12 October 2012 § Leave a comment
When I first got here, I thought a lot about my family. My distance relatives who live in the prefecture south of here, my family in St. Catharines, my family in other parts of Ontario and Canada, my family in the States in Indiana, Illinois, Arizona, and elsewhere. I thought about communication, having relocated to the other side of the world, relying on Skype, Facebook, e-mail, and the occasional written word. I thought about separation.
Here’s what’s been on my mind lately: gender, comedy, and fitness.
In recent conversations with a number of female friends, the topic of inappropriate grabbing and touching has come up more than once. In North America, or in Canada, anyway, I’m all too familiar with inappropriate comments and yelling. Here, however, while I might be missing out on some things due to the language barrier, there seems to be more of an issue with touching. Such that there is even, on almost all subways, a special car designated especially for women between certain peak travel times (usu. for the morning rush). I’ve heard people scoff at these cars, but once you start talking to people and realize how unfortunately common it is for men to go for a casual grab, you understand the want for such a car. No one ever sees it coming. A man simply walking by, or heading in the opposite direction, reaching out a hand as you cross paths. A stranger who stops to ask for directions and starts chatting to you, going for a grab, seeing nothing wrong with it, and then asking if you’d like to hang out. They act like there’s nothing at all wrong with it. In Canada, I often got the sense that men knew that what they were doing was dirty or inappropriate, following up their comments with a husky laugh or a smug grin (I refrain from using a more harsh adjective here). I’ve been told by my friends that any kind of reaction will generally scare these men off. There is a tendency for women to perhaps be somewhat passive here, so it’s unexpected. I heard of one friend who ran and chased angrily after an offender, scaring him thoroughly.
I was sitting with some of these same female friends over brunch a couple weeks ago (it’s become a routine bi-weekly Sunday activity) and the topic of female comedians came up. It immediately brought to mind a tedious debate I had with a guy a couple years ago, during a walk by the Niagara River, in which he made the claim that women just really aren’t that funny. Bringing this up with my brunch friends, we began to list off the various female actors and comedians that we like, and my friend Katrina brought out a well-loved magazine to share, called “bitch: feminist response to pop culture”, which features an article criticizing a Vanity Fair piece about why women aren’t funny. It’s become something that I want to explore more while I’m here, involved in an improv group, with friends who are also doing stand up. It didn’t used to bother me so much, but humor is such an important part of most people’s lives, and that includes women, and I’m certain that men and the male sense of humor is not the only thing that appeals to them. On a somewhat related note, I had the fun of being able to see myself on late night Saturday Japanese television last weekend. Two of my dearest friends and I sat closely in front of our rarely used TV and took photos on our iPhones as I appeared on screen with my improv group, being talked at by some well-known Kansai TV personalities (on “Konohen Torabera”).
In other news, I’m making an effort to be more physically active and healthy. While this isn’t really relevant to my experiences in Japan, it’s part of my life, and it also involves jogging to and around the castle. Yes, the castle. Because, unlike back home in Canada, Japan has castles. This may be part of what’s keeping me motivated to continue jogging: I just love being able to say, “Oh, me? I went for a jog around the castle last night”. Mind, it’s not like the castles you grow up reading about in books about princesses and medieval things, but it’s a beautiful Japanese-style structure nonetheless. I’ve gone on three ten km jogs in the past week. For a few minutes the other day, I contemplated the possibility of training for a half-marathon. And then I went for my third jog yesterday, and decided to not think about it for awhile.
Other things that are happening in my life lately: studying to write the Level 4 (of five levels, five being the lowest) Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), planning the next poetry event for mid-November, an upcoming four day trip to what most foreigners here call “art island” (real name: Naoshima). The brutal summer heat and humidity has dissipated and nighttime now encourages the wearing of sweaters. It’s a good time of year, here in Osaka.
27 February 2011 § Leave a comment
My first day on the job went well overall. It was a full schedule of substitute teaching and I know I messed a few things up, but I knew that would happen and it’s okay. Teaching children is going to take some getting used to. I’m totally alright with teaching teenagers. That’s fun. But anyone younger than 12? It’s not that I don’t like it; I’m just not used to it.
Making some small talk, the school director asked me my husband’s name. I clarified that my last name is my father’s last name. She had been expecting someone more Japanese than me. It’s been interesting having a Japanese name in Japan, but not being Japanese. In Canada, that sort of thing’s pretty normal. A friend here who speaks decent Japanese likes to introduce me to Japanese people, telling them my first and last name, mostly just to see there reaction to it being Japanese. This usually results in them talking to me in Japanese, and me getting a little flustered, saying awkwardly, “Wakarimasen..!” (I don’t understand..!) or “Nihongo ga hanasemasen!” (I don’t speak Japanese!). Then said Japanese person talks to my friend, and I recognize the words for “Canadian”, “father”, “English”, “doesn’t speak or understand”, etc.
I tried a Big Mac for the first time. It was alright! Also tried a hot pancake-flavoured beverage. I originally wanted something cold from the vending machine, but then when I saw that, I couldn’t help but get it instead. The variety offered in vending machines here is still novel for me.
An afternoon trip to Osaka Castle this afternoon. I ventured alone, and ended up being out way longer than I expected. I thought I would just take a short wander to check it out, make sure I knew where it was, and then go back another day for more exploration. Decided to do a lot of exploring today instead. It’s the most beautiful and green area I’ve found yet in Osaka. There were so many blossoming trees. They looked sort of like cherry blossoms, but I heard that before the actual cherry blossoms, there are other blossoms (someone called them “brown blossoms”, though they’re not brown… pre-blossom blossoms?). Anyway, they were pretty. Dark pink, light pink, white, and everything in between. And they smelled amazing. Osaka Castle is super cool. It’s not the original, as the original was burned down a long time back, and then rebuilt, and then burned down again, and then rebuilt. Still a beautiful structure, though. Surrounded by impressive walls and a moat. Surrounded by gardens and parks. Come visit and I will take you there!
Wandering around I thought a lot of the Niagara Parkway and the botanical gardens and the floral clock and the vineyards and summer days along the Niagara River in the sun. I imagined how it must feel seeing all of that for the first time as I wandered around Osaka Castle for the first time. It’s wonderful living so close to those beautiful things, in the Niagara Region, and now here in Osaka. I’ve always wanted to live in a big city for awhile, just to see what it’s like. When I was out wandering the grounds of Osaka Castle today, though, and when I think of Niagara, I can’t imagine spending a long time in a big city. My first instinct is to say that it’s too much, but when it comes down to it, it’s not enough.
(I don’t have any of my pictures of the Niagara Parkway here, or I’d post one…)
CORRECTION: The trees I found were plum trees. It is a plum grove. Anyway, still super pretty and fragrant!