Bye Bye Manic Dixie Nightmare 2016, Hello Apocolypse

spring-day-united-states-of-shock

I am going to start off this year by reviewing what some people have taught me.

Carrie Fisher taught me prescription pills are not a beverage. David Bowie taught me that having a gigantic penis that swings like the pendulum of a grandfather clock is the secret to being successful in life. Prince taught me that being the size of David Bowie’s penis doesn’t hurt your chances at being victorious, either. Gene Wilder taught me that if you have the right voice, you can make the sentence “Lemme cornhole ya.” sound downright classy . George Michael taught me to embrace my bushy eyebrows and chin. Hillary Clinton’s career has taught me to stop trying to make everyone like me because it is never going to happen and President Putin’s has taught me to live every day like it’s my last. (As sooner or later, he will make sure it will be)

Harper Lee taught me all you need to do is write one good book to make your life worthwhile, better yet, get your drinking buddy/cousin to write it for you. Florence Henderson taught me that life is not over if your TV husband is gay and you don’t have a toilet. Mohamed Ali taught me that poetry is more powerful than fists but not more powerful than Parkinson’s Disease. Fidel Castro taught me to stop smoking cigars and start smoking freedom. Gary Shandling taught me to do cocaine or plastic surgery but not both. Vanity taught me you could still be beautiful with 80’s hair. Piers Sellers taught me that you don’t have to do well in science or work for NASA because no matter how important your contribution is to the world, you will never be as famous as the Kardashians.

Bye Bye 2016, Hello Apocolypse15740788_10154397190259613_2551704377587852247_n

Unites States of Shock Blog #2 Happy Birthday Jesus. Next Year, We’ll Probably be Able to Tell You in Person.

state-christmas-copyHello!

I’m Spring Day (real name, hippie parents)

Moving back to the United States after having lived in Japan and traveling the world for 16 years has been a bit of a head fuck. My blog “The United States of Shock!” is where I give my brilliant and bitter two cents, pence, yen and euro on my experience with culture shock and current events. If you have any questions you would like to have answered in a snit, email them to springdaycomedy@gmail.com

Christmas time in New York is everything you expect it to be: bright, sparkly, and the streets are alive with the sound of “Hey! Fuck you Buddy!” (New Yorkers always reserve the words “buddy”, “friend”, “sir”, and “lady” to address people they would really like to see hit by a train in the near future.)

I left America when George Bush was in office and had no intention of ever coming back until Barack Obama made America groovy again. Over the last 8 years, I paid off my student loans, saved a bit of money and in 2016, started my life in New York with a suitcase and dreams of affording healthcare in America. Just as it always is on stage, my timing was fucking perfect.

Little did I know I’d witness a deeply troubled man who mocked the disabled on national television be elected president of the United States. (I think one of the reasons there was relatively little outrage over this incident is because it takes a special kind of retard to mock the retarded. Do you criticize him for being ignorant and hateful or is he simply taking power back by poking fun at his own people, like with black people and the n-word.)

I have a theory about prejudice. Everyone has one and it’s not always racial.

At some point in time ( usually when they don’t get exactly what they want) an able-bodied person will think, “It’s not like I’m disabled.” A physically disabled person will think, “It’s not like I’m retarded.” A mentally challenged person thinks, “Oh look! I found a penny!”

I genuinely believed Hillary had a real shot at winning the presidency. I knew she didn’t stand a chance in 2004 because African American men could vote 40 years before women could. The world is progressing, but not always at the speed of Moore’s Law as our Apple products have conditioned us to believe.

I thought she might win this year because it was the first election year in a long time Evangelicals didn’t think the Democratic nominee was the Antichrist. (She simply wasn’t likable enough.) Plus, she stuck with her husband after he cheated on her. Evangelicals love that kind of feminine sacrifice more than abstinence until marriage, the wage gap and teenage abortions done abroad. 

My evangelical friends seemed very quiet on my social media walls. Partly out of politeness and partly because few people in America know how to have a conversation with someone they disagree with without ripping heads off. So much so, Americans insist on having mock arguments with people who actually agree with them. Whenever I hear a friend or family member say the words,”And if you think…” in a rhetorical and finger wagging fashion, I want to open the door and jump out of the car. Civil discourse with people who do not agree with everything we believe is a skill we as a nation and culture must learn or Canada is going to outshine us. (If only because there aren’t enough people there to disagree with.)

The biggest reason I believe Evangelicals have remained relatively silent about the Republican candidate is because they desperately want Jesus to come back NOW. For these people, Christ’s Second Coming is always imminent. Anticipation fatigue is bound to set in. As per the rules, no one knows exactly when Jesus is coming back.(because Christ is the coolest cat since George Clinton and the PFunk when it comes to entrances and exits) Therefore, much like children who want to live in a bigger and better house and so, while their parents are away, let an accidental electrical fire burn down their childhood home, thinking, “Now my parents will have to buy a house on the beach!” These kids has no idea how pissed their parents are going to be when they come home. Nor do they realize that their parents may not come back for many years to come, as their father may actually be George Clinton on tour. Either way, the chance that these children will have to sleep in the ashes of their decision indefinitely is pretty damn high.

I think Jesus will come back but not any time soon. I don’t know about you but I choose not to arrive at a party just in time to take over clean-up, particularly if it’s at the Fukushima Power Plant.

Anyway, happy birthday Jesus. It looks like next year, for one reason or another, we’ll get to celebrate your birthday in person.

By the way, I’ll be doing my one-man show “Spring Day: Help! I’ve Fallen in Love and I Can’t Get Up!” January 14th 10:30 pm. Click here for Tickets

The Vice Precedence: An Observation and Comparison of Audiences

spring-day-united-states-of-shockHello!

I’m Spring Day (real name, hippie parents)

Moving back to the United States after having lived in Japan and traveling the world for 16 years has been a bit of a head fuck. My blog “The United States of Shock!” is where I give my brilliant and bitter two cents, pence, yen and euro on my experience with culture shock and current events. If you have any questions you would like to have answered in a snit, email them to springdaycomedy@gmail.com

The first difference between America and the rest of the word that struck me was that in Japan and the U.K., alcohol is the primary and often only lubricant used for both social and sexy intercourse. Americans  simply don’t drink as much. Americans see ourselves as morally superior to the pull of booze or anything else vaguely European. Plus, we prefer prescription pills— pills so strong that heroin is the only under-the-counter generic alternative.

Prescription medication makes you feel good but it doesn’t really contribute to making a roomful of Americans at a comedy show feel connected or part of a group the way alcohol or mushrooms do. (FYI, magic mushrooms were legal to use, buy and sell in Japan until 2001. It was a hard decision for the country to make. How does an island full foodies outlaw a vegetable used in a literally mind-blowing salad? ) The two-drink minimum in most American comedy clubs is enough to set off a biochemical landslide in the brains of the average mainland pill–popper that will launch them into a distant and isolated mental space.

Doctors in Japan are extremely reluctant to prescribe anything stronger than an Aspirin for chronic or severe pain, because they assume you are self-medicating with several bottles of your favorite brew or sake anyway.  (On a side note, if you want to impress a Japanese friend or client, don’t tell them about how successful and accomplished you are, tell them a story about how you got wasted with your boss, punched him, stole a bicycle, fell off and broke your jaw on the curb. (This happened to a Japanese friend of mine, an elementary school teacher. Soon after, she became the principal.)

Societies where the social lube is primarily alcohol are arguably easier to do gigs in. The attitude being that people in those countries were going to go out and drink copious amounts of beer anyway. They might as well do it front of some people who are trying to be funny and if the comedian isn’t funny, that’s kinda funny cause it’s awkward and awkwardness is really funny when the audience is drunk.

In places where nearly everyone is on medication that prohibits operation of heavy machinery or driving, a comedy club or a or a bar show isn’t often on the itinerary. These people are often pulled in off the street by a barker promising a magical night of hilarity if they forgo their dinner, shopping or sightseeing plans. Often the shows go quite well and everyone is happy, but a bad gig is particularly painful. The audience, not drunk enough to see the humor in a failed gag, ends up feeling sorry for the performer and (often) having no idea when the show will end, is too busy thinking about the best way to leave the venue without causing attention to themselves and is unable to pay attention to the show.

I’m not saying one vice is better than the other. I’m saying they are both pains in the ass when it comes to audience members. The nice thing about an audience member being drunk is that you you know what that looks and smells like—you know not to give the person in question too much attention or your real name. (Especially if you suspect them to be your real dad.) Being drunk is a temporary state that most people have experienced and recovered from.

If you meet someone who is on some heavy pharmaceuticals for a chronic condition, how are you supposed to know his/her tremors aren’t because he/she is excited to meet “famous” you? How are you supposed to know short-term memory loss isn’t just a neg tactic used by awkward software engineers to get laid? (“Wow! You were so funny! I don’t remember what you said, but it was hilarious.”)

How do I deal with this? When I’m on stage, I just assume everyone’s drunk. Offstage, I find it best to assume anyone coming up to talk to me after a show is on a pill regimen strong enough to gag Elvis. It gives me the ability to find the grace I need to have when an able-bodied pill-popper tells me they liked my show because they have identified as “disabled” themselves ever since they chipped a tooth bungee jumping. It always helps me to remember that nobody enjoys comedy because they are emotionally healthy or whole. Comedy is a balm applied to both an emotional scrape and bullet wound. That said, chipping your tooth while bungee jumping does not make you disabled. It just makes you a rich dumb c#nt.

Ask Gaijin Girl: Brilliant Advice From a Bitter Woman #15

Always Ready to Give You Advice on Life and Relationships Because She Never Has One.

images

Dear Gaijin Girl,

I really really want to learn Japanese. How do I do that?

So serious,

Kathy

Dear Kathy,

My advice is don’t. However, if you really really want to learn Japanese nothing I say can stop you, you poor and unfortunate soul.

With that in mind, I highly recommend you watch Japanese dramas. They are the perfect guide to speaking Japanese like real people. (Forget that anime stuff unless you want to sound like you are perpetually ready to either burst into tears or attack pocket monsters.)

You also want to watch live action dramas so you can understand the grammatical value of Japanese facial expressions and what they mean. In order to speak Japanese like a native it’s important to learn the fine art of being expressionless. When you master this, you will then able to not react to anything that you perceive as negative or unfavorable. As we all know, in Japan, if you ignore something you don’t like, it will eventually go away like the homeless man masturbating in the station, the foreigner trying to get the station manager to stop the masturbating homeless man or the wife at home. It’s a handy skill to have when dealing with the police and the NHK man. (And you will deal with them more than you ever wanted to)

Japanese dramas are hour long shows that run for three months and then they are over. If the dramas are popular, they may have a second or third season the following year but that is pretty unlikely.

Japanese dramas are always called dramas, even if they are comedies because if the network were to label a show a comedy they would also find the need to fuck it up with story stopping gags. I’ll admit to watching and loving two Japanese comics take turns hitting each other as hard as they can in the shins with metal park swings for half an hour but I wouldn’t watch an hour of it every week for a season. It is unfortunate that most Japanese comics on TV have very little or no control over their material or their career and make very little money doing it. If you ever wonder why the contestants on Japanese gameshows are never civilians but are always comedians trying to win things like cheese and ham, it’s because they are broke and hungry. They are literally working for food.

Japanese dramas also let you in on some important and commonly held beliefs in Japan. The first being that if you are caught in the rain without an umbrella, you will get sick and probably die. A strange pair of shoes in your genkan or entrance means your significant other is cheating on you. A half eaten boxed lunch means a husband no longer or never did love his wife. Anybody with a necktie around their head is a drunk asshole over 50. Any drama with Kimura Takuya or Kimutaku in it is good. (Though the theme music will be bad.) Any drama where the lead is a female is antifeminist propaganda. Japanese people who speak English too well are evil. (American movies are also guilty of this. In them, the devil is always a white guy ridiculously good at speaking Russian or Chinese.) Marriage proposals are never romantic and if you fall in love with the wrong person (or your ordained by the gods soul mate) you will also fall into a coma or go blind.

Enjoy and good luck,

Gaijin Girl

Ask Gaijin Girl: Brilliant Advice From A Bitter Woman #14

Always ready to give you advice on life and relationships because she never has one.

51UNtfdQ8NL._SY355_

Dear Gaijin Girl.

Everyone keeps asking me what I’m doing for Golden week?

Golden week, what’s that?

So stumped,

Charlotte

Dear Charlotte,

I’m glad you asked. Golden Week or GW is officially a time for Japanese nationals to reflect on the turbulent rein of Emperor Hirohito, as well as, honor his obsessive compulsion to document and classify every sea animal and plant in existence to cope with his role in WW II. (To be fair, it is better that hitting the bottle or the wife. It’s frankly hard to hate the guy. He was buried with his microscope and Mickey Mouse watch for crying out loud.) The Japanese are also supposed to reflect on the constitution they have but didn’t write or ask for.

I should note that when I say ” reflect” I mean “spend a lot of money.” The entire country takes 3-7 days off work and celebrates being Japanese by leaving the country. Many go to Guam, Saipan or Hawaii and complain about all the other Japanese tourists there. Those stuck in Japan due to inflated airfare might go to Kyoto or Osaka and complain about not being able to complain about all the other Japanese tourists in Waikiki-ken.

The Japanese are also celebrating Boy’s Day which is on March 5th. A little FYI, Girl’s Day is on March 3rd (Not a national holiday like Boy’s Day. Now, that’s a surprise.) and Drag Day is April 4th. (Not a national holiday but there is a parade.) I was informed of this by a Japanese man on what I thought was our first date. It then occurred to me that straight men do not offer this kind of info to women they plan on sleeping with. Looking back, I should have known he was gay when I realized our conversation was genuinely interesting and he was considerate. It turns out he’d asked me out because he thought I was a lesbian and he was looking for a “comrade” I don’t blame him, I was going through a rock n roll look at the time. I was aiming for heroin chic, but that only works if you are actually on heroin. I was pretty chubby so I looked a bit butch. On top of that, I met him at a birthday party at a gay men’s cowboy themed bar named Arty Farty.  He came up to me and asked if I “come here often?” I thought he was one of those straight guys that hit on “fag hags” in gay men’s bars I’d heard about. (By they way, I hate that term. I prefer the “fruit fly” thank you very much)  I don’t think I’ve ever disappointed a man more by telling him I was straight. (except for maybe Dad)

I’m telling you all this because this all happened my first Golden Week in Japan and your first GW won’t be anywhere near as awkward as mine was if you take my advice.

Withdraw heaps of cash from your bank account a few days before GW starts because the ATMs will be CLOSED for most if not all of Golden Week. I know, it sounds stupid to not be able to get cash anytime you want. Isn’t that what ATMs are FOR?! The answer is yes and no. The thing is Japan is a fairly safe country. (as long as you don’t have any family in it) It is also primarily a cash country where the average salaryman/ housewife is carrying the equivalent of $300 in cash at all times. I’ve seen university students pay for laptop computers entirely in cash, thumping the equivalent of a grand or two on the counter and the cashier doesn’t even flinch. Hell, the cashier is already fishing out correct change. It’s like watching people play monopoly.

There is another psychological reason for the ATMs to be closed. Credit cards aren’t really used in Japan the way they are in the US. Not that many people have them to begin with and the credit limit is usually set way lower than your monthly salary. (Particularly if you are a working class foreigner) Whatever you owe the credit card company is taken directly out of your bank account at the end of the month. Only if your bank account is empty do you incur interest. The interest rates aren’t nearly as high as in the States. There are other more predatory avenues to borrow money, these are often called “sarakin” or  “gakusei loan” these companies offer short term cash loans for up to 20% interest and are often “family business” related. A great avenue if you want to practice begging for forgiveness in Japanese and sitting dogeiza http://youtu.be/bG6oT5kYI0Y

The phycological reason for shutting down the ATMs is this. As you withdraw more cash than you plan to spend just before the holiday in case there is an emergency, something always happens. (though it’s hardly ever an emergency)

GW is one of the few times you and your friends are free see each other and since nobody goes to anybody’s home, you’ll inevitably go out to eat, drink and shop. Karaoke box hustlers will try to pull you into their shop where you’ll spend ¥5000 yen an hour belting out the latest Taylor Swift in Katakana English and drinking the weakest cocktails on earth, all the while, trying not to touch anything in the karaoke box, knowing it’s the poor man’s love hotel. (Don’t ever stop to ponder where people have put the microphone, it’ll spoil your evening. Just bring hand sanitizer and dip the microphone handles in it.)

That’s my advice, withdraw as much cash as you can to get you through a week that will always be much more expensive than you expect it to be. (Oh yeah, and try to get your Japanese friends to do an Eminem song in the karaoke box. Eminem in katakana English is way cuter than kittens on the internet.)

Good Luck,

Gaijin Girl

Ask Gaijin Girl: Brilliant Advice From a Bitter Woman #13

Always ready to give you advice on life and relationships because she never has one.


Rapunzel, the Tobacco chewing princess

Dear Gaijin Girl,

A friend from the States is visiting me in Tokyo. What is the most Japanese place I can take them?

Sincerely searching,

Samantha

Dear Samantha,

I am so glad you asked this question. Skip the temples, the sakura and the sake. The most Japanese place on earth is Tokyo Disneyland, possibly Tokyo DisneySea. I know you’re probably thinking this is American imperialism at it’s worst. It’s not. In true Japanese fashion, Japan has embraced the brain child of my fellow Kansas City escapee and infamous chain smoker, making it her own. (It was bound to happen. Mickey’s head and ears are so circular they are positively zen like and the Japanese love smoking more than Don Draper.)

For starters, Tokyo Disneyland and Disneysea are crazy crowded but never chaotic. People wait quietly yet excitedly for hours at a time to ride the latest Disney miracle with zero complaints or whining. (The only whining or crying I’ve ever seen there is by foreigners or children too small to feel the collective burning shame radiating from society.)

The park is ridiculously clean, even by Tokyo standards. Sure, you will find a bit of popcorn here and there.The physical evidence of a small child losing their mind when meeting the absolutely gigantic Mickey Mouse. Unlike Western toddlers, they seldom scream or cry in the faces of Mickey, Minnie or even the Frozen chicks. Instead, they silently implode. That is why the park smells of anticipation. That is to say that the park smells of strawberry and caramel popcorn farts.

The staff are so polite and accommodating to guests every single need that after I left the park, I found it frustrating when my taxi driver was unable to read my mind. Even cast members hauling trash bags full of dirty diapers smile and wave at guests and tourists with a grace and gusto that puts royal families to shame. If you drop your purse or wallet under a seat in a ride or on Main Street, U.S.A it will show up in lost and found within minutes if not seconds and all of your credit cards and cash will have remained in tact. (Unless you’d just come from the souvenir shop. In which case, you wouldn’t have anything left to steal anyway.)

If you’ve spent more than five seconds in Japan, you know how imperative it is to be or have something cute. Life just does not get any cuter than it does at Tokyo Disneyland or Disneysea, nor could it be more embraced by every gender and age. Everyone dresses cute there, it doesn’t matter if you’re 4 or 400 years-old. You’ve got your Lolita on. ( I’ve seen the roughest, toughest pinky missing, pubic hair perm wearing “family man” in an oversized Winnie the Pooh hat giggling into his soy sauce and butter popcorn Donald Duck bucket. (Yes, that flavor exists.)

Each character has his/her own herd of groupies with season passes, many of whom remind you of the groupies depicted in Almost Famous.  Many of these teens,twenty somethings and kyoiku mommas  would let a character have their way with them behind the rocks of Thunder Mountain if Mr.  Big Yellow Shoes only asked. Sadly, the characters are not allowed to talk. Plus, it is damn near impossible to tell at a glance which groupies would take up an indecent proposal because Japan does not make a distinction between dressing cute and dressing sexy. They are one and the same. FYI, to stop dressing cute is to renounce one’s sexual activity once and for all.

Just so you know, every one of the Japanese kids in the Disney character drawing class is going to kick your ass. (especially since erasers are banned) Just accept that and enjoy your glorious mistakes. You will be complimented on your “creativity” and “skill”  by the teenager sitting next to you with a flawless replica of Rapunzel as if your making Rapunzel look like she was chewing tobacco was a deliberate social statement on gender equality. Smile and say, “thank you”. Some of those kids think you have direct access to Disney himself. (You’ve got a better chance at being actual kin than they do)  Maybe you are an undercover quality control expert or an animation talent scout for the next Toy Story movie. Ready or not, you will become apart of their Disney experience. Don’t assume they are being sarcastic and resist the urge to pop their Fantasyland bubble. (I still have bite marks on my lips for my last visit a week ago.)

The Japanese have temples and shrines but Disneyland, Disneysea and the Apple store truly is Church. It’s where people gather regularly, if not weekly, to worship with varying levels of devotion. If the Japanese like something or someone they like them forever (For example, Mr. Big is still big in Japan)  maintaining a devotion and intensity that can be both charming and alarming. I once saw a what looked like a 6 year-old girl on her father’s shoulders in tears screaming between hiccups, ” I love you so much!”  like Holly Hunter in Raising Arizona (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GIyTFl4Cb4) as Cinderella passed by in the electric parade. Her surfer father, looking eager but unsure of how to support his daughter in her emotional outburst, thrust two shaka signs in the air screaming, ” Hell yeah, we love you Cinderella!” It would be a pity for anyone visiting Japan to miss that.

Good luck,

Gaijin Girl

Ask Gaijin Girl: Brilliant Advice From a Bitter Woman #12

Ask Gaijin Girl: Brilliant Advice From a Bitter Woman

Always Ready to Help you With Your Life and Relationships Because She Never Has One

images

Dear Gaijin Girl,

I’ve bee invited to my coworker’s Wedding in Tokyo. What should I expect?

Slightly stoked,

Kelly

Dear Kelly,

Be prepared to be poor! Just so you know, Japanese weddings come in parts of three and they don’t come cheap.

The first part is the actual ceremony. It is the exchanging of vows in a Shinto or Christian style shrine, church, chapel, hotel or beachfront. This ceremony typically lasts no more than twenty minutes and only the bride and groom’s closest family and/or friends attend. ( Count yourself lucky that you are not close friends because that makes things even more expensive for you along the way.) None of these ceremonies are legally binding, by the way. All the legal documents are handled a month or more before or after the ceremony at City Hall in the Department of Marriage, Death and Divorce, where the employees there make bets on why you’ll be visiting them next time.

(I’ve seen Mickey and Minnie sign as witnesses on a Marriage Certificate in a ceremony at Disneyland. I can’t think of a shakier foundation for a marriage unless the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had signed instead. ) The ceremony might last up to an hour or more at a Christian church. At one wedding I attended, the pastor told a long story about how the love between the bride and groom reminded him of the love a child with Down’s syndrome had for the local life guard. I don’t remember what happened in the story other than it was very long and touching but I do remember the bride and groom looking at each other throughout the whole story as if to say, “So, am I the kid with Down’s syndrome or is that you?!”

The second part is the main event and is a cross between a fancy five course dinner and a community theater talent show starring the groom’s company boss. It is customary/mandatory that you give the couple $300 in a special celebratory envelope you can buy at you’re local 7-11. Be sure not to buy the envelope for funerals right next to it. It sends a mixed message and delivers bad juju to the newly joined couple. (You really don’t want to jinx the marriage, because if your coworker divorces and then marries again, you have to gift yet another $300.) Japan’s Got No Talent/Why I Kept My Day Job Showcase part of the ceremony can go on for hours as selected coworkers, friends and family sing songs, act out hastily written comedy sketches, present PowerPoint  presentations on how the bride and groom first met while ancient relatives live Skype simultaneously their congratulations and guilt trips for not having a wedding party closer to their respective hometowns. Tears flow freely and often. (Mostly because of the guilt trips.) Not to worry, so much good food will be coming your way that you’ll be too busy cutting your steak into bite size pieces to notice most of the waterworks. (I always am.) The grooms boss at some point will make the equivalent of the best man’s speech, only duller. Japanese style speeches leave much to be desired. They don’t like to get to the point. They would much rather beat around the bush until it’s obliterated. Fortunately, by time the bossman goes to the podium to speak, you’ll be too drunk to care.  As you leave the party, one of two things will happen. The bride and groom will give you either a”Thanks for coming” gift, such as a candle or a fancy photo frame, or they will give you a catalogue of gifts ranging from jewelry to home appliances to sports equipment for you to take home and choose a “thank you”to be delivered to your home. (The gifts range in quality from Cracker Jack toy to Argos.)

Part three is the “after party” that will cost you anywhere from $20-$100. It is usually a bar with an all-you-can-drink 2 hour plan. Typically, there is one table for boys and one table for girls. Welcome to the 8th  grade with alcohol. Hardly anybody hooks up because of or at a Japanese wedding party. (That includes the bride and groom) Under no circumstances are you to dress sexy.  Cute is the order that rules the land. Dress as you would for senior prom circa 1955. There will be very little or no dancing or mingling, just a lot of people asking you when you are getting married again, planning to have a child, and exactly when you plan on retiring to raise your still nonexistent children. In other words, bring a book.

Good luck,

Gaijin Girl

Ask Gaijin Girl: Brilliant Advice From a Bitter Woman #11

Always Ready to Help you With Your Life and Relationships Because She Never Has One

Unknown-1

Dear Gaijin Girl,

I’ve just started working at a Japanese office and I have been invited to go to a cherry blossom viewing party with my colleagues but I don’t like to drink. What should I do?

Seriously sweating,

Tom

Dear Tom,

Oh my poor, sweet and ridiculously silly Tom. If you do not like alcohol, why in the name of Jim Beam, Johnnie Walker and Shirley Buddhist Temple are you in Japan of all places?! Did you fly in direct from Salt Lake City or what?

In Japan, alcohol does not merely help lubricate social and work events, it is the fuel that propels society, family and business into the future. As an employee and team member you will be required to eat and drink with your boss and colleagues more often than you ever will with your spouse. You’ll be obliged to pour your boss’s beer again and again whenever the tiny glass threatens to go empty. You are never allowed to pour your own drink. Someone else will be in charge of filling your own glass, probably a coworker that is three years your senior and already hates your guts because your English is much better than his and you get paid slightly more than him as you are as considered part guest, part circus sideshow and part office pet, in that you aren’t expected be around in two years time. This man will do everything in his power to oblige you to bow to the social pressure of drinking too much and then eating ramen until you are projectile vomiting all over your boss at the train station. (A sublime job perk not mentioned in your contract. )

Sakura (cherry blossom) season is upon us. It’s the time when the nation collectively responds to the question, “What is the meaning of life?” with “Who cares?! Look at the pretty flowers! Here, drink this and when you feel sick just be sure to aim away from the blue tarp. We don’t want anyone thinking it’s a monjayaki buffet.”

There are a lot of Japanese people who do not drink. They are a silent minority that frequently “pass” as drinkers in order to escape being socially and ultimately monetarily punished for not “being a team player”. Many pretend to be wildly drunk, dancing around the bar or izakaya singing Elvis Presley until everyone looks as uncomfortable as George Bush did when Koizumi had a religious experience in Graceland.

Women have it easier in that they are not expected to drink nearly as much but also have to sidestep comments from male and female colleagues about their breast size, backside and speculation as to whether they’d be maguro (move like a dead fish) in bed. There may or may not be any groping to contend with. Oddly, I’ve been groped by Japanese women far more than I’ve been groped by men. Women have grabbed or “honked” my breasts on a train platform in the middle of the day.  I’d yell at them, “What are you, crazy?” Stop it!”  They wouldn’t. My offended reaction egged them on so I learned through exasperation that the only way to make them stop was to grope them in return. If  a woman  “honked” my boob, I’d honk them right back. If they grabbed my ample life raft of an ass, I’d manage to get a handful of their nonexistent one. It worked.

Once, I was groped on the street by a man on a bicycle. I had just stepped out of a taxi and turned around to go up the street and suddenly this bald dude that was sweating  alcohol was in my face. He gave my boob a hard squeeze. I screamed, he grunted and then he took off on his bike. If you have to be sexual assaulted,  that’s the kind you want, quick and relatively painless but it really irked me that someone could be so mentally ill and have such good coordination and balance skills at the same time. It’s just not fair. In hindsight, I wished I’d been grocery shopping earlier and had a tin can of tomato sauce to hurl and dent the other side of his bald head with as he rode away. Call me a romantic, it’s just a better end to the story.

Anyway, you will sooner or later be required to drink with your coworkers, clients, and future in-laws. Japanese style bars frequently have plastic potted plants near the table for you to discreetly dump your drink if you want. Learn how to act drunk. Also, develop a repertoire of different kinds of drunk, ranging from mildly tipsy to wandering naked in a park so you are ready for any occasion or alcohol level. Don’t be afraid to get yourself in embarrassing situations. Japanese love nothing more that to be told a story about how you woke up at the station in a pool of your own vomit, decided to write your bicycle home where you lost control, hit the curb, fell off face first into the sidewalk, breaking your jaw. They LOVE stories like that because it’s what their wife did last week after the PTA meeting. (Actually that example came from a Japanese grandmother. That jaw break earned her all kinds of street cred and is now considered a legend in her community.) It’ll bring you closer together as coworkers and comrades.

I don’t judge you for not liking drinking. I don’t drink much myself. (My drug of choice is sugar) It’s just so much easier to fit in Japan if you do. I’m not saying you’ll be any happier or more financially secure. I’m just saying people will be less annoyed with you and see you less as an outsider.  I guess what I’m saying is, “ If you’re not planning on becoming a drinker, GET OUT OF HERE!” If you don’t, it’s only a matter of time before you’re cleaning up your inebriated coworker’s urine puddle at the station with spare tissue you found at the bottom of your briefcase, on a Saturday night.  I seriously doubt your company pays you enough to put up with that.

Good luck,

Gaijin Girl

Ask Gaijin Girl: Brilliant Advice From A Bitter Woman #10

Ask Gaijin Girl: Brilliant Advice From a Bitter Woman

Always Ready to Help you With Your Life and Relationships Because She Never Has One

funeral-2

Dear Gaijin Girl,

I’m a first year English teacher at a primary school in Iwate. I’ve just been invited to attend the funeral of our principal’s husband. What should I expect?

Slightly stupefied,

Shelby

Dear Shelby,

Just so you know, it doesn’t matter if you teach English at a primary school or not. If you are a foreigner in Japan, you are an English teacher. It’s only a matter of time until your pillow talk includes an exasperated explanation on why you said, “Do that thing I like.” instead of, “Do this thing I like.” that will kill the romance faster than a chopstick up the nose. As grammar takes up more and more of your conversation and he takes note of new vocabulary words you’ve unwittingly dropped,  you will soon begin to wonder if he is using you just to improve his TOEIC score and get that coveted, swanky overseas promotion at work. Trust me, it feels better to be used for sex. At least sex is sexy. Having to explain what predicates are while having sex? Not so much.

Sorry to hear about your principal’s loss. That’s a shame but from a cross cultural perspective, it’s kind of cool. You get to experience Buddhism in all off it’s cyclical pond paradise glory. ( I recently walked by a Buddhist cemetery that had on it’s wall an advertisement for the love hotel next door to it. On the other side of the love hotel was a crematory.  That busy block represented the circle of life not found as an attraction at your local Disney park.)

You should know that you will be expected to bring money, ¥5000 (about 50 bucks) in a special “Sorry he/she died” envelope. (You can buy the envelopes at your local convenience store for a buck or more. Be careful not to choose the “So happy he died!” implying celebratory envelopes right next to them. These envelopes can look virtually identical unless you can decipher the handwritten style Kanji on the flashy chord embroidered faces. Bring a Japanese person with you to make sure, you don’t want to be the one who lets the cat out of the bag and confirm what everybody is really thinking, that nobody really liked him. Plus, it’s bad juju.

The Japanese aren’t as much religious as they are superstitious. (Though they are beyond fine with opening umbrellas indoors. So much so that if I were superstitious, I’d point a finger at all the rows of open drying umbrellas in schools and apartment buildings and, like a mechanic with his butt crack showing, pronounce, “Well there’s the cause of all your earthquakes and disasters right there.”)

I was recently in a building on grounds that were used as a prison for war criminals. Plus, it was the site of several executions during and after WWII. The building is now a shopping mall called “Sunshine City” and many people working in it are convinced it is haunted with ghosts. When our elevator stopped, opening at the 4th floor when nobody had pushed a button for it and there was no one waiting to get on, the two women in the elevator with me agreed it must have been ghosts and commented that if you were there all alone in the building at night, you could hear the ghosts marching and/or screaming. Interesting for sure, but it doesn’t answer the more pressing question, “Why would a ghost need an elevator?”

Back to funerals, don’t put anymore than ¥5000 in the envelope, or you’ll look happy he died. Also don’t wear anything shiny, hair clip, tie clip or otherwise. This is also considered a celebratory, “yay he’s dead” gesture. Wear all black, and I mean all black, preferably a bit shitty too. If you want to wear jewelry, an unflattering single string of fake pearls is your only option. Men wear a black suit, white shirt with a black tie, a la Blues Brothers. When in doubt, just think “What would I wear or do at a jazz funeral” and whatever your answer is, don’t do that.

Be prepared for very few tears and a lot of smiling and laughing by friends and family before and after the ceremony, particularly if the deceased is old. Everyone will appear to be happy in a “I never thought he’d leave!” kind of way. Some will be, for sure. Generally, the waterworks tend to flood at home after the funeral.  The smiling and the laughing are a brave show to a room full of people who are also a little bit drunk or can’t wait to be a lot drunk at the after party.

If you attend the wake, expect shitty food, usually stale finger sandwiches from a catering service specializing in shitty food for funerals and wakes. (Again, if the food is good, it’s the mark a celebration. Plus, grief is a lot like flying in that your palate is shot anyway.)

A super expensive Buddhist priest with pop up midway through the ceremony, put his Rolex watch to the side and then chant a bit, 15 minutes or so, he may or may not wave around a horse hair whip, put his watch back on and then promptly disappear.

You will probably be expected to pinch ash, (not the deceased, something akin to incense ash) and raise it to your forehead with a quick prayer for the deceased.

You might also help place statues of wooden Buddhas and the deceased’s favorite flammable things, pictures, cigarettes, anime figurines, and that sort of thing in the casket before taking it to the crematory. The crematory is usually a private bus ride away from the funeral home, creating a chicken exit for those not able to stomach watching someone go into and out of an oven where guests are expected to help place the biggest bits of the remains in a box via chopsticks. (I recommend skipping this bit if your chopstick skills aren’t up to snuff. You don’t want to be the one who accidentally flung Grandpa’s backbone clear across the room and into a bin.)

Oh yeah, before you leave, you’ll be given a gift. Usually something boring and dull (hints of celebration be damned unless it’s alcohol related) like buckwheat tea or new bath towels. I have a stack of these towels in my closet. No matter how hard I try and as nice as they are, I just can’t bring myself to use the “Dead Man’s “towels. I can’t shake the feeling he can see me use them. I guess I’ll have to ask him if he can the next time an elevator door at Sunshine City opens for no reason.

Good luck,

Gaijin Girl

Ask Gaijin Girl: Brilliant Advice From a Bitter Woman #9

Always ready to give you advice on life and relationships because she never has one

kindergarten-class

Dear Gaijin girl,

My 45 year-old son isn’t married and still lives at home. How can I get him married or to move out of the house?

Sincerely sick and tired,

Yoshiko

Dear Yoshiko,

For the love of Buddha and the wife and child he abandoned, stop doing your son’s laundry! Stop cooking for him! Stop providing him a rent and utility free existence that enables him to buy enough electronics, game consoles and porn to ensure he doesn’t have to have any real human interaction until there is an electronic apocalypse or too many blisters on his right hand.

I also want you to ask yourself a few questions. If you are married, do you enjoy your marriage? Have you, at any point and time, told him that the only reason you are in the marriage was for your son’s benefit? If you have, you’ve got nobody but yourself to blame by giving him absolutely nothing to look forward to. The relationship between parent and child is typically stronger than between husband and wife in Japan. There was a time when this was necessary for survival but not anymore. (I seriously doubt your husband is a samurai riding horseback around the country burning down temples and shrines. If he is, well done. That’s much sexier than a salaryman getting drunk with his coworkers and projectile vomiting in the station.)

In the West, as you grow older, you gain more and more freedom along with control over your life. In Japan, it’s the opposite. As you grow older, you lose your freedom. That’s why a child under the age of 5 in Japan can resemble a wild animal. Once they enter the school system, the social pressure to conform is as swift and as intense as Anne Sullivan teaching Hellen Keller how to fold a napkin. In a way, life peaks at the age of 6 in Japan. You are surrounded by educated adults whose primary concern is your welfare. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers typically work past midnight every night (unpaid mandatory overtime) to decorate classrooms, put together activities and festivals in a manner that puts Broadway production values to shame. The typical elementary school classroom resembles Disneyland with desks and slightly better food. (F.Y.I. Disneyland food sucks balls) University is the last shot at freedom before entering a life sentence of doing desk work in a gray office in a gray building in a gray suit while being financially responsible for a family. Ask the average Japanese university student, “What are you reading?” They will reply, “What do you mean ‘reading?’ Why would I be reading? I’m going to Thailand to eat mushrooms and buy a T-shirt in a language I don’t understand that says, “I took home an exotic dancer and all I got was this pukey t-shirt.”

In the West, it’s completely different. Most parents swiftly kick their children out of the house when they are 18 and turn the child’s room into a gym or a dungeon filled with geriatric fetish furniture to host munches. This may seem harsh at first but the nice thing about kids being kicked out at that age is after they leave home, you never have to see them ever again unless you really want to and isn’t that a nice choice to have? You’ll be much less tempted to kill your son in his sleep, which is another option albeit a messy one. I should warn you that freedom works both ways. An American friend living in Japan complains about his mother in New Jersey constantly calling him asking him to visit. I tell him he doesn’t know how to leave a country right. He should have never given her his number.

Your son is fully aware of the fact that life can’t possibly get any better for him than it is right now so make life more difficult for him. Kick him out. Make him pay rent. Try and initiate sex with your husband in front of him. You don’t have to do that but try to rekindle the romance in your marriage anyway. A pickle tickle wouldn’t hurt you none. Frankly, you probably need it. (Oh and stop calling your husband ‘Dad’ your son doesn’t need the reinforcement to call him that anymore plus, it’s unsettling.) If this seems too difficult, move. Move away or get on the Peaceboat if you like just leave all your son’s stuff in garbage bags in front of the home you’ve vacated and don’t tell him where you’ve moved to for at least a year. That’ll get him out of the house and into a pachinko parlor or soapland but at least he won’t be your problem anymore. You’ve been a great mom but now is the time to cut the crusty cord and to stop fantasizing about the death of a person you are supposed to love before you end up on a wideshow for CO poisoning everyone in the house.

Good luck,

Gaijin Girl