Goodbye for now

Dear readers,

I have a lot on my plate right now. Without going into personal details, I have things that I need to focus on in my life that are very important to me. So, due to the aforementioned reason, this blog will not be updated for the forseeable future. I’m not saying that I won’t be back ever, but it’s time for me to take a step back and focus on what I really need to and I won’t be able to devote time to this blog. Thanks to everyone who read and supported this blog, including my friends on twitter and Facebook. May we all find joy, happiness and peace in our lives.

Thanks,

Timthesocialist

Hugs for Sale

You may be wondering what an odd title like that could possibly be referring to. Hell, I almost don’t believe it myself. However, it really seems to be true. The Shanghai Daily is reporting that a school called Jiangdu District Shangmao Kindergarten in Eastern China is charging parents 80 RMB a month to have their children hugged twice a day. No hug, it would seem, is given for free. While this school is being investigated for unethical conduct, it would seem that making of every aspect of human life a commodity in capitalism just continues. This is also seemingly another example, at least in my opinion of the huge divide in China brought by the resurgence of a brutal capitalist system. For a country that is officially Marxist in ideology, they seem to be working hard to establish an unequal and disgustingly corrupt system of exploitation and downright money grubbing greed. Not surprising then that the members of the Chinese Communist Party are rich as hell, and are raising their children as princes while millions in the country still live on a dollar a day. But before I’m accused of being just Sinophobic, let me say that it’s no different in the US. In the US where you live, how much money you have, and other factors of affluence or poverty really help determine your chances in life. Japan also is one country that has a political and economic elite that lives above and at the expense of the rest of society. The biggest difference I see is that unlike China, Japan and the US don’t have pretenses about being socialist countries. I expect a so called socialist country to live up to better than this. The problem is that China is not socialist. It is socialist in name only, and “socialism with Chinese characteristics” means “capitalism”. That simple. No one should get better treatment for little children at a kindergarten because they can afford to pay extra every month. Every child deserves a good solid education, and if teachers have to be paid extra to give a shit about the emotional and mental well being of their students, maybe they’re in the wrong line of work.

Source: http://www.shanghaidaily.com/nsp/National/2012/12/12/Teachers%2Bhug%2Bnot%2Bfor%2Bfree/

Japanese Elections Today

Millions of Japanese citizens headed to the polls today to cast their vote in the Diet elections. The Diet was dissolved by Democratic Party of Japan Prime Minister Noda in November, setting up today’s contest. The election is one that will have wide and important impacts on not just Japan, but the Asian region, and by extension, the world. The frightening part of this election is that the vitrolic rhetoric of the right in Japan seems to have caught on in popularity, as Japan faces disputes with China over the Senkaku islands, people are increasingly wary of China’s growing influence, and Japan struggles with economic and demographic problems of monumental proportion. Instead of cool heads and sound policy going forward, many of the parties contending today are only looking to feed the fear, feed the anxiety and to rouse nationalist fervor. The Liberal Democratic Party of Japan is expected to win, returning once failed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the post of Prime Minister. He promises a hard line with China, and a return to the cronyism of LDP lore of old. The voters seemed undecided in polls leading up to the election however, and the results are not yet finalized. As of this writing, the polls will be open for another couple of hours here in Japan, and many will probably be watching the elections on TV and the internet. With some wanting to overturn the Japanese constitution article 9 that forbids war, to restore the emperor to more than a figurehead, and take a more antagonistic stance towards its neighbors, this election is of utmost importance. In spite of the anti-nuclear fervor in Japan since the earthquake and tsunami last year, it doesn’t seem to be an issue central to this election cycle. In all cases it appears that the old forces of racism, xenophobia, militarism and nationalism are set to make a comeback in Japan. My only hope is that Japan reverses course on this dangerous road before they suffer serious consequences again

Japan and the Right

It’s election season here in Japan, and the old two party order looks weaker than it ever has before. The ruling Democratic Party of Japan is hardly even entertaining the thought that it will retain power after this election, as it knows that the public opinion polls show that it has lost much of its support among the Japanese people. The formerly ruling Liberal Democratic Party is looking to retake its position as top dog in Japanese politics, but it still doesn’t have the support that helped it maintain power in Japan for almost 40 years. What other option is there then? What are the issues facing Japan, and who will be there to step in and help solve Japan’s problems? The answer to that question is not one that makes a leftist such as I very much at ease.

The Issues

What is at stake this election? Quite a few things to be honest. The DPJ hopes to solidify its tax hike of 5% on the consumption tax, while other parties want to scrap it. There is the ongoing disputes over territory with Korea and China, that no one seems to know how to handle. The Yen is still too high, hurting exports and tourism revenue, the economy is in recession, and many Japanese citizens are against the restarting of nuclear plants. These are just a few of the issues facing the Japanese this election cycle.

The Parties

Aside from the two aforementioned parties, there are a host of political parties in Japan vying for supremacy. Let’s look at them one by one, in order of their prominence in this election.

The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)

The DPJ took power from the LDP in 2009, ending 40 years of almost unbroken rule by that party. Riding on waves of electoral euphoria, the party then set about making a complete mockery of the electoral process. They were unable to keep a Prime Minister in office very long, running through a list of PM who couldn’t seem to handle the job and would invariably quit after a few months in office. The next prime minister, supposing that it’s not Noda, the current prime minister, would be the 7th prime minister in 6 years, surely a record among liberal “democracies”. They have long lost the trust of the Japanese people, and are likely to take a drubbing in this elecction. They have supported nuclear power, entry into TPP (a free trade agreement with the US and other Asian countries) and have failed to govern with any visible competence. Their days are very clearly numbered.

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)

The LDP is the epitome of the good ol’ boys political club of Japan. They are essentially political chameleons who move whichever way the winds blow, but always keeping in their sights, in their actions the heart of what they work for. They represent the capitalist class wholly and without apology. The old infirm members of this political party are those who are descended from the fascists in WW2, those who wish to maintain the old system of bureaucratic  corruption, the corporatism that has defined Japan’s modern rise to power. They are xenophobes, hateful of China, hateful of Korea, really hateful of everyone and everything that doesn’t fit into their outdated paradigm, their diseased delusions of Japanese empire. They love the US, they support the occupation of Japan by US forces, and are willing to sell their souls to be part of the US empire, as if living vicariously through the US’s imperialism is a substitute for not having their own anymore. This party is, unfortunately, likely to retake enough seats in the Diet to regain the post of Prime Minister.

Nippon Isshin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party)

To explain this recent entry into Japanese politics I must first explain the two major players in this party. The first is Osaka mayor and tattoo hater Toru Hashimoto, who is known throughout Japan as a rabid nationalist, and an 85 year old in a 45 year old’s body. Youthful though he may be, charismatic though he may be, Hashimoto represents the worst of the Japanese right. He is known for his attack on teachers who refused to stand and sing the national anthem “Kimi Ga Yo”, a song that is steeped in Japan’s imperialist past, a clear violation of Japan’s standards of civil liberties. He has attacked city workers in Osaka for having the gall to have tattoos, as if tattoos made them unfit for public service. He even proclaimed, as a response to civil servants protesting his invasive and dictatorial style (he has even advocated for a dictatorship in Japan openly saying “What Japan needs now is a dictator”) he responded by telling them that they have no fundamental human rights.He supports the US occupation of Japan, wants to change article 9 of the Japanese constitution forbidding Japan from engaging in war, and is a supporter of the US controlled “Trans-Pacific Partnership” (TPP) that would expose Japan to the whims of countries like the US. He is far right, he is nationalist, he is anti-democracy, and sadly he is pretty damn popular in Japan.

The other main player in this newly formed party (formed from his regional “Osaka Restoration Party”) is the newly resigned former Governor of Tokyo, the eternal racist demagogue, Shintaro Ishihara. This man had formed a national political party prior to joining forces with Mr. Hashimoto, called the “Sunrise Party”. This man over several terms as Tokyo Governor, left behind him a trail of racism, nationalism and downright batshit craziness. You Americans think your rightwing is bad? Oh it is, but Ishihara tries to even outcrazy the tea party. He has called Africans “unintelligent”, he has, like Hashimoto I might add, been a denier of the war crimes of Japan in WW2. He is pronuclear power, pro-TPP, pro US bases in Japan (Although ironically in his other life as an author became famous for his essay entitled “The Japan that can say NO”, an essay against the US in Japan) he is responsible, partially, for the recent outbreak of hostilities with China over the Senkaku islands, and he is the epitome in Japan of the racist, sexist, homophobic, backwardsness that is the hallmark of the senile geezers who run Japan. A perfect fit for senile geezer wannabe Hashimoto, I suppose. The only ray of light in this horrid party of sick twisted fascism is that the party doesn’t look like it will field enough candidates in the election to be able to secure a majority. Most likely though their votes will go towards propping up another long stretch of LDP dominated Japan, this time with an even further rightward slant.

It would take me too long to go over the many other parties, but I wanted to focus on the major right wing parties that are contending for power in Japan. Instead of really ernestly trying to solve its problems, Japan seems to be retreating to the old haven of nationalism, xenophobia and racism. There is a clear danger of Japan turning towards its old fascist corporatism, and a very real threat it is. I hope that Japan doesn’t make the mistakes of the past. It needs to move into the future, and progress, or ignore that advice to its detriment.

Homeless Asakusa

Homeless Asakusa

Milling bodies quiet sounds

Jinrikisha clatter cold breeze

Bicycle tires whirring over pavement

And I stand on the street alone

The bars are open

People shouting to friends

A family walks by wrapped tight in conversation

And I stand on the street alone

Smells of happiness drift by

Intermixed in the smell of money

Betwixt the lonesome shops I go

And I stand on the street alone

To the deserted lane I tread

The metal walls surrounding

An umbrella for my hoary head

And I stand on the street alone

One hundred yen for onigiri

A coat to wear till May

The cardboard keeps the fears at bay

And I sleep on the street alone.

China and Japan

Just a few days ago, China celebrated their national day. As you may (or may not) know, The People’s Republic of China was established on October 1st, 1949 after defeating the Nationalists. Here we are 63 years later, and we have to ask ourselves what the modern legacy of Mao’s revolution was. China is still ruled by a communist party, but just how socialist is that country? What are the implications for Japan, and the rest of Asia in relation to China’s economic rise? And where are we going with the land disputes that China is dealing with? If you’re interested in the future of Asia, you might want to read on.

Bad Blood

It’s no secret that China and Japan have bad blood between them. Throughout history the two countries have battled, argued, postured and yelled. It would seem they don’t much like each other, and have found it difficult to resolve long standing animosities between themselves. Instead of starting back with the days of the original kamikaze incident in which a “divine wind” destroyed a fleet about to attack Japan, we’ll start much more recently. I’m not even going to rehash the specifics of the rise of the PRC, nor the industrial revolution under Meiji Japan. I’m going to start with the death of Mao Zedong, and how the country changed after his death, and how about the same time, (well, 4 years before in 1972) Japan and China normalized relations between them. China began industrializing after Mao’s death and the end of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in 1976, but what happened next, or my account of it rather, may piss off some other socialists.  You see, the CCP has been in power for a long time. The problem is that in my opinion, they have become simply there for the purposes of their own power, and not for the goodwill and benefit of the Chinese people. While it is true that China has brought more people out of poverty than any country on earth, or in the history of mankind there is a huge caveat. They did it at the expense of the Chinese people. They did it by selling out to international capitalism. The PRC is now awash with foreign capital, financial firms like JP Morgan and other sinister characters. While the members of the Chinese Communist Party grow fat and sassy and send their children off abroad to study at prestigious universities, hundreds of millions of Chinese people live in abject poverty. The CCP has sacrificed the environment as well, producing foul red rivers, horrible smog and poisoned earth. The Chinese people are working in slave conditions, making pennies to enrich companies like Apple. When the workers strike, they are beaten and imprisoned. When they cry out for freedom of speech, the internet and the press, they are suppressed. The Chinese communist party has reneged on its high socialist ideals of a unified, free and prosperous country. They have slapped Marx in the face with their violent ignorance of class warfare, and have sold the very soul of China to foreign investors to the highest bidder. China indeed, is not socialist. They are capitalist, run by a capitalist class that wears red around their heads and dares anyone to shake the facade. Sure, China is growing rapidly. They are also facing the grim prospect of an international financial meltdown, inflation and collapse. They have ignored the contradictions of capitalism at their own peril, and they will pay the price for that.

What about Japan? Japan has been under the imperialist thumb of the US since the end of WW2. The US has turned Japan into its base for threatening and attacking countries in Asia, such as the DPRK, the PRC and Vietnam. The Japanese political establishment is in denial, denial of what happened in ww2 and before, denial of China’s rising economic and political power, denial of its own prejudice and racism, denial of its inability to solve any problems, and in denial of its complete and utter political and economic domination by the United States. Both the DPJ and the LDP are practically the same, in much the same way that the Democratic Party and the Republican Party in the US are ideological siblings,if not twins. They fight back and forth for power, and ignore the voices of the Japanese people, and when they fail, when both countries fail to live up to the promises of their governments, of their political and economic systems, there is only one thing to do. Bring up the bad blood.

Senkaku etc.

So now we have a crisis. Japan and China are at each other’s throats. China accuses Japan of being imperialistic, Japan accuses China of being a bully. China claims the Senkaku islands are the property of China, and always have been, Japan claims that China is full of shit. The answer to that dispute aside ( I personally think Japan has a much stronger claim to ownership of the islands than China) what we need to be asking is why both governments seem to be encouraging the kind of violent nationalist rage that we have seen so often in the news lately. Chinese rip flags from diplomat’s cars, Japanese march in the streets waving the Hinomaru, eggs are thrown, flags burned, angry faces and shouted threats. Why? Over a couple of islands that no one freaking lives on? Is this issue really that important? No, I don’t think it is, but then again I am not part of the governments of Japan or China. The fact of the matter is that capitalism has failed both countries. While they have industrialization, money cars and gadgets, they also have debt, inequality and social unrest. What happens when the people rise up in China and demand real socialist democracy? They are appeased by giving them a bigger, more sinister enemy than their own government. They are diverted towards looking towards their eternal mortal enemy, Japan. They denounce atrocities that were committed when their parents weren’t even born, and the other side of course denies everything which just makes it worse. More flags are waved and it almost looks like war. Ah war, when you’re a government and you are doing a shitty job of governing, war is always a great distraction. People put aside their hatred and animosity towards their own government, and deflect it towards an “evil” foreign country. The people rally behind the flag, and all is forgotten and forgiven while we attack these damn uppity foreigners. Rinse, repeat

The Solution

The solution is quite simple. A nice diplomatic resolution of this territorial dispute won’t happen as long as both the governments of Japan and China are benefited by deflecting the view of John Q. Public off their own failings and on to the so called enemy. What we need to remember is that Marx said that the proletariat has no country. For regardless of the language you speak, the culture you’ve grown up with, or the flag you fly, a wage slave is a wage slave. The workers in Japan and China have much much more in common than they might ever have thought. They struggle against a corrupt government, an intrenched and enriched capitalist class, and are fighting to just get the basics in life. The first step is to realize that nationalism is stupid, is divides the working class. Marx did not say “Workers of the world, divide yourselves into nation states and then hate everyone that is not from the same geographical location as you”.  He said for the workers of the world to unite.

So dear Japanese, forget about Senkaku. Start thinking about the homeless that sleep on your streets, the children that go hungry in your cities, and the workers who die of overwork. Think about the lack of education funding for kindergartens, high schools and college, start worrying about the debt economy your country has built. And forget about the islands over there in the middle of the ocean with no one and nothing on them.

Dear China, I wish you lived up to your socialist ideals. While your leaders block the internet, your people are struggling to survive in rural areas, abused by their local and central government, unable to effect change. You live in a so called socialist country that has allowed the world’s largest wealth disparity to emerge, and a police state that would make any fascist drool with pleasure. Stop attacking Japan, they’re not your enemy.

Dear workers of the world, while your respective governments are working hard to make you hate other countries cultures and peoples, ignore them. No other country is your enemy, not Iran, nor Cuba, not Venezuela, none of them. Your enemy is the same enemy it has always been. Your enemy is the capitalist class that enslaves you. Stop nationalism, stop this deflecting bullshit. Our problems are in feeding the world, not categorizing it into ownership by nationality. Fight the capitalist class no matter what shape they come in, and help advance the class struggle.

Workers of the WORLD, UNITE!!

Well, this is interesting. I never use those toilets if I can help it.

SoraNews24

No doubt, by now Japan’s super toilets (known as washlets) have become a well-known symbol this country. Their bevy of features like heating and cleaning add an unprecedented level of comfort to our porcelain thrones.

However, there’s a dark side to Japan’s restrooms: what’s known as the “Japanese Style Toilet.” For those lucky enough to have never encountered one, it’s a throwback to the olden days of going in a hole in the ground.  Only this time the hole is covered in porcelain and has flushing capabilities. Beyond that it’s not much different than camping or surviving a plane crash in the mountains.

Thankfully some special interest groups are working towards wiping this scourge from the nation, and they’re starting with the children.

View original post 239 more words

Thanks, but No thanks

Ok, it’s high time I wrote an article on this subject. Japan does in fact, have a problem with racism. Certain shops in Japan exclude foreigners, the media is filled with the likes of Shintaro Ishihara who goes on racist rants, and there are some very outdated ideas in Japan that need to be ejected from the country. I think making Japan more multicultural is a good thing, and increasing understanding of other ways of life among the Japanese is a good thing. However, there are some ways of doing that that are just counterproductive.

I’m talking specifically about Arudou Debito. He is an American born, Japanese citizen, and he is doing more harm to racial minorities in Japan than all the hordes of flag waving nationalist racists. The reason is that Debito is racist himself. Not only that, but he somehow thinks that it is his only goal in life to excoriate the Japanese for any and every perceived slight, whether real or imagined. I’m just going to take his last blog post as an example of what I am talking about:

Hi Blog.  I’m currently researching on the University of Hawaii Manoa Campus, and late last month I found this weird advertisement in the Ka Leo student newspaper (August 20, 2012, the debut issue for the start of the semester for maximum exposure):

“Have you ever wanted to help Japanese people in a way that could make a meaningful difference?  Participating in a clinical trial can be a deeply rewarding way to possibly help advance medical breakthroughs in Japan.

“Volunteers should be:  Healthy, between the ages of 18 and 60, born in Japan, or have both parents or all 4 grandparents born in Japan…

“Think you can volunteer?  Great!  COVANCE, Honolulu, Hawaii”

(Page 66.  Click on the image to expand in your browser.)

Covance is the “Contract Research Organization for Drug Development Services”, according to their website (www.covance.com).  Also, the link they provide in their advertisement above asks three locations (UK, United States (Global), and specifically Honolulu), and has only two languages:  English and Japanese, indicating their strong links to Japan (and no doubt the subcontracting for Japanese-oriented research — tool around the Japanese version for awhile; fascinating reading).

The upshot:  We want healthy “Japanese” for “medical breakthroughs in Japan” (as opposed to breakthroughs in medical science anywhere).  I smell patents, or at least patently racist language of “testing Japanese for Japanese since Japanese bodies are different” that infiltrates Japan’s physical and social sciences.

What I find especially interesting about this ad is the imported racialized conceits about what defines a “Japanese”:

No doubt due to the sensitivities of the English-language audience, there is no mention of “Japanese blood” as a qualifier.  No matter, that’s indirectly stated:  Born in Japan, both parents born in Japan, or all four grandparents (we wouldn’t want a Non-”Japanese” grandparent sullying the mix, after all) for proper thoroughbred status.

I’m a Japanese, but I don’t qualify.  Naturalized.  So wrong blood.  Sorry.  And it still would be wrong, under the paradigms above, even if I had been born in Japan (say, to a family of diplomats or missionaries; they exist).  Imagine Covance making the same stipulations for, oh, I don’t know, sickle-cell anemia research by asking for only “African-Americans” (or bona fide “Africans”) who have been born only to “pure-black” families stretching back three generations?  That would raise some eyebrows.  But not when we transpose it onto Japan-based conceits, where the racism is embedded.

What a pity.  Nothing quite like getting fresh young people to “volunteer” their time and bodies for big pharma’s future profits.  But what a way to do it:  By advertising in a college campus newspaper drawing lines between people under questionable scientific rubric.  I think we need better screening procedures not only within the medical community, but also within the media, so less of this racialized social science leaks into the physical sciences.  Arudou Debito

Dear dear Arudou. NO. Just stop. Just shut the hell up. The Japanese people are in fact a genetic group, with a common gene pool. They’ve kind of been living here a while. You have no idea what they’re studying, it could be mapping the human genome in Japan, or following certain alleles that are common in Japan. Yet you immediately, without proof or reason, accuse them of being racists. Ridiculous. Yes, most likely they would only ask for sickle cell anemia in people of African descent, because you’d be pretty damn hard pressed to find a white person with sickle cell anemia. There are phenotypic differences between different populations, that’s not racism, it’s scientific fact. Every time you open your goddamn mouth, you embarrass yourself. Just stop. You have published racist rants on your blog, you have butchered the English language repeatedly in the Japan Times, you have obfuscated and lied, and it needs to stop. Just stoppit. I am for racial harmony, for equality and respect among all people. I am not for your ignorant idiocy where you malign and slander the people of Japan at every turn. You have nothing but contempt for this country, its people, and its culture.  You think you’re something of a white Jesus, here to save Japan from itself. You fancy yourself and academic, yet you only teach English. You have no experience or training in biology, history, math, science or anthropology. Instead of reaching out to help your country and your people, you attack them with vicious lies and outright absurdities. Just stoppit. And yes, testing is exactly how drug companies are able to make new drugs that improve or even save lives. Nice little conspiracy theory BS there at the end.

If you want to really be accepted as Japanese, then you have to change some things. First, realize this isn’t New York. It’s Japan. You are not going to change the ancient culture of Japan on a whim, and people are just going to hate you if you try. They don’t want your missionary work. Next, you write and speak in English, on your blog, in the Japan Times etc. If your Japanese is that great, start using it. Speak the language, engage in your own country and its language. Get involved in your community, help people out. Do volunteer work, clean up your neighborhood, be a valued member of this society. Actions speak louder than words, so get out there and start putting to work what you supposedly believe in. And for the love of god, shut the fuck up. With every stupid thing you say I cringe, because I’m an expat too, and I think you’re making shit worse for us, not better. Thanks.

 

Hashimoto’s Rise

This is a serious post, obviously. I did promise my take on Asian politics, Japan in particular.

The Japanese media has followed closely the rise of the young and charismatic politician from Osaka, Toru Hashimoto. They have documented his political rise, and his political maturation as he recently took his regional Osaka political party to the national level, and is expecting to do well in the upcoming elections that are expected to take place some time in November.  Many articles have been written about his draconian and heavy handed sty; including such problems as attacking city workers for having tattoos. (The horror.) In a way he’s an old school Japanese fascist, with his banal talk of loving country and hating foreigners. On the other hand he seems to be a a new breed. He does not want to restore the Japan of old, with worship of the emperor and kamikaze pilots, but instead wants to ally more closely with the US against a rising China. In addition to this he wants to whittle away at the 9th article of the Japanese constitution, the one that forbids Japan from ever again using war as a right to solve conflict with other nations. He wants Japan to participate in so called “collective” defense, that is ganging up on other countries, probably by the side of the United States. He wishes to further make Japan the lap dog of the US, but only enough for Japan to regain it’s militarism. This man is not stupid, he is quite shrewd I think. I certainly hope that the Japanese people are much more shrewd and reject this mindless militaristic nationalism that threatens the future of peace in the Asia pacific area. With nationalistic rhetoric heating up over territorial disputes, the last thing Japan needs is to pick more fights with its neighbors, or even make them nervous. It just goes to show you that the right wing is destructive and harmful in whatever country you’re in. For the future of peace in Japan and East Asia, reject this nationalistic tripe, and reach for building trust and cooperation in Asia. Otherwise, it will be the Japanese people, not assholes like Hashimoto who will pay the ultimate price for this foolishness. UPHOLD ARTICLE 9!!!!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, please join in the debate!!

Subways and Compliments

I had been to Tokyo more than once before. It had always seemed like a strange city to me. Full of people, full of life, impossibly large and sprawling; at the same time it was impossible cramped and claustrophobic, and at times the loneliest place on earth. It always seemed surreal to me.

I remember one time in Shinjuku, Kabukicho, at that time of night where you’re not sure to call it really late or really early. The wee hours, some say. The sky was glowing, the bright lights of the rowdiest part of Tokyo cast up and bounced off the atmosphere overhead. In the square, a raised platform balanced the urban landscape against the tall department stores and karaoke havens that surrounded it. The raised platform in the center was strewn over with too many to count. Some were very obviously homeless. Some were very obviously drunk and passed out, their hands still gripping their suitcases, their ties flopping haphazardly across their shoulders. A surreal scene, it still makes me think of battlefield paintings, the wounded and dead strew by the hand of chaos across the ground.

I live in Tokyo now, and have for a month. I’m still getting used to the sights, sounds and bustle of living in one of the world’s greatest cities. The subway rides in the morning, packed closer to complete strangers than I would like. Many jokes about a certain can packed fish can be heard from time to time. (Hint, not tuna) People on bicycles, oblivious to your existence, missing you by a hair and giving you a mini-heart attack. Vending machines, vending machines everywhere. The smell from the noodle shops as you walk past.

I feel like an old pro now. I’m not a tourist here. I used to live in Japan. I know the customs. I know the culture. I speak the language, decently for a gaijin I suppose. However, moving back after two years in the states means that I feel all out of whack. Caught between cultures, struggling with a language, working two jobs and taking 5 courses at university. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. The city humbles you. You feel small next to the massive towers, amidst the throngs of people shoving their way through life in old Edo.

The key to living in Tokyo is simple. Fall in. Blend in. (As much as you can at least, being a gaijin and all that) I have a metro passmo card. No tickets for me. I know where I’m going and I know where to touch my IC card and flow through the gate to the subway. And sometimes I get on the subway that’s going the opposite direction. Ah, crap. Well, don’t panic. Just calmly get off at the next station, walk with a determined, but slightly bored expression on your face, trip over two people and elbow three until you’ve successfully launched yourself on the metal coffin going the right way. Nothing to it really.

I was in the famous Ginza shopping district last week. I stopped at a bar for a drink. The place had a nice nautical theme. The bartender spoke brilliant English, said that he had gone to university in the US. California to be exact. Then he told me something that surprised me. (This is after talking a while) He said that I seemed Japanese, that I didn’t seem American. He said that when I walked in, he thought that if I didn’t look so not-Japanese he would have thought that I was. I seemed to hold my self like a Japanese person would. I’m not quite sure what this meant exactly, but I’ll take it as a compliment.

Compliments are nice.