July 27, 2008

Speed Racer + Sex and the City

As I mentioned in Tokyo Movie Experience Part 3, I went to see Speed Racer! I'm planning to go see it one more time at the movie theater. Yopiko, a huuuuge fan of Jin Akanishi and one of the most prominent fan blogger, went to see the movie twice! Some fans say they saw it three times! I admire their enthusiasm.

I fully enjoyed Jin's voice acting for Speed Racer and the movie itself, of course. My favorite line is, "What should I do with you?" Speed calmly talks to his car when it's stopped, trying to figure out what to do next with the gear. Speed's (Jin's) heavy breathing right after the race is incredibly sexy. Jin's voice is a gem!

I watched on TV that Jin and Emile Hirsch (aka Speed) chatted in English at the press conference in Tokyo. In the photo session, Jin helped Emile with interpretation because photographers gave instructions to them in Japanese. (Source: oricon style 7/21 issue, 2008) Among Japanese male celebrities, who else can communicate with Hollywood stars in English? All I can think of are Masi Oka and Ken Watanabe. Jin was so stunning on the stage that he looked like a Hollywood star to me. Check out this video. Other related videos were already deleted.

Sex and the City will finally open on August 23 in Japan. This is a flyer that I got at the movie theater. Flyers are available at theaters and we can get information on upcoming movies. It's a popular PR tool in Japan to get moviegoers back to the theater.

Have you seen the movie? How do you like it? Guess what, I love the series so much that I watched all of the episodes. I like not only its fashion but also the way it portrays women's friendship. I even have the SATC official guidebook, "Kiss and Tell." The book has a lot of funny pages, including who they "did" and "didn't."

I'm sorry to say this to Carrie's fan, but I often get annoyed by her for some reason. I love her shoes, though. :) I want to be a woman who is sort of half Miranda and half Charlotte. Smart and beautiful. Have a good balance of being logical and emotional. Who do you like most? I can't wait to see SATC the movie!

July 22, 2008

Happily Ever After Fantasy? White Man Cafe

I just watched CNN world news yesterday, which was about "Butlers Cafe" in Shibuya, Tokyo.
The cafe is full of white male "butlers." It's the male equivalent of Akiba's maid cafe for female customers.

Before I start talking about it, please check out the video first. The image is more powerful than text to explain what it's like at the cafe.

So, what do you think?

My first impression was, "Are they really wearing tiaras? Or is it just for TV?" I don't want to say bad things about these women, but the tiara thing was kind of silly...

The point is all the butlers are WHITE men. This shows how many Japanese women are into the image of Western men appearing in Hollywood movies and TV series--today's fairy tales. If Japanese men served tea as butlers, female customers would not get refreshed because Japanese men remind them of their daily lives. Talking to good-looking Westerners in ENGLISH is surreal for them. These women come to the cafe to free themselves from stress, according to the CNN report.

I'm surprised that there are women out there who are so stressed out that they end up going to places like this. Unfortunately, Japan is still male-dominated society so that a lot of females may be stressed out as CNN points out. However, are they really that tired? If so, I want to let them know my blog URL to share their thoughts with me and hopefully, to make them feel better. It's totally free! Or, are they just interested in white men and looking for opportunities to speak English?

To heal your mind is not simple. Of course, I'd love to talk to good-looking gentlemen. But not at the cafe at least for me. I'd rather find a more constructive way to make me happy, not an instant relief but a long-lasting solution. Maybe I'm not good at just having fun at ease with someone unknown.

For details, check out Butlers Cafe website and a female writer's report of her experience of being a "Princess" at the cafe. It's a fun reading with lots of photos (mostly in Japanese). The reporter looks cheerful in every picture, I don't understand what's good about some guy holding and lifting you up, though. Note that you have to pay extra for the lifting service.

Would you like to go to a cafe where good-looking Japanese men in samurai costumes serving you drinks?

July 14, 2008

Kanji of the Day

reading: hi, bi, jitsu, ka, nichi, ni,
meaning: day, everyday, the sun, Japan


*日焼けする hiyake suru/ get a sun tan

*日焼け止めを塗る hiyakedome wo nuru/
apply [put on] sunscreen [sunblock]

*日々 hibi/ everyday, daily, day-to-day, days=毎日 mainichi
e.g. 日々の生活 hibi no seikatsu/ everyday[daily] life
日々の食事/食生活 hibi no shokuji/ shokuseikatsu/ daily diet
幸せな日々を送る shiawase na hibi wo okuru/ spend happy days

*日曜日 (too much 日!) nichiyoubi/ Sunday

*休日 kyuujitsu/ holiday, day off

*本日 honjitsu/ today=今日 kyou(exceptional reading of the kanji)/ today 
Note that 本日Honjitu sounds more formal.  

*三日、3日 mikka/ the third day, three days

*日常会話 nichijo kaiwa/ daily [everyday] conversation

*日米関係 nichibei kankei/ Japan-U.S. relations/relationship

*日本 nihon, nippon/ Japan
e.g. 日本人と結婚したい nihonjin to kekkon sitai/ I want to marry a Japanese man/woman.

*日記 nikki/ diary, journal
e.g. 毎日、日本語で日記を書く (too much 日, again!) mainichi nihongo de nikki wo kaku/ keep a journal in Japanese every day

Please note that examples shown above are the major usage of the kanji. I might not have included all the meanings and readings.

July 7, 2008

10 Reasons Why I Love USA: The Conversation Continues

Having spent 3 years in the U.S. may not be enough to fully understand its culture and society. Christy gave me new insights into what the U.S. looks like through her comment on 10 Reasons Why I Love USA. I'm probably into the U.S. too much to see the reality with an objective point of view. And I might have praised the U.S. TOO much. This post is a very long comment for Christy.

Here's my feedback:

1. I never thought about the "praise too much" tendency from your perspective. You gave me a fresh insight. As you point out, if people feel pressure to praise each other, it must be stressful. They can also get skeptical when they get compliments, wondering if people are saying the truth or lie. When I was living in the U.S., I would often get tired of saying "Oh, I love your shoes!" or whatever.

I agree with your saying that it's gotten to the point where even constructive criticism is seen as offensive. That's a very good point. We don't have to always praise but mention negative points as well to solve problems. If a criticism is not derived hatred feelings but is based on objectivity, that's fair and positive.

I just wanted to say that we Japanese are TOO humble. Luckily, I'm not. I changed a lot after having studied in the U.S. My family says I've become less humble and more selfish, but I feel much happier about being myself. Showing that you are proud of yourself/your achievement to a certain degree is often considered as "He/she is too proud of himself/herself. He/She gets big headed." That was the way older generations used to be in this society. People are changing now and start praising each other probably because the Japanese have realized they should focus more on building self-esteem.

8. About Hollywood, you are right, Christy. The quality depends on the show/movie. For example, I don't watch Japanese TV shows a lot, but I liked a drama series, "Last Friends." I was so into the drama that I even cried when Sosuke killed himself. On the other hand, American TV shows like "Temptation Island" are a waste of time for me. And movies like, "There's Something About Mary" and "Knocked Up" are...you know, they suck. I don't understand why these movies were big hits in the U.S. (Knocked Up never came to Japan, btw.)

People are attracted to either something different from them or something similar to them. I'm interested in something different from my own culture. And so are you. You like Japanese TV shows better than American ones. This is very interesting.

By the way, did you know Aragaki Yui and Yama-P are appearing in a new drama, Code Blue?

10. About learning English, I totally agree with what you are saying. My college professors would tell me, "Karen, you'll be surprised if you read American students' papers. Their writing skills are terrible." Being a native English speaker doesn't always mean being a good writer/speaker. When I just entered the college, my listening skills were too poor to to be able to understand what my classmates were talking about and they all sounded smart to me. Turned out, I was wrong. As I got used to listening to native speakers' English, I came to realize that many of them were just BSing to increase their class participation.

I see what you are saying; however, being able to speak English means you are one step ahead of international communication and that gap is hard to catch up with. It really was for me, and I'm still struggling with it. It's a great advantage in terms of international communication, no matter how good or poor your English is, because you can reach a wider audience than Japanese speakers can ever have.

About college tuition, if a California resident goes to UC Berkeley, it costs $4,465.75 per semester. The tuition for nonresidents is $14,769.75. I'm not saying $4,465.75 is inexpensive. This tuition gap applies to American students those who come to Japan. But we don't have many students from your country. According to Institute of International Education Open Doors Report 2007, the number of American students was 4,411, while the U.S. hosted 35,282 Japanese students. People go to places where opportunities and worth learning courses are being offered.

I'd like to let you know that I'm aware of negative aspects of your country as well. For example, the U.S. is the world's biggest polluter with highest proportion of CO2 emission in the the world--22% as opposed to Japan's 4.7%. (Source: EDMC / Handbook of Energy and Economic Statistics, 2008 ) The U.S. has no national health care insurance system. Racism is still out there...and the list goes on. Sorry, I'm getting a bit sarcastic here.

Having said that, I still believe that being an American is a great advantage in the world. Japan is changing, but the speed is very slow...I often think about what I'm going to do to survive this society and live a happy and fulfilled life.Thank you again for reading my blog and leaving a profound comment, which reminds me of my college. It's really interesting that even if we see the same reality, the feelings we have about it turn out to be different, depending on the experiences and values that each has. I'm impressed by your deep knowledge of Japanese culture and society. I will try to write more entertaining posts on Japan. Please come back to my blog again and again!

July 4, 2008

10 Reasons Why I Love USA

I'm celebrating the Fourth of July here in Japan, writing this post and remembering the fireworks that I watched on San Francisco Bay. I can sing the Star-Spangled Burner without even listening to it. I wish I were American. When I was a child, I always wanted to go to the United States of America. That dream was realized and I'm still in love with you, USA.

This post is based on my own experiences and observations of people I met in the U.S. and Japan. Here are 10 reasons why I love the land of the free:

1. People praise each other a lot. They try to find positive aspects of people and things. In Japan, we are likely to criticize, focusing on downside and what's missing. Americans are less judgmental and more positive than Japanese.

2. People express their feelings with words. In Japan, many people tend to rely on nonverbal communication called "ishindenshin." I don't think that's enough. We have to say it out loud to let the other person know how we feel about him/her. We Japanese need to use more expressions like "Thank you," "Good job" and "I love you."

3. People are encouraged to try new things. What matters is to challenge yourself. Japanese tend to follow precedent, trying not to be new or different from the majority. In Japan, we feel pressure from the society to play expected roles, depending on our age and gender. You should not meet others' expectations but follow your heart because it's your life. In the U.S., I care less about my age, gender, and weight(oops!), which makes me happy.

4. People have their own opinions and are being specific. In Japan, when people are asked, "What do you think about it? " or "What do you want?" many of them simply answer, "I don't know." Being different means being original in the U.S., while many Japanese try to fit the the social norms. That is not exciting.

5. Americans strongly believe that they can make a difference to change the world. People, maybe not the government, have the power to solve problems, such as poverty and human rights violations. They discuss and work together to deal with the problems within and outside the U.S.

6. Houses are more spacious and streets are wider than those in Japan. Japan is overpopulated with a population of around 127 million in roughly the size of California. Almost everywhere is crowded in the cities. It's so stressful and I need more space!

7. I heard American business practices are 10 years ahead of Japan's. Japanese women still face glass ceiling and the situation is worse than in the U.S. According to The New York Times, "in 2005, women held 10.1 percent of managerial jobs, though Japan’s 27 million working women made up nearly half of its work force. By contrast, women held 42.5 percent of managerial jobs in the United States in 2005."

8. I love Hollywood. About 90% of movies and TV programs I currently watch are distributed from Hollywood. Japanese movies and TV shows are boring to me. Beverly Hills 90210 brought me to Los Angeles, seriously. I'm into HEROES now.

9. You guys have Abercrombie. Fortunately, I'm small as opposed to many Americans thanks to genes and healthy Japanese food. Abercrombie kids' XL is the just right size for me. Kids are less expensive and I can save $20 for a sweatshirt.

10. Americans don't have to spend a large amount of money and time for learning English. For an 1-hour-private lesson at an English conversation school, a Japanese student pays $80 or so. My college education and housing in the U.S. cost about a Mercedes and a Lexus. You are born to speak the world's standard language except those who immigrate to the U.S. and learn English as a second language.

No matter how difficult and frustrating it often gets when I speak English, to live in the U.S. is much happier for me than to live in my own country. Dear Americans, I just want to tell you that you are one of the most fortunate people in the world. You should be proud to be American. I'm so jealous of you guys!