Posts Tagged ‘japanese people

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

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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

26
Feb
09

** updated**Acts of Retaliation #3: Don’t you understand Japanese?

One of my pet peeves is when staff people feel obligated to speak English to me because I’m not Japanese. Whether or not I’m using Japanese is irrelevant. My native language is irrelevant. Whether or not they can even speak English is irrelevant. Foreigner equals English. English is the language of foreigners.

So, occasionally, when I feel impatient with this presumptuousness, the following occurs:

Conversation 2/25/09 (at an Izakaya)

Me: Sumimasen… (Excuse me…)

Staff: Hai! (turns and upon realizing I’m not Japanese) anooo! Please your order!

Me: Toriaezu, nama biiru wo kudasai (well, first of all, a regular draft beer please)

Staff: would you like beer, yes. I…

Me: Eee! Dou iu imi ka? Nama biiru wo wakarimasen? (What does that mean? Don’t you understand what a beer is?)

Staff: Eeeto ne. (in a stage whisper) sukoshi Eigo mo  syaberemasu kedo… (then louder) English also I speak in English a little…

Me: Eigo? Kankei arimasen! Eigo ga zenzen wakarimasen…Nihongo wo hanashite iru yo ne. Nihon-go ga wakarannai no? (English? That’s not my concern! I don’t understand English at all…I’m speaking Japanese aren’t I. Don’t you understand me?)

Staff: Wakarimashita! Moshi wake gozaimasen! (Yes, I understand! Bowing deeply. I apologize. There’s no excuse for my behavior.)

Me: Mashi ni natta! Ja, biiru motte kite! (That’s better! Now, bring me my beer!)

Staff: kashikomarimashita, sho sho omachi kudasai (Certainly! please wait for a moment)

Owari

Interesting video related to this topic below:

This guy is a naturalized Japanese citizen, formally American, and fights for the rights of non-Japanese Japanese citizens.

He shares my idea about this subject only he’s a little politer than me (-;

Quick shout out to my boy Justin at English Banditry! Thanks a lot for the info!!

Loco (-;

24
Feb
09

…And, oh yeah, one other reason I just LOVE Japan: The Girls!

Whenever I meet a new Japanese girl sooner or later they get around to asking me The Question: What are the differences between Japanese girls and American girls?

It’s a loaded question to be sure.

Back in 2003 when asked The Question, I’d look right into the doe-like eyes of my Josei (girl) du jour and say with a straight face, “Japanese women are sweeter,”  just to keep my answer simple and cajoling. A more thorough and frank answer would have been, ‘I think Japanese girls are the fucking bomb! In general, they’re prettier (in a prepubescent kind of way), sexier (in a dumb blond kind of way) and are just fiendin’ to be feminine, like overdeveloped (so to speak) pre-teens dressing up in Mama’s clothes. They’re passive and pliable and just dying to be led around and told what to do…which taps into some deep psycho-sexual sadistic thing dwelling in my psyche, I suspect. They taste great, they’re less filling, they smell better and are lower maintenance than their American counterparts. They require little to no game (effort) whatsoever…like Top Shelf call girls (even dressing the part) only relatively free of charge. They are awkward, giggling, confidence-free, drama-free aphrodisiacs incarnate…

japanese-girls

Yes, I was in Nirvana, quite removed from reality. And this high lasted for years.

I remember this Twilight Zone episode where a bibliophile who was taunted and harassed for his passion by his wife and others was alone in a bank vault when a sudden nuclear war occurred. He survived to find he was the last man on earth…he was about to kill himself when he found that  the library had also survived the atomic bombing (somehow). He was happy as a pig in shit until, in a particularly cruel Rod Serling twist, he breaks his glasses. That’s fucked up, right?

Well, my glasses broke, too. The rose-tinted lenses through which I adored Japanese women, that is. (I’m actually managing to retain 20/20 vision against incredible odds.) Yes, now I can see the truth behind the curtain of stereotypes about them. At least, I think I can (-:

The truth: They’re just women. And women are women.

So, you heard Japanese girls are easy? You want to know if it’s true? The answers is an equivocal YES, they are! However, I submit, they are no easier than American girls under the same conditions.

Case and point: When I was a teenager growing up in Brooklyn I was a very sentimental lad, and had very romantic notions about the opposite sex. Love songs made my heart pound. Rejection brought me to tears. I wrote tear-stained  pages of poetry and short stories about love and loss. I had a stack of  notebooks filled with this stuff, not unlike the guy who had previously owned the house that Brad Pitt and Edward Norton were squatting in in ‘Fight Club” (“I am Jack’s medulla Oblongata” “I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise”) Mine was more like, “my heart is a red tear in the duct of a dead man.” That’s the kind of stuff I wrote after Kim tore me a new asshole.

Kim was my high school sweetheart, so to speak. She was this lightーskinned  cutie from Bed-Stuy who inexplicably managed to emerge from a Bed-Stuy housing project exuding a purity and sweetness so uncorrupted you’d think she was raised in, well, in Japan, or a Nunnery. Only problem was Kim’s high school sweetheart was not me, but this cat named Richard.  She just pal’d around with me. I was like her Forrest Gump. “Run, Loco, run.” Richard was a lying asshole, but we all were so that didn’t make him special. What did make him special was his heritage: he was half-Asian. Half Jamaican, half Chinese, and had those half slanted eyes and that half-straight hair, and was half as dark as me…and half the girls in the school went half-bananas for half a chance to run their fingers through it. He was my boy, until Kim went entirely  bananas over him. Then, naturally, I hated him.

So what he was exotic! Well, half-exotic, anyway. Who was the one writing poetry for Kim? I was. Did I give her my undivided attention? Well, when I wasn’t smoking blunts and drinking 40’s, you bet your ass I did. Did I make it clear that if this world were mine (yes, Luther inspired me) I’d place at her feet all that I own? Yes, indeed I did. But, did she give a damn after she met Richard? No. Did Richard give a shit about her? No. Did Richard talk to her on the phone every night and listen to her drone on and on about  totally mundane shit? No. Did Richard drag his ass to her church on Sundays (despite my abhorrence of all things religious)? Hell no. Did he hold her sheepskin coat when it was clearly too hot to be wearing one but they were fashionable so she wore it any fucking way? No.

Fucking Richard, lucky bastard…What the hell was my point? Oh, right! Sorry.

2628886Was Kim an easy mark for Richard? Yep! Goddamn pushover. Why? The same reason Japanese girls are easy. Here in Japan, I am, and virtually every foreign guy on this island is, Richard. We are all Richard. We are all lucky bastards. We are all exceptions and thus exceptional. We are a chance to feel different, to do things a little differently, to be a little different. We’re a ride on the wild side. A chance to learn about something aside from that which you know all too well. A chance for notoriety, if you desire it, or to say “fuck you” to a society you disdain. A chance to have a baby that looks like Richard.

Never underestimate the eroticism of exoticism.

And, on top of that, somebody’s been spreading rumors. A LOT of rumors. Somebody pumped Japanese girls heads so full of “information” about “me” that my actual input is redundant at best and counter productive at worst. They know all they believe they need to know about “me” to make an informed decision and, in a satisfactory number of cases, have somehow concluded “I” am indeed desirable.  I’ve spent a lot of energy and ink (so to speak) on the downside of being stereotyped, but relatively little on the upside. Not having to actually work for relatively quality girls (the stereotypes and rumors do all the work for me) is, for all intents and purposes, an upside (-;

Never underestimate human susceptibility to stereotype.

And, Kim, you heart breaker you…I hated you for a long time. But, now, I ain’t got nothing but love for you. I realize that anyone can be vulnerable to the exotic factor. Now that I live in a nation where a good number of the women are afflicted as you were, I am Loco’s complete lack of surprise that you let Richard run up in that when I offered you my eternal love. (-:

I sympathize and I forgive you

…bitch.

Loco (-;

_42425021_japanesegirls_getty

03
Feb
09

Hiro, her Hero

Y’all know me by now. Every now and then I gotta release. And since I’m non-violent  I use my keyboard like a punching bag. Poor keys!

Anyway, last night, I had to exercise such restraint, when I boarded the train at Kikuna Station and a guy was standing near the door with a girl, perhaps his girlfriend or classmate… The train was a little crowded and about to get a little more so once the people on my line got on. As usual the people who boarded ahead of me sprinted away from the door so they wouldn’t be near me and the people behind me I was sure would board and go the opposite direction from the one I took. It’s the norm.

The girl’s back was to the door and the guy was facing the door. She didn’t budge until I reach the door. The guy noticed me, all of the cheer in their conversation vanished and he swung her around so that he was now between her and I, stiff shouldered and what not. Glancing over his shoulders out of the side of his eyes, and adjusting so that he was squarely, mathematically so, between us. You would think I was attempting to reach her by his behavior. The sudden swinging had alarmed his protectee so much she peeked around him expecting to see a Machete wielding maniac, but it was just me. But you wouldn’t know it by the look in her eyes; feeding his rationalization for acting out like he had and was.

She turned into a damsel formerly in distress, the ever-so grateful Sweet Polly Purebred.  Hiro, you’re my Hero.

As she awaited further guidance, if necessary, her eyes warmed over with gratitude for his having demonstrated his manhood and willingness to put himself between her and a clear and present danger.

Yes, me.

So, he used me to get laid, basically. It’s actually kind of clever…

I know,  I know, but I can no more ignore that kind of crap than I can ignore someone shoving an ice pick in my ear.

But as long as I can rationalize I’ll keep it together (-:

Loco

02
Feb
09

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…

09
Jan
09

And yet MORE things I LOVE about Japan: Service & Safety

5  & 6 – Service with a gleam and a song / Otherworldly Safe

When I first moved to Japan I lived in Musashi Urawa out in Saitama. It’s about 20 minutes from Tokyo on the notorious Saikyo Line.  The Ekimae (the area around the station) has a handful of of shops and restaurants…and as is the norm at virtually every station I’ve been to in and around Tokyo, there’s a Macdonald’s and a Starbuck’s. Can’t say I was the biggest fan of either back in NY, but I love both here. The Japanese Macdonald’s is different than the Macdonald’s back home. And, the familiarity of Starbuck’s is like finding water on Mars.

Until you go inside, that is.

First, you’re struck by the cleanliness. There’s a gleam to everything. And there’s at least 1 or 2 staff people cleaning at all times, tweaking the clean, like they do in Macdonald’s commercials but you never see it in real life.

There are two registers open with two pretty college girls, looking handpicked for counter appeal, taking orders, and three others in the prep area waiting diligently like very disciplined, well postured and well-paid maids in a castle somewhere. Very “Remains of the day” looking…only extremely cheery and Japanese.

You check out the menu…most of the usual suspects are there: all kinds of Lattes and Chais and whatnot. You peruse it trying not to be distracted by the patient, smiling, gorgeous co-ed standing before you. Then, you place your order: “Yeah, let me get uh grande Iced Caramel Macchiato please.” Then you remember you’re speaking English…Being in Starbuck’s just doesn’t feel like Japan. You get ready to repeat your order in your broken Japanese when the staff smiles and repeats your order. Then she sings it to the preparers, who are suddenly called into action, as they sing the order in response, and in unison…with prepubescent mickey mouse voices.  It’s the cutest thing you’ve ever heard…and kind of sexy, in my opinion. They are the happiest staff people you’ve ever seen.  You actually believe they are happy to serve you. You’ve never felt that about the staff anywhere that didn’t stand to make a sweet commission off of your purchase. You don’t know it yet but it’s a routine you’re going to be enjoying on a daily basis, with the same consistent cheer, at Starbuck’s and the vast majority of the businesses you patronize, for the next five years.

Welcome to Japan…

Then you take your order to a seat. Most of them are full. You see an empty seat near the door. Bollocks, there’s a computer and a cell phone on the table, and a purse on the chair. You immediately look for the owner…they must be close. That’s a lot of value sitting there by its lonesome. But, there is no one not seated anywhere near it besides you. You look around for another unoccupied table. You spot one in the back. It’s free. It’s next to the bathroom. You plant yourself and sip your delicious drink. A couple of  minutes later a girl emerges from the restroom and strolls to the table where you’d seen the PC, phone and purse, sits, and resumes doing her homework or whatever.

You think to yourself, Man, if she had done that in NY there’s a very good chance she would have come back to an empty table. A very, VERY good chance. Then you wonder how true that is. You’ve actually never seen anyone so stupid before and of course you’ve never left your belongings behind while you so much as looked out the window, let alone went to the bathroom. It’s simply unthinkable, anti-common sense. It almost warrants being robbed. You imagine that if you went to the police station in NY after being robbed and explained that “…when I came back from the bathroom a few minutes later, all of my stuff was gone,” they would laugh and say, “if it wasn’t for dickheads like you, there wouldn’t be any thievery in this world, would there?”

You don’t it know then, but three years later you’ll be the one going to the bathroom leaving your belongings behind because you would have been living in a country where what you grew up to believe is common sense isn’t common sense, it’s nonsense, it’s virtually unthinkable, and this kind of thinking eventually rubs off on you. So much that you’re almost afraid to go home for if you do then you will need to re-install that old paranoid software, also known as survival instincts, that it took all of three years to un-install.

And you realize that you actually hated having to drag your computer to the toilet with you…not because it’s a pain in the ass, but because it indicated that no one in your vicinity could be trusted…that you lived in a trust-free environment your entire life and accepted it as the way of the world.

Well, not in this world.

Welcome to japan…

Loco




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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