The Other Side of Lost in Translation


Japanese Actors Do Not Look Like Japanese!?? Part1

The other day, I had an argument over this subject
on some movie discussion board.

One guy wrote that he thought actors did not look like Japanese when he started to watch Japanese films such as Kurosawa's and Ozu's.

So I stated that actors in Japanese films did not look like Japanese to him because he was not used to seeing nice looking Asian/Japanese as he had not seen them in any American media.
For Americans, Asian are not supposed to be good looking. Therefore handsome actors in Japanese film did not look Japanese to this person.

In American media, you do not see many Asians. And when you see them, usually they are very very stereo types. Simply nice lookig Asian men do not exist in American media. Well, a few exceptions maybe.
But basically, in American media, Asian men are geeky ugly gumps,
And Asian women are exotic play-things who love to serve White men.
Casting directors do not chose handsome Asians because they think good looking ones do not look Asians enough.

Here is a good example.

Mashi Oka from the hit TV show "Heroes"

As he hated this accusation about the racism againt Asians in American media, he just did not want to admit it. I understood that.
So he started to write about Japanese propaganda films in Korea during pre-war era, which were nothing but ridiculous justifications of Japanese occupation over Korea.
I guess he wanted to say that Japanese media could be very bias too.

Anyway, after this argument, I started to wonder
if what I wrote to him was right or not.

Just look at some handsome guys in current Japanese media.

Kenji Sakaguchi (Actor)

Hiroshi Abe (Actor)

Tomoya Hase (Actor/Musician)

Takeshi Kaneshiro (Actor)

Kazuki Kitamura (Actor)

Ken Hirai (Singer)

Satoshi Tsumabuki (Actor)

Hidetoshi Nakata (Soccor Player)

With the exception of Nakata, they all have large eyes and tall nose, which are not Asians facial characteristics,
even Nakata has a relatively tall nose as an Asian.
Does this mean they do not look like Asians?
Well, at least I can say the majority of Japanese men do not look like them, that's for sure.


If I sit by the window of Sturbacks in New York
and keep looking outside, people walking down the street,
do I see many of those who look like Hollywood Stars?
But at least, I can say many White people do have
large eyes and tall nose relative to Asians.

So if the beaty standard of media in Japan is "large eyes and tall nose", probably it came from America or any European countries as most of Japanese do not have them.

To be continued.

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City Wide Gentrifications, Who Really Got Benefited?

During '70s, New York city had really detariorated.
When I got here, which was in 1983,
Alphabet city, which was the east side of Avenue A of Manhattan,
East Harlem and South Bronx were like War zones.
After so many fire caused by the arson,
those areas looked like the bombed-by-the-airraid zones.
And many other areas looked so shabby.

In '80s, the city started the gentrifications
and in '90s, under the Giuliani ministration,
it was really intensified.
He had cleaned up Time Square Area completely,
where used to be a horrible dump,
porn theatres, adult stores and peep show places lined up,
whores, pimps & pushers loitered all the time,
and so many tourists were mugged violently.
Miraculously it turned out to be Disneyland looking area within four years or so.
Many other areas' gentrifications followed
like 14th street & Union square and Meat market Area.

Over all, New York has become much cleaner and safer,
that is definitely great.
But besides them, what other aspects of our city lives did they improve?
Hmmmm, nothing much.
And because of the gentrifications,
the rent conditions has become totally out of control,
and that has caused the huge price increase on everything.

For the last 20 yeasr, in my area, East Village,
the rent has got higher 6-8 times!
The price of groceries has, at least, doubled.
The subway fare has increased from 50cents to $2.25.

And the minimum pay is still $7,
which means, after tax, you bring home less than $1000.

The city let big developers use the public loan
with the very low interest.
The current mayor, Blomberg, the self-made super rich guy,
is seeking for his third term.
Today I saw a middle aged, middle class white woman talking on TV,
and she said that she believed his business skills would lead this city to the right way.

If you think someone can become that rich only with honest & hard working, you are too naive. And apparently there are too many naive people are living in this city and they will vote for him again.
Only the people who know how to manipulate and exploite the system can become rich like Blomberg. And rich poloticians do politics for riches, not for the middle class and the poors.
To me, it is such a easy logic, but it seems so many people do not understand and they do admire riches.
He will be the mayor again and you will be squeezed out more & more if you are not rich.

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What is really Enka?

Shinjuku no Onna(Woman of Shinjuku) Keiko Fuji

Even if I could transform myself to a man
I would stick to being a woman
For a butterfly who lives in a town of neon lights
Those words were too sweet to resist
What a fool
What a fool I am
To be tricked like that
This night is too chilly
I'm a woman of Shinjuku

How many times did I cry over you?
Yet, I was still stuck on you
'Cos I believed someday you would understand me
If I kept devoting myself
What a fool
What a fool I am
To be tricked like that
This night is too chilly
I'm a woman of Shinjuku

Being teary as I dreamed of You
Sitting by the lonesome bar counter in late night
Even you are the guy who just threw me away like a beer tap
What a fool
What a fool I am
To be tricked like that
This night is too chilly
I'm a woman of Shinjuku

*Shinjuku is one of the biggest night life districts of Tokyo,
and they got tons of bars, cabarets, clubs
and many different types of establishments
where women provide some sort of sexual services.

"A butterfly who lives in a town of neon lights"
means a woman who works in a night life industry,
which is called "Mizu Shoubai(水商売 Water Business)."
She is most likely a Bar maid or a Bar hostess,
or can be a prostitute as well.
Generally speaking, women who work in night life districts
are considered to be the lowest rank of the society.

This is the first big hit of Keiko Fuji
who was a very popular Enka singer in early '70s,
and now she is also known to be
a mother of very popular J-pop singer, Hikaru Utada.
Enka is a traditional Japanese popular song,
most of them are sad ballads lamenting over lost love,
in which a woman almost always have to endure
the egoism of men, the sadness of love-relationship
and the hardships of life in general.

When I was a kid, I hated Enka
as musically and lyricwise they were too old fashioned for me.
Whenever Enka singer appeared on TV,
I wished he/she/they would have finished
his/her/their song as soon as possible.

But now as I have grown older
I can dig this song and understand
why Japanese have supported songs like this
for a long time even I still do not like Enka much.

After War, Japanese economy recovered in a miraculous pace,
and within 30 years, Japan's GNP became #2 in the world,
only second to U.S.
How could they do that?
Everybody was starving and all major cities were burned down
to the ruins at the end of War.
Well, men who had been educated
to be loyal soldiers to their country
became a soldier-like workers for their employers,
and for the Japanese economy in general.
What they had to do was to suppress themselves as a individual
and devote themselves to their employers
by working harder and longer as they could.
And after a long day's work, they went to small bars
where women welcomed them to have a couple of drinks
and lament over their lives like a beast of burden.
Those men loved Enka.

I think the reason that most of Enka songs were
about a woman having a hardships was
that men were supposed not to cry
or even rant about their hardships.
When men listened to Enka,
they could relate themselves
as people with small, insecure, hard and exploited lives.
In a traditional male-oriented society like Japan,
women were always exploited.
Yet, men felt they were exploited too,
and unlike women, they even could not cry.
Enka provided an emotional outlet for those Japanese men,
small soldiers of the economic war.
I think I can say Enka was a blues for Japanese until like '80s.

The very first two lines of the lyric of "Shinjuku no Onna",

"Even if I could transform myself to a man
I would stick to being a woman"

This means that
I do not want to be a man,
even though I know a woman have to be exploited
and have to endure a hard life in this society,
because I still do have a pride as a small human.

This pride was what Japanese called "Iji(意地)."
Many Japanese tried to be stuck on this IJI
whenver they felt they were overwhelmed by their own lives.
And that small pride kept many Japanese alive.

Many Enka singers told their own hardships to their audience.
I remember the story I read about Keiko Fuji
on the kids' magazine when I was like 10 years old.
As she had many siblings
and her parents were traveling entertainers,
they usually left some rice and some money to kids
before they took off to their travel.
So kids cooked rice everyday
and bought something like croquets from stores near by.
However, money always went out before parents came home,
and after that kids had to put some soy sauce over rice
and that was their meals for the last few days to few weeks.

I remember I gasped when I read this story.
My family was not wealthy
but still the life like that was unthinkable to me.

As I grew older and have learned
one or two of hardships of life,
Enka sounds more familier to me now.

What a fool
What a fool am I
To be tricked like that
This night is too chilly
For a stray cat like me in New York

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between this world and that world

Ryoko Yamazaki,山岸涼子, is one of my favorite manga artists,
I mean she is really an artist.
Though she created so many masterpieces,
this particular one left a big impact in me like nothing else.
It is called "Yomotsuhirasaka 黄泉比良坂"
which means somewhere between this world and the "after death" world.

Not agreeing with her husband on their divorce,
a cold-hearted woman was killed by him
who wanted to be with other woman.

Because she had died with so much hatered,
she could not go to heaven or hell,
and her soul is just roaming
somewhere between this world and that world.

Suddenly she woke up surrounded by pure darkness and silence,
then she realized that she did not have any of her body parts,
therefore she could not ask any help,
but eventually she started to see something fuzzy,
sometimes she hears water is dripping or the sound of winds,
sometimes she has glimps of other roaming souls like hers,
but they are gone quickly,
and most of the time, she is alone, so alone.

I am addicted with internet, spending so much time on my computer.
And when I am in this internet world,
I feel like my lonely soul roaming around seeking warmth of others,
but not able to touch anything or communicate with anyone
in the way I really need to do.
I am physically alive but still pretty much same as a dead woman
whose lonely soul is roaming around forever.

I hop one site to the other, one blog to the other,
search something, open up some pages, read a bit, hear a bit,
sometimes leave a message or two and move on,
keep roaming and still I'm alone.

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