Tokyo Damage Report


Like I said in the last one, a little of this stuff goes a long way.  But it’s a new year and I got 10 decent generalizations so, BEHOLD:


Japan is a country  . . .


…where entire sidewalks of people bust out umbrellas at the first hint of rain.


… where no one uses their eyebrows in facial expressions, not even showbiz folks who are desperately overacting.


… where no one tears the wrapping off of presents.


. . . where everyone at the theater feels honor-bound to stay through the closing credits.


…where you have your work friends, your high-school-friends, your hobby-friends and your see-at-rock-concert friends, and you never ever  want to let them meet each other.


 . .. you can have a store for skateboards, that doesn’t sell skateboards. Hats, shoes, magazines, magazines, more magazines, yes. But no skateboards, because riding them  in public would be impolite. (Put another way, it’s a country where if a guy is ‘really into fly/bass fishing’  it means that he collects magazines about it and goes to messageboard to compare statistics about lures, but who has not been to a river in 7 years.)


. . . where leading a double-life, far from being a sort of hypocritical sell-out, is a cultural art form much like Ikebana (flower arranging) or Shoudo (calligraphy): The creation of a double-life, the more outrageous and total-opposite-of-your-public-life the better, is a native art form, and is nurtured and refined daily by the artist with the same loving care as a zen master carefully tending a bonsai.


. . . where every fall, in every park, groups of old men gather to rake up just-fallen leaves, lest the park users experience the horror of colorful fall leaves.


. . .where the most common words of encouragement (“ganbarre!”) mean:  “Do your best to make those in authority proud of you!” 


. . . where you can find 1,000,000 comics depicting rape and child sex of either gender , but you can’t find even one comic depicting the Emperor having sex. In fact, you can’t find a comic of him wearing clothes, looking fresh, and just popping in for a few panels to say, “Hi!” – because that would be rude.



Also, the intellectuals over at MUTANT FROG have a great post about Japanese notions of accountability, and how they are different than Western notions. Please read this.




12 Comments so far

  1. giz January 7th, 2010 10:36 am

    Lawlsy if you ask me. Oh, Japan… :)

  2. AnokPanda January 7th, 2010 10:42 am

    how have i never noticed the eye brow thing; I’m a wannabe otaku so my japanese movie collection is rather admirable. do I lack awareness?, as an artist I’m concerned for myself. I’m also crazy with the eye brow expressions – sustained solo furrowed brow, right brow lift, left brow light, the puppy dog, brow assisted death stare, etc.

    Other than feeling a little more Archie Bunkerish after reading this, I’m also inspired, my next comic was already going to have biker gangs (dope head bosozoku/yanki’s and shit) now I must include a gang with members who dress up like historical rulers, emperors, prophets, etc. – monarchy mockery. Kinda like those guys from that movie Point Break, but with the addition of strap-on wangs and old school couture.

  3. François January 8th, 2010 2:43 am

    Your comment about being no manga or other depiction of the emperor rung quite true to my experience, but I began doubted it a bit too, so I ran a little search.

    And it actually exists: 天皇論
    It got published recently (2009), and is all about how the Emperor loves you, his people. (the author is not exactly thinking outside the “box”)

    But I found out that Hirohito got talked about in a quite different way in はだしのゲン, a manga about the Hiroshima bombing and its aftermath for boy named Gen.

    And this is a super popular manga since it was published starting 1973… (it got turned into anime and drama)

    BTW, I found those pages on a blog with interesting new vocabulary as 反天皇 an 反日自虐史観.

  4. z January 8th, 2010 12:33 pm

    barefoot gen is really great ive been picking it up at the local bookstore

  5. Candice January 8th, 2010 12:38 pm

    Interesting about the eyebrows. Growing up in Hawaii in the eighties, I could immediately tell Americans of Japanese Ancestry (AJAs) from the throngs of tourists from the motherland.
    Tell number one: Back in those days Japan Japanese had perfect clearasil-commercial skin. Probably due to a better (more Mcdonalds-free) diet. AJAs were likely to be as zitty as the rest of us. I wonder if things have changed in that respect.

    Tell number two: The different facial expression. I could never explain it, but I knew it when I saw it. After all these decades I think you finally put your finger on it for me. It was the eyebrows.

    One question for Schultz, our resident sociological genius: Having read the Mutant Frog article, how do you think this lack of accountability jibes with the older notion that one had to kill oneself as a consequence for failure? Is it a backlash against it? Is it just another inexplicable paradox? ??

  6. Adam January 8th, 2010 3:14 pm

    Damn, dude…. I gotta say, I LOVE this frakking website, Man. So, when will your tech advance to the point where you can wear an inconspicuous hat-cam, and take us live wit you to a show, maybe review it live and direct?

  7. Steve January 9th, 2010 5:08 pm

    Ha! That thing about the movie credits, I was watching a Japanese movie the other day and the ending credits had a nice jam playing in the background so I kept it rolling to see the music credits… and surprise! There was ANOTHER ending when the credits finished! There are several American movies that do this, but a lot of people miss those until they see the home version or whatever.

  8. admin January 9th, 2010 10:54 pm

    @candice: re: accountability and suicide. . . I think Mutant Frog guys would have a better explanation than me. You should ask them! But if you ask me, I think the Japanese who suicided , it was always because they failed A SUPERIOR PERSON – they failed their boss. But in the Mutant Frog story, it was about how bankers, politicians, beuracrats are not accountable to INFERIOR PERSONS – the regular folks. Of course that is true of EVERY country, just it’s more obvious in Japan.

  9. admin January 9th, 2010 10:56 pm

    @francois: thanks for that! What was the blog called?
    I would LOVE to get my hands on the pro-emperor manga, though! I’ll look around for that bullshit.

  10. szaszha January 10th, 2010 12:41 pm

    hatcam! or even better and more subtle, beard cam!

  11. François January 11th, 2010 4:12 am

    There’s a post about a so-called 靖國応援団 too.


  12. François January 11th, 2010 4:13 am

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