Saturday, November 24
The final week at my school passed in the blink of an eye. I helped the new teacher, Tiffany, learn the ropes. I condensed two years of experience into a week. I said goodbye hundreds of times. It was really a moving experience. I almost came to tears at one point.
I was squatting saying goodbye to my four-year olds. Little Tomomi ran from across the room to jump in my arms and say “sayonara.” I felt my eyes getting watery and then
A flailing five-year old threw his foot right into my crotch. Suddenly I really had to keep the tears back. I hugged Tomomi goodbye, gave a high five to my assailant and stumbled back into the staffroom. Parting is such sweet sorrow.
Friday, December 7
With my completion at Sagamiono I have started a new position. But before I could really begin I had to attend initial training again. I returned to Omiya (大宮) and was thrown in with a batch of 11 brand new foreigners. It was memorable.
The training was very refreshing and I believe I will benefit from it. But perhaps most enlightening was living with foreigners for two weeks. It made me realize how much I’ve changed since I first went through training. Wow.
The foreigners were all very lovely people. One Canadian, two Brits, and eight Americans. They were loud and sarcastic. I spent one evening at dinner with everyone in shock. Though the whole conversation was in English it could have been another language. Sarcasm was aplenty. I could barely keep up.
What else was interesting was the level of Japanese language. Half the group had studied Japanese in university. They had a solid grasp on the language and could conjugate verbs much better than myself. That said, I was often the ambassador for the group when we ventured out. My new friends understood textbook Japanese. I had real experience with practical Japanese. So I spoke Japanese. I spoke the most I’ve ever spoken. It was great.
Just as soon as I had been mixed in with my new friends they were gone. 11 people dispersed around the country. I greatly hope I can meet up with them again soon. I’m looking at you, Stephen.
Monday, December 10
Speaking of Japanese, I tried my hand at a standardized Japanese language test. It went… okay. The test included a vocabulary section, a grammar section and a listening section. I’ll either pass or fail it right on the edge. If nothing else it served to motivate me to study more!
This may be a taboo subject for some. If it is, give this section a pass. Otherwise continue on through this hodgepodge.
Sexuality in Japan is very different from the United States. Of course sex still sells here. But it’s presentation is a little different. Whether it’s the media’s portrayal of gender or inherit cultural attitudes, everything is just a little different. Let’s explore, shall we?
Women. In Japanese culture women are inferior to men. It seems her sole existence is serve a man. She will achieve success if she marries and has children. She should be helpless on her own. And prim and proper at all times. She never knows when a man may grace her with his presence. Since she is always to be on guard for a suitor, she must purchase and wear makeup, at all times. Skirts and heels too. Any woman found without these qualities in public would be stared at. Although in reality a woman would never leave the house without being fully prepared.
Men. In Japanese culture men are supposed to be strong. Men should work in an office. Men should wear suits. Men should be direct enough to ask a woman out. Yet the physical attributes of a handsome Japanese man are extremely androgynous. Smooth skin and soft features. He too should fret about his appearance and should buy beauty enhancing products.
Courting. A woman will never ask a man out. Sometimes she will never be asked. As a result there are many spinsters in Japan. A common relationship may progress like this: a man and woman are introduced through a group date (ごこん). Email addresses and phone numbers are exchanged. The man will pursue and there will be a few dates. The man will then make his ambitions clear and dating officially begins. The length of dating varies considerably. In many situations the couple is wed within five years.
The wife will then becomes pregnant. One child per couple is average. She is expected to sacrifice her career and become a housewife until their child begins school. The woman may either then continue her housewife life or return to the workplace. Through all of this the husband becomes the primary bread winner and will often work excessive overtime to make ends meet.
Yet recently men have become very timid about women. There’s even a new word for these men, it translates roughly into “vegetarian man.” This new type man is usually uninterested in traditional society, including dating. He’s more content to live with his parents indefinitely. What’s resulting is a gap between the sexes. Neither will approach the other and so many young adults grow into single middle-aged adults.
To make matters worse the Japanese are increasingly having less sex. In many recent studies it has been reported that the Japanese are having the least amount of sex in the world. A large percentage of marriages are “sexless.” Even teenage boys, perhaps the randiest bloc of people, are disinterested in sex.
Perhaps many marriages are sexless because of prostitution. Prostitution, though illegal, is widespread. It’s a big time business in Japan. Red light districts can be found in almost any city. I’ve witnessed many johns making a stop at a brothel before venturing back home.
Yet another reason marriages are lacking steam is because of affairs. Affairs are very common here. I’m not sure why adultery is as prevalent as it is. Perhaps people think they can get away with it. Perhaps they’re dissatisfied, or even resentful, of their partner. Cheating isn’t just limited to one sex, both men and women are often involved it.
Also worth nothing is the sexualization of women. Age is extremely important in Japan. Youth is beautiful obsessed over. The rule of thumb is this; if a woman is not wed by her 30th birthday, she never will be. A Japanese man once told me, “Women are like Christmas cake. Everyone wants a slice before the 25th, but after you can’t give it a way.” There’s more truth in that statement than most would like to admit.
Because youth is so prized, women are always trying to attain it. They dress and behave young. And for their part, the men really go for it. This preoccupation with young girls is reflected in the most popular musical act in Japan, AKB48, a group of 48 girls singing and dancing. A large part of the group’s success is from their image. They’re all in their early 20’s and wear high school girl uniforms. Now full-grown women wear school girl uniforms because that’s what men like.
Men are not exempt. A popular game for boys in “kancho.” In this game a boy will try to stick his fingers in the rear of another boy. To which the other boy will kindly reciprocate. This game is played openly in public. High school boys in particular say and play games that would definitely be labeled as “gay” in the States. Then again women of all ages openly hold hands in public.
Talking about “gay things,” homosexuality is very taboo in Japan. I’ve never met an openly gay Japanese person. Let alone a gay couple. Of course there are many gay people in Japan, they simply can’t express themselves without having the weight of culture thrown on them. Supposedly they will enter into sham marriages to avoid persecution.
On a final note, I can’t talk about Japanese sexuality without mentioning pornography or fetishes. Paradoxically, both of these things are rampant and also repressed. There is nothing that cannot be purchased in an adult shop, but you may be judged by the clerk behind the counter. If you want further examples, do a google search.
For all of these Japanese eccentricities there are many shared points with western culture. Hairless women, and men, are in demand. Big breasts and long legs are popular. Although many men have confessed to me that they want to date a girl with big breasts but marry a woman with smaller ones. Because, “she’d be less likely to have an affair.”
A lot of what I’ve mentioned I’ll respond to with a simple head shake. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose. Other parts I find a bit harder to swallow. The gender gap in Japan feels 60 years behind the United States. I think a lot of work is to be done in here.
(On a final note I want to clarify about what I’ve just said. The previously mentioned points don’t reflect all Japanese people. I’m making generalizations. In some cases I’m speaking about a minority of the people. That said, everything mentioned occurs enough in daily life to be covered.)