Thursday, May 21, 2009

Japan is so much more special when you're stupid

Some time back, I had a commenter who was new to Japan who I tried to be supportive of and help out as she repeatedly freaked out over her troubles in Japan. As time went by, she turned into one of those foreigners who finds everything in Japan so precious and unique and ragged constantly on her home country (which happens to be America).

I quit reading her blog, but occasionally something will compel me to take a peak back and see if she's found some balance in her life here. Unfortunately, I can't say from my latest peak that she has. While certainly it is any person's right to bash their home country and praise Japan as being just so precious and wonderful, the lengths to which some people go leaves me flabbergasted.

One of the recent posts by this person was bubbling over about sugar syrup for coffee and how wonderful it is that you can buy little plastic tubs of it in Japan and pour in your cold beverages to sweeten them. 'Why doesn't America have this syrup,' she exclaims. Well, America does have sugar syrup for cold drinks. In fact, America has far more of it than Japan does. You can get such syrup in dozens of flavors and as both a sugar and sugar-free version from more than one manufacturer. One of the ones I buy it from (via the FBC) is Da Vinci. The main difference between Japan and America on this front is that the Americans have a vastly greater variety of it and the Japanese have it in one flavor (plain) only and sell it in excessive packaging.

Certainly, there are things that Japan has that can't be had in other countries, but the gaijin Uncle Toms are so myopic that they either don't know their own country well enough to know what isn't worth gushing over or simply are so blinded by their infatuation with Japan to see reality. I try to be patient with people, but these people get my goat because of the ridiculous lengths to which they go in order to keep Japan on a pedestal. And yes, this is the same stupid person who was clapping her hands at an article that said that racism was right for Japanese people. One of these days, I swear I'm going to pop by and find her talking about how wonderful it is that Japan handles prostitution by essentially sexually enslaving women from other Asian countries. I'm sure she appreciates that it keeps more Japanese women out of the profession, and the Japanese are the important ones, aren't they?. :-p


Emsk said...

Although it's interesting to absorb different cultures, from home or in the country itself, I do wonder why you'd slag off "home" so much. Admittedly, there are things I like better about Japan - the streets are much cleaner, for instance, at least where I was living, and I haven't been able to track down certain products I used in my painting in the the UK.

It reminds me a bit of a point you made in your Chrisma Man post last year, when you remarked about such types basing their relationships with Japan and the Japanese on light activities.

I used to work with a real gaijin arse-licker, excuse my language (as in he arse-licked the Japanese). America was the Big Bad Wolf, despite the fact that, for all its faults, you guys have a progressive constitution (we don't even have one!) and you can more or less be who you are. Of course, I'm aware that there are certain parts of the country where you'd be better of living if you were a liberal-minded vegetarian artist or gay man or woman, for example. But if the US and the UK are such bad places, why are half the world clamouring to come here?

Unbeknownst to my old co-worker, the Japanese people he arselicked weren't impressed - they were embarrassed. But due to the tatemae, they're prone to "letting things go", I think. They can at least breathe a sigh of relief that this person isn't "one of them".

This guy was more than happy to present himself as a cartoon good-time gaijin. I can't imagine that many people would remember him as anything other than the geek whose conversation amounted to little more than "Heyyyyyyy!!!! Scott loves doughnuts!"

The point is that nobody likes an arse-licker, however they treat you. No one was impressed over here when Madonna went through her English phase - we could all see how wrong she got it. How much better to make a contribution by being who you are and showing difference.

M ex-co-worker was also a convert to Judaism and would come out with things like "we eat Chinese on Christmas day", even though he gave no indication of observing the Sabbath or keeping kosher in Japan. It turned out he was by birth a Catholic who hated his religion of origin with venom. As you say in the US, "go figure!"

Kelly said...

Hmm...trying to figure out who this is.

I love the titles you come up with for your blog posts! They make me laugh, especially this one. :)

I'm not sure if I get the idea of sugar syrup, it's like an additive with flavour that makes the coffee taste different? I think we have something like that here...little cups of flavour (irish cream/vanilla/mint/hazelnut etc) that you just tip into a coffee. I hope I'm on the right track!

Orchid64 said...

Kelly: Sugar syrup is what my grandmother used to buy and call "gum syrup". It's a very smooth, thick syrup that you add to cold beverages to sweeten them. In her day, there was only the same sort that you can get in Japan - clear syrup which was essentially sugar and water boiled into a sweet, flavorless goo. These days, they not only have the plain syrup in other countries (not Japan, except at Starbucks), but a huge variety of flavored ones to add to coffee, tea, or to use in making Italian sodas.

This same stupid person once did a post about Starbucks Japan where she said that the cherry syrup added to beverages here was so fabulous while that in the U.S. tasted like cough syrup. The thing is that Starbucks Japan uses the exact same syrups as those in the U.S. because there is no such product here! She's claiming that the same thing tastes better just because someone pumps it in Japan. It's like claiming a bag of Sumatra beans is better in Japan than the U.S. when all the beans are from the same place (Indonesia).

Emsk: I think that people who come here and "turn" on their own country likely have very weak identities or are trying to shed the identity they had back home because they hated themselves or didn't get on well with other people there. Slagging off on their own culture is part of the process of abandoning who they once were and praising Japan is the way in which they try to assume a new identity. In essence, they are projecting their self-hate on their home country and other foreigners.

The skewed perspective is likely a psychological necessity as rewriting your identity and isactually very hard, especially when it's staring you in the mirror every day.

This person told me she didn't get along with anyone in the family and had no support network back home. I think that trying to assimilate here probably provides a false sense of complete belonging that this person didn't have back home. In the end though, it will fail. The Japanese do not embrace outsiders as one of their own, no matter how hard one tries to become like them. They don't even embrace weird Japanese people or even people from other parts of the country.

Thanks to both of you for your comments!

Kelly said...

Ahh ok, So I was totally off on the sugar syrup. I've actually never heard of it before. :) Learnt something new there.

Where is this infamous blog? Are you talking about tokyomango or someone else?

I've been searching google but I can't find said blog.

I agree with Emsk about dissing your home country.

I love some things about Japan, but I love Australia much much more! I never appreciated home so much as when I came back from Japan. :) Every place has their good and bad points, but I would never diss out Aus like that. :)

Kelly said...

Oh I found it. LITKG? :)

But a couple of posts before that is a post where she said she is missing home and suffering terrible culture shock, and missing her personal space, and doesn't want to be a random gaijin.

I see what you mean about stupid people...

Orchid64 said...

Yes, you found it. I hadn't seen the culture shock post that you mentioned (I only scan a bit and only look about once every 2-3 months). Though honestly, I shouldn't be looking at all. I don't think she's going to grow up any time soon.

I have respect for people who are honest about the strong and weak points of a country. As you say (and I've said the same thing), all places have good and bad points, but I can't deal with people who create contrived bad points or glorify another country in order to gain acceptance. I think bashing any place is generally a sign that one has a psychological issue at play, but there's nothing wrong with making rational points. For instance, the health care system in America is fabulous for those who have insurance, but awful for those who don't. The health care divide between the "haves" and "have nots" in the U.S. is a serious problem, and it's one that Japan does no have. That being said, socialized medicine has other problems like wide-spread abuse and lower quality of care.

People who can assert something of value, whether I personally agree with what they say or not, are fine by me. It's the ones who make baseless assertions who lose my respect.

Thanks for your comment!

Emily said...

Good point about the medical care, Orchid. Ours is free and that's fantastic - although plenty opt for private healthcare - but it's totally open to abuse.

Let's weigh up the plusses and minuses constructively. By all means we can prefer another country to our own, but let's cut teh knee-jerk stuff. In my opinion Japan is much cleaner than the UK and customer service is several cuts above the surliness we've come to expect. But Japan is much more repressed and service industry jobs are so badly paid, it's small wonder that it doesn't always come with a smile. Japan, quite rightly, wants to protect its unique culture, but is paranoid about being swamped by outsiders. Due to our history we're much more open to immigration and finding out about new cultures, but it hasn't been without its problems. There are always two sides to the coin.

I would imagine that this person would be more critical of the USA simply because she is American. She's bound to have much more first-hand knowledge of America and have met many more Americans in her time, which would explain why she disliked more of them.

A friend of mine is married to an Italian man and they live with their children in a beautiful part of southern Italy. But having been there for nearly twenty years she tells me she loves going back to Scotland because of the wonderful 'grey days'. That's right - after a while the hot Italian weather just gets too much for her!

badmoodguy (Бадмўдгуи) said...

Every culture has its quirks, some handle things better than others, some worse. I think it is OK to embrace another culture, but one should not forget who they really are. If you are an American living in Japan, you are just that: an American that is living in Japan. Taking to heart some of the customs of the Japanese to make your life easier when dealing with the natives and to try to make the natives more comfortable around you is something that I would expect. However, to deride your own culture in favor of another is totally bizarre. Every culture has plenty of things to complain about and things that could be done better.

Simple Syrup is a staple of bars everywhere. It is pretty much the only decent way to sweeten iced tea because sugar has a hard time dissolving in cold liquids. It is cheap to make on your own.

Boil a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water until the sugar dissolves, then cool. You can then sweeten anything you like. You can also add flavorings to the mix to enhance your drinks.

For a thicker syrup, you can use a 2:1 sugar-to-water ratio, but you run the risk of getting into candymaking territory.

Orchid64 said...

Hi, Mike. Long time, no "see". :-) BTW, are you on FaceBook?

I make my own syrup, but not for beverages. I use exactly the recipe you mention to make pancake syrup. It's monstrously expensive here so we boil a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water then add maple extract, vanilla, and a whisper of salt. It's actually very good - better than store bought syrups, though clearly nowhere near the same as the real deal (maple syrup).

I think you could make your own syrup in a huge variety of flavors adding different extracts, or, as you say, just add it to cold drinks.

badmoodguy (Бадмўдгуи) said...

Hello! Yes, it has been much too long!

Making this syrup for pancakes is a superb idea that I never thought of. I will have to try it. The store-bought syrups are typically vile concoctions of pseudo-maple flavorings and a veritable chemistry set of compounds. Mother and I tend to eat pancakes quite a lot as they are cheap and easy to make.

I am not on Facebook, but I have had numerous people try to compel me to join up, so I will probably investigate this further... :)

Orchid64 said...

If you get on FaceBook, look me up or let me know and I'll find you. You know my real name so you can find me. :-)

Kelly said...

You know it's funny, I was in the supermarket yesterday and right in front of me there was a bottle of sugar syrup!! Plain as day. It said underneath "new product". It's such wicked timing!! I thought right away about your post Orchid. If I hadn't of read that, I wouldn't have known what it was for anyway and probably would have disregarded it.
Your blog is educational. :)