Posts Tagged ‘gaijin

15
Mar
09

White Night at a Yokohama Love Hotel pt. 1

In Japan, Valentine’s day is for the boys.  The girls buy chocolate and what not and give it to the guys. The Japanese have a separate holiday for the return of these Valentines. Its called White Day. I don’t know why it’s called White Day…I’ve heard because chocolate companies were trying to market White Chocolate…I’ve also heard something about it being associated with powdered sugar, which is also white… Anyway, on White Day the guy is expected to return the favor to the girl or girls who hit him off on Valentines. I received a bunch of chocolates from my students, but most of them were 3rd year students and they’ve finished so I don’t have much favor returning to do.

White Night is a busy date night as you might imagine, and after the Sushi, the karaoke, and the purikura,it’s time to head to…yep, you guessed it: The Love Hotel!

Love Hotels are yet another thing on a long list of things I just Love about Japan. I mean, sure, doing it in the comfort of your own home has its moments, but…I don’t know about y’all, but my home in Japan ain’t got nothing on the Love Hotels.

Compared to Shibuya and Shinjuku, Yokohama doesn’t have much of a selection of Love Hotels, and some them are pretty dodgy. But there are a few good ones. I’d go cimg0371as far as to recommend Hotel Vigado and Hotel Riviera. They are both pretty good and reasonably priced on the weekdays. You can get a short stay (3 hours) for about  3500 yen ($35) or a little more than double that and stay all night.

On White Night it can get pretty busy (and pretty expensive).  Outside of the Love Hotels, like at Motels in the States, there are signs that inform you whether rooms are available or not…They’ll say OPEN or FULL or they might have it kanji. However, if cimg03681you know a little something about how these places work then you might be able to ignore the light.

Hotel Vigado’s FULL light was on…I ignored it.

If you’re going to spend the night you can’t check in until 11pm…unless you pay an extra charge. So if you plan to stay, and you anticipate a big crowd like on a major let’s go play at Love Hotel night like White Night, then arrive a little early. When I arrived the FULL light was still lit (see right) but that’s because couples who did not plan to spend the night were getting their 3 hours of fun in before last train. Somewhere between 11pm and 12 midnight they’ll come out and the FULL lamp will turn to OPEN.

So, what do you do? You cop a squat in the ultra clean, ultra gaudy lobby, done up like a Las Vegas hotel or something, and you wait in special waiting areas where couples sit and try not to die of shame. In one sitting area the chairs actually face the wall so that couples can wait in relative anonymity. front11

The cashier’s window is on the right…she can see you but not well- for your privacy. The three tables and six chairs in the back is one waiting area. Looks glitzy doesn’t it? Very Sparkly. (-;

machi1This is another waiting area. These three alcoves contained couples waiting patiently for other couples to vacate the rooms and the cleaning staff to go in and do their best to remove all the remnants the departing couples leave behind. We do not want to think about the job of these clean up people. Whatever they’re paid it’s not enough.  However, they usually do a pretty good job but I probably wouldn’t want to go through the place with one of those gadgets they had in Ocean’s 13. I might never go to any hotel ever again, let alone a Love Hotel. (-;

paneThe usual process is to enter the Love Hotel, go to wall full of glass panels that looks like something from “Jeopardy” and select a room. There are various levels with various amenities and sizes, and of course various prices. I tried to get a close up photo of the panel but because it’s glass and lit up it’s very difficult to shoot… and besides nothing makes Japanese  patrons waiting in the very conspicuous position of everyone knowing you are there to fuck  more comfortable than a foreigner with a camera, right? So, out of courtesy, I only shot this one very quickly. Gomen ne.

cimg0372What you  can see are two prices for room number 608. One price is for a short 3 hour stay, and the other price is for overnight, as I mentioned before, about twice the 3 hour rate. The prices are lower during the week…If the panel is lit that means the room is available.  There’s also a picture of the room and a brief description of its amenities. Can you see the bed in my reflection? Maybe not.

Once you’ve paid the cashier, you pop in elevator and up you go! The elevators are very nice and the hallways are all marble and glass and lights as well with lots of plants and flowers. It’s not luxurious but you get the feeling that they spared no expense which is a good feeling for a place you’re about to sleep in (at some point) to have…deshou?cimg0373

Want to see what inside the room looks like? I bet you do…

To be continued (-;

06
Mar
09

Lighten up, Loco

I’ve been doing some thinking…a lot of thinking, actually. For the most part I’ve focused my blog on Japanese people, culture, customs and idiosyncrasies, and the highs and lows of living among them, as well as the effect of xenophobia on the soul. What I have ignored to a large degree is the issue of other people living here who also have a significant effect on ones experience here: other foreigners.

I’ve touched on it several times. I’ve discussed why avoiding gaijin is in your best interest but in that post I focused primarily on the haters. The hex that Japan tends to put people under has long since worn off of these folks (assuming they had been enchanted in the first place) and they have become like dope fiends after the dope is all gone, only once it’s gone- this spell- it’s gone. And there’s no methadone to replace it with. Most turn angry. Angry and bitter! Angry at the people still under the spell (high) or in the process of being spellbound, angry at the people they hold responsible for putting the spell on them (the Japanese mostly), and angry at themselves for being weak enough to be taken in by what amounts to an obvious delusion. Some were that way already and just reverted to form.

Yep, I said it before and I’ll say it again: Avoid them!

But there are other types of foreigners here, and sometimes they’re just as relentless as the haters.  I won’t try to categorize them because in the end I’ll just look like a fool because no one fits nicely into any category, not even Japanese people. So, for the purpose of this entry, I will focus primarily on why they have given me pause- these others.

Yes, just like on that island on “Lost” we have us some “Others” here, too.

“Lighten up, Loco!” says one of these others. “We’re all in this together.”

“Stop behaving like a petulant child,” says another other. “That’s  so old hat.”

You are the problem!” says yet another other. “Japanese fear of you is warranted. You’re creepy!”

Some of the comments were in response to entries like those under “acts of retaliation” or any entry in which I express any negative thoughts about Japan or Japanese people, or, god forbid, retaliate in anyway. The responses seem to be designed to make me feel ashamed of myself, like somehow I should know better (I guess due to my 5 year tenure here or the aptitude or potential for good thoughts and deeds I’ve demonstrated in other posts I’ve written, or because I come from another planet where tolerance for impertinence and irreverence and inhumane treatment is a virtue), chastising me for behaving and responding as I do to Japanese disrespectful behavior. Some of them are just hate-filled because, well, let’s face it, some people are just fucking hateful.

Some of them seem to be pushing towards enrollment in the Kneel and Suck it like a Good Gaijin and Stop your Miserable Complaining Already College of New Hat Thinking.  Their school motto is: Japanese, regardless of their behavior, are not the problem at all! You, and pissing moaning malcontents like you, are the Problem. My retaliating and, in some cases, my very presence here is the problem and if  it weren’t for gaijin like me, gaijin like them would be 10 times better off…so I should join their ranks or, better yet, go home.

The other option is the Whisper Words of Wisdom, let the Japanese be University. Their school motto, which has a similar goal but slightly different tone as the other, is: Passive Aggression and Patient Positivity Produces Incremental Improvements…they maintain that by accepting life as it comes, and loving Japan as it is regardless is the only way…and if you don’t agree you should go back to your den of multiculturalism, or whatever rock you slithered out from under, and leave Japan to us significantly wiser folk who’ve managed to survive here for decades, without going Loco- thank you very much…

I ain’t mad at either of them, really. They both make good, if not, great points, and I value their feedback. I’m serious, I really do. And if you read my responses (and I do try to respond to everyone…I rarely censor unless it’s just noise or nonsense or blatant lies I’ll have no part  in distributing) you know that I take my time and try to be as thoughtful and thorough as I feel the comment is due.

But, sometimes…

There are foreigners here (no names…you know who you are) whose comments have lead me to believe that they think of Japan and Japanese as a country, people and culture to be protected, the way parents protect children…like they’re some kind of child race, or mentally challenged people. The benefit of the doubt is extended a little further for them due to their lack of exposure to the outside world (whatever the fuck that means in this day and age). Their inexperience with dealing with westerners entitles them to commit all kinds of indiscretions and transgressions…all excusable under the umbrella of inherent ignorance. An umbrella hoisted and held by some of the foreigners here.

And, if they feel that way, then what does that make me? That parent who spanks or slaps his children in the supermarket? The guy who walks through the streets with his mentally challenged daughter on a leash? The Special Ed teacher who kicks his students in the gut when they get out of hand? Yep…that’s the tone of some of the responses. I should be ashamed of myself. I’m almost criminal.

If my child acts out in the supermarket…you know what? I might pop him upside the head. My moms sure as hell did… And I learned.  I won’t spoil my children and I won’t spoil the Japanese, either, by pretending their ignorance is ok because they live on a tiny island cut off from the rest of the world by the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan….because it simply isn’t true. Not anymore. They need to stop trying to convince me that that is a valid excuse for treating me like a creature devoid of feelings.

And the foreigners here who echo that malarkey, who buy that baka banashi (drivel) need to cut that shit out, too.

Trust me…I understand…I live here, too. I know how you feel.  Day after day after day, you hear the same shit and pretty soon they wear you down, and you give in to the preponderance of ignorance around you. It’s overwhelming. You start to say shit like ‘They are a homogeneous people’ and ‘they are  unaccustomed to foreigners’ and blah blah blah fucking blah  and you really start to believe that these are valid excuses for dehumanizing foreigners… simply because 10000 Japanese have told you so.

On my blog I try to illustrate to the best of my ability what it is like for (and in no particular order): 1) a black man in Japan 2) A New Yorker in japan 3) A foreigner in japan.

I think the experience of being a foreigner in Japan is shared by every foreigner here, to some extent. I think being a black foreigner has a significant impact on that experience causing it to be much more, well, let’s just say it’s a different type of intensity than the experience of some other racial designations. And, I think being from New York, that multicultural den of dens, an environment almost antithetical to the one I currently live in, is also significant.  These factors are at the heart of most of my entries.

But, not at the heart of the responses.

Firstly, I need to point out some things that may or may not be obvious. If they are please forgive me.

While the above has happened to me a number of times in New York, it is a regular occurrence in Japan, both men and women, on streets, in shops, elevators, trains, anywhere and everywhere, at least 9 or 10 times a day, without fail. In fact, if it doesn’t happen I’m shocked and I wonder if nihonjin are sleeping on the job. But, I’ve de-sensitized myself as much as one can to such behavior. If you’ve never experienced it then you have no idea the rage that shoots through you, to be insulted and humiliated in that way… like adrenalin on adrenalin. Nor would you know the effort required to suppress it, to keep yourself from taking the offender by the neck and squeezing until they are quite dead…(mild exaggeration) The fact that I don’t is a testament to my good will towards man, even Japanese, and that highly coveted benefit of the doubt that I’m so often accused of not extending to Japanese people though i receive it rarely from them. It is a reward in itself, like surviving water boarding without giving up the location of your family and friends that your torturers wanted so desperately to retrieve so that they could go and kill them all.

But, make  no mistake about it, it is still an ordeal. Every friggin time!

I know some of you are (still) saying / thinking: get over it! or Focus on the good things. Or why don’t you just ignore them? They’re just ignorant. They don’t mean anything by it. Why don’t you just go back home if it’s so bad? Well, what would you tell that guy in the video? Why don’t you stop riding elevators with white people? Why don’t you move to another city where that kind of thing doesn’t go on? Where would that be? Where is this place where I can live without dealing with this?

No, like that pseudo-PSA, and like Richard Pryor, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and many others, I tend to deal with serious issues utilizing humor. Moreover, as I’ve mentioned in previous post, I’ve decided to draw the proverbial line in the sand, right here in Asia.

However, not to disregard my readers who appreciate my giving them a prospective of Japan that isn’t devoid of the darker side of life here, I’ve decided to lighten up a little.  Yes, I hate winter, and maybe that’s as much a part of the reason I’ve been feeling really blue and especially sensitive lately as the atrocious behavior of the natives here, and in the spirit of the rapidly approaching spring and the Cherry blossoms that accompany it, I will endeavor to write lighter and brighter entries and keep my venom to a minimum.

…but I’ll never kneel and suck it (-:

Loco

06
Mar
09

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.

Loco

29
Dec
08

Acts of retaliation #2: Joystick

A while back, in my efforts to maintain my sanity, I’d taken to avoiding looking at Japanese people by walking through the streets of Yokohama with my head down.

Sounds ridiculous, I know, but I’m dead-ass serious! I still do it, sometimes.

Enter, or sometimes even approach, a space currently occupied by Japanese and the atmosphere palpably changes. The Japanese body language of uneasiness ensues everywhere you look.  If I enter a confined space like a train car or an elevator, at best, the atmosphere becomes something akin to the atmosphere of a room where everyone is catching everyone else up on the latest bit of nasty gossip and it’s about me. I enter and the people around me transform into stiff and self-conscious caricatures of themselves. Faces turn from joyous to grim, or freeze into a plasticity that is painful to watch. That’s on a very good day. Typically, though, the space becomes a classroom and I’m a notoriously strict teacher who has been known to occasionally behead students in his immediate vicinity with no provocation; a mortified hush comes over the trembling student body as they silently pray to exit the classroom in the same condition they entered: with their heads intact.

The overall effect is it leaves me feeling like such a ruiner; the rain on the Japanese parade, the fog creeping over the hanabi, the typhoon threatening the hanami season. It’s a disheartening feeling because you’d like to ideally have just the opposite effect or, after you’ve been here a while, just to be ignored. It’s also a sickening feeling because you know it really has nothing to do with you personally. It’s spawned from an ignorance you have very little hope of addressing and there’s  little or no recourse. It’s an unavoidable aspect of  life in Japan. One of those syouganai things that require patience to the Nth degree.

That’s why I resorted to keeping my head down as often as I could. And, you know what? It actually helped a lot!

Back in NY, people who walk with their heads down or avoid looking at people are flagged as shady, dodgy, and potential evil-doers. Or suffering from some kind of mental derailment. But, here it’s quite the opposite. People tend to avoid eye-contact as well as any kind of confrontation or conflict as a matter of course.

I found that keeping my head down served two purposes. One, it impacted the behavior of Japanese people significantly.  A good number of Japanese people, it seems, feel better if they believe that they are flying below or above my radar; invisible as ostriches with their heads in the sand. The difference between those whose presence I acknowledge with even the merest glance and those I go out of my way to avoid acknowledging whatsoever is measurable. The behavior I mentioned above is reduced by at least half. They can walk past me with a reduced concern for their well-being.

The second purpose walking around looking like a mental patient (from my perspective) serves is if I’m not paying attention to them, then, if I really try hard, it is unlikely I’ll see the actions  they are almost certain to take to indicate their discomfort with both being seen by me and being in my vicinity and, consequently, I feel a lot less like a pariah and a killjoy on a daily basis.

It works like a charm usually!

However, walking around like this did not come natural to me at all. I mean, I’m not a confrontational person per se, but I don’t shy from it, either. And, conflict…well, it’s my belief that the best stories are derived from conflict (at least that’s what my writing teacher used to say) so why in the hell would I avoid it when I’m endeavoring to be a solid writer?

As I walked around, looking like I’d lost my winning lottery ticket somewhere, I’d ask myself questions like if they’re ignorant and xenophobic then why should I care what they think and do? I’d have arguments in my head. Part of me defending them, echoing the excuses they always spew in my ear like: our culture is homogeneous and we are shy and we can’t speak English etc, etc. And another part of me would argue on behalf of my creative self reducing Japanese, by virtue of overwhelming evidence, to simple statements like: If it slithers and hisses and sheds its skin like a snake, then it’s a snake.

But, whenever I could stop playing the blame game and take a recess from the courtroom drama playing out in my head, I’d think seriously, and rather selfishly, about my life here and the impact it was having on my character. I’m a fairly proud person and a really observant one. So, I had to make a decision: shall I keep my head held high and endure, or keep my head hung low and evade?

The idea of keeping my head down, thereby denying myself the visual stimulation that spurs my creativity, in order to appease ignorant people, was not only stupid, I’d concluded, but worse: counterproductive and counter-creative. Like a paparazzi photographer scared to take pictures of people without their consent. So, little by little, I started lifting my head again, and every time I did I told myself, “you can handle this. This is nothing. grandma went through worse. Take it like a man!”

The bombardment of offenses would still disturb me, somewhat, but the knowledge that I was going to use these emotions to spur creativity soothed me. Yes, it took a bit of soul searching but eventually I decided that this kind of ignorance I would not encourage nor reward, nor would I let it mold me into a bitter, cynical person. I decided I would face it head-on. They say whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (god, I love cliches) so I started working on ways to keep my head up, to not let them beat me.

It was at this time that I stumbled upon something that made keeping my head up a little more fun.

I realized, quite accidentally, that I had the power to manipulate Japanese people into performing some pretty bizarre behavior simply by being near them.

One day, I was walking through Yokohama Station on my way to work, with my head held purposely up, exposing my chin, hoping it was not made of glass. A man was coming towards me. Our eyes met for a moment. I could see the recognition and the fear, the desire to evade, seize him. My temper flared a little. On his current path we wouldn’t walk into each other but he would pass dangerously close to making physical contact with me (our arms might brush or maybe our briefcases would brush one another’s) and this was apparently too close for his comfort. He suddenly stopped, looked around as if to non-verbally say ‘now, how the hell did I get here?’ Like he’d been beamed to his current location without his knowledge.  Then, just as suddenly, he displayed the body language of  “oh, I know where I am now! I need to go that way!” That way was out of my path…he darted that direction. I see this behavior at least 5-10 times a day so, though it vexes me, it hardly surprises me. However, in his hasty detour, he ran smack into a woman, dislodging her purse from her arm and almost knocking her over. I laughed out loud. This was something that happens occasionally but I never used to get much of a kick out of it. That day I found it hilarious, though. It felt like instant karma.

He apologized to her and kept moving. I tracked him visually, watched him make a another sharp turn back onto the path he’d detoured from a few feet past me. The woman had continued on her way, too.

That got me to wondering…if I shifted directions at just the right time could I cause the person trying to avoid coming near me to crash into another person? Could I actually cause a collision? Certain conditions had to be met for it to be possible, of course. First of all, it had to be a fairly crowded space. Secondly, the person had to be headed towards me at a fairly rapid clip. Thirdly, the person had to be of a mind to avoid me, as opposed to one of over a dozen other ways Japanese display their discomfort at the potential impending graze against me.

And, there had to be a third person…so the timing had to be impeccable.

I decided to give it a shot. The next day, as expected, I met eyes with an approaching salaryman…but he turned before I could find a third person. He only turned slightly, and not very abruptly, like if he were avoiding a puddle. A couple of days later a woman was coming my way and our eyes met. Fear. She stopped, and spun around slowly, timing her spin perfectly with my passing  so that our eyes would never meet again yet she could confirm I had passed at the tail end of her spin, and that she was once again safe to go about her business in the gaijin-free world that existed only in her warped mind. It’s a pretty drastic maneuver I unfortunately know all to well. I get it at least 10 times a day, but that day I did the unexpected. Just as I was passing her I stopped. When her eyes came around to confirm that I had passed, there I was behind her. She liked to have jumped out of her skin! I looked off as if I had stopped to see something off to the left. I didn’t even acknowledge her alarm. Then I continued walking.

This was going to be harder than I had anticipated.

It was a week of practice and failures before I was able to get to the next level in this game I had created. Nintendo, step aside. It’s Ningendo! (ningen means human) A man was coming my way. Our eyes met. He becomes a mask of utter disgust.  I looked for a crash dummy. Another man was approaching from his left…I veered right abruptly placing myself on a line that would take me to a kiosk and would make our passing that much closer. The disgusted man veered left suddenly and bumped squarely into the third man. I think their foreheads collided! Yatta ze! (I’d done it!)

I’d become a human joystick in a not-so virtual reality game!

Though I got a kick out of turning their xenophobia against them I didn’t like the idea of  involving an innocent person. So, I wondered  if I could make the offending person walk into an obstacle like a wall, or even stumble and fall, or something like that?

Well, it’s only been a a year or so since I started my game and I don’t play too often. Only when I need to release a little steam. And I’ve yet to make anyone walk into a wall or stumble or fall. I haven’t reached that level, yet. There have been several unintentional collisions, though.

And I relish each one.

Loco

(-:

PS: I’ve written, and am in the process of revising, a novel. It’s unrelated to my experiences in Japan. If you enjoy my writing and have a little free time please check out: Real Gods require Blood. I’ll be posting it chapter by chapter.

Thanks in advance

22
Dec
08

10 ways NOT to go loco in Yokohama #10: Be You and have fun!

For my final tip I’ve decided to bring this series full-circle. I know I said in tip #1: Don’t be you, and I truly believe by discarding some of those things that you thought were so essential to being you you can enhance your experience here. Japan will surprise you and maybe even broaden your horizon if you stay here long enough and give her half a chance. But, in the end, you will never be Japanese, no matter how hard you try (even if you become a Naturalized Citizen). You will ultimately still #10 be you. So, just relax and have fun!


It’s Christmas time in Japan, y’all. Nobody does Christmas like the Japanese do Christmas. The above video captures Xmas here so well I had to share it with you guys. I’m not Christian and neither are the Japanese, so Christmas is just another work day after which you go eat chicken and cake…and if you like Xmas lights (like I do) you can go check out some cool illuminations (that’s what they call them anyway.)

Field of lights in Roppongi

The above is this year’s Illumination Show in Roppongi Hills. It’s a field of lights! Makes the certain constellations, and even a shooting star…Cool, ne. Like if the Hayden Planetarium light show were on the Great Lawn in Central Park. The Japanese go all out with their lighting. On my block back in Brooklyn, my neighbors were very competitive with their Xmas lighting schemes and designs. And, I loved it. People used to drive through my street slowly to admire their labor. It seems the Japanese are competing with Manhattan and Paris…and holding their own in many cases. It ain’t as garishly clever as Santa scaling down the side of a house like a burglar while all of the reindeer (full-sized) and the sleigh sit on a roof looking like their ready to speed off as soon as Santa returns with a sack of loot (my neighbor did that theme one year) but it’s kawaii (cute) and that’s the Japanese aim.

Anyway, back to business…

It can get a bit stressful adjusting to life in Japan (the biggest understatement of this entire series) especially during the holidays. So foreigners here, in their efforts to maintain their sanities, are known to do a lot of things the Japanese sometimes object to. Yep, in order to blow off a little steam sometimes you gotta rock the boat a little…or in this case the train.

Most Japanese people do not approve of steam releases like the Yamanote Halloween Party Train. The Japanese rarely if ever break the law, or rules, or guidelines, or even approach the appearance of breaking them. Mainly because the penalty for crimes in Japan are very severe and social penalties are stiff, too! And they always have been, so it’s ingrained in the culture now (the penalty for any crime back in Japan’s good old days was death.) The Japanese even go out of their way not to do anything that would disturb anyone else (anyone Japanese that is.) Thus Japan is an extremely rigid, anal, yet safe country. However, most Japanese believe that foreigners do not share the same respect for the law, and rules and guidelines as they do (thus jeopardize the safety and security and status quo of their country) so they are very afraid of foreigners. Especially if a large group of foreigners decide to get drunk and raucous in public.

And even some  foreigners here believe that such events are a blight and go against their endeavors to live here in peace. These events also make their efforts to assimilate more difficult. They believe, with good reason, that if Japanese see or hear about such behavior they will use it as an excuse to further ostracize foreigners, themselves included. They feel that their fellow foreigners here need to live by, at minimum, the same standard or up to a higher standard than they did back home. Some feel that we should, ideally, aspire to an even higher standard than the Japanese in order to make strides towards equal treatment and social acceptance.

I think it’s reminiscent of the African American struggle for civil and equal rights in America. The way African Americans initial inroads into acceptance were through over-achievement in education and overly puritanical and pious behavior in order to show whites that they were worthy of social acceptance by even white standards (which is ironic, since their former enslavers standards became their aspiration.) Followed by over achievement in entertainment and sports to show their artistic and athletic prowess as well as their marketability and profitability. In other words, to prove we were equally human. Because of this similarity I don’t blow off the disapproving foreigner’s concerns as simply puritanical nonsense. Maybe they’re on to something. Maybe there are some Japanese people sitting on the fence trying to decide if  foreigners should be respected and treated as human beings with the same foibles and need to release (sometimes even in public) their rage against the machine (so to speak,) same as Japanese people are, and, if so, events like the Yamanote Halloween Train push them off the fence into the decidedly, “no, they are baka kimoi gaijin” (no, they are stupid disgusting foreigners) yard. It’s very possible.

But, I suspect, that’s what makes it more fun for the party people. I’ve never done it…a little lame for me, but I understand the desire and need for it entirely. It’s a chance to be anti-establishment thereby releasing some steam and having a little fun at the Japanese

The First Breath of Tengan Rei

The First Breath of Tengan Rei

expense. If their behavior comes off as a little obnoxious by Japanese standards, like they say, syouganai jyan. Besides, if foreigners only did things Japanese approve of, personally, I don’t think it would make any difference. Most Japanese currently hold me responsible for something a couple of soldiers did on Okinawa to some little girl a few years back (there’s actually a new revenge movie out about it called “The First Breath of Tengan Rei”) and my being a model citizen (recently anyway) has not changed public opinion much.

So, I’ve decided to be myself (as much as I can). And if I was the kind of person that partied on trains back home, or the equivalent, I might join the party on Halloween, but that’s not my style at all.

Individually, the possibilities are great. I have met Japanese individuals here who are totally capable of tolerance, and then some. But, in general, I personally believe Japan will probably never be gaijin-friendly enough to satisfy gaijin and foreigners will likely never be Japanese enough to satisfy Japanese people. Their need for predictability, their style of intuitive communication, and their propensity to stereotype (among other issues) precludes the likeliness of Japanese ever becoming tolerant of those from a different background. I think the best that can be expected, at least for a long while, is what we have now: A small number of open-minded people who are so wonderful that they make a good number of foreigners’ stay here amazing experiences despite the treatment they receive from the public at-large.

But, maybe I’m being a little pessimistic…I’m a work in progress. (-:

I mean, if you asked an African American even 30 years ago if there’d ever be a black president they would have laughed at you the same way my Japanese student laughed at me when I asked him did he think there would ever be a Half-Chinese Japan-born Prime Minister in Japan.

I used to blow off steam by making Japanese people feel as uncomfortable as they made me feel. Kind of ridiculous, I know, but I wanted to teach them a lesson, and not an English lesson. A morals lesson; A you reap what you sow lesson…Something about the people here had unleashed something in me.  Something that had been dormant for years. I’m usually pretty rational. I am the type of person more likely to try to resolve problems with words than with violence. I really believe the pen is mightier than the sword. But, I know that there is also a self-righteous rage inside of me, angry and sensitive, impatient and intolerant, and I have to take care of it, like some vicious dog kept chained in a basement., with absolute loyalty to it’s owner and absolute contempt for people who it feels has wronged its owner.  It kind of scares me.

I’ve always managed to leash him myself. Occasionally, he’d peek his head out of my soul’s basement and let people get a glimpse of him and that would be enough. They’d back down or scurry away. So I guess you can say I’ve had a pretty blessed life. My sense of right and wrong is rarely spat at. At least not in person. Not until I came here.

But, living here, I’ve been fortunate enough to learn how I had been able to keep myself in check. In NY I had a circle of friends around me that supported me. I could talk to them and sort out complicated issues like right and wrong and all that gray in-between. Also, I had fun in NY. I had an assortment of ways to release. My anger is fed and empowered by self-righteous pressure built up without release. This pressure kind of pushes it out like a contraction pushes a baby out into the world. It needs release periodically. And harassing Japanese doesn’t quite do it. Nor did my sexual conquest in Japan. Nor did my sitting, drinking and complaining in Gaijin bars. Nor would drinking and gallivanting on Halloween do it.

I needed to really have fun!

My favorite ways to have fun are: writing, reading, studying, watching movies, playing basketball, going to Onsens and hanging out with friends. Pretty simple, huh? Staying sane in Japan is just a balancing act. The most important thing is to know yourself and be true to yourself and that’s difficult in any country. I’ve only found that here in Japan who I am is thrown into even starker relief, and thus I am able to appreciate and get more in touch with who I am and what makes me tick than at any other time in my life.

I can be me and have fun and that’s how I keep it together.

Well, that’s my top 10 list. I hope you’ve found it a useful and entertaining read. It was a lot of fun to write. And, sharing my thoughts and feelings with you guys is the ultimate way I keep loco at bay.

…so thanks a bunch! (-:

And, oh, Happy Kwanzaa, Merry Xmas, Happy New Year, Happy Hanukkah,

Yoi Otoshi wo 良いお年を,

Akemashite Omedetto Gozaimasu あけましておめでっとございます,

and all that good stuff… (-:

If you want to read my previous tips, here are the links: Preface/Disclaimer, #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, and #9

Loco

PS: Here’s a little something that always makes me smile, from those two comic geniuses Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy

16
Dec
08

日本人外人さん、分け隔てなく、席につくべし。

Translated it means:  Don’t distinguish between Japanese and foreigners, just sit down like a well-mannered samurai! (It’s kind of a Japanese joke to make light of the serious subject)

Something interesting happened today. I discovered a Japanese blogger had linked to my blog post:  An empty seat on a crowded train.

What he said I found quite interesting, as were the comments left to his post. It’s in Japanese of course but what it amounts to is that he feels it is very rude to treat foreigners in such a way, and he imagines how he would feel if for example he were to go to NY and New Yorkers treated him the same way (as if). He would feel sad and angry and a little like Frankenstein.

He welcomed comments no matter how rude and the comments ALL, initially, suggested that:

1- Gaijin smell (ie, perfume or cologne or our carnivorous nature emanating through our skin and clothes contrasting harshly with the odors they’re accustomed to) or,

2-Gaijin have fat asses (take up more space than nihonjin)

LMAO !  What do you think? (let me know below)

…anyway, I thought I’d share this with you guys. If you can read Japanese well (unlike myself, I needed help) it’s interesting inside dope. Here’s the link:

(It’s pronounced sora or ku and it means sky or empty -depending on the situation- for all of you tattoo enthusiasts)

By the way, I want to give a big shout out to Sora-san / Ku-san for his kind words. Arigato Gozaimasu!!!

Loco

PS:  If you need a translater just cut and paste them into Excite but it will probably give you some really weird results…but even the results are good for a giggle! (-:

08
Dec
08

10 ways NOT to go loco in Yokohama #6: Avoid Gaijin!

The Japanese do it, and you should trust their wisdom. If you follow #6: Avoid Gaijin (Gaijin bars, Gaijin friendly areas and the Japanese girls who dwell there) it can do wonders for your sanity. You would think in a country where the natives avoid you like the plague you might find solace among people who share your fate. Trust me, you won’t.

My reasons for taking such a drastic action have changed a number of times over the years. I mentioned before what I was like when I first came here. How I wanted to be the Kokujin Anjin-san. And so I wouldn’t sit and listen to foreigners bad mouth my new home. Well, clearly I was being a little facetious. Of course I hung out with Gaijin quite a bit in those early days. That’s how I learned that they are to be avoided…at all cost!!!

THIS IS NOT A TEST!!!

For one, I’ve found that when Gaijin get together there are three constants: Alcohol, anger-resentment-complaints, and misogyny (in the case of the men…don’t know many misogynistic women). Not that I hadn’t encountered any of the above before. Hell, America thrives on all three. But, I didn’t come here for more of the same. I actually wanted to escape from it a while. Especially complaining. Why? Because, of the Gaijin unholy trinity above, complaining is my favorite vice. Or, at least it used to be.

Everyone complained back in Brooklyn so your own complaints would more than likely get drowned out in the sea of complaints around you. To be heard you had to complain louder (which was not attractive at all) or raise yours to the level of art form (which was potentially attractive.) The idea was to be creative by finding a fresh angle on the complaint, something that made it compelling to listen to. Or, find the funny in it. Make it clever and witty and make people laugh so hard they almost forget you’re complaining.

I wouldn’t say I was an artist but among my friends I could hold my own.

Complaining, for me, was like a drug: euphoria-inducing and difficult to kick. I thought I might go cold turkey here in Japan. But, in the company of Gaijin, that is not possible. Accessibility is widespread. I’d have to truly lock myself in a room. I can get my complaint fix in any Gaijin bar or Gaijin friendly area in Tokyo or Yokohama, any time of the day or night; occasionally I breakdown, fall off the wagon (in person and on the web)  and indulge myself.  Sometimes I go just to listen to complaints, without participating… Like an ex-smoker sitting in the smoking section of a cafe, or an ex-carnivore turned vegan, dining at Peter Luger’s Steak House in Brooklyn, nursing a salad, salivating over someone’s sirloin…

But usually I avoid them.

And misogyny…fuhgetuhboutit. Many Gaijin here are out of control! The worst I’ve ever seen. Perhaps there’s something about Japan that can make man’s respect of women really tank.  I’m still trying to put my finger on the reason why. The level of misogyny encountered here even puts the level I experienced back home to shame. Mind you, back home I lived in an environment where epithets like bitch and hoe get thrown around like confetti.

Personally I think it’s because foreigners get treated, in general, like shit by Japanese people. A certain level of resentment for the people and the culture develops, and these emotions need venting. Abusing Japanese women is one way to vent, and they’re such easy targets. So, I think it’s partially about revenge. However, this creates a cycle of resentment, distrust and fear that I really don’t see coming to an end in the near future. I’m a little pessimistic so I may be wrong on that tip. But trust me on this one: Avoid Gaijin.

Of course I’m not talking about all Gaijin…they know who they are!

One night back in my early days here I went to Gas Panic in Shibuya after work. It was still early so when I arrived there were just staff people and bouncers hanging around and a couple of customers sucking down Happy Hour drinks. One was black the other was white. They both looked cornfed and had low-cropped haircuts.

The black guy spots me and gives me a healthy welcome. YO! What up, man?”

His greeting made me feel a little homesick. Or rather it reminded me of the part of home I’d gotten sick of and thus it was not a deterrent in any way to my leaving it behind. Plus he had a country accent. Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, maybe. I couldn’t name that accent in 4 syllables  but I knew I was in the right region. Country black folk have a tendency to make me cringe a little.  Even if I listen to Nelly or Master P I feel it.

“What’s up?”

“Ain’t no girls here so might as well kick it with us!”

“What’s up, bro?” the white guy said. Bro? I cringed a little but let it go.

We shook hands, exchanged names (Jason and Jeff) I pulled up a stool and ordered a beer.

“Where you from, Loco!” Jason asked.

“Brooklyn.”

“That’s what’s up!” he said. “I’m from Houston. My boy Jeff here, he’s from San Antonio.” He smiled. I could tell he’d had a few already. Jeff too. Texas ain’t nothing to be smiling about. Texas used to conjure images of Ten-Gallon hats and Oil Wells. Now I think of James Byrd Jr. being bound and dragged around by white supremacist in a pick up truck. Unfair, I know, but it was the most gruesome lynching in my lifetime. Jason here was probably too young to appreciate it and Jeff looked like he could be the Pick up truck driver’s baby brother.

“You in the service,” he asked with a look on his face that said he doubted it.

“Nah,” I said and left it at that.

“Where all the bitches at?” Jason blurted suddenly. “Shit, I came all the way over here from Yokohama for the bitches! Right Jeff? I heard there be  a trailer load uh hoes up in here. Where the fuck they at?”

Jeff nodded his agreement. They were both looking at me like I was a pimp with the answers or something.

“Yo, I’ll be back…” I said and headed towards the bathroom. I passed the exit on the way and made a detour. Once outside I took a deep breath, and headed for the station.

Another day, I stopped at The Hub in Shibuya, again, for a beer. At the bar were a couple of white guys dressed in business suits.  I sat down not too far from them and ordered.

“How’s it going, bro?”

“Hanging in there, ” I said after pausing appropriately for station identification. I don’t know who gave white guys carte blanche to call black men bro but it’s a done deal. They seemed friendly enough though so I let it go.

“You see them girls over there?” the other one said. I followed his thumb to two girls sitting in a booth in the back chatting and giggling. They were awfully cute.

“Yeah,” I said.

“We fucked them two weeks ago, didn’t we Joe? Took them to a love hotel around the corner there and fucked the shit outta them…”

I didn’t say ‘that’s nice’ but I’m sure my face said it. What always bothers me is that some white guys tend to think it’s ok to use the worst fucking language when they talk to me. Not that the language bothers me. It’s just the presumptuousness that I would indulge that kind of vulgarity. Some black people do it, too, but I don’t get sanctimonious with black folks.

“How were they?” I asked cuz they were still looking at me waiting for a reaction.

“What the fuck you mean, how were they? They were fucking great!”

“Then why the fuck they over there and y’all over here? Y’all had enough?”

“We’re waiting for these other two babes now,” the other one said. “They meeting us here in about an hour!”

They grinned egregiously and gave each other some kind of secret pound and grinned at me as if to say, ‘how you like me now?’

I didn’t. Besides I’m not keen on having sex with other guys in the room. I’d only done it twice in my life and the second time I had debilitating performance anxiety. The first time I came in about 15 seconds.

“I’ll be back…”

Another time I went to TGI Fridays in Roppongi. There were three black guys at the bar. Definitely military. I used to be military right out of high school so I can smell a soldier like a fart in a sauna. Plus their conversation about the restrictions placed on them after yet another incident involving a soldier and some hapless Japanese girl was a dead give-away.

“Yo, come over here!” one of them practically ordered upon noticing me. He was drunk. I obeyed. They had a pitcher of something with a head and poured me a glass.

“Here’s to this fucking country!” another said.

“Fuck them!” the third said.

A Japanese waitress, who apparently could understand English a bit, was standing by, smiling. I felt her embarrassment.

“Yo, you restricted?”

“Me? I’m not in the military.”

“What you do?”

“I’m an English teacher.”

“That’s what’s up!” another said. “At a High School?’

“Nah, at NOVA.”

“Man, I would love to teach at a High School here.  All those fucking mini-skirts and…”

“NOVA? Man, you must be getting mad pussy! How the fuck you get that gig?”

“Just applied and interviewed and what not.”

“How they treat you over there?” another one said. They all just kinda blended into one. That’s the goal of military training and it was a raging success with these three. They were a unit. I almost said ‘can’t complain’ out of habit but I might as well have said ‘y’all know how it is’ cuz they reacted like I had.

“These fucking Japanese, right?”

“Make you wanna choke the shit outta them!” Another said.

“After you fuck the shit out of them!” the third added.

They all laughed kind of lewdly. The waitress was still smiling. 100  buttons all over her uniform. One read “Kiss me I’m Irish.” Another read, “English OK!” Our eyes met for a moment and I saw a flash of irritation, then it was immediately replaced by her ‘would you like to order some appetizers’ customer service smile.

“She’s cute right?” another said. “I’d like to choke her with my dick.”

They all laughed. I grimaced.

“You know what fucks me up the most? I can clearly see why we shoved two nukes up their asses! They’s about some arrogant mother fuckers, ain’t they?”

“Word!” another agreed. “And the only thing standing between the Dear Leader- Kim Jong- whatever the fuck his name is- shoving a couple more up that ass is us! And they got the mother fucking audacity to be putting on airs with me. When they should be worshiping my ass like the Buddha!” He looked in the direction of the waitress standing by. “That bitch there…you know what she did?”

I almost said ‘what’ instinctively, distracted by my musing about a trip to the “bathroom”. I looked at him and I could tell he was waiting for the ‘what.’ I’d fucked up his rhythm.

“I’m sorry. What?”

“Man, stop your fucking whining,” another one said. “Can’t you see the man ain’t trying to hear about your failed conquest? Nigga fucked one waitress at Outback’s one time and now he think he’s the fuckin’ mack. Motherfucker, it was luck!”

“And,” the other added, “As many bitches as there is up in here. you need to stop whining over that button chick and get back in the game, nigga. You embarrassing yourself, and us. Shut the fuck up about that bitch already!”

“You right, you right! But that was some foul shit she said!”

“Bitch don’t know English good…what the fuck? Cut her some slack!”

“She supposed to be the mother fucking ‘English Ok‘ bitch up in here! How the fuck they gonna claim they got English speaking staff while they got this bitch and she don’t even know the difference between mother fucking…”

I whipped out my cellphone and snapped, “Moshi moshi!”

“Ima doko?” Where you at?

Roppongi ni iru.” I’m in Roppongi.

“Hai, wakatta. Mata ne.” All right, got it, later.

“Well, fellas…booty, I mean, duty calls. Gotta run! Thanks for the brew!”

They bought my fake call, I think. I didn’t care. I left.

Another time I was in Roppongi, at some bar. There were two cute girls sitting at the bar chatting and giggling and looking entirely approachable. So I approached them.

“Hello…”

One turned, looked me up and down, winced a little like some foul odor had invaded her nostrils and turned back to the other without any further ado. What the fuck! I looked myself up and down, gave my underarms a quick sniff… No odor, nice suit, decent shoes, and I had a fresh shave and a haircut. The look she’d given me reminded me of the look some Japanese people would give me on the trains…a snub that wanted to be seen and felt. It also was reminiscent of the look club chicks in NY would give me. I’d accept it from the chicks in NY, but from these Japanese chicks? They had to be outta their fucking minds…

“Fuck is your problem?” I shouted. “Motherfucker say hi to y’all, respectfully and what not, and you give me your ass to kiss like you all that! Bitch, you ain’t shit!”

They were both looking at me, a bit stunned at my outburst. I wasn’t even sure what had prompted it. I’d never done anything like that before. I was more likely to walk away with my tail between my legs or pretend I hadn’t said anything to them. I’d never gotten aggressive with women in clubs before. Never! In NY it wouldn’t have been wise, anyway. Might get your ass maced.  Something about these girls just rubbed me the wrong way.

The bartender came over and said something to the girls in Japanese, they kind of offhandedly indicated in my direction as if to say but this one over here can’t take no for an answer…

The bartender was your typical skinny, friendly, perfect hair, half-gay looking Japanese guy. But the bouncer he’d signaled to come over to the bar was big and black and mean looking.

“Yo, is there a problem?” he said but it felt like he said ‘do YOU have a problem?’ His voice sounded like he had a zero-tolerance policy that had nothing to do with the bar’s policy. It was his personal policy.

Still, I didn’t like the way he presumed I was the problem and not these innocent fucking Japanese girls.

“Why don’t you ask them?”

He looked me in the eyes, deep. And he seemed to move a step closer to me, though I don’t think he did. “Cuz I’m asking you!”

I don’t know why – he was twice my size and obviously not accustomed to being challenged by sober people- but I didn’t back down. “Yeah, there’s a problem. You the problem solver?”

“That’s what they pay me for!” he said, but he had lost a little of his edge. “Why don’t you let me buy you a beer and we can talk over there.”

I liked his tone now. “Sounds like a plan!” I said. “Smells like rotten sushi over here anyway.”

We walked over to his station by the door. A waitress brought me a beer.

“Where you from, man?”

“Brooklyn,” I said.

“Word! I’m from Newark!”

“Fucking Jersey?” I almost laughed. New Jersey is a joke, and the punchline, to New Yorkers. But, Newark ain’t the funny part of Jersey. Newark is to New Jersey as Brooklyn is to NYC. “We’re practically neighbors. How long you been over here?”

“Too long!” he said. “But, ain’t shit happening in Newark so what the fuck!”

“I feel you, bruh,” I said. “What up with them chickenheads over there?” I said referring to the two girls I’d practically accosted.

“Man, don’t fuck with them. That’s this Yakuza cat’s daughter and her friend. They ain’t worth it. They like to come up in here, mini-skirts up to here, thongs showing, dancing like freaks on ‘X’ to Hip Hop and dick teasing motherfuckers. But, everybody know who they is except niggas like you just come through for a breather. So, sometimes I gotta straighten some niggas out, but, you seemed pretty real,  and you ain’t been drinking so…”

“Damn, yo!” I said. “Good looking out!”

“You lucky they don’t know English,” he said, and smiled.

Loco

Next up:#7: Escape fromYokohama!




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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