I think my interest in Japan began as a kid when I learned that Japanese are physically smaller than many other peoples, so what did they do about it? They invented karate, giving them the power of 6 large Nordic men.
Do you know that Japan is the size of Montana (population 968,000) but has 128 million residents? That’s only 14 million less than Russia. Greater Tokyo alone has…wait for it…37 million. Same as California. That’s just insane. No wonder they keep so trim. There simply isn’t room for Biggest Losers in Japan.
I have never been to Japan but my set of friends did adopt 2 Japanese foreign exchange students into our group one year in high school. I don’t know how to spell their names, but they were pronounced (by us, at least) as Talk-ooo-yah and Squeegee. When a Japanese person thinks of the stereotypical American, he probably thinks of this guy. When you think of the stereotypical Japanese, two opposite types probably come to mind. The first is the clean cut, studious, hard-working, smiley, friendly, highly-intelligent, self-effacing Japanese who laughs good-naturedly and maybe a bit self consciously at what he and you both say. This was Takuya. Best fellow you ever met. I’m sure he quickly realized he had been sucked into the wrong group at Davis High School but didn’t know enough English to say “thanks but no thanks” and find the math club. Takuya is probably running Texas Instruments, Japan Division by now.
Squeegee was the other type. He had bright orange-dyed hair, a beatnik’s disposition, smoked cigarettes with the self-assurance of the Marlboro man, and wore weird, expensive urban clothes. Takuya dressed right out of Ryan’s handbook: trim black jeans with high, tapered ankles (perfect for unexpected stream crossings), with white sneakers, a practical Mervyn’s polo, all sensibly topped off with a beige Member’s Only Jacket. In their home country, those two lived a thousand social miles apart, but at Davis High School, they were all the other had. Except us, of course. But we didn’t speak Japanese. And their English was limited to a few polite pleasantries (in Takuya’s case) and a few mispronounced curse words (in Squeegee’s case). In case you’re wondering, Takuya did know a little karate and Squeegee just looked at us like we were crazy.
So Takuya and Squeegee were my first real introduction to Japan. I loved those guys and have kept an amateur eye on the place ever since.
Like every old man in history (I’m sure Mozart’s father asked him how he could listen to the garbage he did, that it wasn’t even music; it was just noise), there are many days I look around me at the younger American generation and think “Ya, we’re about done here. I give us 40 years, tops. It was a good ride though, wasn’t it?”
But then I observe the trends of perhaps the hardest-working, most intelligent, competent group on the planet, and I find comfort knowing we’re all in the same boat.
Here are a few of my favorites:
The first is a type of fashion called Ganguro. The practitioners of Ganguro are called Ganguro Girls.
Our next stop is a little thing called face inflation, practiced among the young clubbing crowd:
No, it’s just that I laughed hard and accidentally snorted the donut up my nose. What? So what if Takuya is at Stanford, dad, I’m doing some neat things too.
Anime-inspired contact lenses:
What these? No, they’re real. My maternal grandmother was a fur seal, so.
This is one of my favorites. I wish so badly that I had known of this technology when I was getting married. Although Reba probably would have made me be the small one, which might have just come off as creepy:
Hey there, little lady
Well hello yourself, big guy. Can I catch a ride? Sure you can.
Psst, I love you, Squeegee. Whoa! Stop moving, this is like 13 stories high for me!
This one is in a different category, but I have always loved robots and promised myself that if I’m ever a millionaire I will buy one for Davis, because he just strikes you as the kind of guy who should have one:
I’ll also get him one of these:
What are you favorite fads (from any country)?