I WILL get a photo or video of this, I swear. But for now you will have to do with my description.
We are watching tv… a colorful bright happy commercial comes on with a cute guy in front of a white background, cute jingle playing and animated character interacting with him in the corner of the screen. He is putting on a turtleneck sweater and he just can’t seem to get it over his head. Within seconds, we see several clips of the same guy trying to pull various turtlenecks over his head without success, they keep getting stuck on his head or face. The last clip he gets it over his head, folds it neatly and smiles, then high fives the little animated character. And thats it.
What is the commercial for you ask? Turtlenecks? anti-depression medication? Insurance, toothpaste, a trade school? oh no. It doesn’t say ANYWHERE, but it is actually a commercial for a clinic that does surgery for those men who are unfortunate enough not be able to get the head of their penis through the foreskin. Yup. Thats it. Hence the trying to pull on a turtleneck sweater. But apparently it doesn’t actually say that anywhere on the ad, its just understood by the adults that see it.
In Japan, the trains stop running at midnight. Hence if you want to drink and talk late into the night, it is common for friends to stay over. Like Ryosuke. We met up with him at a local izakaya (bar restaurant) and realized about 11:30 that we weren’t anywhere close to being finished. “Let’s stay over!” we offered and he called his wife to check in. Ryosuke is curious about everything geinjin-related because he lived in America for 2 years. For him to talk to me, someone who has lived in Japan for 2 years, it’s a perfect match for exchanging understanding of the two countries and the two peoples.
Once back to our apartment, we all changed into comfortable clothes and opened beers and snacks and didn’t stop talking until 3am. He speaks fairly good English, and we kept switching back and forth between languages.
There is nothing quite like talking to someone who grew up with none of the same assumptions as you to show you just how arbitrary some of the things you believe are. It also shows you what you REALLY care about.
He laughed when I called my boyfriend ‘sweetie.’ ”It sounds too much, too sweet!” he said. And yet, to me its a vital expression of care, a way to attach someone to you through word, to remind them what they mean to you.
The whole night was spent making discoveries, arguing, laughing, and wondering… isn’t it amazing how different and yet how essentially the same everyone is. ”We all want to fall in love… we want real deep love, where you can talk and be honest,” he said.
I can honestly say that traveling to somewhere where people are not the same as you, even “traveling” there in a chat room or through facebook, to communicate with those you might not agree with is the most incredible and essential way to learn about yourself. Try it today. Talk with someone you wouldn’t expect, might not even want to talk to. They might surprise you.
If you haven’t been to Japan, you may not have experienced the joys of kaiten (or turning) sushi. You sit next to a conveyor belt, the raw fish just keeps going on by, and you can choose however many of whichever kind you like.
The funny thing is that when we went, Naoki said “Don’t take the ones on the belt… they aren’t fresh enough!” So we order them through a little machine at the table and then they come out on the belt with a special notice that the plate is for our table. So those lonely pieces of not specifically ordered sushi just go around and around and around getting less and less fresh.
Um what? Beer and juice together? Beer that tastes like juice? Juice squeezed from the rare and infamous beer tree?
As I come to find out, it’s actually a non-alcoholic beer-flavored drink that you can then add your own sho-chu to. Sho-chu is like japanese vodka, strong and and clear with no taste… so once you use Hoppy, you have created a mixed drink that tastes like beer. Oh Japan.
Some times a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.
No one was scalped in the taking of this photograph.
Time: 11:45am. Place: Edogawa-ku, Tokyo. Status: Freshly awoken, coffee in hand. Temperature: Perfect.
Its 10pm. A dark cold night and I am walking home from the subway station, fighting off the drizzle in the air. I am about to cross the crosswalk right in front of my apartment and I hear a siren. Sirens are slightly different here than in America, but they still identifiably dangerous. I stop on the sidewalk and wait to see where it is coming from. Soon the source of the sound appears, a white and red ambulance.
What I then notice is that the two people in front of me are two middle-aged Japanese women walking their bikes, and they have failed to notice the sound. They make it halfway into the intersection just as the ambulance is approaching. The ambulance slows, the women slow. The women stop–bikes in hand, looking at the ambulance like it is a blue cow with wings. Just stopped, frozen in the middle of the intersection.
I want to scream “MOVE!!” but I don’t. After what feels like minutes of hesitation, though it was probably only 1 or 2 seconds, they start bowing their heads and rush across the rest of the intersection to get out of the way.
Is this the japanese concept of wanting to respectfully make sure every decision is a correct decision before proceeding, but rearing its head in a completely useless fashion? When they heard the siren, they could have backed up to the sidewalk where they came from, or rushed onto the far side of the street, even if they hadn’t seen the ambulance yet. Isn’t that emergency protocol? Also since they had bikes in hand, wouldn’t it have been faster for them to get ON them, instead of walking along side them?
I stood amazed watching this happen, the driver of the ambulance and the women bowing heads and trying to figure out who would cross first. At a point of emergency, at a critical moment, decisions need to be made faster without consideration for politeness. I find the respectfulness of Japan incredibly beneficial and yet limiting when citizens hesitate to take decisive action when it is needed.