So, two things. One that`s kind of a funny look on Japanese culture, the other that`s more introspective, personal stuff (which I`ll put behind a cut, so you can be spared 😉 ).

Recently I`ve been trying to learn a bit more about Japanese comedy. My attempts to find out about Japanese culture through the television have been completely useless — every time I turn it on, it`s another goddamn food show. Seriously, almost every show on (regular broadcast) Japanese television involves people traveling around, eating things, and saying how delicious they are, with D-list celebrities superimposed in a box in the lower corner, nodding their heads in agreement. Every other word is `oishii` or `umai`. It`s frustrating.

So I set off to youtube to find some comedy bits. Most of the comedy I saw fell into two categories — bizarro hidden camera/reality skits (a la Hard Gay, the Don`t Laugh guys, and other increasingly cruel, game show-esque comedies), and owarai genin (comedians). The camera/reality skits were actually pretty funny, but the owarai genin were just baffling. Let me talk about the three popular ones I found:

  1. The Touch (aka Za Tacchi). These are two short, kind of ugly, weird looking twins. Their trademark is putting their hand out like a karate chop, and saying a word three times, in a specific rhythm. Usually, it`s `chotto, chotto chotto,` or `doumo, doumo doumo.` I CANNOT figure out why these guys are funny. Everyone knows who they are. They`re just short and weird and extremely lame. I have asked around a dozen Japanese people, ranging from 8 years old to 80 years old, and the only answer I`ve gotten is, `culture.` Apparently the rhythm and their manner are just hysterical to Japanese people. I don`t know.
  2. Yasua. This guy used to be a lawyer. He`s got this incredibly weird overgrown bowl cut that extends about a half a foot to the left and right of his head. His thing is to give the thumbs up and sort of cycle his hands up and down, grinning like a maniac. He looks like a complete doof. I guess that, in and of itself, is funny, but… Japanese people seem to find it hilarious. No idea.
  3. Taka and Toshi. These two will get up and perform this incredibly fast skit, which basically has one of them chiding the other for doing anything vaguely western. Basically, they`ll pretend to go eat, and one guy will order `cherri pai` (cherry pie), and the other guy will yell `Oubeika!` (westerner) and hit him. He`ll pretend to cut his pie with a knife — oubeika! Say `hello`– oubeika! This was kind of funny, but I don`t think for the same reasons Japanese people thought it was funny.

Alright, onto the other stuff.

So about three weeks ago, we all wander into our local bar, RiRa`s (where we met the yakuza, and the sumo wrestlers, and all that), and are greeted by the sight of a pretty Japanese girl, about our age, who immediately approaches us and asks, in flawless english, `What do you guys want to drink?` Like, gets her Rs and Ls right and everything.

We`re like, `BUH?!` Not only are there rarely any women in this place, not only are there barely any people our own age in the entire city, not only does everyone in Ryugasaki speak terrible English, but on top of that — we go to this place every friggin week, and suddenly there`s someone who`s been working here, who we don`t know.

That`s how we met Yukiko, aka Ume. She lived in New Zealand for a year and a half, and her English is amazing. She`s working two jobs to save money for going abroad. She`s incredibly friendly and funny, much more so than almost any Japanese person we`ve met. She`s got a Super Mario Brothers theme for her phone, that makes 1up noises whenever she gets a text message. She`s socially and mentally well-adjusted, and tends to make friends with everyone. She is an amazing artist, great at painting, and loves the same movies, manga, and anime that we tend to. We all immediately started hanging out.

Long story short, over the course of several weeks of nonstop flirting and back-and-forth, I end up asking her out, and get rejected. I think she likes me, but she had a bad breakup not too long ago and still can`t get over her ex. Which is honest and nice of her, that she doesn`t want to hurt anybody else because she`s like that, but still, nuts.

In the end, it`s not that big a deal. She`s really fun to hang out with, and every time we talk, we find we have more in common. She`s rapidly becoming one of my best friends here, and is really helping to round out the social dynamic we have going as a group. I know my mood has increased significantly since meeting her, and I`m thankful for that. Even if we are just friends, it`s still incredibly comforting to have someone that I can relate to on more than just a surface level.

My winter vacation plans sort of fell through (stupid credit card companies thinking I`m commiting fraud with my own cards), but we all may end up taking a short trip out somewhere in Japan, maybe Nara or Okinawa. In February, there`s a big trip up to Hokkaido, that involves a ferry, a gigantic snow festival, snowboarding, skiing, and sightseeing in Sapporo. So I`m definitely looking forward to that. Life is on the up and up. Sucks that I got rejected, but still, overall, life is good.