Monday, November 13, 2006

Japanese Girls are Weird.

While I was writing my last entry, I heard a strangely familiar noise--the kawaii voice. I personaly think it sounds irritating and sort of foolish. I guess it comes from wanting to sound cute like a young child, but it ends up sounding more like an affectation. It is something that seems wrong to me, but then I don't really like the english equivalents much either.
On the other hand, I don't hear too many women on campus talking like that. They generally look very serious and stylish.
That reminds me, yesterday a girl in my dorm from Thailand was commenting that it is impossible to find girl's clothes in pink. This was a rather foreign concept to me coming from the states, where it seems like every store that has a ladies section has atleast a portion dedicated to pink things. And, she said that a sizable minority of the guys clothes were pink. I'd heard pink was becoming a hip color for guys, but to have a store where the girls section has no pink and the guys has much seems odd to me.
I guess this could be pointed to as an example of how fashion moves in Japan compared to the US. I think that in the states certain colors, while not necisarrily popular, will always be present in a store.
Last Tuesday, Kendo.
I have been going to Kendo for a while now, but the problem I have with the club, that I have had is that there is no Sensei. This means that there is no one to really give instruction and the clubmembers don't really do much instruction.
On Tuesday, I went to kendo and I got more instruction than usual after the club members were done practicing. I was really eager to improve and so I was trying rather hard to do what my senpai was showing me, but she seemed to get sort of frustrated with me. She then called over the exchange student in the club who joined last semester and he told me that she thought I was not listening to her.
It was then that I remembered my manners, at the university I had gotten use to doing multiple things at once; ie recieving instruction while practicing something. This is a bad habit to have in Japan because, as I have noticed, listening is not something that can be done in parallel with something else without it seeming really informal or rude. Listening is also more active here, with lots of hai's sodesuka's, etc--though I suppose I think that way because I am socialized to say things like hmm and yes while someone is talking.
At any rate, I felt really awkward, but at that point I was too tired to really freeze up too much. Since then I have tried to be more careful when someone else is talking.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"people must be prepared to interact with member of other cultures in this increasingly multicultural world."

With relatively inexpensive global travel, more and more often people from different cultures are interacting due to changing labor markets, the increased ability of people to move to places where they can increase their standard of living. More companies are also seeking out opportunities in places where previously very little of the population had interactions with members of other cultures. As a result, educating people about how to interact with people from different cultures is becoming more and more important.
One of the first things I was struck by upon coming to japan was an increased sense that A) there was a correct and proper way to act in a given setting and B) I had no idea what it was. For the past three years I had been living more or less at the university as a student. In that environment, there are many ways to interact in situations and often there is no real 'right' way. So, for me this feeling is somewhat unnerving.
As I have adjusted though, I have come to understand that I have a fair amount of leeway in my actions because I am not expected to know what to do. This has made it easier in those times when I felt very confused. Kendo, because I go nearly every day and because I really have not integrated into the club properly feels this way every time I go. But, it is okay because the clubmembers know I am trying and have some understanding of my troubles.
Stereotypes-Charisma Man
I had not seen charisma man before, but I understand the comment it makes on gaijin immediately. In fact, the first of my friends to go to Japan, he went in highschool, experienced the effect. He became very popular and he told many stories when he got home about people saying he looked like tom cruise and other famous people.
I sort of got sick of listening to him after a while.
etic and emic
come from
phonetic and phonemic

I didn't think the book explained the origins of these words very well, so I looked them up to clarify the meaning for myself.

phonemic-concerning phonemes
phoneme- the smallest phonetic unit capable of conveying meaning in a language
phonetic-3.Of, relating to, or being features of pronunciation that are not phonemically distinctive in a language, as aspiration of consonants or vowel length in English.

So phonetic sounds are ones that do not necessarily carry meaning and phonemic sounds are the smallest unit of those sounds that has meaning.
I guess what this means is that etics does not deal with meaning, a kind of analysis of a situation without regard to metadata--how it fits, meaningwise, into a particular culture. I think it is more nuanced than general vs specific but it is sort of hard to pin down exactly. The definitions on of etic and emic deal with the lack or presence of structural information concerning place within a system.
I think that this is slightly different than how it was explained in class and perhaps how it is used in communications because those definitions were for linguistics and behavioral sciences. On the other hand, communications is a behavioral science. But I digress. In class, etics was defined as the common values between cultures, e.g. 'it is important to educate children'. Whereas emics are values native to a particular culture but not to all cultures.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I find it weird how in Japan there is such an emphasis on quiet and yet so many tings are noisy. Traffic is really loud and often there are scooters that have no or badly working mufflers that ride through residential areas after ten. Yet, we exchange students are expected to be quiet in our talking and such.
The sports teams also have a big emphasis on noise. Kendo is very loud with kiyais and slapping feet and every day I hear the tennis practice with their odd almost howling calls.
Perhaps it is the dichomy between the the extreme noise and silence that calls attention to these things, but I thiink that it was not this loud at my home school, generally.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


One of the things I have noticed about Japan in comparison to America is it seems that restaurants are cheaper. I go out to eat more here than I do in the states so there may or may not be a great correlation. But, I find it amazing that I can have a good sized meal and a beer and still have it cost less than $10. It is almost less expensive to go out every night than to cook for myself.
I guess part of this facination with going out stems from having a meal plan the last three years at my home university. I didn't go out with friends very often because I was too busy and it was so much easier to use the cafeteria.
Going out to eat is also different from the cafeteria in how it affects socializing. I have gone out to eat a few times by myself. When I would eat by myself last year, it didn't seem too weird but I always feel alittle strange going to a restaurant alone. I like going alone from time to time however because if I go with my friends I will inevitably spend most of my time speaking english.
It also changes how my social connections are made and maintained. Going out, you don't interact with as many people.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

My first day of Kendo.
I went with some of my friends who were interested in kendo as well. We got there at four pm when kendo was supposed to start according to the list of clubs at the CIE office, but practice didn't start until later, around five. From four to five, we watched the kendo club practice in their equipment. They drilled for most of the time, though there was some sparring.It was interesting to me because I had studied fencing back in America. I didn't really understand what was going on, but I could see some parallels. Distance from your opponent is closer than it is in fencing because of the nature of the strikes. After the team practiced, they dressed out and one of the exchange students who practice with them, he studied here last semester, taught us some footwork. The practice was pretty short, but I think pretty much everyone was getting it at the end.

Learning Kendo is interesting because it provides a metaphor for my adapting to Japanese culture. I know fencing which is a similar and yet completely different martial art. Some things are the same, but many things don't carry over.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

This morning I woke up later than I usually do. I got my towel and went into the shower room to take a shower. It was different today though, because the janitor was cleaning the sinks. I must of had a confused look on my face because she motioned towards the showers and said 'douzo', 'ok' and some other things I did not catch.This seemed very odd to me. Back in Bozeman, when the janitors cleaned the bathrooms they kicked all the students out and would not even let someone use the sink.I found the whole situation rather uncomfortable. Next time, I think I will use the other shower room when the one on my side of the dorm is being cleaned.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Using The Bus

I find it ironic that by going to Japan I have learnt more about American culture than anything else. I guess it makes sense because before I had no basis of comparision and now I meet daily, hourly with people from other countries and the things that grate from my culture are more apparent.
My initial strategy for getting around and meeting people has been to just follow people who look like they know where they are going. That is how I found myself on the bus for the first time. I followed two people who I met earlier on their quests to find various things. One of them needed to go to the bank to get some money changed.
I followed them on the bus to hirakata city. Now, the bus is no big deal; when I need to I can take it to the station and it saves me time. It is a long walk from the seminar house. But I digress.
So, I get on the bus without knowing how to pay or anything. I found it interesting watching the bus work. I had not used public transportation much back in the states. partly because I had a car and partly because where I live it is not very effective.
People got on the bus at the back and got off through the front of the bus. The only buses I had been on in the USA had only one exit, so that was different.
When the bus arrived at the station I needed to pay, but I did not have exact change. Having never taken the bus before, I didn't know what to do and I was not able to communicate this beyond having a terrible look on my face. The driver pointed at a coin slot and I put my 500yen coin in, got my change and started out. I thouught that I had done all that was needed. But, the driver grabbed my hand and picked the correct change out of it. It was then that I understood that the money changer just produced change. I felt very embarrassed and was unable to communicate how I felt.
My friends were waiting outside and when I saw them and explained what had happened they said that I should have asked them.
The next day during the orientation meeting, the use of the bus was explained. I had a sly grin on my face, becuase I had gone through the problems he described.
Now, looking back it was funny, but at the time I was really confused. It happened on the fourth day I had spent in Japan. I would like to think that I have become more sophisticated in my interactions since then.