Media in Japan can be very self-aggrandizing, intentional or not--one should probably refer to the decades of Japanese isolation rather than a conservative nationalistic movement. Education and media often compare Japan to other countries, which is very good for students, but comparisons can be biased or outdated. For example, a "Secrets of Toilets" book at schools compares high-tech Japanese bidet toilets to Chinese holes in the ground.
Americans love to talk about how exciting, beautiful, or fun their experiences were in foreign countries. Many people especially love to talk about those experiences with natives of the visited country.
Japanese people are no different. Sometimes they tell me how beautiful San Francisco is or how wonderful Vancouver is. They really, really also love to tell me how trains are never on time, how dangerous it is to live in the US, and how fat Americans are.
At times, foreigners can get an unintended feeling that Japanese are shocked a foreign country could have done something so wonderful. And it is very important for some teachers to promote Japanese ideas in comparisons, subtly forcing children to repeat these ideas (one example being "These are Korean, American, French, and Japanese breakfasts; which one is the lowest calorie and healthiest?"). No wonder Japanese have very little interest in experiencing foreign worlds!
Note: kimoi is short for kimochi warui, meaning bad feeling, or gross.
Sometimes I ask children about their parents to get to know them. Most of them say things like "my dad is as tall as you" or "I don't know how old my mom is." One time, I asked a 2nd grader about his mom, and he said, "she's really kimoi." The other kids around him and I were very surprised, and naturally, we asked him why. He explained, "she likes to pull down my pants and bite my butt."That's really cute, isn't it?
Japanese people, like us Americans, like to name things after popular figures. "One of [the students], Naruto, is named after the popular anime character."
I recently made a friend called Taiwa (大和), which is also read as Yamato, the same as the most famous battleship of the Japanese fleet in WW2. When he was in school, one of his classmates was Musashi (武蔵), named for the second most famous battleship, the sister ship of the Yamato--which was sunk a year before the Yamato was sunk.
Apparently, one time, Taiwa and Musashi collided at school--the nurse said both were fine, and sent them back to class--and the boy that turned out to have broken his collarbone was Musashi, thus validating the known fact that the Yamato was stronger than the Musashi.
Sometimes it's dangerous to play with kids, since they like to mime actions. Once, I was at a bowling party, and this cute little boy was drinking a soda. He had slurped up a lot of soda, so that his mouth was bulging. I pretended that my cheeks were bulging like his, and lightly slapped my cheeks with both hands. A moment later, he did the same. He wasn't the one to get wet.
Japanese people have a hard time believing things that are new to them, and it's true for both adults and children. When I tell them that students in the US can actually be held back for poor performance and be forced to repeat a grade, they all say, "maji?!" And kids never believe me when they come looking for someone and I say, "Oh, I ate him. He was delicious."
Note: maji, or majide, comes from the base majime, which means serious.
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Hideyoshi and Nene (Kyoto, 2010)
Posted Jun 17, 2013, 2:49 PM by George Liu
１００円 Junk (Akihabara, 2009)
Posted Jun 17, 2013, 2:46 PM by George Liu
Ronald in Japan (Tatebayashi, 2009)
Posted Jun 17, 2013, 2:47 PM by George Liu
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