If I Drink Any More, I Will Drown

by Oct 30, 20030 comments

I’ve not been around much lately, I know. I’ve also been noticing that my posts in the past months have not been as culture-related and enthusiastic as they once were.

I’m sorry to say that recently I have been very disenchanted with Japan. The lengths to which this culture goes to shut out anybody and anything that is not Japanese can be downright draining to someone who is not. It’s to be expected to a degree, after all, it’s a very, very old culture that’s not going to change overnight. But I always thought that there was the desire to change somewhere deep down in Japan, that the recognized the need to evolve and adapt as one of many members of a growing Global Village™. Hence the popularity here of foreign movies. Hence the preponderance of “foreign” cuisine. Hence the JET Program.

But now I’m starting to wonder. During my stint on JET, I’ve operated under the axiom that if Japan is going to change, it’s not going to be by anything I do directly. I can’t change Japan, only Japan can change Japan. And so I’ve taken a semi-passive role, always making myself available to the teachers, suggesting changes or ideas instead of requesting then, jumping in with a new idea or activity if there’s an opportunity. I’ve always kept in mind that my title is Assistant Language Teacher, Assistant being the operative word. I’m here to help, not to lead; I’m at their disposal, not vice-versa. And after two and a half years of failure in trying to suggest trying something different than what’s been causing failure in the first place, I’m starting to realize that it’s because Japan doesn’t want to change after all.

Sure I could take the so-called, Super-JET route (also known as the “JET is what you make of it Route”) and grab this school by the balls and be a belligerent foreigner and change them whether they like it or not. But if good ol’ Commodore Perry inadvertently taught us anything in the decades after his visit, it’s that Japan ain’t gonna change unless it’s damn well good and ready. And just looking around at everyday life, even someone as dense as myself can see, it’s not ready.

I’m only halfway through reading this book, and I’m already starting to see how terminally fucked this country is, economically, environmentally, politically, etc. The solutions are staring them in the fucking face, but god forbid they disturb the fucking ‘wa’ and do something about them. When hurt feelings are more important than putting a halt to the wanton destruction of your cultural heritage and natural environment (both of which are in short demand in a country this small), all the logic in the world isn’t going to sway you, because you aren’t acting on it in the first place.

In less macroscopic instances of annoyance, when I meet someone and use a standard greeting (yoroshiku onegai-shimasu), I get bawled over with ooo’s and aahhh’s because “Japanese is such a difficult and unique language that no idiot gaijin could ever possibly muster so much as a rudimentary proficiency in it.” Quaint at first, but tiresome after approximately 2.5 years.

My fellow teachers call me ‘Scott-san,’ not ‘Scott-sensei.’ Even the new girl who only graduated in March and started teaching here in April does this. I have more teaching experience than her, yet to everyone I’m ‘san’ and she’s ‘sensei’. Hmmmm, I wonder why that is.

Watery salsa poured over tortilla chips is considered to be “nachos” here.

Recently Heard in an English Class Trivia Game:

Me: What is this? [writes Star-Spangled Banner on the board]

Student: Star-Spangled Banana??

[sound of me slapping forehead]

No, despite the charming brilliance of things like today’s “Recently Heard”, I have lost quite a bit of my respect for Japan recently. And I’d like to think that I’m a pretty patient guy, that I’m capable of seeing that ‘different’ isn’t ‘bad’, and indeed it isn’t. When it comes down to it, you might just as well say “well, why SHOULD they change?” I don’t know, maybe they shouldn’t. If that’s the case though, perhaps they should also forget about trying to be a part of the international community. (Ironic coming from an American, ain’t it?)

In short, for whatever reason, Japan has been working overtime to piss me off lately and I’m sorry if I just don’t feel like writing about it or rationing out why I’m wrong. You’ll probably see a lot of off-topic stuff, like next weekend’s, planned Matrix Day party. If you’re in the area come and drop by. We’re gonna watch Matrix and Reloaded at my place with drinks and food and drinks and more drinks and then go the the theater and wash it all down with Revolutions. It’s gonna be a blast, you should definitely come. Mail me if you’re interested.

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