Stupid in Japan

Hi blog.

The signs of spring are well and truly here – cherry blossoms have made their appearance, I’ve heard the call of bush warblers, daffodils are flowering, turtles can be seen on warm days, and the graduation/entrance ceremony double-punch preparations are underway.  That doesn’t mean the cold is over, however; the minimum temperature one day might exceed the following day’s maximum.

Unfortunately, I have developed mild hay fever, specifically to cryptomeria.  All those years of mocking the Japanese “allergy to nature” have come back to haunt me…

The 27th anniversary of my first arrival in Japan is approaching, along with my seventeenth year of teaching English.  I’m feeling a tad cynical again, so I think we’ll look at some of the silly things that I have experienced over the years.


Amazingly, I can still remember the first thing any student ever said to me on my first day at Ryokuyo High School, Obihiro, Hokkaido in April 1989.

“Hi, I am baseball player.  You like Bon Jovi?  You like sex?  You teach me sex?”

So at school barely five minutes, and I already wanted to punch someone in the face.  (It probably also helped establish baseball’s status as my mortal enemy)

During my first month, I was subjected to meeting Tom Cruise  at least a dozen times…

Seriously, this happened several times a day for weeks on end.

And, of course, I was the subject of much curiosity – remember, we are talking about a school in a remote city in Hokkaido in the 1980’s that had never hosted an exchange student before – so there were what seemed to be a billion questions.  The most frequent questions or exchanges that I found myself on the receiving end of were of the the “Blah, blah, blah, America, blah” variety.

  • “You speak English well.  Have you been to America?”  (Err, I’m a native speaker…)


  • [Typically as a conversation opener] “I have never been to America.” (No?  Well that makes two of us.)


  • Total stranger: “Excuse me, are you from America?”

          Me: No, I’m from Australia.

          Total stranger: “Oh.” [Walks off]

          Me: “…”


  • Total stranger: “What part of America are you from?”

           Me: I’m not from America.  I’m from Australia.

           Total stranger: “…”


  • Total stranger: “Where are you from?”

           Me: I’m from Australia.

           Total stranger: “What part of America is that?”


As you can imagine, it could get quite frustrating at times.


But the singularly most frustrating and single most frequent thing that kids (and sometimes adults) would shout out upon spotting me was “This is a pen”.

“But you don’t even have a pen!”


While we are now in the 21st century, some things never change.  I can still expect that a pair of unknown school kids coming from the opposite direction will suddenly go quiet until we have passed each other, before shouting out something in (usually poor) English.  It can still be quite harrowing…

This happens only with strangers.

Yes, I may be socially inept awkward.  But I feel that my difficulties stem not so much from a lack of people skills as a lack of f***tard idiot skills.

Maybe that’s why I love wildlife so much.  Wildlife doesn’t discriminate, other*, or make assumptions.

I hope to photograph some wildlife to blog about soon.


*View or treat (a person or group of people) as intrinsically different from and alien to oneself

(Oxford English Dictionary)

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