Tuesday, 10 February 2015

How to shower and bathe at other people's houses

I think we've all been there at some point or another. You can try to delay the deed until you're able to retreat to your own abode, but from time to time, you're gonna have to clean yourself at somebody else's house. Now if you're a foreigner in Japan, you could be spending a lot of time living off the kindness of people you know, like host families, friends, one-night stands, maybe even dinner hosts, and possibly whoever they shack you up with until they get your actual accommodation figured out.

Fortunately for you, I have a lot of experience living off others people's kindness. Here are some handy tips I've picked up over time.


You want to get this one out of the way right off the bat. Ideally, your host will think of that beforehand, but if not, you'd better ask before you shower, because afterwards you'll be naked and wet and not in any easy position to ask, especially if they're somewhere out of earshot. You have the option of just grabbing a hanging one at random if you like, depending on how close you are with the person in question and whether or not any old people live there too.

If you do forget and are left without recourse, you can use an item of clothing as a makeshift towel, especially if it's not something immediately necessary to your wardrobe, like if you've layered a couple of shirts or something. If it's winter, definitely use a shirt because you can keep it under your jacket and it won't freeze. If it's summer and you're in a dry climate, you can pretty much just put your clothes back on normally if you really want and they'll dry soon enough, but if it's humid, don't even try – you'll be sopping all day. Actually, you will be anyway, but this way it'll be even worse.


Again, preparation – remember to figure out how they work before you strip. That way, if you're absolutely baffled, at least you don't have to get dressed again before you can go ask for a demonstration. Once you've got it all worked out, you'll be ready to get naked, crank a knob until a stream of hot fluid bursts over your face and cascades down your chest, and exhale in ecstasy.

Some Japanese baths have an electronic control panel for the bath itself. You maybe shouldn't touch it. And actually it's probably set to the preferences of the owner(s), so you shouldn't touch it anyway.

Japanese bathing

As I'm sure you know, Japanese families all share a single dispensary of bathwater amongst them, which isn't emptied until everybody is done. Some people find Japanese bathing to be one of the best experiences available to humanity, but I've always been a little iffy about it, not because I have to bathe in other people's filth, but because I don't want to make them bathe in mine. You're not supposed to go in until you're spotlessly clean, and I just don't trust myself to be able to do that. Worse, as a guest you may be afforded the respect of bathing first.

Luckily, there's an easy fix: Just say that you would prefer a shower. Basically, you're just skipping the second half. You'll be clean, so it's not like you're being rude, and you can even invent a cultural explanation if you want. I've never had anybody insist I actually bathe, because that would be crazy. How would they check, anyway?

If you do decide to take the plunge, so to speak, obviously just be very thorough. Wash everything twice. Wash all the places you usually don't bother with (you have some, don't lie to me). When you're done the bath should be a basin of crystal clear water and nothing else. In practice even the Japanese sometimes accidentally shed detritus, but if you do, you just know it'll be because you're a foreigner and not because you're a human being, so scan carefully for any stray dirt or hair and scoop it out with your hand. There's a grate in the floor you can drop it down.

The bucket

You can use this to pour water over your head, or as a little stool. I like to just sit on it and douse myself with the jet.

Shampoo and soap

One abiding principle: Honestly, they're letting you use their shower. You really think they're gonna get offended if you swipe some of their shampoo?

On the other hand, if you're having trouble with the shampoo, you don't have to wash your hair, you know. And also try to be at least a little careful that you're using your friend's (or whoever's) stuff if possible, rather than their roommate's or something. That's just called respect.

However, the preceding rule can be safely ignored if there is both bar soap and liquid soap. In that case use the liquid no matter whose it is, because which would you rather be rubbing all over your body? Liquid is better for everybody. If there's only bar though, it's not a big deal, it's not going to hurt you, because, you know, it's soap. It does the opposite of that. But! If you're still not comfortable, check to see if there's a liquid hand soap you can grab off the sink. Works fine. I only ever used hand soap during my last study abroad. Cologne once said “I picked up some more hand soap for you to shower with.”

In a pinch, shampoo or conditioner can also be used as soap – it's not as effective, but it's all cleaning agent. Just make sure to wash it all off or it can dry out your skin and leave a painful rash.

These are just a few simple shower hacks to help you with your stranger showering experience. Got a tip of you own? Let us know in the comments!

Monday, 5 January 2015

Kanadajin Tales! Everyone Rude Boy knows is inappropriate

Cute upbeat smiley young blonde Mormon missionary: Do you have a belief in Jesus Christ?
Rude Boy: Uh, no, I haven't.
Missionary: (ridiculously perky) Why not?!


History teacher: And another theory is that neckties are supposed to point the way to your crotch. I purposely wore a necktie today, and you can see how it does, in fact, point to my crotch. Now in case I get in a car accident today, I don't want your last memory of me to be of me talking about my crotch, so I'm going to say a couple more things.


Rude Nephew: So I think my friend Jim knocked some girl up again.


History teacher: There are so many ridiculous kitchen gadgets in this day and age. You don't need an avocado peeler. I got news for you, you already have an avocado peeler, it's called a knife.


Stopping for gas late one night, I noticed a bunch of thuggish young men surrounded by the type of young women who hang out with thuggish young men, crowding around the door. Then I got closer and heard them speaking in Russian. My kneejerk reaction was to calm down immediately, because, oh, foreigners, ie harmless and friendly. Not sure what that says about me.


Female friend: I feel like I'm banging my head against a concrete wall. Except the front instead of the back, you know?


Chinese Politics teacher: I have a YouTube video here, let me just show you a little of what Macau is all about.
*loud Beyblade commercial plays*


Politics teacher: Of course, France has a long history of acculturation. No matter where you were born if you learn to speak French and learn French culture and can, you know, identify 24 different types of cheeses by smell, then you're French.
Hot French girl: (laughing in delight)

I thought it was pretty stunning in comparison to Japan, where if you're not born Japanese you will never be Japanese.


Rude Boy: Hey, if there's grass on the field, play ball.
President: What if there could be grass, but it's mowed?


President: Well, I guess I should start getting ready for my rope-bondage thing pretty quick. I'd say “wanna come,” but I don't think it's quite your thing.


President: Sorry about that, couldn't text for a while
Rude Boy: Oh yeah? Were you...a little tied up?

And the next day:

President: Oh, when you come over, I need to show you something I learned last night that's like, super quick and so damn handy. You can restrain a girls hands in like 10seconds
Rude Boy: Best text message ever


Remember how President and I have a running joke that every time we have a History class together, something terrible happens in Japan? The first time, we took a course together and the 2011 earthquake happened. Then last year, we took another one together and Kyouto flooded.

Then last semester I decided to sit in one of her History classes, just for fun, and that very fucking day Juuso Eki caught the fuck on fire.


Jugs: Last week Valentino said “Yeah, there was a whole episode of Dr. Oz about that.” It was the gayest thing he's ever said, and he talks about making out with dudes.


I gave both President and Jugs white chocolate for White Day. I wasn't dating either of them, but in my mind it's not just about that – in my interpretation, it can also be a day to just generally appreciate all the women who make your life that much better.

As if you need a reason.


30's white girl's shoulder tattoo: 性的

(Maybe she meant “sexy?”)


President: Great, so on Monday night we'll come back here, fuck, and then figure out something for dinner.


Jugs: “This cabinet requires two people to assemble.”
Jugs's sister: Challenge accepted.


Rude Coworker: (teaching Rude Boy how to do temperatures) So yeah, then you basically just go around sticking it in all of them.
Rude Boy: That's how I've lived my life so far.
Rude Coworker: (slowly raises fist for pound)


Rude Boy: Not sure I can stay. I don't have any clothes.
President: If you were a girl and we were lesbians, you could just borrow some of my clothes!


Driving through a rural area, I suddenly came upon what looked like an enormous black dog, walking down the road away from me. With no time to slow down but with plenty of room, I thought I'd just cruise past it, when for no goddamned reason it swerved towards me and I saw that it was actually a young black bear. I tried to get away but it impacted with a thunk.

I loosed an articulate “Grrrwuuughhhh!” and then, like a responsible, moral human being, continued driving. Well, if it was injured, what the fuck could I have done? More importantly, what if wasn't, but now it was pissed off because it had just been hit by a car?

By some miracle, it impacted right between the headlight and the wheel, so the car was fine, and I was fine, and I don't know whether the bear was fine, because they're pretty tough, but it also got hit in the face with a 1500-pound bullet travelling more than a hundred kilometres an hour. But I got the vehicle's first dent, with kind of a cool story to go with it, because everybody's hit a deer (I haven't, actually), but how many people can say they've hit a bear?


President's gay co-worker: (about Lock-Up) So who was that hottie you were with?
President: Oh, that was my really good friend from Japan.
President's gay co-worker: Really good friend?
President: I wish.
President's gay co-worker: Aww, why not!


Rude Right-Hand Man: (dating pulls) And these are good for two days...
Rude Boy: You're good for two days.
Rude Right-Hand Man: I expire after 24 hours, actually.
Rude Boy: Oh.
Rude Right-Hand Man: It's good though...it means I contain less sodium, so I'm better for you.


Lock-Up: (in English) Whaaaaat? Germany was in both wars? And it lost twice? Poor Germany!


Rude Grandfather: ...I think it would make more sense if they legalized marijuana, and criminalized Brussels sprouts.


President: Lock-Up's going over to Hiro's to play Mario Kart.
Rude Boy: Right...she's going over to Hiro's to “play Mario Kart.” At 10 o'clock at night.
President: Nooo! I don't think she's as slutty this year!


Co-worker: Me and (other co-worker) are going out again tonight.
Rude Boy: I thought you vowed never to go out with him again after he fell asleep in the bathroom at Denny's for three hours.
Co-worker: We decided not to go to Denny's this time.
Rude Boy: I think you might be missing the point.


President: One of my staff told me today that his most disliked word is “cunt,” and another one told me her most disliked word is “moist.” So I kept going around saying “moist cunt” to both of them.


President: What's the point in playing a female character if you can't admire the womanly curves?


President: Japan's population fell by a record number this year.

Rude Boy: Hm...well I don't think I can solve that problem by myself, but I'm willing to try.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Working at working

I was clicking around my university website, trying to find the on-campus job postings. Somehow I found myself in the co-op section and then, like tripping over a gold dubloon in the jungle and falling onto the secret button that opens the gates to El Dorado, I found a page that said, hey, Did You Know that you can totally do co-op in other countries, such as, to pick one totally at random, Japan? Like seriously, Japan is the one that we're going to highlight in particular because there is actually a whole section of the programme devoted to just Japan?

My first reaction was: Holy shit!

Second one was: What the hell? Just 'cause, like, how was I only just finding out about this. Every goddamn person on campus who knows me knows that I'm the Japan guy, and I'm known to all manner of teachers, advisors and administrators, spanning practically every discipline and area of the institution because when it comes to plotting out an academic career I apparently have as much foresight as Christopher McCandless. So if any of these people had even the slightest inkling that such a thing existed, you can be your prized harmonica that at least once or twice somebody'd have said to me, "Hey, you ever thought of applying to that Japan co-op thingamabob?" So what the fuck kind of advertising are they doing with this, exactly? As my eventual co-op advisor put it, "Yeah, we're probably not doing as much to push this one as we should be." No shit?

Anyway, as soon as I saw that this was even a thing I felt like I'd found it, the final winning lottery ticket that would get me out of Canada forever. Of course a co-op is only for one semester to a year, after which you must return to your point of origin and complete your remaining schooling (or, if you are a normal-ass co-op student instead of one trying to jump on the wagon at the eleventh hour, complete another semester before alternating back to a semester of co-op, and so on), but there was more to consider. In that time, I'd be able to cultivate two things that would prove absolutely critical to my career.

The first was solid work experience. Being able to prove that I had survived and thrived in a Japanese company, under Japanese customs, in an all-Japanese environment, would go a long way to assuage any future employer's concerns about my ability to integrate into their team. Second, it would be an incredible opportunity to network with Japanese businesspeople, and if you ask a hundred people to have sex with you, one of them's going to say yes. Hell, I thought, maybe I'd even sign on for a year of co-op, and do such a damn good job that they'd take me on as a full employee! It's rare, but I can dream.

So I marched myself right down to the co-op office and tried to get myself signed up. Unsurprisingly, this signalled my entry into the kind of bureaucratic labyrinth that I have become resigned to navigating, but still cannot say I enjoy in any way, because I have not yet abandoned my humanity. It seems like for these kinds of things, I'm always cutting it right down to the wire; rarely do I have a comfortable amount of time to make my preparations. It was no different here, and I encountered problems immediately.

There's a very persnickety immigration law that stipulates all co-op students must be full-time students both immediately before and immediately after their work term(s). Years ago, this would have been no problem at all. I'd just wait for everything to fall into place and then I'd go, and then I'd come back, and then I'd continue. Work a year of study abroad in there somewhere as well and man, I'd be just golden! Unfortunately by the time I found out about this, I was already right on the cusp of goddamn graduating. In other words, I might not have enough credits left to form a full semester following my internship, which would disqualify me. So somehow I had to delay my own graduation, the very thing I'd been deliberately working towards for the last like six years.

The solution I utlimately came up with was to tack a minor in Political Science onto my Philosophy major. Basically, I was set up so that I could graduate with just one more class's worth of Science (with some reservation, I went with Biology because it's the easiest, although I think Chemistry would have had more real-world applications, for things like Breaking Bad and Fullmetal Alchemist). I already had just enough Political Science credits that I could conceivably finish out a minor in one more semester, allowing me to do a year of co-op, polish that off, and be ready for graduation. BUT – if co-op didn't pan out, I could just straight graduate. I'd have already satisfied the Philosophy major, so I'd just un-declare the minor and suddenly I'd be good to go.

So I felt pretty devious for setting into motion a plan that covered all possible scenarios, and it was good enough for the co-op office, who approved my entry into the programme. Of course that was just the first step, and I still needed to be accepted into the Japan-specific programme, and even then they'd still need to find a company who would take me. This left me in a slightly detached state academically, not knowing if any of this was even going to work, but in the meantime I just kept pressing forward, necessarily on the assumption that everything would fall into place at some point.

As another requirement for participation, I was compelled to take a 100-level career education course. Not for credit, not graded except for a completion mark, and only 90 minutes a week. I went into it assuming it was going to be a bit of a joke, and in terms of workload it totally was. Our first assignment was filling out a ten-page worksheet; the teacher asked if one week would be sufficient, or if we'd need two.

But while it may not have been academically strenuous, it turned out to be surprisingly helpful. It started with the most very basic stuff like resumees and job interviews, which, sure, I covered back in Planning 10, but I gained access to several career-building professionals who helped reformulate my resumee from something amateurish and vague into a pretty solid little document deliberately tailored to the types of employers I wanted to target. The course went on to opportunities I'd heard about but never actually considered taking advantage of, like career fairs, which sounded lame to me but which I'd learn to like. I was taught new techniques for selling myself, skills I didn't know were transferrable, the importance of networking, and the importance of constantly being pursuing some better opportunity, all the time. If you're already a shakaijin or even just a particularly ambitious student then maybe all of this is obvious to you, but it was pretty eye-opening for me.

In fact, I ended up feeling a little inadequate next to many of my classmates. Most of them had at least a job of some kind, usually someplace classy and/or in a management position; I was unemployed at the time and had been for most of my university career. They had all meticulously laid out their academic and professional futures, with clear goals and action plans; I went to university because I had no idea what to do after high school, and stumbled directionlessly through a liberal arts education until I lucked into something I liked. In fact the majority of them were first-year, and already formulating some idea of how they wanted to go through university and how best to tailor that experience to their careers. Good God! I barely knew my dick from my asshole when I was that age. But then Jugs told me that a lot of them are probably just as intimidated of me and the experiences I've been lucky enough to have, and for that matter probably have very little idea what the fuck they're doing, either. When you're uncertain, remember that everybody else is making it up as they go along too.

But after Spring 2014, the whole process kind of went dark. Yeah, sorry to end abruptly like that, but that's how it happened. I went back and forth for months with the office, apparently my profile was even shopped around to a few companies, but it looks like I didn't get any bites, because in principle I would have started at the beginning of September, which I'm 90% sure is too late now. So I guess my efforts ended in failure this time. What's important, though, is that I tried, and that I keep trying. Co-op is just one possible route to Japan. I might end up having to attempt several, much as you have to send out several resumees just to get one job. Of all the lessons I learned over the course of this whole thing, that one might be the most important of all.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Sack of garbage is worthless, spreads hate speech

I wasn't gonna do this post. Wasn't gonna draw any more attention to it than it deserved. I'm not even naming that putrid little cockgobbler, because I wouldn't want to inadvertently give him traffic, and if you don't know what I'm talking about, consider yourself lucky. But I just have too much material now to not sling words at the Internet, because even if I don't have much to add to what more socially active bloggers and vloggers have already said, I could use the catharsis.

So we've gotten the revelation that he has recently been officially banned from immigrating to Japan for all poison-vomiting activities. (He also seems to have had several venues rescind offers to host him, although MRA rallies somehow seem to keep finding niches to carve into, so I don't know how much that means.) So he'll either have to give up on any Japanese endeavours, or lie about the purpose of his trip, which would then get lanced the second he set foot in a presentation venue, and his sexual assault-promoting ass would be ejected from the country for at least ten years, I'm guessing. I'm no expert in immigration law, but that's how long you're barred from entry if you overstay your visa. So kudos to everybody who stepped forward to try and take down a true real-life villain.

The premise of the lecture (if you can give such a puerile heap of human garbage such a dignified descriptor) is to treat women as worthless, which is an absolutely fantastic shortcut to not getting laid. He garnered the wrong kind of attention when a video of one of his sessions surfaced, showing him spewing bile that comes dangerously close to advocating rape. He describes the winning technique for getting women in Japan to be grabbing a woman's head and thrusting it towards your crotch, yelling “Pikachu!” It then showed footage of him doing this to a bunch of Japanese women that he then did not have sex with. Incredibly, he states that this is all a-ok because they just giggle. Which is what people do when they're uncomfortable, you insane fuckwad.

Question: Doe he buy into his own bullshit? The attendees at these kinds of things are the loneliest, most desperate men on earth. They're looking for a cheat code for instant sex because they're either too chickenshit to go up to a woman and start a fucking conversation, or they're so atrociously bad at it that they legitimately believe that the only reason for their failure is that they haven't yet found exactly the right combination of insults and vulgarities that would push her buttons ooh just right, baby, call me a fat ugly whore again, it gets me so hot. I actually feel a little sorry (but not too sorry) for the guys who go to stuff like this, because it's a pretty shitty business model. I don't mean shitty as in it's ineffective, it actually seems to work pretty well unfortunately, I mean shitty like “that's a shitty thing to do,” in that it openly preys on the deepest insecurities of the weak.

Iirc, the guy who invented invented peacocking – always pictured surrounded by a crowd of adoring men but rarely any women, for some reason – privately admitted to this, and said that he knew there was no way it would work in real life. This guy (trying to avoid naming him, I want to call him the Beast, which would suit him, but I don't want to associate him in my own mind with anything as high-quality as Transmetropolitan) might be the same. Or he might actually fully believe in every vile piece of rancid fungus that sloughs out of his mouth. I'm not sure which is worse.

One more thing, this footage was shot in Toukyou, right? Like Roppongi maybe? Cause there are definitely parts of Japan – certainly in Oosaka, and even then the rowdier corners of Kyouto – where doing that shit will get you fucking stomped. Or maybe I'm wrong. Go try!

There is one thing I believe I can contribute to discussions of this instructive failure, which is to mock him further. He does most of the work for me, but I can't resist, so here's my reactions to some quotes from his Twitter, now removed but thoughtfully archived by Tinder's Finest Bachelors.

“I like my women like I like my cell phone. Broken.”
What? That's not how you do that. Take the joke, “I like my women how I like my coffee: Black, hot, and all over my junk.” It works because it makes sense for both women and for coffee. I get that if you're a loser, an emotionally broken woman sounds like a ticket to an easy lay, but why would you ever want a broken cell phone? Because you know you're a poison to society and wish to expose yourself to as few people as possible?

“I always just assume that any girl who sleeps with me is a slut and any girl who doesn't sleep with me is a cunt.”
As far as I'm concerned there's nothing wrong with being a slut, but I guess the logic there is that she'd damn well have to be a slut to sleep with you.

“My favorite sexual position is the one where I cum and she doesn't.”
When it's with you, I'm guessing that's all of them.

“I'm too in love with myself to love my girlfriend.”
Is that why you don't have one?

“That warm load of sweet cum you just viciously gulped down has a thousand calories. In case you're wondering why you're still single.”
Take note, ladies, he's encouraging you to not swallow his cum. In case you needed convincing.
Also, fucking is pretty good exercise, so the joke doesn't even work.

“Girls, could you please save me the effort and roofie your own drink? #JustKidding”
Just kidding, he'll do it himself.

“No means no. #JustKidding”
What the fuck.

“Dear girls, you should be blowing me every time you change positions. #JustSoYouKnow”
For most men, this would be considered too time-consuming.

“I'm running out of reasons to wear a condom.”
The number of women willing to sleep with you is shrinking even further?

“Show the back of your girlfriend's throat just how much you love her.”
Oh, please; never mind the back of her throat, you couldn't even reach the tip of her tongue.

“#LOL at guys who need to use roofies...”
Like you, a few Tweets up?

“Vodka and cum. #MyGirlfriendsDiet”
Are you trying to mock her? Because that's kind of hot.

“Sometimes you fuck them, other times you jack off on them.”
You may someday find one willing to do it for you.

“Safe sex but without the condom.”
What? It's not safe sex then.

“You had me at: 'My last three boyfriends were assholes...'”
So you figure you'll fit right in?
I can't imagine fitting in has ever been a problem for you.
Yes, that was another dig at your penis size.

“A relationship with me might only last a night but the emotional damage will last forever.”
Now you're just stating obvious facts.

“My favorite sex toy is my girlfriend's mind.”
I.e. sexual satisfaction for a woman is heavily mental, and that the key to satisfying one is therefore all in her head. But I don't think he has this much knowledge of sex. Though it's not his fault, he just hasn't had enough of it yet.

“When does no mean no?”
TFB says: “EVERY.SINGLE.FUCKING. TIME.” To which I would add, “Obviously.”

“Another girl, another infinite amount of lies.”
Well it's obvious you'd never get one on your own merits.

“The hottest women are often the most insecure, so don't forget to treat them like trash. #JustSoYouKnow”
He not only summarizes his own lectures so you don't have to spend the time or money to go, but at the same time helpfully explains why everything he expounds within them is completely wrong.

You get the point. This isn't a man, this is a child, one who desires women so badly that he's come to hate them. Either that or he's a cynical bastard making bank on misery. Doesn't matter. Japan's banned him, Canada's Minister of Immigration has promised to do everything he can to block him, Australia kicked him out, Brazil and the UK are working on it, probably a lot more by now, I can't keep up with this story, I'm too worried I might get infected. But we're off to a good start, so I'm hoping that the matter can be settled quickly and this motherfucker forced to seriously reevaluate some things.

Monday, 1 September 2014


I spent the last few weeks before my university exchange hanging out with the new Japanese students who were arriving fresh that semester and doing not a whole hell of a lot else. Anybody who's done a study abroad or, for that matter, taught in a foreign country can probably identify with this lazy middle ground, the period in which you've completed all your preparations but you obviously can't start on the Next Thing until you arrive in your new venue. It's a little discombobulating because your day-to-day feels a little lackadaisical, yet technically you're doing exactly what you're supposed to. So while everybody around me was gearing up for classes, I was left a little adrift, which was fine, actually, because it let me catch up on my backlog of books and video games, and also gave me plenty of time to help this new group get acclimated.

More time than usual, in fact, as until this last year helping out the new group has been my customary task for the first few weeks of each semester. With all this white space on my schedule I was even able to get to know some of them a little deeper. Looking back, I think my first post ever may have left the impression that all the Japanese people I knew at the time were dicks, which was not the case at all. It was a pretty typical group, in that they were mostly people I'll never talk to again, some were pretty all right, and then there was one that I formed a genuine friendship with. She was a gyaru from Chiba, very stereotypically girly in matters such as fashion and colour-cons, and, you know, a little rough but unfortunately without the overt sexuality of an Oosaka gyaru. And yes I had a crush on her, of course I did, this is me we're talking about. Actually it's probably a good thing I left soon after, cause I'd have wanted to date her and if that had failed it would have been all awkward and stuff.

I did keep in contact with her while I was in Japan and she was in Canada, though, including one really awesome drunk-dial with her and a friend of hers, who was visiting, so she had to pretend that she was her cousin, so that the guy she was cheating on her boyfriend with wouldn't hit on her. President, who was rather smitten herself, got to be really good friends with her in the time I was gone. She even went to see her when she visited Toukyou (but didn't come to see me...pfft.) President's path to Japanese living began with some Japanese friends in high school, who introduced her to J-pop and Matsumoto Jun, and she's visited a few times, first on a field school and then on her own. To be honest I find that pretty courageous and savvy, given her limited grasp of the language, but she stayed at a hotel in Ikebukuro and everything, it sounds like it was awesome. She and this girl, I'll call her Lock-Up, went to the club where she was working at the time, and to Lock-Up, aaaaaaaand to the onsen. Yeah, she totally saw her naked. And President is bi so she was even able to appreciate it. So super jelly. And now Lock-Up is back in town.

This provided a bit of a brain-teaser for me until I was able to talk to her in person, and she clarified everything that's going on with her. Basically she's going to be taking the TESL program at my university, one a one-year working holiday visa, spending the extraneous six months working...somewhere. She hasn't really solidified her plans yet. Personally I would think that would be kind of an important thing to get sorted out before you travel across the Pacific Ocean, but then, here I am stuck in my home country and writing oddly personal blog entries only vaguely related to Japan, so what do I know. The interesting part of that is, she'll be taking classes with President, all day, every day. President applied to JET last cycle and got alternate, but no farther, so now she's going to get a formal certification to buff up her resumee (and skillset). So I sense good times in the offing.

Unfortunately for Lock-Up, she was compelled to, for a second time, attend much of the university's international orientation, a week-long event primarily informational in purpose but with quite a lot of lighter fun stuff as well. They teach them the finer points of certain immigration laws, school policies, very basic stuff as well as cultural things. Examples:

Canadians are very time-conscious. Being ten minutes late to an arranged meeting can be considered very impolite.
If a Canadian tells you they'll “see you later,” this doesn't actually mean they plan to see you later.
If a Canadian is passing by and asks you how it's going, and then carries on without waiting to hear the answer, it's not because they were being insincere. (It's because the question is meaningless and you're not really expected to reply.)
Pickup etiquette can vary between cultures. In Canada, if a girl at a bar tells you no, that means the conversation is over, not “try harder.”

And I fucking love it all. There's a video in there on safety (e.g. how not to get your pocket picked), which I don't think I've ever viewed from start to finish, but which I've seen so many bits and pieces of that if you put them all together I have probably seen in its entirety several times. That's how many times I've volunteered for this thing. Unfortunately, since I've been back from Japan, I haven't quite had the time...and if I'm being entirely honest with myself, my motivation hasn't been there like it used to be. During my exchange I started to think about building my future in Japan, which naturally necessitated meditation on what my professional career might be, and from that point on I was pretty much ready to sell my soul. Yeah, if 14-year-old Rude Boy could see me now he'd wonder what the fuck happened and how I ended up catching Lame, row row fight the power, but nowadays the coolest thing I can think of is working in an office. All this looking forward has forced me to simultaneously look inward, so I can't be all things to all Japanese people anymore. Not quite like I used to at least. It's all right. It's a natural progression, and...well, for me personally it never really paid much dividends anyway. It was worth it, in the end, to provide a useful service (translation and all manner of other assistance) to the people who deserved, but I just got used and burned too many times. Maybe I got a little tired of it.

Besides which, my work schedule interferes with like, everything else now, since I'm now working full time as a shift supervisor at a large chain of coffee shops that you have heard of (no, not that one), so despite Lock-Up's pleas, I wasn't able to come join her and alleviate her boredom. But President and I were able to meet up with her at one of the two decent Japanese restaurants in President's part of town. It was rather humorous in a Dostoevskyesque way, an intersection of three recent university graduates each desperately trying to get something rolling so that their lives can start. But it was great to see her, and she reported that a huge number of new Japanese students have arrived at my alma mater this semester. Things are getting exciting again.

Friday, 1 August 2014


Tanabata has become a bit of a tradition for our Club. It started out as a fun thing to do in summer when half our membership had vanished into the ether for a few months; the first time we tried it, we got rained out, had to do it in the university student centre, and used me as the tree. But our planning skills have improved since then, and over the years we've managed to grow it to a respectable size. And since we have a limited financial capacity, we usually do it as a potluck.

This heralded some concerns for us this year, because we had invited a bunch of recent arrivals from Japan and having a potluck with Japanese people can be a little iffy. Basically they tend to bring either far too little, or something completely ridiculous. Sometimes both. I think a single bag of 5-cent candies, as the shared contribution of six people, was probably the topper here, but you're also likely to get single bags of chips or rare, inscrutable treats that elicit furtive gestures and mutterings amongst observers. Maybe it's that Japanese people tend to think of food and drink as the host's responsibility (if so, they probably figure that we Canadians are all incorrigible cheapskates trying to slough off the cost onto the guests), though I mostly suspect that they are just unacquainted with the concept and could be trained up with a little practise.

(If you are now wondering what exactly an appropriate potluck contribution would be, a nice fruit or veggie tray is usually a good choice. A couple 2Ls of pop or some dessert-type stuff is ok, but damn near everybody is going to bring pop or dessert-type stuff, so watch out for that. If applicable, something from your home country will usually go over pretty well. And if there's going to be alcohol involved, a flat of 24 beer is always welcome. It doesn't even have to be good beer.)

Anyway, we needn't have worried. This group arrived bearing mainly a bunch of Taiwanese snacks, which not only ranged from edible to tasty, but were present in appropriate volume, as well. What was better, everybody here was cool. You know, I hate to say it, but as much as ryuugakusei are generally good folk – it takes a certain sort of person to want to learn a foreign language and live within a foreign culture – some of them are just really shitty people. Cause that's just life, you take any large group of people, some of them are going to be shitty, you know? You can try to hang out with just the ryuugakusei you actually like, but you'll always have to deal with the hangers-on from time to time, the ones who only want to use you for your English or think that they are entitled to make you their personal assistant, or that they are somehow above you, just by virtue of being a foreigner amongstforeigners.

You can also organize ryuugakusei into three broad categories: Those who make no effort to engage the host culture or even actively avoid it; those who spend time with their countrymen but still make a substantial effort to engage the host culture; and those who go for full integration, sometimes to the level of eschewing their native language altogether. I've always thought that a Japanese person refusing to speak Japanese in a room full of exclusively Japanese speakers was, you know, kind of really fucking stupid, but who really gives a shit, I guess. I tend to avoid those who fall on either extreme of the spectrum anyway, the former because they're boring, the latter because they're annoying. People who visit another country and then try to pretend they're somewhere else are usually this way because they're reserved and quiet so they're rarely very much fun to hang out with. And anybody going for full integration tends to be so overflowing with cultural sanctimoniousness that they're completely intolerable. As in many things, a balance is best, really.

We lucked out, and these guys were all of the cool, balanced variety. We had a few good icebreakers, too, that is, people who aren't afraid to just go ahead and strike up conversations with strangers, an essential element of any event involving Japanese people.

Additionally, two of them were shakaijin, “society people,” i.e. gainfully employed, although working at A&W rather than a suit-and-tie company, but shakaijin nonetheless. Both have aspirations of Canadian citizenship (the standards for which, if you didn't know, can be a little...stringent), and we discussed the various laws therein in some detail; after becoming a citizen, one of the girls intended to enter a Canadian university for a four-year degree. All of this was immensely interesting to me as not only am I on the cusp of becoming a shakaijin myself, but of course have also been slowly working on a plan to do what they're currently doing but in reverse.

I also learned that many Japanese think that root beer tastes like medicine. So we'll know not to get any of that next time, I guess. Some blonde girl said she'd heard of that from her Korean friends as well. She brought up Korea a couple of times and wrote her name on her cup in Korean, but she left before I could ask what her deal was.

The main event at Tanabata, of course, is writing out wishes and hanging them on a bamboo tree. Despite stereotypes, bamboo trees aren't exactly something you can just go pick up at Wal-Mart in Canada, so we usually use a grate or railing instead (you are welcome to steal this trick for your own Tanabata party). I wrote down “That I may get back to Japan quickly.”

“I knew that was going to be your first wish,” President grinned.

Then I wished that my job search should go well, which admittedly is kind of the same thing, since the one is predicated on the other.

Additionally, every Tanabata I send up some kind of a prayer for my sister. Last year she'd recently gotten married, so I wrote out a wish for her happy married life (or in Japanese, that her household would be bountiful). Now she's expecting a child, so I wished for him or her to be born healthy and happy. This seemed right to me. I tried to think of what would make her happiest in the world, and I am sure her most feverish hope right now is for the health of her unborn child. Indeed, I saw on Facebook later that her own Tanabata wish was for exactly that.

Japanese guy: Please invite me to hang out again.
Rude Boy: Absolutely, you should find me on Facebook.
Japanese: Yeah, I just added your wife, so we can find each other.
Rude Boy: Oh, great.

Then he walked off somewhere before I realised what he'd said.

In hindsight I can sort of understand why they might have some confusion. President rooms in a full-on house, and if they thought it was ours, we probably seem pretty domestic. Plus, I'm 24 this year. I certainly remember how distant and established 24 seemed back when I was 19. Shit, back when I was 17 and my sister was 22, I was in awe of her. She seemed so mature and put-together. It was only when I turned 22 myself that I actually realised, Christ no, she didn't know what the fuck she was doing, nobody does. When you're a little kid, your parents present themselves as omniscient and practised, and it's usually a couple of decades before you figure out that they were making it up as they went along too. I got off-topic there, but I'm going to assume you all understood my point.

It was a fun, chill kind of a night (President's roommate: “This is a drinking party? You can have Asians over for drinks anytime.”) Mostly, I was just glad to be hanging out with Japanese people again – it's been faaaaaar too long since I've done that. I miss it. And it was good, too, to be back in the thick of things. I've always been more comfortable leading than following, and I'm certainly more comfortable on the field than in the sidelines or, fuck's sake, the audience. For at least that night, I felt like President and I really were President and Vice President again; all thoughts of guiding Club rather than commanding it, and being careful not to change the system through observing it, all that shit had fled my mind. Ah, I don't know – maybe this summer will be our victory lap?