You don’t need to know any Japanese to watch this video. They are saying exactly what you think they are.
First: My school had a mini-culture day yesterday. This involved them bringing in a former boxer as an inspirational speaker — a nice man who spoke very fast, liked gambling, and ended every sentence in “ne.” Poor bastard got assaulted by every special ed kid in the school when he opened the floor to questions. They just kept asking in rapid succession. He was really confused.
After that, they separated everyone out into random groups for learning aspects of traditional Japanese culture. They of course put me with K-chan, the “special” kid who’s always trying to steal my watch, in learning Sadou (tea ceremony). It was us two, one other random guy, and a ton of women. The guy students laughed at me as they went by. It was overall pretty fun, but HOLY HELL does it hurt sitting in the seiza (traditional Japanese sitting position). They took pity on me after a half hour or so and let me recline a little bit. I almost fell over when I finally stood up, because there was no blood in my legs.
Afterwards, I found out that the boys who were laughing at me were stuck doing flower arrangement. Ha ha!
Second: So I took a trip into Tokyo today and went with my friend Ananda to Odaiba, a man-made island that is kind of like San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf on crack. For starters, there’s a smaller-scale Statue of Liberty there for no reason. Behind it is an imitation Golden Gate Bridge for no reason. Afterwards, we went into Sega Joyopolis, a massive arcade that afforded some very bizarre entertainments. I took the opportunity to shoot some video on my phone, most of which didn’t come out great, but you get my witty and incisive commentary. Check it out:
There was also an attraction called “the room of living dolls,” but the video was crap. It was creepy as hell. We didn’t go in.
Something just crystallized in my head about my JET situation, and why it bugs me: it’s high school all over again.
There’s a limited number of people to socialize with, as it’s extremely difficult to find people outside of JET that you can really relate with — the language/culture barrier is that intense. We are all in it together, so we have to get along, for survival’s sake. JET’s basically its own little microcosm, a private ecosystem with just enough people for regular social dynamics to take place. Sociologists would have a good time doing studies on the program, I think.
This all came to mind because of the recent prefectural Thanksgiving dinner we held up in Mito. Overall it was a wonderful time, with an awe-inspiring amount of food, ranging from traditional food like turkey and cranberry sauce to Frosted Flakes and latkes (courtesy of yours truly). The place was pretty mobbed. To get a pretty good idea of what it was like, check out Rick’s video here. He ends up spending the last half leaving a message for his own family, so you might want to cut out midway through, unless you want to see a couple people (Sherley, Laura, and I think Leo?) show up late. I’ll be posting pictures soon.
Anywho, the event that triggered this train of thought was actually the Frosted Flakes. To give a bit of context — I have had trouble getting along with Shawn, one of the JETs here. He’s not a bad guy, well-meaning and generally agreeable, but I find him a bit… transparent, and it raises my hackles. While planning the Thanksgiving party, some of the Brits, unfamiliar with Thanksgiving traditions, were asking on our webforum about what food to bring, and one jokingly suggested Frosties. Several members gnashed their teeth about it, saying that if they brought Frosties, there would be hell to pay.
So Shawn brought Frosties. As a joke. I talked to him as he was buying it, was a sounding board as he schemed out its presentation, and bore witness to his whole scheme. He decided to wait until partway through the dinner, at which point he would loudly urge silence, in deference to the Lord’s Prayer — whereupon he would give thanks for Frosties, and produce the box, to much fanfare.
The plan (although I didn’t find it half as funny as he did) went off without a hitch. The entire room erupted in laughter. Two JETs promptly donned paper towels on their arms, and took on the roles of waiters, pouring alternately cereal and milk for any who wanted it. Usually straight into someone’s mouth. Chuckles were voiced, vomit was nearly induced, good times were had by most.
I just couldn’t help but think it was cloying. Everyone wants to be popular, yes, and everyone works at it in their own ways — I mean hell, just watch Rick’s video and witness how he pulls attention to himself — but that sort of calculated in-joking just gets to me. I keep wondering if I didn’t feel this way because I’m jealous, but I think the honest truth is that I’m not. More than anything, I think it gets to me because it’s a reflection on me. I used to pull the same sort of routine Rick does, but I’ve pulled back a lot on that, trying to come across more genuinely and more down-to-earth. As a result, yes, I’m lonely, and I’m having a tough time, but I feel like it’s the path I should be taking. Stunts like Shawn’s seem dishonest to me. With that, it’s not your personality that’s making friends. It’s merely shared experiences. It’s a false charismatic persona. It’s an empty association.
Ah, hell. I’m knee-deep in culture shock, aren’t I. Sitting in my room and writing like a friggin’ 13-year old on Livejournal. I really need to unclench a bit.
I started uploading videos to my youtube account. Check them out here.
(and don’t miss the post below this one, which I just wrote)
Sorry for the depressing bloggery. Here’s some random tidbits that have kept me amused in the meanwhile:
On a similar vein, while teaching about the future tense, and practicing “I will XXXXX this weekend,” I had the following conversation with one of my kids, a 13-year old boy:
Kid: “I will play sex this weekend.”
Me: “I will HAVE sex this weekend. HAVE sex.”
Kid: “Oh, I will have sex this weekend! Okay!”
Me: “Who will you have sex with?”
Kid: (thinks a second, points at me) “Jason-sensei!”
Me: (in Japanese) “No, you will have sex with yourself. Alone. In your room.”
Kid: “No! I will have sex with Jason-sensei!”
Me: (in Japanese) “You will have sex with a toy. A doll. Of a dog.”
Kid: (laughs a minute, then looks at me seriously) “I will have sex with girl.”
Me: “Oh yeah, who?”
Kid: “Wait a minute!” (runs off, grabs a girl and drags her back with him) “Her! Her! This girl!”
Me: (to girl) “Isn’t that boy kind of creepy?”
Girl: “He’s really creepy!”
Me: “He says you will have sex with him this weekend.”
Girl: “NO WAY! GROSS!” (hits the boy as hard as she can square in the chest)
Been a bit since a substantial blog entry, and I apologize. I’ve had a bad run of things, and have tried to get out of the house more, to improve my mood. Results have been mixed at best. Anywho, the Kyoto trip was a pretty big deal, so I figure I should blog about it. Here we go.
I just got back from 3 days in Kyoto, and am completely bushed. I uploaded 134 photos to my flickr account, so check it out.
Some of my favorites: