The Other Side of Lost in Translation


The Dark Side of Japan

This J-vologger, softypapa is the guy who lived in a rural area of Shizuoka prefecture. Usually he makes videos about his walks in his neigborhood or his hikes in nearby mountains, which feature little interesting things of the nature like insects or plants, or traditional cultures like small buddhist statues called Jizo.

However, today I just discovered he has the other channel in which he talks more than just those small peaceful subjects. And in this particular video, he talks about the dark side of Kwaii(means cute in Japanese), pedophiles in Japan and its culture.
Surelly any society and any culture have dark sides, just they come out in different ways. On this case of pedophiles, it is so easy to understand he is really concerned as he is a father of a very cute young daughter. Though I think culturally Japanese men got more tendency to be one, as you see in Otaku cultures, men who really attack young children are probably much less than in the US, I assume.

Why? because of the same reason that Japan has much smaller crime rate. In Japan, if you commit horrible crimes like that, not only you but your entire family can be ostracized by the community. I think the biggest morality in Japan is a fear of other people's eyes.
Especilly it is so now because of Japanese media are so relentless over criminals who commited sensational crimes and their families.
However, the very sad fact is that victims of sex crimes can be ridiculed by the society. That happens in the US as well since female victims of sex crimes can be seen as something soiled/dirty, but much more so in Japan, Therefore victims are victimized twice.

Japanese do not tolerate sex culture, but they just ignore or accept it as something inevitable since it is usually a male culture and Japan is a very conservative, male dominated society, well it is supposed to be, so women do not complain about it much.
I was raised in a very rural commuity in '70s and still I could see posters with nude women of porn films on my way to school, which is unthinkable in the US, even today. Definitely Japan and US have very different ways and ideas to handle sex cultures.

I am sure I would feel nervous if I were a father of a young daughter like him whenever I see something pedophiliac in public. But then what can I do about it? Hmmm, that is difficult.
Japanese do not speak out much politically until they are really pushed to the edge. But you have to know that that comes from the same culture makes a Japanese society so safe. They rather keep quiet than disturbing the peace of it even when speaking out seems to be necessary.
Even issues like domestic violence had been hidden tightly until the recent time because people felt/still feel too ashamed to talk about it.

I am glad to hear that this guy spoke out about the dark parts of Japanese society/culture, which rarely other J-vloggers do. Once I had a good laugh to hear one gaijin-vlogger said that Japanese were never rude, and I wrote a comment that he thought so simply as Japanese tend to treat gaijins better in general.
To be honest, I think Japanese, especially middle aged guys can be much ruder than any Americans can be.

But the possibility that your loved ones to be victimized in a sex crime is considerably smaller than in most of other countries, I guess.

Oh wait, wait, I just remembered something my childhood freind told me a few years ago, who has young kids. As last time I went back to my little town, I did see many children playing outside, I asked him and his wife if they thougt that was because of the low rate of child birth. They told me even in a small rural town, parents did not feel very easy to let their kids playing outside by themselves because of strange people. And their kids are boys, not girls.

Hmmmm, I still cannot believe that something like raping children can happen in Japan more often than in US. However, I probably do not know the reality of this subject since I have been away from Japan for so many years.
I should do some research before forming a opinion.

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Meeting Tokyocooney

On April 26, I met Mr. Kevin Cooney aka Tokyocooney.

I do not remember exactly when I started watching his videos,
but at least like two years and half ago, I think.
At that time, still only a few Gaijins were doing
a vlog thing on YouTube though now there are too many to follow.
He is mosdef one of the pioneers of J-Vloggers
and still remaines as the very famous one
& one of the most popular ones if he is not THE MOST.

I am usually not the type who likes to attend this kind of meet-up.
However, I decided to do so as I have been a fan of his videos
and also because of not wanting to stay home
and be depressed that night
as my cat Maxi who had been my companion for 21 years
had passed a few days before this meet-up.

The place was a village bar called "Peculiar Bar",
which did not look peculiar at all to me
but looked like one of those
which had not changed for last 50 years or so.
and about ten people gathered there for this meet-up,
including three of his old friends,
and only one of them was female,
who Kevin claimed he had used to date.
I guess checking Gaijin's vlogs on YouTube
is a more male thing to do
or more like a male Otaku thing to be accurate maybe.

At first I felt like a little kid who met "Mr.Rogers" in person,
being puzzled about why he was not in sweet YouTube-land any more.
Actually the real Kevin talked & acted just like the one in YouTube
and told us many things about himself, Japan and J-vloggers.

Among all those subjects he talked about,
at one point, he fiercely defended Japan about whaling.
He said some kinds of whales were threaten to be extinct,
but some others were not.

Being an animal lover and anti-whaling person,
I simply do not believe there is any justifiable reason
for Japan to continue whaling.
Until like 150 years ago, a whale had been a gift from heaven
to poor fishermen villages in Japan.
And they used to catch one with simple woodden small boats
and very primitive tools like spears.
Naturally they could not
and did not have to catch whales more than that
since they did not have technologies
to preserve and transport them to distant city areas.

Now I do not know any Japanese who say that
they love to eat Whale meat at regular basis
as Japanese have too many other good things to eat
and as the matter of fact, they waste tons of food every day.
However, they still catch whales
because someone still can make money with them.

I wrote about this issue
on some Japanese magazine about two years ago,
and harshly criticised about their very low awareness of
political and social issues in general.
And one of my readers wrote that
I had been brain-washed by Americans, hahaha.

Anyway, I was actually more impressed by
how fiercely Kevin defended Japan about this issue
than his argument itself.
I could have a big urge to defend Japan
anytime I hear some U.S. media trashing Japan
and also I could have a big urge to defend America
anytime I hear Japanese unfairly criticising America,
as I feel I am somewhere in between of these two now.

Probably Kevin feels the same way as I do,
and also he wants to clarify some issues surrounding Japan
as he does not want his family and friends to wonder
why he is living in a horrible country
where people are not concerned about great animals like whales.
So for him, to defend Japan is really to defend himself
who chooses to live in Japan
which is still an odd place to choose to live
for most of Americans.

Also Kevin talked about how cruel American soldiers were
to Japanese soldiers during the pacific War,
and which cracked me up a little
because I saw a documentary just a few weeks ago on PBS,
which said the completely opposit things.

But again I felt his urge to defend Japan,
and he really was defending himself by doing so.

There were his two male friends,
one of them were his SKA band mate before he left for Japan,
and the other was the guy who lived in Japan for 8 years.

He said he did some odd jobs there
and one of them was a fake pastor.

Many young Japanese couples think that
getting married in church is romantic.
Therefore there is a demand and business for this kind of place,
a fake church-marriage hall, and a fake pastor.
Qualifications to be a fake pastor in Japan is

1) Being White
2) Looking like a pastor
3) Some acting ability

He said he made a good money as a fake pastor,
but I did not ask him then why he left Japan after 8 years
as I almost knew it.

Being a Gaijin means a being a novelty.
Most of Japanese are nice to Gaijins,
White or American/European Black people,
because Japanese see a glamorous images of
western cultures behind them,
which are exaggerated by irresponsible medias.

Some Gaijins learn to enjoy being a novelty,
but many of them don't.
That's why they leave Japan after a few years.
It is a simple fact that
we all have a desire to be accepted
as just a person by the society.

Then how come Kevin is staying there
even without being married with a Japanese girl,
which can be one big reason that some Gaijins stick to Japan.
I did not ask him but I could imagine that
one of the reasons is that he is doing well with his career.
while most of Gaijins are struggling
to go beyond teaching English and novelty type jobs.

Good for him!
and I am looking forward to seeing more of his fun videos!

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Goodbye My Neighbor

I have been depressed since I heard this news.
The woman, who had been living in the next door apartment,
passed away about a week ago.
I heard this news a few days ago
from her daughter who used to live there.

This 72 years old woman had been my neighbor
for the last quarter century.
Despite of the very short distance between us,
I never had a close relationship with her,
just the person I said "Hi, how are you?" to
whenever I saw her in a hall way.
Maybe I should have a better one with her,
but it did not happen,
as she was a nice woman but very different type from me,
and a bit too old to be my friend.

After her daughter moved out like 18 years ago,
she became a couch potato to put on lots of weight.
And because of that, she had a trouble with her knees,
and other health issues followed.
However, she had remained always feisty.

A few days ago, when I came back from outside,
her daughter came out of her apartment
and told me her passing.
At first, it was like just "Oh My God!"
But after I came into my apartment,
the real feeling set in.
She was like a permanent fixture to me,
someone always my next door neighbor.
But she is gone now.

And not only her passing
but also the way her daughter looked shocked me.

Since she moved out,
I have seen her time to time when she visited her mother,
but always like just saying "Hi"
whenever I saw her in the dark hall way.
However, for the first time, since she had moved out,
I talked to her face to face this time.
While the news of her mother's passing shocked me,
I also realized she looked quite different.
It was still a same face,
but I saw some grey hair, wrinkles
and even her chin was sagging.
I felt like "What happened to you?"
What happened to her was TIME.
Considering that she is supposed to be in her mid 40s,
it is only natural that she looked that way.

To my surprise, I have been grieving since then.
To be honest, not exactly for her passing, but for me,
for this overwhelming sense of
"Where the hell did the Time go?"
What the hell have I been doing all these years?

Sunday, I heard the noises from the next door all day.
I thought her family members taking her furniture out,
which I did not want to see.
However, still hearing them even in the early evening,
it seemed that they were having a party in a memory of her.
So I went out to get some flower and knocked her door.
A very handsome young guy showed up at the door,
whose relation to her I had no knowledge of.
I told him I was a next door neighbor
and how I felt about her passing with the flower.

Not wanting to go back into my apartment after that,
I went to the East River park
and walked toward uptown by the water.
It was a warm and quiet spring night.
I found the one blooming cherry blossom tree,
and under that, a 40ish guy playing guitar
& singing fado-like songs in french.
I sat at the nearby bench and watched over the river,
which was so peaceful.

I remembered that when I was younger,
I used to roam around in the night
whenever I could not cope with the loneliness.
Sometimes I walked around all night long
hoping I could talk to someone,
but always I got home alone.

At that time, I had more friends than now
and I had the youth.

When I got home from roaming around,
it was like 10:45
and her family members seemed to be gone.
Getting in my apartment, I really pitied myself.
Her family had lots of people
to share and overcome their feelings with,
but I am all alone to wander around in the night.

I thought I got used to being alone,
living my life by myself.
But still the night like this, it is not easy.

One month ago, the refrigerator
that I had used for 25 years broke down,
three weeks ago,
the 21 years old cat of mine was hospitalized.
And since then, he has not shown any improvement.
He may last for one more month, two or half year maybe.
And now my next door woman is gone so suddenly.
I wonder whether all these are coincident or not.

I thought I got used to being alone,
living my life by myself.
But still the night like this, it is not easy at all.
And I hate myself for being the person like me.
Why wasn't I born as a person like her family members,
or anyone else who has a family and friends?

I am alone, all alone in this night.

Goodbye my neighbor,
and sorry for being a not very good neighbor to you,
guessing you wished you could have a friendlier one.
I know it will take a time for me to accept your passing,
but I know you are resting in peace now.



Smile, you must keep on trying

>It is sad to think you have simply accepted this as your fate, though.

No, I have NOT accepted everything as my fate.
However, I have definitely accepted some facts of life
like I will not have a family of my own except my cats.

Until you reach a cirtain age like 35, though it depends,
things like death and aging seem kinda foreign
or not very realistic
as naturally young people feel they are immortal.
But after you reach 35-40 or 50 for some people,
suddenly or gradually they become very realistic,
and you start seeing your limitations much clearly.

When you reach the turning point of your life, just age wise,
you look back your past life which was in your youth,
and think of what you could do.
And look forward to your future life
which will be in your aging process toward to the end,
and think of what you will be able to do
with your eyes and mind which have become more realistic.

Then the acceptance to some extent is necessary
if you do not want to be crazy.
You are not going to be a hero, a star or a super rich,
or accomplish something extraordinary many people praise.
You have to settle with an idea "it's okay" to just get by.

>You cannot exist alone in isolation, like an island, my friend. Even I had to learn this lesson.

Of course, nobody can.
Being an animal of the society,
we need other people's help, attention, comfort and recognition.
I do not say I will live alone completely.
However, I lack an ability of having a family
and the social skills & the right state of mind to have many friends.
So I have to live my life in a relatively isolated way,
which I have to accept.

>Is it too much to say I hope for you? You continue to blog, and talk about these deeply personal topics...I cannot believe that in your soul you have completely given in.

I have not completely given up, of course not.
Even if I have done so,
I still have to continue dealing with my life
as I am still afraid of knowing what is there beyond the sky.

>A part of you continues to reach out, yearns to touch and connect with the humanity in others. I know you haven't given up yet. Your words have touched a chord ... in me, in others... by virtue of the posts people leave you.

I actually opened up this accont for my Japanese blog,
but I realized this system lacked some fanctions I needed.
So I started my blog with the other system.
Then some time later,
I decided to start the English one with this
since I rarely wrote in English.
And despite of how you feel,
I do not think I have revealed much of my personal things on this.
What I write here is very generic,
things most of people do experience soon or later in their lives.
Someone said that
life is to experience what the world offers to us.
As long as we live, we have to experience them every day
and deal with them.
Some brings joy, some brings sorrow & pain to you.

>So take heart, Blue. Sometimes, all it takes is the warmth of a smile.

I thank you for your kind words.
Very very nice of you.

Here is my theme song



Mu-En-Shi Lonely Death

A while ago,
I read some intersting article on the internet
about a little phenom that
a surprising number of TV viewers had been really moved
by the documentary aired by NHK(Japan's Public TV),
which was about "Mu-en-shi."
And it was reported that more than 600 entries about it
were written on their Blogs.

"Mu" means No, Not or Nothing.
"En" means Relations or Connections.
"Shi" means Death.
So "Mu-En-Shi(無縁死)" is a(Lonely)death
of the person who did not have any family or friends.

Actually, for the first time,
I have heard this word.
Usually "Kodoku-shi(孤独死, lonely death)"
has been used for this kind of occasion.
Also "Mu-En-Botoke(無縁仏)" is the commonly used word for
graves that no longer has any visiters
as their entire family members have died off.

According to its report,
about 35000 people die alone each year in Japan.
As the rising rate of divorce cases
and people staying single into their middle ages,
many people related themselves to this story.

Though I have not seen this program yet,
I have seen the similar documentary on PBS
about agents who work for the cases that
old people died alone in their New York apartments
and nobody came foward to take care of them
like what to do with the bodies and things left behind.
Probably Americans can accept things like this
better than Japanese as something inevitable in life
though they feel sad about it as well.

On the other hand,
Japanese are still not used to this
since they have had the society that
the collectiveness had been highly important.
Until like '60s, most of Japanese live within a large family,
three or even four generations under the same roof,
where they could get a plenty of Family support.
However, as the Japanese society grew wealthier,
many peope prefer to live in a nuclear family
as they do not want to be interfered
by their old parents too much.
One reason that Japanese used to live with a large family was
that they had to help each other to survive
especially economically.

This system that family members help each others
started to eloded '70s, even in '50s in the urban areas,
Since then Japanese yet have found
the supporting system to replace that.

Until like '70s,
for people who could not find their mates,
their parents found ones for the arranged marrige.
Though this convention still barely exists,
most of people of younger generations
choose their mates on their own.
However, there are always lots of people
who are too shy to do so, especially in Japan.
As Japanese education does not put much emphasis on
being a strongly independent individual,
expressing themselves freely,
or speaking out his/her mind publically,
Japanese tend to be more shy,
and some of them are too shy to meet their opposit sex.

Though people prefer to have a life style
with a minimum interferance by their family members,
this did not make peole less shy or more attractive to find someone.
So a large number of have been left out,
and many of them have turned out to be lonely Otaku(s).

On the other hand, In American culture,
people always had/have to find their mates on their own
besides exceptions of some minority groups' traditions,
If you cannot find one, you had/have to accept that.
And even though they seems to be never enough,
there have been many support systems like Churchs,
therapies and various support groups
out side of people's close families.

I think what Japanese have to learn and invent is
the new support system to replace the old tradition
of the collective-ness driven society.
Otherwise more and more Japanes will commit suicide
because of the loneliness.

Being a single without any relationship for a long time,
I accepted the notion a long time ago
that I would die alone someday
as it is something naturally to come for people like me.
But it could have been much harder to do so in Japan
as they may feel that it could be a shame to die like that
in the society that the collective-ness is very importnant,
also as a failure to raise a happy family,
which seems to be very essencial for human beings.
In other words, Japanese are afraid of being viewed
as a failure by other people when they die.

I will have a "MU-En-Shi."
Even though I do not say I will be happy to have one,
I feel a bit lucky to be living in the society
that people do not judge me much for that.



Random Thoughts

This post is the answer to the comment
some annoymous person made to my last post.

>its fascinating that you are a japanese who went to america to kind to 'escape', usually its the other way around.. a westerner who goes to japan (or some part of asia, or anywhere in the world for that fact).

The biggest reason for the mass immigration is
alway the financial opportunity
though some immigrants claim it is political assylum for them,
still the reason they choose US to come is
the finacial opportunity.
They watched Hollywood films to believe
all Americans are living in big houses
with a big yard of green lawn.

Japanese used to immigrate for the same reason to US,
however, it ceased when the war broke out between two countries.
Now Japan has a wealthy society
even though their economical growth stagnated in early '90s,
they still have #2 GDP in the world.
So there is not much reason for Japanese to immigrate to US
as an immigrat of the traditional sense,
just like Italians and Irish used to immigrate to US in masses,
but no longer they do that
as they have much wealthier societies compared to those times.

However, still many Japanese come to US
because in Japanese medias,
glamorous images of America cultures are flooded,
which make many Japanese fascinated
with the idea to come to US.

You can call that 'escape'
if you call the reason Americans come to Asia 'escape'
And just like many of Americans go back to US after a while,
most of Japanese go back to Japan as well
as they realize how hard to be accepted by the society,
and humans have a deep desire to be accepted by one.
If you are an immigrant of the traditonal sense
who immigrated for the financial opportunity,
you try to make it there
no matter what kind of issues you have to face,
like language, race, legal status and cultural difference.
On the other hand, if you are am American, a Japanese
or anyone from wealthier countries,
you always have a choice to go back to your countries
where you do not have to face many of those issues.
Well, I do not say "all of",
especially if you are not a White person in US.

>the problems are the same wherever we go, i suppose.

I %100 agree with that.
As being a foreinger means being an outsider,
our desire to be accepted can give you so much headache.
We want to be accepted by others,
we want to be veryfied by others,
we want to be connected with others,
but then that is what we crave in our own countries too.

And also your personal issues follow you anywhere you go.
For exapmle, if you are a very shy,
not so positive or active person,
and you think that is the reason
that you feel you are alienated in your own society,
going to other country does not solve any of those.

>i can sympathize with some problems you encounter. my parents were immigrants from asia, and even though i spoke fluently, i also encountered some stereotypes and confusion from people who didn't know any better,

I wrote a series of articles about immigrants in US
for a Japanese publication a few years ago
and interviewed many people
like Chinese, Koreans and people from Latin Americas,
also watched some interesting documentaries
about the immigrants communities in US.
If you are not White(or Black),
people ask you where you are from, means which country you are from
ask whether you speak English or not
even if you are a person who was born and raised here.
I think that can be a very humiliating experience too.

>but... there are good people out there, not only ignorant or unreasonable ones. hopefully you will meet some soon.

That is very true.
Actually I met many people like that.
And I never thought Americans are more racistic than Japanese
as things like racism and prejudice can exist anywhere.
I say the racism itself does not descriminate.
However, whether that person is nice ot not,
and whether that he/she is prejudical
on some subjects are a bit different issues.
Some people can be very nice
and very prejudical at the same time.

>anyway, i just wanted to say i hope you find your happiness soon. dont give up.

Thanks for your kind words!
I really appreciate.
And to be honest, my biggest problem is my career right now,
not the US society.
In 2007 and 2008, I wrote monthly articles
for a magazine from the Japanese major publisher,
which allow me to do whatever I like to do.
It was tough work but I really enjoyed.
However, that magazine folded at the end of 2009.
Now in Japan, most of decent magazines have disappeared
because of the impact of the internet and other issues.
I like to write about the realities of this society
but no Japanese media let me do that.
You may think American media is bad,
but Japanese media is much much worse.
The true journalism is basically dying there.
In 2009, I did nothing but withdrawing because of that,
and felt like being stuck
in the darkest tunnel without any exit.
Right now I am in the process of
digging myself out of this pit.
How? I do not know.

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So why do I watch J-Vloggers' videos?

I discovered some Gaijins in Japan doing vlog on YouTube
about a couple of years ago, I think.
At that time, not many people were doing that,
and almost no Japanese.
Japanese are usually too shy to do vlog-thing,
most of them do not like to show their face on internet.
That was a part of the reason
that my space and facebook did not become big in Japan.
Instead of them,
we do have a social networking site called "Mixi"
but most of their members never show their faces on it.

Anway, when I was watching some youtube videos,
I discovered some Gaijins in Japan doing vlog,
and through their related videos,
I discovered more and more J-vloggers like
tokyocooney(my fav), rodgerswan(I miss him), claytonian,
myargonauts, busankevin and helpmefindparents,
to just name a few.
And waching their videos became an addiction
within my internet-addiction,

Now I do not watch as much as I did before
because there are just too many of them now,
and I am a bit bored,
but still I watch most of my fav vloggers' videos.

Then I like to ask myself why I watch them
as I do love analysing things.

Just like many other Japanese who come to New York,
I came here as I was gravitated to the glamolous,
trendy, hip, chic and wild images of this city
which were grossly exaggerated
by irresponsible Japanese medias.
All Japanese who come to US believe
that they will be able to speak fluent English
within a few years,
and they will make freinds with lots of Americans,
possibly boyfriends and girlfriends too,
and will be able to do something exciting.
However, soon they will realize
how difficult these tasks really are for them.
And probably the most schocking thing is that
Americans are not really interested in making friends
with Asians who can speak only a little English.
As Japanese are deeply in love with American cultures,
this is a harsh reality to swallow for them.
Realizing how hard it is to be accepted by this society
as an Asian who speaks a little English
or speaks English with an accent
in addition to the fact how hard to build the career
outside of the Japanese community
which are Japanese companies and Japanese restaurants,
the majority of Japanese go back Japan
after about four years or so.

Of course, there are people like me
to stay here for much longer time.
Yet, on the back of my head,
there is a voice that keeps telling me
that I am not welcome in this society.

Well, I felt like
I was a misfit in Japanese society anyway,
and that was the one of the reasons
that I have been staying here for a long time.
So even I am a mistfit in US society,
there might be no difference.
Well, that is not true,
at least, in Japan nobody is against me
because of my race
or inability to speak English without accent.

Recently, two Japan related news broke out big
in major American medias,
one of them was Toyota's huge recall
and the other was the big protest rally in Tokyo
againt the American base in Okinawa.
Both of them are not positive news about Japan.
Even though in the internet world
and among younger generations,
Japanese culture seems to have become more popular
in recent years, still in Major US medias,
you rarely see anything about Japan, and if you see,
it is usually a negative thing like these
or something very stereo-type.
Bascially I am living in the society which is saying
that they do not like my kind much,
which definitely keeps making a negative impact on my mind,
and shakes my identitiy.

Then I discovered those J-vologgers,
they are Americans and other foreigners,
genuinely like Japan and intrested in Japanese cultures,
which can make me feel better I guess
because I feel like they are verifying me
when I watch them.

Some Japanese turn out to be kind of nationalistic
after they have been staying in US for a while,
like they start going to some Japanese cultural events
even though the original reason that they came to US
was that they were gravitated to the American culture.
I guess they like to rebuild their self esteem
which was destroyed somewhat by living in the society
where most of people do not have
any strong positive images about Japan.
If they go to Japanese cultural events
such as the screening of Japanese old films,
they can reconfirm how great Japanese cultures are
and they are the people who came from the country
produced those wonderfully sophisticated cultures.

I guess watching J-vloggers videos seems to help
to rebuild my self esteem,
I guess that's why I like to watch them.

Does it make sense?

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