Dating Difficulties

This is not a personal entry, I promise!  It’s totally about Japan!  ;P (Translation: We ask men to refrain from entering the hot tob. Please understand.)

This is not a personal entry, I promise! It’s totally about Japan! ;P (Translation: We ask men to refrain from entering the hot tob. Please understand.)

So, I’ve talked about this on my personal blog site a lot lately (lately being in the last few weeks), but I have recently gotten myself into a relationship here in Japan.  (Yes, it’s awesome, okay, fine, moving on to more pertinent things in this blog.  Thanks.  ^_^)  I want to talk just for a moment about why I am now completely amazed that anything ever gets done in Japan with regard to relationships and dating IN GENERAL, as I have now seen some rather unusual things from the inside (of having a relationship).

First off, how do people ever get to know each other well at all?  There is nowhere in this city (Tokyo) that you can go to be alone together with someone, even just to talk or whatever.  Unless the last train has already left (more on that later), there’s going to be SOMEBODY walking nearby to SOMEWHERE, no matter where you try to run.  Societally, I suppose, this could function a bit like having a 24/7 chaperone, but when you hear statistics about the average 12-14 year old having had a sexual experience, you start to wonder where they go to DO it?  This isn’t me being frustrated, since I’m not looking for that sort of thing as you might imagine, but purely from a standpoint where I would like our personal discussions to ACTUALLY be personal and not having dozens of people walking by all the time, it’s a bit strange to think that ANYONE could be at ALL sexually active before they can afford a large apartment on their own (meaning after university)…

…and suddenly, it makes sense why nobody ever gets married or dates seriously here until well into college life or even an established career.  That makes me kind of sad.

Second, what’s the deal with purikura?  It’s a contraction of the English words “print club,” into Japanese, and it talks about the crazy photo booths they have here.  The picture atop this post is from a sign that I saw when my girlfriend and I went to take pictures at a purikura place in an upper floor of an arcade (they call them game centers here, though).  If you can’t figure it out, men are not allowed to be on the purikura floor by themselves.  If a man is present, he must be accompanying a woman.  I will freely admit that I felt freaking WEIRD going into that floor, hand-in-hand with my new girlfriend, ready to affix our newfound attraction into the annals of history with crazy backgrounds, bright shiny stars, and crazy glittery things dotted throughout the photos.  Was I adventuring into a forbidden realm?  Was there some hidden secret that only girls and boys-with-girlfriends were allowed to know?  (Pro-tip:  there wasn’t.)  What happened if she wandered around the corner to look at another booth without me noticing and some girl came up and saw me just standing by myself?!?  Were ninjas (girl ninjas) going to appear from the ceiling tiles and slice me in half for being a perverted monster, when really I just hadn’t stayed close enough to my girlfriend to be kept safe from the purikura ninjas?  o.o  I feared for my life.

[ed. note: Males are totally, technically allowed. I just never saw any nearby where the purikura stuff.]

I feared for my life muchly.

Lastly, what the hell, Japan, is with your trains?  Last trains leaving at 12:15?  But if you want to make the transfer that takes you all the way to your home station you gotta leave by 11:45?  And this is even on the weekend!  So we’re both in home-stays, and that kind of makes it impossible to meet up and just watch TV or a movie or play games at one of our houses, which means we have to meet up somewhere (usually the station nearest the school) to talk, as young lovers often will, into the not-so-wee hours of the night.  That’s right.  No staying up forever talking because you gotta catch your last train!  No cuddling together because, let’s face it, sitting down is generally frowned upon by THE ENTIRETY OF THE JAPANESE POPULATION…

…I once saw a few benches somewhere… >.>  I think.  Truth be told, there are benches, but they’re usually in places like, right out front of a train station.  You want to sit down on a curb?  Prepare to be stared at, and that’s before they realize you’re a gaijin and holding hands (in public) with a girl. *big sigh*

Anyway.  So things are… interesting.  We’re managing to have a lot of fun despite Japan’s seeming paranoia about letting two people have any amount of quality time together.  Meh, perhaps it’s for the best.  It will teach us to treasure the time that we CAN be together, perhaps?  (Pro-tip: On weekdays, you can get a karaoke room, up to 3 hours, for less than $4 per person.  And you can… sing songs… in the karaoke room.)

Well, peace from this side of the pond.

[ed. note: Now that I’m much older and “wiser,” I would be very much interested in returning and trying to observe more of local custom surrounding couples. Now to figure out how to sustain myself if I went, and how to not look totally creepy following couples around Tokyo… A safari hat probably wouldn’t help in this regard…]

There and Back Again

Well, I went home, lived in America for a couple months, and now am back in Japan.  That was quick, eh?PS:  Why did I repeat this picture?  Read to the bottom.  Er... ALL the way to the bottom!  Partway will cause misunderstandings, of this I promise!  O.O

Well, I went home, lived in America for a couple months, and now am back in Japan. That was quick, eh?
PS: Why did I repeat this picture? Read to the bottom. Er… ALL the way to the bottom! Partway will cause misunderstandings, of this I promise! O.O

[2013 – I don’t think I ACTUALLY repeated that image from before. That’s what I get for writing at midnight, I suppose…]

Okay, so now that I’m BACK in Japan and am losing time, I have started feeling a LOT more pressure (I’m looking at you, dancers I know…!) to update my blog, and with good reason!  It’s not every day you are good friends with someone who goes to Japan (unless you’re good friends with me, right?) just like it’s not every day you get to GO to Japan.  Or anywhere else in the world!  So my apologies to those who were REALLY hoping for an update or two over the break, I was just so busy doing AMERICA that I didn’t manage to squeeze in time for Japan!  ^_^  Weird, huh?

Okay, so time for a long-ish blog entry, which is cool, ‘cause y’know it’s only almost midnight here, so I got time.  Right?  I got time?

Whatever.

–Back Home for a Time–

Coming home was educational, to say the least.  I was initially VERY surprised at just how BIG everything felt.  And it wasn’t the houses or the cars or the streets (though they were very big indeed) as these things were just as big as I’d remembered them to be.  The things that surprised me were things like chairs, cups, hamburgers, proportions and the like.  I’d become so used to small glasses, small hamburgers, low chairs and tables, that I didn’t really realize that I’d become used to them!  The biggest surprise was when I went to go get a glass from the cupboard for the first time, I reached in and grabbed one, and it just felt HUGE in my hand, like I was seven all over again!  So rather than realize that I’d just gotten used to smaller glasses, I reached for a different-colored one, thinking that perhaps while I was away Mom had purchased bigger glasses.  That one felt just as big.

I still had to ask Dad or Ryan or somebody if the glasses were ACTUALLY the same size as always!  Man, some people just have a hard time learning, eh?

Otherwise, things were about the same as always back in America.  Church was about the same, girls were about as frustrating, life about as complicated as it should be…  Oh, it did take me a week or two to get used to throwing all of my trash away in the same container, though.  That was fun to come to terms with. ^_^

–Back to Japan–

Coming back to Japan was interesting, at least as much as any 15 hour flight could be.  I had to fly from Denver to Chicago first, because apparently American Airlines thinks that cheaper.  It probably actually is for them, rather than having international hubs all across the US.  I woke up around 5 or so, grabbed my bags, went to the airport… You know the drill.  About the only interesting thing that happened was I bought a bagel while waiting for my flight, and literally, I think I would have liked just a little more bagel with my cream cheese than they gave me.  The amount of cream cheese was fine, I just needed a second bagel to go with it all!

Otherwise, the flight to Japan, train to Tokyo, etc… were all just dandy and relatively eventless.  Once I got back to Tokyo, I dunno, apparently there’s this whole “cherry blossom” thing going on that nobody told me about*, and so all the hotels were pretty much already full.  I had to walk for an hour or two to a couple of different hotels before I found one in Shinjuku that had a MAP of other nearby hotels with phone numbers that I could call instead of walking to them all in-person.  And even then the only one I found was a two-room, so I sent a little more than I’d hoped, but the school reimbursed most of that cost.  Well, they WILL reimburse it soon anyway.  So I slept, woke, found out my host family wouldn’t be able to meet me for sure (I was already pretty sure that would be the case), so they put me up in another hotel for a second night.

*People told me about it, and I already knew…  I just hadn’t realized it would affect my finding a hotel room as much as it did.  There were folks in Tokyo from ALL over the world, but mostly Japan and China, I think.  Maybe Taiwan…?

After that I went to Ueno Park with some friends to do a little “hana-mi,” or “cherry-blossom viewing.”  We talked and played some music for an hour or two, then went to a nearby museum that had a Japanese history section (both natural history and societal history) as well as a general science section.  It was wicked cool, because they had this amazing spherical room with projectors all around and a walkway in the middle on which to stand, and if you leaned over the edge you could fairly easily forget you were standing on ANYTHING, and flying along with the camera across 3D-rendered fields of dinosaurs, or through the ocean, and then get sick and throw up.  (I didn’t get sick or throw up.  I think nobody threw up, but I bet it’s happened once or twice. ^_^)  After the movie we saw the whole museums.  It got boring and two of us got pretty jet-lagged, so we just skimmed through most of one of the buildings and went back.

The next day, finally I met with my host family. I’ll try to get pictures and more information about them up a little later, but it’s a little three-member family.  The parents are at oldest eleven years older than me and youngest eight years older, so it’s really a lot more like big-brother/sister or aunt and uncle than parents, which is cool.  Their son is 5, and I can actually understand most of what he says!  That makes me happy.  My Japanese is ALMOST on par with a 5-year-old.  Wouldn’t that make YOU happy?  ^^;;

And finally, most recently (and the reason I’m composing this at midnight rather than, say, SOONER than midnight) I finally found a club that I wholeheartedly want to join!  It’s called the “Kyougi Dansu” club, which means “Cometitive Dance.”  What THIS means is that not ONLY will I be improving/learning ballroom dance (specifically Waltz, Quickstep, Foxtrot, Tango, Cha-cha-cha, Rhumba, and one other latin dance, I think…  They said it all in Japanese, which is hard for me to remember, and it was fast making it hard for me to immediately translate to English and retain), but we will be focusing on getting REALLY good at it! ^_^

Furthermore, there are some awesome people in the club so far, including some really cute girls.  One girl I met actually grew up between 1 and 11 in America, then came back to Japan and attended middle and high school here, so her Japanese is as good as anyones, but the English she knows she speaks fluently!  It completely blows my mind.  Oh, that and she’s hot.  And she told me that I was hot, and that she didn’t believe I didn’t have a girlfriend.

Yeah, I totally got her number. ^_^  How long are you supposed to wait before calling a girl after getting her number, anyway?  I mean in Japan, that is?  Bah, the club’s meeting again tomorrow, I guess, so it’s cool.  I’ll just see her then!  Along this tangent, however, I may have just been suffering from “girl said you’re hot” disease and thus had an unusually large ego, but I kind of got the impression that a few of the girls there were eyeing me…  If I’m right (and I refuse to allow myself to think too seriously that I am beyond “it’s possible”) then I hope oh, so very strongly, that it will not become anything awkward.  My impression of Japanese dating culture is that it won’t, as it seems kind of like girls here aren’t as… catty as they are in America, even about boys.

Scott’s dating insight:  Boys and Girls in Japan are just a fact of life, and some like the others, and some like each other.  If one doesn’t like you but you like them, well, you can try harder or give up.  And if they like one of your friends who likes them back, well good for them!

I may be completely mistaken about this, but I hope to never find out if I am!

By the way, is it COMPLETELY messed up that I think it’s attractive, this girl speaking Japanese much better than I and English at least as well as an eleven-year-old?  I think probably.

And finally, to finish off this post-of-posts, I’m going to Kyoto on Saturday, and I found out shortly after taking off to Chicago that my camera’s battery is dead, I don’t have the second on me, and my charger is either at HOME, or in my extra bag which I doubt I can get back before I leave.  So it’s not all wireless internet and heated toilet seats out here!  >.<  Man, and the sakura should be in FULL bloom up in Kyoto when we go there, too!  Gotta look for a charger!!!  Gyaaaaaaaaar!

Sing-Song Strangers

Music makes the heart grow stronger.  At least, that’s MY take on the thing.  I think music is very important to growth and even knowing who you are inside.  It can help you understand all sorts of things, and is likely the closest to spiritual communication that many people get.

Music makes the heart grow stronger. At least, that’s MY take on the thing. I think music is very important to growth and even knowing who you are inside. It can help you understand all sorts of things, and is likely the closest to spiritual communication that many people get.

So, I finally got to do karaoke this evening!  That is, the “real” karaoke (if there can be such a thing…).  All-in-all I wasn’t too terribly impressed.  The room was in Japan (so that means it had crappy air-conditioning), and there were nine of us there for most of it, for two hours.  I got three songs.  Apparently the Japanese make their songs a lot longer than we do back in the states, because all of my songs were wicked short by comparison, except the Japanese one I tried.  (It had some English lyrics I knew, and I knew the chorus in Japanese, so I though, “what the heck”.)

About $10 later, I didn’t really know anybody that much better, though I knew better who could sing well, so that’s something. ^_^  What I picked up I got from listening in on others’ conversations.  It’s true, what they say, that Japanese people don’t really talk about important things (“important” things) like we Americans do.  Unless they’re talking to me, apparently.  I think one of the gaijin super powers has to have something to do with having to wear your heart (and pretty much everything else) on your sleeve for every Japanese person weird enough to talk to you.  This is a double-edged blade, though, because most people won’t talk to you ever.  It’s a rule: “Don’t talk to strangers… Or others.”  So you rarely get asked personal questions; but man when they hit, they hit HARD.  I mean, it’s getting pretty crowded out there on my sleeve, let me tell you! ^^;;  Today’s topic was a nice grueling in WHY I wouldn’t want to write any stories (because I said I wanted to tell stories for a living, and she asked what kind, and we were discussing this rather benign topic) pertaining to my faith/religion/the Gospel.  Well, because it’s too personal.  I wouldn’t want to turn that into anyone’s entertainment.  And I said that.  And then we somehow started talking about whether or not you should feel guilty for buying music like Maroon 5, who sing about rather very un-religious things, and well…  I’m pretty sure that the conversation would not have gone that way were I Japanese.  This is probably because I would have used my Japanese telepathy to know where the conversation was headed and said the magic password which is (well, I still don’t have that yet), and which tells them telepathically to “not go there” as it were.

All in all, I got to sing a couple nice songs, get nice and sticky in the hot, muggy room, listen to some very good Japanese singing and some very BAD Japanese singing, and go home in the rain after being questioned about a very complicated, personal topic that I can’t well discuss in English, let alone any other language; and all this for $10.  Can I… maybe get a little refund or something?  I mean, maybe five, or seven… but ten?  Isn’t that a bit much?

Well, I did learn some interesting (frightening?) things about raising children in Japan.  But to truly get it, you probably have to go back a few years before.  See, in dating and relationships, there’s about two kinds (give or take “Japanese”, which is to say, there’s two kinds): Matches Made, and Ren-Ai.  The former being anything from blind dates (which could become the latter, I suppose) to o-miai (photo-blind-dating, usually with the intent to marry and have children with someone “good enough”); these relationships are solely about “good enough”.  You find someone that works okay, and you both go on to the next step.  The latter (ren-ai) means “romantic love”, and that’s basically what it is.  You meet, and everything’s either perfect from the get-go or horrible from the get-go and then fate conspires to make you fall madly in love with each other.  Anything in between and you’re just friends, and you don’t really want to get married anyway, which means you’re probably not 45 and graying yet.

Okay, so once you’ve married someone (either the love of your life or some guy you think will keep you in the manner to which you’ve become accustomed), you have children.  Or a child.  You might have two, but that’s kind of pushing it.  (The average number of kids per family here is about 1.7.  That poor 0.7, though.  I feel bad for him… or her. >.>)  Once you’ve had kid(s), then whatever was between husband and wife disappears.  He goes to work every day, and she becomes slave to the children.  Period.  She doesn’t give a rat’s ass about him any further than he brings home the money that she uses to buy food to keep her kid(s) fed and doing homework.

Now, when I say “slave”, I don’t mean that she bows to (his/her/their) beck-and-call.  No-no.  I mean that that’s all she does.  Their laundry, their food, planning what school they go to, recording the TV shows she wants them to watch, everything short of chewing their food for them (a suggestion I refuse to make, for fear that my sarcasm would be missed, and she actually might do it.  I mean hey, less time spent chewing is more time spent doing homework, right?).  So she slaves over them trying to craft their futures to be successful.

Why?  Because they need to have good jobs, so that when Mom and Dad are old, the children can take good care of them because they’ll be old and unable to do fun things anymore and take care of themselves.  Oh, and they’ll be mean and demanding, like their parents were, and also like they hated their parents for being.  It’s a vicious cycle, indeed.

I learned this because my host mom has been sleeping in her children’s room the last few nights, and I asked why, and she explained (I think a bit to the husband’s chagrin) that in America the HUSBAND is a wife’s priority, but in Japan the number one priority is the CHILDREN.

And it’s at times like this that I find myself wondering if I really actually DO want to look for a girlfriend over here.  I mean really, if I did marry a Japanese girl and we were in love and all, and then we had kids, is THIS how it would become?  Not even sleeping in the same ROOM anymore because she has to make sure her kids sleep comfortably through the night?  (The daughter is 9, and I think plenty well able to sleep on her own…)

Ah, well.  Tomorrow’s another day, and so another lesson (or twenty) to learn about this country.  More posts soon-ish!