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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Shimura Ken: Strangers On A Train

When I lived in Japan, Shimura Ken (志村 けん) was my comedic lifeline in the choppy seas of Japanese samurai dramas and bizarre challenge cooking shows.

His variety television program made me laugh out loud, proving one didn’t need to know the language in order to get the joke.

I wish I could tell you that I learned Japanese from watching his weekly television program, but aside from screwing my voice up to sound like a Japanese hick (yes… every country has a country bumpkin group where they don’t exactly speak a high-level of grammatically correct vernacular.

“Daijobu-da!” Shimura Ken would squawk and me, being a decent enough mimic would squawk the same thing back at my students eliciting tittering laugh from behind female hands, and gap-mouthed shock and guffaws from the junior high school boys at whatever school I taught at. 

Born Yasunori Shimura (志村 康徳, Shimura Yasunori) in February 20, 1950… Shimura Ken is 66 years old… which means he was a scant 40-years-old in 1990 when I first saw him on the telly… with his pony-tail bobbing along throughout his comedy skits.

It’s a nod to the power of Shimura Ken that my students were quick to nickname Shimura Ken after I grew my hair out and started pony-tailing it during my second year.

To be fair, that nickname didn’t stick with me, as I became less the Shimura Ken stooge, and more the devil-may-care boyfriend of Noboko, a Japanese woman and junior high school English teacher who would suffer no fools in public.   

She didn’t mind my idiotic behavior when it was just the two of us…. she liked a tall, dark handsome-ish man with a sense of humor.

If you were to look at the continence of Noboko, you would assume that the risqué, stupid humor of Shimura Ken would not be something that would appeal to her… but Japan is a world of contrast.

There’s the face you show the public, and the face you show the private… and while booksellers and sages who discuss Japan would have you believe that is solely a Japanese thing, it’s not. It’s human nature.

Who doesn’t act in one way at work, and then another at home?

Gentleman at work, pervert at home downloading Buddha-know’s what type of perverse porn. It’s okay… everyone has different faces for different situations. We even change our level of speech… from a higher level at work… or lower depending on the type of people you work with, to something different when you speak to a priest or whomever…

Of course, not everyone alters their levels, but the vast majority of people do.


Enjoy this video sent my way by Vinnie, showing how a lot of people do react when people fall asleep beside you on the Japanese trains.There's English subtitles, but really... why bother? You'll understand it regardless of what language you speak.

I have no idea if that above scenario would occur if a gaijin (foreigner) was on the train. My gut instinct is to think that the average Japanese person wouldn’t want to sit so close to a foreigner… but that was 1990-1993…

… then again… Noboko didn’t have any issue falling asleep on me while on the train. But I guess it’s different with a stranger. Or a pretty stranger.

Andrew "today is my birthday" Joseph
PS: That Shimura Ken figure at the top was an image from E-bay...
PPS: I once wrote a non-speaking play about the strange goings-on on Japanese trains and performed it at some festival in Nikko. It was actually quite similar to this Shimura Ken skit. I'm pretty sure I didn't rip him off, nor he me.


  1. Happy Birthday from the land of the crazy people down under (not OZ but certainly feels like it sometimes). Hubby heard an NPR broadcast today where a woman said, "I voted for Hillary and I came in my pantsuit." And he told me I'm glad she voted, but isn't that TMI? (Badum-pum ...)

    Enjoyed the video. Definitely needed a laugh.

    1. TMI? Too much information? You are asking me? I'm full of TMI. Ya can't write about yourself w/o doing that.
      Anyhow... with yet another seal broken and the impending end of the world being nigh, I'm glad you had a laugh with Shimura Ken.
      Thanks, FFF.
      I heard that the Canadian Immigration website crashed last night. Really. You better hurry up here before we build a wall before he who shall not be named (and I don't mean to "polk" the bear) starts yelling fifty-four forty or fight!