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Saturday, October 8th

I went into town and searched for the thrift store named Hard Off. I found it, but they didn't really have anything I wanted or needed. But as I was leaving I saw a bin full of electrical cords and such. I pulled out a 9 foot extension cord with 3 sockets on the end. I planned to use it for my TV center area.

I take it to the counter. The price is $4.67 with tax. Normally this thing would be around $10 and I needed it so it's a good deal. I give the guy $4.72. He looks at it and says "oops you gave me too much". I was confused for a minute  thinking I miscounted or something. So I took the change and counted it again and checked the total. I said " no that's right, I don't like 1 yen coins so I will get a 5 yen coin back this way". He said "oh ok, I see that makes sense. But you gave me too much money". I counted it again to make sure I wasn't being really stupid and giving him like way too much. Nope, I was giving him 4 dollar coins, 7 10yen coins, and 2 one yen coins. I didn't need the 2 yen coins, but that would give me the 2 I had in my pocket plus the three I would get back as change.

Again I said, the amount was correct and I didn't want 5 1 yen coins in my pocket. He said this was most odd and he would have to get a manager to approve the transaction. WHAT? Just type in the amount and it will give a 5 yen coin. There is no need for a manager, I'm not asking for a refund or a discount. What is going on you tool. Just take the money moron. Nope.

Over comes a manager and she looks at the situation and says, guess what, "Oh you have mistakenly given us too much money". I reply, "no, I don't want 5 1 yen coins back, I want a 5 yen coin". "oh well that makes perfect logical sense, of course, I see, no problem. But......you gave us too much money".

I was about to have a stroke. I said ok and took back the 2 extra malicious yen coins and they breathed a sigh of relief as if we had all just defused a bomb. Then they give me the change. I take the 3 yen coins and add my two yen coins and just drop them on the counter while saying. I just wanted a 5 yen coin, I don't want all this change in my pocket. Then I walked out.

But sir, you gave us too much change.

October 17th, 2005

On Friday of last week a teacher's father died suddenly. He had been sick, but his death was a surprise. A Japanese custom is to give money, usually a set amount, for weddings and deaths. This makes sense. I find it a slight bit odd that it's a fixed amount, but I guess that keeps people from feeling like they should give more than they can afford.

So far no problem. I am all in favor of giving money when there is a death in the family. It's a time of need and usually there is a financial burden involved. Once again, up to this point I am all on board.

So I get to school this morning and there is a package by my desk. Oh there is also one by all the teachers in my section, as well as the other groups. Hmmm. What's inside? A nice bottle of sake and some nice gift set from an expensive shop. What's all this about? I ask someone and find out it is customary to "thank" the person who gave you money for a funeral by giving them expensive gifts.

If I were to have a list of ultra-stupid customs that are around because Japan is non-confrontational and no one will stand up and say "you know what? This one makes no sense", if I were to have a list of those, this would be in the top five.

So now you have a death in the family, you have to make all the arrangements for the service and take care of the deceased person's belongings and house and what not. But no, before that, you have a more pressing matter. You must go out to a nice store and spend at least 75% of the gift money you received to help you in your time of need  by buying gifts for people. Not just stupid gifts, they have to be nice and cost at least 75% of what you took in. And all this has to be done fast, time is of the essence. I mean come on, I took the time to give you $30 I need my gift NOW. Forget your dead father, NOW. I want my thank you gift now or I will never respect you.

Nope. It's just dumb. I can see both sides of many things, but not this. It's just dumb. When someone dies the LAST thing you should be worrying about is buying thank you gifts for someone. Things like that infuriate me. I even asked a few teachers why and they actually thought about it for a while and could only give the standard answer.

Hmmm, it's complicated. It's the Japanese way. Maybe foreigners can't understand it.

No, it's just stupid and you don't want to admit it.

Sunday, November 20

I've come to realize the thing that bugs me the most about Japanese culture is when another culture, or a different logic is dismissed as primitive or less than Japanese when in fact it is actually more logical than Japanese culture. For example, I was talking to someone recently. Doesn't matter who or where. He asked if I can use chopsticks (hence the name of this site). I said yes I can use chopsticks (.com under my breath) and he said " but your culture uses a fork. A fork is so primitive, advanced cultures know chopsticks are superior". Then he proceeded to pick up his bowl and slurp his soup out.

Another time I had someone tell me how "primitive" signing documents was. The advanced Japanese culture uses name stamps which are much better. In fact, NO, they are not. What if I steal your name stamp and stamp some document? It's official. But you can't easily forge my signature. The only thing a signature is primitive to is a retinal scan. I had a name stamp once and I used it all the time, but then I turned 7 and stopped.

The other thing that really bugs me is when people stick to the belief that foreigners can't really speak Japanese. I went to Starbucks today and asked if they had any more Basil rolls. She had no idea what I was talking about. I said it a dozen ways, I described it, I pointed to where they go. Nothing. Finally she understand and repeated it back to me exactly as I said it as if she was correcting my horrid Japanese. She said it exactly how I said it. Why couldn't you understand it before.

Sunday, December 18th, 2005

Here is why I am not going to drive my car all the way into the city on Sundays anymore.


The big road is a main road that runs in front of the station. The road to the left, obviously, is the entrance to the parking deck. So people are driving down the main road and turning into the parking deck road. Well the lot is full what should we do? Most logical people would try to park somewhere else. But in Japan, you just sit and wait. It could be five minutes. It could be two hours. You just sit and wait.

Well that part isn't so hard to swallow. But what do you do if you are car number 1 in the diagram above. Do you circle the area and come back hoping there will be room to turn into the road? No, that would be logical. Do you at least, at the very least, pull over to the left so cars behind you can pass? Again, that would make sense, therefore it is irrelevant. What do you do? You simply stop where you are and wait.

So now this road, which is a big road and popular, is backed up. Cars are coming from the other way, and what do you think oncoming cars that want to turn into the parking lot do? Remember think of what would make sense, and then the opposite. That's right. You simply put on your blinker and stop in the middle of the road. This road was completely backed up for about 30 minutes. I cut off my engine for at least 15 minutes while I was just sitting in the middle of an intersection about 100 meters before the turn. We just sat there because no one has the common sense to


I can almost bet with certainty that in another country either a cop would force someone to move or, in the US at least, someone would pull out a gun. I'm not comparing cultures here, I'm comparing sheer stupidity to semi-common sense. Once I was able to turn (the road still wasn't moving), I simply went to another parking lot and parked. I did want to go to the one in question because I still have a free hour ticket from when I bought the camera, but I'm not waiting in the middle of the road for a few hours just to park.

This was insane and I could find no rational logic reason for it. ARGH.

Oh yea, while I was in the parking deck, the other one that was vacant, I was walking back to my car and was remind at how not subtle Japanese people are. This is pretty common so it is definitely a cultural thing. So I am walking back to my car and there are two guys sitting in a car doing something, maybe just warming up. The car is backed into the space, which is a given in Japan, and they are looking my way. Well one guy is, the other is looking down. So the one guy sees me and says something and the other guy's head immediately pops up, sees me, and laughs. Yea morons I wonder what you just said? I have no flippin' idea what you could have possibly said. I get that all the time. When I walk past a window where two or more people are talking one will see me, say something, and the other person's head will pop up and stare at me too. I'm not saying I don't talk about people through glass, but I at least say "don't look now but....".

Kids haven't learned about the miracle of glass and just blurt out "gaijin da!!" (guy gene dah) which means "it is a foreigner". Actually gaijin is slightly rude as it really means outsider or someone who doesn't belong. The more polite term is gaikokujin, (guy coke-coo gene) which means person from an outside country. Though some older Japanese people will say gaijin-san thinking that makes it polite, but it's not. So when a kid says gaijin da I usually point back and gasp and say nihonjin da (knee hone gene dah) which means "it's a Japanese person". They never get it.

Which makes me wonder. If foreigners are always stared at that must mean we look different. Which must also mean Japanese people look similar. Which I believe. I'm not saying they look the same, just similar features. They are mostly the same height, skin tone, black hair, and all speak Japanese. But many people argue that Japanese people look as completely different as Americans or Brits or Canadians. Which I find amusing. But why do kids and old people stare and point? If Japanese people all look different and foreigners all look different then we all look different. So wouldn't kids point at other Japanese people, people part of the inner group? Nope, just foreigners.









Ryan McDonald 2005, for information about using images or text please click here.