Gaijin Stories

These short stories are a collection of my experiences while living in Tokyo. I hope people wishing to learn more about Japan and gaijin in japan wishing to compare experiences will find them interesting. I also hope some Japanese people will find a gaijin's perspective interesting reading as well.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Meet Japan Lady

I wanted to link to my new blog at but it appears to be down. ????

Please go to my site at and look for my new blogs on the front page.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

13 - Cute Things

One of the most commonly spoken Japanese words in a Japanese girls vocabulary is "kawaii". It's English transalation is "cute" and means "It's cute" or "She's cute" etc.
There's no doubt that Japanese men in Japan prefer "cute girls" more than beautiful, sexy and intelligent women so Japanese ladies often compliment each other on cute things. Frills on clothes, hair curls, ribbons on high heels and so on. Japanese girls who have cute things to match their cute personalities add to their cuteness factor. Small handbags, pink robbons, small roses stuck to their mobile phones, small soft toys hanging from bags or phones etc.

The best way to complient a Japanese lady is to notice something of hers which is cute (but definitely not things like her skirt and breasts) and say "this is cute". You can even try to say it in Japanese. "Kawaii"

The pronunciation is like Hawaii with a K at the front. Make sure you start with a "ka" or "car" sound and not a "ko" sound. "Kowai" means scary.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Housewife (12)

I think native English speakers don't use the word housewife, or atleast Australian people don't. Maybe in the 60's and 70's when Skippy (the pet kangaroo) and The Brady Bunch were on tv, people often used the word but slowly the word's meaning lost its value. For my Japanese readers - I would define `PC` as the use of words which promotes a good and fair society. PC stands for `political correctness` not `personal computer`. The phrase `I'm a wife` creates an image of a lady who needs a man (her husband). Housewife, a lady who stays in the house and is dependent on a man.

Feminists in the 70s wanted all women to have more power in society. If more politicians and company presidents were female than male, they would have been very happy. If a mother's job was considered more important than an office workers job, they would have been happy too. The job of `raising children` is an important job - I agree. The word `housewife` has been replaced with words like `home-maker` and `mother`.

During my first year in Japan, I heard many Japanese people use the word `housewife` and I tried to convey my feeling about the word.
However, over the years I've learnt that
1-`mothering` IS considered an important job in Japan
2-there wasn't a need for a feminist movement
3-the kanji (the Japanese writing sytem adopted from Chinese characters) for housewife in Japanese is also like a compound word which means `inside` and `house`.
4-many young Japanese people still consider being a good mother and a good wife to be more important for females than having a career.
5-Even if I could accurately describe the modern day image of the English word `housewife` Japanese people would still think it's a suitable word to use.

In Japan, many women try to be as feminine as they can be. They compete for men, not with men.
They don't overpower men with muscle or talk, but they have a lot of control of Japanese men.
Japanese men spend more money on girls, tolerate tantrums better, and respond to their demands more than I first thought. Japanese ladies have more spending money to go shopping to buy fashion and make up. They have more free time for hobbies and meeting friends.

The pros and cons of feminism is a long debate but I definetely find it interesting living in a country which wasn't changed greatly by the feminist movement. And I wonder if that female American feminist who is trying to promote feminism in Japan is really helping Japanese women or not?
Is she helping Japanese society? or not?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Way of Human Relationships (11)

As soon as we can speak, our parents are forcing us to say `Hello` to people who we meet. As we get older, we are taught the importance of initiating conversation. `Did you say Hello to Uncle Keith?` We are taught to respond correctly. `Aunty Mary asked you a question!`
We learn that saying `please` and `thankyou` are the magic words. We learn that communicating well is a necessity for happiness and success in life.

A few days ago, I was on a crowded train and I saw a young boy start to get restless. He'd probably had a long day shopping and needed a sleep. First, he started to slide off the seat onto the floor, then he started to make strange bird noises. I imagined that most Australia mothers, not worried about other people noticing that she was trying to fix the problem`, would use a stern voice to intimidate the child. I watched the Japanese lady bend reach over to the boy and give him a very gentle pull on the arm. The boy sat up for a short while but soon slumped into a new postion. The mother leant over and whispered in the child's ear. Japanese people don't want to have to listen to or be distracted by people they don't know, especially on Tokyo. Being heard or noticed by others would worsen the problem. This time, the boy fixed his posture only a little.
I think that the boy's behaviour would have continued in the same fashion even if he were in Australia, being sternly yelled at by an Australian mother. We often hear that children imitate behaviour more than listen to advice so I guess it explains why Japanese children grow up to be respectful of those around by not being heard, seen or even noticed. I admired the mother's attitude, thinking that as that child becomes a teenager, he will be sensible and respectful of others on crowded trains just like his mother.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Homosexuality in Japan ( 10 )

As I said in my previous post ( 9 ), my experiences with Christian people led me to believe that they could not communicate about `the fun things in life` (ie gambling, sex, alcohol etc.). My Christian classmates in high school and university were not open to hearing other people's ideas and couldn't express opinions which were like experienced non-religious people's opinions. After listening to their ideas, they inevitably tried to gently push me in the direction of their church.

I didn't know it at the time but I started to think that all minority groups had to hold on to their own group's values and were brainwashed into to spreading `the word`, but I learnt that I was wrong.
Like all foreigners in a big city (New York, LA, Sydney, London etc.), I met a lot of gay people during my first few years in Tokyo. At first, I thought gay people would be like the christians I had known. Blend in well in social situations, but be closed minded to other lifestyles. Well, gay people (I shouldn't generalize but I am) are friendly and nice to all new acquaintances, and I found that they are open-minded and speak freely about `the fun things in life` and life in general. I think the conversations of gay people are often logically, and based on universal truths (rather than personal values). I usually find them intelligent, mentally stimualting and interesting to listen to - thanks to the gay people I've worked with in Tokyo.

Religion in Japan ( 9 )

I had quite a Christian upbringing. Not strict, but I learnt the Catholic ways. As a young boy I noticed that most adults liked to drink alcohol, most men liked women with low tops and big boobs, and most adults laughed at swear words. At church, I learnt that alcohol, sex and swear words (the fun things) were bad in the eyes of the church. I thought it was very noble that religious people chose to live their lives according to the values they believed would make a good society, but I wondered how they really fealt about `the fun things`.
I had the occasional classmate and friend (good but not close friends) who had been brought up in a strict Christian family. They blended in fine, but I noticed the differences when the conversation went to a deeper level. Teenage boys often talk about girls and sex but when I talked to a Christian about these subjects, I noticed they didn't have curiosity and didn't express what they liked. I came to the conclusion that their values prohibited them from being open to, and from developing their own ideas about these subjects. I value talking openly, trying to understand other people's perspectives and trying to see things as they really are. So, I felt like I wasn't talking to someone who could express their real opinions, but to someone who had been brainwashed.

I've met quit a few Japanese people who say that they are Christians. Also, wearing a Christian cross pendant is quit popular in Japan (for fashion, not for a religious statement). At first, I felt caution when I was with somebody from either of these two groups of Japanese people, but I soon realized that there was little or nothing for me to fear.
Japanese beliefs and values are instilled into Japanese children gently from birth. Japanese people consider them to be `Japanese ways`. They believe they have Japanese values because of their race, not from choosing a religion. Since they believe their values are natural and not a choice, they also believe they are not easy to change. If you hear a Japanese person use the phrases `she is a traditional Japanese` or hear me say`she is very Japanese` it means she lives according to typical Japanese values like a religion. All of the thouasands of Japanese people I've met have Japanese beliefs, superstitions and values. Some stronger than others but I'd say all are `very Japanese`. All of the dozen or so people who say they are Christian or wear a Christian cross around their neck who I've talked to have little or no strong Christian values at all. Their Japanese values are (and will always be) way too powerful to accept the true Christian beliefs.

Generally, there's a lot of pachinko, drinking and alot of casual sex in Japan, which is often worrying but indicates Japanese people are spiritually free to explore the fun things in life. On the other hand, Japanese people have their own values which foreigners struggle to understand. (I'll attempt to write about them sometime in the future.)
So to make my point clear, I think Japanese people can speak honestly about the `fun things in life` and listen to other opinions which is something I value. Even if they say they are Christian or have a Christian cross around their neck, they won't try to push Christian values at all, which I also appreciate.

PS-After dating a Japanese girl for a few months, I was shocked to hear from her that she was a Christian. This was when I started to realize that Japanese Christians were quite different to western Christians. Like most Japanese people, she thinks Japanese people don't have strong religious beliefs so Christianity had a lot of new and fresh ideas for her. Japanese values promote harmony, especially amongst religions.
(I might point out that this is the thing which I like the most about Japan)
Basically, Japanese people are open to, and often willing to adopt the ways of other religions, but adapt them so that they can also keep their traditional Japanese beliefs as well. If you're a Christian from South Carolina, a Buddhist from Tibet or a Muslim from Bhagdad, I'm sure you'll find your new Japanese friends interested in your religion and lifestyle.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Time For Fun ( 8 )

In the past, I’ve seen some of my Japanese room-mates work about 10 or 11 hours every day and not even get overtime pay. Some of them were working 6 days a week. When they finally got a day off they usually slept-in, visited friends or relatives, and caught up on their house chores for the week. Many English students work long hours through the week, then, instead of relaxing around the house and playing with the kids on their days off (or day off), they go to an English school. I admire their drive and hard work.

One of my Japanese room-mates once told me “I don’t like my company because I' m too busy to get time to think about my own life”. I like daydreaming and need time to think about my life. I don't think I could live without it.

Like people everywhere, it’s difficult to quit a secure job and go into the unknown, but more so in Japan. Japanese companies reward long-term workers (who don’t make waves) with seniority, and reward seniority with money, freedom and authority. Japanese people (especially Japanese men) realize that it’s better not to job-hop and keep starting at the bottom. It’s better to `fight on` to secure a better future.

My room-mate finally quit her job. It got to the point where she was crying (usually to her boyfriend) at least once a day and heading for a breakdown. She got a new job which paid less but didn’t have forced overtime. She was much happier. A few years after marrying her boyfriend, she fell pregnant. One of the first things she thught about was enrolling her baby into her preferred pre-school. Her child’s acceptance was automatic after registering but I've heard that some of the elite pre-schools even have entry exams.

Most elementary schools, junior high schools, high schools, universities and companies have entrance examinations. In Japan, scoring well in exams will ensure a good future. This is clear to both parents and children so children end up spending most of their free time going to juku or studying in their rooms.
Japanese people often say Ganbarimasu which promises “I will do my best”. Doing one’s best is highly valued in Japan and rewarded by parents, teachers and companies. It seems `Fun` is further down the list.
Recently, more and more young people are choosing unusual haircuts, part-time jobs with no responsibilities and speaking out against authority. Most Japanese look down on these young people. I think they are strong. They are choosing not to work like an ant their whole life. They are choosing to enjoy being lazy sometimes, daydream about their lives, and most importantly have fun. They are changing Japanese society.
More and more young Japanese people are looking for work without forced overtime. More an more are starting to think about escaping from their stressful work positions.

Big companies in Japan are losing their power to control their employee’s lives. I'm aware that the security of lifetime employment etc. is also fading, but it's a trade off.
How important is job security if you don't get time to even think about your own life?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Drinking With Coworkers ( 7 )

When I was growing up, I learnt that girls generally preferred guys about 10 centimeters taller than themselves. I also learnt that guys (including me) preferred girls who were shorter than us, likewise, about 10 centimeters shorter. In primary school, I was short and lightly built. I was thankful that there were always 2 or 3 boys in my classes shorter than me.
Most girls were as short as, or a little shorter than me. From 12-14 years old, all the girls grew breasts and put on weight around their hips. Most of them became heavier (and posssibly stronger) than me. There were only a few girls who were atleast 10cm shorter than me. I liked those girls and thought they were cute, but they were also popular amongst the boys. Ofcourse there are a lot of other important qualities besides height and weight but I wished I was 6 feet tall so that there were more short girls. From all the girls I've dated none have been taller than me, (I guess they think I'm too short) and none have been more than 10 centimeters shorter (They always seem too popular amongst the boys).
Coming to Japan turned me into a taller than average male. Suddenly, there were 10 times as many short and cute girls and chances to date them. During my first few months in Japan, I made several female friends, all of them less than 50kgs and shorter than 160cms. I met each of them about twice a month for lunch or for dinner. I learnt some Japanese language and different things about Japan from each of them.
After a few months I found the friendships had developed and the possibility of dating one of the girls became bigger and bigger, but which one? One day, I had the chance to meet a girl who I really liked but I had a plan to meet another good friend. I was undecided as to whether to stay withmy original plan or to cancel my plans and meet the other female friend.
I told her that my workmates were having a party and I was thinking about going. She told me that it was my responsibility to go and socialize with my coworkers. `Your job and your company is important and going drinking with coworkers is an important part of that.` Anyway, I was able to cancel and change my plans much easier than I'd expected.
Japanese people often drink with their coworkers, and many have a responsibility to go whether they want to or not. Koibitos and spouses never join them but understand the importance. It shows loyalty to the company and builds a team spirit with other workers.
I enjoy drinking with my coworkers and, because I’m gaijin, I enjoy being able to say no to them and go home.
Once or twice I've wanted to go out drinking with a female friend or some girl chasing buddies and I knew my girlfriend (at the time) wouldn't like it. I used the sentenee `I'm going drinking with coworkers` and I met no resistance at all. If I were in a different country or used different words I'd probably end up having to explain all the details of my night to my girlfriend and possibly find myself in an argument about a boyfriend's responsibilities.