Posts Tagged ‘barack obama


President Barack Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize!!!!

Slightly off topic, but this is incredible news!

He was the surprise winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize beating out French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The committee cited his work on nuclear disarmament.

Congratulations President Obama, Michelle and family.



The Homogeneous versus The Homo Sapiens: Conversation 3/5/09

Student: I read your blog about the empty seat on the train. Is it fiction? I can’t believe it.

Me: Can’t believe what?

Student: Is it true?

Me: Well…I guess it does sound incredible. I’ve gotten used to it, though.

Student: You seem tired.

Me: Some days are rougher than others

Student: I really can’t believe it! I’m so sorry…

Me: No, no, don’t be sorry. It’s, uh…well, that’s just the way it is.

Student: I think it’s probably because of the media.

Me: Is it? I don’t watch the news here.

Student: The news always says black people are criminals.

Me: Yeah, I’ve heard about that.

Student: Especially soldiers. Like those soldiers in Okinawa, always doing crime.

Me: Always? What kind of crimes?

Student: Raping girls.

Me: There are a lot of rapes in Okinawa?

Student: Not a lot of rapes. But a lot of news though.

Me: That’s why Japanese people in Yokohama are afraid of me, you think?

Student: Probably. Japanese people believe the news.

Me: Do Japanese men think I’m going to rape them, too?

Student: (LOL) I don’t know…that’s funny.

Me: I guess so…Are Chikan (subway perverts) discussed on the news?

Student: Yes. Many stories about Chikan.

Me: 100% of them are Japanese men.  Why aren’t women afraid of  Japanese men?

Student: Ee! I don’t know. Never thought about that. Maybe they are.

Me: But they sit next to them and stand next to them…

Student: Yeah, well…

Me: And the media shows good images of black people too, don’t they? Sometimes?

Student: Good images?

Me: Yeah, you know, like…I don’t know, Barack Obama, Stevie Wonder, Oprah Winfrey, what’s that Enka singing guy’s name Jello or something? People like that?

Student: Yes. Je-ro…He’s very popular. Stevie Wonder too…and of course Barack Obama…

Me: Then Japanese actually choose to trust the negative images over the positive ones?

Student: Well, I don’t know…seems so.

Me: Yeah, well, anyway, media in America isn’t so great, either.

Student: (looking perplexed) Also, we are homo…homo…

Me: Homogeneous

Student: Right! That’s right! Japan is a homogeneous country.

Me: Yep. Japan is homogeneous. I have a question? If we are all homo sapiens, what difference does homogeneous make?

Student: Homo sapien?

Me: Modern day human beings

Student: Oh.

Me: UnlessJapanese think that human beings are like dogs, with different breeds…like Japanese are Chihuahuas and blacks are pit bulls and whites are poodles, that kind of thing… or maybe they don’t consider other people human beings…onlly Japanese are human.

Student: Ee! Everybody is human, of course.

Me: Do you mean just biologically, or mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well?

Student:  All the same.

Me: Then Homogeneous means nothing. We all eat, drink, breathe, fart, rape, steal, kill, lie, cheat…We all, or at least most people love their children, want a good life, work hard and…well, you know what I mean…

Student: Yes.

Me: If I treated you like a leper would it bother you?

Student: Leper?

Me: Hmmm….like a diseased person. Someone to be avoided at all cost.

Student: It would bother me…

Me: So it’s safe to assume that if we are both human then it will bother me, too.

Student: Uhh…yes?

Me: So, if Japanese know that what they are doing will bother me they either aren’t aware of what they’re doing, trying to be offensive, or don’t give a damn how I feel. That’s my conclusion. And if they aren’t aware they need to be made aware. And if they’re trying to be offensive then…I really don’t know what to say to that. And if they don’t care about my feelings at all then,well….

Student: I understand. I can imagine how it must feel.

Me: Sorry, I don’t like to say such things but that’s what was on my mind.

Student: I think most of Japanese don’t know what they do.

Me: Really?

Student: I don’t know. I think so. We are…We’re not…

Me:…used to foreigners?

Student: Yes, that’s right.

Me:  Ok

Student: So…well…

Me: Are you used to foreigners?

Students: A little.

Me: Would you sit next to a foreigner on the train?

Student: Of course.

Me: So if you can do it, then it can be done.

Student: Yes, but most people are not like me…

Me: This is true. You are rare in Japan. You work for a foreign company and use English everyday…

Student: Sou desu ne

Me: Ok…well, syouganai ne. (nothing can be done about it) Let’s start the lesson.



What was the NY Post thinking?


Maybe this cartoon simply means that Obama’s stimulus package was written by imbeciles or buffoons that need to be put out of their misery. And there was an incident earlier this week where NY’s finest shot a pet chimpanzee.




The effect of “Obama” on my life in Yokohama pt. 2

This congratulations business had started back before the summer when Obama handed Hillary Clinton her hat and sent her packing with an unexpected (and unaccepted) loss. For several weeks that followed I was being congratulated by Japanese people. Granted, I often wore Obama paraphernalia, at minimum a button and at max an assemble.  So, it wasn’t so much presumption on their part as it was acknowledgment. Perhaps their way of saying that the person you supported was a winner so, by virtue of that, you are a winner, too. Sometimes I want to tell strangers who tell me congratulations that I’d wanted McCain to win just to see their reaction.

Whether they think it’s simply impossible for a black person to have supported anyone but Obama or for anyone to have supported McCain and thus the Republican Party and their foulness over the past 8 years, I have no way of knowing.

But, what difference does it make anyway, right?

Well, it makes a difference to me. It means that, unfortunately, I can’t really share my joy with them because they just don’t get it…

…And why should they be expected to get it? After all, America isn’t their country, so they shouldn’t be expected to understand a god damn thing that happens in the US. Anyone in their right mind wouldn’t expect anyone outside of America to truly get it, especially a people as devoid of political and social acumen as most Japanese are. Maybe I’m not in my right mind.

Don’t worry, though. I know, in my heart of hearts, I can’t really fault Japanese for their idea of what Obama means to African Americans, for missing the point entirely…I mean, from the outside, it probably looked simply like some kind of black bloodless coup d’ tat, like black people had finally come together, finally realized that in addition to the significant financial and cultural power we wield, we were also in possession of substantial political power and resources which we’ve finally used to rally behind a viable black candidate with cross-cultural and cross-racial appeal, foster his ambitions, amplify his message and succeed in undermining a status quo that has been in place for well over two centuries…

But, for some inexplicable reason, I really expected that an election of this magnitude would have a significant effect on my experience here. I thought, at minimum, the japanese would be stunned into rethinking their ideas about black people…and maybe they are currently. I mean, hell, I was stunned! My shock at the result remains almost as strong as it was on Election Day. 

I’m not totally bonkers though. I know any kind of radical change takes time. Hell, it took Americans all of 200 years to get it through our thick skulls. So, no, I didn’t expect that empty seat beside me to be eagerly occupied with Japanese people wanting to be close to the energy that produced a politician whose popularity here in Japan has no precedence. And, no, I didn’t expect that Japanese-free perimeter that surrounds me wherever I might find myself to shrink, filled with people just aching to breath the same air as I. Nor did I fully expect the Japanese political IQ to skyrocket over night.

I did, however ludicrously, expect  something. Some glimmer of the contagious hope Obama tried to spread around the world. It was my hope that this election would alter the Japanese predisposition towards irrational fear of my kind, perhaps reduce its intensity, bring it down to a more tolerable level. It was a secret desire, bolstered by a couple of my students explanations of Japanese behavior towards me.

While Obama was slugging it out with McCain and Sarah Palin. one student explained the Japanese position this way (I’m paraphrasing of course):

“We Japanese do not care about minorities.”


“Because we have no minorities in Japan…we are homogeneous.”

“What about the Chinese and Koreans? Ainu and Okinawans?”


“Anyway,” I said, letting that question drop. No Japanese has been able to answer that question. “What’s your point?”

” Minorities have no power, and we, Japanese, respect power.  American power has always been white. If the face of  power in America becomes black, I think it will have a strong influence on Japanese thinking about black people.”

“For example? Anything tangible I can look forward to?”

“If Obama wins, I think Japanese will associate power with black people and we will not fear you.”

That made sense to me. I only half-believed it but it was logical and rational, however as erroneous as associating us with crime, violence and disease based on movies, but I’ll prefer an error that favors me over an error that harms me any day.

“You don’t think it will affect how Japanese think of Americans as a whole? I mean, the black thing, I feel, is only a part of what Obama represents. To me, his ascension indicates an evolution in the minds and hearts of most Americans not just the ones of color. It would be the equivalent of say Japanese people voting for a half Chinese / half Japanese, or half Filipino / Half Japanese prime minister.”

“EE!!” You had to see his face.

Well, so far, my life in Yokohama has not changed a bit. And the behavior of the people around me has not altered a bit. Their behavior is just as xenophobic, offensive and ignorant as it’s been since I arrived here.

But maybe this post is a little premature. Maybe the idea needs time to sit, like a freshly baked apple pie needs to sit on a window ledge cooling in the breeze, or the way Lasagna and homemade Potato salad and Fried Chicken always taste better on day 2.



The effect of “Obama” on my life in Yokohama?

I could easily answer “very little” as far as the Japanese are concerned, and end this entry right here and now. But, for the sake of the handful of readers who have been waiting patiently for me to get back to blogging about Kawaiiland, I thank you and I will elaborate.

Since the inauguration I have been useless, too busy being too happy to write. Talking to friends and watching the news has given me only a taste of how electric the energy must be in America. I envy all of  you guys back home. I haven’t had a bout of homesickness like this since I’ve moved here. I actually miss my country. Not just the people I know and the city I grew up in, but the whole damn country. I love all you guys! It’s a first for me.

My Japanese friends are very excited, too…for me, that is. “Congratulations” they say to me, like I won the election. In a way they’re right, for I feel that this election was not only a win for Obama, and the democratic party, but also it was a win for America, and all Americans regardless of party affiliation, regardless even of whether they know it or not. A very big win. A win that says that we are finally climbing out from under the debris of  9-11, dusting ourselves off, and getting on with the business of forming a more perfect union. It proclaims we’ve decided to take a chance, to let hope heal, to starve the fear that the previous administration saw fit to feed- to their advantage and our disadvantage. And we’ve announced our rebirth, of sorts, to the world in the most resounding fashion, as only us loud, vulgar, uncouth Americans can.

Yeah, it’s a giant step for us, worthy of congratulations…

But when most Japanese tell me congratulations, they don’t mean that at all! They don’t even mean congratulations on finally getting that Bush character out of the White house.

“Why say ‘congratulations’ to me?” I asked my student.

“Obama katta deshou?”  Obama won, right? Like Obama was some horse I’d bet on, looking at me like isn’t it obvious? Did I say the wrong thing? I mean, if I know anything I know black people want Obama to be president!

I’ll accept their congrats if I know them or, rather, if they know me, because if they do then they’ve seen me wearing Obama shirts and caps and buttons, or the coffee mug on my desk which is littered with photos and stories about the election. Clearly I am enamored with the man and the message.

But, when this congratulations business comes from strangers…or people who hardly know me I find it to be a little presumptuous if not rude. But maybe I’m being a little sensitive. What do you all think?

For example, I went to the doctor the other day. I had something in my eye, and it had stuck around for over a week. Naturally I thought it was a cataract or cancer of the pupil or I’d rammed my 6 ‘0 high head into too many 5’10 Japanese door frames and had finally jarred something loose,  so I made my way to the doctor. I waited for over an hour, she saw me for a little over 30 seconds, examined my eyes up close, pulled out the loose strand of eye lash that had worked its way deep beneath my eyelid, and asked me did I feel better.

“Yeah I do!” I cried excited with relief. “So, it’s not cancer? I’m not going blind from too much Internet?”

“I don’t think so.” Sometimes I don’t think so is the closest you’re gonna get to a “no” in Japan.

“Thank you Sensei…”

“Don’t mention it…and congratulations!”

“Thank you,” I said, thinking, under the circumstances, she was congratulating me for something having to do with my eyes; perhaps for not waiting until that wayward eyelash had become a serious problem, which I would have considered a strange reason to say congratulations a few years back but, in Japan, you have to modify your definition of certain words and strange is one of these words.  Still I wanted to know why she’d said it. “Congratulations for what, Sensei?”

“For Obama.”

Anger shot through me…I didn’t know why. But I swallowed it and said, “Oh.”

to be continued…


Conversation 1/21/09

gss-090120-inauguration-07_grid-6x3Me: I’m still in shock.

Friend back in NY: It’s crazy, right?

Me: Is this the feeling white people walk around with their whole lives? Like throughout history?

F: I know what you mean. I stood up for the National Anthem the other day.

Me: Word? Hand over the heart, and all that? Damn, everything has changed…hasn’t it?

F: Yeah.

Me: We’re gonna need a whole new vocabulary to talk about America…

F: For real. I feel so damn motivated. I feel like I’m incapable of procrastination right now.

Me: Yeah. I feel so…man. This is ridiculous! Every time I see him I feel so damn proud I start crying.

Friend: Yeah, it’s crazy!



1000 Words…


I’m STILL in shock!!!



Copyright © 2010 Loco in Yokohama / All Rights Reserved

Please know that this blog is my original writing and may not be reproduced in any way without the expressed written permission of the author (that's me!) Thanks!

Words I love…

Everybody is a star
I can feel it when you shine on me
I love you for who you are
Not the one you feel you need to be
Ever catch a falling star
Ain't no stopping 'til it's in the ground
Everybody is a star
One big circle going round and round

Words by: Sly Stone

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