There's an interesting show on TV every week that follows the life and times of a married couple, perhaps intended as a subliminal message to single people about the joys of being married in order to boost Japan's sagging birthrate. Recently they've been focusing on couples made up of Japanese husbands and foreign wives, and seeing how they went about their daily lives. One American woman who'd been here for ten years was quite interesting: she'd organized her apartment building into a co-op group so that they could buy food in bulk and save money, which is not something the average Japanese housewife would do. The show followed the couple around, discovering what subtle differences there were in their household compared to a normal Japanese one, how they did the shopping, what kinds of meals the wife prepared, and what friction she experienced with her Japanese husband (she hated his smoking). Language issues were also covered, including one that I could really feel for, how do you make your bilingual kids speak to you in English when they know you understand both languages?
It's funny how a person's perceptions work. Growing up in the 1970s, I knew nothing about Japan, except that Japanese people's lips didn't sync up with their mouths when they talked (this was due to the English dubbing of Godzilla and Gamera movies I watched). I distinctly remember thinking that Kimba the White Lion (Osamu Tezuka's Jungle Emperor Leo) must have been produced in Africa, not in Japan, because of copyright issues related to the animals, or something like that. Japanese people form some interesting perceptions about the U.S., too, and I've enjoyed learning about these during my time here. Japanese eat white rice with most every meal, and there's even a word that means "the main course of meat or vegetables that you eat with your rice" (okazu, also used to describe the main course you bring with your bento). The J-List Japanese staff reports that when they were kids, they thought Americans ate bread the same way, taking a plate of rolls or sliced bread with all three meals a day, no matter what you were having. It's common for famous American professional wrestlers to tour Japan, and J-List's Tomo says that his first impression of all Americans was based on those big gaijin wrestlers (it made no difference Andre the Giant was from France and Abdullah the Butcher was Canadian). I had a friend who was sure that Sony was an American company because of its English-sounding name, and once a housewife asked me in total seriousness if we had McDonald's in the USA. As always, it's fun to compare cultural differences.
J-List is proud to be cosponsoring the upcoming MusicFest 2006 at Fanime Con in San Jose this coming Memorial Day weekend (May 26-29). It's really a great event: six Japanese indies bands who will be performing on a live stage for fans at the show, several for the first time in the U.S. A once-in-a-lifetime chance to hear some great cutting-edge Japanese music live, a micro-Woodstock for the otaku generation, with all musical genres represented. If you want to hear some great JPOP/JROCK/JRAP, we hope you'll make it to the show. For information on this great convention, see this page.
We stopped off at a PA, which is a Parking Area on the freeway, an enclosed place where you can buy gas, hot udon, or shop for omiyage, souvinirs for friends. Here are some Gunma limited dry ramen noodles. Sounds yummy.
Hello Kitty cream cakes, officially called Yokohama Chiffon Cakes.
Rice cakes with baked soybeans on them.
They also sell ice cream, since you can buy ice cream anywhere in Japan, in any season. Note Lotte's Crunky, Morinaga's Monaka, and my favorite, Suica Bar, a watermelon ice cream bar with chocolate seeds. Mmm!
I talked about pro wrestlers today, and this is the most famous one of all, Antonio Inoki, who (among other things) is credited with introducing Tabasco sauce to Japan. I happened to meet him at LAX once, and politely asked if I could take my picture with him. He was awfully surprised to see a foreigner speaking to him in Japanese (since he's fluent in English and Portuguese).