Sunday, January 29, 2012

Conventional Beauty or GTFO

I learn all kinds of wonderful things about people and society at work. Racism is okay as long as you're nice about it, learning disabilities and mood disorders in children should go untreated to save the face of adults (this subject will get its own post), and looks get you farther than talent in every conceivable way.

I know I'm beating an equine beast that has been deceased for a long and indeterminate amount of time, but new things continue to pop up that demand a good rant on the internet.

There was a new teacher-in-training at my school. She seemed nervous all the time and was a bit quiet, but I would have been on edge if I were in her place. Though I hadn't exchanged anything more than polite greetings with her, she seemed nice.

She was also quite pretty. Weighed less than I ever will.

The only comments I had heard about her from higher-ups is that she "sounds good on the phone" and "looks nice." Another co-worker mentioned her standardized test scores were really good, yet she did poorly when a foreign teacher interviewed her in English. As long as you look cute, you don't need to actually speak English to work at an English conversation school, right?


Prime example - this is an actual note that was left on my drawer at work by a coworker. If they hadn't talked to me in person about this class, I wouldn't know what any of this garbage meant. But hey, fuck spelling and grammar if you've got a pretty face and get people in the door!

Business level English is a preference, not a requirement.

I've interviewed people with a range of skill levels. Some can barely string a sentence together, others speak fluently and tell me they've got a PhD in education from Stanford (at which point I question why they'd ever work for my company). None of it matters. If you're good-looking, you're set. If one person in the interview process doesn't like how you look, you're done.

I've heard all kinds of atrocious comments made about some of my interviewees. I interviewed one guy who had lived in America for a decade and spoke near-fluently, but a coworker couldn't get it out of her head that he looked like some obscure comedian and laughed about it all day. I felt bad for the guy, he did well otherwise and he wasn't all that bad looking in the first place. I'm not sure if he was ever hired or went through training, but I'd guess not.

I can only imagine what people say about me and what random things Japanese people find less than attractive about my appearance. I'd guess 1) too fat, 2) face isn't Japanese enough, and 3) too fat (you really can't be skinny enough in this country). I do have the beautiful white skin that is so coveted by Japanese women, according to the boyfriend at least. I also don't need any glue for my double eye-lids, they're natural.

The pretty trainee ended up not making it because she found the higher-level classes too difficult to teach. I'm surprised someone had the gall to let a conventionally attractive girl go without a job. Guess she wasn't cute enough for someone at the head office.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Money I'd Have Wasted Had I Grown Up in Japan...

For the past few days, awesome and un-useless things with cartoon characters on them have been forcing me to spend money. If you wouldn't think twice about buying at least one of these items for nostalgic value, you should find other blogs to read.

First up, Super Mario Galaxy 2 Card Gum pack!

A whole 63yen per pack at the supermarket. I threw out the square bathroom-tile-looking gum, but I'm definitely keeping the Obake Mario and Hachi-Mario (hachi in this case is short for hachimitsu, or honey). I don't think I'll be buying enough of these to put together the big photo on the back but it was a satisfying impulse purchase.

Next, Dragon Ball stamps!


In America, we put important people on stamps. In Japan, we use Dragon Ball. IF THERE IS A SAILOR MOON SET ALSDKJF;LSAKMD ;LSJDF I WILL DIE OR BUY THEM ALL. Set of ten 80yen stamps cost 800yen, SO AWESOME.

Third, super cute Hello Kitty fortune-teller daruma cell phone strap!

The only bad thing about this 200yen ball of unnecessary cute is that I can't read the kanji on the fortunes coming out of the back. I'm used to the variations of  , not entire phrases.

And finally, His + Hers Valentine's Day Pikachu merchandise!

The cell phone straps are kind of a given, I think they were 1200yen for the set. They made a girl Pikachu with a heart-shaped tail for this line of merchandise, and if you notice the half-heart for the girl even has a little pink diamond. KAWAIIIIIIII OMG.

However, it was the matching TAILS that... just... gaaaaaaaaaaah.

The back of the package

I died. Then I gave the Pokemon center 1500yen of my own money for a set. Then I died again. Of cute. And before you all die of cute, please note that for whatever reason my camera didn't get the colors as well as it should have. The tails look really washed out but they are much more vibrant in person.

And here's an unrelated parfait!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Flea Market in Setagaya

Last Monday Marissa dragged my butt out to Setagaya for the largest flea market in Tokyo! I'm pretty sure I caught a cold from being out in the cold all day, but it was fun looking at old Japanese junk.

Start of the epic flea market!

Sing those blues.

I'd keep this in my house and use it.
Too bad it was 25,000yen (more than $250).


Panda phone!


Looking at junk!

I didn't buy anything, but it was a nice change of pace from the usual department stores or 109. I almost bought a kitschy set of 5 pins that were obviously older than me and super cute, but I refrained because of the 2,500yen price tag.

The cold outside is really keeping me from doing much and I'm pretty down and ragey about my job. Spring can't come soon enough!

Friday, January 13, 2012

The things you find when you're not looking for them

Ma and Pa

My hammy brother

Business in the front... in the back!

Dad when he was skinny!

My dad took this photo of my mom.
I believe he's stated it's his favorite ever.

Kula Farms, Maui

There's no place like home <3

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Things the Japanese Do: Think "silly" is a cuss word

Recently my brother has taken to chiding my mother and father for using the word "stupid." He says it's a bad word that we shouldn't use. Instead, we should substitute the word "silly" for when we'd normally opt for "stupid."

They wouldn't air it in Japan if it was "Two Silly Dogs."

As a native English speaker, I can tell you with all authority that this is perfectly fine in most situations. "Stupid" can have a very negative connotation, especially when combined with other 4-letter words. However, "silly" has no weight to it. For example, let me present two phrases:

1) You are so stupid.
2) You are so silly.

The first phrase is quite legitimate and I'm sure most native speakers have heard it before or even hurled it at someone themselves. You would be calling someone an idiot and thems is definitely fightin' words. I can almost guarantee that you will never hear the second one in any sort of serious confrontation or argument, because it is simply too fluffy. It's more of a light comment you'd make after seeing a baby animal or small child do something cute, or a phrase you could use if you were a writer for Monty Python.

In the completely logical country of Japan, this is not the case. In my personal experience, "silly" is considered a heinous taboo word that should never be uttered.

In one of my classes this past spring, a young child made a small mistake and I said, "Oh [dear child whose mother I loathe], don't be silly!" The mother later complained to my manager that I had called her child "silly." I have written about my work situation before, so I will just say that we did not come to an understanding about the word "silly" as native speakers see it. Because you know, we should disregard whatever the native speaker says about their own language in regard to how a non-native speaker misinterprets it.

My grandmother student has also said that "silly" is a terrible word to use and has warned us against using it with her granddaughter. I should really bring it up in class one day and assure her that there are far more filthy terms at a native speaker's disposal when dealing with children. I did successfully teach her the term "brat" and she even used it in class to describe said granddaughter.

Japanese people do have a strange affinity for the word "crazy." I realize we use this term to describe a variety of things, but it can quickly become rude when describing people. I hear a lot of, "My kid is so crazy!" "S/he is so crazy!" and they don't mean to be offensive but I know to many people it would be. Yet no one in Japan would ever talk about mental health issues or people who are actually foaming at the mouth and rambling about how their best friend Zombie Satan wears a fedora on Tuesdays, so trying to explain things like that under most circumstances would be useless.

I think I should make a list of words to use instead of "silly." If I can't use silly, perhaps "fuckwit" is a better substitution. Suggestions welcome.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

EXILE in Hawaii???

Indeed friends, it is (kind of) true.

EXILE's clothing line 24 Karats has a surf shop in Waikiki!

I've never been to the Tokyo EXILE shop or even seen any 24 Karats merchandise in person, so I didn't know what to expect walking into the store. After dining in the L'Arc cafe I knew the shop might be decked out in EXILE photos and videos; but I also know no one in America knows who they are and given the location in Waikiki it might look like a high-end surf shop.

I'd say it leaned more toward the tourist-y side, completely true to Waikiki form. The shop is reminiscent of a luxury beach house out on the North Shore or in Kahala, with white walls, wood floors and furniture, and lots of natural light coming through the windows. The one TV screen in the shop was playing surf videos and there weren't any obvious references to the EXILE brand and certainly no EXILE goods.

But there was a wall of photos, and I think I recognized a few guys.

I spy with my little eye... Takahiro, Atsushi, Tetsuya <3, Shokichi, and Matsu. My mom was looking at the wall with me and pointed to Takahiro, asking, "Who's he? He's cute!" Yeah, he's dreamy. It's the dimples (until he takes his shirt off then it's about his abs kyaaaa~).

But I like Tetsuya so I sat in the spot on the couch that he did heh heh.

I went on Christmas Eve and saw a shirt I wanted, but I went back earlier today and they didn't have them anymore! The women's clothing is generally lacking, though all the men's t-shirts are nice.

Guess I'll have to visit the Tokyo store and buy something overpriced there.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Note to 2012

Hey 2012.

Just a few things on how to be awesome. First, some general points:

1. Try not to be a dick with the natural disasters. 2011 REALLY messed that up in an epic fashion. We're still recovering from those and we don't need more to deal with.

2. Get that global economy back on track. It'd be nice.

3. America kind of sucks right now, can you make it suck less? I know 2011 kinda screwed us over with the batshit crazy GOP presidential candidates and a sitting president who's less than hopey-changey these days, but you can do better.

4. Take advantage of that whole Mayan calendar ending thing. "The world will end as we know it." That's not a terrible thing, because the world as I know it isn't full of rainbows and bunnies and Nyan cats.

5. Keep the internet memes coming.

Personal points:

1. Related to the America-sucking-less point, I need Japan to suck less as well. I'd like to live there for a while longer without wanting to gaijin smash everything.

2. 2011 gave me all these great new wonderful people in my life. Keep that up, I like having funny kids in class and people to see on the weekends.

3. My family is happy and healthy. My friends are happy and healthy. I'm happy and healthy. Keep that up.

4. 2011 was a Rabbit year and I did all right, but 2012 is a Dragon year and that's kind of frightening. Make sure it doesn't eat me alive.

5. More j-boys. Sandaime J Soul Brothers is like the best thing ever, thanks to 2011. Top that.

And just so you're not alone in this, here are some things I'm going to strive for:

1. Pass JLPT N3 and improve my Japanese all around.

2. Expand my social circle in Japan. And not at international mixers, those are terrible.

3. See, do, experience more. I want great memories and stories, not useless stuff.

Let's do it, 2012!