Friday, 16 April 2010

PostHeaderIcon Stupid Gaijin: Sakura

That's a lovely picture of some cherry blossoms, isn't it?  Look at them being all pink and pretty.  Before I begin my rant and descend into the usual depths of nay saying and misery, I must state that I like cherry blossoms.  The trees look wonderful when it's a blue skied, sunny day and I'm driving alongside the Pacific.  I like to walk under the trees... catching the petals in my hand and delaying their valiant suicidal attempt after a life that didn't even last a full cycle of our moon.  Oh how I adore the symbolism of their short and glorious existence.  It really reveals the deep emotion of the Japanese soul.  How comforted those young men and their families must have been during WW2 when they realised they were living parallel lives to that of their beloved sakura.  To die in a blaze of glory for the emperor... oh the envy that their peers must have endured.  Indeed, when the season is over and the loss of the sakura is still deep in my soul... I am never alone in a country where every second restaurant or karaoke bar is named after them.  Furthermore, when I pay my bill I can stare smitten at the back of my ¥100 coins and remember the good days.

I'm not sure what happened in the opening paragraph there.  I was trying to appear positive but then I started insulting Japanese culture again.  The cherry blossom trees are nice though.  It's quite relaxing to sit under them and join in the drinking parties and such.  That's about it though.  Indeed, despite being native to East Asia... there are cherry trees all over the bloody world now.  It's one of those things that I knew existed but didn't really think about it.  The only time I can remember noticing them was in my last year at University.  The streets near my flat were literally lined from top to bottom with them.  I was walking home one day when a massive gust of wind blew thousand of petals in my direction.  It was a nice little moment that I enjoyed before I went home to watch Channel 4 news and forgot about it.  That was until I came to Japan and I began to notice an obsession with them amongst Japanese and foreigners alike.  Japanese people have often asked me if there are sakura in Scotland.  I used to describe my story with great enthusiasm and over-emphasised the mild feelings that I encountered.  They would nod politely but they would retain this look... this look that they always have when you don't give the stereotypical answer they were expecting.   Deep down they are thinking "Aww look at the little gaijin thinking he knows things.  A Japanese man on TV told me what you're like little gaijin.  Don't lie now". Therefore, I play into the same old conversations and let them have their moment.  If a Japanese person had walked down that street near my University then I truly believe they would have killed themselves on the spot.  The reason for this being that they would feel they didn't deserve to live after seeing such beauty.  I went home and made a cheese sandwich.

This entry wasn't meant to be an attack on Japan.  I'll give them their love of sakura.  They can have it all and I'll even give them a hearty slap on the back for their admiration and enjoyment of a national symbol.  Also, I get to drink a lot because of them.  The people that get on my nerves when it comes to sakura are the other foreigners that surround me.  There is an interesting experience to be had when you live in the gaijin minority in Japan.  I'll talk about various factors another time but one of the differences is the various ways we approach Japanese culture.  I didn't really know anything when I came to Japan.  I thought it would be exciting to live in a foreign country and the JET Programme just so happened to catch my eye one day.  Therefore, I came off the plane as a completely fresh faced, open minded and miserable young man.  I feel my experiences of Japan have been completely unpolluted by growing up without an interest in Japanese anime, manga, films or language.  Indeed, even in history I always thought kings and feasts were far superior to samurai and fish.  However, these elements of culture seem to attract a large majority of the people who come to Japan.  A lot of them are alright but a few have grown up into something of a Japanophile.  Their whole life seems to have been directed to teaching English in Japan.  They all seem to major and minor in Asian Studies and Japanese.  I've met many who try to steer a conversation towards your favourite Japanese character... I shrug and say I'm only aware of Anpanman (like a teletubbie) and possibly Dragonball or something.  Then they'll give me a sad face because I'll "be wasted in Japan".  I feel sorry for them if they ever stumble across my blog.  These kinds of people are just as annoying when it comes to their reaction to the beauty of cherry blossoms.  However, traditional Japanese culture doesn't get their juices flowing as much as a cosplay (costume conventions) does so their reaction is somewhat muted when compared to the next group I'll talk about.

The main people I'm attacking are the types like myself who discover these cultural aspects in the course of their life here.  They tend to dive right into things and try to immerse themselves in Japanese life.  They're the sort of people who will have spent a month in their town and will start to slip Japanese words (with terrible intonation) into the conversation.  "Oh yeah.  I went to this great oootteeraaa in Kyoooottooo.  It was just beside the eekkkkiii."  They're the sort of arseholes who'll do some awful bow for every occasion.  Buying a coke at the shop BOW.  Borrowing a pen from someone BOW.  Watching the bin men collect their rubbish BOW.  It wouldn't be so bad if they weren't clasping their hands together and doing a bloody Thai wai.  If you're going to be an awkward pseudo-assimilating foreigner then get the culture right first  for crying out loud.  After bowing for every dish served in a restaurant they'll start to profess their expert views on Japanese life to another married foreigner who has lived here for about seven years.  They'll then get angry and upset when everyone else bitches about common foreign grievances because.... well, they've had the most ammmmaaazzzinng experience of Japan so far.  They're the sort of people who will study Japanese for about six months and pretend that they've forgotten the English word for something.  They are also the sort of people who spend the weekend going on sakura hunting trips around the prefecture and then clogging my facebook newsfeed with twenty photo albums, sixty pictures in each of the SAME picture.  There are only so many angles of a bloody cherry tree I'm afraid.  A cherry tree next to a mountain.  Oh here's one next to a river.  Oh here's one with a geisha taking a picture with her mobile phone hohoho what a contradiction.  They also take pictures of their friends taking the same picture that they had just taken.  All of them standing around with £1000 cameras... zooming in... crouching down to get the exact same shot as the one at the top of my blog.  If I have to endure another year of  them doing the same thing next spring then I may... may... have to delete them as a friend.

Positive conclusion:  I started to write this when the sakura were still alive.  The rain and wind have wiped them out for another year.  I have weathered the storm of facebook sakura albums.  I have won.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

You're talking about me, aren't you?

Ahoy hoy said...

Especially you

Almiraz said...

Hey there,

I enjoy reading your blog...but I just wanna say enjoy your life in Japan while you can...you will miss them so much when you go back home...especially the cherry blossoms...

Just a thot...

Ahoy hoy said...

I know. I enjoy Japan and sakura deep down.

Cheers for the comment

Adam W said...

Just came across your blog. Love it. I've been taking Japanese language classes for the past two years, and each time I go to class, I'm turned off by the large amounts Japanophiles. I'm into culture and anything that's traditional (ironically, I was an East Asian major but recently switched to Art), but at least I realize I'm not a cartoon. These people literally come to class wearing cat ears and dog collars. In college. Ugggh. I feel so embarrassed whenever we have Japanese students visit.

Ahoy hoy said...

Thanks for the comment, Adam. Cat ears and dog collars to class? Oh dear indeed. It's often been discussed with friends here but those kind of people who come to Japan are usually the one who are the most let down with what they find. I can't remember if I mentioned that above or not.

Keep up the Nihongo... I've given up recently. For shame.

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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.

Shashins