Monday, June 30, 2003

Spirited Away

Not much of a weekend. But then again, all weekends are pretty much the same.

I saw “Spirited Away” for the first time. It was alright, but perhaps I was expecting more because virtually everyone I talked to said it was GREAT! I was rather impressed with the English title, because the word Kamikakushi in the original title 千と千尋の神隠し suggests the unexplained disappearance of people. Once upon a time, unexplained disappearances were attributed to the gods or tengu, the red, long nosed ogre of myth with god-like powers. The literal translation, I suppose, would be "The Unexplained Disappearance of Sen and Chihiro by Gods or Ogres." Yeah, that would draw a lot of people to the theaters! Disney effectively translated it to "Spirited Away"--to be carried off mysteriously or secretly. Unfortunately, this success is not always translated in the dialogue. With the time I had this weekend to get rid of the stress of the previous day--thanks to the words of encouragement from Tak, Sleetse, et al--I saw both Japanese and English versions. While most of it is adequate, there were a number of scenes that just weren’t right. Of course, this is perhaps a matter of culture. I mean, how do you translate engachoエンガチョウ? Okay, the normal(?) rendering is cooties, but engacho also suggests a separation or cut from the group, as it is derived from 縁がちょん切った--you have the cooties so you and I are no longer connected. In the movie, Kamaji tells Sen to put her fingers together so he can cut through them with a “magic” spell and thereby reverse her cooties. I think the English version kind of garbles it up. But still, it was okay. Just picking nits.I also watched “Cowboy Bebop.” This is the one anime that students have been buzzing about more than “Spiritied Away” this year. So, of course, I had to see this tale of a bounty hunter in the future. This was okay too. Kinda reminded by of Lupan III with a futuristic edge. No big deal.

More JA Stuff: (for NarciJ)
Anyway, a couple of thoughts have been going around in my head--what's left of it anyway. Marja suggested that there is little co-mingling among different Asian groups. That was mostly true in the day (30 years back), but is it still the case today? Are there many out there who tend to stick to "there own kind"? I mean, once we are Americanized, is there really such a difference between us as to justify this kind of exclusionary attitude? Just some fuel on the fire.

Peace, everybody. (Okay, its old, but its better than "groovy".)

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Too frustrated to write anything today. The following unanswered--impossible to answer--questions keep going around in circles in my head:

  • Why am I married?
  • Why did I remarry?
  • Why do I drink?
  • Why do I drink with her?
  • Why is it always my fault?
  • Why do I even try sometimes?

I think I'll lose myself in a book for the rest of the day.

Friday, June 27, 2003

My Camaro

Took my car in for servicing today. Its nice to have a car; a rather inane but nonetheless honest comment from a boy born and raised in LA.
I couldn't wait to own a car as a teenager. I bought my mother's '73 Camaro--no, she didn't give it to me--I molded (not attached) a spoiler on to it, removed all the Camaro insignias to make the body look smoother, repainted it from red to midnight blue (making it look even darker, but not black), and changed the rims (cyclones). I left the engine stock. It was beautiful and my baby (the Camaro in the photo is not my car, but the resemblance is remarkable, right down to the absence of the front red Camaro insignia!). However, as driving became a necessity--going to work or school--and finding myself each day in the parking lot known as the LA freeway system--take your pick, Santa Monica, Pomona, San Bernadino--I soon dreaded driving. And of course, my eyes were progressively getting worse--see earlier post--which made driving an even scarier proposal.

Needless to say, when I went to Tokyo, I was very impressed with the fact one could get around quite easily sans kuruma. The trains and subways ran frequently and on time. Amazing. I subsequently lived in Japan for about 7 years and got completely used to the idea that I didn't need a car. Back in LA, where my Camaro was sitting in my parents driveway, my mom complained persistently about the hassles of having a car around that isn't being driven, and ultimately I was persuaded to give my baby up for adoption, which I did reluctantly.

Of course, as the gods of irony are wont to do, I got a job in DC six months later.
Upset, I vowed to find a place to live near a Metro stop, so I could continue my Japanese lifestyle of not needing a vehicle. Unfortunately, unlike Japan, where there are always retail shops surrounding the station, suburban Metro stops--particularly beyond Ballston in Va--are surrounded by parking lots and condominiums. I was reduced to going shopping at "local" supermarkets on foot or by bus. Stubborn me. I lived like this for 6 years.

Last year, I inherited my mom's car (she lost her battle against non-Hodgkin's lymphoma), and now am recalling the freedom a car brings. I don't drive to work--the traffic here is as bad, if not worse, than LA--but to go shopping in a car is sooooo much easier. The convenience it provides easily outweighs the cost of gas and insurance. Who woulda thunkit.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Being Japanese American--cont'd

The conflict inherent in being Japanese, Japanese American or "just" American is a complex issue that leads me back to Capt. Gaijin and why I DO disagree with him. He told me that his significant other--who is JA--was very upset by this post, and he asked if I was offended, as well. I told him no. But what was interesting was her response to him. She apparently said something like:

Everyone always says I'm not really American because of the way I look, and now you're saying I'm not Japanese.

Now this is something that I can relate to, and really cuts to the core of the matter: How we are viewed within mainstream society. I should mention first that it seems me that many non-Asian young(er) people--at least the college students I meet--harbor fewer preconceptions as to what an American looks like, like Capt. Gaijin. They seem less concerned with background than with current interests and lifestyle. And I find this refreshing.

However, while it may be ideal for all of us to be equal and Americans--and I admit that I try my best to make non-Asians feel that I am as equal as any of them--there is no denying that JAs/Asians are made to feel like we are different. Certainly, the statement by Capt. G's significant other suggests that there are still those who view Asians as being less than "authentic" Americans--and she's from an area populated heavily by Asians.

One important way that makes us feel different is mass media. Okay, there are many Asian newscasters and reporters now. But that is fairly recent, and mostly in urban areas heavily populated by Asians. How about "real" mass media? In the movie, "Karate Kid", Mr. Miyagi seems to have this "Oriental" mystique about him, separating him from the rest, He is also short, looks like a gardener, and bows all the time. Definitely different from others. What other images of JAs or Asians are there in movies? Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, all matial arts related. And the Japanese? "Rising Sun" portrays Japan as mystical--did you like Sean Connery's attempts to exude Zen qualities? Or as business/working automatons, a la "Gung Ho" with Michael Keaton. More telling might be the complete absence of JAs/Asians on TV. Besides Arnold--the goofy restaurant owner--of "Happy Days" and the incredibly forgettable "Mr. T and Tina" (both by Pat Morita), has there ever been a film or TV show--non-historical--in which a JA or any Asian starred as an average American? (There is, of course, "Better Luck Tomorrow" which portrays Asian youths as... wow, American youths with a foreign--Asian--cultural background. But I haven't seen it yet.)

These portrayals may not necessarily represent malicious discrimination; but they do spawn the view that Asians are different--in many cases, vastly different--from the mainstream. This view might evoke curiosity in an American--how many have been told they seem exotic or asked if they knew a martial art? Those who have asked me "What are you?" (re: previous entry) perhaps felt an obligation to "recognize" and "tolerate" the diversity that enter their life. The view that JAs are different was once applied as a tool to make a social point. Does anyone remember the term "Model Minorty" from the 70s? (Okay, everyone's too young!) It suggested that JAs did not not complain, did not riot, did not try to overturn society. Some may argue that this was a way to demonstrate that JAs improved their lot in life by working within the system, but there is a hidden subtext. Never mind the implicit comparison between races--JAs are models, why can't you be like them--which more radical elements identify as a divide-and-conquer strategy practiced by the mainstream. On a more basic level, the term itself suggested to me that I was simply different from the mainstream. I always wondered, "Why don't they just call us model Americans?" The obvious answer was that I am different from the rest of America, and hence a minority. Was I/were we set apart because we were "studious" or "good in math" or "respectful"? Are members of other groups less studious or less respectful? Do we have a monopoly on these characteristics? Of course not.

The point is I was, and often still am, made to feel as though I'm different. So when Capt. Gaijin--truly well meaning, of course--says that we are all Americans, he doesn't recognize that I, and maybe some others--"feel" different, that his comment strips away the one thing that American society has allowed me to revel in--my ethnicity--and as a result, his comment can be construed as insensitive. While he has suffered discrimination in Japan as Mr. Gaijin, he was subjected to it as an adult, not as a child of 4, 7, 10 or 15 who may not yet have all the tools to objectively analyze a potentially emotionally affecting situation.

So in short...I mean long, I disagree with Capt. Gaijin, as well. While it may be ideal to think of myself as an American, it is difficult when I have been subjected by Americans to a large dose of "you are not really an American" most of my life.

I think I should stick to Hay Fever.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003


It's another scorcher today. Summer has finally reached our nation's capital, and I love it. I thought the snow in winter was kinda cool, but after the shoveling walkway for the umpteenth time, I decided that I couldn't wait for warmer weather. Then all spring, rain, rain, rain. But the heat's here now and it's fabulous... Except for the damn pollen. Today's pollen index was 6.3--moderate--but still enough to make me sneeze and wipe my nose, even after taking Claritin. A person I know asked if I really wore sunglasses and a surgical mask outside--see previous entry below--and when I told him yeah, he said that's weird, people will think I have a Michael Jackson complex or something like that.


It's not bad enough that I have to suffer the physical affects of pollen, I have to suffer the social-stigma backlash it elicits. I snort Flonase, I drop Claritin. And I still sneeze, I still suffer from... postnasal drip (yuck). Is there anything else I can do? Except kill myself, or move to Antartica.

Oh yeah, the continuation of the JA thing below will come later. I think I know what i wanna say, but i can't really articulate it--as if articulation was a requirement for a blog!

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Being Japanese America その二

But Capt. Gaijin told me that his significant other was very upset by his post, and he asked if I was offended, as well. We had the following (edited) converation:

OM: No, of course not. But I understand why some people might get offended.

CG: She's like "everyone always says I'm not really American because of the way I look, and now you're saying I'm not Japanese."

OM: Hmm.... ok, now THAT I can relate to. Really. In fact that is a very interesting comment.

CG: If it makes you feel any better I don't think your Japanese either.

OM: I don't think I'm Japanese either. I've figured this out specifically because I have studied Japanese and know the Japanese from their perspective and now know that I am not one of them. I look like them, but I am not one of them.

CG: If she knew what Japanese people were really like, then she would take it as a compliment that I think she's not Japanese. Im sure she wouldn't mind.

OM: Well, I'm not sure about that... It might be a compliment that she is not like the Japanese in terms of character, but the thing about being "Japanese" vis-a-vis the insults we have been subjected to regarding our status as being less than American makes it a sensitive subject, particularly from the mouth of a white, male .

CG: yeah but I didn't say anything about her not being American.

OM: I know.... Like I said, she and others may not be secure in who they are. It's kinda like being in limbo. Do you remember being sorta discriminated against in Japan? maybe not so flagrantly, but little slights against you? maybe being served a little slower than others?

CG: very flagrantly!

OM: ok, well can you imagine that feeling times twenty years? that's a long time

CG: yeah but I'm not the one doing that to her. I¡¯m saying the opposite!

OM: I know. I'm not saying you are bad. But a lifetime of being called a member of a "separate: race, grouped like that, makes you want to group others and you are a member of a different group.

CG: I wouldn't care if someone said I'm not Irish or something.

OM: I think that maybe she has suffered more than you can imagine.

OM: there is a difference, so be more understanding. Watching TV or movies; reading books like Rising Sun. They all subject us to racial slights--although not always overtly--in different ways.

OM: I was faced with blatant racism. She may have been subjected to different, perhaps covert kinds of discrimination. It a very complex issue. It is not easy being non-white in the US.

CG: I know what its like. I dealt with it in Japan. Very blatant. They are still a 3rd world country. It's not like the US. They don't understand its wrong

OM: Ok, it IS bad in Japan. You know that I agree with you on that, but imagine that feeling for twenty--or in my case almost fifty years.... Can you imagine the indignation, the embarrassment, the anger? Can you imagine putting up with it for that long?

CG: Yeah it sucks. So we should all be the same

OM: I agree.

CG: We are all African.

OM: ¡­. Uh, you know I agree with you.

Being Japanese American その一

Being Japanese American その一:
Capt. Gaijin says that some make too much of identifying with an ethnic group. He believes that identifying with a group—let’s say the Japanese—is arbitrary since the Japanese themselves are actually from Korea, and even earlier, China. Why should anyone identify with the most recent group? If we identify with anyone, shouldn’t we perhaps identify with our earliest ancestors, Africans? If we are going to identify with the most recent relatives, then why not identify with Americans, since most parents of JAs were born here.

First, please go to to confirm that I have paraphrased him correctly.

Back? Okay. First, a disclaimer: As the moniker suggests, CaptainGaijin is non-Asian, white, a foreigner in Japan, the gaijin 外人, and I should state for the record that I personally know him.

Now, his position is one I am familiar with. While I don’t agree with it, I also don’t disagree. Okay, okay, it sounds real spineless. But let me have my say. Keep in mind that I'm a JA reaching the half century mark. (Yeah, that's right, an old geezer...)

First, why I don’t disagree: In an ideal—albeit naïve kinda way—what he says makes sense. We are all individuals. We should accept others for what they are now, not for what their ancestors were. (BTW, the Japanese are also from Siberia, the Ryukyu Islands and SE Asia. I mean, is there a more diverse looking demographic in East Asia?) We were born in the US and so we are all Americans. I actually believe this… very firmly, in fact. I was once a proud Buddhahead from LA. Back in 1970, I went to Grauman’s Chinese Theater with my fellow "countrymen" (as the Dean of my HS would group us) to see Tora Tora Tora. We brought our Japanese navy flags and waved them as we cheered each bomb falling on Pearl Harbor. During the Olympics, we would always root for the Japanese. Back in the 60s and 70s, as a distinct subgroup within American society, we felt very much privileged to say we were Japanese—or Buddhaheads—much as the “Negroes” were proud of being Black and Mexican Americans, Chicanos. But I had a rude awakening when I went to Japan. I spoke Japanese and thought I knew Japan, but I was wrong. I found out I wasn’t Japanese. In fact, they told me so then, and have reminded me repeatedly over the years that I am not Japanese, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. All those customs I learned when I was young—going to the relatives and neighbors houses for New Years greetings, eating manju, being humble, being modest, being respectful of your elders—are dying if not dead in today’s Japan. I/we practice a culture that is viewed as quaint by modern Japanese. Our ancestors came to the US and brought their 19th/early 20th century customs/culture to the US and they fossilized. In a way, most of us are Meiji/Taisho-Japanese Americans. As we all know, cultures are dynamic and change constantly—and there is no culture in the world that changes faster than Japan.

So when people inquire, “What are you?”
I tell them without the slightest bit of irony, “American.”
“Then where are you from?” they inevitably ask.
“Okay, then where are your parents or grandparents from?”
“Idaho and Japan.”
They always give me a look of triumph, as if they finally figured me out.
"So you're Japanese American."
What a joke. I feel like saying, “F#¢% you.” But being Taisho-Japanese American, I don’t. Instead, I say: ”They were Japanese, I’m American. I grew up watching what you watched on TV, listened to what you listened to on the radio. The only thing different is my genetic make-up. Are you going to make this a RACIAL issue?”
"Don't you practice customs not typical of many Americans?"
"Yeah, but they are old customs, Japanese-American customs. Many, if not most, would not be characteristic of Japan today."

As you might imagine, the conversation usually grinds to a halt.

So I do not particuarly disagree with Capt. Gaijin's post. Although it is a bit naive--in the same way that George Will naively wants to believe that we now live in a color-blind society; all of us are, afterall, Americans--it can be viewed as one ideal that should not be disregarded out of hand so easily. Indeed, this view could (I say, could) be associated with the Asian American plight regarding affirmative action. Don't some Asians believe that they should be able to enter a university based solely on merit, and not be denied because someone of another race is more eligible for admission primarily due to the color of his skin and not his SAT score or GPA? Do we distinguish when we use race--not okay for college admission but okay for socio-cultural settings? (of course, college is a socio-cultural setting, too.) Where do we draw the line, and who draws them?

This is a complex issue that leads me back to Capt. Gaijin and why I do disagree with him. He told me that his (former? Don't break up because of this!) significant other--who is JA--was very upset by this post, and he asked if I was offended, as well. I told him....

To be continued tomorrow. I don't want to burden anyone with a lengthy post—Yes, Little Diamond, I know its already long....

Monday, June 23, 2003

Famous Dave's

Went to a local ribs place called Famous Dave's for Sunday dinner. Egads! The ribs were incredible!!! Forget Red, Hot, and Blue. Froget Memphis BBQ at Ballston. This place on Chain Bridge Road (hwy 123) in Oakton (No. Virginia) is great! Order them "naked". No comments please... it means "with no sauce". They have sauce on the table that you can add. Devil's Spit is hot and good. It was so good, I ordered a another half order! The waitress was shocked, y'know, with my girlish figure and all. [Yeah, right, that's why they call you Onigiriman...] The cornbread (corn cupcake?) was gritty and scrumptious, as well. But the corn on the cob sucked. Definitely frozen. But, hey, it's a rib joint. It's for carnivors. Not for vegetarian Japanese majors who shall remain nameless... Now if they only had a better selection of beer.... Yeungling is okay, and I'm tired of Sam Adam. I guess you can't have it all.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Hay fever

On Saturday, I ran outside for the first time in a really long time, and today I played catch in the park. It's not because I hate running, or because it has been raining. Its because of the pollen. I HATE HAY FEVER! And its all Japan's fault....

I never had hay fever until I lived in Japan. Boy those sugi trees will kill you with their pollen. Now I suffer hay fever everywhere.

Of course, having lived in Japan I have grown accustomed to wearing the surgical mask that everyone wears in their futile attempt to keep the pollen at bay. But here in the States, I get strange looks from others walking down the street, in the subway, everywhere. I was once asked if SARS had reached DC!

In Japan, I was told the mask was okay--not a problem, everyone wears them--but the sunglasses... I had to get rid of them, because it made me look supicious, like a crime or robbery about to happen. Ahem. Now really, is this the face of a would-be criminal? Does the above photo instill fear in your heart? Send your pulse skyrocketing? Ellicit beads of cold sweat through your very pores? Besides, the sunglasses are not for image. I had Eximer (sp?) laser surgery on my right cornea to "shave" off a childhood scar that was worsening and impeding my vision. The doctor removed the scar, and I can see better albeit imperfectly--I can distinguish colors and large objects--but now I am highly sensitive to light. Even cloudy days. The only time I don't need to wear them is at night, or when cloud cover is really thick, like during a heavy rain storm. Snow fall? Forget about it.

Really. Honest.

I'm not trying to look cool or anything. My eyes kill me when its bright. Where did I have the surgery? Oh, yeah, in Japan.

But you know what? I still love Japan.

Really. Honest... Uh... Will somebody shoot me... No, wait, just kidding. (Lingering jitters from the DC sniper incident.)

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Stative verbs

I am teaching first year Japanese this summer, Ugh. I have to remember to explain to my class: Why do most direct objects take the case particle (wo) but some take (ga)?

This is really an easy question, but most people don稚 know the answer, including many Japanese teachers and most native Japanese speakers・until you explain it to them.

is the case particle for non-stative verbs-- verbs that do not indicate a state of being, such as to eat, see, to wait.

私はさしみを食べる。(I eat sashimi)

is the case particle for stative verbs要erbs that indicate a state of being, such as to understand, to have.

私は日本語がわかります。(I understand Japanese)

This goes a long way in explaining why some particles change when different suffixes are attached.

1. さしみを食べる。 (I eat sashimi)

2. さしみが食べたい。 (I want to eat sashimi)

3. さしみが食べられる。 (I can eat sashimi)

is used in 2 and 3 because they indicate the current state of the speaker: I am no eating sashimi, I want to eat it, or I am able to eat it. This also explains why you use it with certain adjectives.

4. さしみが好きだ。 ( I like sashimi)

One痴 likes or dislikes indicate stativity.

We should remember that not all verbs that seem to be stative are stative. Case in point: 知る

This verb is commonly used with the verb いる to indicate 徒nowing・

5. 私はあのことを知っている。 (I know about that)

This is because the verb by itself doesn稚 mean 鍍o know・but 鍍o get to know・or 鍍o learn・as in the following sentence.

6. あのことを昨日知った。 (I found out yesterday)

This verb is used to suggest the acquisition of knowledge, not its existence, so it is understood as an action verb rather than a stative verb, and hence requires いる. 5 might actually be rendered 的 learned about that and exist with that knowledge.・Of course that is rather cumbersome, but the concept is along those lines.

I realize that there are exceptions. Many people will use 殆o- with the desiderative or the potential, particularly young people, and the grammar will likely change ultimately. Indeed Japanese grammar changes constantly-- it痴 a living thing. But if my students keep this simple rule straight, chances are they will make few mistakes regarding and .

Friday, June 20, 2003


I love UCLA Football. I live and breath UCLA Football. Born and raised in LA, I know nothing but UC-LosAngeles Football. I earned my BA and MA there during the 80's and we went to the Rose Bowl a number of times. On one of those occasions, the quarterback was a back-up named Rick Neuheisel.

Neuheisel--or Skippy, as current Bruins refer to him--went on to be head coach at the University of Colorado and the University of Washington. He enjoyed a degree of success, but he has had a problem with NCAA rules. This includes recruiting infractions, and lately gambling. UW no longer wants him and they decided to can his ass.

This prompted some Sooners at Oklahoma U to fark the above photo. While this suggests that they must really have nothing to do in the Okie State, I freely admit the fark was pretty funny, so I thought I'd share it.

In any case, I hope the Skippy finds employment somewhere. He brought us a lot of joy when he led UCLA to a victory over U of Illinois in the Rose Bowl. But rules are rules, and he's got to take responsibility for his actions, which he doesn't seem to want to do--he's fighting his termination.

Oh well. Just thought I'd add a little levity. My posts to date have been rather dark and sound more like rants and complaints. I think I'll start adding poems that I am translating from the Shinkokinshu and other classical sources. If there are any requests--albeit unlikely--I am willing to listen.

I guess eating onigiri mellows me out a bit.... なんちゃって!!!

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Russian Roulette

変な夢を見ちゃった。I had a really weird dream about a new "X-sport": Group Russian Roulette. Recently, I have watched in wonder the new forms of entertainment, such as Jackass and Bluetorch. Besides the ubiquitous mall skateboarding, there have been escalator handrail slides and rain surfing. My wife Musubi-chan thinks its funny: いつか Xスポーツになるかな. I tell her that it's not interesting; if anything it's individual sports and I prefer team sports--football, baseball. I wonder if this conversation is what triggered this dream:

I'm standing at on a busy urban street corner waiting for the light to turn green, when a group of seven people surround me and other by-standers. The group is dressed rather grungy--at least to this old man's standard. I look nervously arouond me, as do the other by-standers. When the light turns green, they each each pull out a revolver, hold it to their respective heads and pull the trigger. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. No pop of gun fire. A woman screams somewhere near me. The seven run away, howling and whooping as they go.

What the shit was that all about?!?

I start to chase them. But they are younger--way younger--than I so I can keep up only with the last of them. A girl with short blonde hair. She runs up the steps of an rundown urban apartment and climbs the stairs two steps at a time. I fall behind, but catch up to her when she starts fumbling for the keys to what I figure is her apartment.

"What did you guys just do?"

"Nothing" She looks like a young Rosanne Arquette.

"What was with the guns to the head?"

"Nothing. You deaf?"

I won't bore you with the rest of the dream's details. My memory's sketchy at best anyway. But basically she finally tells me that its a team sport, where they freak out strangers by pulling the trigger in front of them. But the deal is that there is actually a live round in each gun, and that it is Russian Roulette. They try to see if everyone survives. Other teams are doing the same thing in other areas of the city. Someone dies, the team loses.

I wanted to join them, but I woke up before I got to play.

Do I have a death wish, or a problem, or what?!? I need an umeboshi.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Reverse Discirmination

Hey JC, discrimination is discrimination, but the "reverse" in "reverse discrimination" implies that the victim of such discrimination is being subjected to a similar discrimination. Yeah, right. As if Bakke was denied admission because he was considered intellectually inferior because of his race, or because the majority categorized him and everyone else of his race as less privileged simply because he was the wrong color. So, yeah, I agree with you, "reverse discrimination" is a term we should reconsider.

According to tiggerj, "writing about all these topics are cathartic..." I agree.

So let me purge myself by sharing one of my pet peeves: Why do the Japanese in Japan call me by my first name? Isn't that a kind of discrimination? A way of setting me apart because of my nationality, or worse, to stigmatize me as not being Japanese?

This thought really bothered me a few years ago when I was living in Japan. I went to get a haircut and the male hairdresser, thinking I was Japanese greeted me and began to cut my hair. I had signed in as 花見りお, and he commented that my first name was rather cool. ご両親はしゃれてますね。「りお」って名前をつけて、コッコいいですね。 (You're parents are hip. Giving you a name like Leo is pretty cool. )

I replied: 実は、あめりかじんだから、Leoって別にしゃれた名前じゃないですよ.(Actually, I知 American so Leo is not an especially cool name.)

Well, we continued to talk as he cut my hair, when I realized that he was now calling me by my first name: りおさん、頭をゆすぎます.(Leo-san, I will rinse your hair.)

Hmm。... What痴 this all about? If he were talking to any other first-time customer, he would never call them by their first name. What made me so different?

So I asked him, and his response was:りおさんはアメリカジンで、アメリカではファーストネームを使うのでは...(You池e American, and so don稚 they use first names in America?)

Ooooh, I get it. How IGNORANT can I be? So when this hairdresser comes to the US, I should refer to him as Mr. Suzuki (not his real name)--unlike my associates Bob, Carol, Ted, and Alice--because, IN JAPAN THEY USE LAST NAMES WITH EACH OTHER.

His response? それは、ちょっと不愉快ですね.(That would be a bit uncomfortable.)


Purge, purge, purge!

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Thanks to Christine and JC for the comments and props. I am undeserving. And also thanks to tiggerj. You are right about the global phenomenon. I, too, like to think that hope will spring eternal, really. But I was raised during a time when 'tolerance' was a rare commodity, and 'hope' was reserved for only the select few.

I have been subjected to a variety of forms of discrimination, and as a result have repressed a silent storm beneath the surface. That is, until my professor--the genius Ian Levy--told me: "Gee, your full of anger, aren't you."

Uh, I guess....

Well it took someone like him to identify it, someone who knows Japan, about being Japanese, about being the subject of discrimination. Maybe someday I'll write--articulate--the experiences I have had, as I did with him. It may prove to be a kind of catharsis.

In any event, I think we should refrain from using the word tolerance. What does it mean, really? According to my Webster's: 1. to allow the existence, presence, practice, or act of without prohibition or hinderance. 2. to endure without repgnance. 3. to experience, undergo, or sustain, as pain or hardship.

Although I realize that the use of this word is meant to promote understanding between people of different groups, the word seems pessimistic. Am I to be allowed to exist without prohibition? Does that suggest that I originally should have been prohibited? Should I be endured without repugnance? Doesn't that mean I am repugnant and others should endure me? Am I a pain? Am I a hardship to others?

Prof. Levy was right, I am an angry sort.

But I think you get my drift.

Hmmm... I should end on a lighter note. It's been raining continuously all spring and now summer. Here's a drizzle poem by the poet-priest Jakuren 寂連(12th cen.).


Over pebbles
I step across
forgotten waters.
Even horses don't travel
during early summer rains

The poem suggests a traveller wandering in parts unfamiliar, a place where a small creek whose existence no one knows or remembers. We modern travellers, too, sometimes find ourselves in unfamiliar areas, alone... but not necessarily lonely, as we can use the time to reflect on our continuing journey.

Oh well, I guess it wasn't that light....

Monday, June 16, 2003


Today, I was asked: Why does Ichiro Suzuki's jersey say, Ichiro, but on the batting order, they put up Suzuki?

This is mostly because he is a narcissist. When he was in Japan, he wanted to be different from the others, he wanted to be an "individual". So he received permission to wear his first name on his back rather than his last. This caused quite a stir in Japan, as you can imagine, since Japan is the land of conformity, group consciousness, etc. There was precedent, however. One foreign player in Japan, Brad Lesley, had his college nickname--Animal--put on the back of his jersey. Ultimately, Suzuki's talent won out. He excelled and everyone thought--sho ganai--and let him wear his first name.

In the States, since the custom is to use everyone's last name on the shirt and everywhere else, I was sure that he would have Suzuki on his back over here. But I guess he got some kind of waiver in his contract or something--the Mariners are owned, I think, by Nintendo, a Japanese corp.

If you listened to the announcers on TV, most--especially the purists--called him Suzuki at first, but most now refer to him as Ichiro. Even Joe Morgan calls him Ichiro, now. I think Joe Buck of Fox still calls him Suzuki.

In any case, I thought there was no way that he could succeed in the US; I was kinda of counting on it, actually. He is just to egotistical for my tastes. He wants his name on his back to be different, to call attention to himself, but when the press move in, he claims his right to privacy. If Reggie Jackson put Reggie on his back, he would've had a field day. But Suzuki is a closet individualists. He wants notoriety, but only as much as he can control. As far as I'm concerned, he can keep it.

But I must admit, he turned out better than I could have ever imagined. They say he has great body control, and can hit a home run more often if he wanted to, but I have never seen this. He usually exposes himself as a weak slap hitter who looks like he's bailing out of the batter's box when he swings.

What has actually impresseed me is his speed and his defense. He was fast in Japan but I didn't think it would translate here in the big leagues, but it did. And the dude has got an arm! His throw to third or home is on a clothes line.

This is not the first time I have said anything like this. Previously, some have expressed surprised that I wouldn't want or care for Suzuki to do well. Why? Because I was JA.


What does that have to do with it? What a racist remark. Reminds me of a scene in Rising Sun, a book--and movie--dripping with racism by Michael Crichton. Lt. Smith is surprised that Dr. Tim--a Japanese-American coroner--thinks the Japanese can be a pain in the ass.

How can people be so pathetically ignorant?

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Brand New

This is my first attempt at a Blog. I'm not sure what I would write on such a public journal, but I thought I would provide personal thoughts on my life and the world around me. I might even use it as a sounding board to talk about my research; y'know, a way to talk to myself, to see how my current thoughts look like in text form.

In a way, this is like the Pillow Book 枕の草子 by Sei Shonagon 清少納言. She wrote her thoughts on poetry, on lifestyle, on likes and dislikes, on gossip around the the imperial palace; and her writing was available to many to read.

I don't know if I can do this regularly, but I will try to keep it updated.

This weblog will be mostly in English with a smattering of Japanese, depending on my mood.
If you can't read Japanese, try right clicking the screen, choose 'encoding', then select 'Japanese'. If you don't have the appropriate fonts to read Japanese, then click on this link.

Anyway, let's see how this turns out.