PDA

View Full Version : Going to Japan - when?


Makkara
06-07-2007, 07:26 AM
Yeah, so I've been admiring Japan from afar for a while, and I figure it's probably time for us to meet in person and see how we get along. Since the airfare would make up a significant portion of the cost, the most reasonable course of action seems to be to rent a room at Sakura House (http://www.sakura-house.com/) or equivalent, and stay a whole month. What I'm trying to figure out is which month is best.

The two main candidates are May, right after Golden Week, or October. It seems wise to avoid the clammy summer, and I get enough of winter in the frigid tundra that is my home. I know at least a few of the fine folk here at Talking Time have been to Japan, and I was hoping for some advice. So, when is the nicest time to visit T˘ky˘ (and the surrounding Kant˘ region, to which I'll probably be making a few excursions)?

Excitemike
06-07-2007, 07:52 AM
I would also like to hear some advice. We are planning a trip for (I think) winter of 2008. I'd like to hit the Comic Market and do the traditional touristy stuff like go see temples. We're going to try to get as large a group as possible to go and cram into tiny hotel rooms, although that Sakura house sounds like a good option as well.

djSyndrome
06-07-2007, 08:50 AM
Makkuro: we've been putting off a trip for a few years now in favor of getting the child-having out of the way, but we've narrowed it down to the same two times you're is looking at, mostly because of the awful weather the rest of the year.

I've gone to Tokyo during July/August and the humidity is comparable to Florida or some parts of the Eastern seaboard, but because you're doing so much walking the effect on your body seems to be amplified. There are beverage machines on every street corner for a reason, but a distinct lack of rubbish bins to dump the empties in, so come prepared.

We stayed at the Asia Center of Japan before it was remodeled, and it was nice enough - locked rooms, Western and Japanese-style bathrooms (your pick), and located in a quiet part of Minato-ku. I can't imagine staying there for a whole month, though - the cost would be outrageous.

Jakanden
06-07-2007, 09:05 AM
I will likely be going again at the end of this year. Haven't nailed down a date though.

Makkara
06-07-2007, 09:24 AM
We stayed at the Asia Center of Japan before it was remodeled, and it was nice enough - locked rooms, Western and Japanese-style bathrooms (your pick), and located in a quiet part of Minato-ku. I can't imagine staying there for a whole month, though - the cost would be outrageous.

That's why I'm looking at Sakura House. The rooms are generally tiny, and you'll probably have to live with a shared kitchen, bathroom and shower, but you can spend a month for less than 80 000 Yen. Spend a bit over 100 000 Yen, and you can get a private, furnished apartment, even.

Excitemike
06-07-2007, 09:27 AM
Hell, that's cheap compared with the rents where I live. We had a lot more room than those places, but our last apartment was $1250 a month.

djSyndrome
06-07-2007, 09:34 AM
Makkuro, how is 10万 for you right now in regards to exchange rates? The Yen is running about 120 to the dollar, so for us it would be just over $825 US - an absolute steal for a month's worth of private living in a major city.

Torgo
06-07-2007, 09:39 AM
Yeah, those Sakura House rates are shockingly affordable. That's cheap compared to where I'm moving to.

But yeah, Japan. Let me tell you that I'd love to go, but more then the language barrier, more then money, my lack of anyone to actually go with is the biggest problem. While the idea of tackling the Land of the Rising Sun alone sounds thrilling, the reality is that it's profoundly stupid. (At least I would assume. I've never traveled abroad.)

So uh, yeah. Maybe one of these days. Seeing those apartment and room rates makes me excited about the idea though, since it now appears to be a whole lot more affordable then I would've thought.

alexb
06-07-2007, 10:17 AM
Wow. A lot of us have this little dream, don't we? I've been thinking about a trip in a couple of years, myself. (This is one of the reasons I'm stumbling toward learning the language.) I know it's a weak thing to say for someone who claims they want to travel, but those of you who've already been, can you tell me just how bad the xenophobia is? Though, can you really blame me for being afraid I'll be unwelcome abroad these days?

djSyndrome
06-07-2007, 10:20 AM
but those of you who've already been, can you tell me just how bad the xenophobia is?

It almost entirely depends on what you look like (i.e., the color of your skin).

alexb
06-07-2007, 10:39 AM
I'm a honky. Is that good in this instance?

djSyndrome
06-07-2007, 10:47 AM
I'm a honky. Is that good in this instance?

That is excellent. Bonus points if you're tall, thin and have blonde hair.

I'm not making this shit up. At Narita Airport, there were two customs lines for arrivals: one for Americans and Europeans, and another for everyone else. Guess which line got through hassle-free?

Jakanden
06-07-2007, 11:01 AM
That is excellent. Bonus points if you're tall, thin and have blonde hair.

I'm not making this shit up. At Narita Airport, there were two customs lines for arrivals: one for Americans and Europeans, and another for everyone else. Guess which line got through hassle-free?

I don't remember the customs line bit, but I can confirm that the Japanese love white people and when you get talking with them, they love to ask questions. From my experience, they tend to have broad sterotypical views of us though (Every American owns a gun and stuff like that).

I was only there for a week and this was a couple of years ago, but I am eagerly looking forward to going back.

Tomm Guycot
06-07-2007, 11:06 AM
DO NOT GO IN THE SUMMER OR EARLY FALL WHAT ARE YOU INSANE!?

Unless you live in Georgia, the humidity of Japan will shock and incapacitate you.

Also, I'd recommend going for significantly shorter a time period than one month. If you're there for 4 weeks you'll have just enough time to start seeing the "bad" of Japan, and your opinion of it will be severely flawed (see also: go ask Shivam about it)

If you want to leave LOVING Japan, your trip should not exceed 2 weeks.

shivam
06-07-2007, 11:12 AM
fuck japan.

that said, if you're dead set on going to one of the most racist, passive-aggressive, stuck up, arrogant, expensive as hell nations, i encourage you to go in the early spring time, around april or may. It is absolutely beautiful then, and all the temple grounds are especially gorgeous. hell, even the tail end of winter.

summer and fall is totally not worth it, because there are like two days between OMFG HUMIDITY and OMFG FREEZING MY BALLS OFF.

Jakanden
06-07-2007, 11:16 AM
I guess I am glad I was only there for a week then :)

alexb
06-07-2007, 11:24 AM
That is excellent. Bonus points if you're tall, thin and have blonde hair.

I'm not making this shit up. At Narita Airport, there were two customs lines for arrivals: one for Americans and Europeans, and another for everyone else. Guess which line got through hassle-free?
Nope, nope, and not really. Does that mean I have to go in the non-honky line?

TheSL
06-07-2007, 11:46 AM
summer and fall is totally not worth it, because there are like two days between OMFG HUMIDITY and OMFG FREEZING MY BALLS OFF.

Sounds like Kansas weather.

Makkara
06-07-2007, 12:12 PM
Makkuro, how is 10万 for you right now in regards to exchange rates? The Yen is running about 120 to the dollar, so for us it would be just over $825 US - an absolute steal for a month's worth of private living in a major city.

The rent for my one room apartment is roughly 50 000 Yen. It's about four or five times the size of what you'll get at Sakura, but then I live in a mining town at the northern frontier of civilization, rather than the center of the world's largest metropolitan area. So yeah, it's very affordable.


Also, I'd recommend going for significantly shorter a time period than one month. If you're there for 4 weeks you'll have just enough time to start seeing the "bad" of Japan, and your opinion of it will be severely flawed (see also: go ask Shivam about it)

If you want to leave LOVING Japan, your trip should not exceed 2 weeks.

I actually do kind of want to see the bad sides too. I've had this sort of fascination for Japan (weeabooism you might call it, if you want to hurt my feelings) since before my teens, so I want to experience something close to Japanese day to day life. Of course, instead of working insane hours, I'll be relaxing in Yoyogi park or browsing scary geek paraphernalia in Akihabara.

estragon
06-07-2007, 12:18 PM
If you want to leave LOVING Japan, your trip should not exceed 2 weeks.

fuck japan.

On the other hand, I lived there for a year and am planning to go back again for a couple more this Fall. I left loving Japan, and I'm excited to return. I found it way easier to make friends with people there, and I could definitely see myself living there permanently if I'm able to find a job that allows for me to do so.

I don't know what the deal is with calling them "arrogant" and whatever, but they're definitely no worse than Americans. No, it's not a perfect country. But no matter where you travel, you will eventually get over the honeymoon phase. It's a country, not an amusement park.

If you go there wanting it to be your nerd tourist paradise, it probably will be super expensive, and you will probably start to dislike things if you're there for a while. If you go there wanting to learn about the country and have realistic expectations, I'd suggest going for a longer period of time.

It doesn't have to be expensive unless you make it that way. It's a different economy, so some things are more expensive and others are much cheaper. It's like that anywhere. (Random example: Paperback books, for instance, are way cheaper, while DVDs are way more expensive.)

Also, as far as weather goes, I will say that, as a fellow Kansan, that weather in the Tokyo area is a lot like Kansas weather, but a little nicer, if anything. Except for the rainy season, when it rains non-stop... Definitely don't go then. On the whole though, much nicer.

Anyway, this post has already gotten pretty long, but I just wanted to dispel the myth that you need to keep your trip short. Also, that Japanese people are jerks. Not true. It's not a magical land where everything is perfect, but where is? Yes, there are xenophobes there, but where isn't this true? It's definitely no worse than the U.S., as far as I can tell.

If anyone has any other specific questions they'd like answered from someone who lived there for a while and didn't hate it, just let me know. I'll be happy to answer you about the good stuff and the bad stuff. I don't think I'm harboring an irrational hatred or an irrational love for it over there, although I did like it enough to live there for a year, and I'm really excited to go going back. It's a place, like any other place, with its ups and downs.

alexb
06-07-2007, 12:34 PM
What are some good places to see if you've only got a week or two there?

djSyndrome
06-07-2007, 12:40 PM
What are some good places to see if you've only got a week or two there?

MotherFucking Tsukiji Fish Market. Great thing to do when you're jetlagged on your first few days there. It stinks like, well, dead fish, and the trains don't run early enough to catch all the action, but it was one of the highlights of my last trip.

Jakanden
06-07-2007, 12:41 PM
Super Potato!! (http://www.akihabaranews.com/en/review-78-Super+Potato,+THE+place+for+gamers,+HDTV.html)

Healy
06-07-2007, 12:44 PM
MotherFucking Tsukiji Fish Market. Great thing to do when you're jetlagged on your first few days there. It stinks like, well, dead fish, and the trains don't run early enough to catch all the action, but it was one of the highlights of my last trip.

Don't mean to be rude, but what's so great about a fish market anyway?

shivam
06-07-2007, 12:52 PM
when the fish are the size of busses, and people are using hacksaws to cut them? its pretty cool.

estragon
06-07-2007, 01:02 PM
What are some good places to see if you've only got a week or two there?

Depends on what you'd like to do on trips. Do you want to go to big, centralized places, or do you want to go some places that are out of the way? Do you care about shopping at all? Do you want to go to some concerts? Do you care about museums and other cultural stuff? Do you want to get drunk and/or go to a club?

Narrow your interests down a bit. I'll also answer if you throw out an "all of the above," but I don't wanna write about concerts or museums or something else if nobody cares about it. If you are wanting to know about just things in general, I'll do it, though.

alexb
06-07-2007, 01:11 PM
I don't give a damn about clubs and getting drunk. I'm extremely interested in cultural stuff like art and history museums. Seeing beautiful natural sites and ancient buildings is something I would like, too. I'd like to see Kabuki, but I fear that's going to be very pricey. I've never been to a truly large metropolis, so that's both exciting and the source of a little trepidation. I would like to buy some game nerd stuff over there, too.

Lumber Baron
06-07-2007, 01:15 PM
What are some good places to see if you've only got a week or two there?
I'll tell you one place you can stay for a week or so. Kyoto Cheapest Inn (http://www.kyotofashion.com/kyoto-inn/) has a bunk beds for less than $7.50 a night. BYOSleeping Bag. That's what I'll be doing when I'm there the last week of this month.

Also, depending on how much you're going to be traveling around, a Japan Rail Pass (http://www.japanrailpass.net/eng/en001.html) might be of use. I know you don't can't compare the price-per-day to normal, daily train travel in Japan, but as soon as you start using the Shinkansen, it pays for itself. And since it's only for JR trains, you can't use it on any of the subways or private railways around the country. But you can get most everywhere you'd want on JR anyway.

Parish
06-07-2007, 01:59 PM
I can't believe how cheap that Sakura whatsit is. My apartment in the outlying section of San Francisco costs me $825 a month, for pity's sake. ($1650 split two ways.)

I need to make some money stat and go work from Tokyo for a month. Damn.

shivam
06-07-2007, 02:05 PM
if you have a week, you can do tokyo in two days, and then take the bullet train to kyoto and see all the amazingly beautiful things they have down there for the rest of it. Hell, if you go to japan and only see kyoto and nara, you've become a better person for it. I love that area, and would likely still be in japan had i lived there instead of where i did.

Also, Kamakura, with the giant bronze buddha, is a wonderful place too. and so on. i love the temples of japan.

TheSL
06-07-2007, 02:06 PM
I can't believe how cheap that Sakura whatsit is. My apartment in the outlying section of San Francisco costs me $825 a month, for pity's sake. ($1650 split two ways.)

I need to make some money stat and go work from Tokyo for a month. Damn.

Crap, I spend about what your half of the rent is on my mortgage in Kansas. Then again, I have to live in KS, so there are drawbacks.

djSyndrome
06-07-2007, 02:27 PM
Also, Kamakura, with the giant bronze buddha, is a wonderful place too. and so on. i love the temples of japan.

Hey, did you go there from Tokyo or Ibaraki? Kamakura's on our list as a day trip, but I'm wondering what the best way to get there from Tokyo is. No clue where in Tokyo we're going to be staying yet.

Tomm Guycot
06-07-2007, 03:22 PM
I actually do kind of want to see the bad sides too. I've had this sort of fascination for Japan (weeabooism you might call it, if you want to hurt my feelings) since before my teens, so I want to experience something close to Japanese day to day life. Of course, instead of working insane hours, I'll be relaxing in Yoyogi park or browsing scary geek paraphernalia in Akihabara.


I didn't mean you would notice bad things about Japan you hadn't before--I meant you would start to resent the country for all its flaws (see also: Shivam).

And estragon, sorry, but Japan is WAAAAAAAAY more xenophobic than the US, as long as you're counting the US as a whole (coasts, people!) and not just Kansas. People would not SIT NEXT TO ME. That would never happen in California, ever.

(For the record, I totally love Japan. I would live there if it worked out. Point is, I'm trying to be honest with you, not idealistic OR jaded.)

Parish
06-07-2007, 03:41 PM
Crap, I spend about what your half of the rent is on my mortgage in Kansas. Then again, I have to live in KS, so there are drawbacks.
$1650 for a spacious two-bedroom apartment with great access to a major train line in a neighborhood that isn't the boondocks is a steal in this city. But yeah, that's because I'm not living in Kansas.

shivam
06-07-2007, 04:59 PM
Hey, did you go there from Tokyo or Ibaraki? Kamakura's on our list as a day trip, but I'm wondering what the best way to get there from Tokyo is. No clue where in Tokyo we're going to be staying yet.

Kamakura is an easy day trip south of tokyo via the trains. There's plenty to see there too, and its a delightful beach town. Honestly, if i didnt loathe japan with every fibre of my being, i'd totally go back just for the temples and stuff. And cause i'm a hindu with buddhist leanings, so places like that make me happy.

and estragon, your japan is vastly different than mine, apparently. I've lived all over america and i've travelled the world many times. I've never in my life been treated as poorly as i was in japan, and i've been to some real unpleasant places.

for me, the problem was the length of stay. I loved visiting parts of japan and leaving after a few days, because they didnt have the time to solidify their racism. I've been denied entry into many barbershops and net cafes, and i've been accused of things ranging from ignorance, idiocy, harrassment, and other incredibly vile things because of my race and because i made an easy target. I'm not going to share all of the details, but lets just say that it was effing awful.

Do you know what its like to go to a bank and not be allowed to take your money out, because they refused to believe that you were who you said you were? Or having old ladies grab their children and hide them as you walk down the street? or getting on a train and looking for an open seat, only to have people move their bags into the empty spots? or sit on a train, and have people get up and leave, just because they didnt want to sit next to you?


Seriously, you'd swear i was a fucking leper or something. A pariah.

when i went to japan, i was a hardcore otaku and nihonphile. Never again. That culture is entirely unworthy of praise and adoration.

alexb
06-07-2007, 05:26 PM
When did you last go? I ask because it seems like your distaste for the rampant xenophobia seems to have hardened since December. Your experience is the sort of thing I always have in the back of my mind. Yes, they make all these lovely toys, but they probably fucking hate me. And I know I won't experience even half that garbage you've had to put up with. Still, I would like to see the Buddha at Kamakura with my own eyes.

shivam
06-07-2007, 05:34 PM
Go! japan for a short time is one of the loveliest places i've been to, and the art and architecture are awesome. Don't let my negative experience color yours--mine was a special set of unfortunate circumstances.

and no, they don't fucking hate you, they just pity the fact that you weren't able to be born with the blood of yamato.

djSyndrome
06-07-2007, 05:36 PM
but they probably fucking hate me.

Depending on several factors, they will either hate you or want to fuck you. But they will never fucking hate you.

Calorie Mate
06-07-2007, 05:47 PM
And estragon, sorry, but Japan is WAAAAAAAAY more xenophobic than the US, as long as you're counting the US as a whole (coasts, people!) and not just Kansas. People would not SIT NEXT TO ME. That would never happen in California, ever.

I can't speak for Japan, but this does happen on BART in SF, though I think it's not xenophobia so much as it is people not wanting to sit next to a homeless guy that may smell / end up being crazy.


$1650 for a spacious two-bedroom apartment with great access to a major train line in a neighborhood that isn't the boondocks is a steal in this city. But yeah, that's because I'm not living in Kansas.

Yeah, that's not terrible. I pay $1050 for a spacious one-bedroom in Berkeley and commute to the City every day. (keep in mind, I have my own place, it's VERY spacious, and work pays for the commute...but still). My question is this: wouldn't most of you saying the prices you'd pay to stay a month in Japan still have to cover your rent for your place back home during that month, too?

I, too, plan to go to Japan someday, but I'm waiting for all these dumb trips work sends me on to fill up my frequent flyer miles and hotel rewards programs so I can go anywhere I want, so it might be another year or two still.

Excitemike
06-07-2007, 05:52 PM
Depending on several factors, they will either hate you or want to fuck you. But they will never fucking hate you.

How easy is it to pick up Japanese girls? I would think they would be more reserved but I keep thinking of that "how to pick up American guys in Roppongi" manga.

(Just out of curiosity. I'm engaged to most wonderful girl in the world! You can stop scowling now, honey. No, really)

shivam
06-07-2007, 05:54 PM
It's been said that you can pick up at least three STDs between roppongi station and Club Vanilla if you're the right shade of white.

nadia
06-07-2007, 05:57 PM
I don't know what the deal is with calling them "arrogant" and whatever, but they're definitely no worse than Americans.

I've never travelled to Japan, myself. I'd love to visit, but I will say most of my non-white friends who've done JET or similar programmes had a really tough time of things.

If I wanted to try out a bathouse or something, would people let me be, or would they sit and stare at me / leave / deny me access entirely? Because I've heard ample stories about all three happening to white and non-white tourist alike ... including the famous Japanese-Canadian naturalist, David Suzuki, who is treated like an outsider in Japan despite his very obvious Japanese ancestry.

shivam
06-07-2007, 06:01 PM
oh man, the bath house. I went there with some jets (who were white), and we did it all correctly, from the fastidious washing to the calmly sitting in the water etc, and it was so funny to watch the bath slowly empty of everyone but us, as if silent signals passed between the other folks there.

seriously, japan, gaijin isnt a disease.

alexb
06-07-2007, 06:02 PM
I heard another story about a white guy who became a naturalized citizen of Japan who was turned away from a bathhouse in Hokkaido. He took a case to the Japanese supreme court and lost. Supposedly the law was enacted to stop Russian sailors from coming in and tearing up the place. Whatever.

My mother has a friend who was in Japan in the 70s because her husband was in the service. White woman. Apparently, she was constantly propositioned by men passing on the street, like a whore.

I guess everyone has horror stories.

In truth, it may even be a good experience for me. I mean, not the crazy xenophobia. Being out of my element. I've never not been in the majority population group. It might give me some needed perspective.

djSyndrome
06-07-2007, 06:04 PM
I heard another story about a white guy who became a naturalized citizen of Japan who was turned away from a bathhouse in Hokkaido. He took a case to the Japanese supreme court and lost. Supposedly the law was enacted to stop Russian sailors from coming in and tearing up the place. Whatever.

I believe this (http://www.debito.org/) is the weeaboo of which you speak.

And yes, Japanese women will occasionally throw themselves at you. This annoyed my wife to no end (and I'm not even that attractive).

alexb
06-07-2007, 06:08 PM
My wife's a bit touchy about that, too. But I'm short, chubby, somewhat less than stylish, and probably worst of all, pretty hairy. I don't really think it would be an issue even if I wanted it to be.

Calorie Mate
06-07-2007, 06:11 PM
Dude, alexb, if you're scared we should go together. I may have never been there before, but two heads are better than one!

Besides, once they hear my forum name, I'm sure I'll be welcomed.

shivam
06-07-2007, 06:15 PM
yeah, my (tall, white) girlfriend has gotten propositioned a few times.

alexb
06-07-2007, 06:17 PM
Well, I won't be going until some time in the indeterminate future. I'm not scared, per se. From what I can gather, if anything, I would have an easier time scaring the natives. It's more that I'm a bit shy in person and I don't like imposing upon strangers. I hate that feeling of being unwanted. Plus, I worry chronically about all the worst case scenarios. I like to think about what I might do if they come to pass. So I ask a ton of questions before I do anything.

That said, putting together a party for Japan wouldn't be a bad thing. Logistics might be difficult, though, seeing as I'm in North Carolina.

Excitemike
06-07-2007, 06:36 PM
Oh man, guys: Talking Time field trip.

Torgo
06-07-2007, 06:38 PM
That said, putting together a party for Japan wouldn't be a bad thing. Logistics might be difficult, though, seeing as I'm in North Carolina.
If you'll allow me to nose in, this idea has legs, and I completely approve. I've envisioned such group trips in the past (not here at Talking Time, but another forum I used to frequent.)

Everyone involved chips in on room and board (or split evenly on however the rooms work), airfare is paid separately (since we all gotta fly from different locations, and everyone is on their own for spending money. Everyone could meet up someplace on the west coast over one or two days, then fly there in a group (that makes airfare more expensive, but it eliminates confusing of meeting up). Alternatively, one person could fly there a day or two ahead of time, make sure everything is in order and knows the routes to and from the airport, and picks everyone up as they trickle in on day 'x'. This saves everyone money on airfare, but it's kinda messy though, and timing can go bad.

Spend a week or two, plan some stuff, see what there is to see, and call it a trip.

Maybe Calories Man was just jokin' around, but I would be totally behind this idea.

alexb
06-07-2007, 06:42 PM
It certainly has potential, at any rate.

Red Hedgehog
06-07-2007, 06:43 PM
Oh man, guys: Talking Time field trip.

To Japan? Sounds awesome! Definitely beats a place easier and cheaper for most folks to get to.

Lumber Baron
06-07-2007, 07:08 PM
I'll be there from the 25th to the 30th, all things going according to plan.

VsRobot
06-07-2007, 07:09 PM
Remember that forum meet up those jerk east-coasters ruined a while back? We should totally have it... IN JAPAN. I've never been on a plane in my whole life, and I don't have a passport so I'm going to need to hide in someone's luggage.

estragon
06-07-2007, 07:43 PM
when i went to japan, i was a hardcore otaku and nihonphile.

I would argue that this might have been a big of the problem? I'll basically guarantee that anyone who goes to Japan that identifies as a "hardcore otaku" is pretty much setting themselves for dissappointment if you stay for more than a couple of hours.

I'm also definitely not suprised by any of the anectdotes from either Tomm or shivam. There is definitely xenophobia there, and I don't deny it. I've also had people not sit next me, and since I speak Japanese pretty damn well (I'm going back this Fall to do translation/interpretation stuff), I could understand the racist things people say to/about me when they assumed I was dumb, illiterate, and monolingual because I am obviously not Japanese. I'm not saying it's a perfect place, by any means.

Here's an example of how blatant and unbashed Japanese racism: Once, I was talking to a friend of mine. He had a strong interest in American culture. He didn't really speak English at all, but he like all kinds of American stuff. So, I asked him if he ever planned to go to America. He said something to the effect of, "I'm too scared of black people to go to America." I explained to him why this was stupid, and I think in the end he was able to laugh at how ridiculous that idea was. There are definitely a lot of deeply entrenched racist attitudes there, and there are a lot of stereotypes about Americans.

Because I'm a white guy with blonde hair and blue eyes, everyone assumed I was Christian (I'm agnostic), owned a gun (never touched one), couldn't speak and DEFINITELY couldn't read, especially not kanji (if anything, I read Japanese WAY better than I speak--I am basically in love with kanji). I've had people in stores freak out at me just for waking in a room. When I did stuff like buy a cell phone or set up an account to rent movies, I had people treat me like an idiot and a liar.

Like I said, the place has got problems.

At the same time, I think you're fooling yourself if you think America doesn't have more than its own share of racism and xenophobia. I was born in Kansas, but I don't live there now. I'm no stranger to the coasts, because I have relatives all over California and tons of old friends in New York. I guess I haven't ever been to the South, but I don't think anyone's going to argue there's not a lot of racism there. In any case, if you think there is no one on the coasts who would not sit next to you or discriminate against you because of your skin color (whatever it is) or where you're from, then you are wrong. It is, though, definitely much more pronounced when you stick out so much against the enormous percentage of the population that is ethnically homogeneous. (Or, at least, they think they are.)

One of the reasons I like Japan is precisely because of this problem. By simply being someone who is capable of having a conversation in Japanese and not conforming to their stereotypes, I can help change a lot of attitudes, and I can change some of those attitudes. A lot of Japanese people just don't know non-Japanese people, and they don't know how to talk to them or ask around them.

At the same time, because I stick out, I can make friends really easily, even if someone initially approaches me in a way that's racist/xenophobic. They don't meet a lot of foreign people, so a lot of them just don't know how to interact with them at all. It doesn't excuse the behavior, but it does explain it. There are racist people all over Japan, just like there are in every city in America.

And, randomly, I'd also MUCH rather be a tourist who doesn't speak Japanese in Japan (especially in Tokyo) than a tourist who doesn't speak English in America.

Again, I'm not denying the problems in Japan, and I never did. But, I think a great deal of the anger a lot of people harbor toward the country is because either (1) they idealized Japan too much before going or (2) they idealize America as a place without that same kind of xenophobia/racism.

I would argue that this thread itself is already proof of a lot of ridiculous stereotypes on the part of Americans already. You've got shivam saying that the whole country of Japan is populated by assholes, and you've got Tomm saying that there's not very much racism on the coasts, just in Japan, the only place where people won't sit next to people who look different on public transportation. To me, it looks like we've already got pretty strong evidence that there's a lot of racism going on in America, too, right there.

Racism is something we all (including myself) have to constantly deal with, even if you do live on one of the coasts. Bigger populations make it easier to hang out with people who aren't racist, but it doesn't mean it isn't there.

(I'm gonna post some travel ideas later, but I'm really caught up in defending Japan on a more conceptual level right now.)

EDIT: In case this isn't clear, I'm trying to say, "We're all a little bit racist, and we have to learn how to deal with that and get over our stereotypes." I'm not saying just Tomm and shivam are racist. I think the people who discriminated about them are racist, but I also think it is racist to then assume that every Japanese person is xenophobic and arrogant. There's a lot of racism going around, and telling people that an entire country is nothing but bigots is both innacurate and counterproductive if you're interested in reducing racism.

shivam
06-07-2007, 07:55 PM
its endemic to the culture, and will take a lot more than the efforts of you and I to reduce.

and obviously, its unwise of me to paint the entire nation with one brush, when i've made several friends who live there, and have experienced much appreciation and affection from most of my students.

but there are somethings about Japan that will not change in our lifetimes.

--
Yes, tokyo is culturally different enough from the rest of japan (the way that san francisco is different from, say, peoria) that you can happily be a foreigner there, but still, there is much racism there too, even in the strangest corners. A story i like to tell is my first night in tokyo, when shane bettenhausen took me around, and the nigerian pimps would approach him but not me.

--

No one is saying that there isnt racism in america. Its just that the racism in japan is very blatant, and entirely passive to the point that no one there realises that something is wrong when you make non japanese into second class citizens. In america, if a man calls you a nigger or a kike or something, you know he's deliberately being provocative. In japan, they're not deliberate, they just don't care. You're not part of the in-group, and you never will be, so deal. How many news articles do we really need to read about minorities losing court cases in japan for the right to go to hospitals or barbershops? You mentioned the American South--i dare say that Japan today is a lot like america circa 1950s. We're not gonna get lynched, but we're still drinking from a separate fountain.

In my neighborhood today, the next door folks are white, the across the street folks are chinese, the other next door folks are black, diagonally ahead is a south indian, a mexican, a vietnamese, and a couple more white families. Religions range from catholic to mormon to hindu to sikh to atheist. My school was split between filipinos, vietnamese, mexicans and white folk. We all got along really well, and blended wonderfully. Every grocery store has foodstuffs from every cuisine, and at any given time, we can hear a multitude of languages and cultural blending all over.

I apologise if i lack the experience with american racism. i'll make sure to rectify that as soon as i can.
--

and let me qualify my statement- hardcore otaku. When i went to japan, i loved their history and culture and language, and was a recovering fan of anime and manga (on the tail end of that hobby). Going to that country, i saw that they revered their ancient history, but were completely ignorant of their modern history. Can you believe that jr high schoolers there had no idea about Japan's nationalism? or Natsume Soseki? or a lot of the crazy shit from world war 2? ridiculous.

I came back from that country despairing. The society is very rigid and structured, and works for that culture. I'm not going to impose change on that, because it's not my place to. But i feel bad for the people who try to think different, and are shoved through the cracks of the system.

So yes, there is more that i don't like about japan than i do like about it, but i'm adult enough to admit that my opinions are definately due to my circumstances, and will not accurately reflect the experiences of other people. Go to japan. It's a great country, full of rich history and lots of fun things. Just don't bring any expectations with you.

estragon
06-07-2007, 08:08 PM
but there are somethings about Japan that will not change in our lifetimes.

This is different than America how?

We have a group of people in Texas who try to kill immigrants, with the tacit support of the government. (Or, at least, without the government saying, "Hey, stop killing people!")

During the Republican presidential debates, they audience openly cheered when they talked about torturing brown people. Pretty pathetic for a group that represents about half the country.

Even on the coasts, society is still pretty damn strongly segregated racially. See: Harlem, Detroit, etc. This segregation then shapes the school systems, creating a cycle where people from poor neighborhoods go to bad schools and stay poor. (Right now I work in one of these schools, specificially for pregnant and parenting teenage mothers. There are people trying to do good there, but the cycle is obvious. So many of these students are stuck in the same situation as their parents and their grandparents.)

In America we might be more likely to put on a facade of living in a melting pot or whatever, but we're perfectly fine with a de facto caste system. The effects of our history of slavery are still felt today in very real ways. It will probably not change in our lifetime. Even in in a world where Barack Obama is a serious presidential candidate (and dreamy to boot!), that will not change the fact that racism inherent in American society confines a minority to a life of poverty. Absent some sort of revolution, this will not change in our lifetimes.

This is way off topic, but, again, I think you're fooling yourself if you think America does NOT have problems with racism that are endemic to our culture.

shivam
06-07-2007, 08:32 PM
oh, dude, i'm brown. i know damn well that america has racism =)

And more than racism, we have all sorts of anti immigrant biases and homophobia and various and sundry other internal ills that we scream out loudly.

But we're not discussing america in this thread. we're talking about japan.

estragon
06-07-2007, 09:15 PM
But we're not discussing america in this thread. we're talking about japan.

Well, since we are (for the most part) Americans talking about Japan, it's an easier comparison to make instead of say, France. (Which has its own hilarious problems with racism...)

And I think it's a pretty valid way to respond to what you're saying. For example, no, I'm not shocked that Japanese people are unaware of their nationalist history, any more so than I am shocked that Americans are unaware of our imperialist history, even though it still continues today. And of course there are Japanese people who don't know about Soseki, just like there are Americans who don't know about Mark Twain. It doesn't mean it's not taught in school, just that they suck at literature. Don't talk to these people, because they're stupid, wherever you are.

I just think it is wrong to say that Japan is uniquely racist. I bring up America for comparison because you mention that Japan is one of the most racist and arrogant nations ever. I disagree, not because I think Japan isn't racist, because it is. Rather, I think it's pretty standard. And, you know, obviously a country made up of immigrants is going to be more well integrated than a country that more or less shut itself off from the entire world until 1850 or so. And also was ruled by an emporor WHO CLAIMED TO BE GOD not too long ago. There has been an enormous amount of change in Japan in the recent past, and I think it's flat out wrong to say that Japan has a special kind of racism that nothing can change.

shivam
06-07-2007, 09:22 PM
I speak from my own personal experience, and the circumstances that gave rise to such experiences. your mileage, as always, may vary.

estragon
06-07-2007, 09:41 PM
I speak from my own personal experience, and the circumstances that gave rise to such experiences. your mileage, as always, may vary.

I'm definitely not questioning or disputing your experiences at all, because they all sound like things that would happen in Japan. In any case, I think we've both stated our opinions pretty clearly, so we can leave it at this, I guess.

In any case, sorry to everybody for ruining this happy thread about visiting Japan with fighting about racism. I'll try to make up with it by writing a lot about fun things to do later.

At least you all got a good answer to the "just how xenophobic is it" thing.

The answer: Very.

marcalan
06-07-2007, 09:41 PM
Oh man, guys: Talking Time field trip.

If only we were heading to Ireland, then I might take you up. But Japan?

I'll be honest, I thought about taking a trip over there at one time. Until I realized that they are pretty xenophobic.

Ireland may be just as bad, but at least I can tell some to feck off in my own language.

shivam
06-07-2007, 09:43 PM
let's be clear--Japan only hates you if you stay. If you go and visit for a short time, you will find them to be the nicest people anywhere, and incredibly helpful.

nadia
06-07-2007, 10:00 PM
My uncle owns a pub in Belfast, but I doubt he'll give me any free Guiness.

Which is fine, because I dislike Guiness.

Vahn16
06-07-2007, 10:02 PM
So, say that I'll probably go abroad (to Japan, natch) for at least a month sometime during college. I'd go for the immersion method in order to help me learn Japanese. Will they hate me, then? I'm just wondering.

Torgo
06-07-2007, 10:16 PM
I'ma second this question. I mean, if I had definitive plans to go to Japan, I would start studying, like, now, but I do believe that immersion at the source is the best way to learn a language. I've witnessed it's effectiveness first-hand on several occasions.

estragon
06-07-2007, 10:22 PM
So, say that I'll probably go abroad (to Japan, natch) for at least a month sometime during college. I'd go for the immersion method in order to help me learn Japanese. Will they hate me, then? I'm just wondering.

Probably not, especially if you're spending most of your time with college students. Young people are generally better than old people, and if you make a little effort it should be really easy to make friends. I would say that you can stay about a month before the honeymoon phase ends. Then a couple more months until you can come to terms that negative stuff and it becomes a regular place.

But, I would say that if you really want to learn Japanese you would want to stay for at least half a year, although a full year is better. And stay away from other people who speak English. Hang out with Japanese people that don't know a lot of English and other people who speak languages you don't so you have to talk in Japanese. Lots of foreign students tend to go to Japan and end up hanging out with eachother, which is really a waste of time, I think.

This can also help you to avoid a lot of racism. I never had any trouble going to an onsen, for example, but I always went with a group of Japanese friends. On the other hand, if you're with a group of obnoxious people speaking English barging into places and making trouble because you don't know what's going on or how to act, you're pretty likely to run into trouble. There is definitely a lot of xenophobia there, but a lot of it can be avoided if you follow social mores. Or, at least hang out with people who do and can let you know if you mess something up, which creates the impression that you are following social mores.

estragon
06-07-2007, 10:27 PM
I do believe that immersion at the source is the best way to learn a language. I've witnessed it's effectiveness first-hand on several occasions.

This is true, but you'll definitely want to get a foundation of basic stuff before you go. You'll be much happier if you at least know hiragana and katakana, which are pretty easy to teach yourself, or else you can't read anything at all. Also, learning them will give you a basic grasp of the sounds in Japanese, which will make it easier to pick up later.

Immersion is definitely a great way to learn Japanese though, because it's just so gramatically different from English that it can really mess you up to have to speak Japanese through an English filter. This is true for any language, though, I guess.

Tomm Guycot
06-07-2007, 11:20 PM
I'll agree with Shivam that they are only racist if you stay.

My first trip was delightful and I interacted with many strangers. My second trip, six months later, was when people wouldn't sit next to me. It's also important to point out this didn't extend to the employees of Atlus I was working with there--THEY were extremely nice because I was "part of their group" (Atlus). That is how things work over there.

Oddly enough, restaurants are less racist if you "know your way around," because they have to deal with annoying foreigners all the damn time (the loud, rude type--this is Tokyo)... so in the short time you prove you are quiet, respectful, and know your way around, they will be very kind.

I'd recommend anyone going to Japan spend a month to learn Kana first. It isn't complicated (it's just phonics), and it will make things a LOT easier.

Vahn16
06-07-2007, 11:25 PM
I'm definitely going to have a fair deal of knowledge of the language before going. I plan on at least getting acclimated to college life before going abroad. Since I'll probably be taking Japanese right off the bat, I'd say that'll give me a year or so of studying, at least.

alexb
06-07-2007, 11:29 PM
I can vouch first hand that it's not hard to pick up the kana. Before the middle of May, I only knew maybe a dozen kana. The ones that are really distinctive and common in game titles, like ro and su. But now I know all the kana and at least passingly familiar with the characters for about 200 kanji. It's really not all that bad. Now, though, it's time for grammar and vocabulary and that's going to be a good bit slower and more difficult. I think I'll do very well in my formal class this fall, though. It's actually a lot of fun.

Tomm Guycot
06-07-2007, 11:34 PM
Also, estragon, it's really rude of you to accuse me of racism because I'm being honest about Japan--wtf, seriously. I've been accused of racism my whole life because I'm white, despite the fact (at various points throughout life) I've had good friends of just about every race. It's the last thing I expect to come across on a message board like this.

Shivam and I were discussing the racism of Japanese CULTURE. Their culture supports and perpetuates xenophobia. While we have things like the South, our CULTURE encourages mixing and new experiences, etc. The coasts ESPECIALLY, and they have control of the media which is the primary way that we spread our culture at this point in history. I never denied their were racisTs all over in America. But our culture does not say "Well he's not from here, so who cares?"

Japan's culture DOES.

I'll again point out, I'm not jaded about Japan like Shivam. I love the country. Going was a great experience (like alexb(?) said, it was good to be entirely out of my element).

If you're a tourist in Japan, you won't get mugged or raped or whatever tourists have to fear about America. I'm not comparing the two. However, if you're talking about CULTURAL racism, Japan wins. I tell everyone I know they should visit there, but that doesn't change their culture.

(White friends of mine who lived there had Japanese neighbors going through their trash because they did not believe that gaijin could RECYCLE PROPERLY)

shivam
06-07-2007, 11:43 PM
and yes, learning even the most basic japanese will help you a long long way. reading hiragana and katakana doesnt take much time investment and will go a long way in enhancing your trip.

You learn a lot of japanese by being there, and it was probably the best thing i took away from my experience. The stuff you learn immersively is the living language, as opposed to the crap in your college texts.

estragon
06-08-2007, 12:07 AM
If you're a tourist in Japan, you won't get mugged or raped or whatever tourists have to fear about America. I'm not comparing the two. However, if you're talking about CULTURAL racism, Japan wins. I tell everyone I know they should visit there, but that doesn't change their culture.

I went through this with shivam earlier and don't really want to do it again, but I'm just saying that we all have our own prejudices. And I think the notion that American racism (see the speicific examples I gave in earlier posts in this thread) is in some way not as bad as Japanese racism is wrong. I see that as a somewhat racist (or at least nationalist) way of thinking, because I think America has some pretty terrible culturally ingrained racism going on as well.

The coasts may control the media, but I think the media as a whole, even in its more liberal/progessive forms, still exhibits some pretty terrible racism. Crash, for instance, is usually regarded as an anti-racist movie, but at the same time it also reinforces a lot of racist stereotypes.

I also think a lot of American diversity is really very much surface level stuff, and that the underlying social/economic inequalities are much, much worse than anything going on in Japan. No matter what images the media might project of a multicultural American society, I don't think reality meets that ideal, unfortunately. The civil rights era eliminated de jure discrimination, but de facto discrimination and social inequality as still quite pervasive, and pending a revolution or enormous societal upheaval I don't see that changing for quite some time. The aftermath of hurricane Katrina, for example, reminded us all about the economic and social inequalities that lie barely below the surface image of America as a multicultural land where everyone blends together. The real America is much more segregrated, both spatially and economically, than the facade of American culture as a diverse society would suggest.

I love the ideal of America, but I don't think we're there yet, and I think we need to recognize how culurally and historically ingrained our racism is to get there.

I'm not saying you're any more racist than me or anybody else, only that we all, and America as a whole (and the world, for that matter), has a lot more racism than I think gets acknowleged. Our point of contention here doesn't actually seem to be about Japan, but rather that I don't think America is as progressive about racism as you think it is.

Makkara
06-08-2007, 02:15 AM
Putting racism aside for now, if anyone else is planning on going next May, (which I guess I've pretty much decided on) I'm certainly not averse to having a meetup. I'd be going alone, and it might be nice to be able to have a fluent conversation once in a while.

Also:
It's been said that you can pick up at least three STDs between roppongi station and Club Vanilla if you're the right shade of white.

Excellent... Hey, wait, you are talking about girls who would do you of their own volition, right? Because I don't think hookers would be my cup of tea.

(Just kidding; besmirching the nation's females is actually pretty low on my list of priorities.)

Lumber Baron
06-08-2007, 03:11 AM
(White friends of mine who lived there had Japanese neighbors going through their trash because they did not believe that gaijin could RECYCLE PROPERLY)
To be fair, throwing away things in Japan can be an ordeal. Forgot tin could only be thrown out on the third Tuesday of each month unless it falls on an even day? Tough luck, chump.

And I'd like to cast a vote for your length of stay not adversely affecting your eventual opinion of the country. After five months I really couldn't find more reasons to regret coming than I didn't pick up after the first seven days. I think the mundane aspects of life are what really make you appreciate the subtle differences in life in a foreign country. Grocery shopping, airing out futons, using the post office, they all sort of make it "real" and concrete. Japanese people become just people and life in Japan becomes just life.

Makkara
06-08-2007, 03:48 AM
I think the mundane aspects of life are what really make you appreciate the subtle differences in life in a foreign country. Grocery shopping, airing out futons, using the post office, they all sort of make it "real" and concrete. Japanese people become just people and life in Japan becomes just life.

Yeah, this is exactly what I want. I just hope one month is enough to get that feeling.

Torgo
06-08-2007, 07:38 AM
Oddly enough, restaurants are less racist if you "know your way around," because they have to deal with annoying foreigners all the damn time (the loud, rude type--this is Tokyo)... so in the short time you prove you are quiet, respectful, and know your way around, they will be very kind.
Now this I am familiar with, having primarily been raised in tourist destinations, and I was waiting to see if someone would bring it up. While the cultural racism can't be denied, I couldn't help but think this might be part of it as well, if only a small one.

The simple truth is that most people do not like tourists, and I'm pretty sure this sentiment exists the world over. The perception is that they are loud, annoying, and impolite, and they don't necessarily understand that for a lot of people, where they're visiting is just another place of day to day life, with good and bad elements. Just plain old not being a jerk with a grain of respect and understanding goes a long way.

Of course, there again is the cultural aspect of it as well, and there's only so much a single person can do about that.

Excitemike
06-08-2007, 07:43 AM
Tourists made me late for work today. I'm surpressing a rant for the saftey of the board.

shivam
06-08-2007, 12:16 PM
ok, let me balance out and tell you what i did enjoy.

I loved monday afternoons. I would come home from my far elementary school (which was the most lovable place ever) and pass by this wonderful little stall, where a leathery old man sat and sold me the freshest fruits and vegetables imaginable. And every week, he'd have bananas and mandarin oranges sitting for me, and i'd grab my eggplants and shiitakes and green beans, and go home happy, ready to cook for the week.

I loved the smell of the rice fields in the spring, right as the rice was ripening. It was such a wonderfully invigorating sensation to bike through the paddies as the wind blew through the sea of rice and the fragrance just lifted you, while listening to great chill out on my ipod.

I loved the richness of their milk, which is fattier than whole milk in america.

I loved getting lost in the claustraphobic streets of tokyo (which is my favorite city in the world), and finding a tiny shinto shrine tucked between two monolithic towers, and then turning another street and seeing an impromptu street concert.

I loved my students, the ones that really cared and really wanted to learn.

I love the public transit system, and the efficiency of the country.

I really do love japan. I just wish it loved me back.

Tomm Guycot
06-08-2007, 12:21 PM
Now this The simple truth is that most people do not like tourists, .

Except that Shivam and I were pointing out that Japan LOVES tourists. It's foreign people they have a distaste for.

alexb
06-08-2007, 12:23 PM
I really do love japan. I just wish it loved me back.

Maybe if you could become a celebrity?

Lumber Baron
06-08-2007, 04:12 PM
All he needs to do is defeat Bob Sapp in a kickboxing match and/or dance-off.

Vahn16
06-08-2007, 06:33 PM
It's called Capoeira. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capoeira)

shivam
06-08-2007, 06:41 PM
you know, my friend and i were part of a japanese capoeira club for a while. it was awesome, but i wasnt that flexible.

Lumber Baron
06-08-2007, 08:13 PM
I was giving him the option of doing either, but we could do capoeira too.

Torgo
06-08-2007, 10:56 PM
Except that Shivam and I were pointing out that Japan LOVES tourists. It's foreign people they have a distaste for.
What an odd juxtaposition. I guess they wouldn't take too kindly if I ever wanted to take my culinary career there to study the cuisine, then.

I loved the richness of their milk, which is fattier than whole milk in america.
Buying some milk will now be one of my first priorities in Japan if ever I go. (No, seriously.)

shivam
06-08-2007, 11:08 PM
my mom came to japan to visit me, and she was seriously bummed that we couldnt bring their yogurt home with us. it was so good.


like, the milk in japan is like the milk in india--barely removed from the cow. after drinking it (in the mandatory pint we got at lunch every day), american milk became so much white water to me.

and no, they don't mind when foreign students study their culture. It is the supreme culture under heaven, after all. Just don't ever presume to know more than the japanese, or be able to pick things up as fast as they do. Its just not in your blood.

Torgo
06-08-2007, 11:18 PM
You're making me sad, shivam. I love my dairy products.

and no, they don't mind when foreign students study their culture. It is the supreme culture under heaven, after all. Just don't ever presume to know more than the japanese, or be able to pick things up as fast as they do. Its just not in your blood.
Well, I guess it's a good thing I'm pretty conciliatory and deferential by nature then. (And this attitude was encouraged by my instructors, who told the students often that the worst thing you can tell a chef that is trying to tell you or teach you something is that 'I know'.)

j00ey
06-09-2007, 12:15 AM
http://www.kyotofashion.com/kyoto-inn/img/anime_tatamiboy.gif

DAAAAAAHHHH!!!

blitzchamp
06-10-2007, 09:34 PM
I can't believe how cheap that Sakura whatsit is. My apartment in the outlying section of San Francisco costs me $825 a month, for pity's sake. ($1650 split two ways.)

I need to make some money stat and go work from Tokyo for a month. Damn.

Doesn't suprise me, San Francisco drove my family to Florida, which will catch up in costs in a few years.