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These kids are LOUD!

12 Oct

I know that I will never fully understand Japanese culture, but for a people bent on “saving face”, they sure do let their kids go buckwild a lot.

In the States when a person is out in public and their child begins to throw a tantrum; screaming, yelling, and drawing attention to the parent or present caretaker, that is an awkward or embarassing situation.  Most people within earshot will turn around to find out what child is making such terrible noises and why the parent isn’t taking care of business.  Now, there is a real difference between a child crying from pain or sadness, and a kid just wailing away because they are not getting what they want.

When a kid begins to throw a tantrum, the parent will try to calm the kid down to save face in public.  Yes, the parenting styles are different; some parents may stupidly give into the child’s desires (and teach the kid how to get their way and become a spoiled brat), some parents may count (to a million, even, and the kid learns that nothing will ever happen when mom or dad stop counting), and some people choose to spank the child (and teach them that they can’t have everything they want and that mom or dad is in charge so the kid needs to stop acting up).  In any case, the point is that the parents or caretakers at least make an attempt to sooth the savage beast.

Here in Japan I am quickly learning that’s a different story.

Just from my apartment I have heard at least 2 different infants cry for a solid 10 to 15 minutes.  It seemed like someone just left them in the crib, right next to the window, and their cries filled the neighborhood.  Not the worst situation, I understand, the baby could have colic or something.  By far the worst thing I’ve seen (several times over) is a young child, around 4 years old, full-on screaming making tearful demands (in 日本語, of course) while the (grand)parent just ignores the kid and keeps walking.  At 9pm old people call the cops if you play music a tad too loud while they’re trying to go to sleep, but some kid screaming in the street for 10 minutes doesn’t move anyone?  Doesn’t drive anyone crazy?

I saw a lady on the train, very fashionable, with a kid about 4 or 5 years old.  They got on the train and the kid immediately falls to the floor screaming about some thing or another and the mother is just sitting there like he isn’t making any noise.  She’s on a train.  That isn’t embarassing?  That doesn’t make you lose face?  Your kid fully screaming and you, the parent, cannot control them and tell them to calm down and stop making a fool of themselves in public?

What is especially confusing is the fact that Japanese people love quiet at home and while riding the train and in both situations, no one even looks at the kid.  I just stare at them… in the eye… asking “what on earth is wrong with you?”  They generally sober up pretty quicky after that.

Many times I just wonder, “Does Japan have Child Protective Services?”

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They’re Staring at Me Anyway So… Might as Well!

28 Sep

You don’t have to be in Japan long to realize there are not very many people in any particular area with very dark skin.  Call us what you want: Black, African-American, African, a person of African Descent, or my personal favorite, Chocolate; the fact of the matter is that there are not very many of us in Japan so I guess it’s  bit of a novelty to see someone walking down the street or riding the train looking about 15 shades darker than the average Japanese person.

I don’t have much of a problem with it, in fact, I’ve already become so used to it that on a day-long bike trip around Kyoto I saw a guy who looked African standing on a corner listening to his headphones, waiting for a light.  As we rode past him, I audibly said, “Wow!”  A friend heard me and asked about it… I couldn’t help but laugh as I explained “… now I know how the Japanese people feel!  I really was not expecting that!”  The only sort of issue I have is when people – adults – continue to stare.  I don’t mind the little kids so much, I understand, it might be a completely new experience for them; but for adults, it’s a little like they should have more “home training” than to openly gawk at a person sitting across from them on the train, especially in a city as big as Kobe, which in its history was the first Japanese city to open its ports to Western traders and even had an international community that dates back to the 1850s.  Basically, it should be old hat to see foreigners… dark foreigners even, in their city.

In Kyoto, High School kids wanted a picture with us.

In Kyoto, random High School kids wanted a picture with us.

What I’m trying to say is that they stare.  A lot.  So I have learned that I might as well make the most of it and there’s a new sort of freedom that comes with that.  Back home in the States I have reservations because people only look if you’re being nutty and you feel embarrassed to act a fool and draw attention to yourself.  Here, they’re already staring so it’s like I can do nutty things because it’s not going to draw more attention than I already get on a regular basis… does that make sense?

For example; Friday I was with friends and I was bored of the usual hang-around-all-night-doing-nothing-until-we-have-to-run-for-the-last-train events so I grabbed a couple people and set out to make mischief.  What we really ended up getting into was hanging around several groups of dancers practicing routines in CenterGai after all the shops closed down.  We didn’t have proper speakers or anything, but the six of us danced around, sang songs to create the music to dance to, (unsuccessfully) tried to exchange business cards with any willing salaryman (good try, Andy!), rescued random mice in the JR Kobe train station, and us girls even consoled a love-lorn Japanese guy.

We got tons of stares but it didn’t matter because they’d stare at a mini-gang of gaijin anyway so we just had fun.  So much, in fact, that making mischief may just become a regular part of the weekend.  Bring it on.

Sick on Public Transportation? Oh No You Didn’t!

21 Sep

Oh my gosh, don’t ever be sick on public transportation, crowded, even; and just be down with hacking and coughing all over the place making everyone sick. If you’re sick, you better get off the train and get yourself some Ricolah and a SARS mask
SARS mask.

This lady sounded like she was straight up trying to hack up one of those little Total Recall Kuato stomach people. She was banging on her chest and shaking and everything. This one dude’s eyes were super bugged out, like three seats away she was going to cough AIDS onto him; I wish I could’ve gotten a shot on my cell phone. It was priceless.

Anyway, if you get sick, don’t come on the train trying to infect everyone else. You better maintain that cough until you get to your appointed destination and get yourself some ‘Tussin , forreal, cuz flu shots are a government conspiracy. I can’t afford to get sick from your Bird Flu/West Nile/Outbreak virus or whatever you’ve got.

Also, don’t pass the gas and try and blame it on someone else if somebody look at you crazy like this dude. If you have a flatulence problem, you need to keep a steady supply of Bean-O on hand at all times. In fact, you should probably go see a doctor, dude. Get Katie-Couric with it and get a colonic… we don’t need to see it on YouTube or anything, but please do something for your heath; otherwise I’ll have to inform BART as to the cause of their ridership loss.