Japan, two years on

Today marks the official 2 year anniversary of my embarking on my Asian adventure. More highs and lows than a fat bird with a chocolate addiction (that would be moi). To be fair, the seriously underwhelming lows have overwhelmed the highs. It’s really hard to score narcotics to ensure any kind of meaningful high here. Jokes about getting high, but scoring anything milder than tobacco is notoriously difficult here. That said though, here it’s illegal to possess marijuana but perfectly legal to possess marijuana seeds. Now pray tell, what on earth do the authorities is going to happen to those seeds?

October 2007 saw me facing the prospect of homelessness as the company I worked for went belly-up, leaving thousands of employees scrounging around wondering where their next meal, or fix, was going to come from. There is a lot to be said for unemployment though which gets too much of a bum rap. What’s not to like about spending half your waking hours sleeping and the other half labouring in front of inane Japanese TV. Although the volume can never quite drown out the sound of wolves baying hungrily at your door as the prospect of homelessness looms large and ugly. I eventually found myself prostituting myself again on the corporate machinery and became yet just another number in a long line of lifeless faceless cogs. And I still get the same asinine remarks and questions in my ‘new’ job as I did in the previous one. A young Canadian colleague recently informed me that Africa was a country. I thought, foolish me, here all these years on this God-given earth I thought it was a continent with 53 countries. It must be my poor Third World education to blame.

March 2007 was a particularly dark period. My former housemate was found murdered by one of her private students.

Now to my litany of complaints on what I have come to loathe about this place, and I say this in the nicest and least profane way possible. My patience is sorely tested every time I leave the house and walk up and down the streets. To put a stereotype to it, Japanese people as a rule don’t seem to walk with any sense of purpose, less so the women. They amble along at a pace even the snail would be most discomfited by. I’m hardly a hard-faced, hardened Londoner barreling my way through the great unwashed, but the speed at which people here drag their lifeless carcasses around is enough to make me want to pull out the remaining thinning curly black hairs on my head. The moniker ‘Louis Vuitton dinosaur’ is often bandied about to describe the bow-legged lurching high-heel shorn walk of the Japanese woman and her penchant for all things designer. Incidentally LV is the label of choice for upstart women with designs above their station in this country. A lot of which they purchase by either selling their bodies or their used underwear to dirty old men. I kid you not, it’s a whole burgeoning industry: young girls sell their used underwear to men for resale for anything ranging for ten to fifty dollars. The woman’s movement is very, very strong here.

Getting back to my original complaint about the pace of people on the pavements, the travesty is compounded by an evident inability to walk in a straight line, a certain innate crab-like instinct. No one seems to be able to stick to one side of the road with each person making it their personal mission to cover as much of the pavement as possible. Or trot in front of you and then proceed to slow down. I mean, like WTF? If there is road rage, I frequently suffer from pavement rage and have found myself shoulder-tackling the occasional errant fool who has the temerity to walk into my path.

The less said about my students the better. It would take more time than I have been guaranteed on the planet to detail my complaints. Not to put too fine a point on it, the question is not so much ‘What is wrong with them?’ but ‘What’s right with them?’. The one thing that I love about Japan is that it has brought out the misanthrope in me and helped pare some of my misconceptions about myself: I am not a ‘nice’ person, I am too bitter, twisted and cynical for that. I may be a ‘friendly’ person, but definitely not ‘nice’. The chip on my shoulder could replace the rainforests being depleted elsewhere.

A Japanese woman recently complimented me on my teeth. In any other country, she would definitely have been taking the piss. But man! Does dentistry need some major help in this country. This stunning girl steps up, beautiful face, lithe body, gorgeous rippling hair. Then she opens her mouth to speak. And the rest as they say, is history. Think Dracula with several rows of teeth growing over each other and the teeth an interesting stomach-churning shade of caffeine-nicotine heavy hint of beige. And just when you thought it could not possibly get any worse, some twinkling silver and gold flashed at you in the midst of all that rot and decay. Delicious I tell you. Myopia may have its drawbacks, but when it dulls the full impact of such sights, more power to myopia’s elbow.

So, in my 2 years of being trapped in Japan (more about the bane of that green bomber Zim passport later), I have lived in 5 different places. In house number 2 I had the misfortune of living with one of the 7 deadly sins made man, or woman in this case. Her name was Alia, an American lass. Now, for the most part, I have a death-defying affinity to filth but this girl put paid to my claims. She TKO’ed me from my perch in a move that would have had Muhammad Ali firmly on his feet. The one day she did a rather large number 2 which left skid marks so significant the whole F1 race track could have passed through, which she conveniently forgot to clean on the excuse that she did not have her glasses on. I am thinking, this shit is literally bludgeoning you around the head, this stuff is even talking in tongues it has such presence. My misery did not end there, used sanitary towels all over the apartment were my next gift from her, dishes left in the sink for weeks till they were almost moulding were another of her legacy. Granted this may all smack of kettles and black pots, but I am antique silverware to her blackened and charred three-legged cast iron pot.

What account would be complete without examples of people’s idiocy to foreigners, especially a Black African Female. So the first time I went to church, I went to one of these happy clappy ones. After the service, some Japanese guy comes up to me and says ‘Oh, you should have been here last year, we did Quincy Jones. I know you would have liked it’. I looked at him blankly for a few seconds, blinked, and then replied ‘Oh’. The assumption here being that all darkies sing and dance, a question unfortunately I have had to field rather too often, the annoying thing being that I do do both, and rather well, so it’s like fcuk! Here I am fulfilling the stereotype and there is nought I can do about it.

Then there is the issue of personal hygiene. It’s perfectly acceptable to pick your nose in public unashamedly, but God forbid you ever think about BLOWING your nose in public. And it’s also quite ok to sniff and sniff and sniff and sniff until you’ve sniffed your brains into your intestines but God forbid you ever think about BLOWING your nose. ‘Urgh’ do I hear anyone say?

Japan does have its redeeming features, alcohol is cheap, like one US dollar for a beer, its safe for the most part and the common person is quite honest. It’s not unheard of to leave your wallet on the train and have it returned to you within a few days, contents intact. The trains for the most part run on time except for when it rains, or snows, or its windy or there is a typhoon, or an earthquake or an accident (read suicide, the method of choice for people wishing to take their own lives and inconvenience thousands of others) or some idiot train driver has overshot the platform or some sexually repressed man has groped a woman on the train and needs to be ejected from the train, or some drunk fool has fallen onto the train tracks and needs to be hauled off, or that there are many people on the train taking too long to get on and get off.

I have met some good people while I have been here, who have all helped me cling on to the knife-edge of sanity. A sanity which I dare say is threatened by my continued presence here. However, the joy of having that green bomber Zim passport makes if difficult to get a working visa to many other countries. I really wasn’t aware that there were that many doors in this world. That could be slammed so hard in my face as to leave wood carving shaped marks on my face. Anyway,  it will make my own return to my home country that much sweeter when it eventually does happen. So here’s to wishing that there will definitely NOT be another 2 years of this place. And if through all this I have given the impression that I am not enjoying myself, whatever on earth gave you that idea?

59 Replies to “Japan, two years on”

  1. “the travesty is compounded by an evident inability to walk in a straight line, a certain innate crab-like instinct”. Hahahahaha!

  2. Elle, so long an entry such that I was going to park this one. But, as always, very engaging once you got past the length. I see, you still very hilariously offensive. (That was not a dig!!!). But, are you still moving to the South Americas?

  3. konichiwa El

    you have just made my day 😀

    i dont

    here’s to 2 more years of a not so painful stay in the land of the rising sun

    Ganbariya El

  4. Gala, thank you, I aim to offend. If popularity were measured by the number of insults hurled at other people, I would be queen of the hill. As for South America, getting the job is easier than getting the visa. So we wait to see.

    Ms Joseph, its not as bad as I make it sound, to be honest, its worse, but one has to pretend to be gracious to one’s host. JOKES. It’s not that bad, as long as you keep your head down and not think about it and just keep moving, you get by.

    Dhlaks, where did you learn Japanese?

  5. if you have to keep your head down and not think about it just to get by then it must be that bad

    FYI, Canada and Australia have arguably reasonable visa conditions.

  6. Lol. Keep your head down so you’re the same height as the people, hahaha. Great way to remain inconspicuous.
    (Sorry, that was such an ig’nant statement.)

    On a different note, the HIFA website is wack. JB, I really hope you don’t know who made it.

  7. Elle, just when I was going to berate you for not posting for weeks, you go and produce this 🙂 Good stuff!

    Like I said, come home kana zvakapressa. We’ll welcome you with open arms. And clenched fists. And booted feet.

    Don’t know why they had to ruin the HIFA site, it was fine and slow as it was. I dunno who did it, but if I had done it, the site would be up and updated and running THE DAY BEFORE THE FUCKING THING STARTS.

    And breathe.

  8. Children, behave. Let the man blow his own horn. It might be the only blowing action coming his way.

  9. etu El nichan 8)

    i think that i shall comment no further as it is a lose lose situation

    whats wrong with knowing more than one language

  10. I know 4 languages if that makes you feel better Dhlaks. You know a girl has nothing but love for the brothers!

  11. Interviewer: “Mr President, are you ready to say farewell to the people of Zimbabwe?”

    President: “Why, where are they going?”

  12. So it seems that S(e)ven is out of a job at the end of the City. What an ingrate that Thaksin is. The knock off counterfeit version of Abramovich, and the original wasnt that great either.

  13. Re 16: You took the words right out of my mouth LOL.

    Does knowing many languages count if two of them are Shona and Ndebele – spoken only in Zimbabwe? I always wonder what to say on forms…

  14. I know, like no one ever leaves the country without English. No one ever needs any translation. I think Shona’s only use in this country is bitching about people when they are standing right in front of you. Avoid doing so in the presence of Black people though. You’d be surprised how many Zimbabweans there are in London. Even more surprising is how fluent they are at Shona in spite of a long time as a diaspora. I can barely string a sentence without a few shonglish words in there, let alone hold a conversation. Imagine the reactions I get when people talk to me in Shona and I insist on responding in English. Well, I was never good at the subject anyway. I wish I had learnt to speak French. Now there’s a useful language. Or Spanish.

  15. tru dat, shona is very useful for talkin smack about someone in their face.
    but cant understand zimbas that “cant” speak shona/ndebele. theres no excuse for that. kuzviitisa chete. dont care how long your ass been in the diaspora.
    its never too late to learn another language…i’m learning spanish which should be useful for gettin some latino ass when i’m on holiday

  16. Good luck lol, hopefully they’ll see the charming side of you.

    On the subject of bitching about people in Shona, apparently it’s not to be done in front of white people either. The AA guy who came to fix my friend Don’s car told us off in Shona for driving it in the first place. Shock, horror? Uh, I think so.

  17. i’ll take my chances in front of white pple. i know there are some that speak/understand some shona. i have a white friend whos shona is so fluent when he calls i sometimes think its one of my black friends. But id say 99% of white zimbas/rhodies couldnt be bothered to learn the language of the “natives”

  18. Knowing Shona and Ndebele and English means yes, you are multilingual. Which means most Africans are multi-lingual, and are much better than most Britons adn Dumbericans.

    Just FYI.

  19. Well in front of the whites you talk smack abt em in shona once you know they dont understand

    Ms joseph i was not countin the 2 major langs in zim. Gala you should take up spanish… its very similar to english

  20. So how about Obama and his crazy ass former Priest. The man is enough to make me wannaattend a sermon. And that is saying a lot. I hate being preached at. He is hilarious. Makes Eleanor’s ranting lookk like child’s play. Apparently, according to him, the US had 911 coming. He clearly loves OB but he he don’t seem to care that The Republicans are having a field day.

  21. Forget the priest. That’s what most Dumbericans don’t realise. This is just a simple distraction. Don’t believe the hype.

    The way the Republican Noise Machine goes on about it, you’d think Barack was up there holding the microphone for the dude. FFS.

    How about John McCain and his priests? e.g. John Hagee. Heard of him? No? Becaue the right-wing media machine won’t tell you.


  22. For Fuck’s Sakes.

    “After the opposition could not get into the Security Council meeting, its backers — led by the United Kingdom, Belgium, France and the United States — unsuccessfully tried to get the Security Council to discuss Zimbabwe.

    Eight countries — namely South Africa, Russia, Vietnam, China, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Libya and Indonesia — blocked the move.”

  23. What riles me about this is that they keep saying that ultimately it’s up to the Zimbabweans to sort this mess out themselves. Well, if people go to the ballot and vote out the government and the government refuses to leave, and the courts are suborned by their allegiance to the government, what recourse do they think people have which doesnt include bloodshed?

  24. So what is the last resort, JB. I am working on the assumption that you either have your crystal ball with you (steel being in short supply) or your tarot cards.

  25. machete’s ak47’s etc are the last resort el… we just have not gotten to that point yet

  26. “Other means” is writing blogs and generally trying to stay out of the way of any swifly flying metal objects. There’s blood on the dust roads… how long before the city gets involved?

  27. So I had this student today who kept on insisting on reading ‘Niger’ as ‘nigger’. The first time I let it ride, the second I corrected, by the fourth or fifth time I was ready to kick his ass into touch. I mean, come now. being thick is one thing, being obtuse totally another.

  28. Oh well, so who thinks Benitez will be joining S(e)ven in the dole queue at the end of the season?

  29. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/7380445.stm

    A second round Hah? Finally, some progress (of sorts). So how did Zimbos handle the news? Was there a big HooHah or was it just people exhaling (finally) or just plain indifference. Ooh, also hear Zimbos are going vegetarian. Must be rough.

    On the London front, it is nail biting stuff. Waiting to hear whether London is to go to shit under Boris’ wing. Bad Times.

  30. People always tell you to be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it. Livingstone was the same one who said that no one should ever run for more than 2 terms. well, he did just that, and the people showed that they were listening. give Boris a chance. he might just surprise you.

  31. Another thing, London had a 45% voter turnout, now that is almost inexcusable. What with postal voting, electronic voting and polls being open late into the night and thousands of polling station being available, why did not more people turn up to vote. They always say that people get the government that they deserve. And New Labour has done little to convince people why they should keep them in power longer. It seems the onus is less on the Conservatives to do well, but on New Labour to do badly. NL refused to take Boris’ bid seriously, preferring to treat him as some kind of court jester. And it’s that kind of complacency that has seen Labour beaten into 3rd by the Lib Dems of all parties. The same party that gave us that lush Charles Kennedy and the geriatric Menzies Campbell (for the record I have never understood why his name is pronounce ‘Ming’). If the records are to be believed and history repeats itself, Labour could find itself as the opposition party at the next general election, which Brown will be loathe to call after these results. How Labour must be ruing the day they knocked Tony off, even after the Iraq war Labour didnt do this badly.

  32. Labour is slipping for real. But I agree that Boris may turn out to be alright. Well, hopefully.

    Gala, don’t you think that vegetarian story writer sounds so much like a kiss-ass? I found it really difficult to take the whole thing seriously. Not the meat issue, just the voice of the person writing it – I just don’t think she’s authentic. She sounds like she’s pandering to the international viewpoint.

  33. They handle news with desperation and they also eat their veggies like you take your medicine. With a grimace.

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