Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ultra Hardcore Toughguy

Yeah, sorry. No internet dragons today. Just a wind down on what will be my last Hanami while living here in Japan.

Hana means flower, and Miru is the verb 'to look', so Hanami is a time where you just go... look at the flowers. I'm sure everyone has heard of the cherry blossoms in Japan, and if you've ever watched an anime, there has invariably been 'that one scene' where the sun is setting, and sakura petals are slowly drifting by in the foreground as the heroine is getting all jiggly eyed over some guy that looks like he belongs on the cover of "Men's Egg".

Then the tentacle rape scene goes down, and the moment is broken.

What people don't usually realize, though, is that this period of time where the cherry blossoms are actually in bloom seriously lasts all of like 12 seconds. You could go run Naxx once and miss it. Okay, I'm being facetious, but there's about three days where it's in full swing, and then all of a sudden it's over. The trees go from winter mode with nothing on the branches, to pow bang full bloom, to no more flowers and just a bunch of boring leaves over the course of one work week. You'll be driving to work on Monday, and everything looks brown and whatever, then Tuesday and Wednesday are like fairy tale world, and then Thursday is like half and half, and Friday everything is just green.

People take time to get together and go spend a day just sitting under the trees to drink and chat and just unwind, but it's something that can't really be planned for until it's that day, and you gotta go today or tomorrow or wait until next year.

Japan loves to sieze on 'Japanese things', and so of course there are a billion cherry blossom trees sprinkled all over the countryside no matter where you go. They lie in wait, just looking like normal trees all year long, until they pull some ninja shit and just bust out of nowhere for two days, before vanishing again.

It really needs to be seen to be appreciated, but like I said, it isn't something you can really plan for. I mean, you can narrow it down to a week or two, but it's not like you can say 'I'm going on a three day trip to Japan next year, and I'll go when the cherry blossoms are going in full swing'.

Thinking back over my time spent here... when I first came to Japan, it was at a time in my life when I was fed up with a bunch of crap. I was kind of in a rut, mentally, and needed a fresh change of pace to shake things up in my life.

One of the things I was sick of was the general vibe you encounter when meeting people on the street in America. People either want to fuck with you, or generally think you're trying to fuck with them if you ask a random person on the street a question. You can't ask someone what time it is without their very first thought being 'what does this person want from me?' before you've even started your sentence.

That was one of the things that amazed me about Japan when I came here for a visit. People are honestly falling all over themselves to help each other out, or just chat with random people. The other day on one of the local trains to the Embassy in Tokyo, my wife and I had some printout from google maps, and were trying to figure out which station to get off at. We asked some business man, and he actually insisted on walking us there. He worked nearby (a few blocks off), but wanted to make sure we found our way, so he just came with us to the front door of the Embassy, and we chatted along the way. I don't doubt these people exist in America, but they're just ... rare ... you certainly don't come across them in Oakland or San Francisco. People there are just too busy, too shady, or just CBF to help out. I'll miss that when I head back.

I swear they vaccuum the forests here, Japan is so TIDY

I often told people when I first arrived here that I was 'coming to Japan' just as much as I was 'leaving America'. Those are two completely separate things, and people either got it or they didn't. After about 5 years here, though, it's time to go home. I'm not sad to head back to the States; I'm actually surprised it took me this long to get around to doing it. It'll be both good and bad to be able to understand all of the conversations going on around me again. It was nice to be able to just tune everyone out if I wanted to focus on something, but also frustrating at times. I don't speak Japanese as well as I know I could if I really knuckled down to study it harder.

My wife was a huge rock to lean on here, but also made it so I didn't need to study as much as I would have had she not been there to help me out every day.

my wife hiding behind my son

I really can't stress how much living abroad for this time has changed me. I grew up a lot over here, and left a bunch of crap behind in America. I've got a wife and kid now, and am taking the next step in my life, by coming back home.

I can't stress, too, how simple it actually was to do. People think it's a big thing, but it's not. I know people who have come over with their girlfriends or significant others, and people that have come alone. I know American girls that have married Japanese guys, British guys that have married Japanese girls, random Canadians, New Zealanders, Australians, and South Africans. I now have friends all over the planet. That's crazy! I know people that have come for one year, and people that have been here for over fifteen. People that came just to check it out, and people that came because the money is actually pretty good if you push yourself to do extra things outside of your given work week. One Canadian guy taught a bunch of private lessons, and another Irish guy I know is some fake minister that stands at the front of wedding ceremonies in some robe and spouts off some random English for 10 minutes and makes like 200 bucks a wedding for doing so.

Living in another country also gives you direct insight on how other people view your home country. An Australian friend of my wife's blurted out how she 'was surprised I wasn't an asshole' after meeting me, knowing that I was an American beforehand. I just laugh about it, but people honestly just expect that. By going out and proving otherwise, you can maybe open their eyes as well...?

Or you can just be Terri, and be a loud dumb cunt at every opportunity you're given, and prove Japanese people's suspicions about foreigners to be correct. She's not American, but for a lot of Japanese, being from Jamaica (or being from the moon) just lumps you together in the 'not Japanese' basket. For everything those of us tried to do right, she'd just yell and scream and undo it all in one afternoon.


Yeah, I won't be missing Terri at the weekly Friday meetings in Kamogata.


End of an era, baby. Not gone yet, but on the way out...


Darraxus said...

Congrats on coming home. What part of the states are you headed back to? I hope to visit Japan someday. It seems like an awesome place.

Rich said...

I'm originally from the Bay Area, California. I Lived in Oakland before moving to Japan. I'll be heading back out around that way to get re-established, then I'll basically go anywhere I can find work ;)

Cap'n John said...

As an Aussie who's lived in the U.S. for the past 10 years I can totally relate to this.

People tend to forget that when you go to another country, whether on a business trip for 2 days, to visit for a couple of weeks, or even stay for a year (or 5, or 10, or more) that you're not just there on business or as a tourist; you're an unofficial ambassador for your country.

That's why your Aussie friend's wife was shocked at you not being an arsehole, because so many American tourists think they're nothing but a tourist and when they visit somewhere they often (inadvertently) put their host country down.

"That Sydney Harbor Bridge ain't as big as I thought it would be. Why, we got bridges twice that big back home."

"Boy, these roads are rough! Cobblestone streets? Geez! Don't you folks realize it's the 21st Century? Haw haw!"

Don't think I'm picking on Americans. We're all guilty of it, even Aussies.

When I first came here the FIL was GM of a hotel not too far from LAX, and one fine day an Aussie businessman checked into his establishment. When the FIL saw his guest was an Australian he proudly welcomed him with a "Gooday Mate!" (For some reason Americans have trouble correctly pronouncing G'day ;)

According to the FIL the Aussie businessman looked down his nose at him and practically sneered, "Excuse me! I'm an intellectual."

One of my mates who lives here has two degrees (Biochemistry, and Business), is working on his Masters, and started his own business a year or so back, but whenever we get together it's always "G'day, mate! How's it goin'?"

Belittling someone's country, or putting someone down who's just trying to make you feel welcome makes you an arrogant snob, not an intellectual.

Darraxus said...

Oakland huh? I only live about an hour away from Oak town. I would never go there on purpose :)

My verification word was boody. LA FACE WITH AN OAKLAND BOODY.

Khatib said...

"as the heroine is getting all jiggly eyed"

Uh... yeah... jiggly eyed.... riiiight.

Khatib said...

One of the things I was sick of was the general vibe you encounter when meeting people on the street in America. People either want to fuck with you, or generally think you're trying to fuck with them if you ask a random person on the street a question. You can't ask someone what time it is without their very first thought being 'what does this person want from me?' before you've even started your sentence."

And on this one, move to the Midwest instead of back to Oakland. ;)

Especially now that you've got a wife and kid. I have a hard time seeing myself finding a wife in a small Midwestern town, but there's no place I'd rather raise my kids when I get to that point of my life.

Rich said...

Uh... yeah... jiggly eyed.... riiiight.

lol, I searched YouTube for Sailor Moon, and the very first result had it:

Jiggly Eyes, at 0:14 (only goes for a second in this clip, but you can see it)

Geoffrey said...

That's pretty nice of your wife to leave her homeland with you.

Kevin said...

Wow man, this is an awesome post. I really want that job at blizz to happen for you; you really deserve it. I wish you the best on your exodus ( return from exile?) to the united states. Maybe if you're not too busy I can rope you into an iphone game that I want to begin development on...

kangax said...

very good post ...

good luck !

Anonymous said...

Don't go to Oakland. San Jose yes.

oshin said...

Really cool post, hanami looks amazing, I`ll miss your posts about japan, I always found them really interesting. Good luck on your return

david said...

Interesting post, I enjoy your non-gaming stuff. How does your wife feel about moving? Is her english better than your japanese?

Anonymous said...

Is her english better than your japanese?


I would hope so or I don't think they would talk much

Anonymous said...

"I would hope so or I don't think they would talk much"

Not necessarily. They can both speak the international language.

Anonymous said...

"Not necessarily. They can both speak the international language."


Rich said...


but yeah, she speaks english much better than I do japanese, but we have a weird mix of language we use. Sore wa tabun 70% english, with random japanese thrown in chotto bara bara.

It's goign to take me a while to get back to not saying 'hai hai wakatta wakatta, byoukaishimasu' when someone asks me to do something, or bowing to random people on the street back home.

Khatib said...

So you're saying your conversations sound like that fricken Yatta song, where it's mostly one language with random lines inexplicably thrown in in the other language?

Geoffrey said...

As an immigrant myself, I can vouch that yes, sentences do get various words or phrases cobbled together from both languages.

It's just a matter of vocabulary. When I speak with my parents, I try as hard as I can to stick with the native tongue, because I want to keep in practice, but certain words I just can't call forth, and so I have to resort to English. That's just how it goes.