Meet Wizard Pug!! My new mascot I am slapping all over every worksheet that I have been making at my JHS as of late (^｡^)
Meet Wizard Pug!! My new mascot I am slapping all over every worksheet that I have been making at my JHS as of late (^｡^)
Preface: This is going to be a long and honest post about life as a Kobe-JET one year down the road, it ain’t gona sugar coat it but I hope I can accurately portray where I’m at in life.
Although I can hardly believe it myself it today marks a year since I set foot in this great city of Kobe for the first time. In fact this week the new guy arrived who is my shoes this year, as the strangely timed May arrival!
As many may well know, moving to the other side of the world presents its own unique set of hurdles to overcome. That said, since arriving I have truly had the most amazing year of my life, exploring and learning about Japan it’s culture and language.
I know in my heart, I have met some of the most phenomenal individuals the world has to offer here. And it’s as true now as the first day I ever said it, ‘in Kobe strangers are your friends and your friends, are family’.
This days coming has been something I have thought upon greatly as of late, in a sense I feel like I have finally come full circle. But let me elaborate…..
After having to say goodbye to a very dear friend of mine who broke contract last week, it really hit home for me that everyone I know here is going to leave one day. Really no matter how deep and profound the relationships we form here, they are essentially all to a large degree, temporary (-｡-;
Anyhow much unlike my previous milestone wrap up posts, this one I am writing with a new found level head, hopefully this one will be a tad more objective.
So I have been through a roller-coaster of emotions and phases since arriving in Japan, I guess the one biggest mistake I ever made in this place was trying to recreate myself into someone who I wasn’t, when moving to a new place it can be tempting to be someone new. However I now know that such a course of action is simply foolish and in the words of Oscar Wilde,
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
Anyhow towards the beginning of the year I fell into a deep hole, in retrospect I went a little paranoid and crazy, convinced everyone was out to get me. It wasn’t until a my buddies helped me recognize the errors in my ways, that suddenly everything really turned around for me. Now I definitely see myself on the right path, just trying to be the best me I can be, basically the kind of person who exhibits the kind of genuine traits I find endearing in others ❤
I’ve had my fair share of difficulties in discovering where I belong in our amazing community here, always branding myself as a square in a round hole. A year on I truly feel as if I have come full circle in discovering who I am and who I want to be, what I know about this place is that it will make you a better version of yourself if you let it.
Perhaps just growing up in general and developing a much deeper sense of empathy for others is something that just comes naturally when you live all on your own for the first time in your life, that said you’re never truly alone here. I have the support of my family back home and the plethora of amazing fellow ALTs that live and work alongside me.
At the end of the day being a JET placed in Kobe is pretty much the equivalent if winning the placement lottery, there is just no where else like it in Japan and a year down the road it is very clear just why we have the highest JET retention rate throughout the entire program.
I like to believe that by now I have become a seasoned ALT, no longer naive and starry eyed. I certainly don’t know what the future has in store, or how I just might be feeling this time next year. However if the next 4 years are even remotely similar to the one I have just been through, I think I may be one of those people who just won’t go home and end up staying the entire 5 years!
When I think back to my life pre-JET, I wasn’t a happy person, mostly discontent with my situation in general. I can honestly say that the person I was a year ago is dead an buried, it’s almost like I had to leave my home to finally see what I had and appreciate all the support my family had always given me.
If asked if I am ever homesick, my answer is always a very firm no, the only thing I miss about my country is my family, I believe if they weren’t there I would surely never return. I certainly don’t want to imply that Japan is magical and perfect in any way, however Australia is simply not a place I can ever remember fondly, if anything the places in my mind that I nostalgically look back at are in South East Asia XD
And no it’s not that I am some Japan fanboy (in fact anyone who has ever actually live here will learn 95% of what the outside world thinks Japan is, is wrong XD). The main thing I love about my life here is that it supports me in my thirst for knowledge, being the kind of person who can’t stand sitting idle I felt completely lost after finishing university and suddenly finding myself with no outlet to direct my quizzical nature.
Back home I felt like my progress had come to a standstill but since coming to Japan every day here I learn at least a dozen new things, whether it be Japanese language/cultural knowledge, perusing hobbies or even to discovering things about myself.
After having talked up the profound influence the people here have had on my life, I thought I would go into the kind of stuff we get up to. So what makes up a normal week as a Kobe JET, we generally all work Monday to Friday so generally nothing crazyyyyyy happens on school nights. However that not to say that you have to just go home after work, this year especially I have found myself so busy with events on school nights that I hardly even get enough me time! During the winter its so cold that we might to things like get together for oden or nabe parties a couple days a week, movie nights, group study sessions or just hanging out together.
People do tend to become hermits during the colder months to a degree though (myself included) only because its kinda hard to be genki when your apartment is perpetually under 10 degrees! Once it warms up people tend to be more enthusiastic about doing stuff after school, even looking at the last couple weeks for example, I have been shopping in Sannomiya a couple times after school, gone out for dinner with friends and even gotten really on occasion at house parties and bars!
The weekends are where the magic happens though, it is extremely rare for one to come around where we don’t have plans before hand, whether they be little weekend holidays, drinking parties, nights out on the town or days out adventuring! We can generally travel quite cheaply in Japan and one thing I really have noticed that when I tell Japanese people to even a hand-full of the places I have been to in Japan they are always like ‘wow you have been more places that Japanese’.
Quite often we will pack overnight bags, just jump on a train and spend the entire of the weekend somewhere, particularly if we have a long weekend, naming all the things I have done in the past year would be extremely difficult so I’ll list a couple normalish kinda trips that come to mind. So in the past year I have partied in Fukuoka, stayed in a ryokan at Koya-san, participated in the Iga Ueno Ninja Festival, explored abandoned train tunnels, watched autumn leaves in Kyoto, cycled around Awaji island, swam in Nunobiki waterfall and spent all night in Osaka dressed in a ‘sushi costume’ for Halloween.
Those are all examples of some of the more unique kinda stuff we get up to, generally a more normal weekend would consist of all the social kids getting together at the HUB on Friday night for happy hour. If there is nothing special planned that particular evening, we will break up into our respective groups and head off to maybe get dinner/do karaoke/do a nomihoudai. Saturday nights are generally a greater affair, I would say more often than not if there is nothing else on I can easily throw together a group of people to come to Osaka for a drinking party.
There is a company called WhyNot that have ‘international parties’ across Kansai, there will always be one on every Saturday night at a nightclub somewhere around the Nanba/Shinsaibasi area of Osaka. Basically Japanese people go to these things to meet foreigners, we go there because we can get wasted with a 3 hour all you can drink party that only costs us 2000円!
So one thing about being a Kobe JET is that we really live in a gaijin bubble of sorts. There are so many of us in the community that if you want to hardly associate with any Japanese people, you really don’t have to. Regardless of how much I love my friends here, it really seems quite arrogant and a complete waste to live in a country and not get to know its people. By simply taking a look at a couple of the photos in this post one thing is certain, we are never alone ❤
The Workplace & Teaching
It’s been a long road to becoming the teacher I am today, I came here as a business graduate with zero knowledge of teaching and even without a like of children in general.
Oh how far I have come, I teach at one JHS and 2 nearby ES of whom’s students feed into my base school.
When I arrived I was paired with a first year OTE who spoke very poor English. For the most part of last year, due to both my and her inexperience with the job, in retrospect I feel that a lot of the time we deliver less than stellar lessons. One of the major points was that I felt the students never respected her, many boys often straight up refused to work and instead would spend half the class yelling out sexual things to her. It was quite sad when I conducted standardized testing across the year level, as her class’s average scores were on average 30% lower than the others which the other English teacher taught.
Now I don’t like playing the bad guy, I much prefer building genuine relationships with my students. Having them want to learn rather than me constantly struggling just to keep them quiet and on topic is all I ever wanted.
Anyhow with the new school year came the ‘great teacher shuffle’, my terrible OTE was replaced with an extremely headstrong well seasoned one, who was specifically head-hunted by my former principal to work at my school and fix up our English program.
This woman is amazing, all of the worst students I had last year, under her iron fist are now engaged and enthusiastic.
I guess in a word I would say she is an enabler, always pushing the students and myself to put in 110%. Honestly this year I feel like I do 3x more work than I was doing last year, I hardly have a spare moment to myself as I’m always either teaching or planning awesome engaging lessons. I knew she was a keeper from the moment I planned my first lesson with her. Having grown accustomed to dumbing down every activity I continued to do so, as anything slightly challenging my old OTE would shoot down saying ‘that’s too hard for the students’.
I would always try to rationalize that the students are clever, and we should should always push them to do the best they can by using one of my favourite analogy’s to no avail “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.”.
Now when I noticed new amazing OTE constantly telling me ‘re-write worksheet/grammar point and make them harder’ as the students can do it, my heart turned to putty.
Basically she motivates me to be the epic teacher I know I can be, although I work much harder now, I love everything about my job. My previously unmotivated students are now some of my best, when I ask a question I see every hand raise every time, now that is the difference a good teacher can make!
Outside of the classroom, developing rapport with my coworkers has been a gradual thing, several of them speak very good English (yet are often hesitant to speak it) and some virtually none at all. Over the past year I have felt most generally warming up-to me, particularly since the new school year began and I gained the 2nd year sempai status. This year we also gained a new Kouchou Sensei 校長先生 (principal) who is a very eccentric and energy filled man. Although he speaks no English, I constantly make a great effort to communicate with him in Japanese as he has taken a liking to me, we are in fact engaged in an eternal gift off constantly showering each other in snacks XD
All in all I love my job, I feel like I get better and better at it every day, I was born for this!
Now actually getting round to formally studying was something I procrastinated about for many months after arriving, in fact it wasn’t until around December when the JET Programme Japanese Language Course books from CLAIR arrived on my desk that I even had a crack at it.
Now I started with the beginner course since I really had very little previous knowledge of Japanese at all, these books do get quite a lot of flack for being completely in romanji at the beginner level (which honestly is wayyyyyy too long), what I feel they did do however is teach the basics of Japanese grammar.
Previously I was pretty much just slapping the words together in any order that ‘felt’ right which left me sounding a little ‘special’. Now I would highly recommend this CLAIR series to beginners for one solid reason, each day you must complete 4 pages, each month you must complete one book as there is a test at the end of the month, for those without a teacher this is really the kick up the ass you need to get your study on.
Now unless your only want to learn how to pronounce Japanese and not read and write at all I suggest the ‘Tako technique’, basically what I did to supplement my study is rewrite every single sentence in all 6 books line by line from romanji to hirigana/katakana/kanji. Yes this will make each chapter take 2-3 times as long as it should, but lets just say that before I started these books I had a great deal of trouble reading the simplest of lines in kana, 6 months later I could read more or less at half the speed I can in English.
I have since moved onto a series called 日本語チャレンジ (Nihongo Challenge) at the N4 level as I have applied for the JLPT N4 exam which is being held in a months time (just quietly I don’t have high hopes for a passing grade but I’m going to give it my best regardless). There are 3 separate textbooks available at each level of the series, I purchased all 3 かんじ(Kanji), ことば(Vocabulary) and Grammar(文法).
It’s been a gradual process but each and every day I am learning so much just from being immersed in the language. In my mind when I arrived I felt my my comprehension was foggy, each day that fog clears a little as I slowly slowly can understand more about the world and happenings around me. I have come a long way, but there’s a long way to go! 頑張ります！！！
– A year on I could not be any happier with my life.
– I have amazing friends from all over the world.
– Teaching has become one of my passions and feel I get better at it every day.
– Learning Japanese has been a progressive journey, but I’m getting there ^^
As a final note, to my loyal readers (you must be if you got this far).
Truly, Gratitude, Always.
The following is a picture year in review!
So today at my crazy tiny elementary school, I was invited to attend ‘toy making class’ with my favourite 3年生 (third grade). I’ve done this once before a couple months ago when we make aki 秋 (autumn) themed toys out of the seasonal fair (think acorns and leaves), however today’s subject was rika 理解 (science class) and since the children were learning about じしゃく (magnets) their toys were themed accordingly.
Here are a couple of the meccha kawaii games and toys they put together, the ones above were all filled with magnets which could be manipulated by other magnets on sticks (in this case the cat chases the giant mouse)
This guy was a lil race track, the kid made a dozen of these little cars to choose from and gave them all crazy names like ロケットカー(rocket car), スズメバチカー (wasp car) and 宇宙カー (space car), unfortunately I didn’t get a shot of it but he later made a giant paper toilet so store them in XD
The photo above features a paper fishing game, a couple of the girls made lil fishing rods out of hashi 箸 (chopsticks) with magnets tied at the end of a piece of string, the various sea fauna had paper-clips to attract them!
So there shall be a part 2 (and probably a part 3) to my Mintia ミンティア reviews, mostly as I’m completely addicted and there just seems to be a plethora of obscure flavours available if you keep an eye out for them!
Honestly I’m really unsure as to what this flavour is supposed to be, they are certainly one of the mint based varieties of Mintia however the flavour is weak up forgettable.
Lets just say if Relax Shower was a going to a Mintia Hollywood party it would be the one to arrive after all the coke had been finished and their was already a dead stripper floating in the pool. Oddly enough it’s vaguely spicy at times but not in a good way.
To its credit the name Relax Shower did amuse the Daniel. Still Fail.
Now these I had high hopes for based on the fact it has miracle in the title and the shininess of the packaging, donning holographic stickers, sparkles and the promise of rekindling the joyful memories of ones childhood.
Unfortunately the mints themselves tasted like something more akin to the cherry candies that kids tend not to like as they taste like something akin to cough syrup.
Also as a side note some of them have little Sakura shapes imprinted into them but for some reason oddly not all….
That said their not horrible, just kind of a meh and deflated weak artificial cherry taste. Whats worse their kinda gritty to the point it feels like your eating flour at times, needless to say they certainly don’t live up to their implied promises of unicorns and rainbows, leaving my childhood vigor unkindled.
I love EVERYTHING about the Honey Ginger Mintia! I truly believe these could possibly be my favourite, which makes me a little sad seeing as they are quite hard to come by!!
Anyhow to begin with the packing itself is a pleasant opaque mustard colour matching the feel of the flavour.
This is one Mintia that dominates in an area where most others fell short, it has the perfect balance of a subtle sweet honey flavour whilst occasionally a secondary ginger note finds its way through. Hardly seeming like a mint at all the experience is more akin to eating candy, and so I find myself vacuuming these delicious honey treats up!!!
If you come across these bad boys BUY BUY BUY!!!!
(Daniel hopes a Mintia marketing manager will come across this post and send him a crate of these)
Now these fiery little balls of pain have got to be if not the strongest mints I’v ever tried then at least strongest Mintia flavour.
They also have this written on the front of the pack
which translates to caffeine formulation, so the kick they give you is not just the insane amount if mint but also a Caffeine one also, just how many mg each brings to the table I can not tell you as it is not written on either the pack or the website. I often put a couple different flavored Mintia in my desk at work and chuck one of these in as a minty Russian roulette of sorts……. Yeah I get bored.
Cassis Orange is one of the more pleasing Minta flavours, very sweet and addictive not entirely unlike the Aqua Sparkle ones and so often find myself devouring one after another!
Underneath the name on the front it reads オレンジ果汁＋オレンジアロアビース配合
apparently this means blended orange juice and orange aroma beads were used in the ingredients.
The pills themselves have a nice pink colour fitting to the flavour, however although I enjoy them thoroughly and will certainly buy them again they are still nothing to write home about.
Just as a side note Cassis is the French word for black-current which the Japanese adopted, I only mention this as it was months before I worked what the hell cassis berry were myself XD
Unfortunately unlike its other Ginger cousin Honey Ginger these do not pack anywhere near the same punch.
I found the ginger to be all but a frail aftertaste and the body to be nothing more than a weak lemony taste.
Although not entirely unpleasant these wouldn’t even make it into my Top 10 Mintia flavours.
Welcome to Chapter 10 of the Mochi Diaries, Kaki Mochi 柿餅!
During a recent trip to Nara I picked up one of these boxes, having quite the affinity for anything Kaki 柿 (Japanese Persimmon) related I was quite excited to have a nom these guys.
Now firstly upon opening them I was completely taken aback at the intricate detail that went into producing every single mochi in the box!
Made to resemble the fruit of which they are flavored the mochi consist of four separate ingredients.
Essentially they are mostly kaki flavored mochi filled with a core of kaki an 柿あん (persimmon flavored red bean paste).
The leaves are made of dango 団子 held in place by a thin piece of konbu 昆布 (dried sea kelp), honestly the konbu is some what annoying since you must remove it before eating each mochi being inedible.
So you ask, ‘but Daniel what is the difference between mochi and dango?’
Well they are pretty much the same thing, the only difference being in the technique used to make them.
When making mochi, you begin by grinding glutinous rice to a paste which is then steamed and l finally pounded into a sticky dough.
Dango on the other hand is made from rice flour that has been mixed with hot water to make a dough, before being boiled in salted water.
Anyhow beyond the novelty of the mochi, the taste was just ok, that said it was more than made up for by the awesomeness of the presentation of the sweets!
Want to read more Mochi Diaries Posts?
I came across this recently and couldn’t help but share, after returning home to Australia over the Christmas period, I have been nothing short of amazed at just how ignorant my fellow countrymen are regarding the country in which I reside!
Without further without further ado, an extremely insightful Cracked article into what Japan is really like, 5 Things Nobody Tells You About Living in Japan!!
Quick question: When was the last time you had to use a fax machine?*
*”What is a fax machine?” is an entirely acceptable response.
Well, you should try moving to Japan if you want to recapture the magic of the fax machine and other 1990s technology. I actually use one about twice a month to send out my work invoices, because many of the Japanese companies that employ me do not accept paperwork by email. The rare ones that do require that my Word/Excel files be compatible with their 1998 version of Microsoft Office, which is sort of like requiring your Avengers Blu-ray to play on a Betamax machine.
My point is, on the surface Japan seems like the closest thing Earth currently has to a moon base, what with their stock exchange being entirely computerized and wireless Internet literally coming out of their vending machines.
But the truth is, many things are still being done in painfully old-fashioned ways, a phrase which here means “by hand and on paper.” Actually, having seen the amount of paper a typical Japanese office goes through, I feel safe in assuming that the entire country has declared a shadow war on both the information age and trees.
How can this be? Well, Japan is still mainly in the hands of the older generation: Over a fourth of the population is over 60, and they’re in no particular hurry to adopt new technology (particularly not Apple products, because as far as Japan is concerned, Steve Jobs can go fuck himself). Institutions like banks, the postal service and government offices still keep all of their records on paper, maintained and filed by superfluous personnel who could easily be replaced by an old Soviet computer (which incidentally is more or less what a friend of mine at a Yokohama municipal office was using at his workstation as recently as 2010).
Many businesses still don’t even accept credit cards. A Japanese airline can get you to any corner of the globe without a hassle, so long as you’re paying in cash, even if the tickets come up to a few thousand dollars each (and I wish I wasn’t speaking from experience). This is made even more difficult by the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 24-hour ATM anywhere in Japan.
That’s right; most banks in Japan keep their ATMs indoors, which means that once the banks close (typically around 6 p.m.), so do the machines, utterly defeating their entire purpose for existing. It’s another extension of that technological resistance — pretty much anywhere outside of Tokyo harbors a deep generational resentment for automation. They don’t want the ATMs operational while there aren’t any bank employees around to help in case something goes wrong (although outside of users being clubbed with a thermos and robbed, the list of possible mishaps is embarrassingly short). You can always try an ATM at a convenience store (the number of which currently exceeds the national population), if you don’t mind the variable transaction fees that seemingly change at random. And that’s only if your ATM card will even work in machines outside of your bank, which it almost certainly won’t.
Of course, the best time to find out whether the 7-Eleven around the corner accepts your card is after 1 a.m., when all of the public transport has stopped and you desperately need money for a taxi. Basically, if you’re planning on doing anything at all besides going to and from work, you need to keep fistfuls of cash either on your person at all times or piled under a mattress in your freezing apartment.
Wait, why is your apartment freezing? Because …
Japan is constantly depicted in movies and TV shows as a technological wonderland of science and innovation, to the point where you would expect every toilet to resemble the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, complete with a not-quite-real-or-fake-enough Patrick Stewart screaming “Make it so!” in a Japanese man’s voice. The reality, however, is that your house or apartment will most likely lack such basic things as central heating and thermal insulation, and you’ll be forced to burn that Ghost in the Shell poster your mom would never let you hang up just to stay warm.
Traditionally, Japanese houses have always been built to let as much air flow through them as possible, because the summers here average somewhere between 80 and 90 degrees. Unfortunately, this piece of architectural brilliance will betray you come wintertime, as there is nothing at all in place to keep frozen winds from bursting into your house and dragging warm air off into the night like the werewolves from The Howling. But as most foreigners in Japan learn firsthand, you’re sort of expected to just tough it out.
You can pick up an electric AC/heater, if you feel like throwing down hundreds of dollars to pay for both the unit and the required professional installation, but even then it’s only enough to cover one room. The Japanese simply do not heat more than one or two places in the entire house — they never have, and they aren’t likely to start before you move here. Your only other option is a kerosene heater, which you can’t really leave running overnight unless you’re trying to burn and/or suffocate your family to death. Of course, having one also means keeping several cans of kerosene around the house at all times, so the “burning” thing may eventually happen on its own.
Newer buildings like those in the middle of Tokyo probably have central heating systems strong enough to microwave a chicken just by shutting all the windows, but considering that land and building costs in Japan are still some of the highest in the world, the only people who can afford to live in new homes are those rich enough to insulate the walls with unicorn pelts.
The good news about health care in Japan is that your insurance is accepted pretty much anywhere. The bad news is that most hospitals keep shorter hours than a Blockbuster Video. Generally speaking, Japanese hospitals are only open from about 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and are usually not open at all on the weekends. So if you lop off a digit at a family barbecue, you basically have to wrap your stump in a Pikachu towel full of ice, wait for Monday to roll around and hope your severed finger doesn’t get freezer burn.
Even then, it’s no guarantee you’ll get to see a doctor, because outpatients are usually only admitted in the morning. If you don’t get to the hospital quickly enough, you’ll have to wait another day (oh, and good luck using all that personal time in a country where missing work is considered a form of light treason). Also, first-time patients can’t make appointments at most medical facilities, so you pretty much just have to show up and hope somebody dies in a car accident on the way to the hospital and frees up a slot. And make sure to bring cash with you (see above), because while the majority of hospitals have ATMs, you really don’t want to play “Will my card work here?” while you’re bleeding from the face.
If you do manage to make it into a doctor’s office, make sure that you bring someone with you who can speak Japanese, because not many doctors or nurses speak English. Which actually brings me to my next point …
Since this is the Internet, you’re undoubtedly familiar with Engrish.com and Japan’s many hilarious (hirarious?) failings with the English language. But honestly, Japan is an industrialized nation full of well-educated people, and English is one of the most widely spoken languages on the planet. Zany out-of-context Internet photos aside, how alienating could it really be over there?
The short answer is very.
Simply put, the country just isn’t very accommodating to people who can’t speak Japanese. Without the language, you will barely be able to buy food or get around, let alone establish any kind of permanent living situation that doesn’t involve keeping a bilingual girlfriend/boyfriend/hostage on hand 24/7 to translate every commercial that comes on the radio. You can’t just exchange shouts with people and come to a working understanding like Han Solo and Chewbacca. Real life doesn’t work that way.
So how is that different from moving to any other country where English isn’t the native language? Well, for starters, Japanese is one of the hardest languages for Americans to learn, requiring 2,200 hours of study if you want to be considered truly proficient. This is partly because of the difficulties of learning a new language as an adult, and partly because English and Japanese have about as much in common with each other as Halloween and Halloween III.
That being said, once you actually got the whole language thing down, you might expect to finally be able to integrate yourself into Japanese society and thrive, right? Well, here’s how it was with me: I’ve been coming to Japan for nearly a decade, my wife is Japanese, I speak the language fluently, I know the culture inside and out, and yet I’m still “that foreign guy” to most people here (even the ones who have known me for close to 10 years).
Japan is one of the most homogenous nations on Earth — roughly 98 percent of the population is ethnically Japanese. No matter what you do to try and fit in, you will always stick out like a sore thumb in a room full of people who have had their thumbs removed by rototillers.
For instance, one of the biggest hot button issues in Japan concerns people of Korean ancestry who live in the country. In most cases, these are people who were born in Japan, have Japanese names and speak almost exclusively Japanese, but because of their Korean lineage, they are still legally considered foreigners and as such face several restrictions (such as the inability to vote or hold management positions in the public sector, a law that the Supreme Court actually upheld in 2005). The government literally decided that all Koreans are dastardly shitheads who are not to be trusted and mandated it to the entire country.
So now ask yourself this — if the Koreans in this example (who by all rights should be full Japanese citizens were it not for ethnic prejudice) are given the same treatment as convicted felons, what chance does a white kid in a Gundam T-shirt have to not be considered a complete outcast?
I’m not saying that every single person in Japan hates foreigners, but if you live here, you will be constantly reminded that you are most decidedly not Japanese, nor are you likely to spontaneously become so. Still, it’s a small price to pay to live in a place as outlandishly crazy and fun as Japan, right?
Yeah, about that …
I’m guessing that one of the top reasons people want to move to Japan is because of how eye-poppingly insane everything here is. Japan is the patron saint of the Internet — everything is either batshit crazy or adorable (or both), with the sole requirement of being impossible to explain in any conceivable context.
Man, I’m about to destroy a lot of illusions.
To start, let’s talk a little about Japanese TV. You may have seen clips of some X-rated Japanese game show floating around the Internet wherein an audience full of young women eagerly compete for the privilege of having sex with some random guy on stage in front of hundreds of people (if not, you’re probably searching for them right now). Here’s the shocking truth behind those videos — they are porn.
As in, they are professional pornographic videos dressed up to look like a game show, because … you know, just because. Does porn need a reason? There’s a Simpsons porn out there featuring people sweatily groping each other in jaundiced yellow body paint, for Christ’s sake. Nobody is posting clips of that on the Internet and claiming it’s the new season … well actually, somebody probably is, but nobody would seriously believe that.
The porno game show I’m referring to is called Kobe Surprise, and it is every bit an actual game show as Walt Disney’s Pocahontas is a historical documentary. Just like those goofy “true life” pornos MILF Hunter or Bang Bus, nothing about it even approaches reality, yet all you apparently need to do is tell everyone it’s from Japan and suddenly people think it comes on every night after Wheel of Fortune.
Don’t get me wrong — there are some daffy game shows in Japan, and there is definitely erotic programming on late night TV, but the country isn’t full of shamelessly sex-crazed lunatics who have stopped trying to measure the immensity of the shits they no longer give.
“So what about those infamous vending machines that sell used panties?” you might ask. Well, they do exist, but they were outlawed nearly 20 years ago. You can still find one from time to time, but they are illegal as fuck and usually hidden in sex stores or fetish clubs, and not in a bus station next to the Mr. Pibb machine.
I shook my head particularly hard when I read about the Japanese fundraiser that allowed people to squeeze some hot girl’s breasts if they donated money to AIDS research, because every website that reported on it wrote about it like it happens every Tuesday in Japan. It doesn’t. The event was hosted by a freaking porn channel — that’s like if Hugh Hefner held a topless car wash at the Playboy Mansion and the BBC told the rest of the world that there was one next to every McDonald’s in America.
But maybe you dream of living in Japan not because the porn flows like water (it doesn’t, at least not any more so than in any other country where the Internet is a thing), but because of your love for anime, which is so popular and widely accepted among Japanese adults that you could enjoy your obsession in peace with the approval of your peers. Even though we’ve moved on from porn, don’t put those tissues away just yet — you may need them for the next paragraph.
After all these years in Japan, I can honestly say that animation (major studio productions notwithstanding) is still mainly considered kids’ stuff. There is shockingly little anime on television, and most of it is unapologetically meant for children. The only adults who really get into it (referred to as otaku) are usually perceived by the media as overweight, unwashed weirdos who are probably child molesters. Sound familiar? You’re bound to spend just as much time hiding your Trigun DVDs from company here as you would anywhere else.
Japan does have its eccentric side, but at the end of the day (and especially outside of Tokyo), it’s pretty normal and boring. I’m not trying to discourage anyone from moving here (because I live here and I’m not planning on leaving anytime soon), but if you are really considering buying a place in Japan, make sure you know what you’re getting into. Because if you step off the plane armed with nothing but what the Internet teaches you about this country, chances are you will be arrested before you make it out of the airport.
I have a certain affinity for pugs, perhaps because I’m missing my one Fuki-san that I left back in Australia. I frequently sneak pugs into my lesson plans and all my students know the Fuji’s name.
This is the Christmas version of my English board featuring ‘Fuji-clause’ seems to be a hit with my kids!! ^_^