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This Shouldn’t Be A Workplace Hazard

, , , , | Right | May 18, 2022

I see a sign inside a Tokyo restaurant:

Sign: “Do not touch our waitresses, ask for their contact information, or wait for them outside. This restaurant will not be responsible for any injuries happening to anyone who ignores this warning.”

Duly noted, yikes!

This Defeat Is Humiliating But Adorable

, , , , , , | Friendly | November 9, 2021

This was in the early 2000s when arcade games were still popular. I was touring in Japan and decided to stop into a large arcade. With this arcade, you had the option of paying money up front and having the credits added to a card as opposed to the old-fashioned method of stacking coins on the machine as you played. With each play, you simply swiped the card over a reader and it would add another credit for you to play.

I came upon the wildly popular Street Fighter game and noticed there were two of the same arcade cabinets positioned back to back, facing away from each other. A Japanese girl who looked to be between six and eight years old was kneeling on a chair and playing away at one of them. I took the game opposite from her, swiped my card, cracked my knuckles, and got ready to throw down.

I got practically MASSACRED to a point where it was nearly humiliating, considering the fact that I was usually untouchable at this game. I wondered out loud:

Me: “Do the Japanese put the difficulty level at nightmare level for their games? God Almighty!”

Ego got the better of me, and I swiped that card for game after game, determined that I wasn’t walking away until I could beat that thing. And game after game, I got absolutely demolished. My sister who was touring with me strolled past.

Sister: “Why do you look so pissed?”

Me: “The AI in this game is insane! Nothing like the version in America! It’s like it’s practically predicting my every move and has a counterattack for it. I can’t touch it!”

Finally, I ended up running out of money on my card, and I slammed my fist on the game cabinet, yelled a string of profanity, and began the loser’s walk of shame to the exit. As I was walking away, the little Japanese girl I mentioned stuck her tongue out at me. A small group of children who had since congregated around her began laughing.

That was when it occurred to me: all this time, I wasn’t playing against the arcade CPU. IT WAS HER! It was the first time in my life I’d ever had the urge to smack a kid!

I went back about two other times, and each time, when I was playing some other game, I would feel someone tap me on the waist and I would turn to see that little girl smiling sweetly at me, waggling her little fingers, and then pulling up a chair and swiping her card over the credit reader, ready to completely decimate me at whatever I was playing. And that she did without fail, while always gesturing for me to swipe my card so she could murder me again. And again. And again…

Say Sayonara To The Screamers

, , , , , , , | Right | December 25, 2020

My family has just enjoyed a fun Christmas trip to Japan, the final leg of which was in the northern part of the country, Sapporo. The original plan was to fly from Sapporo to Haneda and then catch a connecting flight there back home.

However, this goes a little awry; during our stay, Sapporo gets hit with a historic amount of snow, which has impeded travel. Our flight does eventually get off the ground, but with a delay of two hours, we’re not confident we’re going to make our connecting flight.

Despite our best efforts, we do miss the cutoff for boarding. Another couple who were trying to make the same flight are there, as well, and we’re all understandably disappointed and frustrated with the circumstances.

We all trudge back to ticketing to see what can be done, and here’s where things go really sideways. The young woman of the other couple immediately raises her voice at the ticket agents, saying how unacceptable this is and that they need to be on that flight, and what are they going to do about it?

Of course, we’re in Tokyo still, and these poor gate agents don’t speak perfect English, which is only frustrating the young woman further. Soon, she’s yelling for a manager. She looks to us as though we’re going to back her up, but my brother simply says it’s frankly more likely that their manager speaks even less English than the gate agents, and it doesn’t change that we missed the flight, which was honestly no one’s fault. She huffs and then proceeds to ignore us and continue her tirade.

At this point, another gate agent opens, and we go to speak with her. We explain the situation and ask if there are any other possible flights or routes that might get us home within roughly the same time frame, and if there aren’t, it’s not a huge deal; we can spend the night if need be. The agent is incredibly apologetic, which we gently brush off; it really wasn’t their fault! Even though we aren’t communicating perfectly, we are able to figure out a new route with her that will have us make one more stop but get us home only a few hours later than expected.

We thank her profusely and start to head out with our new tickets, but she calls us back. The other couple is still fighting with the other agents and their manager — who, as expected, doesn’t speak as much English as the customer-facing gate agents — and our agent quietly thanks us for being so calm. She sends us along with passes for one of the nicer lounges where we can grab a shower, free drinks, and a bite to eat while we wait.

We joke around now that the couple is probably still there, uncomfortable and yelling. Truly, just being understanding and kind where you can greases a lot of wheels!

Well, First, I Plug In My PlayStation…

, , , , , , | Learning | July 12, 2020

I’m an American who lives in Tokyo teaching English. I’m just finishing up a forty-minute lesson with two intermediate-level students: a middle-aged man and a young woman. I always use the last minutes to ask if the students have any questions about anything since this is usually their only time to interact with a non-Japanese person.

Me: “Okay, guys, before we finish, do you have any questions about anything? About the lesson? About America? About me?”

Male Student: “Do you like Japanese girls?”

This is a really common question asked by male students to male teachers.

Me: “Um, no. Actually, I like Japanese guys. I’m gay.”

Male Student: “Oh.”

The conversation goes silent. I’m pretty open about that fact and students are always very nice about it, but it usually is a conversation stopper.

Me: “Okay, so, no more questions?”

Male Student: “How do you, um…”

The student pauses for a moment, obviously struggling to find the right words.

Male Student: “How do you, um… play in the nighttime?”

I’m completely taken aback by his question and try to think of something to say, but before I can, the female student speaks up.

Female Student: “Hey, hey, I don’t want to hear this. Please ask him after the lesson!”

Giajin-People Problems

, , , , , | Friendly | May 5, 2019

I had the opportunity to study abroad in Japan while I was in college. During our orientation week, one of the staff volunteers mentioned that those of us who were taller might get some extra attention, but not to worry about it. I didn’t think much about it, because I’m average height by Japanese standards, until random events like the ones below started happening to the taller students in the group:

1) While visiting a Japanese onsen — public bathhouse — my friend, who was at least 5’10”, had just removed her robe and was about to step into the water — we’re both women, so we were on the women’s side of the onsen — when a tiny, elderly Japanese lady popped out of the water and hustled over to us, completely naked. I thought, at first, that maybe we had forgotten to do one of the pre-bathing steps and she was warning us, but when she reached us she stretched up as far as she could and patted the air somewhere around my friend’s shoulder.

“Takai!” she said, which means “big/tall.” She giggled, and then quickly hopped back into the onsen where her friends were all cracking up.

2) Another friend of mine in the group, a man, was over six feet tall, and had long hair down to his shoulders. One day, we were waiting for a crosswalk sign to change when a group of Japanese middle-school-aged girls ran up to me, asking if they could take a picture with him. I said they’d have to ask him, and he was usually a good sport about that kind of thing, so I ended up with five phones and cameras shoved into my hands to take pictures of them with my friend. I don’t know if they thought he was a celebrity or were just excited to take a picture with a tall foreigner, but they were so happy.

3) When the same male friend was going through the airport on a flight from Japan to Korea, he got pulled over to the bag inspection table, but when the customs agents pulled out a pair of his shoes they forgot about the check and instead spent a few minutes talking about how big his shoes were! That was it; they didn’t pull anything else out of the bag.

Overall, there were never any negative encounters for my taller friends, except for maybe not fitting comfortably in some spaces, and house slippers never fitting.


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