December 22, 2004
Living in Japan, Outside the MatrixMen Flying Kites for more kite photos).
A few days ago I went to Wakayama, had some famous Wakayama ramen, tried to visit the nearby Onsen (closed for maintenance) and did some thinking. In between work, that is, or the other way around. I went there alone, leaving my wife and kids at her Jikka (hometown) -- near Odawara. Like I said, I watched a few videos, like The Ring -- in a dark room, alone in a strange house; not the best thinking. A couple of the videos dealt with the relationships between parents and their kids. So there I was alone, thinking about my family and our relationships, and thinking about "wasting time" in general. Then these two things hit me. First, in 20 years, I want to be known as an intimate, loving husband to my wife and a great "dad" to my kids. I want that to be reality, not just words. Second, I asked myself what purpose I'm fulfilling by blogging here. This question has bothered me for awhile, and I've never had a good enough answer -- so I ignored it. But right there on the street I talked to God honestly for a bit, got a sense of what I needed to do, and committed to stop blogging on this site. I'll continue to update the gallery, and I may post an update every month or so (mainly to point to new photos in the gallery). But I want to put the majority of time and energy that I have into the people who I see face to face (or talk to on the phone), because I think relationships are where it's really at. I wrote this in my journal today:
The Matrix is the Internet. The real world is the place where I live and breathe. And the only real relationships I have exist in the real world. The man I talked to right here (next to my table in Starbucks) yesterday, with his false front teeth, ill-health and honest smile, amounted to more relationship than all the "visits" recorded in my web stats.
I don't mean to discount the real people who read this site. To the ones I know, I'll be seeing you. :) To the others, thanks for stopping by and I hope you've found what you're looking for. You all have lives somewhere. I wish we could grab a cup of coffee (or better yet DO something) together.
So stop by once a month or so and you'll see some new things. Some people have asked specific questions about my life. I've mainly avoided those questions, thinking I'd gradually share more and more of myself. I was planning a long, personal post, but it will have to stay on the shelf. Bloggers can either reveal themselves slowly over time or dump everything in shocking doses. I have prefered to be the slow type. I'm not going to speed up now. But send me an email if you'd like and I'll respond -- to andy (a t) japanwindow.com Of course, if you know me, just ask.
December 13, 2004
Otaku Shoot Japanese Girls Giving Low Blows to Evil Genius
Upon entering an amusement park in Tokyo we saw a large crowd waiting with a row of photographers in back.
What motivates photographers to line up and stand for hours with tens of thousands of dollars worth of cameras and sophisticated lenses mounted on tripods?
Ahhh...obviously evil genius. This character walked out on the stage and started scheming wickedly. The cameras started clicking...
And then the heroes appeared! Super hero school girls with falsetto voices. (when I was a kid super heroes were earnest men in tights....) So naturally the evil villain sent his twisted sidekick to break their young minds by spinning brain mulching music with the record player mounted on his chest. Very retro!
It worked so well that he went for the kill by forcing the hapless heroines to hula dance. Their minds began to liquify to the savage ukelele; the crowd leaned forward with tension. Brutal!
But the girls RESPONDED with Kung Fu kicks to the groin!
Even the evil genius could not withstand their low blows. And all was well again.
But the row of photographers must not have taken enough photos, or blinked at the perfect moment, or something, because they all stayed for the rest of the afternoon watching show after show. Under the rollercoaster, which had a pretty good loop in it.
Just FYI - These are manga characters from a popular cartoon. Actually they're ordinary people in costumes miming to a pre-recorded soundtrack. But such things go a long way with kids, families and otaku with cameras who stalk live manga costumed character shows. I've been reading how manga is gaining a following in the USA. Well...
December 06, 2004
Learn Japanese Kanji and Discover the World
I checked in at Darren Chang's blog about learning Japanese to see how he did on the Level 2 test. It looks like he may have passed, but he'll have to wait for the results. While reading the comments to his post, I learned about a free Kanji study program that looks very promising. I've already downloaded it (here), and I'll give it a try. My plan to pass Level 2 is to start preparing now. Actually, it's not so much a "plan to pass the test" as a plan to KEEP PROGRESSING in Japanese. But seriously, Level 2 is much, much harder than Level 3, and I don't want to be cramming for it next November. Ganbarimas!
I'm still planning to follow up my "Fall and Friends" entry.
So on to discoverying the world. In my last post I mentioned the Asian Blog Awards. First of all, thanks to Wulong for nominating me in the Japan section. When it comes to voting, this contest is simply a test of who can generate the most clicks. So if you like this blog, I'll soon exhort you to "vote early and vote often" (as they say). I spent some time last night looking at some of the blogs nominated from other countries, and I found several blogs that I want to start visiting. Here 3 that I bookmarked:
Danwei - from China, impressions: insightful, informative, well written
Java Jive - from various parts, impressions: a wonderful photo blog with stunning images of people
Give Me Spirit Fingers - Hong Kong, impressions: very funny, good writing, photos, and as the slogan says, "More snark than you could ever hope for." For example, "(This year Louis Vuitton) celebrated 150 years of perpetuating the myth that style is something that can be bought...(so) the Counterfeiters Association of Hong Kong released a special limited edition pair of pants."
I've run out of time/space/energy to keep listing links (that was fast), but if you go over to the contest pages I'm sure you'll also find some blogs worth returning to.
By the way, via Danwei, how did a blog about "dogs" emerge as the "World's Best Blog" in a German contest? By using dogs "as a metaphor for the situation of people living in China and other nations." The blog is written in Chinese, but it's still worth a look.
December 04, 2004
Asian Blog Awards2004 Asian Blog Awards. If you would like to nominate a Japanese blog just click here and leave a comment with the blog's name and URL.
The images above are mannequins outside a shop in Harajuku.
December 02, 2004
Fall and Friends in Japan
I thought I'd write a few words about making friends here in Japan. Years ago I read a short book about bonding in a new culture. It basically said that the key to transitioning successfully into the host culture is forming relationships: getting out there, finding helpers, being an active learner, making friends, etc. If the people in the new culture speak a different language, learn it. Immerse yourself. Head for the deep end. The authors suggested that people who bond deeply may not go through culture shock, at least not to the extremes that some people experience it, and they will learn the language and culture better than those who limit the exposure and risk, keep a foot firmly in the expat community, and focus their language learning in language schools.
I'm a big fan of language schools, at least for Japanese, but I've wanted from the beginning to learn the language and culture of Japan through immersion. The few people that I've met here who have really mastered Japanese (both the language and culture) have done this.
I'm not talking about losing your own culture, by the way. I remember hearing a presentation another time by a person who said that everyone who faces culture shock (and that was me in Japan) comes to a crossroads at some point. One road leads to rejection of the host culture (and by this point in the journey, you will have a long list of peeves, irritations and things you simply can't stand). Another road leads to rejecting your own culture and joining the host culture (or "going native" as some would say). A third way leads to integration: coming to peace with the good and bad in your own and the host culture, letting the pieces come together again and moving forward forever changed. I like the third way.
How have I done? I'm not sure if I'm getting there yet. I may still hover at the crossroads. Our first month in Japan we found out that my wife was pregnant with twins. We had moved to a place where we would not have many relationships with expats, but we found ourselves overwhelmed at times, and making relationships with Japanese people was very slow. Well, it's slow for everyone (except maybe not for those on the Tokyo party circuit, but I wasn't looking for those kinds of relationships). Making friends is a tremendous challenge even for Japanese people, as I've learned. Most Japanese people (especially men) will tell you they met their closest friends at school or at work. After school and outside of work, they usually make few new friendships. This is one of the reasons that in Japan people actually attend elementary school reunions (and I've heard of people who've attended preschool reunions). It's a reason to value any close, trusted friendships you may have very highly.
Ok, hmm, my wife is waiting now to watch iRobot in these remaining few minutes of the day that we actually get to spend together without the kids. I think that's important enough to finish these thoughts another time soon... In the meantime, write a comment and I'll try to respond in my next post.