As an expat you get to partake in a ritual that others know nothing about, returning as a foreigner to your homeland.

After living a few years away from your homeland you will find that your country has moved on while your concept of the mother country has remained the same in your head, a virtual time capsule to be crushed upon your return. Part of this reverse culture shock is the obvious new buildings, or new trains, planes and auto-mobiles that have transformed your old stomping grounds. The other aspect of reverse shock is the evolving culture that people who actually live at home don’t actually see that only an expat can pick out. I’m pushing 10 years outside of my country, not all of it in Japan, and I’m always amazed at how my homeland has changed.


In my years away it’s amazing just how many people are inked up. Every 30 something and down have tattoos now. Not just unicorns and Irish clovers but full on planned designs that cover entire arms, shoulders and backs.

No trampstamps or unicorns here

A lot of it is beautifully done mind you and I see lots of Japanese influence which is of course ironic considering just how much tattoos are hated in Japan. (Read: Japan gave up its tattoo culture to become more western)

Guido Explosion

For something to appear on the popular culture radar when you live in another country and don’t have access to local TV, newspapers from your country it has to be big and have a serious following. I heard people reference Jersey Shore, the so called new reality TV explosion, for sometime.

I knew it was big, but I didn’t know just how big. There are pumped up meat heads all around that could seamlessly join the cast of Jersey Shore at any time and I’m visiting the West Coast as far from any sort of Italian population as you can get.

Evolution of music

I know it’s just the nature of music to evolve, that things were underground, then become mainstream but its different for someone, like me, that has been out of town. People who have lived in the west are like the proverbial frogs in boiling water that don’t jump out because the water slowly heated up without it noticing. Yet I am the frog who rather than sitting in water that has slowly had the temperature turned up was instead thrown into the boiling bubbling mass. When I left electronic music was viewed with fear and disdain. People talked about how it would usher in a new wave of drug plagues but now it is totally mainstream with the booming bass beating from every store, TV commercial and bar with all the fist pumping that goes with it.

I can’t handle western food

I don’t really keep track what goes into my mouth, I just eat whatever is in front of me. I do know that I’m not eating 100% Japanese food but in Japan rice has definitely become a big stable. I’m not sure if my problem is that or portion size but whatever it is there is a war going on in my digestive tract. Some sort of chemical gas battle that makes me a bloatly mess that expunges gas like a Zeppelin. Then there is the exit flow that alternates from several day droughts to flows so powerful that I have new understanding for what GaijinAss went through when he joined the Marines. (Read: My adventures in joining the Marines)


Maybe its just my little west coast enclave but there are junkies EVERYWHERE! I’m sure Japan has heroin, meth addicts but you never see them or they are some how able to function and avoid becoming the horribly scabby, skinny sketch bags that inhabit seemingly every corner, watching you with their flickering eyes.

Militarized Junkie Zombies

They were always there when I lived at home but I guess I had just learned to ignore them, and their pleas for some change for a meal/fix. Once a while back I took back home a Japanese friend with me and she remarked how they looked like zombies which in a word perfectly captured their shuffle, appearance, and demeanour … zombies indeed. (Read:The Walking Dead cop out)

The Meth Effect

In hand with the junkies are the lengths that society has been forced to adapt to Meth. Now when you walk through the over the counter section of the supermarket/pharmacy whole shelves have been placed behind protective glass or now have metal sheets that hid cough syrup behind a sign telling you to ask a pharmacist to unlock the door and the formerly innocent products that it contained and that are now building blocks for endless energy in a pipe.

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