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2002-06-12 5:38 p.m.

the amazing stupendous kanji reading gaijin

Hey. Junko's sister thinks I look just like a certain Japanese pop star, name of Gackt. I think he looks like a girl, or maybe David Bowie at best. Oh well.

So the other day I ended up giving a ten minute speech in Japanese at a meeting of the Rotary Club- a service organization for local company presidents. I have no idea why they wanted me to speak, but they told me to talk about whatever I wanted. I bumbled through ten minutes worth of introduction and thoughts about Japan, and sat down. They seemed pretty bored throughout the whole meeting, and I don't think most of them really cared what I said or how I said it. Maybe if I had played a trumpet with my sphincter they would have been more interested... Next time. Next time.

You know, I'm thinking about becoming a Japanese pop star meself. Somehow I got invited to join the company president's band.

Well, I'm getting used to eating lots of things whose identity is a complete mystery to me. Traditional Japanese food is pretty... unique. It took me a while to get used to American Japanese food, and now it's taking a while to get used to Japanese Japanese food. I'm getting to really like cooked fish, for the sole reason that it's not RAW fish.

Every time I read kanji aloud, everyone gets all excited as if I'm a dog that can do math. "Rover! What's 2+2?" Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! People are surprised that I can use chopsticks, too.

"Gaijin," by the way, is the Japanese word for foreigner or outsider. Sometimes it's innocuous, but it tends to be used with undertones of condescension and/or disdain. To quote my book on Japanese slang, gaijin are "a diverse ethnic group that includes the whole world minus the Japanese."

There are two main things that make me homesick:

1. Candy here isn't as sweet as in the U.S. I knew this before I came and I didn't think it would be a problem, but... it is. Not that I don't like the Japanese candy- it's great and I love it. But it leaves me unsatisfied in a fundamental way. I'm realizing I'm something of a sugar junkie. Japanese candy has just enough sugar to crank my desire all the way up, but I'm then left without the high that I so badly need. This sugar tolerance- it's tough, man. American candy, by the way, is often so sweet that the Japanese can't eat it.

2. I left Final Fantasy X right in the middle. It's unfinished. I got no closure, man! And starting in the middle after three or four months off will kind of suck.

Anyway, Japan. Japan is a very traditional country. The oldest wood building in the world is in Japan (Nara's Horyuji temple, about 1500 years old), the longest reigning royal family ever is Japan's imperial family, and the oldest still practiced musical tradition in the world resides in Japan (Japanese court music, called "gagaku"). The first elementary school in Japan, built in the late 1800s, is in my town and it's still an elementary school today. They stick to the old ways, and yet...

Japan rules the modern world. Europe and America do a fair amount of ruling themselves, but that's been the norm for European types the last 500 years. But not Asia. Except for Japan, Asia (except Singapore, of course- wink wink nudge nudge) is and has been "up Shit's Creek with a turd for a paddle," as they say. Places like Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong are doing alright, I guess- they're up Shit's Creek, but they have a normal wood paddle. But Japan- Japan was up Shit's Creek in around 1947, but before long they were riding down Shit's River. Now they are totally riding the waves of Shit's Ocean, ruling the frickin world.

This mix of traditional culture with modern sophistication and economic power is what fascinates me about Japan, I guess.

And it all started with Sailor Moon. Sailor Moon literally changed my life, man. Sad but true. It came along at just the right time. I had a huge gaping hole in my heart, and Sailor Moon filled it. And then invited all it's buddies. sigh. Every time I watch anime, I think, "Yes! This is why I learned Japanese!"

I started this diary about a month after I started studying Japanese... huh.

Anyway. Junko's trying to catch me, keep me for good. I'm trying to decide if I want to be caught.

what chance did i have with the silver moon shining in the sky?