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Is there a thing called "Japanese claustrophobia"?

Is there a thing called "Japanese claustrophobia"?

Old Dec 2, 12, 8:24 pm
  #31  
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Originally Posted by hailstorm View Post
Oh please. It's entirely possible to defend your family member in public (as Mrs. Taiwaned is probably doing) and chide them for their actions in private (as Mrs. Taiwaned is probably doing). In fact, that's the expected form of doing things in order that everyone can save face (which is the basic problem that Japanese have with foreigners: doing things in a way that forces somebody into embarassment)
Were you peaking into our kitchen? Cause that is exactly what happened.

As for Uchi-soto or chrysanthemum and the sword , no idea what that is.

Even though my blood is technically pure Japanese, you folks are much more Japanese than I ever hope or want to be.
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Old Dec 2, 12, 8:28 pm
  #32  
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Originally Posted by Taiwaned View Post
Even though my blood is technically pure Japanese, you folks are much more Japanese than I ever hope or want to be.
You can boil down the essence in an American's quote, by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins.
All you have to do is learn where all of the noses are.
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Old Dec 3, 12, 2:16 am
  #33  
 
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Originally Posted by hailstorm View Post
All you have to do is learn where all of the noses are.
That's a great line and a very good way of thinking about it.

This discussion reminds me of an American guy who I used to work with in Tokyo -- he moved here from Germany, where he lived for several years and had learned the language pretty well. I asked him what life in Frankfurt was like and he complained about how he was constantly being watched by his neighbors and chided every time his house wasn't in order or his garbage wasn't properly disposed of. For this guy, Tokyo was a sort of oasis from that minor hell, amusing as it might sound to those who see Japan as the exact same minor hell.

Taiwaned: not to criticize you, but you sound really self-conscious based on what you post on FT. I recall you worrying in another thread about having ID that would make you seem to be Japanese, while in this thread it almost sounds like you are having trouble not seeming foreign enough. Self-consciousness is a very good trait to have here, inasmuch as some people come to this country and never bother to learn where the noses are (to misappropriate hailstorm's expression). The key is to learn about others' expectations and not to let the self-consciousness overpower you on a day-to-day basis.

All that said, when you talked about that incident where someone thought you were mentally disabled, two things came to my mind:

1) That lady was really rude to say anything like that within earshot of you, and

2) If I saw someone babbling to themselves out loud in broken Japanese in the middle of the street, I would probably also assume that they had a mental problem.

It sounded more funny than anything, actually. In fact, I recall a Seinfeld episode where Kramer was shot up with Novocaine at the dentist and then met a lady on the street who assumed that he was disabled because he couldn't speak properly...

Anyway, not taking yourself too seriously can do wonders for your sanity. I speak from first-hand experience here. Mind your manners but don't be surprised when you make mistakes and either look stupid or have to apologize to people...

On that point, another thing I picked up a long time ago is that apologies go a long way even if you didn't really do anything wrong in your own view. Many people here say sumimasen reflexively, and it does wonders to defuse stand-offs, particularly if you follow up with a token gift or gesture of some kind to make the other person feel obliged to be nice to you in the future. If that doesn't have a positive effect, then they're an insufferable sociopath and you are just out of luck.

Besides that, don't worry about "uchi-soto" and all the other sociological revelations about Japan that are floating around; I find that these concepts can seem true on their face in certain contexts but break down in other contexts, and are anyway not fundamentally different from practices you can see in other societies and cultures. Japanese people have very diverse views of the world, and it irritates me to no end when people speak as if there is one social/cultural gestalt defining how they think and react. Hence my dismissive comment above. Far better to try to get an idea of what reasonable concerns the individuals around you would have...
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Old Dec 3, 12, 2:27 am
  #34  
 
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Originally Posted by joejones View Post
2) If I saw someone babbling to themselves out loud in broken Japanese in the middle of the street, I would probably also assume that they had a mental problem.

It sounded more funny than anything, actually. In fact, I recall a Seinfeld episode where Kramer was shot up with Novocaine at the dentist and then met a lady on the street who assumed that he was disabled because he couldn't speak properly...
OTOH, here in the UK, a family friend suffered a stroke and managed to get himself to the emergency room of a hospital. Despite being fully aware of what was being said, he wasn't able to voice his answers to any questions. Rather than assuming that there was a problem in his brain (which there was), the people on duty got it into their heads that he was a foreigner and ran around to find people who asked him the same questions in a bunch of different languages - ending up with "Do you speak Urdu?" (which you would agree is most unlikely, if you could see him) - until someone finally twigged what was up. In retrospect it's quite funny. He's doing fine now.
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Old Dec 3, 12, 2:28 pm
  #35  
 
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Knows Kanemaru and quotes Gide. I'm doubly impressed.
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Old Dec 3, 12, 3:27 pm
  #36  
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Another helpful thing to know when trying to get along with the neighbors is that, in Japan, an apology is an acknowledgement of the other party's pain, NOT an admission of guilt, and as such, unless you are at a distinctly higher social level than the other party, a sumimasen or moshiwake gozaimasen should ALWAYS be used before trying to explain yourself.

This was explicitly explained to me by a kacho in my early days in the company, as people complained that I was too confrontational. I ended up getting much better results professing my sorrow right off the bat, then explaining the course of my actions. I actually won more arguments that way as well, though usually in the course of admitting that there might have been a better way to take others feelings into account and pledging to do so in the future.

Last edited by hailstorm; Dec 3, 12 at 3:34 pm
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Old Dec 3, 12, 4:24 pm
  #37  
 
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I heard a story from an American-born Caucasian Japanese history scholar who is perfectly fluent in Japanese. He was on the phone, ordering tickets in Japanese, and everything went smoothly until he had to give his name. As soon as the other person heard a gaijin name, the person replied "eh, chotto matte," and left to find someone who spoke English. It was the scholar's way of relaying that in some ways he could never be fully accepted into Japanese society.

I agree with the others in trying not to take every societal rule too seriously, as it will probably drive you crazy.
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Old Dec 3, 12, 4:42 pm
  #38  
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Originally Posted by Pureboy View Post
I heard a story from an American-born Caucasian Japanese history scholar who is perfectly fluent in Japanese. He was on the phone, ordering tickets in Japanese, and everything went smoothly until he had to give his name. As soon as the other person heard a gaijin name, the person replied "eh, chotto matte," and left to find someone who spoke English. It was the scholar's way of relaying that in some ways he could never be fully accepted into Japanese society.
He would not have had that particular issue if he had naturalized and taken on a Japanese sounding name...
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Old Dec 3, 12, 4:45 pm
  #39  
 
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Why try to be uchi when (as a gaikokujin) you will always be soto?

Taiwaned is a nikeijin so his circumstances are somewhat different than most other gaijin, but he can be like my Canadian-Japanese friend and just always speak English (or whatever) in public so they just give up and walk away.

As for the gaijin speaking Japanese, I always have to repeat myself when I am in Japan because the locals still cannot believe that nihongo is coming from a westerner's mouth (no it's not because it's Osakaben). I equate it to this situation; if you were walking down the street and a dog asked you a question in perfect English you would be so shocked that you wouldn't actually comprehend the question and would say "what the...?" In most situations I am the talking dog.
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Old Dec 3, 12, 4:57 pm
  #40  
 
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Originally Posted by Pureboy View Post
He was on the phone, ordering tickets in Japanese, and everything went smoothly until he had to give his name. As soon as the other person heard a gaijin name, the person replied "eh, chotto matte," and left to find someone who spoke English.
When I hear stories like this I honestly wonder whether I live in the same country as these other people do. Perhaps this sort of thing was more common 20 or 30 years ago, but I can't imagine that anyone of room-temperature intelligence is still stuck in the mindset that foreigners don't speak Japanese, especially given all the Japanese-speaking foreigners who appear on TV these days.
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Old Dec 3, 12, 5:07 pm
  #41  
 
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sumimasen.... but these stories bring a smile to my face. Even though I look Japanese and understand it, I just speak English so conversations are naturally short.

I also love it when I go to L'Atelier and speak French to the waiter.
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Old Dec 3, 12, 5:09 pm
  #42  
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Originally Posted by joejones View Post
When I hear stories like this I honestly wonder whether I live in the same country as these other people do. Perhaps this sort of thing was more common 20 or 30 years ago, but I can't imagine that anyone of room-temperature intelligence is still stuck in the mindset that foreigners don't speak Japanese, especially given all the Japanese-speaking foreigners who appear on TV these days.
For all we know, it might have been a recollection from 20 or 30 years ago...
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Old Dec 3, 12, 8:04 pm
  #43  
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Fellas, it's all very simple. Mrs. Pickles and I have concluded years ago that the Japanese are the weirdest people in the planet. They have developed their own weird ways of doing things over centuries, and that's what they're like. Accept that fact, don't try to change it, realize that the collective neurosis that is Japan is part comedy, part anthropological field study, and just go with the flow. And thank god you're not one of them. Works wonders.
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Old Dec 3, 12, 8:19 pm
  #44  
 
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In Shibuya-ku there certainly is not much of an issue with trash. I put everything in trash cans and don't bother with recycling plastic. I put glass out for recycling; don't use transparent bags. Neither do any of the neighbors. Actually, the only people who put recycling in see-through plastic bags according to instructions are gaijin on my street.

In other places that use WTE there is no consumer waste separation. Also, if you read about the Japanese WTE processes they are all designed to manage slag in the process. http://www.waste-management-world.co...nt-review.html
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Old Dec 3, 12, 9:15 pm
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Originally Posted by Pickles View Post
Mrs. Pickles and I have concluded years ago that the Japanese are the weirdest people in the planet.
No way. The average MIT graduate is far weirder than the average Japanese person. As is the average poster on the BA forum.
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