I came across this depressingly soggy ex-manga on the road near my apartment:
This was a volume in the ダーリンは外国人 series (Literally translates as My Darling is a Foreigner but has been sold in English translation under the godawful title Is He Turning Japanese? Out of basic respect for human dignity I will use the literal translation in this post).
Whoever left this must really have not liked what they read since it looks like they took the effort of tearing the the binding apart into three pieces before leaving it to rot. I’ve read the first two volumes (one of Mrs. Adamu’s friends gave them to us as a gift appropriate for our situation), and while they weren’t my favorite they don’t deserve this level of disrespect.
But I always believe that when life gives you soggy manga on the street, you use that opportunity to write a review of that manga in the hope that something constructive can come out of such a senseless waste:
Adamu’s thoughts on My Darling is Foreigner
The series, a semi-autobiographical episodic story of the daily life of the author, a Japanese woman with no international experience or English ability, and her quirky, multilingual American husband, was a surprise hit in Japan. According to an undated article at the Hiragana Times, the first volume has had at least 28 print runs since the first edition hit bookshelves in 2002.
I might expect too much from a manga that wears its light-heartedness on its sleeve, but this title was a letdown when I read it a few years back. As a manga it is very well-drawn (I was especially impressed with the detailed closeups of Tony’s face), but the depiction of main character Tony (pictured above) leans too heavily toward a two-dimensional “Hello Kitty” caricature, someone who hasn’t got a personality so much as a list of quirky but endearing distinguishing traits (extremely obsessed with learning languages, generally kind-hearted but won’t change his mind once he’s settled on a decision, doesn’t like to be told how to wash the dishes out of a sense of respect for individuality, has deep-set eyes).
While Darling was basically very well-received by a public that’s used to being entertained by exotic-looking foreigners who love Japan and can speak their language, the manga was not without its detractors. Critical Amazon commenters, many of whom claimed to be in international relationships and to have received the manga from well-meaning friends, seemed turned off by the superficial observations and general dullness of confusing the routine aspects of married life with a deep commentary on international marriage just because the husband has a white face and commutes to Starbucks. Some speculated that the author’s lack of English ability and experience abroad led her to concentrate on the superficial aspects of Tony and fall short of all but the most amateurish insights. Interestingly, some pointed out that Tony seems far more integrated with Japanese society than your typical foreigner, while others got the impression that he’s just a miser who couldn’t fit in back home.
I felt a little disappointed to see a person reduced to such simplicity in the name of keepin’ it honobono, especially since the title implies he represents “foreigners.” And I want to emphasize that Tony is in no way typical of the American population here. Some of Tony’s quirks – as seen in episodes where he badgers a pizza place into letting him use expired coupons and demands a waiter give them wine free of charge since he didn’t like how it tasted – are downright abrasive and share more in common with the stereotypical obatarian than an American man, let alone “foreigners,” which as a term is far too broad (though it fits in with the Japanese connotation of gaikokujin to mean a white Westerner first and foremost). More than any of that, however, I found it hard to stay interested in want of any compelling characters or really any story elements more complicated than your typical episode of Sazae-san.
Still I don’t see any reason to disrespect a perfectly good manga, especially when there is a used book store just a few hundred meters away.
211 thoughts on ““My Darling is a Foreigner” Manga disrespected in Ayase”
Think about the incredible reduction in the title: my darling is a foreigner. I know that this is probably for commercial reasons, but seriously, the whole premise — marrying a… what??? foreigner??? — already feels like nails on chalkboards.
Yes the title is pretty bad, but I was even more offended by the official English title.
I guess using the world gaikokujin lets you know that the intended audience must be the segment of the population who rarely comes in contact with people who aren’t ethnically/culturally Japanese and thus lives in a world where there are Japanese and then there are “foreigners.” In other words, pretty much 90% of the population.
Catherine Macklon has a small cult following among foreigners in Japan. Here’s a sample of her work in English – an entry to an ANA fiction contest:
“…Keiji watched her as he spoke. Caroline was always aware of his watchfulness, cocooning her in the safe nest of his care. No longer did she feel alone as she had with William. He had tried to understand her when she cried, when she told him she was leaving. He had stood so still. His hands had hung by his sides. “But I love you. You know that.” But he had not needed her. He was not hungry for her as Keiji was. He had not breathed as she breathed, and dreamt and journeyed with her as her Japanese husband did. As he ran his hand over her white mochi skin she would stroke the dark hair that fell over his face and marvel at it thickness and strength. The sweet taste of his skin had surprised her too, even more than its silky golden sheen…”
Wow. Catherine might be the mirror universe version of the author of “The Soul of Japan.” Example (has some NSFW images)
Joe, that is by far my favorite hilariously creepy Japan blog.
I think I’ve come across with the guy over Ampontan blog a while ago.
Anyway,adding more fule to the fire.The 2003 Aussie film “The Japanese Story”….
Ugh, I hated that movie. So boring and pointlessly depressing! It made me feel like life is completely meaningless. At least Darling had a hopeful vibe.
To tell you the truth,I haven’t seen the film yet.Just thought this is just one another Salaryman-meets-girl in the format of “The Creature from the Black Lagoon”minus creature and inserts Japanese dude.
“marrying a… what??? foreigner???”
Can’t you also take it as – I’m married to a foreigner, that’s awesome and fascinating, so read my book?
“cocooning her in the safe nest of his care”
That made my day.
“that is by far my favorite hilariously creepy Japan blog”
I agree. I’ve refrained from making such a comment because he comes around and posts on other blogs from time to time.
Manga – there are different types of non-fiction manga. Some are dead serious. Some are marketed by including what readers expect from niche women’s manga or the light essay genre. “Darling” is creating Tony as a “chara”. This is a concept that dominates Japanese manga criticism – it basically means that he isn’t tied to any sort of plot/story/issues, he just is. That means that he can jump from cliched backdrop to cliched backdrop. The Tony in “Darling” could appear in a “Tony in Space” manga and it wouldn’t seem odd. Why? Because he isn’t a character in any meaningful way, he’s a “chara”. If there was anything critical or emotionally engaging there, you probably wouldn’t just be able to drop him into space and expect it to work. The manga can be enjoyed on that level – the unending, unchaging everyday hilarity that is Tony. But he does come off looking like a bit of a jerk….
Behind a grating title, however, is a pretty good natured book. It has evoked a lot of “wow, Japan still has a long way to come” comments from the foreign community, but as a good natured look at crossing cultures, it works as a pop product. What struck me when I first read it is how uncommon similar products are. The short lived “All American Girl” (talk about grating titles) sitcom was a rare light American work to look at cross-cultural issues (a Korean American family) and there have been a few lighthearted looks at Indian Americans and Brits in film and chicklit, we definitely don’t get enough of the other’s eye view in entertainment in the “multi-cultural” countries – we mostly end up with tokenism that turns out to be grating in its own way. And there is also the issue of there being a big market in Japan for foreigners complaining about the country – light hearted or not. Hard to imagine that going over big back home.
“Salaryman-meets-girl in the format of “The Creature from the Black Lagoon”minus creature and inserts Japanese dude.”
That made my day a second time (if that’s even possible).
Soul of Japan is wacky. The detailed take on Mishima’s ritual disembowelment a couple weeks back was a bit much. And most of the post’s read like entries in the Bulwer-Lytton contest.
ダーリン is Japanese woman vs. Foreign guy; Macklan is foreign woman vs. Japanese guy; and then there is 奥様はニューヨーカー, which originally ran many moons ago as アメリカ駐在物語, a story of a Japanese family that moves to suburban NYC and tries to get used to life in the US.
Anyhow, my wife and I have read four or five of the Darling related books, and while at times the interplay can be annoying, on the whole I find the books entertaining. It’s more Saori Oguri’s drawings of her own somewhat spastic Kansai personality that saves it.
Beyond that, though, the subject matter was fairly fresh in that it depicted the mundane sides of being married to a foreigner in Japan, something that the Tokyo Metropolis or other magazine may occasionally spotlight, but is rarely given a narrative. I feel that TV goes the opposite way, in showing people like Noriko Endo, Kumiko Goto, or Dewi Sukarno that married into the purple.
But the series is very hit and miss. For those in international marriages, the episodes just may not be funny. My father taught inner city high school, and looked a lot like Gabe Kaplan, but *hated* to watch Welcome Back, Kotter. I guess it’s similar to that…
“Still I don’t see any reason to disrespect a perfectly good manga, especially when there is a used book store just a few hundred meters away.”
Ripped up by a Japanese woman who just broke up with her darling foreigner?
If this were Tony in Space it would be one thing, but even its subtitle claims the manga to be ルポ ie reportage, as if it were a sociological experiment of some kind. So in that sense I can definitely understand why so many people were let down by what’s essentially false advertising.
“Ripped up by a Japanese woman who just broke up with her darling foreigner?”
Wasn’t me. (looks around uneasily)
What about the どーなるの？before the ルポ？I think that was throwing a little hint that it might not be that serious.
There aren’t too many bad reviews on Amazon.co.jp so I think that most people knew the score.
Anyway, I want to see ダーリンは刑務所の中 （don’t have anything against Tony, 刑務所の中 is an excellent serious non-fiction manga).
Adamu, I think that your comment on Japanese Story highlights something important – it seems as though there is almost an obligation floating around out there to do cross-cultural experience as a for-your-award-consideration take on the soul crushing emptiness of postmodern life. My marriage isn’t all like “Darling”, but it is a lot more like that than like Japanese Story of Jungle Fever.
It is actually more like うちの妻ってどうでしょう a recent funny relationship manga.
This is what you call a 柳の下の二匹目のドジョウ in Japanese phrase,but this manga is about marrying to Indian.Wasn’t bad.
That reminds me, while not exactly about a “relationship”, this one –
– is about another recent topic of blogsphere conversation – young(ish) mothers. It is hilarious and has been getting great reviews all over. Marxy, you should check it out if you haven’t already. That also reminds me – ヤンキー進化論 looks like another must get.
I picked this up at Book-off yesterday.But this Khmer Rouge child soldier manga is so far the best reportage manga in the decade.
I stumbled on 密林少年 at a manga kissa about a year back. Speaking of unfortunate titles – the literal Jungle Boy translation / English subtitle of that one is unfortunate.
Ace, have you read this one?
Pushing the boundaries of what we can consider a “reportage” manga – the Cancer and metal illness parts of Blackjack ni Yoroshiku are just excellent.
I really appreciated My Darling is a Foreigner. Before it, people always assumed that any Japanese person who dated a foreign must be a fluent English speaker. After it, people understood that foreigners could actually become fluent in Japanese (even if Tony is obsessively nerdy about it). I think it served a powerful sociological purpose in changing outlooks in Japan.
Oh, I can’t resist: gratuitous Soul of Japan plug:
“Nihonshu, nihonshu, nihonshu. I can feel the warmth FEEL down my throat as if the warmth is another living organism in itself feeling me as I feel it. I’m being drank.”
According to the postscript in the first volume, the title was not chosen by Saori, but her publisher (nor were they actually married at that stage).
“…eople always assumed that any Japanese person who dated a foreign must be a fluent English speaker.”
I think that still exists, to some extent – if only along the lines of “you gotta be taking advantage of all the free eikwaiwa, right?” My wife gets “and so you speak English well?” by pretty much everyone we meet as a couple, and always has to admit that she can’t say much more than “Hello.”
Re Catherine Macklon: Wow, that won two CLUB ANA round-trip tickets to the ANA International Destination of her choice? Reminds me of a short story I read in Wingspans years ago along the same lines, about the strange but mysteriously attractive white husband who insisted on eating his peach skins. That was a pile of pretentiousness too. So at least Saori avoids the worst excesses of that tripe.
I won’t deny that it might have played a role in convincing people that it’s normal for even a white-looking person to speak Japanese. But I honestly have no bearings to say one way or the other.
I’ve been googling all day long looking for that TVCM of playstation 2 game with Japanophile white dude playing game with his girlfriend and learning Japanese.One hilarious commercial,but I can’t find it anywhere on the web.Anyone know about it?
I prefer the Kansai-with-attitude girl marries smart-but-absent-minded Russian blog/book:
But I’m a Osaka guy by heart. (even though I now live in Tokyo)
While the non-Japanese community takes it for granted, My Darling Is A Foreigner broke a lot of stereotypes for the average Japanese unfamiliar with “international marriages”:
Tony is educated and smart (to the point of nerdy), not poor, not an English teacher / IT worker / Investment Banker, not in his 20s, speaks/reads/writes fluent Japanese yet still has communication problems, lives in Japan, likes living in Japan, communicates in Japanese despite being able to speak the “international language” of the world.
And his quirks that people criticized? That’s called being human. All husbands (and wives) have them. By pointing out Tony’s flaws (the arguing over coupons, etc), Japanese see similarities to themselves and their own relationships more than they see NJ in a bad light.
I’d rather Tony be representative of me, simplistic or not, than the typical portrayal of Westerners living in Japan.
And Soul of Japan. Holy crap. I can see how he’s into Mishima. That memoir “Sun and Steel” was memorably painful reading. Not a big fan, myself.
The thing that’s always amused me about the comic is the concept of portraying Debito’s arch-rival Tony as a super kawaii mascot. Part of me has always been secretly hoping for a similarly kawaii Debito to move in as the wacky iconoclast next door to stir up the storyline.
@MattAlt sounds like an anime to me. 「となりのデビト」 ？
Shit, there went the thread.
Just curious, does anyone know why Debito gets so visceral about Tony?
They have personal beef, maybe over several issues but the one I know about involves something called KIKAKU which was some attempt at having a multilingual, cross-cultural web forum. Tony at some point deleted the archives permanently and Debito hated that deeply.
And yeah, that had to come up eventually and dominate the entire thread. I mean the cartoon’s a fun idea but grr
D. Aldwinkle has blogged a lot about it, and so it’s not worth going into here, but it partly involved the archives for a forum site on NJ issues that they were both part of (sorry if I’m not doing justice to the whole story). The whole explanation reads kind of like Yoko Ono breaking up the Beatles.
I enjoy the fact that Tony does not entirely look like his manga character, who to me looks more like Willy from the Simpsons, if he had a full head of hair.
The forum was called Issho Kikaku. Debito dislikes the fact that Tony is regularly referred to as the” Administrator of NGO ISSHO Kikaku” which he regards as little short of fraudulent representation. My favourite comment on his site was when he worried that his disagreements with Tony
“…would just be construed as a personal squabble. Seen as a petty dispute between two alpha males who just can’t get along, or who are somehow jousting for the pole position of “Mr Kokusaika” etc. Or, as time went on and the DAARIN WA GAIKOKUJIN turned him into a media superstar, seen as sour grapes for him getting rich and famous on his wife’s talents.”
Probably for the same reasons he gets visceral about everything else.
Harasho is pretty funny. I love the screaming Russian father-in-law.
So what does Tony do, aside from inspire his wife’s manga? Apologies if the manga says, as I’ve never even glanced at it.
I think I’ve mentioned before how I keep meaning to pick up a copy of Marie Tsukuda’s “Memoirs of a Stripper”:
“I was in Nagoya, Japan, a large unexciting industrial city for five lonely years, trapped in a loveless marriage with my absentee Japanese husband, Haru. I originally went over to Japan to work with a dance troupe. Yes, a long time ago, I actually was something resembling a real dancer. Anyway, I know this sounds so trite you probably think I made it up, but Haru saw me in the chorus, was bedazzled by my energy, and asked the Mama San if he could meet me…Haru came from a long line of wealthy samurai. But, his family had fallen on hard times when Haru was just a young boy. Even though his family would always be able to maintain their high social stature, it became slightly tainted because of some of his father’s dealings with some shady characters, aka Yakuza.
…I always thought the reason I drank so much was because I was stuck in Japan. It never dawned on me the reason I was stuck in Japan was because I drank so much. But looking back now, the irrefutable truth was I would never have stayed in Japan feeling so trapped if I hadn’t been drinking”
He’s some sort of freelance journalist. I’ve never seen him in print so I can’t say what he writes about.
There’s some more third-party color on the Tony versus Debito saga in this article:
And to Mulboyne – those quotes are fantastic.
If he is a journalist, it doesn’t seem like Tony publishes very much….
”I was in Nagoya, Japan, a large unexciting industrial city for five lonely years,”
OK,now I’m offended.
And I predict this thread will go for hundered comments…..
Don’t worry Aceface – Nagoya is only a large unexciting industrial city for five lonely years – after the sixth it gets really exciting…..
I gather Tony doesn’t need to do anything thanks to royalites. Which really annoys Debito, whose own career was going os badly he felt the need to publicly announce he was going to resign (for not being allowed to do something that he wasn’t hired to do, which he blamed on racism [of course]). Mulboyne’s quote is pretty much bang on the money. Debito seems to hate being anything other than the star. However Lazlo is being rather lazy – or extremely low-key.
Problem is I’m going to be here only for another two more years….
I think I have enough materials to sell to the publishers under the title of “My wife is a Mongolian”or “I married a Mongolian communist” or something.
I have to give a thumb up to the manga for Tony Lazlo,with help from his wife,did enlightened many readers the basic of multiculturalism and international marriage.
That probably made many international couple a lot easier time to get recognized by in-laws.
I was once mistaken for Tony Laszlo. My wife and I were getting got off a train in her home town and bumped into an old school friend she hadn’t seen for years. When my wife introduced me by name, the girl looked at me and my beard and my gaijinness and said “まさか漫画のじゃないよね?”
Actually Tony, I spent a few years telling people I’d once met Tony Laszlo when a later look at the meishi you gave me revealed I’d made a terrible mistake. I didn’t think you were Laszlo at the time but when his name came up I kept thinking “Yes, I met this interesting journo-type called Tony” and fused you both together in my brain.
I have met the real Tony Lazlo. Is there a prize??
My wife is flattered to have been mistaken for a million selling manga artist!
“I have met the real Tony Lazlo. Is there a prize??”
Yes, but you have to claim it from Debito.
My fiancée received this manga as a gift from her friends back in Japan. I thought it was cute. I would like to read the English version. The title is funny as I am hearing this from my friends.
Looked at the link Joe Jones posted that lead to the Japanreview.net article – which in turn lead to me looking both guys up in Wikipedia – where Debito wins with regards to length and coverage. The most interesting part was reading the discussion page of Wikepedia for the entry which is massively longer than the entry itself with stoushes surrounding whether Japanreview.net is a reliable source and whether anything other than favourable reviews should be used as a reference and so on.
To be honest the Wikipedia entry itself reads a bit strangely, more like the start of a novel then a biographic entry.
Something I said was quoted in the second Darling book. I didn’t get a prize.
By the way, I will buy “Mongolian Communist” when it comes out in print.
“looking both guys up in Wikipedia – where Debito wins with regards to length and coverage.”
I’m pretty sure that Tony is fine with letting Debito have his longer Wikipedia entry.
What does it say about the internet (well, Wikipedia really) when Debito has a considerably longer English Wikipedia article than someone who is legitimately famous in Japan like Tony or a bit famous and very important (from the point of view of the foreign community’s penetration into the culture industry) like anime director Michael Arias? Or, for that matter, a “dean” of Japanese Studies like Chalmers Johnson or someone who is legitimately controversial like van Wolferen?
It is inherently unfair that Debito dominates any thread with even a tangential connection to him, just as any post that can be connected to the Nanjing Massacre or comfort women or whaling becomes about that when those topics are some of the things I am least interested in. Its just a law of the internet that there are certain topics where moral simplicity and controversy magically combine to allow everyone to have a strong opinion one way or the other.
Amen to that.
But then again,that the fun part of the comment section….
Adam : one shall thereby refer to this as Debito’s Law, for its striking resemblance with Godwin’s law. “Its just a law of the internet that there are certain topics where moral simplicity and controversy magically combine to allow everyone to have a strong opinion one way or the other.”
No. This is Richards’s Corollary to Godwin’s Law. Debito indirectly created this problem but does not deserve to have his name on it.
So far we only have men’s opinion on the issue here.
Is there anyone out there who would be the potential author of “My Darling is a Japanese”?
Easier said than done. I have yet to get a regular female commenter here that I know about…
I’m sure there must be some male, white illustrators married to Japanese women, although now that I think about it, none of the comic book artists I know at home are with Asian girls.
I am both married to a Japanese and a decent artist, but I cannot thing of anything cute or quirky about my relationship. I think that knack for creating a “Tony” is rather feminine. You can be a successful comic artist with crappy pictures, but not the other way around.
“I have yet to get a regular female commenter here that I know about…”
I really hadn’t thought of that before… About half of Japanese Studies profs that I know are women, about half of grad students are women, but people participating in online discussion (even on a site like Neojaponisme that does a variety of cultural topics) – overwhelmingly men. I this just a J-blog thing?
I think they’re around, but they just complain about different things on different blogs.
” About half of Japanese Studies profs that I know are women, about half of grad students are women”
Thta’s what I thought.Especially after I read this article on JT about how foreign scholar had reacted to Aso’s deram plan of making national manga/anime archive(HT to Japan Probe)
Five out of six commenting are women.
“Five out of six commenting are women.”
I noticed the same thing. A lot of the best work done on Japanese film and literature in English is being done by women as well. Which makes the gap in (serious) online / blogsphere discussion look even stranger.
I don’t think that it is a debate thing either – the above mentioned female academics are always ready to throw down.
Is it the same for, say, US politics, media, or film blogs?
That my so-called life blog is awesome. Too bad she doesnt list us in her “nice people” links
“That my so-called life blog is awesome.”
It also shut down a year and a half ago.
I had certainly noticed the lack of female discussion in the Japan-related English language blogosphere (China related as well, but possibly not quite as extreme), but I’m afraid I have no explanation for it. Good point on how women are hardly under-represented in Japanese studies, but merely in the online discussion of it. There is a kind of heavy male otaku/tech nerd oriented flavor to many Japan related blogs/sites that would turn off most women, but there are also plenty of sites without it so it hardly explains the overall state.
“Is it the same for, say, US politics, media, or film blogs?”
There’s certainly more men writing political blogs, but there’s also Wonkette, Huffington Post, etc. and women seem to be well represented in comments (although with online handles it can be hard to say for sure).
My guess is that the wanton dick-swinging in our corner of the blogosphere turns off most female commenters.
The women I know who read this blog just communicate their thoughts to me directly instead of posting them publicly, but that is also not limited just to women.
Joe is definitely right – those kinds of issues are almost exclusively male-oriented.
Also, I think any site that routinely posts about idols or things of that nature will have trouble attracting a female readership. If we actually looked we would find PLENTY of female bloggers on Japan – they are just not posting on stuff we are necessarily interested in.
Hm I wrote a whole comment to that “Charisma Men” post but she isnt allowing comments anymore. So I’ll post is here:
I really enjoyed reading this well-written, thoughtful, and balanced post (and I dont just say that because I am one of those people who met his Japanese wife in the States before coming to Japan). Your description that “his behavior was extremely childish and overtly attention-seeking and boastful” feels VERY appropriate for how some people act here.
The most offensive thing about your former co-worker has to be his complete inability to mature emotionally. Clearly he has a tough time self-reflecting and puts others down to justify himself. It is amazing (though maybe not surprising) that he could not find a way to reconcile his Charisma Man tendencies with a healthier attitude toward others. I think it’s inevitable for some people to grow up with awkward social skills and even for some of those people to fall into the Charisma Man routine because it’s easy (and probably kind of liberating for someone who’s spent most of their life being “given a wide berth”). We live in an age where all-consuming self-centeredness is sometimes celebrated. Combine that with a tough time at high school and an inordinate amount of time spent in the company of one’s anime, and you have a recipe for awkwardness.
It’s probably not that different from a better-adjusted man spending his 20s sleeping around and being a total lecher. But as adults living in polite society people have a responsibility to try and dampen their worst excesses and come to terms with their demons, or else their bad attitudes will start to look like the Guest that Wouldn’t Leave. Those who still have a chip on their shoulder at age 40 are probably not Charisma Men any longer but more like a nerdy reject version of Chris Rock’s guy who’s too old to be at the club.
BTW – You should start blogging again! I was very saddened to read this post and later find out you stopped writing here in March 2008
From that other thread: “I personally have never met a foreign woman on the prowl for Japanese men, at least not the way Charisma Men prowl for Japanese women. I imagine there are some out there, but I bet there aren’t many.”
Definitely less common than the reverse, but I can still think of a half-dozen or so examples I’ve known.
“but I can still think of a half-dozen or so examples I’ve known.”
Really? All I know is one and only Catherine Macklon….
Did anyone notice in the comments for Charisma Man – that there was a reference to Debito? There must be some sort of rule, 6 degrees of separation, for any english blog that refers to Japan with regards to him.
Hm there has to be a special term for a cougar who targets Japanese men… a Jougar? Jaguar?
But at any rate there was recently an NHK series all about a women who live in Ohara just northeast of Kyoto, is married to a Japanese man, and grows her own organic produce or something. There are plenty of women who have Japanese boyfriends husbands. In my neighborhood there are lots of Russian wives (I am sure Joe can back me up on this) though they might not count depending on their situations. It might be a little more common in Tokyo.
But the commenter is right that these women probably never “prowl” in the “extremely childish and overtly attention-seeking and boastful” style of a Charisma Man. Ive known at least one white American woman who was pretty aggressive in flirting with Japanese men, but she seemed like kind of a rare example.
“Did anyone notice in the comments for Charisma Man – that there was a reference to Debito?”
Indeed I did, with someone accusing him of being a closet Charisma Man. In his defense, this is definitely not true. As I understand, Debito came to Japan originally because of his then future-wife, and was never single in the country until after their divorce many years later.
Reading through comments now. There is even more gold from Shari so far:
“One thing I’ve always pondered is whether or not such guys are born as a result of their experiences in Japan or if they are bred that way back home. I suspect it’s a combination of the insecurity from the latter coupled with the opportunity for the former. The sometimes unbelievable arrogance and competitiveness they can display shows there’s some deep-seated insecurity there.
I don’t mind guys with poor skills as long as they’re basically nice fellows. I just hate the attitude and the bad energy. They’re like “nerd-zillas” who have mutated from being a normal inoffensive geek into some fire breathing, city-stomping version.”
Looking through her posts it looks like the Charisma Man post indirectly led her to stop blogging because people misconstrued it so much (the comments section doesnt seem to reflect that much, but she has a stated policy of deleting trollish posts).
I almost feel like we should invite her here as a guest blogger or something because her input is really insightful and its a shame to see her gone. If anyone has had her as a commenter and knows her email address it would be much appreciated.
Of course she wont please everyone. Marxy would hate her 10th tip for becoming a happier blogger:
“Never use (full) real names for yourself or others. If your blog is a business one or meant to generate money, it may be useful to use your full name, but using real names can introduce the threat of “discovery” by people who know you (and open you up to stalking). The chances that you’ll feel anxiety related to blogging (or possibly even decide to delete the blog or posts in fear later) increase if you use real names. Remaining anonymous will allow you to talk about relationships that interest or trouble you as part of your blog should you like to do so.”
Her “10th tip” clearly applies to more diary style blogging. For the sort of things that we (including Marxy here) do I think it’s clear that real names are mainly an asset.
As for inviting Shari to post/comment here, I don’t see any possible way to contact her through her blog. She’s even made her blogger profile private so she can’t be messaged that way.
“There is a kind of heavy male otaku/tech nerd oriented flavor to many Japan related blogs/sites that would turn off most women, but there are also plenty of sites without it so it hardly explains the overall state.”
My read on North American otaku is that a large chunk, perhaps approaching half, are women. We usually associate anime with big guns and screaming teenage boys, but a huge market for shojo (and lots of women reading Bleach and Naruto) has popped up in the last few years.
“My guess is that the wanton dick-swinging in our corner of the blogosphere turns off most female commenters.”
Some threads are not the most female-friendly (like the one about the 39 year old woman’s demands in a mate). But we have had some doozies on nationalism, immigration – that didn’t turn “tough guy”. Those are also areas in which women are among the leaders in scholarship (Norma Field, Jennifer Chan). I would argue that “women don’t like drag out debates” becuase that just isn’t true.
“If we actually looked we would find PLENTY of female bloggers on Japan – they are just not posting on stuff we are necessarily interested in.”
There are lots out there, but mostly blogging about daily life from the foreigner in Japan POV, no? Lots of guys doing that as well but the only one that I would read is Soul of Japan (ha). There is a big difference between that and an “issues” blog like this one (most of the time) and Neojaponisme. To blow up the issue a bit further – it’s interesting that women are strongly represented in scholarship, and yet when we think about foreigners who have gone to Japan and are in a self-made information (or service providing) niche – Macias, Alt, Marxy, Tobias, the Midnight Eye guys, the guys who do the Japanese game stuff for Kotaku – all dudes. Did all the women just go to grad school or something?
“but I can still think of a half-dozen or so examples I’ve known.”
Yeah, I can think of many examples as well. The ones that I know also tend to be very open about it. Of course, the big difference is that they aren’t creepy.
The Charisma man post is definitely interesting and there is a lot of truth to it. I have to wonder, however, if a post trying to isolate characteristics of White Women in Japan would have went over as well…. (Note – it would no doubt turn into a cartoon version, but isn’t that what Charisma man is anyway?)
Many otaku are women: Check. I actually know more female otaku than male otaku among my American friends.
The “dick-swinging” comment: Not quite what I meant. Women certainly don’t mind an intellectual debate. The style of the debate is what I think turns many of them off–the tendency for the debates on these blogs (not just MFT, but also other blogs with similar themes) to get unnecessarily personal and revolve around professional experience and language ability.
Did all the women just go to grad school: Yeah, I think so. If I were a woman, I would not want to be working in a Japanese office environment, or hanging out with oyaji power brokers.
“Yeah, I think so. If I were a woman, I would not want to be working in a Japanese office environment”
Indeed. But most of the people on my list are freelance or self-employed or in Tobais’ case – in grad school and still blogging his ass off. As for oyaji power brokers – academia has them too and many female academics end up moving back and forth between Japan and other work enviornments.
“If I were a woman, I would not want to be working in a Japanese office environment, or hanging out with oyaji power brokers.”
But this Belgian woman did.Not only she wrote a best seller in Belgium and eventually made into a film by French director Alain Corneau.
The last Japan-related blog I read by a woman was about reviewing Japanese snacks. Perhaps not quite as high-powered as some of the stuff that comes on here. However Shari’s blog was good, and I read and commented a few times when it was still active.
The Japan Blog List has a few that seem written by women – Geisha, Interrupted, or Kate’s Quest, and these often link to other female blogs. However there are a tons of blogs, and few that ever get beyond the Stranger in a Strange Land level, so I can’t be bothered hunting very hard.
I second M-Bone about women in academia though – almost over-represented in modern history, starting with Carol Gluck and Tessa Morris-Suzuki, for example. Interestingly, they seem far more represented in English scholarship on Japan than in Japanese, at least in my field.
“Interestingly, they seem far more represented in English scholarship on Japan than in Japanese, at least in my field.”
For postwar, it is a lot more even. You also have to consider that lot of women are working on women’s issues – and most of that gets done in sociology. In any case, there is an absolute flood of good scholarship by Japanese women.
Re: Stranger in a Strange Land blogs – my guess is that there are more by men. Given a number of things – that there are almost as many or just as many American/Canadian/Aussie/British/Kiwi women in Japan in various capacities as men (although, as Joe points out, probably not as many in Japanese companies), that there are just as many or more female Japan scholars, it seems that a lack of participation in the “issues” blogs is odd.
Joe’s comment explains the problem to a point – but I’ve seen a few female grad students pull “if you lived in Japan as long as I did, you would understand” and “you really have to read Murakami/Mishima/Kawabata/Murasaki Shikibu in the ORIGINAL” or “you can only TRULY understand Japanese if you learn kanbun”. In my experience, which may be a strange exception, women are just as likely to swing it in person as men. And why not?
“My read on North American otaku is that a large chunk, perhaps approaching half, are women.”
Absolutely, I also know about as many female otaku as male in America, but that’s why I said “male otaku.” Female otaku are into different things, and there is definitely a certain kind of male otaku misogynistic mindest that pollutes a certain subsection of the greater subculture. That is what I’m referring to.
Maybe “misogynistic” isn’t quite right, since I also am thinking of the group that is more scared of contact with women than really misogynistic, like the ultra-ultra moe lovers who have no idea how to talk to a real woman.
“Many otaku are women”
Nono, most of those aren’t otaku; they’re rotten women 腐女子 There *is* a difference!
“Female otaku are into different things”
I’m not that into it, and I don’t post, but I do look at the comments on some of the bigger anime sites from time to time and there are a LOT of girls/women posting on the most mainstream stuff like JUMP titles. These are not really “Japan” sites, however. I make a distinction between them (the reviewers will be watching fansubs most of the time instead of getting new releases in Japan) and something like Macias’ site. It seems funny that this female interest in mainstream anime does not bleed over into sites that are more about Japan’s popular culture enviornment, especially the issues related ones.
“There is a difference!”
Just to elaborate on that difference-
The way that I (and Roy) are using it, however, is the North American usage that means more “anime / J-culture fan” than the Japanese usage which includes everything from people who don’t go outside to porn game addicts and people who think that their virginity gives them magical powers. I wouldn’t call a Western otaku a 腐女子 unless they were way into BL. Also, many people who like anime in NA self identify as otaku, I’ve never heard anyone claim to be a 腐女子.
And of course this somewhat muddled understanding of the fujoshi concept is not limited to foreign observers:
“people who think that their virginity gives them magical powers”
Wow! Never heard of that. What is that, like a 清い腐女子?
I mentioned the virginity thing in a comment a few months back. I took the story from one of Oshii Mamoru’s latest non-fiction shinsho. He talks about a trend among some (male) otaku to consider their virginity as a source of magic power. Apparently, those born by c-section have TWICE the power as they have had no contact with the female part at all.
This was never a mainstream thing and it is clearly a halfass fantasy, but there ARE at least some otaku out there who think things like this.
Well, virginity has been considered a source of magical power for women since the beginning of time, so why not for men too? In fact, that’s exactly how the Pope gets his magic powers.
I must admit that I’ve never heard of that phenomenon before. Have you got a reference I could read up on?
I think that it is in this one –
If memory serves me correctly (don’t have it around), this is also the one in which Oshii, the director of Ghost in the Shell which has set down one of the most fascinating visions of what our future online might look like, says that people who write things online are idiots.
Still, this is just Oshii generalizing based on something that he saw on TV. Rather than looking into this, if you are interested in Japanese otaku, you should read NHKにようこそ (the novel) which is like an otaku stream of consciousness – all angst, self-hate and bizarre pop culture allusions. I feel that this hit the nail on the head in depicting the inner life of (disturbed, atypical, but still fascinating) otaku. Also, have you seen Evangelion?
I didn’t just dream this, people really do talk about it –
It looks like the concept popped up in a manga Dosuperado that ran in Champion Red – but what came first, the idea among otaku or the idea in the manga?
“He talks about a trend among some (male) otaku to consider their virginity as a source of magic power. ”
I think that’s tongue in cheek joke.
Read this for example.
I have no doubt that it is all at least half joking, but the truth remains that at least one person got on TV and offered this as a reason as to why he likes his Clannad 抱き枕 better than, you know, real women.
There are about half a dozen long-standing female commenters on the FG Forums and also a private area of the board for women which guys can’t see where apparently a few others stop by from time-to-time. I think they might agree with the comment that:
“My guess is that the wanton dick-swinging in our corner of the blogosphere turns off most female commenters.”
However, the foreign women I know living in Japan are more active online in specific forums like Being A Broad or in Facebook groups where questions tend to get more informed answers.
“I think they might agree with the comment that…”
I don’t want to discount that possibility. However, if there is a champion dick-swinging corner of the J-sphere, it would have to be NBR.
A lot of posts over there have a tone like “Dear esteemed collegue, everything that you say is baseless and I hate you. Best regards, Biggus Dickus”. There have even been examples of commenters coming down hard on women/feminism. And yet over 1/4 of the regular commenters are women.
“And yet over 1/4 of the regular commenters are women.”
And some of these women ARE Biggus Dickus.
As if someone was reading this discussion.
Come to think of it, in fairness, I should add that there are some superb points made on NBR as well.
Yeah,like you can check how much of them gets Japanese reality”boots on the ground”level.
True, but EK sure did rip that hikikomori guy good. That was epic.
Anyway, more NBR posters have been to no pan shabushabu than Mutantfrog posters, that’s got to be worth something.
Do those still exist? I thought they died out.
“I thought they died out.”
I thought that they were just in manga thing until I saw Aceface and Mulboyne’s twitter.
When you think of it, this is a pretty amazing thread – white mochi skin, Mishima Yukio, Debito, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dewi Sukarno, Welcome Back Kotter, Yoko Ono, Charisma Man, Grounds-keeper Willy, Mongolian Communsits, wanton dick swinging, cougars, Biggus Dickus, magic virgins, and no pan shabushabu all in one place.
Since we don’t have any regular female poster,next MTF get-together shall be held in no-pan shabushabu instead of Watami…..
“When you think of it, this is a pretty amazing thread – white mochi skin, Mishima Yukio, Debito, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dewi Sukarno, Welcome Back Kotter, Yoko Ono, Charisma Man, Grounds-keeper Willy, Mongolian Communsits, wanton dick swinging, cougars, Biggus Dickus, magic virgins, and no pan shabushabu all in one place.”
When you put it like that it sounds like quite a party.
“Since we don’t have any regular female poster,next MTF get-together shall be held in no-pan shabushabu instead of Watami…..”
You know a good one in Shibuya near your office?
“When you put it like that it sounds like quite a party”
It’s too bad the actual”My Darling is a Foreigner” don’t have so much diversity in contents.
No.Roy.I do not know any No-pan shabu-shabu in Shibuya area.However,my co-worker almost took me to “Sheena,the jungle queen” themed bar once,of which I’m still regretting to this day that I turned down the offer.Maybe we oughta try that one.
“When you put it like that it sounds like quite a party.”
Or the Battle Royale at Wrestlemania VI.
As for manga – I’m pretty sure that about 1/3 of the stuff on that list pops up in Sayanora Zetsubo Sensei.
Anyway, I think with this last part of the discussion, we can consider the case of the missing female readers closed.
OK, I am totally down for the “Sheena, the Jungle Queen” bar. Some time last year a girl took me to a bar in Kyoto called “Shocker” but the Kamen Rider references were mostly subtler than you’d hope, aside from the logo/sign and I believe some of the drink names.
Late to the party, but… @adamu – the blogger at “My so-called Japanese Life” is still blogging. She stopped using that blog and pretty much immediately opened another, her latest is a pair of diatribes against anyone who dares question Debito (aka “foreigners who have psychological issues and want to be discriminated against”)
Just like the Charisma Man blog entry, she loves defining people by putting them into little boxes.
She should read her own tips about blogging, like “take the time to research… an issue” and expand “don’t use your real name” to include “don’t post elsewhere under your real name and link it back to your blog” or “don’t allow your friends to use your real name and link it to your blog” etc.
There is an OL cosplay sekuhara shabu shabu tabehodai joint in Ikebukuro.
With all the later fuss about that no-pan shabu shabu restaurant in Shinjuku, it’s somewhat forgotten that most “no-pan” establishments were coffee shops. The first highly public bust of a no-pan kissa was back in 1981 during a police crackdown ahead of the Pope’s visit to Tokyo, an incident which forever fused Catholicism and pink salons together in my memory.
The Pope was followed shortly afterwards by Mother Teresa who was assaulted after a lecture at Sophia University where she told her audience that Japan was a rich country but seemed spiritually bankrupt. It transpired that her attacker was actually either an over-exuberant fan or just slightly unbalanced rather than someone protesting her message. He did, however, rip her favourite rosary out of her hand which she only realized later after being bustled out of the hall. Luckily, the Pope was shot a few weeks later and everyone forgot about it.
LB: Thanks for the link! Even if she is putting people in a box, there is value in identifying and analyzing patterns of behavior especially when it is broadly correct.
No pan kissa mention gave me the flash back of Kichijoji 1980.There was one in the back of now Yodobashi camera and you could see the big ad of the establishment from Chuo line.
On pope visit.I was watching last year’s Berlin film festival’s Golden Lion award went to Brazilian film”Troupa de Elite(The Elite Squad)”which is about SWAT team in Rio De Janeiro ordered to have crack down on slams of Rio with extreme violence before the Pope visit to the city in 1997.Taking down on no-pan kissa may be a minor task for cops.
I tried reading a few entries of that new blog, but honestly, is there any possible excuse for stuff like this?
“but the gaijin Uncle Toms are so myopic that they either don’t know their own country well enough to know what isn’t worth gushing over or simply are so blinded by their infatuation with Japan to see reality.”
“I realized that behind every apologist is a repressed bigot.”
And why eikaiwa teachers are absolutely super –
“Since returning to private teaching after a little over a decade of office work, I’ve come to realize that there are some people for whom their English lessons are a psychological lifeline.”
Rough life that eikaiwa –
“The truth is that these types of lessons, depending on the student can be much harder or much easier than doing a real lesson plan with a textbook there to provide structure, direction and momentum. When you’re responsible week in and week out for carrying on a “chat” with the same person who has no obligation whatsoever to initiate anything, you have to work hard to make sure there’s something to talk about.”
English teachers are just great –
“English teachers may be performing a variety of therapeutic services including exposure to cultural diversity, companionship, intellectual stimulation and cathartic expression.”
And this one is just….
“The only thing worse than a Japanese man who refuses to follow logic because he’s so insecure that he feels he has to “win” a pointless cultural victory is a foreigner who when discussing some Japanese person with (only) English speakers feels the need to use Japanese naming conventions. Recently, in a discussion of a piece on Digg about Ken Shimura, one person used “Shimura Ken” in a sea of comments (and an article title) that said “Ken Shimura”. These people (and it’s almost always men) are all about showing you how they know something about Japanese culture that you don’t and that they are either culturally acclimatized or demonstrating pointless and misguided cultural sensitivity by following the Japanese way when speaking a language and to an audience which is not Japanese.”
And why Japan is such a living hell that it is better to not learn the language to protect yourself –
“Every time I leave the apartment, I have to consciously decide to try hard not to pay attention to them and how they are reacting to me. This wall is necessary not only to protect myself, but to stop me from building up anger toward them for stolen glances, gawking, pointing, and commenting rudely in Japanese about the gaijin… One of the things that I realized some time ago was that this need to put up a wall between me and the Japanese around me was fueling my lack of desire to learn to speak or read Japanese better. Not understanding completely actually made my life easier because it shut me off from pain. It’s much easier to build a wall when the voices around you are just noise and not actual communication… About a year ago, I started to dabble in Japanese study again because I know at least some of the reasons why I tried to shun improvement for so long. There are other reasons, and there are even some pretty good excuses (like I actually rarely need to speak it, oddly enough), but the bottom line is that I was setting the terms for how I dealt with life in Japan so that I could have a filter against pain.”
@M-Bone – bingo, and her previous blog was full of similar such sentiments, such as this after some nutter “deliberately rammed her” with his bicycle:
“Gaijins love to talk about what a great place Japan is and how the people are nice, polite, friendly and non-violent, but clearly, you can’t say that of all of them. In fact, the fact that they view foreigners as practically a different species who don’t have a right to be here increases the chances that bad impulses will be acted on. It’s not like they fear the consequences when they know that their word will be taken over that of a foreigner and they can make up anything they like to weasel out of what they did. In the U.S., if someone did this to a person of another nationality, they could be arrested for assault and battery, but in Japan, well, who do you think the police are going to care about? ”
Or about other foreigners:
“They hate other foreigners being in “their Japan” and would like to see others driven out. They figure making it more uncomfortable or unpleasant to stay here will weed out some of the riff-raff. These people are overlapping with those who find anyone who teaches English in Japan to be a blight on the country.”
Ol’ Shari’s been in Japan about 20 years, or so she says. I think it is affecting her mental health. She’s a paranoid racist with a persecution complex to rival he-who-shall-not-be-named (don’t want to do any more to invoke the Japan Blog Corollary to Godwin’s Law).
Hmmm. Are you sure that’s the same person? She sounds SO much more bitter and angry than the nice woman writing the old blog.
@Roy – no doubt, she says so herself: http://monsterflower.blogspot.com/2009/06/angry-rant-is-angry.html
Scroll down to the link to “my former blog”.
There is a whole lot of bitterness and anger in “My so-called Japanese life” as well. There is also a lot of non-angry stuff in there, but when she cuts loose you might want to clear the room of ladies, children and small animals.
Whoops! Of the two quotes I posted above, the first is from the old blog, second from the new, I was going to connect the fact she’s an English teacher with her paranoia that other foreigners want English teachers driven out, and my train of thought got completely derailed somewhere.
Adamu upthread “It is inherently unfair that Debito dominates any thread with even a tangential connection to him, just as any post that can be connected to the Nanjing Massacre or comfort women or whaling becomes about that”
You forgot eikaiwa teachers! Now this thread is a true microcosm.
I think Shari should have date with Debito and make it into a manga….
I think that we let our dislike of Charisma Man blind us to some of the failings of the original blog. In any case, she is correct about one other thing – Diablo II rocked.
Since she does not like Straw Men, I will simply present some of her words without argument or sustained commentary (just snark).
Becuase eikaiwa teachers are so much more accurate –
“For years now, I’ve been telling Japanese people that they cannot trust their Japanese to English dictionaries and that the results they get have to be double-checked with an English only dictionary. In particular, I’ve encouraged them to check example sentences when looking up a word to check the proper context in which various words are used. For years now, I’ve been looked back at as if I were making up fairy tales. The students simply don’t believe that their dictionaries, which are the finest technology major electronics companies offer, are more fallible than their teacher who is just some schmo who ended up teaching English in Japan.”
Keep your snooty accent out of my eikaiwa –
“When you’re teaching a foreign language, explaining why pronouncing a word correctly is important is often a rather abstract concept for students. Often, they think you’re being overly fussy or pedantic. The truth is that this impression is not always a false one. I’ve heard teachers who are from other countries go out of their way to correct an accent because it represents the pronunciation of native speakers from another country. Particularly, a lot of British people want to “correct” North American accents when the student’s speech patterns would be comprehended just fine anywhere in the world.”
And who says women don’t go for the wanton dick swinging –
“Both of them held Master’s degrees and were pretty smart people so I was surprised that they’d settle for work at the likes of Nova.”
Astounted that someone thinks of eikaiwa as unprofessional –
“…they buy into the commonly held notion that all Japanese people study English casually and are looking to have a casual “chat” with a foreign person who is being paid to be as nice as possible to them. This underlying mentality is one of the reasons teachers are viewed as unskilled and interchangeable and having an easy job where they just socialize for an hour for pay.”
Eikaiwa is really hard, she only makes it look easy –
“I’m sure from the student’s viewpoint that I seem to be effortlessly tossing out scenarios and taking part in practice, but I only make it look easy. I was really exhausted by this as it’s been a lot of improvisation… Anyone who thinks that teaching is easy should have to sit through the same sort of grueling 2-hour sessions of short, pragmatic conversations I’ve been going through. Their opinion would change less than halfway through the lesson. I guarantee it.”
Can’t even think of anything to say about this one –
“the whole system of using Chinese characters is stupidly complex, difficult to learn and easy to forget. It is so overwhelming that it takes the average Japanese child 4 years longer to reach a similar level of fluency as a Western child. By the time little Johnny in Ohio is reading at a 10th grade level, little Koji in Minato-ku at the same age is at a 6th grade level because he’s bogged down learning kanji…
Because Japan is just a great place to get paid and watch Fox on cable –
“I never planned on being here as long as I have and I have no plans to use Japanese in the future when I go back to the U.S.”
If you’ve been in a country for more than 6 months and couldn’t call an ambulance for someone, you should be ashamed –
“In the end, how does my Japanese proficiency affect anyone’s quality of life but my own?”
Becuase a truly wonderful eikaiwa teacher like myself is hard to find –
“The latter is a far smaller portion of the English language studying Japanese population than immature teachers who focus on the profane and scatological would care to recognize. The vast majority of people who interact with foreign culture have no need for such words as they tend to move about in a limited (vacations), official (business), formal (ceremonies), or sheltered (home stay) capacity while abroad. For this reason, I have rarely taught or mentioned such words in my lessons. I think most people teach swearing because it’s far more interesting for the teacher to talk about “bad words” than to teach how to use articles or verb tenses. It’s also a lot easier for the untrained teacher to prattle on about the “eff word” and it’s gang of lesser pals than to learn to teach textbook content.”
So much for “Goodfellas” or “Pulp Fiction”….
OK, so it is the same person and she was always writing angrier blog entries than I had noticed. Odd how she switched blogs like that though, I can’t quite imagine what the point was.
That post about being rammed by a bicycle is pretty odd. How does she know how the police would act if she doesn’t actually try reporting it? I’ll admit they’re likely to ignore it, but I think they’d probably tell you to fuck off if you were Japanese as well, trying to file an assault complaint with no injury or property damage.
The post on “This is not America” really annoyed me, not because of what she said about Japan but because she seems to have NO idea how the authorities treat foreigners in America.
This is just blatantly false. I mean, yes habeas corpus exists, but non-English speaking prisoners often don’t KNOW it exists, and noone TELLS them or provides any paperwork or legal counsel until they ask for it, which can be months! And there are MANY cases of police harassing people they suspect of being Mexican immigrants, not to the similar but different racial profiling against black citizens. Yes, this varies a lot by region and I don’t know where Shari is from, but to make blanket statements about how fair the American police are, and how they never ask people for ID without probable cause (it’s happened to me and I’m both a citizen and white!) shows a pretty myopic view of American law enforcement.
We topped 130. What is the MF record again?
“Odd how she switched blogs like that though, I can’t quite imagine what the point was.”
She complained about the time she shut down the old blog that people had figured out her identity, and when she started up the new blog she said something about how her family had read her old blog and things she said caused problems (I can’t imagine why…), so she wanted to become anonymous again.
So she opened another blog and chose a handle which is immediately traceable via Google to her real name and e-mail address. And then later explicitly linked the two blogs together. Not that that is so unusual to be traceable to a real-life name etc., probably most of us are in the same boat, but to dump a blog supposedly want to return to anonymity while at the same time basically waving a big sign saying “here I am!” is really weird.
“to make blanket statements about how fair the American police are, and how they never ask people for ID without probable cause (it’s happened to me and I’m both a citizen and white!) shows a pretty myopic view of American law enforcement.”
I personally prefer the term “willfully ignorant”. She has her reality, and facts aren’t going to interfere with it. All of us who disagree with her have “psychological issues”.
That’s my point. I can imagine why she’d stop the old blog, and perhaps start a new one, but the WAY in which she did it, i.e. so obviously, baffles me utterly.
In the episode of Doctor Who I’m watching right now as I translate, Tom Baker just said “The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common, they don’t alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit the views.”
I wonder whether, on average, a young western girl has worse experiences with the Japanese police than a young western man. I occasionally read a blog by “Workaholic Hostess” who has a Japanese mother and American father. By the sound of it, she’s effectively bilingual and, when she gets around to the subject, writes very interestingly on the challenges of being bi-cultural. She doesn’t have a lot of time for many types of foreigner in Japan but also seems fairly wary about the authorities. Here’s an entry from the other day called “f*ck the police”:
“Oh my god!
I went downstairs to go to the convenience store across the street to get some food, when I got bothered by a guy saying “excuse me, can I talk to you for a second?” Of course I ignored him completely and walked on. And then I heard him say, “hello? hello? I’m police.” [もしもし、警察ですが。]
My heart dropped but I wasn’t about to turn around and see if it was true or show any sign of weakness. So I went into the convenience store and took my time buying my food. Then I saw that the dude was waiting outside for me and staring right at me. He was built, like he worked out, and he looked like he meant business.
But what the fuck, I wasn’t doing anything wrong, he didn’t have any right to harass me, even if he was a cop. So I walked out, and of course he closed in on me, along with another little guy who literally looked 12 years old. They surrounded me and shoved their police badges in my face, and next thing I knew, the 12 year old was right in front of me, struggling with his English, saying “police, ehhh…” I glared at their badges and asked them (of course in Japanese) if I was doing anything wrong. Then I said I was Japanese, and shoved past them, as the buff guy asked me to show some ID. He didn’t want to give up, but I could hear the 12 year old say, “lets just leave it.”
A Japanese person isn’t required to show ID. Even a foreigner isn’t required to show ID unless they’re doing something wrong. I was fully expecting them to chase me, and I was planning on running into my building and letting the door with the auto lock close behind me. But they gave up. Don’t they have anything better to do?
f*ck the police.”
It isn’t difficult to imagine that plain clothes officers might more often target women – on the basis they might be illegal mizu shobai workers – than men. Similarly, it’s possible that foreign women find the police unsympathetic to complaints they might have. I recall another female blogger, Jamie Lano, writing about a sexual harassment problem she faced and the distress she had when dealing with the police.
Is getting hauled up by the cops mostly a Tokyo thing? I feel left out.
It seems to be a Tokyo thing to me. This is my fifth year in Kyoto and the only times I can recall being asked by the cops to show my ID were A) one time when after dark I had been looking at a construction site and the cop asked me what I was doing, which I think could’ve happened as easily to a Japanese guy, and B) a year ago before the G8 Summit, when I was waiting for a friend in front of Kyoto Station when two cops came over to me and mumbled something about how they were on high alert because of the G8… in Hokkaido! That one actually did annoy me quite a bit, but I was at least slightly amused by the fact that the cops both admitted they were doing racial profiling and seemed to think it was a stupid order.
“Similarly, it’s possible that foreign women find the police unsympathetic to complaints they might have. I recall another female blogger, Jamie Lano, writing about a sexual harassment problem she faced and the distress she had when dealing with the police.”
I totally believe this. The police here seem to love ignoring any complaints that aren’t theft or outright assault. It reminds me of the story I hear from a friend of mine who worked as an ALT up in the cold north a decade ago. He was dating a local girl, broke up with her. For revenge she broke into his house one day while he was at work and trashed the place. He complained to the cops and they just told him to “work it out yourselves” because it was a personal issue.
After hearing stories of lazy negligence like that and seeing how the police act in college student date-rape cases like the one recently reported, or the Superfree scandal of a few years back, I absolutely expect they routinely ignore complaints of sexual harassment etc.
Great deal of Japanese feminist scholarship, mostly in sociology, that backs up the idea that women get the run around from the cops when reporting issues of harrasment, domestic violence, and even outright sex assault so I’m not one bit surprised either.
I’m curious as to exactly what our rights are in dealing with the Japanese police on ID stops. I’ve heard that it is “illegal” for them to ID you but also that they can do it if you are being “suspicious”. I also understand that a “guide” for what to do exists, but that its validity is questioned by some. In Mulboyne’s example – if a cop asks you “excuse me, can I talk to you for a second?”, would ignoring them consititute being suspicious under the law? Is just being out and about at 3:30 in the morning enough?
@M-bone: the problem is that there are two laws, that cover different situations, and they get confused by people who assume the first is absolute.
First, Police Basic Law 2:
警察官職務執行法 第二条 警察官は、異常な挙動その他周囲の事情から合理的に判断して何らかの犯罪を犯し、若しくは犯そうとしていると疑うに足りる相当な理由のある者又は既に行われた犯罪について、若しくは犯罪が行われようとしていることに ついて知っていると認められる者を停止させて質問することができる。
Basically, a cop can only perform ID checks/stop and ask you questions if they have “reasonable cause” to think the individual being stopped committed/is committing/ is about to commit a crime.
Now, Foreign Registry Law, section 13, clause 2:
外国人登録法 第十三条 第二項 外国人は、入国審査官、入国警備官（入管法に定 める入国警備官をいう）、警察官、海上保安官その他法務省令で定める国又は地方公共団体の職員がその職務の執行に当たり登録証明書の掲示を求めた場合には、これを提示しなければならない。
If asked by the cops, immigration officers, or any public official at the local or national level who have been empowered by the Justice Ministry to check Alien Registration Cards for said card, the foreigner being asked must produce the card. Now since this law does not apply solely to the police, but to any public official empowered to check IDs, that would suggest that asking for an ID is not 職務質問 as defined in and covered by Police Basic Law 2. You do have the right, if on the street or in a shop or anyplace other than the police station/immigration office/counter at city hall to ask for the official’s ID first and they are legally obligated to show it to you – at which point you can note it down but you still have to show yours.
Debito actually has some good guides on the relevant laws:
That stuff on Debitro’s site is informative – as it’s the older, “Classic Debito,” who used to be worth reading.
M-Bone – Is getting hauled up by the cops mostly a Tokyo thing?
I think it must be: I have been asked to show ID by a cop three times in Japan: twice were the claissic riding while gaijin, and both were in Tokyo (the second time, I had a puncture, so might have looked a bit odd: that cop however was so very UNheavy it was actually a pleasant little chat). The third time was in Chiba, but at Narita Airport before the G8. So it does’t really count, but it was still ineffectual for catching crooks.
Roy: The Face of Evil, right? Great quote. Tom Baker IS the Doctor. I hate what Russell T Davies has done with the character.
On the subject of quotemining: “Life in Japan has largely been “as usual” during most of our time here. Generally speaking, the level of comfort and familiarity has increased as the years have gone on. We can watch foreign television via cable or DVD rental. We can talk and even see family in real time through the internet and foreign food is easier and cheaper than it was when we first arrived.”
Clearly has no interest at all in Japan as a country or culture. I really do not have a lot of respect for that.
Yep, “The Face of Evil” indeed. Tom Baker is definitely the best Doctor, but I actually love the new series as well. And I’m really looking forward to next season, when Steve Mofat (who is by FAR the best writer on the new show) takes from from Russell Davies as head writer.
I agree with you about looking forward to Mofat – I sure am. But I was seriously disappointed with the new series – sure, there were some good points about it (and I am not talking about the eye candy and budget issues). But if for example you consider episodes like Last of the Time Lords, where the Doctor is elevated from being a mere super-genius with some funny quirks to being little short of a god, I sense that major fanboy Davies is over-indulging his own love (in more ways than one, considering his sexual orientation) for the Doctor. And the latest special was just stupid. The blindlingly obvious solution – since the Doctor could contact UNIT from the Planet of the Langoliers – was to get them to send a Hummer through. But no. We get clichesd and rip-offs. It wasn’t as nausea-inducing as the last Xmas special when the Doctor was lifted up by flights of angels, slmost literally, but was still very bad.
I do think David Tennant is a very good Doctor (Eccleston being the worst: I just can’t get past that accent) but the more or less non-stop action never seems to let him be a character. As M-Bone might say, he’s more of a ‘chara’.
Anyway, before I totally hijack this into a Doctor Who Appreciation Thread, I shall go to bed….
PS: Colin Baker’s Doctor is a lot better than his rep, especially once he settles down….
PPS: Sorry about the major hijack. We return you to your regularly scheduled comments.
“Sorry about the major hijack. We return you to your regularly scheduled comments.”
This thread used to be about “Darling ha Gaikokujin”….
On the subject of quotemining: “Life in Japan has largely been “as usual” …..
Huh? I can’t see how enjoying your own culture correlates directly to no interest in Japan. I’d find it far more disturbing if she didn’t like to watch movies in her native tongue, eat some foods from home or keep in contact with her family. Enjoying food you grew up with and movies from home is fairly true of immigrants and expats of all nationalities around the world. It doesn’t preclude enjoying stuff from where your current home as well.
She may show no interest beyond living in a bubble of her own culture but that quote doesn’t actually prove it.
@citydweller – it is but one in a long line of quotes from Shari that shows she not only has no interest in Japan, but in fact has nothing but disdain for it. Read the quotes M-Bone put up, like the one about how she won’t learn Japanese as being ignorant protects her from “the pain”. Or just wander through her blogs when she starts on about how “people have no idea all the chit I’ve had to put up with living with these people (the Japanese) for TWENTY YEARS!” (paraphrase, not actual quote, but it is damn close to an actual quote).
She is, as one of my university professors once put it, “having an American experience in the vicinity of Japan”. And she gets really, really pissy when people point out that she’s a foreigner, even as she goes great lengths to prevent budging even a millimeter to accommodate the people around her or the society she lives in.
I agree with CityDweller. It’s undeniable that the “level of comfort and familiarity has increased as the years have gone on”. Even an uber-gaijin would think twice before rejecting the conveniences offered by Skype, podcasts, video streaming, digital downoads, google street view, social networks etc. Taking advantage of these services doesn’t automatically place you in a bubble. Of course, they also give you unprecedented access to Japanese language resources. As for food, I think Mutant Froggers are fairly interested in Japanese culture but I’ve seen discussion on here before about which offerings from home would be a welcome addition.
Nevertheless, there are still several better reasons to be wary of Shari.
Mulboyne is right – the march of technology makes it possible for Japan to be the best of both worlds. It also works in reverse, to an extent. I spent 2003-2006 in Washington DC and was more or less able to keep up with Japanese affairs and trends thanks to the internet (and a conveniently located library funded by Ryoichi Sasakawa).
Yeah this is a new record for comments I think
I’m eating Doritos right now.
Now Jade, are you telling me that you couldn’t go for a Magnum?
In Jade’s defense, I had already clipped most of the best quotes….
There is nothing wrong with enjoying the best of both worlds (come to think of it, I watch far more Japanese TV back home than I do when I’m here….) but for some people in the bubble, adventures with Japanese culture become something MORE and all of a sudden you are better and or deeper than those Japanese around you –
“Sumo is Japan’s national sport but it seems to be so mainly because of inertia. The Japanese people, by and large, have little or no interest in sumo and know relatively little about it. They prefer baseball and soccer. Because of this, sumo is likely the one area of Japanese culture in which my husband and I can often run circles around Japanese people when it comes to our knowledge of it.”
Except, of course, those many Japanese who have, say, Judo experience and know something more about the sport than memorizing names.
If we’re going to set a record, we may as well set a good record. One of the posts on the site that bothered me the most I didn’t post yesterday but I’ll throw it up now as I think that it speaks to a major but seldom discussed part of the bubble mindset –
Posted with a random pic of a chubby Japanese girl, taken it seems, without consent –
“You also get to see and show others that Japan is not awash in a sea of perfect model-like women with perfect bodies, skin, and hair staring into a camera with lips slightly parted and vacant eyes or cutesy girls in cosplay clothes. In essence, it isn’t the male fantasy paradise most people who have never been to Japan believe it is.”
How divorced do you have to be from the people around you to think that it is okay to take a random snap of some poor girl in the street and use her as an example of why “Japan has fat people too so all you white nerds can just take your fantasies and stuff “em.”
I think that people in costumes and people obviously making a pubic ass out of themselves (that’s you uyoku) are fair game… but man you have to be suffering from a serious disconnect / lack of basic empathy to just throw up some average person to carry on some strange vendetta that you have against white nerds.
“Taking advantage of these services doesn’t automatically place you in a bubble.”
No, but they do hint a a very strong one when the only ones mentioned are the ones that allow someone to lead an American lifestyle in Japan. It’s not the listing of these per se that annoys me, it’s the exclusivity of them to things that maintain that bubble. They are not being used for greater intergration with Japan, but greater exclusion. Welcome additions are all very well, but not so exclusively. I would hope that the “level of comfort and familiarity” increase in relation to Japan, not to how easy it is to escape it.
In her defence, however, she does appear to be in Japan due her husband’s work rather than any actual interest in the country.
M-Bone: You know, after seeing the prices of Magnums lately overseas, I very much doubt I actually would buy one in Japan: I almost never buy Haagen-Dazs, for example, due to the price. Can you also give us some dates for these great quotes? Work is too busy to allow me much reading time, unfortunately.
Also, I *really* don’t want to see uyoku or anyone making a “a pubic ass” of themselves…..
“It’s not the listing of these per se that annoys me, it’s the exclusivity of them to things that maintain that bubble.”
On the other hand, if we had an example of a foreigner who only ate Japanese food, wore kimono at home, only drank nihonshu, refused to watch any foreign television or films, and spent all of their time talking about their interest in zen, go, ikebana, tea ceremony, kami shibai, shugendo, Mishima Yukio, waka, kendo, carving butsuzo, and playing erogames – they’d not only be as annoying as hell, but Japanese people would think that they are insane. And they’d probably start a blog and call it “The Soul of Japan” or something.
They key, I think, is finding the right balance (and, come to think of it, you strike me as being a long time resident who strikes the right balance). I don’t fault “the person” for what she is interested in. It’s okay to not be that interested in Japan, especially for short timers. It’s the evident comtempt and the dive to over-interpret that I don’t like. That, and the obvious self-deception regarding Japanese.
In any case, she might have moved to Japan to be with her husband, but he’s an eikaiwa teacher too….
I’m totally baffled that someone who writes like she does has stayed in Japan for so long. Are she and her husband just so far along in their English teacher careers that they don’t think they can find other work back home? Maybe he loves it here despite how much she hates it, but that’s why the good lord invented divorce. I feel a little bad bashing someone like Shari, but actually the fact that it’s a public blog and no real named or personal identifying information is involved makes it acceptable.
“zen, go, ikebana, tea ceremony, kami shibai, shugendo, Mishima Yukio, waka, kendo, carving butsuzo, and playing erogames”
I’d say I find about half the things on that list interesting, and I like nihonshu a lot. Speaking of kami shibai, the manga museum in Kyoto has performances at least a couple of times a week, by an old guy who used to be a traveling performer years ago. It’s a lot of fun, especially if you catch a show with a bunch of little kids in the audience.
I didn’t take links for those quotes that I mentioned, nor did I note dates. But I did have a couple more –
Because bad translations of Japanese to English are easier to understand if you don’t know Japanese –
“Fortunately (or unfortunately), I am familiar enough with bad translations of Japanese into English and can decode the translations fairly well. I can read a little of the Japanese (and my husband who studied kanji can read more than I) but not enough to get much of a sense of things so even bad English is better than only Japanese.”
Glad to hear that her husband found a few minutes in his 25 years in japan to study kanji. Oh yeah, but as we saw earlier kanji are just stupid anyway.
Is this “you” the “everybody” you? If she means “I”, she should say so –
“One of the problems with being in Japan is that you have several dilemmas to face when it comes to your computer equipment. The biggest one is about language and the software you can get as well as the OS your computer runs.”
And once again, she isn’t just a normal eikaiwa teacher, not just a super eikaiwa teacher, what she does is extraordinary –
“Teaching well is very challenging and generally unrewarding in terms of how you are regarded by fellow foreigners (who love nothing more than to climb on their high horses and look down on the English teaching rabble they’ve scrambled away from to their Japanese office jobs) or by the Japanese students and employers who believe what you do is a doddle because you speak English already. While a student may benefit from your skill, she tends not to realize that it is extraordinary in nature. Most students generally can’t tell the difference between the gaijin monkey who fills the lesson time with pointless games or prattling about himself and the teacher who is working to improve the student’s weak points while still making the lesson interesting.”
Sorry for being on the high horse, but one of the reasons why I don’t like the “super eikaiwa teacher” bit (note that I’ve said several times here that I respect eikaiwa teachers who say – hey, its an easy job, I like being in Japan, this is great for 2 years so I can put away some money to go to law school) is the complete lack of professionalism evident most of the time. Case in point, openly mocking students online –
“The problem is that her English isn’t just “broken”, it’s a 5-car-pile-up with no survivors. What’s more, she estimates her ability as far higher than it is. She told the referral agency that her level was “intermediate” when she can’t even string together a simple sentence. In her first lesson, she answered questions by randomly blurting out words and sometimes starting a butchered sentence then getting stuck and looking wild-eyed at me and gesticulating madly as if that was going to somehow finish her thought. Unless we develop telepathy, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to understand what she means by her being bug-eyed and waving her hands like a demented spell-caster.”
Oh, clearly I spoke too soon when I called her profoundly ignorant of American criminal justice and policing, because you see one of her students is in law school and told her about it.
“I’d say I find about half the things on that list interesting, and I like nihonshu a lot.”
I actually like everything on the list (some in small doses) except erogames. It only becomes silly, I think, if coupled with a militant rejection of “foreign” things.
BTW, having read a bunch of the blog, I get a real sense that her relationship with her husband is peachy.
“Are she and her husband just so far along in their English teacher careers that they don’t think they can find other work back home?”
A lot of her comments, especially about eikaiwa and the hating on how crappy Japan is, can be seen in a much different light if we think a bit about why she doesn’t just leave – Eikaiwa teachers can make decent money for easy essentially unskilled work. Living in Japan, even for people who complain about it all the time, is safe, convenient, and you don’t have to think that hard about much. And finally, people love to feel like they are elite professionals (she obviously has that feeling) and since she’s telling us all about how there are fat Japanese people out there, the fact that the Japanese don’t learn anything about the war in school, and giving us her psychological observations about the Japanese mind (and the minds of Uncle Toms), it seems like being in Japan makes her feel like a cutting-edge cultural critic as well.
I think that it’s okay to take some shots (as long as we use her words in context) since she takes her share on the blog (and if we don’t mind the chance of her coming over her and calling us &#%@s). The great thing about a free information market is that if someone is spouting silly, other people can beg to differ.
Well, as she admits (http://monsterflower.blogspot.com/2009/06/stage-four.html):
“By nature, both my husband and I are creatures of habit. If we’re comfortable, then we stay where we are. It takes a pretty strong push to move us off in a different direction and this more than anything has kept us in Japan for 20 years.”
And there really is nothing wrong with that, if that’s how you want to live. It’s a pretty comfortable way to live, particularly by world standards, and not hurting anyone. In that same post she says they’re planning on moving back to the US in 2012 or so and enroll in grad school for a change of career
I also must say that despite the sometimes rather nasty sounding rants, this post on the difference between tolerance and assimilation actually strikes me as eminently reasonable.
“between tolerance and assimilation actually strikes me as eminently reasonable.”
It’s not like there isn’t anything reasonable on the blog, it just seems that she turns around a few days later and starts talking about “the pain”.
Isn’t that the whole point of being anonymous online? To be able to let loose the inner douchebag you keep at least partially restrained when people know who you are.
This anti-Shari business seems completely overblown because it goes beyond what shes saying and strays into personal attack territory. She is totally harmless in her by-the-numbers critiques and doesnt deserve this level of takedown. Ive never seen this level of vindictiveness on MFT, even from me. Is the fact that she hasnt defended herself emboldened people? Or is it just the anti-Japanophile ranting thats got people steamed?
“the right balance”
I dont think there is a right balance, its just something we make up. If there’s one lesson I have learned by experience in the years of writing at MFT, its the fruitlessness of judging whether someone has the right Japanophile street cred. Lets get some perspective – what she is saying is a pretty commonly held view. A lot of people, not just blog ranters, consider Japanophiles to be annoying as hell and insane (they even got special mention as White Person-ness gone wrong in the Stuff White People Like blog). If there is any group that should argue for tolerance it is us. Going after her for not learning Japanese doesnt exactly make Japanophiles look reasonable (You suck because you didnt spend years of your life mastering a difficult foreign language).
I dont know if I should “go there” but I think this is one reason we dont see as many women here. Its so easy to bite someones head off for being opinionated, especially when theyre not going to be as aggressive in fighting back. Note that most of the people (all men) Ive started flame wars with on this blog have come onto the comments section and challenged me, usually eliciting an apology because I was being a jerk.
Ultimately, I think in this woman’s case it is important to accept the positive, reserve judgment (and maybe argue back respectfully) on the negative, and if thats not possible maybe give her the same respect you would another foreigner on the streets of Japan (avert your eyes to avoid the awkward “why are you here” conversation).
On the “kimono/buddhism guys” — Why should everyone have to live according to predefined rules of authenticity? I can agree that there are people who go overboard but then you dont have to be friends with everyone. Its odd that the Internet has created spaces for all manner of people who want to find a niche and be different, but at the same time created a space for people like the folks at somethingawful.com who see that diversity and supposedly irrational thinking and want to set it all right somehow.
I cant point to where, but Joe has been known to argue for a more nuanced take on Debito (something along the lines of “he’s a complicated, flawed human being, so lets not subject him a litmus test he’s bound to fail”). And he is right, and the same applies to Shari and anyone else you might feel like disapproving of. I think we can try and take a lesson from the Alcoholics Anonymous serenity prayer:
“God, Give us the grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed, Courage
to change the things which should be changed,
And the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”
On another note, Ive gone on the record saying kanji should be abolished. Sure, I spent years learning to read them, but I am willing to let that go in the name of practicality.
As a writing system its got a very high learning curve thats tough for foreigners. Several towns and the Japan Post Bank have switched over to hiragana names to make themselves more easily recognizable, and I think thats a step in the right direction.
“Or is it just the anti-Japanophile ranting thats got people steamed?”
Part of it, maybe, but its not like we haven’t all made the same points about Charisma Man here before. But she has an anonymous blog where she routinely writes about how great she is as a teacher, calls other white people Uncle Toms, rants about how her students suck, and brings in random Japanese people, including pictures, to make fun of them. I think that taking some jabs at that is fair game – especially when 90% of what was posted here was quotes from her blog. There are points that can be argued against – such as the relative professionalism of eikaiwa – but if writing a blog with some huge jerk moments is your thing, you should expect people to get a bit steamed.
“You suck because you didnt spend years of your life mastering a difficult foreign language.”
Not learning the language is one thing – but to save yourself from the pain that the Japanese subject you to on a daily basis? The main language point that I made above was – “If you’ve been in a country for more than 6 months and couldn’t call an ambulance for someone, you should be ashamed.” I’ll stand by that.
In any case, I don’t think that any of the points that I made with the original quotes were out of bounds. I was harsh in describing why eikaiwa teachers might stay in Japan despite complaining about it all of the time but I’ve also seen exactly the same arguments here before.
“Several towns and the Japan Post Bank have switched over to hiragana names ”
You mean like Saitama city? Yes, but that is just because, as Hanawa pointed out in his great little ditty “Saitama-Ken” (a live version, I don’t think this is in the album version) “That’s because people from Saitama are idiots (and can’t read Kanji)”
There are times I think life would be easier without Kanji, but then I think “with no spaces between words and one heck of a lot of phonemes, how would you make sense of written Japanese without them?” I mean, obviously the Koreans figures out how to do it somehow, it looks like they use spaces:
Still, I don’t know, the fact you can sometimes change the nuance of a word by carefully choosing a Kanji, thereby imparting meaning above and beyond that given just by the basic word choice, is one of the charms of the system.
As for the “Shari takedown”, I won’t speak for others but what gets me about her isn’t her anti-Japanophile rants (heck, more than a few Japanophiles deserve to be talked to that way), nor the fact that she suffers both from delusions of grandeur and a nasty victim complex, nor that she is a complete and total hypocrite. No, it’s something much simpler, and the same thing that sets my teeth on edge about Debito: she’s talking about my home and family. Criticism of Japan and the Japanese is warranted where it is due, but there are plenty of real-life things to criticize without just making fantastic tales up out of your butt-lint.
“and the same applies to Shari and anyone else you might feel like disapproving of”
There is a huge difference, I think, between disapproving of someone and disapproving of a bunch of stuff that someone wrote and how they present material.
I don’t think comparing reactions to Debito and Shari the way you mentioned really makes sense, because to us “Shari” is literally nothing but text on a blog; she might as well be a fictional character, and in fact COULD be for all we know. I don’t know who she really is, or even care that much, but on her blog she brings up an awful lot of familiar arguments that all of us have heard dozens or hundreds of times, and I think it’s perfectly legitimate to quote from her blog to attack what she’s saying, if what she’s saying is so harsh (as M-Bone stated.)
Contrast with Debito, for whom we have first, second and third knowledge of, many articles written under his own name, an accurate biography, etc.
I will grant, however, that it’s far easier to justify attacks against someone when they are anonymous, and it’s important to moderate tone to try and save really gleeful-sounding attacks for targets who truly deserve it, like politicians.
“I actually like everything on the list (some in small doses) except erogames. It only becomes silly, I think, if coupled with a militant rejection of “foreign” things.”
“zen, go, ikebana, tea ceremony, kami shibai, shugendo, Mishima Yukio, waka, kendo, carving butsuzo, and playing erogames”
I’d say I’m pretty disinterested in go, ikebaba, tea ceremony, waka, and erogames. I have nothing against them either, but nothing much I want to learn a whole lot more about.
I think Adamu might have something against apostrophes too… 😀
I would be firmly opposed to getting rid of kanji. Once you know them it makes reading a lot easier. Yeah it’s a steep learning curve, but to learn to read (as opposed to write) 1,000 of the more common ones is not that hard. In fact one thing I really like about Chinese is how they write everything in kanji (obviously, but still, seeing things like 中心 for the shopping centre type of centre is fun).
I personally loathe katakana gairaigo. I keep trying to work out what the original is when I read it. And it’s used often when there is a perfectly good Japanese (kanji) substitute, just to sound wanky – like English speakers and French. Not that I am advocating a return to 昇降機 but some of what I read is ridiculous.
I think a lot of the anger directed at people like Shari is also due to the impression of disrepect we may get from her rants. “Japan is beneath my notice” in everthing from language to food, Even housing in a way. The old blog was subtitled “Living a western lifestyle in Japan and various musings” after all. THe whole raison d’etre was avoiding Japan as much as possible, which to me at least shows disrepect. I should note that I have equal contempt for Asians who migrate to the West and never change their ways either. Not that many Japanese where I come from, but boatloads of Chinese, and it is not at all uncommon for someone to claim they don’t speak English after living there for 20 years.
And not learning Japanese to save yourself from pain is a bit like not seeing the doctor to save yourself from a broken leg. It’s the single easiest way to relieve the pain there could be.
To take the other extreme, the Culture Vulture (which I could never be as I loathe sake…), my reaction to that is more like pity–extreme nerdism, in a way–but not hate. Unless they are obnoxious about it of course: “you’ll never understand Japan unless you wear a kimono every day”. But the reason that I think this is a bit silly is simply that the Japanese themselves don’t live that way, for the vast bulk of them at least. It would be like me moving to New York and wearing chaps and a cowboy hat as that’s “American”.
At any rate, extemism is something to be wary about, with good reason. I like the Buddhist Middle Way of not going insane about things.
Also note that while I’ve dumped on Debito a bit, I’ve also flat out said here that dragging in elements of his personal life is out of bounds – even if he wrote about it online anyway.
In reading so much of Shari’s blog, I came across some personal things that I reacted rather strongly to… and didn’t quote them here. That’s not what we’re doing.
Something that I (my “secret identity”, or wait a minute, is M-Bone the secret identity and….) published was ripped pretty hard online one time – I just responded calmly and the critics shut it. Why? I think that what I originally wrote was reasonable and easy to defend. Some of what Shari writes isn’t.
Come to think of it the only reason why I like go is Kawabata…. and I only like Ikebana because flowers smell nice. If you don’t have anything against Erogames, you probably haven’t seen a bad one….
Well, flowers can make me sneeze even if I don’t seek them out. I can’t really be affected by an erogame if I’m not actively looking at one. Actually, my entire experience with erogames, besides seeing them on the shelves in stores, is reading the reviews on Somethingawful.com, so they’ve at least given me a small amount of entertainment that way.
BTW, I’m not sure that the Kimono/Buddhism guy really exists – I sorta just made him up to contrast with the equally theoretical person who insists on only eating pork rinds.
Well there that guy with a blog about how he eats only bacon.
Is the guy still alive?
I thought the kimono/Buddhism guy was established as Alex Kerr, myself.
Kerr moved to Thailand after he complained about the lack of English-newspapers in Japanese hotels. Does not strike me as the archetype of the J culture vulture.
I don’t see Kerr’s complaint about papers as “I can’t be bothered personally” or “Japan must conform to ME!!” – he was ranting about Japan’s self-image as “international” (while, if I remember the preface to Dogs and Demons correctly, lounging in the lobby of what is one of the top hotels not only in Thailand but all Asia: of course they have superlative service). “Lost Japan” is full of classic CV stuff though. Also, Culture Vultures can get disillusioned, and when that happens, they fall down hard.
“Does not strike me as the archetype of the J culture vulture.”
This is the archytype of postwar culture vulture.
I have Japanese translation of “Peking Story” with Kidd’s picture shot sometime in 1940s on the cover.He looks like mix of David Bowie and David Sylvian,but in the reality is vice-versa.
Kidd was,just like many CV type,a homosexual(and there are so many of them).
I always wonder what their private life is like.There are certain description in Donald Richie’s “Japan Diary”but that certainly is an unexplored part of expat life.
Maybe we have to wait for expat gay manga artist coming up with “My Darling is a Japanese”.
Most of what I remember about “Lost Japan” is his recollections of working as an art buyer/dealer in Kyoto, raiding old family collections that get opened when older relatives died. It was actually pretty interesting, reminding me in a small way of driving around the garage sales in and near my hometown with my dad on Saturday morning. Except of course Alex Kerr found much better stuff.
Seriously though, as annoyingly overreferenced as much of his stuff is, I can’t help but think of it as I bike around Kyoto over the past couple of years noticing a complete lack of machiya being destroyed, machiya and other old buildings being renovated all over the place, and new houses making a deliberate effort to have an “old Kyoto” look to them. It’s seriously a dramatic difference from when I first lived in Kyoto only 7 years ago. If some of this is actually traceable to Kerr’s activism then I’m fully appreciative.
“If some of this is actually traceable to Kerr’s activism then I’m fully appreciative”
I do not know how much is–some might be. I know he is active in some areas: there are a number of restored machiya his organization has restored and rents out as lodging for extortionate prices. I do know however that there is a widespread movement to restore as much of the machiya as can be done, as the lack of them belatedly becomes apparent. I was last in Kyoto in April, and walking around I did notice it seemed a bit better in parts (there’s also a movement to save the Meiji era stuff too, which I think is important: had a long chat with the director of the Kyoto Archives a couple of years ago about this very topic). There are similar movements in other cities: my own, smaller but more attractive than Kyoto (what, bias? Never!) has a number of assistance schemes for people wanting to do up old places. However one thing that I have noticed is that in the touristy areas especially, old houses are restored to look nice, but are souvenir shops and the like, so the social landscape is damaged even as the physical is beautified.
My beef with Kerr is certainly not that sort of thing: wanting to preserve old houses is not being a CV. I was thinking more along the lines of how he felt betrayed by Kyoto when he arrived as it was not the city of his fantasies, for example.
Oh yes, they’re doing pretty well with the Meiji era stuff too- in fact I’d say almost everything prewar is these days far more likely to be preserved.
Yes the old houses in touristy areas general turn into shops, but there are actually more of them in non-touristy areas like Nishijin, or even more remote like the northern reaches of Sakyoku, where they are also being renovated for use as ordinary homes.
I know Kerr has a few showcase machiya that he rents out for truly insane prices (like, prices for a night or two that would let you rent a similar house for an entire month) which isn’t really doing anyone any good except for himself, but I do believe he was also involved in the community machiya preservation organizations.
One interesting trend I’ve noticed recently is preservation groups like this one (http://creatorsjapan.jp/machiyasub.html) that fix up old machiya Habitat For Humanity style and rent them out fairly cheap. But that’s worth doing a full post on some other day.
Some of those machiya look pretty nice, and the done-up ones that Kerr and others have done are just superb. I would love to live in one of those old creators-type places and do it up, but to buy, not rent. I look forward to your post on it.
I thought Nishijin was a reasonably touristy area myself, or at least to a certain extent (not nearly as much as Gion and Sannen/Ninenzaka and that area of course).
Over 180 comments – is this a record?
There are certainly some touristy things in Nishijin, particularly for fans of Japanese textiles and certain other traditional handicrafts, but for the most part it’s a quiet residential area, slightly removed from any train lines.
I haven’t actually met or spoken with the people at Creator’s, but I think I should some time. I at least plan to gather some photos of the renovations and new construction to illustrate my argument that Kyoto construction is on an upswing.
Incidentally, I also know of a couple of expat architects living in Kyoto whose practice primarily consists of restoring Machiya and other old houses (remember not all old wooden houses, even in Kyoto, are machiya).
Richie certainly wan’t a culture vulture either. One of his big things was arguing against the Japaneseness of Japanese film – in his opinion, viewers should consider the Miko in Rashomon to be mentally ill and disregard her testimony on behalf of the murdered man.
… but, guys like Richie and Kidd are certainly worth talking about.
Part of that whole culture has to do, I think, with the fact that Japan was by many accounts a great place to be a gay foreigner in the 50s and 60s.
Speaking of culture vultures and eroge, Marxy linked to the Danny Choo’s post about the decision by software developer Minori to block overseas visitors to their website:
There are a number of following comments blaming “stupid feminists” for the clampdown on eroge. Some commenters oppose any regulation on libertarian grounds while others are sympathetic to the protests over games like RapeLay. It isn’t clear where Danny Choo himself stands on the issue. I’ve never met the man, and he comes across as someone without a bad bone in his body but if he’s popping up on NHK and appearing in Nikon commercials then it becomes a relevant question.
That’s one of the associated problems with the government promoting anime and manga as part of a soft culture offensive. Culture Vultures with a penchant for the traditional arts have generally made uncontroversial cultural ambassadors for Japan. However, hentai is not that far from the mainstream in anime and manga so it’s questionable whether that’s a side of Japan which a government agency wants to present to an overseas audience.
N.B. On the idea that Japan was a great place to be a gay foreigner in the 50s & 60s, I spoke many, many years ago with James Kirkup, who I’ve just noticed died only last month. He was always keen to remind people that homosexuality was illegal in Britain until 1967 and there were similar laws in other countries. He preferred to say, then, that Japan was a safe place to be a gay foreigner and a great country rather than a great country to be a gay foreigner. It’s semantics to some degree but I think he wanted to confer almost refugee status on gay foreigners of that era.
”Richie certainly wan’t a culture vulture either. One of his big things was arguing against the Japaneseness of Japanese film”
But he made a contradictory comments on Ozu films such as dying Japanese virtue that youth don’t fully appreciates and blah blah blah.
If Kidd was foreign representative in Kyoto for traditonaly culture,Richie certainly was the modern in Tokyo.
BTW,The French BD artist Frederick Boire is the closest thing I can imagine who does “My Darling is a Japanese” genre.
1514 away from 200 comments. I smell a record coming on…
“We’re 1514 away from 200 comments. I smell a record coming on…”
Just read the 毒抜き part of Zetsubo Sensei a few days ago. If this thread was 毒抜き, there would only be about 5 comments…
“But he made a contradictory comments on Ozu films such as dying Japanese virtue that youth don’t fully appreciates and blah blah blah.”
I think that he contradicted himself a lot – he has also been a huge supporter of Paul Schrader’s “transcendental style” ideas which place Ozu with some other famous directors as transcending culture (and then Schrader penned some hard-ass Catholic movies for Scorsese). Come to think of it, Schrader probably didn’t like culture because of his upbrining – “Paul Schrader’s early life was based upon strict Dutch Calvinist principles and parental education. When he disobeyed his mother, she would stab his hand with a pin, asking, “You think that felt bad? Hell is like that, only every second and all over your body”.”
“There are a number of following comments blaming “stupid feminists” for the clampdown on eroge. Some commenters oppose any regulation on libertarian grounds while others are sympathetic to the protests over games like RapeLay.”
As far as I can gather – that is the general tone all over the Anime/Manga side of the net. Parents should do a better job of supervising their 14 year old sons.
And daughters – as I understand it there are a bunch of little boy rape fan circles for women.
I’d be surprised if Choo comes down hard on the otaku – doesn’t want to be biting the hand that feeds. I say off with their heads.
“However, hentai is not that far from the mainstream in anime and manga”
How about “not that far from the mainstream in otaku anime and manga?” The mainstream is really Mizyazaki, Jump, King of Fighters, Sazae-san, and GUNDAM.
“whether that’s a side of Japan which a government agency wants to present to an overseas audience”
They should stick with Doraemon and Ponyo.
Seriously, good anime and manga seems to sell itself overseas. It certainly doesn’t need the Japanese government’s help. What the Japanese government should be doing is opening up funds to bankroll anime and manga projects, support new creators, etc. They should not get involved on the creative side, however, no way that they could match something like “Vagabond”.
“that Japan was a safe place to be a gay foreigner and a great country rather than a great country to be a gay foreigner.”
From what I understand of that scene, this is a great way to put it.
Mark McLelland is a scholar working on Japanese gay culture in that period (some on foreign involvment). Lots of good quotes from Shukanshi from back in the day – most of his stuff is a great read.
Poat 195 – Of course, no list of Culture Vultures could ever be complete without the original, Lafcadio Hearn. The fantasy, the “going native to an extreme” (relateively), the disillusionment…..
And it’s always easier to sell something that is already popular – no wonder the GOJ is having a go at manga/anime.
I have met Danny Choo in person and he’s a wonderful guy, incredibly good with people.
As long as he’s bringing up eroge, there’s one thing I’ll never understand about him. When he was building up his website, he had a designer create a mascot for him called mirai-chan. If you go to his homepage, you’ll see her on practically every page. She’s a very cute, typical moe-high school girl character. Anyways, after he had her designed, he then teamed up with a game producing friend and *made an eroge featuring her.* Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, but I just don’t understand it.
Am I completely out of it to suggest that a lot of hardcore anime fans embrace the weird sex stuff as part of the overall otaku package? I mean, hentai, boy love, and furries all seem to go hand in hand with American otaku.
“but I just don’t understand it.”
I don’t get it either. I mean, I’m not going to put down a copy of Gantz just becuase a character has an exaggerated chest, but it seems like some otaku build their lives around the sleeze. The only thing in that whole culture that I’ve really enjoyed is Suzumiya Haruhi – and that’s mostly because it reminds me of Urusei Yatsura and Slayers.
Adamu, you’re not out of it at all – it seems be to a big thing among NA otaku. I don’t think that it was like it back in the day when I first started to get interested in Akira and Patlabor fansubs and all that. Perhaps, as anime has now gotten mainstream to the point that some Americans watch it in an entirely casual grab off the rental shelf and toke up type of way, fans need to prove how “real” they are by getting the most obscure Japanese stuff that they can put their mitts on – and that usually means fan translations of fringe moe stuff or smut. Of course, we’re also talking mostly about a bunch of 14 year olds posting online – that could explain something as well.
In any case, I’m not going to get all moral on erogames in general – but we have to keep in mind that there are some where the object is to rape shogakusei. This isn’t a free speech issue so much as a billiard ball in a sock issue.
Anyway, one reason why the American fans are riled up that nobody has mentioned here is this –
The fan backlash should be seen in that context.
I wonder if Tony will ever stumble on this thread and think “Wow, there are 200 posts about Darling ha Gaikokujin!”
“Seriously, good anime and manga seems to sell itself overseas. It certainly doesn’t need the Japanese government’s help. What the Japanese government should be doing is opening up funds to bankroll anime and manga projects, support new creators, etc. They should not get involved on the creative side, however, no way that they could match something like “Vagabond”.”
If the Japanese government wants to do something to promote the production of quality anime, they should be looking at providing some labor regulations that allow their non-superstar animators to actually make a living. Reading about the sweatshop conditions of Japanese animators should be making us all feel guilty the same way people do about their sweatshop produced sneakers. In fact, whatever union/association they have should use that exact comparison in a media campaign calling for industry reform.
“The fan backlash should be seen in that context.”
That case shocked me pretty hard as well, but it’s worth noting that he pled guilty and was not convicted. Considering the string of laws banning things like computer generated fake child porn that have been struck down by federal courts I don’t actually think there’s much chance anyone WOULD be convicted of such a charge at trial. Problem is, you have to be willing to actually put yourself through the trial…
That case is seriously making me consider whether its a good idea to include my Maruo Suehiro manga when I ship my books home though. Maybe if I tape it to a copy of the edition of “Naked Lunch” that includes the supreme court decision affirming that artistic merit trumps obcenity…?
“Am I completely out of it to suggest that a lot of hardcore anime fans embrace the weird sex stuff as part of the overall otaku package? I mean, hentai, boy love, and furries all seem to go hand in hand with American otaku.”
I do think that’s true to a certain extent, but I think that market is a miniscule fraction of the casualfans, the audience for the stuff that’s actually shown on TV.
Let’s see what the list looks like now – white mochi skin, Mishima Yukio, Debito, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dewi Sukarno, Welcome Back Kotter, Yoko Ono, Charisma Man, Grounds-keeper Willy, Mongolian Communsits, wanton dick swinging, cougars, Biggus Dickus, magic virgins, no pan shabushabu, Sheena the Jungle Queen, Mother Teresa, Uncle Toms, Ken Shimura, Eikaiwa teachers, straw men, Doctor Who, #ucking police, Classic Debito, culture vultures, relentless haters (cough), Kawabata Yasunari, guy who only eats bacon, Alex Kerr, Kidd/Bowie/Richie, the miko in Rashomon, Danny Choo, and John Calvin.
So many fascinating questions –
Who would win an argument – Debito or Classic Debito?
Would John Calvin approve of magic virgins?
Could the Uncle Toms beat the straw men in a streetfight?
“That case shocked me pretty hard as well”
Yeah, he wasn’t convicted, but I’m pretty sure that his life is $hit now. Between that 15 year old who was convicted as a sex offender for getting randy with a 14 year old and girls dragged in as child porn producers for sending nudie texts of themselves…. Some people are picking the wrong fronts for the culture war.
Re: animators – I think that money should be made available for young and creative directors to try new things (just look what Shinkai managed to do). However, with the industry, we’ve seen a few important things to note – the next great directors aren’t raised from the rank and file, they are trained to be idea people from scratch. Lots of CG has allowed firms to get away with less staff. If there is improvement in Japan, the jobs will just go overseas. Lots of overseas invovlment has not eroded anime – look at Mushishi backgrounds, Macross Frontier CG, GITS inbetweens, etc.
In any case, I think that manga is by far the bigger international industry now. The government should be throwing some cash for experimental projects that way as well.
“That case is seriously making me consider whether its a good idea to include my Maruo Suehiro manga when I ship my books home though.”
You’re a historian – one of the standards seems to be cultural merit – and those manga are set in your (rough) research period so don’t sweat it.
Roy commented: “…I think that market is a minuscule fraction of the casual fans…”
That was really my question. If Danny Choo, by all accounts a nice guy, could be counted among that that “minuscule fraction”, would that make him a good guy to choose for official soft power promotion of the genre or someone to avoid?
What I don’t understand is the perceived need to subsidize his work–the guy probably makes more from blogging than any other J-blogger already, and there’s certainly no deficit of otaku material on the internet.
“would that make him a good guy to choose for official soft power promotion of the genre or someone to avoid?”
I think that the Japanese gov has to decide just what it wants to promote. Is it manga/anime as products to sell abroad? Or is it tourism to Japan? If it is tourism to Japan, I think that the hardcore fans are most likely to go and spend money. When you think of it, there was a huge boost in anime fandom in the US around 2000-2002. That crew is going to be getting out of school and pulling in money any time now.
“need to subsidize his work”
I think Danny is a pretty savvy and active businessman. So left to his own devices he will just find more and more ways to make deals and profit. To throw in a couple of cliches, if bloggers snooze they lose, and sometimes the strong get stronger as they capitalize on smaller guys’ mistakes or inaction.
I think most of the eroge should be left alone. Feminists or no feminists, these are no more harmful than real porn (and arguably less since it doesnt require real actresses), plus there is much much more live action rape porn watched by “normal” people. The outrage here is based purely on opportunism in my view. I don’t really have an opinion on whether Danny Choo deserves to work with NHK or whatever, but surely if someone makes enough of a stink out of it he could be scandalized out of the job.
I too think eroge is lesser evil than pron itself.Come to think of it.It’s not linked with yakuza and there’s little violation of human right in process of making such games.
Looking at blogs like Akibablog,DC is simply doing what everyone in Akiba is doing.Simply selling stuffs that’s been sold there for decades.Japan will be symbolized by certain sexual industry with or without Danny Choo or GoJ.
To make this thread goes 300,I now add Nanjing Massacre into the argument.
Today’s Sankei.Why Japan need more cultural creater for public diplomacy.
The Japanese right should be talking about how the various Nanking movies that have been made in the last few years have barely made a ripple in North America. Of course, the movies are way more valuable as an anti-Chinese bugbear.
I think that it is time for that crew to grow up and relalize that the only way that a realistic account of the massacre is going to be popularized is if they accept the basic premise held by the Chinese side and internationally that mass killings happened and that people suffered and that the Japanese side was “wrong”. Starting from that point of view will allow them to at least engage with academics and journalists outside of Japan.
The Associated Press and others have cut the numbers that they use from the official Chinese gov. 350,000 to the 200,000 high number favored by the Japanese left. What happened here is that sane conservatives like Hata Ikuhiko argued the left into revising their numbers and it was those leftist historians who, in international conferences and the like, spread awareness of the new number. So who brought about a reduction of the typically reported death toll by nearly half? It sure as hell wasn’t the Sankei.
In a way, the Nanking massacre is supremely frustrating. If you take the compromise figure that many historians have been using – several tens of thousands of civilian deaths and perhaps something like 75,000 soldiers over a period of weeks – it doesn’t seem much different from what Japanese troops were doing throughout the China war. And yet the Chinese government ends up with a monolith and the Japanese right with a straw man.
Danny’s a good friend of mine. What you see (on the blog) is what you get. Very friendly, gracious, personable, savvy, all of these are accurate. What’s amazing about him is how much he works to share his experiences online. He’s sort of a modern version of Justin Hall (links.net from way back before blogs.)
Tony used to come to the monthly blogger meet-ups when I first moved to Tokyo. He was quiet but thoughtful, I guess reserved is an impression I had. I haven’t seen Tony in years but remember him as friendly and knowledgeable and generous with his time.
Lest anyone get the wrong impression, I am not objecting to Danny Choo’s success. I am more curious as to why, say, he needs a grant from NHK, when he was clearly doing just fine without it.
ＤＰＪ Matsubara: Fund the RAND Corporation for a study about the truth of comfort women and Nanjing massacre(4:57). The americans are fair, their research result will surley DENY the fact about comfort women and Nanijing massacre.
Foreign Minisiter (WAIT, THAT is our current PM): Yes, the americans are fair and historical materials are on our side. bla,bla,bla.
25th May, 2007, Questions during the national diet.
LOVE those out of reality, comedical Japanese right wing politicians.
“LOVE those out of reality, comedical Japanese right wing politicians.”
Yeah, what they really mean is that the LACK of historical materials is on their side. So outside of this group, people see really pained and passionate testimony of survivors and don’t care about the lack of a smoking gun document.
Re: Danny. I’d like to meet Danny. He seems like a great guy. Sure, I’d like it if he read the riot act to feminist bashers on his site, but I don’t think that it necessarily reflects poorly on him that he didn’t. He’s running a business – very well it seems.
This disgusting filthy magazine only serves to reinforce white worship and the prostitution of Japanese women to foreign men. I am so glad it was torn to bits!!!!
Think like this. thesoulofjapan.Our girls are stealing men from foreign women.
Makes you feel a lot better.
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