Friday, 15 May 2009

PostHeaderIcon Stupid Gaijin: Death With Honour

Death with Honour

There are a lot of stupid gaijin (foreigners) living in Japan and a lot more tedious stereotypical views of Japan that exist in western society. Therefore, I think it is only fair that I start to address some of them.

I reckon if you were to ask an average person in Scotland what they thought of Japan then they'd imagine a packed Shibuya crossing in Tokyo with hundreds of people buzzing about with cheap, see-through umbrellas. Then they'd have a flashback to a picture of a bullet train passing by Mt. Fuji whilst some cherry blossoms blow past in a breeze of serenity. Then they'd mention stuff like respect, bowing, samurai, sushi, earthquakes, tsunamis, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, suicide, sumo, karate, konnichiwa, sayonara*, ichi ni san, domo arigato Mr.Roboto and the apparent abundance of vending machines that sell schoolgirls underwear. Basically, it's a fair assessment of what Japan likes to portray to the world (maybe not the last one) and what the western world then happily regurgitates in books, television and film.

I was guilty of this myself before moving to Japan and occasionally I still fall victim to it when I try and take a pretencious picture like this:

Indeed, every friend I have on facebook has taken the exact same pictures of Japan. There's the many different angled pictures of temples, a geisha in Kyoto talking on a mobile phone, a close-up shop of noodles and green tea and some bad English written on a t-shirt. Lack of originality aside... these are okay because they are a reality of every day life that is different to us. The problem with some of the stereotypical views in the western media is that they always play up the extremes too much. They are obsessed with portraying Japan as this modern, western country yet still connected deeply to its traditional past. Every source of media must mention something about respect, shame and honour. A lot of this is based on truth of course but it so infuriating when you've lived here for two years yet still witness Hollywood spew out the same, recycled drivel about the samurai spirit of Japan.

Here is the perfect example of what I was trying to put across in this post. It is the trailer for "The Ramen Girl" staring Brittany Murphy in a supposed cash-in on the success of "Lost in Translation".

There is so much in this video that makes me annoyed. Not only does it look like a terrible film in which we're supposed to find sympathy for someone who can live rent free in Tokyo for a few months... but it cranks up the cliches to a ridiculous extent. First off... if some blond American walked into a local ramen shop and started speaking English then they'd apologise for not understanding and subsequently ignore her. Secondly... they wouldn't hire a gaijin on any principle... nevermind one who doesn't bother her arse at the language and doesn't have a sufficient visa.

The worst part is about halfway through when we have the triple entente of despair with "No spirit!" "Begin by putting tears in your broth" and "There's something about the Japanese and the perfect bowl of soup... it's kinda beautiful". No, it's a bowl of bloody soup from China and you eat it. Now shut the hell up.

The main point I was trying to make here is that life in Japan is not like a Hollywood movie. I don't spend my days jumping on and off bullet trains to visit temples where I will walk about whimsically in the rain trying to find myself whilst some music with synthesisers plays in the background. The truth is that life here is just like anywhere else in the developed world. People wear jeans, watch television, enjoy eating dinner, have a hobby, live in the dull suburbs, drive to shopping malls on Sunday afternoon to buy unesscary goods. In between all that there might be an amusing cultural clash, an unusual food for dinner and an evening bonding with a local farmer but it isn't as big a deal. Certainly not something to fill a blog full of...

*Sayonara actually translates better as 'Farewell'. I've never used it.


Anonymous said...

Ah that looks pure shite. But, you can tell by the voiceover guy that it's going to be shit

If you ever have an hour spare and want to get violently annoyed you should read this
Actually don't. It's one of the most pointless and annoying books I've ever read. But then again, I can't stand Peter Carey. He gives pretentious Australian writers a bad name.

Anonymous said...

Oh how you have grown. That film you mention looks worse than Lost In Translation. Least that used just used Japanese as a backdrop to the film's premise.

If only gaijin watched more Asia produced work. Have you heard of the film 'Antique'? Japanese manga turned into a film. Western Cake style shop...need I say more?

Ahoy hoy said...

My friend actually had a copy of that book when we travelled in Thailand. It follows some idiot and his spoiled kid as they try and find the history behind manga or something? He acts dumbfounded about every single thing he comes across, doesn't he? "I met this man and he... he... bowed. I had no idea what to do".

That's an interesting video Anonymous 2. Especially because Japanese people tell me there are no homosexuals in Japan. Although it appears it is set in Korea?

It's truly amazing how popular cake shops are here. Any big city is full of the same looking Japanese women stuffing their faces with tiny cakes. They've all got names starting with Chez... as well.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on finally figuring this out Craig. You're a frigging idiot.

Ahoy hoy said...

I was being facetious you twat.

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About Me

I am a 24 year old Scotsman currently teaching English to Japanese schoolchildren. I live in a small town on the east coast of Kochi prefecture.