Part 2: Read second

Well, that didn’t work very well. The previous post (in the draft phase) showed the picture that I uploaded, but it doesn’t look like it actually uploaded. Plus, it fucked up the draft a bit and made the writing difficult. Anyhow, guess I can’t show a picture of the illuminations on Roppongi Hills, but they are very nice.

While I was going to Roppongi Hills to check it out I stopped in a train station bathroom. I can’t remember, but I think food was just going through me that day. So yeah, I got the toilet that didn’t seem to flush. So, there was a button next to the toilet that said something about “for emergencies.” I knew right when I was pushing it that it wasn’t an “emergency flush” button, but probably something like an emergency “HELP!” button. After nothing happened, I just walked out. I’m guessing that the guard that ran by me as I was walking away was probably rushing to the scene. By that time though I was almost out of the station and figured there would be no use in trying to explain the situation, especially since I wouldn’t know really how to communicate that in Japanese. So, I went to see the lights.

That was probably a month ago that I went there. What are other things that happened a month ago? Hmmm…. I know there’ve been a lot, but I’m forgetting them at the moment.

Just returned from a trip down to visit family in Maebashi, in the Gunma prefecture. My mother came to Japan a week and a half ago, and we’ve spent the last week down there. Mostly eating and watching hilarious and strange television shows. The night of New Year’s Eve we were watching a show that had a group of five guys dressed like airline stewardesses (complete with short skirts), who were put into these situations where they had to try not to laugh. The show had a bunch of Japanese celebrities, and the scenarios took place on a public bus or in a prison, I think, or on a gameshow,  etc.. Everytime one of them laughed they got whacked on the ass with a baton. It must’ve not been too hard, because they got whacked maybe a hundred times. The show went on for something like three hours.  Even for not being able to understand a lot of dialogue,  the show was incredibly entertaining. It’s a bit hard to describe accurately, I guess.

It’s gonna get pretty busy for me from here on out. This is the last month of school and there’s a test just about every week. I can’t wait for school to be done with. I can already reflect upon my experience here and confidently say that school had little to do with me enjoying my stay in Japan. It was the annoying mosquito that wouldn’t go away, but I had to keep feeding it because I had a $4,500 dollar scholarship that required me to say how wonderful it was to have it biting me — on pain of paying back that huge sum. Yeah, that mosquito.

It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t blog for my scholarship, because I don’t know if I really could’ve pulled off being a phony bitch in blog post after blog post. How many times could I have really said something like “The Japanese are a proud people, who possess an almost “zen-like” patience,” and “hey, the Japanese say “Oishi” when they things are delicious,” and “ewwww…raw fish! I think I’ll pass, thank you!” or “Wow, look at my ‘Hello Kitty’ toothbrush,” and “isn’t it something that the Japanese hang their laundry out to dry on clotheslines?” or “campus life is so great; my group went to a temple, cause the Japanese are a very traditional people who believe in Buddhism,” etc…etc… Just another moment to try to create differences between people by commenting on “culture,” which paradoxically tends to be a barrier to understanding other people.

Realistically, the foundation wants you to be a certain type of student: one that doesn’t criticize the culture ever (or anything for that matter; just want you to be “positive”), one who doesn’t have a libido (no talking about the person or people you want to fuck. Well, if you are a straight guy or girl you can get away with probably saying something like ‘there are so many cute boys/girls here. Japan is so fun!’…just as long as you didn’t say something like “private karaoke booths are good places to fuck!” — which I’ve been told is actually a pretty common practice here, especially since they are 24 hours), and one who likes the cute things in life: the anime with the hello kitty and the big, doe-y eyes is preferred to the anime that includes bondage and tentacles. If you enjoy taking pictures of yourself making some sort of goofy face or with a landmark in the background, then you are the perfect poster-girl/boy for a scholarship foundation. Of course, every student is aware of it, and I know that every student puts on a fake front to get that money. This discussion has gone around in our own circle of exchange students. But there is still something so rank about having to censor yourself as well as presenting the culture and country as if it were a fucking theme park. I mean, this is an anonymous blog and all but I can write what I want to and can give you as much of an honest answer as I know how to.  I would’ve had to attach my name to a scholarship blog, and would’ve probably had to show pictures of me with other students, bonding and having a good time on campus — cause campus life is real life, and what better way to spend your study abroad experience than to spend most of it on campus. What would’ve probably happened is that that little cynical voice inside me would’ve somehow came through and then come off as so sarcastic as to defeat the purpose of promoting the scholarship.

It’s nice that a few people get it, and realize that the experience is supposed to encompass more than just doing homework, and that it may even be more important to have the experiences outside of the campus. It’s true that my Japanese language skills would’ve probably been a whole lot better if I would’ve spent time in one of the student lounges hanging out and conversing. Or if I would’ve gone to the izakayas to drink. Or go to the park late at night to drink. Or just mingled with students instead of just my host family and others I encountered on my travels around the city. I still suck at Japanese compared with the rest of the students, and that’s not an exaggeration at all: they are all better than I am. However, I have no complaints: I went to heavy metal concerts where I got offered drugs, went to a famous photographer’s all nude art gallery in Roppongi, tracked down a famous gay porn star and got an autograph, ate raw horse and raw cod testicles (not together, which would’ve been disgusting probably, though I know I’m not gonna sell anyone on either of those items individually), saw dozens of right-wing protests, got offered “tit” in Tokyo’s ghetto — known as “Kabuki-Cho”– went to one of the most controversial sites in Japan, namely Yasukuni Shrine, which causes diplomatic tension throughout Asia, and have actually walked a fair chunk of the area of the city: one of my walks was over four hours, which encompassed a huge circle of inner Tokyo. Know the trains pretty well at this point, too. Found the place which is the area for Japanese Otaku (Akihabara is mostly a tourist destination, but Nakano Broadway is where the Japanese guys go to get their Anime and Manga fix). In Nakano Broadway you can find all sorts of strange things: like a small toy sculpture of an old, naked, obese woman with large sagging breasts and a great big smile on her face like she’s singing a showtune. And on and on.

Of course, the other students are all having their experiences, too — maybe a lot of the same ones that I have had. Probably not meeting a porn star, or going to a nude gallery, or eating testicles: Did I really just pick the three gayest things on the list? There are many other things I’ve done, of course, because I’ve gone out everyday to do something. There have only been maybe two days where I’ve stayed at home the entire day. Even if it is just a small jaunt out to a coffeeshop… Most of the time it was an hour train ride somewhere unfamiliar, where I’d allow myself to get lost for a bit.

Anyhow, rambling like a motherfucker. It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything. The only unfortunate thing is, after all that I’ve said, I will have to perform some sort of presentation on behalf of the scholarship. It’s only one time that I have to sell out a little bit and present a sanitized version of what it means to experience life in a different country. Sumima-motherfucking-sen.

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3 responses to “Part 2: Read second

  1. Is the controversial shrine you referred to the one where it’s all, “Hey, we were victims of WWII too! If the rest of you had just left us alone, our dreams of Greater Japan would have worked out wonderfully! ” More or less?

    • Yeah, that’s it. It’s precisely the one that I referenced in one of the earliest posts. If I didn’t have a bilingual guide with me I would have just thought it was a very beautiful looking shinto shrine with a quirky museum attached to it. Turns out it’s not really like that at all. The people who fund it are probably the types who think that the Nanjing massacre is a Chinese conspiracy. I remember reading about a guy who basically travels around giving speeches about how that’s one big hoax.

      Right now in my lit class we are reading a story by Oe Kenzaburo. It’s called “Prize Stock.” The other one we read is called “Sheep.” Short stories. Intense. Awesome. If you can find them check them out. Will be seeing you fairly soon, I return in mid-February.

  2. I look forward to it. I’m a member of the same credit union as you now.

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