I was disappointed Japan’s victory in the Women’s World Cup triggered so many negative comments from my fellow Americans (references ranging from Pearl Harbor to Yoko Ono) and would like to point out there is a difference from appearing patriotic and looking like a sore loser. I too was disappointed the US did not win, but in light of the year the Japanese have had, you would be hard pressed to pick a country more deserving of something to smile about. (And I suspect the smiles were especially wide in Nagasaki and Hiroshima.)
I have fond memories from my comedy tour of Japan. For those of you who have never been there, I will try to compare the Land of the Rising Sun (for better or worse) to the Good Ol’ USA.
- It is the land that bad manners forgot. To say the Japanese are polite is an understatement of staggering proportions. For example, if you cause a car wreck, despite it being your fault, the driver of the car you hit will get out and apologize.
- Everyone parties! I’m told non-drinkers are rare, and I certainly didn’t meet any. Beer is available from sidewalk vending machines (no fake ID needed here). And when a waitress brings you a beverage, no tip is expected. In public places, such as subway stations and airports, the sidewalks are built with “Braille Trails,” small bumps to help blind people to find their way (but also helpful if you’ve had too much Sake).
- All bicycles are designed in the style we would call “girls bikes,” without the bar running from the handlebars to the seat. This makes perfect sense (especially to any man who has ever fallen off the pedals).
- Sandwiches are served with the crust cut off, just like Mom used to do.
- The Japanese version of “flipping someone off” involves placing the thumb between the index and middle fingers, which actually closer resembles what you are trying to say.
- The 100 Yen Store (their version of Dollar Tree) is filled with unusual items (such as nose pickers) that make great affordable gifts for friends back home.
- Their cell phones are the ones we will be using in a couple years.
Which brings us to the...
- Everyone has to have a cell phone to call for directions. Most streets are not named. The buildings are numbered, but in the order they were built(?!) Without a map, detailed directions, or phone, you should consider yourself lost.
- If you think traffic is bad in LA, try Japan. The country is two-thirds the size of California, with 75% of Japanese land being uninhabitable mountains, and a population of half the United States! To register a car, you must provide proof you have a place to park it. Mass transit is equally congested, a ride on the Tokyo subway will put you closer to a stranger than a lap-dance in Vegas.
- In the Japanese tradition it is customary to soap up and rinse outside the tub, since everyone shares the same bathwater. (Men go first, when the water is still hot, women last; equal rights have yet to arrive.)
- The traditional toilets consist of little more than a hole in the floor. When you do find a western-style toilet it is often accompanied with the poster nearby providing instructions on how to use it (the diagram made me laugh so hard I almost ruined a pair of shoes).
- You will never find paper towels to dry your hands in public restrooms; everyone is expected to bring their own, which is easy to forget when you leave your accommodations. And emerging from a toilet with wet hands is inappropriate in any country.
- Needless to say, their use of the English language is questionable, and frequently humorous. For example, I saw a Beauty Salon with a sign reading: “Repair Shop.” Sometimes it‘s just a matter of inversion to figure it out: to get an ambulance you dial “119” instead of “911.” But it’s easy to find American food at Makku, Dankin Denattsu, Pisa Hatto, and Taku Beru (McDonalds, Dunkin’ Donuts, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell.)
- The Japanese have very conflicting standards about sex. On one hand it’s illegal to show genitalia in their porno films, on the other hand there are vending machines on the street that sell “used school-girl panties.” There are other examples of repression breeding perversion. They have coffee shops whose name translates into “No Panties Place.” The waitresses wear short skirts without underwear and the floor... is mirrored!
I apologize if this blog has unintentionally offended anyone of Asian descent. I have a place in my heart for Asians. In 1969 my father was saved by a Cambodian family during the Vietnam Conflict. They hid him for over eight months. They still live in Toronto.
“The Laff Guru” has taken his message of LAUGHTER=NIRVANA to all 50 states and 23 countries. His awards include: “Comic of the Year,” “Campus Performer of the Year,” and a “Cable Ace Award.” His credits include over fifty TV appearances, including: Showtime and The Late Show. He is represented by GP Entertainment. To find out more about his award-winning comedy act please visit: laffguru.com