Sunday, 18 May 2014

Attitude

I originally wrote this way back when I was still toying with the idea of starting a blog, after a particularly frustrating incident left me needing to vent. That was over two years ago, so the writing is a little amateurish compared to my more recent stuff. Next post, I'll tell the story that inspired it.

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When most Japanese people I meet find out that I'm interested in the language and the culture, they're delighted. They're flattered that I'm trying to participate and pleased that I'm trying to understand. They're forgiving when I make mistakes and wonderfully supportive of everything I'm trying to do. This has overwhelmingly been my experience, and I'm grateful to all the people who have helped me, been my friends, and invited me through the door.

Some aren't like this.

Some are of a very different opinion. Because I'm not Japanese I can never understand Japanese culture. Sometimes I screw things up when I talk, therefore I don't speak Japanese at all. My goals are messed up, or else they're a waste of time because I could never possibly achieve them as an outsider. I'm just a sad hanger-on, a skinny obsessive little weeaboo, and would I just knock it off and go wallow in my own ignorance with my little white friends who, like me, also speak only one language but fetishize Asian girls and sit alone in our rooms by ourselves all the time.

And it pisses me right off. When I encounter stuff like this elsewhere in my life, I can pretty much let it be. Because I've made a point of surrounding myself with people who like me, and will call me out if they think I'm wrong but mostly just make me feel good about myself. Anybody who tries to go against that, I don't need. But this is a little different. A handful of magic words can make my blood boil.  "You can't X." "You don't know what you're talking about." "Your Japanese doesn't make any sense." I can and I'm going to. I've been looking into the topic for YEARS of my life now and I've earned the right to put forth an informed opinion. It does make sense and you goddamn know it, it's just not perfect. It's the attitude, the condescension. It's the dismissiveness.

As soon as I can, I'm going to move back to Japan and then I'm going to live there for the rest of my life. I decided that a very long, long time ago. This is the primo goal I'm working towards at all times, to which all others are subordinate. So when someone tries to tell me that all the energy I'm putting towards this – the hours of study I put in each day, all the work I do, both as Japanese Club Vice President and on my own time, trying to make sure the Japanese students on campus are taken care of and feel comfortable and welcome, without agenda, simply because I love Japanese people – is basically worthless, I get angry, because they're making me feel like my identity is being invalidated. Not as some loser white guy trying to 'be Japanese,' but as a proud Canadian who has decided to make Japan his home.

What really gets me is the double standard they apply, a sort of Japanese exceptionalism wherein it's totally possible for them to grasp Canadian culture (and yes, there is such thing as Canadian culture, but we're not going to talk about that right now), but I can't do the reverse, and when I point this out they just wave it off as me just plain not understanding. Can you imagine if I went around telling foreigners in Canada that they'll never be able to learn English? People would think I was a complete asshole! That's not  really material, though. And I've done some things in the past that people had every right to get angry about, and from time to time I still do. But I think that's a separate issue, too, and when that stuff happens it's usually an honest mistake, or at least not because I'm trying to make waves.


I really believe that the good I do outweighs the bad, and that I take more flak than I deserve. The only thing I can think to do is refuse to give in. Try to show how I earnest I really am, that I mean business, and maybe, every once in a while, get somebody to rethink their view of me. I don't expect to change many minds, but I really shouldn't let the naysayers upset me, either. Keep studying Japanese, keep trying to learn about the country, and keep making Japanese friends. Then surround myself with the ones who get me.

Monday, 5 May 2014

The Warrior Who Never Shaves

There is a Culture Festival held at my university every year, serving as an opportunity for all the various peoples on campus – noted as one of the most international in the province – to share of themselves, teach, learn, and party. It's fucking awesome. Since I've been doing international-type things since I was a little kid, it's always struck a chord with me, and as a member and later Vice President of the Japanese Club, I've been an enthusiastic participant for years.

Just one difference this time: President and I are retired now, so we didn't have to do a goddamn thing. I saw a problem, I told either the current President or Vice President about it and then I let them deal with it. Or not. What do I care? I don't want to see Club's reputation suffer but I don't feel responsible for it anymore either. Not like I used to. Anyway, all this meant a lot less work for us and not that much less glory.

Or should have, except that New President is kind of useless and couldn't lead either of the dances that Club was supposed to be doing...so President, ever stalwart, stepped the fuck up and took over the whole operation. And then I got in on that, and pretty soon both of the current executives were kowtowing to the will of the Ancients. Which was fine; I certainly don't mind being afforded the respect I'm owed. But it is a little worrisome considering that President and I have been trying to let go of the reins and let the next generation come into its own. It was kind of good, though. As much as I love the festivities themselves, I enjoy the weeks leading up to them nearly as much. The preparation, I mean – the heady feeling that you're putting in a lot of work that's leading up to something truly impressive, and you feel so driven to do the best you possibly can because your Club's reputation is on the line and you're trying to share of yourselves and show what you're capable of.

Although I wasn't slated to perform, I attended every practise, serving as DJ and then, more importantly, sort of micromanaging individuals. Chiefly, the issue was timing, which both President and I found bafflingly frustrating. She used to be in Cadets and taught music to the goddamn military, and while I don't have quite such impressive credentials, I am an avid player of rhythm games so I too have a pretty bulletproof understanding of how to keep a beat. Trying to work with people who did not was therefore pretty vexing for us, because trying to teach somebody to stay on beat is like trying to explain that the sky is blue. Fucking look at it. Blue. What the hell else can I do to help you understand? Why do you still think it's purple?

Overall, though, it was a fun experience, as it always is. There was a good mixture of both Canadian and Japanese students, with a group of six performing a relatively recent AKB song and an impressive 15 doing a rendition of Soran Bushi. The latter has gathered us surprising renown over the years, with our slot being gradually moved toward the back end of the program, where the audience size peaks. We wanted to live up to the prestige, so we tried to get it as close to perfect as possible, with President patiently putting the performers through their paces, and me shouting out corrections and accepting only the utmost quality, because people have a tendency to deliver what you expect of them. It's called the Pygmalion Effect, I learned that from Running Man.

Then, two days before the big event, an interesting thing happened, which is that President and I hooked up. And to be honest it was about fucking time, you could have cut the sexual tension with a goddamn knife. Both of us had been wanting it for weeks and weeks and weeks, but neither of us was willing to make a move for fear of hurting the friendship. Hilariously, everyone else in the universe predicted it and we chided them for being silly, but then, it's hard to get a good look at something if you're too close to it. Anyway, we did as much as we could and later it wasn't weird at all, it was awesome. Only thing was, I really wanted to bang her, so on Judgment Day, I was determined to obtain some condoms – not assuming anything, but also refusing to be unprepared.

Leaving my car at the arcade where they know me and let me park all day without giving me hell, I first checked Shopper's Drug Mart, but I couldn't fucking find what I needed. I don't know how that's even possible, and it certainly made me feel like a dumbass, but I was too self-conscious to just stroll up to somebody and go “Excuse me, where are the condoms?” So I decided to give Target a shot, and I saw the sign for the section called “Baby,” and I was like “No I'm looking for NOT Baby!” Luckily Jugs advised me they should be “with the women shit” but then when I got there, there were three pharmacists who do nothing but fucking stand behind a counter and judge you while you consider your purchases, so I couldn't even bring myself to look. So I went to cocksucking Safeway and...could not fucking find them there either. In a last-ditch effort, I visited my favourite gas station, and finally managed to get a three-pack. Oh, Husky...you've never let me down.

It was a condom quest as epic as it was asinine, made all the more difficult by the fact that I was wearing geta at the time, and so was limited to a speed of roughly 0 kilometres per hour. I mean I haven't moved that slowly in my entire life as I did while wearing geta, including when I was a baby. And to make the whole thing even goofier, I was dressed in a fucking jinbei and happi while I was going around trying to be inconspicuous and casual. In the end it felt too weird to go into a store and buy just three condoms, so I got a chocolate bar as well. Yeah, that'll throw 'em off.

With all that finally taken goddamn care of I made my way to the university and met up with President again. So far we'd taken in a Japanese tea ceremony and a photo-booth type thing with like various kimono and such for people to try, the latter of which has sort of become a staple of ours. But today was the best part: Performances. Sikhs did weapon demonstrations. Africans performed hip-hop. A Chinese guy did Shanghai-style street dancing. It was rad. And all of it was in an atmosphere of celebration and exultation, all the very best of all the countries smashed together into a delicious medley of colours and motion.

And President and I got to see all of it. It was...oddly disconcerting, actually. For the first time in our lives, rather than watching from the sidelines, we actually got to, like, sit down, in the goddamn stands, and like...enjoy the performances. Because the event's success or failure was not dependent on us in any way. No, things were going along just fine, without us, somehow. Bizarre. Without any obligations I actually kind of had trouble finding things to do, not because I was bored but because I was used to not a moment's rest, which was troubling because it was a five-hour programme.

I did, fortunately, get a taste of the old life, for just a scant few minutes. A bunch of countries and regions were, as always, given space to set up booths at which to showcase whatever the hell they wanted, be it pictures from the motherland, art, clothing, whatever. With President, New President, and New Vice President all doing Soran Bushi, I was the only person left who could competently man the booth during the twenty minutes or so they'd be absent. So, without any real preparation, I eased behind it, and...yup, turns out my skills haven't rusted. I can still speak eloquently, establish rapport with strangers, and promote like a motherfucker at the drop of a hat. I hadn't ever really doubted myself, but it was reassuring to know that I could still call upon those skills whenever I might require them.

“You must miss being Vice President,” commented New Vice President when he got back.
“There are days when I do,” I admitted. “Like today. But then there are also days when I really, really don't.”


To cap it all off, President and I went home and fucked. When we woke up we went for lunch, like it was no thing. And then bought condoms together, because evidently I can't be trusted to locate them for myself.