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Traveling Jam e-mails Ape Culture about Pop Culture in Japan.

Nine Random Thoughts From Japan

From: Traveling Jam
To: apemail@apeculture.com
Subject: Nine random thoughts from Japan
Date: Tuesday, November 30, 1999 10:13 PM

1: Language. I guess it would be safe to say that, unless people are speaking some serious dialect, I understand a majority of what people are saying to me. This is not always a good thing, as people around here, naturally, have the habit of assuming that I don't understand them...much as us foreigners assume that nobody understands English while we discuss that lady's wierd ass ensemble whilst riding through Nagasaki City on the streetcar. The other day I was wearing a pair of pants that hang especially low on the hips and I hear one student whispering to the other to check out my pants because it looks like I have a penis. I am standing directly in front of them, and they discuss the whole thing, not phased by my presence. Another boy from the Jr High (7th grader) comments on my bust size upon my entrance into the classroom. "She must be about 53!!" (centimeters that is) he hollers at the top of his lungs. This is the same boy that requested to know my "three sizes" on the first day I taught his class.

2: Peni. Whilst on the same island I had the opportunity to visit the famous Fertility Shrine. Although it should really be called the Penis Phun House, because it's main feature was a seven foot tall penis statue that one could not get one's arms around. Inside the shrine was a fine selection of antique Japanese pornography featuring male and female genetalia. It was all too surreal.

3: Chopsticks. Despite the fact that I've been here for two years, and all of my friends and their friends and their friends' friends know this - I got yet another "Wow, you're really good at using chopsticks". This turned out not to be such a bad thing because it came to light that I was actually holding them wrong. I always figured as long as I got the food in my mouth I'd be o.k. Plus, I've gotten so many "wow, you're good at using chopsticks" I guess I just got a swelled head.

4: Rice & Guns. One of my trick questions in class is a true or false question ... "True or False...Americans eat rice". 9 out of 10 times the students will say False. Another true/false question I ask is ..."All Americans own a gun". 10 out of 10 times the students say True. I certainly don't blame them for thinking this since recently a majority of what they hear about Americans is what gun-toting freaks we all are. They are genuinely surprised when I tell them that I don't own a gun in America.

5: Ear Piercing. Students here are not allowed to pierce their ears - of course some of them do so on their own and end up with wildly infected holes in their ears. They have these little bits of white plastic tube things that they put in their ears so they can keep the hole open and not wear a shiny silver or gold earring thusly attracting attention of the teachers and getting busted. When I tell them I got my ears pierced when I was 7 years old they practically faint from shock.

6: Roadkill. A daily sight out here in the country side. It's safe to say that not a day goes by that I don't witness some sort of splattered animal on the street. Usually it's cats, but sometimes it's these possum things that wander out into the road. Now that spring is here, it's bullfrog season. The hugest bullfrogs imaginable hopping across the street, (not stapled to the chicken, mind you) and quite often not making it. It's one of the stranger "natural" sights out here...but what's stranger is the CRAB roadkill. I'm not sure what it is about summer and I don't know how, but they manage to crawl all the way from the sea (which isn't too far in human steps from the road, but for crabs...) to the road, only to meet a grisly end to their little lives. I feel pretty sorry for the little guys...such a waste...

7: Music. There's a new singer here called Hikaru Utada. She's 16 or 17 years old and hugely popular. Her music reminds me a lot of American top 40 and maybe that explains why I like her - reminds me of home. She's got a pretty good voice and the English she uses is proper English (she went to American school in Tokyo) unlike some singers (an example "you are my lonely, you are my treasure...stay with me always, don't leave me alone" a song that was popular not too long ago leaving most English speakers puzzled as hell). She released her first album in the U.S. last year (I think???) in English. Another album coming out soon by UA (pronounced "ooooh-ahhh), a Japanese singer who is a great, non-typical chart buster. I think she even writes her own music...shocking!!

8: Teenagers. Well, loose socks have taken a back burner in this part of Japan, and the newest thing is tattoo bracelets. These are brown plastic Bracelets (or rings, or necklaces) that are supposed to look like tattoos. Up close it's just a cheap bracelet, but from far away, it actually does look very tatoo-ey. Even I have been fooled by those wiley teenagers.

9: T-shirts. I just bought a t-shirt for my sister that says "Drippy Kazoo" on it. I love that. I bought a t-shirt for my brother last year that said "Don't use telephone when you deal drugs". I almost bought a t-shirt for our very own Julie that said "Stick a fork in me, I'm done" but the collar was all wierd and I would hate it, so I figgered Julie would too.

That's all for now.
Your Japan Correspondant,
Traveling Jam

Read Traveling Jam's Other chronicles of life in Japan:
Ape's Abroad 1: Japanese TV, Karaoke, and Taiko
Ape's Abroad 2: Loose Sock Girls, Trip to the Big City, and Doraemon
Ape's Abroad 4: Top 13 Likes and 8 Dislikes

More Ape's Abroad articles?

Leave your comments about living in Japan.


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