The Other Side of Lost in Translation


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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