Posts Tagged ‘japanese

08
Feb
19

Bad Tattoos and Urban Geishas

download (2)When my mother found out that my sister and I got tattoos, she disowned us and kicked us out of her house and changed the locks.  We were both adults at that time (22 and 27) so, I suppose it was a good time for us to fly the coop anyway. This wasn’t the first time that she disowned me because of a tattoo.  I got my first Japanese tattoo at the age of 19, one of our family name. “You are not Japanese.” she said. “No one does such a stupid thing in Japan.” she said, and for the most part, she was right, if she was referring to Japan for the last 150 years anyway.  Japanese society was told to be fearful of tattooed people, making it associated with criminals and ostracized people. Japanese traditional tattooing is something coveted by both Japanese tattoo artists and foreign people/tattoos artists who seek to learn more about this art first hand or arm or leg.  Recently Ariana Grande got a Japanese word or her own version of a Japanese word tattooed on her hand. “七輪指” translates to Japanese BBQ finger. One can hardly say that phrase without laughing I’m sure. To be honest, I didn’t know what a shichirin grill was until last summer, when Japanese people started using them more often and I’d ask them how they spent their weekends. But who gets a tattoo of a foreign language without doing research or asking a native person what the meaning of the word before inking it permanently on their body?  That is just your own fault if you happen to be that haphazard, like buying a used a car without test driving it or worse.  I don’t think what Ariana did is appropriation. All people can use kanji in whatever stupid ways they choose unless it hurts others. I think actually her tattoo is a public lesson for others. It’s not appropriation so much as it is exoticism. Her song lyrics from the BBQ grill song are “Like my hair? Just bought it” and there are documentaries Abt how hair extensions are acquired through unsavory means from women of developing countries for shit prices. So she deserves the pain and mockery from her tattoo. You can’t just “want it, like it, BUY it.”  I can’t help but think of how this blog and the title of my one woman show was called “Memoirs of an Urban Geisha” and how I owned that brand for a good decade or so. I was nothing close to a geisha.  Oiran and geisha were actually trafficked into sex work and I wasn’t.  I had no real experience of past or present day life in Japan and I was just using my ancestry as authority of culture when really, I was just being as ignorant about the issue as Ariana Grande was. Having lived now over two years in Japan, I’m able to contextualize everything more.  Before Ariana there was Katy Perry on stage in her hip modern fashionable rendition of Japanese kimono and Chinese cheong sam. But the average person wouldn’t know that she is conflating Chinese and Japanese dresses and that her song and that she is bowing in the Thai Buddhist/Hindu style with her hands together.  I just tried to give Katy Perry a pass because “I’ve grown past this limited paradigm” but, er, the performance is still terrible because it attempts to pass as Japanese.   I learned a word recently in the wake of all of this translated to cultural plagarism.  文化の盗用 (bunka no touyou), but the reason why Japanese will hardly use it is because they don’t really understand living as a minority because in Japan, they are the dominant class and they are the ones being racist and xenophobic and ignorant if there are these similar kinds of problems in Japan, so its no surprise when they are asked what think about Katy Perry, Gwen Stefani or Ariana and they say its all “kawaii” and no problem.

 

Conflating Asian cultures under the guise of being Japanese or any one culture is problematic in a racist hegemonic media representation.  It has detrimental implications for the people who are parts of these cultures. Is Ariana’s tattoos the same thing? I dont think so. I think people are mostly laughing at her ignorance because it didn’t take too much for even non Japanese folks to deconstruct the fact that it was an unfortunate mistake whereas Katy’s dance and show seems like good ol Miss Saigon entertainment for the masses that is digestable in all of its innacurate face value.  She also is playing off the “submissive Asian female stereotype”  that I grew up battling in the 80s.  I now call it subordinate Asian female stereotype because I think submissives are willing, and Japanese aren’t submissive, they’re complacent to the power hierarchy.    Sure, I was ignorant about tattoo stigma in Japan when I got my kanji tattoos, but I didn’t grow up and I didnt’ expect to be having to face that stigma first hand at the time, mostly my ink art was meant to be viewed by people outside of Japan.  My mom and others were wrong about never being able to be accepted because of the fact I had tattoos.  (She’s readopted me and my sister) I can bathe in onsen and sento that don’t have the tattoo ban and they aren’t hard to find now with the internet.   I think it is interesting to note that Japanese people in Japan do regard most of these representations by American pop stars as cool and not offensive, but it has to be something really really touchy like say, the comfort women to get Japanese people to really get upset publically and tell you how they feel about something.  

I don’t judge other’s ignorance too harshly because, I too have been so ignorant of “my own” culture. And what I consider “my own” Japanese people do not consider me their own, so perhaps its forgiven, and I’m given the GP (gaijin pass) but I don’t see it this way (I prefer Nikkeijin and I think Nikkei need to know as much as they have time to know)… we can all do better.

08
Nov
18

So you wanted a Japanese speaking job

So you wanted a Japanese speaking job? Not the kind of job that you currently have where you speak Japanese 20% of the time as a teacher, using all your bilingual skills to translate well known Japanese nursery rhyme songs into English with kids so they don’t have to think twice about the fact that they’re actually learning translations and code switching without thinking about it, no, no, you wanted a Japanese job where they treat you like the lowest cog on the totem pole of the hierarchical system that teaches them to bow in the face of shit being thrown in their faces. You wanted a Japanese job where you didn’t understand all the commands being told to you, where you had to move in one direction but you didn’t know which direction or where to put the things where and how but you couldn’t ask them to repeat what they said or speak slower because they would be even more upset than they were before you entered the kitchen. I feel like I just got adopted into some foster home, but I wanted this. A 100% Japanese speaking job which truly tested my fluency, and demanded that I work on my feet for 6 hours with no break after a 4 hours of teaching. “Learning a language takes time.” said one of my online students,”I’ve been in Sweden for 3 years and my English and Swedish are still not so great!” he smiled at me. “Yes. I know that!” I reflected back at him an equal smile and we held each other in our lack of language ability in the countries that we were living in. “I’ve been studying Japanese on and off since I was 12 and living in Japan for over 2 years.” Every hard situation in Japan seems to just get harder because i ask for it to get harder. I take the hard road in hopes that I will accelerate my improvement, but it always seems like I’m never going anywhere fast. Maybe, just maybe I have. It’s really hard to tell when you are in the dark flurry of slaying things in the lion’s den because you are just swinging your sword, hoping for the best, trying to keep up. I do remember 2 years ago when I went to the ATM trying to deposit the rent that was due for my apartments first and last security deposit that it was so hard to figure out how to read all the different names of the screens that weren’t waiting for my literacy to catch up as they were flashing kanji and buttons to press and timing out and making me start over from the beginning. I remember that day being one of the hardest days of my Japan life, and now that I’ve leaped over that hurdle at least 50 times by now, it has indeed become easy to withdraw, transfer and make deposits at the Japanese ATM. And, no, you can’t use the English menu for banking, and I don’t want to anyway.  English only speakers, I just don’t know how they even survive because the English menu is often totally different than the Japanese one and you can’t even do the same functions that you need to survive in Japanese Japan. So, I finally got a Japanese job in Tokyo and I was originally hired with a lot of promise and a recommendation but it didn’t take the staff long to get really mad at me for being at the level that I was at. I didn’t know where things went, and I forgot them when I was told once. I didn’t speak Japanese fluently and my semi fluency just wasn’t cutting it for them because they didn’t have the patience to teach me both where to put the pots and pans, wash dishes fast enough and learn new words. I’ve already learned a lot in 3 weeks that I could never have learned unless I got this job. I’ve learned menus, and polite hospitality speak, how to work the dishwasher and coffee maker, how to stack glasses and how to not stack certain glasses, and most importantly that Japanese workers greet each other with Ohayogozaimasu in the evening when they FIRST see each other regardless of whether it is morning or not. Valuable inside information. And yeah, its hard and I’ve woken up sore, but I haven’t cried yet, even though I have been 75% fired, meaning 3 of the 4 days per week that I was originally scheduled were dropped because I just can’t do what they need. And, that’s just fine. I was exhausted every day and night anyway. I felt like I was making license plates in jail and people on Facebook were worried about me because the way I was talking about it sounded like I was crying for rescue. But there are very few outlets aside from my Facebook in which I can express these things. Aside from this blog.

12
Jul
18

Wishing for a Superstar Cow Herder…

Tanabata_JapanSuiteThis is the traditional Japanese summer tale called Tanabata  that I first paid attention to my first summer in Japan 2016.  It’s age old, originally from China and adapted into Japanese tradition which can even be seen pictured in Hokusai’s Ukiyoe prints.  I remember making a slip of paper in a nearby shopping mall in Kyoto that July:

“I wish to manifest the future co-creator of the family I wish to build, my mirror nisei nihonjin (this is back when I thought I was nisei, I’m actually hafu not nisei), artist; Bushido Code: Honor, loyalty, courage, integrity, sincerity, politeness and self control.”

36786313_2065384913490019_6171921936256335872_oThe same wish to manifest the future co-creator of the family I wish to build has been a personal mantra that I have chanted for at least 3 years or more intermittently through sex magic and prayer.  It’s not happened yet. Not even close. 3 years ago my ex boyfriend told me,”I’m sure someday you’ll make a great mother.” and in his own way he was trying to be supportive with his words but they were in effect telling me that our relationship was probably soon to expire, definitely before anything like pregnancy between us ever occurred, and that he wasn’t going to be the father.  I remember those words making me cry at the time. It’s just not what your monogamish current girlfriend wants to hear from her twin flame. My twin flame was not meant to be with me for long, he was just meant to reflect all my weaknesses, be like a broken mirror that would turn into the glass shards to cut me so deep and wide that I’d bleed all over myself, and reform into a new being.  That’s what twin flames do, didn’t you know? It’s not meant to be soul mate love, it’s something like the dark knight of the soul in the form of a relationship. I’ve had many of those already though, so that’s why being single for 3 years is bad but it’s not the worst thing, being in a terrible nightmarish relationship is worse. I didn’t write the Bushido code of honor, I found those words on the internet, but the self control part seemed to ring a bell in me.  No addictions, no out of control tempers, no abusers. Been there, done that. This year, since my birthday one of my wishes has been to bring more art into my life, so I embarked on an art project to create a Tanabata Wishing Tree with an accompanying photoshoot. This is pretty ambitious for me since, in the last six months most of my time and energy goes to teaching English full time for my low income and making art and music have had less than a backseat role in my life of late.  I posted an ad on Facebook for a collaborating photographer and I found one. I shopped for things to make the tree and accessories to suit up as Orihime the Star Princess in my newest concept. The photographer backed out of our original Saturday date (July 7th, actual Tanabata observed) and I coaxed him back to do the shoot by nightfall Sunday. Wow. Thank Goddess. I needed this. Art and music are spiritual food for me and my reserves are pretty empty lately and I haven’t done an asianprincessartifacts project in possibly 2 years or more.  

_DSF1704My 短冊 tanzaku (written wishes for the tree) were very specific this year: A greeting kiss in front of the train station.  To sleep in the same bed until the morning, no not just the nanpa morning, every morning with my beloved. Every morning. These two things for 85% of Japanese already take me out of their potential partner list.  I’m not even kidding. 85% of Japanese people will not want to kiss you in public, and certainly not in front of the train station on a regular basis. Most of them also will not want to share a bed with you beyond sex and procreation, and will eventually move to their own room.  These are certainly things that I took for granted in the U.S, as well as the physical attractiveness factor that I held for the more than 50% of heterosexual men that looked at me. I have moved to a country where everything I knew has been turned upside down and/or needs to be thrown out. It’s very rare someone is going to ask you on a date in person or compliment you, carry your bag for you or hold open a door.  This is Japan for women. 

New rules with new players.  Or, old rules new players.   Nothing is as Universal as I thought, especially in the land of densely packed separation. But still i wish upon the star tree I made because miracles brought me here, helped me flourish here and this is how I know I will end up getting everything I want.

31
Aug
16

Donate to the Undocumented 💘 LOVEWORKER in TOKYO DREAM FUND!! 

DONATE TO THE UNDOCUMENTED 💘 LOVEWORKER IN TOKYO DREAM FUND! CLICK HERE! 

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