Archive for January, 2005

Controversy for the whole family!

I just had a chat with someone we shall refer to as “the patriot,” which got me thinking about this subject. Most of us hard core ex-pats who truly try to integrate with the host culture often find ourselves in a complex situation. We have come to understand the host so well and many times even married into it. The patriot told me that we must always be patriotic to our native country or turn in our passports. Yet what would happen if the native country and host country collided?

Most “patriots” do not find any problems with foreigners becoming American but may be seen as strange or in a worst case senario a traitor if they became a citizen of another country and turned in their passports for a host country passport. This issue can raise a lot of emotions but the question is why in most cases does it only work one way?

For us in Japan that have integrated as much as the host culture will allow, we often do not agree with certain aspects of our native country and find some things actually better or “good” (even though it’s all relative) in the host country but according to the “patriot” we should always be completely patriotic even if we do not agree with the points we deem “bad” in our native culture.

The majority of travellers to foreign lands do not integrate to the point many of the hard core ex-pats have, and thus their numbers are small and some of their ideas will not agree with the mainstream simply due to statistics.

So I would like to get some feedback on these specific questions:

1. Is it possible to become so integrated with the host country that one turns in their American ( or another country’s)passport and not be seen as “strange” or in worst case senario a “traitor?” Why does this only work one way in the case of Asians coming to America and becoming American not being “strange” but if an American became a citizen of another country there is a certain stigma associated with it? In terms of Algebra, if x plus y equals z, doesn’t it also hold true that y plus x will also equal z?

2. Why does the idea of nationalism hold so strong even though it is commonly accepted that to understand others and integrate is a good thing so long as it’s not to far and ideas do not change too much. I find it impossible to integrate if I do not let go of some formerly held ideas and incorporate new ones. Integration is like mixing black and white paint which turns gray. We cannot integrate black and white and keep them seperate at the same time. That would simply not be integration.

3. If we look at history, nations come and go with the tides of time and different cultures become one. Yet we each live a relatively short life but instead of looking at the immensity of time and the change it brings we cling to our current culture, land, nation with ferocity. If I deconstruct my own, my loyalty would be American, then Ohioan (in some schools), then British, then Irish, then Gaelic, then some small tribe waiting to be overtaken by the Celts. Also, there is some polish in there so we have to deconstruct that and why should I not be loyal to those tribes as well? Throw in Geography for good measure and we were all one land at one point which seperated due to tectonics. So if we consider time, groups of people and land continually change and therefore if we were able to be immortal our loyalty would continually change.

Thus to be loyal to one nation, culture, population, we must forget that these continually change over time. So we focus on the now, and get our beliefs from the current grouping of people and possibly land we were born on. These beliefs will contradict that which other groups find “good” or “correct,” and to be truly loyal we must not try to understand their ideas since it might change some of our currently held beliefs. It’s easy for most of us to deconstruct or loyalties and still retain them yet why can we not be “forward thinking” and anticipate that cultures and nations will inevitably mix over thousands of years (if we don’t destroy ourselves first) and classify ourselves as avant-garde in integrating completely with other cultures to the point that it causes major conflict since our host country and native country have not integrated as of yet.

Therefore, I thought this would be a good debate for the hardcore ex-pat community since most do not travel and even less are able to integrate completely (or as much as possible). Those that do not integrate will be the most likely to call the integrator a traitor if he or she surrendered their passport. However, those that read this blog should be able to spark a much more lively debate then those who have not given integration a shot.

Happy Debating!

Akishima on The Move

For the past 18 years, the Moritown/Espa shopping complex has been “it” for Akishima residents and until it’s renovation, the complex didn’t really offer much in the way of products or jobs. That is rapidly changing. Over the next year or so, Akishima will see a cinema complex, a Harley Davidson store, a restaurant/specialty mall, and a swimming school. I am personally looking forward to the restaurant/mall and cinema complex.

This development should help pull Akishima out of the dark pit of economical depression it has wallowed in over the past decade and a half. Moritown alone has created jobs for a lot of the local high school kids, senior citizens, and single mothers.

Akishima Station Development Plans.

The Weather

What happened to the snow forecasted for today? Nothing but rain and more rain. For you data collectors, here are some Tokyo weather links:

World Climate: Tokyo.

Monthly Climate Report: 2002 – 2004.

Normals (1970 – 200)Visual Weather Forecast for Kanto and Koshin.

New Years

I think we were supposed to post a picture of what we did on New Years. I spent mine in Fukushima snowboarding in peace and quiet. Luckily for me it was the coldest day of the year and there was a snowstorm.


Newspaper fee collectors have gone from toothless, poorly dressed, and unhappy to having a full set of teeth, dressed nicely, and able to do more than grunt. (Was the former only in my neighborhood?) The guy who came around last time managed a smile. (A SMILE?!) This disturbing trend of niceness has carried over to Mainichi’s sales department.

Upon answering the phone this evening, I was greeted by a very grandmotherly voice. My first thought was, “Oh, this must be someone from school.” (This was incorrect.) The voice asked very politely if I would consider changing to Mainichi from Asahi. Do you know how difficult it was to turn down such a defenseless sounding voice?

This niceness approach is a cunning plan. How many will fall for it?

Fertility Festival

On a brighter note. An interesting video on Tokyo DV about a Fertility Festival.

Japanese doctors and pain management

I have had several relatives die from cancer and in the case of my mother, my sister and I were in charge of her pain management. Now my fiancé’s father is hospitalized with cancer and is suffering a great deal of pain. I had heard this in the past, but now am experiencing first-hand, the inclination of Japanese doctors to try to explain that a too much morphine or other painkiller is bad. This is ridiculous and very backwards. I am pulling strings to try to get better pain management for him. The level of control they give the family and approach to pain management in Japan compared to the US is extremely behind the times and I would suggest to anyone who has a loved one about to be hospitalized for something that requires strong painkillers to seriously consider going to the US if you can afford it. I may be over-generalizing and I would be curious to know if anyone has had any GOOD experiences in Japan with pain management or oncologists.

Hot. Hot. Hot.

Has anyone else ventured into Mos Burger and tried the new habanero burger they are offering? I have. (The warning label is not an advertising gimmick.) The habanero burger is several magnitudes hotter than Blair’s Sudden Death Sauce or a cup full of wasabi.

Since misery likes company, why don’t you other Tokyoites give it a try! Don’t forget to take a handkerchief or several packets of tissues to staunch the flow of tears.

The Habanero has landed inJapan.

Racism in Japan

In today’s Japan times there is an article on page 13 entitled “Racism is bad business.” It addresses the issue of foreigners being barred entry to certain Japanese establishments and how this hurts international business in Japan. Over my 3 years in Japan I have seen many articles and pieces devoted to this issue and I would like to get some feedback from you other Japan ex-pats out there. We all know that racism is not good but for the sake of sport, I would like to argue against all this whining from ex-pats about the racism issue. So without further delay let’s start the debate.

I have never experienced being barred from any Japanese establishments (of course I lived in Tokyo and it may differ in the countryside) and I’m tired of all this ex-pat whining. Japan is a homogenous country and they have very specific customs and rules of behavior that most foreigners cannot understand. Most of us ex-pats are good hard working people and try to understand Japan from the inside. But then you have the other type of “gaijin” like in Shibuya or Roppongi that are extremely shady and are suspect. If I was Japanese I would bar these people too.

Further, I (like many of us) got my start in Japan teaching English. We used to go to Watami, get extremely drunk and make a wreck of the place. Some gaijins commented that many of us go crazy because we are not in our home country and think that acceptable forms of behavior no longer apply. There were food fights, vegetarians that gave the waiters hell if they could not understand that they wanted their salads with no bacon bits and got angry when the food came with a bit of meat, and drunkards spilling their beers all over the place. I’ve noticed that the Japanese do not resort to this type of behavior no matter how drunk they are. Just go to any of the foreigner areas in Tokyo and you’ll be sure to see a gaijin making a mess of himself.

Most Japanese in the countryside do not know how to deal with foreigners and a few bad apples have spoiled it for the rest of us. I think that on the overall and circumstances being what they are here in Japan, the Japanese do a very good job of hosting the foreigner. Sure there are hard times and I too have been rejected from many apartments because I was a foreigner. But once you learn the ropes of dealing with the Japanese and speak the language, many of these obstacles dissapear into thin air. Don’t get me wrong, I almost lost my sanity a few times dealing with apartment rental and university life where they do not know how to deal with foreigners. But after being here for three years and learning the language, my life has become 300% easier. I think that if gaijins made more of an effort to understand Japan and the Japanese instead of trying to have Japan adjust to them, this racism stuff would ease up a bit.

The article lists a website at that apparently catalogs pictures of foreigners being barred entry. Might be worth a look but not getting too angry over.

Back in Tokyo

I’m back in Tokyo for one week and it feels like a homecoming. I really missed this place and it’s good to be back.

There wasn’t much culture shock like going to America and my first experience was interesting. I sat and chatted with a young American who came to visit his brother who is English teaching here. At immigration he didn’t know the address and they said he could not come through unless he wrote something down and he really didn’t know what to do. I explained in Japanese to immigration that he was visiting his brother upon which they said to write the school name. He didn’t know that either so I just told him to write NOVA and he got through just fine. The immigration people here are much friendlier than those scary people in America. They are kind and try to help here rather than the unfriendly American ones who only get louder if foreigners cannot speak English well. Props to Japanese immigration.

I really enjoyed seeing the little things that are only in Japan like a drunk salaryman staggering down the steps before me and people falling asleep on the train. I cannot find this anywhere else in the world.

I’m now writing this blog in a weekly hotel near Tokyo station and I must say that this part of town is a bit lonely. I used to live in lively Mejiro and had Ikebukuro, Shinjyuku and Shibuya nearby. I’m wondering if there is really anything to do on this part of town or if people actually live here. It also doesn’t help that it’s New Years and everyone has gone home. I guess I could have picked a better time to visit when everyone wasn’t back in their hometowns.

I must also comment on my trip back to America. I have no culture shock here but going back home was an experience. When I stepped off the plane and was walking through the terminal the first thing I saw on T.V. was a News question asking “Are you afraid you’ll be the victim of a terrorist attack?” I couldn’t believe it and I started to wonder just how hysterical the Americans have become with this. It didn’t end there however as I heard on the radio a new song about “Santa Claus for Freedom,” or something like that. I started laughing and my relatives got a little angry with me. I do believe that the entire country has gone mad. Staying with the subject I saw a pretty large American with an “Operation Iraqi Freedom” hat, wrestling shoes and a sweat outfit on standing in line at Japanese immigration. I wonder if he actually got through. Perhaps most Americans are going a bit too far with the terrorist/freedom thing but I did see a book entitled “There’s a terrorist in my soup,” at the local book store which tells me they haven’t all succumb to the mass propoganda the media is throwing out.

Well, I must be off to try and find some shops that might actually be open today instead of just sit inside and waste my precious time here in Tokyo.

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