this past weekend.  So, I’ll give my book review of “For Fukui Sake: Two Years in Rural Japan”.  For those interested, you can find the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Fukuis-Sake-years-rural-ebook/dp/B005M9TF78/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1326942136&sr=8-1   (Yeah, I REALLY wanted to hyper-link that one but my horrible work computer doesn’t enable the option of hyperlinking.  Strange.)

I’m going to break the review up in to two stages.  First, I will give a typical review, second, and more importantly, I will review the book as to how I see it relates to reading it to understand Japan – which seems to be its purpose.

For Fukui Sake will henceforth be referred to as FF in this post.

FF is a book about a pharmacy assistant, Sam, and the way he uproots his life upon realizing life may be tedious and mundane if he hangs around in the lab the rest of his life.  Yes, they do offer great health benefits but it seems the fun is no longer there, if it ever was.  Sam does what any mid 20s person who already feels the soul-crushing weight of a dead-end job upon their strong, young shoulders does: decides he needs to move to a place with snow.  Naturally, this means Japan.

The first short segment of the book serves as a simple background to the author yet for many readers may serve as a reminder of their own droll life.  Sam takes the out where many people choose to stick around and play it safe.  Obviously he wrote a book with a shiny red cover, so the outcome of said decision isn’t exactly yet-to-be-seen.  Still, reading people’s motivation for life changing decisions is at the least entertaining.

Sam, the author, arrives in Japan and discovers it’s completely different from his homeland.  Then, he discovers the tiny town he will live in is completely different from the image outsiders have of Japan.  Far removed from the bright lights and casual sex ways of Tokyo, Sam is placed on the other side of the country in a small town called Fukui, which lies on the Sea of Japan.  He admits he had more than a few doubts as to whether he did the right thing after arriving.

However, Sam soon settles in.  He finds a bar with some foreigner loving locals and a dog to walk each day at school.  He spends most of his time checking out the scenery, hanging out with other English speakers, drinking beer, and generally doing fun things.  Along the way he shares stories, sometimes with alarming detail, of his adventures through the country.  This part makes one wonder if he didn’t just copy most the book from some journal he was keeping along the way. 

The writing is average.  Sentence structures are standard and vocabulary is normal, for the most part.  Think Harry Potter part 1.  The author does take time to jazzy up a few places with fancy words, usually to good effect.  At times he may be showing off, it’s hard to tell.  Where the book shines the most is in the author’s humor.  A reader will likely laugh more than a few times while reading through the book.  While knowledge of Japan does help with the jokes, the author is good at explaining things so that someone with no knowledge of the country will still find his wit funny.

The book itself is more of a travel book than it is a book about Japan.  Sure, it has smatterings of information about Japan here and there, but mostly it is filled with descriptions of nature and the different adventures Sam finds himself in.  There’s not much connection between these adventures other than “they happened in Japan”.  For this reason, while the book starts off entertaining it starts to wane after the mid-way point.  There is no central narrative, plot, or message.

Caution to readers:  The author is British and uses British spellings of words.  Also, he uses a British vocabulary (do you know what a bonnet is?  Hint: it’s part of a car.)  He throws some British slang in there for good measure, which may or may not be understood fully by American readers.

The book clocks in just short of 200 pages.  With its easy readability and short length it shouldn’t take more than a few dedicated hours to get through. 

Rating : 3/5

Ok.. Part one is over.

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FF seems to be written for people interested in Japan and possibly thinking about coming over.  For anyone without much knowledge about the country, or an insatiable appetite for all things Japan, it’s a decent book to pick up. 

I like that Sam dedicates most of the book to describing the more routine things about Japan.  There is very little in the way of famous temples, Tokyo, Osaka (absent completely), festivals and the like.  Most of what is contained in the book is mountains, hidden lakes, rivers, neighborhoods, food, local personalities and some culture.  I enjoyed finally reading something on Japan that didn’t need to spend its entirety talking about the Golden Pavilion, Osaka food, and Tokyo everything.  What Sam does is first explicitly tells his readers “I found out that the real Japan is actually a lot different than those things” and then sets about showing them.  This is very important for anyone thinking of spending any significant time in Japan.

Sam’s enthusiasm is hard to miss, however at times it seems misplaced.  I’m not sure he loved Japan so much or if he just loved the fact he finally lived somewhere he could commune with nature as much as possible.  He spends little time describing Japanese culture or customs, although he does include it.  Usually, in the middle of an adventure story you are treated to a paragraph on a Japanese ideal or custom.  I would have liked to see more of this as this is the kind of thing many newbies are looking for on Japan.  Still, what is included is entertaining and informative.

I think it’s a decent book that most people will find joyful.  However, I do have some issues with it.

First, Sam seems to spend most of his time around other foreigners.  That’s fine.  After all, I would say it’s what about 95% of foreigners here do.  They hang out with other foreigners.  Also, the Japanese people he hangs out with seem to have some English capability (at least most of them.  A few he goes out of his way to say they don’t).  Still, he has dialogue throughout the book or some descriptions of lengthy, detailed conversations.  This gives one the impression that Sam is banging his way through these topics in Japanese, learning all about the world around him as though he were taking a tour through San Francisco. 

Here’s my issue:  this doesn’t happen.  I’ve yet to meet any foreigner who has come to Japan with no Japanese ability (like Sam), spends their time mostly around foreigners (like Sam), and after a year has capable Japanese.  The book gives this impression.  Yes, I’m being a bit picky but learning a language is no joke.  Many people hit that 6 month – 1 year wall, see they haven’t progressed nearly as much as they thought they would, and cast the whole thing off.  At times in the book Sam and his friends have to do something in Japanese without help or a translator (buy tickets) and he describes his inadequate and broken Japanese along with the fact he can’t seem to get what he wants. 

I do know many people who have very good Japanese after 2 years, but they spend their time almost solely around other Japanese people speaking Japanese.  I’ve talked about this English bubble before.

Next, if someone were to read the book before coming to live in Japan they could be mislead.  Each situation in Japan is unique, usually drastically so.  Sam describes himself as someone who loves to meet new people, meaning he’s quite outgoing.  A less outgoing person is obviously going to have different experiences.  For example, Sam describes Fuji Rock and how much fun it was.  I was invited to go and know a bunch of people who did in fact go this past year, having a great time in the process.  I wasn’t totally sure what it was but after reading about it in Sam’s book I am very glad I did not go.  Likely, I would have been miserable.  Nothing sounds worse than camping with thousands of other people listening to iffy music for an entire weekend.  *shudder*  This goes for most things in the book.  A reader should know a lot of this stuff is personality based.  Yes, it sounds obvious but it becomes less so when talking about a foreign country and living there.

Sam says he had 8 weeks (!!!!!) off for vacation in the summer.  I was a JET 2 years ago, I didn’t have any time off in the summer outside of 3 days for Obon week.  I’m thinking he took some of his vacation time, but I can’t be sure.  Some JETs don’t work in August, others do.  Some get one school, others get 10.  Teaching English in Japan varies by case. 

The book is written in a personal style, like a blog, which I enjoyed.  However, at times it feels like parts of the book were more about Sam talking himself up rather than relating a story.  I guess this didn’t bother me so much, but I could see how it might bother others.

Overall, the weak point of the book is its lack of main narrative.  It’s simply one story after another in chronological order.  It’s worth checking out as it’s cheap and easily accessible language. 

Afterthough:  There’s something…. wussy about British words.  I mean, seriously, who the hell calls a swimsuit your swimmers after the age of 2?  I did have a good headshake a few times in the book.

Book Review… Postponed

So, there is a new book that came out recently about some dude’s experience for 2 years in rural Japan.  From the reviews I’ve read it sounds like a regurgitation of just about everything that has been said by foreigners who have lived in Japan.  Still, I figured it might be worth a read as it’s cheap and the author supposedly goes out of his way to illustrate the fact that Tokyo and Osaka aren’t really Japan, something I have said in my blog and something I feel pretty strongly about.  It’s a position I can respect.  Another foreigner who lives a few towns over had big bad nasty looking bugs for school lunch the other day.  That’s not commonly heard about when people talk about the technological paradise of Tokyo.

My plan was to read the book this week and write up a little review for my blog.  I figured it would be nice for anyone interested in Japan, etc.

Anyway, I tried to order the book for my PC Kindle reader (why pay for a kindle when you get the same exact thing free on your PC and Ipod?).  Yeah…. Amazon made it purposely confusing to do this.  So, below is my customer service email about my dissatisfaction.

I’ve been trying to buy a book for over 1 hour now on Amazon.  Really, to attempt the purchase of a single book for that long is pathetic.  The problem is this:

First, I upgraded to an Amazon Prime membership to sample the kindle renting library plus other benefits.  However, you seem to have made it purposely confusing that Kindle for PC can not take advantage of a Prime membership.  There is no way to download a book for free through the website; it forces me to pay money even though it says it’s free for Prime members.  I guess it was a good try to slip in the promotion through ambiguous means, especially considering the auto-renewel feature.

So, it forced me to one click order the book, payment included.  I had no other choice even after I turned one click ordering off.  Strange.  Well, I have not updated my one click order credit card information because I have never once used that particular service.  So, Amazon immediately tried to charge my old card, which is no longer in existence.

From there, I decided there was no point in pursuing the free option anymore as I appear to have been tricked.  So, I resigned to paying the small fee for the book and the convenience of reading it tonight.  No such luck.  When I actually went around and updated my now turned off one-click order data and finally got around to ordering the book I got a message saying that I previously tried to order the book, it will now show up on my kindle.

Well, it didn’t.  It hasn’t.  I doubt it will without some fixes over there.  I’m now sitting here over an hour later with no book on my kindle reader plus no way in sight actually to purchase the book. 

I imagine this will be an easy fix on your end as it would appear all you have to do is clear my order history, something Amazon would not let me do.  Why it prohibits me from doing this is beyond me, but so it is.  What appears should be an easy fix on that end has been an hour of aggravation simply trying to read a book on this end. 

Some thoughts

Amor tussisque non celantur       –  Ovid

So, I’ve decided to kick start every post with some kind of quote.  I’m thinking a mix of Greek wisdom, Latin prudence, and Japanese Buddhist philosophy will keep things entertaining.  Some of these are ones I have come across while reading while others will be ones I’m aware of through more tangential means. 

Japanese have two words that are inseparable from their culture,  建前 and 本音 – tatemae and honne respectively.  The Japan Times Online wrote a scathing write-up a few months ago about 建前(tatemae) and how it is destroying the very idea of a democratic Japan.  I’m not sure I go that far, but the article did have many true points.

As I’ve illustrated before Japanese to English translations often times don’t exist or are very limited.  I will not give a one word translation, but neither will I get too bogged down in explaining each of these in depth.  At least that’s the plan.

建前 is your public veil, or facade, that you wear and display outwardly to the world.  This takes the form of mundane things like little white lies (sure your hair looks good), and life-altering things that are downright immoral (no, the radiation is perfectly safe in the area). 

The fact that I don’t actually believe in the existence of immoral things will wait for a different post, or not at all. 

So, 建前 ar the lies, deceits, frauds, niceties etc. that you give outwardly in order to make other people comfortable, happy, keep them from getting offended, or just to save face, another giant aspect of Japanese culture.  In western countries we think of these as acceptable when on a small level (of course I like the bow tie you gave me for our 50th wedding anniversary) but repulsive on a larger level (after 15 years you just NOW tell me that my kid is the rudest child you’ve ever met?)  To a Japanese person these are all part of the same package. 

Also, Japanese people tend not to think of these as lies as they are simply different versions of the truth. 

本音 then is the opposite of this.  This is your true, inward feelings about the world around you.  Yeah, you told the co-worker you go out for drinks with 5 times a week for the past 10 years he’s a cool guy but really every second around him makes you want to put his face through the window.  You might have heard about the fake Japanese smile and to be wary of what it might actually mean.  Essentially, this is the person displaying their 建前 and withholding their 本音, completely normal.

In fact, it’s not entirely to be unexpected that you will never experience someone’s 本音, even after 30 years of friendship.  Again, this sounds to a western person like you don’t actually get “to know” the person; to a Japanese person you simply know one side of them, and what’s the problem with that?

This creates friction with westerners often times.  Imagine you have a co-worker who talks to you, goes out drinking with you, invites you to company outings, carpools with you places, eats at your table in the break room and generally acts like a good chum all around.  You’ve worked together for 12 years.  Then, one day you overhear a conversation where he is telling everyone what a slimy bastard you are and how just the mere sight of you makes him want to puke.  I think we all know people who are cordial to us despite clear animosity.  But, how many of us have had a friendship that functions great, for an extended period of time, despite the parties actually thinking the other is satan reincarnate?  I’m guessing not many.  Yet, to a Japanese person this really isn’t anything to write home about.

The Japanese also have an expression I’ve been on the receiving end of a couple of times: 馬鹿正直(baka shoujiki).  This might translate to something as “stupidly honest”, although there’s a bit of a nuance here.  This isn’t the person who, when asked what he thinks of the modern state of American politics, says he believes Jews have taken over the world at his best friend’s son’s bar mitzvah.  No, “stupidly honest” to a Japanese person is simply telling someone your 本音 in most cases.  This is seen as incredibly childish, really something only an immature socially inchoate person would do. 

“Did you like that movie?”  “Well, Bob, it kind of sucked.” 

Ok, to be fair I do know people back home that through a fit every time I say something like this.  However, I usually hold that person responsible, falling back on the ol’ “well you asked!” defense.  Plus, we are entitled to our own opinions, right?  Plus, yes, some movies just effin’ suck.  Sorry to burst your bubble, “Fast and the Furious” lovers.  Anyway, in Japan here the fault not only lies completely on the not-Bob person, but it also reveals something deeper about his character: he’s a bit childish and clearly not ready for the adult world.  In Japan, the more you lie the more you are respected.  To me, the main difference here with back home is that everyone knows you’re lying.  And they like you more for it! 

This remains an aspect of Japanese culture I’m not terribly fond of.  I’m all for being polite to people; in fact, that’s one of the things I love about Japan.  People treat each other with respect here.  At least to one another’s faces they do.  However, the simple fact you’ll never get a straight answer from anyone on anything, let alone actually know how people think and feel about you can really start to wear you out. 

I once had a conversation with a great Japanese guy who lived in California for a very long time.  He explained it to me this way:  Japanese people live in a country with the population about 1/3 that of the U.S., on a chunk of land about the size of California, with actual habitable space somewhere around the size of New Jersey (not seeing a mountain is basically impossible from any given point within Japan).  Needless to say there isn’t a lot of privacy or “having space” around here.  So, people are forced to interact with each other on a constant basis (also, Japanese seem genuinely to enjoy everyone knowing what they are doing every hour of the day.  This explains urinals and such built into the side of a wall on the side of the road without even the pretense of a curtain.  This also explains why if I go to the doctor for diarrhea I hear about how often I’m sitting on the toilet and being asked if I’m still experiencing issues from everyone in my company the next day.)  So, 建前 shouldn’t be thought of as “lying”.  It’s really just a social lubricant.  Imagine if, in this sardine packed country, everyone was running around like Americans or many other western cultures and speaking their actual minds.  Good grief, it would not be a very peaceful country at all.  建前 helps them all get along and work together in harmony.

Ok, so he made me see the light.  Kind of.  After my talk with him I saw things in a different way and had a bit more understanding of the existence of the “public face” and “private face”.  Still, that doesn’t make it any easier when things happen like thinking you made some good friends, who suddenly quit talking to you out of the blue for no apparent reason.  Why?  Well, they probably never really liked you in the first place but were only pretending to.  Stuff like that is still hard to take and still incompatible to my western way of thinking.

Love and a bad cough are not hidden    –    Ovid      Mostly because I have had occasional bouts of a hacking cough over the past week.  In a country where people will force a giant white mask on your face the second you clear your throat this is a bit of a stresser.

You probably thought I was kidding, didn't you?

Happy Minor Holiday

Here’s the moment I wish I had some more comments and followers on my blog.  I’m really debating on whether to create a separate ju jitsu blog.  It will mean a lot more work, but I will also be able to focus on more jiu jitsu-ey things, including rants and what not. 

As I said originally one of my goals with the blog was to help keep up my motivation for training, which I felt had been waning for quite a while.  Well, that hasn’t changed much and since I just bought a new toy in the form of a large TV it doesn’t look to improve this month or next.

For the time being, however, I’ll keep things to one blog.

Yesterday was Coming of Age Day in Japan.  Essentially, this is a national holiday where people celebrate one of the biggest birthdays in a Japanese person’s life – turning 20!  In the states, 18 and 21 are the two “big” birthdays.  I don’t know what other Western countries are like, but those are ours.  In Japan, 20 is the big event.  As with all Japanese things this is also accompanied by ceremonies up the yin-yang.  *sigh*

The best thing about the day as it relates to me was that I had the day off of work.  I didn’t really do anything productive with it, but it was still nice to miss my kindergarten day once again.  Really, the last day before break when I took a nut shot that literally put me down for the count I’ve not had a lot of enthusiasm to return to kindergarten.  

The weekend did hold a ton of snowboarding, which was very fun.  I just need to transfer my enthusiasm to snowboard into my enthusiasm to get into ju jitsu and it’ll all be set.

See, the main problem is that in ju jitsu I’ve really stagnated.  It’s very easy to be interested in something when you see yourself growing and becoming more skilled every time you show up.  It’s not so easy when you don’t feel like you’ve improved for over 2 years.  The main thing is that I still have a lot of fun when I actually do kick myself into showing up.  That part hasn’t faded.  So, ju jitsu started up again after the break for the holidays on Friday.  Tonight will be my first night of ju jitsu in 2 1/2 weeks since I hurt my knee. 

I ran across some good noob ju jitsu blogs today.  I read these much more than I read veteran ju  jitsu blogs.  The sense of discovery and amazement at how awesome ju jitsu is to someone just starting out can be really motivational.  The fact is that even though things like the UFC are now mainstream, most people still haven’t a clue as to what BJJ is.  Most people who begin do so with less than a cursory knowledge about the new world into which they are stepping, and when the doors start to open and they realize the vastness of this thing called BJJ one can almost see the lightbulbs materialize, flicker, and then shine brightly above their heads.  It’s a fun thing to witness.

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