Memoirs of a Gaijin
I’ve been enjoying reading several blogs from Japan recently, written by foreigners living there, or“gaijin” as they are known to the Japanese. I’m sure there are countless Japanese bloggers out there who write in English, and one day I’ll hunt them down as well, but as one who was actually in Japan only six months ago I am for the moment enjoying the like-minded, non-Japanese perspective of these fellow gaijin. Like myself, each of these bloggers each went to Japan for their love of the country, and write about the lives they are leading there with a mixture of fascination and endearment, rather than empty curiosity or worse.
I have also just added a few of my own stories about Japan here now that we are on the topic. Considering that I only spent a single week in Japan my stories may in truth be somewhat light in actual content, yet the very fact that I wrote thousands of words speaks something of the experience…
- Airport anxiety: a somewhat surreal, caffiene fueled adventure in Narita Airport
- My Japanese brother: an interview with a Zen Buddhist monk at Kenchoji Temple, Kamakura
- German lessons: filming a podcast in Kamakura
Recommended blogs on Japan
Given the choice between a BMW convertible or a $15,000 shopping spree anywhere in the world, this graduating American high school student chose neither; instead requesting her parents allow her to spend her last semester in Japan:
“I think that took them off-guard. Mom really regrets dropping that mint julep glass. The set is worthless now that one of the glasses is broken.”
Pandora has only just started her blog, and is writing almost in real-time about her adventures in a Japanese school. This blog will only get better, especially now that the rumour is out that she is“Yanki” (a notorious type of anti-social punk).
Firefly in Japan
Firefly (not his real name) came to Japan from Australia five years ago with no Japanese, little money and no friends or contacts, to study martial arts for a month. After one week of living in Tokyo he decided to stay:
“I felt like Japan was testing me. Seeing if I had what it takes. One guy at martial arts often talked about the“martial arts god”, who looks after people who come to Japan with the serious intent to learn martial arts.“If you just commit yourself to martial arts, things will happen,” he told me, as we sat on a train speeding through the Japanese countryside.”
Firefly’s blog has proved to be enormously popular in a short space of time. An only cursory sampling of his writing might leave you with the impression that he is a typically“ignorant” gaijin, but you would be mistaken—enthusiastically and sincerely written, his posts are filled with valuable insights into Japanese life and culture, and his roadside encounter with a yakuza is one of many classics.
At the time of writing the evil Chad‘s blog has vanished, perhaps under the strain of the traffic that comes making the front-page of Reddit, but hopefully he will soon return, as his “Helpful advice of how to mess with Japanese people” was a blogging classic:
“When you’re about to cross a 1-lane road with no other cars for 500 meters in either direction and there is still a mob of people waiting for the crossing light, proceed across without breaking stride. Bonus points if there are mothers holding their children back for whom you can provide a bad example, and further bonus points if anyone follows you who was previously standing there.”
Chad probably is a typical gaijin, yet his candour and irreverence are refreshing.
Terry Dobson’s story
Not a blog, but a great story about a 70 year old using Aikido to“disarm” an aggressive drunk on a Tokyo train. Hint: Aikido translates as“the way of harmonious spirit.”
“C’mere,” the old man said in an easy vernacular, beckoning to the drunk. “C’mere and talk with me.” He waved his hand lightly. The big man followed, as if on a string. He planted his feet belligerently in front of the old gentleman, and roared above the clacking wheels, “Why the hell should I talk to you?” The drunk now had his back to me. If his elbow moved so much as a millimeter, I’d drop him in his socks.