08-06-2005, 10:03 PM


If you are reading ‘East Meets West’ or an article that explores every detail of life in Japan written by Westerners, chances are you have at least encountered a polemic one. My personal encounters with gaijin westerners however give a different analysis. Nihon-jins and Western gai-jins just seem to go along with. I don’t mean of course that if you are going to replace the population with Westerners, it would be anything like the success story Japan has been nor to undermine the apparent cultural differences because Japan seems to be highly “Westernized”.

For example, every time I meet my neighbors (mostly English teachers from the U.S. and U.K.), they would always say to me, “Good to see you Sam. How are you doing?” very quickly like “Hai, Hai”. It took me a while to realize that nobody wants an answer. You don’t know if they are really friendly or just the style of being polite. You see, it doesn’t differ sharply with “Hai” which rarely means “yes”. We can see a clue that the insincere inquiry is a ‘institutionalized thoughtfulness’.

Although I find the Americans whinny (like us Filipinos) and hear them always say, “they’re just a bunch of robots”, I don’t expect wild burst from a typical English man. They are very stiff and very reserved and staid, much more than even the Japanese salaryman who are too formal and only seem spontaneous when they are out drinking. And like the Samurai’s who prided themselves on endurance and showing no emotion (qualities still valued in Japanese society today).

Hmmm, well I suppose there’s a place for all different kinds of responses but let me have one last shot. Nihonjins and gaijins from the west are ant-like. Well, you say Asians are sluggish ( I said ‘Asians’ because Japanese are not connected with that word) but that’s a different story. The order: job, friends, then family might not be true to the other one but I find them both so caught up in the rat race. I remember asking my British neighbor why he always work even on holidays and he quipped “It’s Japan, man”. Their careers/working life are spinning in the Simon and Garfunkel song “Patterns”:

There are patterns I must follow
Just as I must breathe each breath
Like a rat in a maze
The path before me lies
And the pattern never alters
Until the rat dies

One time the same neighbor ask me why I seem to enjoy my life here in Tokyo despite the fact that I have an ‘odd’ arubaito job and I don’t get paid like the traditional gaijin English teachers-almost implying how did I survived. I said that I am not a hermit participating in the rat race.

Though, I wont be surprised if some of these westerners, who think that their parents back home are much richer than them and trapped in a maze here in Japan, will one day kneel to the ground and plunge his own sword into his body as an honorable surrender –like the Samurai’s harakiri.

:bowdown: :bowdown:

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