People of Japan

Japan is my Home

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People of Japan

Writer Neal Stephenson referred to living in Asia as like stepping into one of the classic comic books, and perhaps that was why so many Westerners ended up settling here.

I can relate. Still much of Japan and Asia in general is very exotic. To me my wife is still exotic after years of marriage. My children look exotic.

My dinner looks exotic, especially if it moves! Low level forms of sea life, quivering on my plate are always exciting,and fun for the whole family!

People of Japan - Home

I think we can all be comfortable and successful anywhere we want. Japan may seem unfathomable to you, but to me it is just home. I have two homes now--Japan and Canada, but really the world is my home.To the drunk, redneck who accosted a friend of mine in front of a local station saying,

"America go home."

I would say, "the world is my home. Piss off!"

I could see myself living anywhere. Of course there would be an adjustment involved,but that is half the fun. I have three small children, whom I love very much, but if fate had been different, and we were a childless couple, I could foresee us traveling the world and living and teaching in different places. For now I will dream about it, and do it one day when my children are older. (People of Japan - Pictured Joci)

(People of Japan Update: I am traveling now! It`s great!)

Wherever you live, I`m sure there are places or circumstances that are special to you.

People of Japan - My tennis classmates

For me, one of them is my tennis class. I have known some of the members for many years now.

(People of Japan photo: Dustin Hoffman with Japanese tennis buddies in Kanagawa)

Some People of Japan

Satoru has just had a baby girl! When I expressed surprise as he showed me Takako`s photo withhis cell phone, he joked, "what, didn`t think I could do it?"

"No but viagra is miraculous," I should have replied. He is 48 so we bug him about his age.I`m so happy for him.

People of Japan - a Funeral

It wasn`t long ago that we were all wearing black and going to his wife`sfuneral. She died of leukemia at 40, the age I am now. Masami`s sister was asked to donate bone marrow in a last ditch effort to save her, but being a Jehovah Witness she refused to help her sister. Thathas always been one part of their religion I really don`t agree with.

She was my wife`s good friend. My wife cried many tears for her, as did Satoru. For a few years he was not himself. I can`t imagine what it is like to lose someone so close to you.

Yet today he has had a baby! He remarried a few years ago and now he is a pappa. It is funny how life works out, or fate I would suggest. I think everything is meant to be. It may seem terrible at the time,but in the end there is a reason. There I have revealed my buddhist bias to you. Satoru is such a greatguy that he promised to take care of his former wife`s parents, so he and his new wife and baby, live withhis previous wife`s mother. I`m sure it all works out well. Japanese are even surprised when I tell them this story.

People of Japan - My Mother-in-law

I can`t even imagine living with my wife`s mother, the wildebeast! I hope she doesn`t read this!She`s probably grazing as we speak! Don`t disturb her whenshe`s grazing!

Funny People of Japan!

Takahashisan is a funny man! If he hadn`t gone into sales he could have been a comedian. There are a lot of people like that. Often the funniest people you know, live right next door. Takahashi is one of them.

He and I like to joke around with each other. Although he is almost 50 and I am grudgingly 40, we act like elementary school boys. The other day, sitting on the bench--while waiting for our turn to play tennis, he put his head on my leg and pretended to sleep.

I called for the tennis coach to complain that Takahashi was bugging me again.This seems to be our pattern. He will throw balls at me and hit me in the leg. I do the same. Seeing this it is hard to believe that I own a business and manage people.

How old are they? I`m sure people are thinking..He and I are still such kids, I think that is why our wives married us. I think when I am 80 I will still be a child in many ways. Don`t mean to brag! My wife`s friends tell her it must be hard raising four children (I am the third boy).

People of Japan - Hiroaki

My hero!

Hiroaki is an example of what a man should be to me. He is gentle yet strong. He is humorous and willingto laugh at himself. He is the worst player in our class but he comes, has fun, and doesn`t seem to worry about it. He always has something funny or good natured to say. About ten years ago he was worried hewas going to die. A doctor said he had cancer. After many more tests it was found that he was in good health.He quit smoking though, and still doesn`t smoke till this day.

My father, a former doctor says the tests are so good now, they catch everything--from unimportant to life threatening. Often what theycatch can`t be explained but it won`t kill you.

"What`s this on my arm?"

"We don`t know, but don`t worry about it!" Doctors don`t usually say this, they will say "Nothing."And that`s what you pay them for.

Mr. Yamaki talks to me about bushido and the samurai spirit. He is 60 and old enough to be my father.He has a teenaged daughter and his wife is 40. He lived in California for 6 months picking (and mostly eating) strawberries. He recently ran for the town council and lost. I would have voted for him had I beengiven the chance. He tells me I should get my haircut at Mr. Osada`s barber shop. I think he means my hair is too long now. He also wants to get across to me that in Japan loyalty is very important.Mr. Osada is the team captain of our Tuesday tennis group, and by being a member of that group,I really owe it to him to have my haircut there.

In Japan there are all of these reciprocal relationships that are sometimes hard to understand in the West.

The 3 Circles of the People of Japan

A friend calls them the three circles. In the first circle is your family, friends and co-workers. In the secondcircle are potential people you may have a relationship with at some point--neighbours, or other employeesat the same company for example. In the third group, are people you really don`t need to give a damnabout.

Bang their head with your briefcase on the train "forget about it!" You don`t need to be polite or kind to these schmucks, you will never need them. You will never have a relationship with them so why bother.That is the thinking here. That is why the rate of charity is so much lower in Japan than in the West.

I won`t give to them, because I don`t know them. Homeless people-- I could never be like that. Forgetabout them! Someone is being hastled by an asshole on the train, ignore it. Pretend you don`t see it.

But if you are a member of the first circle, they will go to bat for you. They will help you if in need. You areone of the group, congratulations! You belong! Be you black, brown, Korean or caucasian, you are member of the first inner circle and you have made it.

So if you need a haircut, you come to me, if I, or my mother, or my neighbour need English lessons, we go to you. "Do ya get it?"

"Yes I do. A little off the sides please. Can you cover up that annoying grey?"

Times are tough now, I will get my hair cut at Mr. Osada`s. Hopefully I can gain a student or two through the relationship. I am still a small town Canadian, when I bang someone on the train I say "sorry."

People of Japan - Cultural Differences

Some Japanese do too, but often in Tokyo it gets ignored. I have been bodychecked and not heard asorry. That`s big city Japan and sometimes small town Japan too if the relationship is one of the third circle.

In the West we pride ourselves on how we treat the most pathetic people. In Japan they don`t. It is all about relationships and connections. If there is no relationship between you, you are on the outside lookingin. It is all the more tragic to be homeless in Japan. I flub my backhand and send it into the net. I have got to concentrate on tennis I tell myself.

More Funny People of Japan

Mr. Yamaki is a comedian. He frequently tries to embarrass me in front of my tennis mates. Unfortunately for me, he usually succeeds. I enjoy being the centre of attention though.As usual he speaks a very rapid dialect of Japanese I can`t understand and then asks me if Iagree with what he just said. I either answer "yes I do," or "I don`t understand what the hell you are saying," both always get a laugh. When I make a great shot, "He yells out, samurai spirit!" or"Lasto Samurai!"--the Japanese pronunciation of the English name of the Ken Watanabe, and Tom Cruise movie.

Waxing metaphysically here....

I wonder if I have ever lived in Japan before?

As a young child, I really wanted to go to Japan."Bushido," Mr. Yamaki yells before a big point for me. He was born in China during the war. But emphasizes that he is Japanese.

People of Japan - The Philosopher of Tennis

Naoto takes another drag on his Lucky Strike. He is my tennis instructor and philosopher. He is my friend. He`s a few years older and wiser than I. He seems to hate his own country.

At first I found it refreshing that a Japanese could actually say something negative about Japan. It is rare to hear a Japanese put down Japan but he does so often. In fact that is almost all he does these days.

I worry that he is depressed. His mother died a few years ago and maybe that is still affecting him. Yet I remember he has always put down Nippon.

I myself have been criticized for being too negative about this country at times, and ironically I find myself defending my adopted homeland from my tennis coach! Life is a comedy! Never doubt it! In my case a comedy-drama starring moi!

People of Japan - Naoto

Japanese are rude, Naoto will start. He tells me the story of how a Japanese assumed he was Indonesian and banged on the back of his chair during a flight to Tokyo. Instead of politely asking Naoto to raise his economy class seat because it was driving his legs into the cargo compartment, hechose instead to pound Naoto`s seat to send the message. Naoto turned around and in perfectJapanese said, "What the f--- are you doing?" The man astonished said, "Oh you are Japanese,sorry!" Naoto took this to mean that, if he had known the person in front was Japanese he would have been more polite. I think he`s right. Some of the Japanese are like that unfortunately.

Asians are thought to be, "onerung lower than us elite Japanese folk," seems to be the feeling of some Japanese. But many Japanese are not like this I willadd.

What can you learn from the People of Japan?

You learn a lot about yourself and your own country by living elsewhere. Japan is a good place to grow up. I am still working on that. It is also a great place to live and work. Japan has given me so much. In spite of the complaints I have at times, I have much to be thankful for. I better stop,Takahashisan has a ball in his hand, I had better defend myself!

Takahashisan is not typical of your people of Japan, but there are many funny Japanese like him, and I am happy for that!


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