Saturday 9 January 2010


is a question that needs to be asked far more often in Japan.

When I was teaching at public schools, I was amazed at the lack of imagination and curiosity of Japanese kids.
Like, I'd tell them Mickey Mouse was the Prime minister of Australia and they'd go, "Ohhh really." And not in a sarcastic way, as in: She's the sensei, her word is God, admittedly she is a foreign sensei who I call "Corinne teacher" but she is sensei all the same.
My students were never rewarded for the right answer but always rewarded for trying, answer wrong or right. Because when it comes to English I think it's always better to try, make a mistake but get your point across rather than keep quiet and not get anything across. Co-mmuuuu-nniiii-caaaaaaa-tion people!
And see, I don't think the same goes for Japanese, sometimes I will try and get my point across while knowing my Japanese is rubbish but possibly understandable and I will be met with smiles and blank stares. Of course depends on the person, take my MIL ad FIL. MIL is awesome with the understanding, I'll sprinkle in English words when I don't know the Japanese and use 2 word unstructured sentences and she'll still try very hard to get it.
FIL, on the other hand, unless it's perfect Japanese, will stop listening and look at his wife or Ryota with a fucking goofy grin and a look that says, 'Son, your moron wife is trying and failing to speak to me, translate will you?!' He doesn't mean it that way, but it's such a frustrating feeling for me and really does make me just want to shut my trap.

Anyway, back to the original point... I think Japanese people and kids in particular, who are supposed to be curious by nature, really should start asking more questions, for example, "Sensei, why do you just copy our textbook and give it to us for homework?" And if sensei was honest he'd answer: "Well johnny-kun, I just can't be arsed as I have to stay in this bastard school until after dark to watch you little fuckers run around and hit baseballs." I think this is why kids clean their classroom here, kids in Australia would be all, "Uhhh, Miss, this is child fucking labour!!!" I think a mix is good, a little more inquisitive but not quite as lazy as the little Aussie bastards..

The reason I was thinking about the 'why' thing, is the other day, I got my hair done at the local salon and was looking at the sign that had the salon's name on it for a good 2 hours, which gave me a bit of time to think I guess. The salon name is P.H.D. which for me is the thing you get when you spend your entire life at University and get to be called a doctor. And then under the P.H.D. it said 'Phass hair design.' Hair-good, design-nice one, phass-???? Do you need a P.H.D. to know what Phass means?? Am I just incredibly dense and don't know what phass means??? So I asked my friendly stylist what Phass meant, and I think he'd never been told or asked about it, because he panicked for a bit and then answered, "It's this salon's name" No shit, brightspark, but what does Phass mean? I asked all of this in Japanese so it's not like I was giving him an English quiz, he confessed to not knowing and asked me what it meant in English, I said I didn't know and that was the end of it. Didn't he have the slightest bit of interest in the name of the place he was working?

Another thing that got me thinking about the lack of why usage in Japan is the fact that on more than one occasion, I have been thanked by a random Obachan on my son. The usual drill will go,
-Obachan makes face at Ash
-Ash giggles and responds in his slut-like way
-Obachan gushes at how cute he is
-I go all J-style and deny his cuteness while my western inner child screams "Ohhh yeah I know he's cute, you wanna see his fat little legs!?"
-Obachan says, Arigato gozaimasu!!!!

Now this is where I'd love to ask her, why thank you??
Thank you for having a cute child?? Thank you for breeding with one of my race?? Thank you for increasing our aging population?? Thank you for letting me make faces at your child?? Thank you for marrying a Japanese man and putting up with the fact that they have been treated like a baby by their mother and grandmother their whole life and may never actually grow up?? Thank you for staying in Japan and producing a half child that may end up on a gap commercial one day??

Who knows.

But while we're asking questions about Japan, I have a few of my own...

Top 10 questions I want to ask about Japan...

1) Why don't you have real ovens/sausages/dishwashers/bacon/grass/meat pies Japan?
2) Why are so many Japanese girls pigeon toed?
3) Why is your idea of comedy a man slapping another man over the head many times?
4) Why does everything on TV and everywhere else relate to food but you're all skinny bastards?
5) Why do you say shirts instead of shirt? (Same applies for fruits and nuts)
6) Why do women insist on carrying bags with their hands twisted up like they have a disability?
7) Why do men piss in the street, especially taxi drivers!?
8) Why does the fact that it's expensive make it the best?
9) Why are your garbage men so freaking uptight that they picked a tiny tuna can out of my burnable rubbish bag and put a sticker of garbage shame on it?
10) Why isn't it weird to you that your school kids are at school on their holidays unless the school is physically locked?


  1. Sorry I"m a bit of a lurker, but this post is excellent! These are questions I asked myself very often here- along with
    1. Why are the Japanese so overly safety conscious about buildings and road works, but ride bicycles like demons from hell
    2. Where on earth do they get the names of their apartment buildings from? on my travels around Sapporo I pass gems such as Eternal Advance, Tom Grandpere and Glorie


  2. Thanks for the comment Heather! Looking forward to reading your blog! Oh god, sooooo with you on the apatment names, the last place I lived in was called joy palace!!!

  3. Oh I have SOOOO many why questions about Japan.

    Like Why do Japanese men spend so much time and money on their hair?

    Why do old women feel the need to tell you how to raise your children? (Or tell pregnant people that they should wear more clothes because the baby would be cold inside your stomach)

    Totally agree about the apartment names too. And the pigeon toed girls.

  4. oh boy, you didnt live in the Joy Palace in Nagai(Osaka)did you???? That's where I was put when I arrived in Japan (nova of course)..that would be too weirdly co-incidental.

  5. Oh my god that's so bizarre!!!! I lived in nagai for like three years!!!!

  6. 3) - I always have wondered that myself, especially with manzai!

  7. Very funny post. I have asked myself many of the same questions. The pigeon-toed girls, the pissing in the street (and spitting)etc...yet the obsession with cleanliness and handwashing and gargling and mask wearing The obsession with food on TV really gets me...sooo boring and all those variety shows with no variety and dramas with no drama!

  8. Finally getting to the HUGE list of unread blogs I have in my google reader now that my mum has gone home...

    Your post had me giggling right from the start - I think I have asked myself every question on your list at least once if not more. I really hate the urinating on the street thing - especially when there is a toilet about 100 metres away. I can totally understand doing in some places around Australia when there honestly isn't a toilet for hundreds of kilometres but here, in Japan, it's just bl**dy laziness!

    The question I want to ask about Japan - why is it that all of the women in your country think its ok to walk out of nowhere and touch a complete strangers pregnant stomach when you don't know her from a bar of soap!! I'm sure this question has been asked a lot but it has just started happening to me and it's driving me insane already, lol!

  9. Hello, I sort of stalk your blog but yar, hi!

    I can answer q5! It's because there's no t sound in Japanese and they substitute it with either ト or ツ. So shirt would be spelt in katakana as シャツ (shatsu) OMG Engrish should be laid to rest soon.

  10. I can outbeat you in the "why" dept anyday!

    Why do you think it's perfect ok for small children to run around without their shirts in on in 10 degree weather? (to my school)

    Why is there no real cheese in any supermarkets--and if there is, it's a small sliver for 1000 yen or more? (to any store in Japan)

    Why is it ok to be an alcoholic/smoker/brand-label whore/anorexic but not ok to be fat?

    Why do you always ask me stupid questions about America/Americans? (I never once asked a Japanese person if they have a gun/eat Mac everyday/know Beyonce--or any of the Japanese equivalents to those questions.)

    Ahh the bitchin could go on for days.

    Really tho--I wanna know about the cheese bit. And do you really think that the sun kills bacteria when hanging your laundry outside? Not like all that pollution and smog is not getting into your clothes????

  11. Chinese guy here delurking. Great stuff, I'm really enjoying the blogs between you guys like Green-Eyed Geisha.

    It might not work completely but
    some parallels between what goes on Japan (lived there for a short time) and Hong Kong (where I'm from).

    Okay for cheese, this maybe not be all that accurate, but milk is really only drunk for the calcium. Lactose intolerance runs at 75% of the population and so a lot of people force themselves to drink it and then rush to the toilet a couple of hours afterwards.

    Cheese is made from milk and so some folks are leery of that while others are put-off by the stronger cheese aromas. Also it's hard to raise cows as there's not much adequate fodder so dairy is really expensive unless you get it canned as condensed milk.

    As for spitting and pissing on the streets, I personally think it's nasty and in HK that kind of behaviour gets associated with hicks.

    But when I was in Osaka, well the place for urine puddles (and vomit pools) was that line of eatery places under the Henshin rail in Umeda. Some of the drunks go 'cuz things are too backed up and they over-estimate how much they can hold. 'Sides while it is frowned upon, it's not held up as nearly as offensive as in North America where you'd be ticketed for obscene behaviour.

    Oh yeah, with the spitting it goes, the thought is that containing it is bad for you and it's not good to loogie it into a hanky, so it's safest to fire that into a toilet. But if nothing is handy, then go for the ground as the next safest for people.

    Still I kinda like the Henshin rail area in Umeda, at around 5-8 pm, bands and singers would come out and perform live. Takes alot of guts when people are watching you from 5 feet away and if you suck, you'll lose your turf.

    Fat's kinda handled a bit differently between Chinese and Japanese. Being fat with the Chinese is frowned on in some circumstances but being plump is okay in others. If you're plump or even pudgy it means you're a hearty eater and are able to get enough food.

    But if you're the size of a whale, it means something's up. Maybe the person is ill or they're lazy. And lazy somewhat correlates to useless. And unfortunately useless means expendable. That's kind of why calling someone out as stupid is seen as one of the worst things in Japan or HK. Stupidity is also seen as expendable, so you get garbaged. Japan still hails the hearty eater, but they come down harder on the big-boned.

    Actually sunlight does bleach washed-clothing, it works great for mildew smelling clothes so long as it's not heavily infested.

  12. My attempts at answering your 'whys':
    2. Because they're cute. Elephant toes aren't.
    4. See esute salons.
    6. Noooo, you're getting it wrong, they do it that way because they need to camouflage their twisty hand disability.
    9. it's not about near-psychic tuna can detecting skills dearie, it's the gaijin's tuna can.

    On the whole there seems to be a general ignorance of issues (like history, whale shit etc etc) although sometimes J-boys can rattle off good jokes, like a live demo of how short the samurai were. But yea, got to agree with you chonans are a spoilt lot.