The other day, as someone on the subway was jamming an elbow into my windpipe, cutting off what little life-giving oxygen I was able to suck through the plastic bag covering my face, and I was trying desperately to tilt my head a few degrees to look back to see if said elbow belonged to a man or a woman so I would know if I should be sexually aroused, something interesting occurred to me—I would no longer need to have my “why I want to be in Japan” speech ready at a moment’s notice. You see, until recently people would laugh at me when I told them that videogames were why I was interested in Japan. Now that games are my bread and butter (well, working at Capcom I can only afford the bread, but I hear it’s healthier without the butter anyway), I have no such problem. So allow me to share with you some of the more tolerable things about Japan.
Public Transportation (Not having to drive a car)
I always hated owning and driving a car. It’s dangerous, expensive, unreliable, difficult to do while sleeping and an all-around hassle. But in most American cities, there simply isn’t a realistic choice. And before you say “Ooh! You could ride a bike!”, allow me to present the testimony of several bicyclists from Lubbock, Texas. Oh, wait, I almost forgot—they all mysteriously died when cars hit them. Add that to the vast distances between places worth going, and riding a bike isn’t an appealing option. I could have taken the bus, but in my city the closest bus stop to my house was a 50 minute walk from my house, and a 10 minute walk from my destination. I’m sure there are plenty of exceptions in bigger cities, but they’re still far from the norm.
In Japan, no matter what out-of-the-way part of Bumfuck, Nowhere you live in, there will be public vehicles within a reasonable walking distance from you. Your ride never breaks down, your life isn’t in the hands of drunken frat scum in oversized trucks, and you can entertain yourself as you please while you travel. If you want to ride a bike or even walk around as I have chosen to, there are places on either side of all major roads separated by rails on which you can do so. And as an added bonus, walking and biking everywhere makes you healthier and more energetic. It gives me the extra power I need to sit on my ass and play videogames for 11 hours a day!
I always felt alienated in my home country. That was great, but boring. Being treated like a literal space alien by xenophobic Asians, on the other hand, is very novel. I always get a kick out of small children crying when they see me, old ladies crossing the street to avoid walking past me, and the classic “we’d rather stand up than sit next to you” (here I have the chance to be an asshole AND punish people for their prejudices—double bonus!).
Of course there are downsides to being an eternal outsider (especially if you work in a company full of Japanese people), but if you are of a certain breed it can make for a satisfying life.
Curry & Japanese Pizza
Curry is the Japanese equivalent of a hamburger. It’s ubiquitous, kids love it, and most importantly it’s delicious. Most Westerners have heard the word, but I’m sure there are plenty of Americans who don’t know what curry is. It’s a kind of stew with various meats and vegetables (the most basic Japanese variation has potatoes, carrots, onions and beef), poured over rice. Trying to describe the distinguishing taste of the curry spice itself is as difficult as trying to describe something as fundamental as chocolate, so I invite anyone who’s curious to come to my house and try some. (Especially young boys with smooth skin.)
Next, imagine if you will… potato salad pizza. No? Perhaps you would prefer scrambled egg, corn, and teriyaki chicken on your pie? If these dishes don’t sound exactly heavenly, don’t worry—I hated the idea too until I put it them into my mouth. It only took me one minute to come to the concession that Japanese people have us beaten on pizza. Every week I buy a pizza split into four new sets of toppings, and every week I eat the whole thing alone and pass out on the floor like some drugged pig. I have yet to be disappointed, and once I finally get my paycheck my ritual will likely change to “three times every week”.
School Girls, Office Ladies, et al
Call me an ephebophile if you want, but those damned uniforms are to blame. Anyway, if I’m going to be a pathetic nerd with no sex life, I’m at least happy to live in a country whose fashion senses seem to have been based around all of my fetishes. Porn is readily available but much less necessary in Japan—I gather all the material I need to sodomize my vast imagination from what I see on the streets. Although on a final note, I must admit to how disappointed the recently rising trend to fem-mullets has made me.
When you think of karaoke, you probably imagine old drunk men in green John Deer trucker hats singing David Allen Cole at the front of a smoky bar. In shy, introverted Japan, however, karaoke takes place in small, more-or-less sound-proof booths. By far my favorite karaoke franchise is “Jankara”, which is short for “JUMBO KARAOKE HIROBA” (just like “Pokemon” is short for “Pocket Monsters” and “purikura” is short for “print club”—Japanese doesn’t have enough syllables so they love to abbreviate their own words. I tried to start a trend back home of calling “vending machines” “vemachi”, but for some reason it never caught on.)
Anyway, Jankara is one of the rare places on this island where you can get free refills on your drinks (including restaurants). Not only that, but their drink bar includes coffee. So imagine walking down the street at lunch on hot summer day. You have 600 yen to spend. You could force your way into a McDonald’s rice-paper tube to eat a few burgers with no elbow room, or you could spend an hour in a freezing cold (you control the AC) room with your pants in the corner and a never-ending supply of heavily-milked coffee, soda, or even alcoholic drinks. And that’s not even mentioning the main event–singing White Zombie songs to yourself through a huge speaker system.
I see you now. You’re balancing your keyboard on your bare lap as you desperately try to wipe your ass with your primitive bathroom tissue. You fail, get shit on your hand, and in a moment of panic jam the shitty finger into your own eye socket. Now you are not only probably blind in one eye, you have to sit and listen to the doctors and nurses call you “shit-eye” for several hours while they apply their proverbial leeches to you.
Not to boast, but the sophistication of the toilet I use quite frankly puts me on a different level of humanity than you, making you fit only to drag heavy rocks to the center of town to be used to build an eternal monument to me.
One button shoots warm water at my rectum, and another at my scrotum. A third button blows hot air up to dry my ass, and yet another controls the seat’s heat. All of these functions can be finely adjusted at my whim, and the “low battery” icon flashes to make sure I never have to resort to using paper.
And the last thing I love about Japan brings us nicely to the second installment of my monthly sub-column, “Wacky Japlish”!
It’s a good thing they were specific. I’m a performer, but I don’t have a band. I only do guitar bullet discourses.
Next month, keep me from having to think of anything by SENDING ME QUESTIONS TO ANSWER! If you don’t, I’ll punish you with 3000 words about miniature bonsai gardens. And remember: there are such things as stupid questions, and the stupider the better!