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.
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)
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.
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.
If this wasn’t good enough for you, try these:
|Advancing Feminism via Porn||Interview with a Japanese Dominatrix||White woman Japanese sex||Groper Train Search for the Black Pearl||Interview with Adult Model: Erika Satou|
Good read. If you like the link between meth heads and Zombies then you should check out bath salts. Yeah a drug called bath salts.
Last night I was in a check out lane at a wal-souldevouring-mart and this methed out (late 50s or early 60s, new to meth as he did not yet have meth face) senior citizen kept staring at me. His eyes were bulging and he was chewing on his tongue and lips like he hadn’t eaten in months.
I decided to yell really loud “I am gonna punch that tweaked out old bastard if he doesn’t stop glaring at me.” It was like the exorcist, what happened next. His facial expression turned to panic, but his neck went from gluing his gaze on me, to floping around uncontrollably. His head was bobbing around in all directions. Neck twisting and turning. His uncontrolled movements would inevitably bring his gaze back to me at random. Each time the look of fear on his face got worse. His methed out subconscious may have been doing it or it may have been just totally random. He didn’t want to look at me anymore, but was not in control.
I found it all too facinating too do anything other than watch this new development. It was funny in a way. I know I at least ruined his buzz. I would love to study the psychological effects of meth on the user. My sleep doctor friend once told me about one of the weird eerie physical effects. He told me that there is this one brain wave that sleep doctors monitor to tell when your asleep. They know when it flattens out on the little machine. With a meth head it doesn’t flatten out. They may be showing all the other signs of sleep, but that line stays just as erratic as ever.
Yeah bath salts … they’re still legal right? The whole bath salt’s scare sounds like a media invention. Not even the Causeway Cannibal was on them even though it was wildly reported that he was.
It does have all the hallmarks of a media invention. It has gone far enough that many areas have them listed as an illegal and dangerous substance. I love it. If only Geraldo and Phil Donahue were still around to do episodes about it.
Nice post, I feel better now I’m not the only one whose digestive system gets assaulted in one’s original country. You’ve really gotta be careful on what you eat sometimes. The longer I am here, the more I seem to romanticise things and turn into a sook comparing everything, but your post snapped me out of it a bit. I think I need a month (good luck getting those holidays though) here and there to go back and remind myself of all the junkies, shady people and glassings in pubs, not to mention fat people with a similarly obese sense of entitlement and bogan westies throwing shit at cyclists from their cars. Or people stealing the one wheel off your bike that isn’t chained up, not because it has any value, just merely to be a cunt.
A few friends have sleeves and such, but I wonder how they’re gonna end up in 20 years. They look real good now, but I would be pretty upset if I couldn’t get into the gym/onsen/swimming pools though, so I’m glad I never got anything. Most of them had something Japanese or other on there too.
They did a spin off of that Jersey Shore show called the Shire based on a place where a lot of surfie vacuous types gather. Same place that had a large scale anglo-riot because a few third or fourth generation Australians with Middle-Eastern backgrounds got into a fight with a few lifeguards there. Nice place really.
Yeah I wonder that about tattoos too. I’ve seen old people with anchors or old army tats and they seem to settle and blur under the skin. I’ve seen some beautifully detailed work here but how long will that last?
But I’ve also seen old yakuza tattoos in Japan that look amazing … maybe their style is deeper, cleaner, longer lasting?
I know some tattoo artists. It depends on the artist. Either method. You’ve got your tap in and your gun. Too deep can be a problem and too shallow is easy to remove. Even properly done tap in by a good artist will need touched up every few years. Different areas pose different problems. Like eyebrow tats, most of those can be lost by exfoliating the skin. Since eyebrow (permanent makeup) tats are most commonly on women and women frequently get their skin exfoliated …well you get the idea. I don’t have any tats and don’t plan on ever getting any, although I know what I would get if I did.
What would it be Potzo? Some sort of white-hate symbol or the like? Or your sweetheart’s initials? How is that going by the way?
My back and shoulders would be covered in a flower design (like multiple flowers) with a small hanya mask peeking out from behind one of the flowers near (slightly below) my right shoulderblade. Going great for now by the way.
I definitely understand the culture shock of returning to America, and I’ve only been in Okinawa for four years. There are the obvious things, like driving on the other side of the car on the other side of the road, and there are the not-so-obvious, like the dietary differences you mentioned. Sometimes it freaks me out a little when clerks hand me my change with only one hand.
Meth heads……a bad way to die badly is to get between one and their next hit. Hawaii has been fucking ravaged by ICE/Batu a.k.a meth.
Being a California native, I have seen the evolution of music first hand. It makes me feel confused and annoyed. I remember when the ‘rave’ culture and music scene was something you got made fun of. People ostracized you for being a drug addict or dressing funny to go dance your ass off till the wee hours in the morning. Then suddenly circa 2007 dance parties and raves suddenly were a thing the cool kids did. I was very confused that something I would do in high school and would get made fun of is not the “it” thing to do. When did that happen?! And why do I suddenly feel so old and just want these damn kids to get off my lawn?
Guidos…. I hate them. My brother manscapes his whole head (he waxes/tweezes his brows more than I do) and wears shirts that are 3 times to small for him. I laugh but yet I look around and I seem to be the only one laughing. I am the only one carrying my “The End Is Nigh!” when people quote/talk about The Jersey Shore. I may be in California but the dread Guidos reach is far and vast.
❤ tattoos, hate tweekers and home cooked food FTW!
This post was delivered to my phone exactly when I was sitting outside in Boston, barely keeping above my reverse culture shock. I moved back to the States about two months ago (apologies Potzo and GA for rehashing stuff in another thread) after seven years in Japan, and in addition to the stuff you mentioned above, I noticed other things. It felt like I was surrounded by criminals/ex-convicts. I realize you can’t always judge a person by their appearance, but man did I feel like I was suddenly on the set of Prison Break. It was utterly surreal.
All of the foods I had missed over the years suddenly made me downright ill every time I ate them. I find myself wandering Boston looking for a Sukiya or ramen shop, and end up with a half-eaten sandwich that gives me such a stomachache I have to sit down, and I’ve never had a weak constitution. I went from living on the 11th floor of an apartment in Odaiba, looking at Tokyo Bay and Rainbow Bridge every day to the end of a dead end street where three or four cars pass in an entire day. I took my daughter to the Boston Children’s Museum the other day, and out of homesickness for Japan we took the tour of the traditional Japanese house from Kyoto. While waiting for the tour to begin I thumbed through a half dozen books about Japan, and read a children’s story called Erika-San by Allen Say. Except for the amazing artwork, the first few pages seemed like any other children’s book until I saw how much Erika wanted to find a home in Japan. I hate to admit it as a burly grown man, but by the end of the book I was so choked up I couldn’t speak, and I had to stealthily wipe the tears out of my eyes. Japan was the only place I’ve truly felt comfortable in for some reason I still can’t explain. The tour started soon after that and I inwardly cringed when the guide got half of the stuff on the tour wrong, giving the others on the tour the impression that most Japanese live in quaint old houses, wear kimonos every day, and use only Japanese-style toilets. I can’t even imagine how long it’ll take me to get used to living here again when I have never felt comfortable in Massachusetts (or the States in general), despite it being my home state. I didn’t enjoy Japan enough while I was there, and I’m sure I won’t enjoy Boston enough now. I hate the interstitial space my mind occupies, and like I told Gaijin Ass in one of his posts, I hate him and you for reminding me how much I miss Japan. But I also love it at the same time. Please keep writing. And thanks for reminding me even if I don’t want to remember.
Azza mate, it sounds like you need to do whatever you can to get back here, or at least move to another part of the States.
Well it was a choice to come back, and it was the right one I think. But I’ll always miss Japan.
Just like there are Chinatowns spread throughout the states, there are a few little Tokyos as well. The Chinatown in Chicago is surrounded by everyday-big-city stateside-cardboard-cut-out crap (skyscraper, slum, warehouse, gas station, traintracks, repeat), then around a corner it all disapears for a couple of isolated blocks you are in a place where English is not the dominant language and American culture is something you see on T.V. . As for the state I live in, they have festivals and culture centers devoted to Asians in the states, but the Asians tend to keep to themselves. Down back alleys are the entryways to Asian grocery stores where I am the only white to set foot in there since my last visit. Always a mixture of various Asian cultures in my state, never a solid communitty from one particular Asian country, unless you use the word orient and then count India (we have some communities of just people from India). Plenty of Asian eateries and sushi bars in the bigger cities of my state, but these still blend culture (one that comes to mind right now has Korean, Chinese, and Japanese food). A bit of research and you may find a little niche in your state where you can feel more at peace.
You need to get a Japanese pen pal family to write to. Bet your daughter would love having a pen pal family that your family could correspond with. Your experience of having lived in Japan would help you relate to the pen pal family and thus better insure a longer lasting correspondance. Just a thought,
I have quite a few friends and family who I write to, but maybe you’re right, that might be a nice idea. When my daughter is old enough, I’m sure we’ll do just that. She can’t speak more than one word sentences right now : )
Potzo, there are quite a few things like that in Boston, but they always feel like the shadow of the real thing for me. I’ll get back to Tokyo often enough (going back in December for a month), but it’s not the same as living there.
I really noticed the tattooes when I moved back to Australia too. Apparently there’d been a big fad on getting word tattoos – I’d only been away a year, you think a tattoo fad would take longer! My favourite so far was a girl with “pancakes” on her arm. Not sure if it was the name of her pet or she just really loved pancakes.
If you hadn’t captioned the zombie junkie photo, I’d have thought it was taken on my tram line. And it’s not just that the junkies are everywhere, it’s the attitude of ‘I can do what I want and someone else will look after me’ sense of entitlement. I’m all for doing what you want and living life your own way but fucked if I’m going to be financially supporting it.