I remember the first time I saw one of my favorite films, as far as screenplays are concerned, “Adaptation”. Chris Cooper gave a performance of a lifetime (and won the Oscar for it) delivering some of the more ingenious lyrically awesome thoughts from clearly a unique mind, the mind of Charlie Kaufman. In one scene I’ll never forget, he took Meryl Streep to a flower show and discussed his passion for orchids with her.
The way I feel about my next guest’s work is approaching how Streep felt in that scene.
What I’m saying is my next guest blogger is not so much a DJ as she’s an MC, and she spits lyrics like nobody’s business! Insightful, thoughtful words replete with a wealth of understanding, empathy and depth. She’s one of my favorite commenters and intimidates the hell outta me whenever she graces my posts. One of those commenters that keep me revising and thinking and striving for the highest level of content I’m capable of. Just knowing she’s out there laying in wait on a post from me sets the bar that much higher. Here’s an example of how she gets down: The Ostrich and the Orchid
Until recently, however, I didn’t even know she was a blogger. Once I made contact with her to request her presence on the wheels of steel she informed me of the two blogs she maintains. One of them, believe it or not, is about- of all things- Japanese Snacks. Yep, that’s right…KitKats and shit. I couldn’t believe my friggin eyes!
Though it is incredibly well done and in…ahem… good taste, I told her that her blogging about Japanese Snacks is like Noam Chomsky blogging about AKB48.
The other blog, entitled 1000 things about Japan, is much more at the Orchid I’ve come to admire and adore. A blog, btw, where she doesn’t accept comments!!! (Say what?) Yeah, you heard me right. But, if you read her explanation why there are no comments you’ll understand why I hold her in the highest regard. One of the few kindred spirits I’ve encountered in the whole of the Japan blogosphere, word to the mutha!
And I don’t do お世辞 Oseji (Japanese for apple-polishing flattery.)
Well, not often anyway (-;
So, nah, Party People, we ain’t done. Not by a damn sight! It’s time for another session of:
Hmmm..how shall we set the mood for this next piece?
How about a little Sly? Everybody get up!
Are you standing? Good…Ok, you can sit your ass down now (-; And bust the lyrics from the one and only Orchid 64!
Orchid, I think you’ve got their attention…show them what you got!
1-What’s the Loco-est (craziest) thing you’ve ever seen or done in Japan?
In public, I’m not a very crazy person, particularly at my age (46). However, when I first visited Japan as a tourist in 1988, there were some things I did which in retrospect were pretty stupid. At that time, JR didn’t have automated wickets as they do now . As you approached the wickets, you heard what sounded like angry crabs constantly clacking their claws because a couple of guys would stand by the exits with hole punchers which they kept in constant motion. It’s one of those things which I uniquely associate with Japan, but to which many people won’t be able to relate.
Because actual humans were manning the wickets, you had an opportunity to do something which can no longer be gotten away with, and that’s buy a base rate ticket (120 yen at the time) and “hop” the wicket at the end of a long journey to skip the often substantial fare adjustment. My boyfriend at the time (now my husband) and his brother encouraged me to do this to save money so we would wait until the man with the puncher was preoccupied and rush by without paying the extra yen. Sometimes nothing came of this, but at other times we’d get yelled at and then make a run for it. In retrospect, this was a pretty terrible thing to do as it was a crime, albeit a petty one. In my defense, I had only been in Japan for a short time and was here at the time as a tourist simply following the lead of two more experienced people. If I had the choice to make again, I certainly wouldn’t have done it.
Of my own volition, that was the craziest (aka dumbest) thing I’ve ever done. However, I did do something by accident which goes down in my personal history as the most embarrassing thing I’ve managed to do here. Very early on in my second visit, which was as someone who planned to stay awhile, I went into the public restroom. Bear in mind that I couldn’t read any Japanese at all and this was in 1989 and there was far, far less English signage than there is now. There were several buttons on the wall and I wasn’t sure which one was going to flush the toilet. I debated doing the nasty thing and walking away without flushing, but opted to push the button I had concluded was the correct one. I pushed it, and nothing at all happened so I pushed another and successfully flushed my first Japanese-style public toilet. Shortly thereafter, a Japanese man came frantically running into the ladies room yelling. He was clearly in a panic and I figured out that I’d accidentally pushed the emergency button which notifies people that something has gone amiss in the toilet. The odd thing was that he didn’t really pay much attention to me as I quickly sauntered past him. He was too busy checking the stalls for stab wound victims or grannies with broken hips. To this day, I wonder if he realized the stupid foreigner pushed the wrong button while trying to flush the toilet.
2-Why do you blog about Japan?
I blog about Japan because this is where I happen to be now, and I have a passion for writing. When I was 17 years old, I had 19 pen pals because that gave me the opportunity to write letters all of the time. Writing is a craft which I have cultivated for most of my life and I’ve written about a wide variety of topics depending on what was going on at any given time. If I weren’t in Japan, I’d be writing about something else. It’s fortunate that Japan grants such rich territory for mining subject matter, but I’d still have things to say if I weren’t here.
A good writer can find something to say whether nothing is going on or not because good writing comes from the mind, not from the environment. A lot of Japan bloggers make the mistake of thinking that it is the novelty of being here which makes for interesting reading, but there are some people who write about the quirks of Japan and are very boring because they mistake reporting on life here for writing about life here. You have to apply insight and provide a unique perspective, and use your words to fashion works of linguistic art. Otherwise you’re not offering something hundreds of others haven’t already served up in a similar fashion.
3- If you could tell other foreigners something about life in Japan, what would it be?
Most people who come to Japan for awhile approach it with the notion that they are going to “finally” know the “real” Japan first-hand. They think that coming here will help them separate the wheat from the chaff among all of the information people have to offer. I think it’s important to know and fully internalize the fact that no one person is capable of knowing a country or culture from something as limited as personal experience.
Being in Japan is like being one of the three blind men with the elephant in the well-known parable. The only way we can approach knowing what it is really like is to accept that each of us has a different part of the elephant and that what we feel is real, but may not be what other people feel. People who really want to know what life is like here need to stop rejecting versions of life here that do not correlate with their own and use them as pieces of a mosaic that must be assembled to form a more complete picture. It is only by sharing and accepting all experiences as equally valid that we can create a gestalt which approaches an actual truth. However, it’s important to know that the truth is like infinity. We can approach it, but it can never be reached. This applies to life everywhere, but for some reason people who come to Japan have a much harder time accepting that there is not one simple set of experiences that define “truth” and “reality” here. Stop competing with other foreigners for the position of “gaijin expert”, and pay attention to what everyone says with a truly open mind.
@Orchid64 I really can’t thank you enough. Not only for this guest post, but for all the inspiration, support and encouragement you’ve given me. I know that in this day and age where cyber-relationships have become commonplace there have arisen many cases of people who’ve never actually met but have significant influence and impact on one another. I just want you to know that you have not wasted a single moment of your time, energy and ingenuity here at Loco in Yokohama. Your words are well-met, well-received, and cherished! Thank you!
@Readers Is she the bomb or what? If you value anything you read here know that it’s writers like Orchid64 that not so much fuel the engine but keep the thing lubricated and tuned-up, Go peep out Orchid’s work and since there’s no way to leave a comment feel free to drop one below.
This party WILL continue…
PS: Click on the links below to jam with the previous guest DJs!