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Monday, February 9, 2015

Japanese Stereotypes - Laughable

Japanese stereotypes - laughable when you get right down to it.

The photograph above kind of blows several stereotypes westerners have of the Japanese.

Taken on December 14, 1990, the photograph shows me (on the right) pretending to study Japanese, while a smiling Hanzaki-san (one of my two bosses) at the Ohtawara Board of Education office pretends to write something.

Stereotype #1: Hanzaki-san is drinking coffee, not Japanese green tea. I am drinking green tea like all good Japanese people do, six or seven times a day. Hanazaki-san enjoyed changing things up.

Stereotype #2: Hanazaki-san is smiling. The Japanese have a great sense of humor. Plus, there is no longer a belief that showing one's teeth is a sign of aggression. Hanazaki-san and Kanemaru-san, hell every damn person I meet in Japan had a smile for me and I for them. It's not just a land of unsmiling grumpy faces - that's the stereotype.

Stereotype #3: Not all Japanese people know how to work a camera properly. My other boss, Kanemaru-san, proves that by chopping off the heads of his erstwhile subjects to show more of the less-interesting pile of paperwork on our desks.

As an aside, here are some truisms as evidenced by that photograph:
  • the 'busy' Japanese work desk was always cleaned up at the end of the day;
  • no one ever spilled a drink of anything while I was in Japan - except when at a party or bar. That was weird, but true, given Hanazaki-san's proclivity to placing cups near the hand;
  • My computer had a cozy placed over it to stop dust from getting on or in it. I have no idea if that worked to provide it with a longer working life, but I never had a dusty computer - unlike how I do now (in 2015) at work and at home;
  • This was PRE-internet!!! I will state, however, that I had actually been on-line since 1980 via message boards;
  • I'm still wearing the same watch; 
  • I am not still wearing the same sweater; 
  • I am a wee bit more mature in my physical appearance now;
  • I am older now than Hanazaki-san was in this photograph, a fact that depresses me.
  • I have no idea, thanks to Kanemaru-san, if my hair is any different now than then.    
Andrew Joseph

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