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Dear Gaijin Girl,
I really really want to learn Japanese. How do I do that?
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,
Dear Gaijin Girl.
Everyone keeps asking me what I'm doing for Golden week?
Golden week, what's that?
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.)
Ask Gaijin Girl: Brilliant Advice From a Bitter Woman Always Ready to Help you With Your Life and Relationships Because She Never Has One
Dear Gaijin Girl,
I’ve bee invited to my coworker’s Wedding in Tokyo. What should I expect?
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.
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,
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.
Dear Gaijin Girl,
I’m 16 years old, live in Iowa and want to learn Japanese. What’s the best way to do that?
Dear sweet Lori, I know exactly how you feel. You see a Kurosawa, an Itami film or some anime and are blown away by how exotic and mysterious the people and culture seem to be. Whenever people make a list of all the places they’ve visited on their website or in conversation, Japan is always mentioned last because it is culturally and technologically the closest you can get to the moon. Hell, you could have gone to the moon and set up a self sustaining colony there and people would still say, “Really? You’ve been to Japan? That’s fascinating!”
Let me save you hours upon hours spent scribbling thousands upon thousands of angled pretzels into little green boxes or conjugating infixes. Don’t bother learning Japanese, nobody is saying anything interesting.
I studied Japanese for three years in high school, four years in university (it was my major.) before coming to Japan to find out no one is debating the meaning of life or how many reincarnations it takes to reach enlightenment. They’re talking about how much cuter their rhinestone Hello Kitty smartphone case is compared to the “old” one they bought two months ago. (and that’s just the men)
One of my Japanese language classmates translated a book and some letters written in pre-Word War II Japanese into English. Because of this, he won an award and got to meet the emperor and empress. (He said they were nice and cordial enough but that their heads were so disproportionately large compared to their tiny little bodies that they looked like bobble-heads on a dashboard.) The night before he flew back to America we took him out for a drink that turned into several. Then this man who I looked up to and whose Japanese ability I absolutely envied said, “Why the hell did I study Japanese! Where can I go? Where will this take me other than Japan?! I should have studied Spanish or French, I’d be able to travel around Africa independently if I spoke French! Where the hell can I go with Japanese?! “ At this point, a Japanese friend and classmate raised a glass proposing a toast in his nonnative English, “May you never remember your time here forever!” “Here, here!” said my my award winning classmate as glasses clinked. Last I heard, he became a best-selling science fiction writer. I have no idea if he translates his books into Japanese himself, but somehow I doubt it.
By the way, just so you know, many Japanese people don’t want you to learn Japanese. It’s much more charming and romantic if you don’t. One summer, I went to the ocean. A twenty-something woman and her two friends approached me in the water.
“Where are you from?” she asked in Japanese.
“From the States. “ I answered.
“Cool, here, you can use my inner tube. Do you like Japan?”
“Sure, it’s great.”
“Your Japanese is pretty good. How long have you been here?
“Thanks, I’ve been here twelve years.”
“Ugh! Give me back my inner tube. You’re not any fun. You know too much about us!” she said as she took back her flotation device and swam in the direction of Westerners with tattoos on their forearms. Fat chance they’d been in Japan longer than a week unless they loved wearing long-sleeved shirts year round.
If I still haven’t deterred you from studying Japanese even after I tell you that unless you live in California, Hawaii, are Asian or work as a translator for a Midwestern soybean farm, people are going to assume you are pretentious and loaded since you have the time to study such a seemingly superfluous language. I recommend you have a “Japanese and…” plan. You can only learn a language effectively if you have something to talk about so pick some skills you can master, get paid for and then talk about. Do you like Japanese manga or anime? Learn how to draw and research the words and phrases that come up during rape. Do you like politics? Practice throwing people under the bus and then become proficient at avoiding direct questions about it. Maybe one day, you’ll be the American ambassador to Japan and when a dispute over whether Japan, Korea or China owns a particular island, as well as, the natural resources under it, you can bust out a pair the binoculars on the first bullet train to Kyoto and say,”My, what beautiful temples you have here!”
My advice? Learn how to code.
Dear Gaijin Girl,
My American husband and I are going to have a baby in ten months. I want to quit my job to be a full time mom. My husband wants me to go back to work soon after the baby is born. I’m confused. I thought he was supposed to take care of me? What should I do?
First of all, congratulations on bearing the fruit of unprotected sex, as well as, not having anywhere near enough communication on what you or your husband expects, needs and/or wants out of marriage ahead of time. You are going down a path so bilingually beaten you’re actually standing in a queue.
I have some news for you, Yuri. You’re going to be a full time mother whether you quit your job or not. That baby is going to take up more time, energy and money than you ever knew was possible. It appears that your husband is aware of this though he may not be aware that your office is expecting you to quit because it’s easier (and cheaper) for them to throw a farewell party and buy you a bouquet of flowers than grant maternity leave or offer flexible working hours. Japanese companies and medical institutions have a long way to go when it comes to women in the workplace/modern world . (After examining me, my male Japanese gynecologist while still looking at my who-ha, slaps me on the inner thigh shouting, “Good girl!”)
By the way, don’t tell Westerners when you’re 9 and 1/2 weeks pregnant that you’re 9 1/2 weeks pregnant. You’ll scare the shit out of them. They don’t know that you count from the last period instead of the last missed phantom period you were “supposed to have”. It sounds somewhat superhuman, like you are going to give birth to an action hero whose only weakness will be math.
I hate to be the one to break it to you, Yuri but ain’t nobody going to take care of you except you. Don’t misunderstand, I am not telling you to simply look out for #1 nor am I telling you to help your husband look out for #1. I am saying, “Welcome to world of readjusted life expectations!” You might want to take notes with an erasable pen.
Hopefully, you two will learn to look out for, live for and take care of each other. I’m not exactly sure how that works as I am never in a relationship due to my zero tolerance to bullshit. However, as far as I can gather from the 3% of healthy couples around me, this is a learned skill that develops over time through earnest trial and error, as well as, honest and consistent communication. Yuck! I know, it sounds hard and not anywhere near as sexy as the muddled montage of dubbed Beverly Hills 90210, Little House on the Prairie and Full House episodes that has been playing in your head since elementary school subconsciously shaping your international marriage expectations and priming you for epic disappointment. I suggest watching reruns of Roseanne, Married With Children, Raising Arizona and old family movies of my uncle at dinner desperately trying not to laugh while near deaf Grandpa hocks an epic and deep-seeded loogie a foot away from the table before announcing to all that I, his granddaughter, was not a picky eater as a baby, in fact, I “never did let go of that tit.” These are not accurate depictions of what family life should be like either but they will make you feel better about your current situation.
Good luck Momma, you are going to need it,
Dear Gaijin Girl, Why won’t my foreign boyfriend learn Japanese? I’m tired of translating for him all the time. Set to spat, Akiko
Dear Akiko, I hear you. There is something emasculating about a man not being able to decipher a McDonald’s menu on his own, let alone all the apologies now hanging in that fine dining establishment promising diners they will no longer find strips of leather in their chicken nuggets nor will their children cut their mouths on ice cream machinery parts that somehow made their way into sundaes. (If he could, he wouldn’t be eating there or currently choking on a piece of leather while nursing a Joker worthy cut on the inside of his mouth.)
I’m assuming your husband is a native English speaker. If your husband spoke native French, Spanish or Italian, you wouldn’t be writing me, you’d be far too busy enjoying comparatively mind blowing sex. Let’s be honest, one of the reasons you were attracted to him in the first place was because he spoke a language exotic and yet oh so familiar to you since the third grade when the English alphabet and pesky letters like b, d, v, r and l were forced upon you. These letters tormented and taunted you to unleash your tongue from the confines of your teeth, bite your lower lip and even cause said lip to vibrate (Gasp!) You couldn’t escape the feeling that you were doing something naughty like Kate Winslet being taught to hock a loogie by Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. And just like with the movie Titanic, you couldn’t wait for the ridiculous English lesson to end.
English has always been a challenge and therefore has always been attractive. This is one reason why Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Keanu Reeves will always be popular in Japan. In any given action movie they are in, their characters have a vocabulary of 50 words max. With dialog like, “Go now!” “Trust me!” and “Shit!” the brains of Japanese theater goers light up with recognition and a feeling that 6 years of intensive English study in junior high and high school weren’t a complete waste of time after all. The other reason is Japan has the oldest population in the world and its senior citizens have the time plus the discount to spend hours upon hours in movie theaters . They want to watch movies that tell them they could still be spies, agents and freedom fighters that have tongue tussles with girls young enough to be their grandchildren if they just ditched the walker.
Let me warn you. If your boyfriend does start to learn to speak Japanese, it won’t be pretty. Actually it will, it will be pretty disappointing because he is probably going to sound a lot like you as he is going to listen to you the most (You’re the one that’s been harping on him to learn the language) and because Japanese has a distinct feminine and masculine ways of speaking. He probably isn’t aware how different the speaking styles are. The only way I could see this working out well is if you are Victoria Beckham and your boyfriend is David Beckham. You also need to ask yourself this question, “Do I really want my pillow talk to include Japanese grammar?” Since English grammar already takes up a majority of your pillow talk, you’ll burn out and finally discover (much faster than you would otherwise) that you two have nothing to talk about because you have nothing in common other than being incredibly horny.
Encouraging him to learn how to write Japanese may cause a similarly unsexy situation as your LDK will be littered with green, flowery and half finished kanji workbooks you haven’t seen since elementary school. You’re boyfriend will treat you even more like a walking google translation app than he does now, as he asks you what some obscure kanji means on the back of his box of condoms. (Of course the obscure kanji in question means “small” but you are not going to be the one to tell him that. ) He will try to impress you with the newfound knowledge that a kanji character depicting one woman in a house means “ a wife” while three equals “a cacophony” and then needle you, the native Japanese speaker, for not being able to write the kanji for “soy sauce” if your life depended on it.
I’d encourage your boyfriend to learn to do something a bit sexier than speak or read Japanese. For example, encourage him to get a job. If you think your boyfriend has enough time to learn Japanese, he’s obviously got way too much time on his hands. Good Luck, Gaijin Girl
Always Ready To Give You Advice On Life And Relationships Because She Never Has One Dear Gaijin Girl, When I was dating my American husband two years ago, he said he would move back to the States and take me with him. Now he says that he never wants to go back but I want to live in America. What should I do? Troubled in Tokyo, Megumi
Dear Megumi, I can see where you are coming from, but have you been watching the news lately or ever? If you haven’t, let me fill you in on a tinny tiny development, America has done lost its mind. If you see a restaurant advertisement in the States proclaiming the food will “blow your tastebuds away” it’s because the chef can’t handle criticism, can’t afford his meds and carries a concealed semiautomatic gun at all times. And unless you plan on living in New York City or downtown Chicago, you are going to have to buy a car. Buying and maintaining a car in America is like having a financial caesarian every five to ten years: It’s ridiculously expensive and there is always the possibility you might die in it. ( Because somebody shot you.) Oh, and if you move to America, you won’t be able to save a seat at Starbucks by placing your brand new iPhone 6 on the table anymore because people STEAL SHIT there. In Japan, people aren’t robbed so much as we are collectively screwed over blind and we take comfort in the knowledge that everyone is screwed over together, keeping the paramount virtue of harmony perversely in tact. Oh yeah, and being screwed over in Japan doesn’t involve getting shot. That’s a lovely thing about Japan. If someone doesn’t like you, they don’t shoot you. They just make your life so miserable that you want to kill yourself. Anyway, it is easy to project our hopes and dreams onto a country that we’ve never lived in but think we know a lot about. I’m guilty of that myself. I thought I’d move to Japan, meet a nice man and be embraced by his family. Instead, well, let’s just say that did NOT happen and I’m kind of glad my Japanese isn’t good enough to understand every single racist and sexist slur hurled my way. One day on a Tokyo train, what looked like a 6 year-old boy told his father he thought I had pretty hair. The father turned to his son and said, “Don’t you ever bring a white woman home!” before going off on a tirade on how a woman like me would walk all over him, take all his money and leave him with nothing!” When he finished, I walked up to them, look at the little boy in the eyes and said in Japanese, “Listen to your father. Do exactly what he says. He knows what he’s talking about.” and got off the train. I wasn’t upset, I was too flattered that I was skinny or even remotely pretty enough to remind him of the Russian hostess that stole his money. I think you need to evaluate your relationship. Did you marry your husband because he looked like your love handled green card to America or did you want to build a life with him wherever you may be? If you REALLY want to live in America, you don’t have to marry or be married to an American to do it. You can figure something out. One more thing, if you decide to leave your husband and go to America on your own, don’t date a drug dealer, and don’t let them keep drugs in your house/apartment. I know too many Japanese women who got mixed up with drug dealers and ended up in American jail for two years before being deported back to Japan. (And by too many, I mean one.) Life is not a movie or a music video. (That said, her English got really, really good as did her Spanish but don’t you finish this letter thinking American jail is the new Rosetta Stone.) Good Luck, Gaijin Girl
I've spent more time in the U.S. in the past year than I've done in the past ten years combined. Things have changed. Nowhere is this change more prevalent than when going through immigration.
When Bush was president, walking from the airplane into immigration had a high security prison/dead man walking feel to it. Each visit, I walked down stark hospital white halls where I was greeted by Bush's smirking portrait hung above the immigration entrance.
"Welcome to America, Heh, heh, heh...Just kidding." he seemed to say.
The immigration officers sniffed at my living abroad without being in the military or the ministry. Why would you live abroad when America is the best country on earth? Surely the only reason to travel is to see how lucky you are to be born American compared to those poor unlucky bastards everywhere else.
Immigration officer, "You live in Japan?" Me, " Yes." "Why?" "I like job security and health care." The immigration officer's face relaxed, "I hear that." STAMP "Next!"
Since Obama became president, the snickering presidential portrait has disappeared and plasma flat screens showing people of color and women in burkas, eyes twinkling as they wave us in, "Come on in, the country's fine!" they seem to say.
This past visit, the immigration officer glances at my passport and speaks to me in a thick Mexican accent. "Welcome Home!" And for the first time in a long time, I felt at home.