Culture shock is a good thing because it makes you wonder what kind of stupid things you do out of habit while wondering why all these furriners do the things that they do. The best method to deal with culture shock is laughter. Which is why I’m glad to see the “Kind of Crap” archives back up. Galvin Chow is a bit juvenile, and a bit of a potty mouth, so be warned. But he has some of the funniest Japan stuff I’ve seen on the web. Perhaps it’s his unique perspective as a Chinese-American. Some of his stuff explains a lot of the odder adult behavior I saw around me in Japan. If I were his older brother, I’d slap 7 kinds of sense into him so that he’d make a career out of writing, instead of the inevitable slacking path through a big company or government organization that he seems destined for.
Be that as it may, if you go to this archive, and scroll down to “Sho-ryu, Sho-Me” and “A Single Conspiracy Nut No One Will Believe” you will find a treasure trove of explanatory material. The first contains the perfect observation of why Japan is so quirkily delightful:
That said however, even though I’ve not much love for Sumo as a sport, it nevertheless embodies pretty much everything I love about Japan: which is to say that, while other countries were sitting around coming up with sports that all, rather tediously, involve getting some sort of ball in some sort of goal, Japan rose defiantly to its feet and said to itself, “Hey look, fat people! Let’s strip them down to their underwear and make them fight for our amusement!” Then before you know it, it somehow becomes an integral part of their culture, and *BAM*, just like that, life suddenly becomes that much more difficult for overweight Asian children growing up in American grade schools.
The second entry about traffic safety education you have to read to believe, although it would have been much better with pictures. As Galvin himself said:
You know, every morning before I leave for work, I look at my digital camera and wonder if it’s worth dragging it along for the day on the off chance that something interesting will happen. More often than not, I end up leaving it behind, and more often than not, I end up highly regretting it. Today, however, was probably the grand prize bull moose winner of camera-less regret. I could walk into my bathroom tomorrow to find the Loch Ness Monster and Andy Kauffman stuffing Jimmy Hoffa’s corpse down my drain, only to find my camera’s battery drained, and I still couldn’t say I’d regret it more than the documentation opportunities missed today.
The principal came up to me afterwards, asked me what I thought of the presentation, I responded “awesome,” he immediately walked away; true story. Later when talking with a teacher and telling him how hilarious I thought the whole thing was, he started laughing too, but not without adding a nervous “Yeah, because they were just dolls, it can be funny, right?” Jesus Christ. I laugh at a school full of children crying at the sight of dolls being horrendously maimed by trucks and somehow I’m the psycho.
In a similar vein, take a look at Hanzismatter if you have never seen the site before. It should be required reading for anyone who entertains the thought of a Japanese or Chinese character tattoo for even a nanosecond. They’ve been making fun of a lot of tattoos that seemed to have similar mistakes, although the group of graying frat boys with “bug” inked onto their arms seems to be a new one. But one “stop woman flow” series that seems to reoccur, leading to many menstruation jokes among the Asian commenters, has finally been explained. It also explains a lot of other nonsense kanji / hanzi tats. When it comes to getting a tattoo in a language you don’t personally understand, just say no.
2 thoughts on “Mysteries of the Orient Revealed”
The dude at gaijinsmash.net has a similar JET diary filled with amusing outsider anecdotes. This guy’s even more of an outsider, being a black American.
Tales of unsuspecting young Americans being violently molested by small Japanese children never get old. Kancho!
I also had a Japanophile friend in high school that had what he thought was “Kid Turbo” (his nickname at the time) tattooed on his arm in Kanji. He found out later that it actually meant something like “running child”.
Alex’s tattoo translated to ‘running child??’ Oh man, that’s crazy ridiculously appropriate in his case.
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