Ichiro – Two degrees of separation

I almost know this guyI didn’t realize at first that Ichiro is from the Nagoya area. But, it turns out, he is. Now, of course, many Japanese that I meet tell me of their connection to Ichiro. Someone I consider a friend told me he played on the same club in junior high as Ichiro. Another guy at a gas station told the car, when he found out that we were Americans, that he went to high school with Ichiro. I’m sure others have their stories too.

If you discount the gas station attendant, I trust my friend, and that puts me only two degrees of separation from Ichiro. That’s pretty cool and opens a LOT of doors for me. And yes, I can get to Kevin Bacon in two degrees by one path, and three quite easily in another path.

H-men, additional thoughts

grass eaters or meat eaters?Holy cow! Just by using the term “herbivore men” in my blog, I got almost 400 hits yesterday. That wasn’t my intention at all, but checking my logs there were a ton of Google searches for that phrase. I wanted people to read my blog, but I never thought one reference would create such a stir. This more than tops the Google searches for things related to the naked man festival (I won’t start to tell you some of the search topics that end up pointing to my blog). Well, as my tag says, “Be careful what you dream of, it may come up and surprise you,” (with all due respects to The Icicle Works whose lyric is lifted for my tag).

I found the CNN article interesting, as did apparently at least 380 other people who bothered to search and then click my site.

I asked my interpreter about the phenomenon described in the article. Yes, I have an interpreter. It makes me sound pretty important doesn’t it? My interpreter, who is shared with my team, is really helpful as a cultural bridge as well. She knew what I was talking about and described the following:

Recently the number of young men who are not greedy for hunting girls is increasing. Such kind of men is called as “Herbivore Men” or Sousyoku-kei-Danshi or “草食系男子”(そうしょくけいだんし) .

On the contrary, girls are impatient against such attitude by men’s. Therefore girls are more aggressive to get their mates than ever in Japan. The activity to get married which is called “Kon-Katsu” or “å©šæ´»” has become active vigorously among young ladies.

She doesn’t have to worry, she’s married and has two kids, with the oldest in high school. Considering she’s only 25, it is quite remarkable. I should also add that she reads this blog.

I got a comment from “Christopher” and I wondered who that was. I noticed his email address included the phrase “sanfranclubkid.” I didn’t think I knew folks who would include “club kid” in their address. 10 years ago, maybe I would have known someone but still it is very unlikely. That was before I checked my access logs to see that I had so many hits. I reckon Christopher was someone who found his way to my site via Google. Christopher noted:

I saw the article and I think that’s cool; be who you want to be and do what you want to do. They’re not hurting anybody, they’re just being themselves. The only unfortunate thing about that, was that “Jay” doesn’t live in SF, and I can’t be his boyfriend, cuz he’s hella cute!

First of all, thanks for the comment Christopher. I liked the article too. I agree, it’s great to be who you want to be and do what you want to do. I said it was fascinating and perplexing, but I didn’t say it was bad.

The article also comments on the socioeconomic aspects of the life of younger people in Japan. I did not originally post that portion, but it is important to understand the whole context so be sure and read the whole article.

Fukasawa said the group does not care so much about making money — a quality tied to the fact that there are fewer jobs available during the current global economic recession.

Japan’s economy recently saw its largest-ever recorded contraction and has shrunk for four straight quarters. Blue chip companies Sony, Panasonic, Toyota and Nissan all reported losses in May, and most are forecasting the same for the current fiscal year. Though still low by international standards, Japan’s reported 5 percent unemployment is the highest since 2003.

Hori agreed economics has played a role. When he finished university, “a lot of my friends were trying to work for a big company that pays well and I wasn’t interested in that. I am kind of struggling financially and my father is not very happy about it,” he said.

Starting salaries are very low right now, and I have friends working their tails off making nothing. If they were interested in raising a family, they could not afford to do so. I’m sure a contributing factor to the herbivore men is the fact that they cannot traditionally support a woman in the manner in which she expects to be supported and cannot even come close to supporting a family. That’ll take the wind out of your sails pretty quickly. I think the expectation of Japanese women is changing, but there is a lot of societal pressure (I mean a LOT) to conform to expectations. So perhaps grazing on grasses instead of hunting buffalo is a natural reaction.

grass eaters or meat eaters?Christopher did bring up another point that is part of the perplexity. “The only unfortunate thing about that, was that “Jay” doesn’t live in SF, and I can’t be his boyfriend, cuz he’s hella cute!” Christopher said. But indeed, there’s the rub. Jay doesn’t want to be your boyfriend. He’s not interested in guys. He’s just a clumsy, skinny, metrosexual with great hair and snappy clothes that doesn’t want to be bothered with a girlfriend. If you ever come to Japan, Christopher, you are going to have to recalibrate.

Herbivore men

I had never heard the term, “Herbivore men,” until today. I happen to get a link to a CNN article. I am going to quote freely from the article since I reference it above.

Author and pop culture columnist Maki Fukasawa coined the term in 2006 in a series of articles on marketing to a younger generation of Japanese men. She used it to describe some men who she said were changing the country’s ideas about just what is — and isn’t — masculine.

“In Japan, sex is translated as ‘relationship in flesh,'” she said, “so I named those boys ‘herbivorous boys’ since they are not interested in flesh.”

Typically, “herbivore men” are in their 20s and 30s, and believe that friendship without sex can exist between men and women, Fukasawa said.

The term has become a buzzword in Japan. Many people in Tokyo’s Harajuku neighborhood were familiar with “herbivore men” — and had opinions about them.

Shigeyuki Nagayama said such men were not eager to find girlfriends and tend to be clumsy in love, and he admitted he seemed to fit the mold himself.

“My father always asks me if I got a girlfriend. He tells me I’m no good because I can’t get a girlfriend.”

Takahito Kaji, 21, said he has been told he is “totally herbivorous.”

“Herbivorous boys are fragile, do not have a stocky body — skinny.”

Fukasawa said Japanese men from the baby boomer generation were typically aggressive and proactive when it came to romance and sex. But as a result of growing up during Japan’s troubled economy in the 1990s, their children’s generation was not as assertive and goal-oriented. Their outlook came, in part, from seeing their fathers’ model of masculinity falter even as Japanese women gained more lifestyle options.

Former CNN intern Junichiro Hori, a self-described herbivore, said the idea goes beyond looks and attitudes toward sex.

“Some guys still try to be manly and try to be like strong and stuff, but you know personally I’m not afraid to show my vulnerability because being vulnerable or being sensitive is not a weakness.”

Older generations of Japanese men are not happy about the changes. At a bar frequented by businessmen after work, one man said: “You need to be carnivorous when you make decisions in your life. You should be proactive, not passive.”

This is directly related to my comments in a previous post where I said, “Japan is a land of crazy fashions. This is the land of tight T-shirts with fancy, sparkly cursive writing words, dyed hair, hair clips, and extremely manicured eyebrows. And those are just the boys!” It is extremely true, and really throws off the whole sense of masculine / feminine, straight / gay that Americans and Europeans come to expect.  I find it fascinating and perplexing and definitely makes people watching more interesting.  I think I’ve seem more macho looking guys in Ni-chome compared to the herbivores elsewhere.  Apparently the gay community is taking a more masculine approach to attraction.

Hanging out in Kanagawa-ken

Will I ever actually start writing what I intended to write about two hours ago when I first sat down at my computer to add to my blog? I hope. Things just kept popping in to my head, so they became their own entries.

You need to read June 6 entries from bottom to top.

So indeed, I had a great weekend. Recapping, in case you don’t want to read from bottom to top,

My friend David (or Dave) from Los Angeles / San Francisco was visiting Japan with his from David (or Dave) from San Francisco. Apparently, Nagoya isn’t interesting enough to warrant a visit (sigh) so I made the trek up to Tokyo. That’s a huge sacrifice of course, having to go to Tokyo.

Dave (my old friend and not his friend) and I planned to meet for dinner on Friday night at 8:00 pm in Shinjuku. Dave had met my friend Jin during his visits to LA so I invited Jin to join us as well.

Jin invited a friend of his along as well, and we went to a nice café in Shinjuku Ni-chome and checked out the scene. It isn’t West Hollywood or the Castro, but it had its own vibe. Jin’s friend remains unidentified per his request. Sigh.

Dave, Dave, Dave’s friend Kenji and I met Saturday morning to do a day trip to Kamakura. I had not been to Kamakura in years. Some of my favorite black and white photos from Japan are from Kamakura.

 

 

 

I was curious what it would be like to go back to Kamakura with a digital camera instead of my film camera. Can I say I miss shooting on film?

We had a great time hanging out together, and I enjoyed Dave’s friend Dave and Dave’s friend Dave’s friend Kenji. I think from now on I’ll refer to Dave’s friend Dave as Dave II. I wish Tomo could have joined us, and that was the plan, but unfortunately last minute work plans messed up his schedule.

Kamakura is known for it’s 大仏 (daibutsu) or huge statue of Buddha. When we got off the train I saw the picture below and thought, “What’s the big deal?”

 

Ha ha. We walked to some different areas than I had not seen before and visited lots of temples. We stumbled across a Shinto wedding, complete with the traditional videographer.

 

It was cool to catch just the bride, groom, and the attendants.

 

There were a number of beautiful things to see at the various temples.

Honestly though, we saw so many, I’ve forgotten what we actually saw, so just enjoy the pictures below with no sense of place. Sorry about that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At one temple, there was a woman selling cookies. It was clear that it was a fundraiser and she had samples. The cookies were very good. She was trying to communicate what the fundraising was about. I totally misunderstood her, and Dave II will claim that it was my doing. Anyway, I thought she was telling me that the cookies will make you smart because she was pointing to her head. Then she pointed to the picture which clearly indicated that the cookies were hand made by children with Down’s Syndrome. Needless to say, we bought some and referred to them as “the guilt cookies” as we munched them throughout the day. Miscommunication – you’ve got to hate it sometimes.

We had a terrific lunch and Dave II took some amazing food porn pictures. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not so good with food porn, so you’ll just have to believe me.

We wandered back to downtown Kamakura by train and then went to the daibutsu. It was as great as I remember.

Giving a sense of scale

A very large buddha

 

A color version of my previous black and white

The daibutsu in color

 

It gets pretty hot being the daibutsu ..

Back vents

 

Here are Dave II, Dave, and Kenji at the shrine

Fellow travelers

 

We also went to check at the 地蔵 (jizou) at Hasedera. Jizou are the guardian deity of children, or the patron deity of pregnant women. Many times, a statue is placed at this temple for lost children, often times aborted children. In the past when I was there, many of the jizou were highly decorated with toys, beads, and clothes. This time it seems there is an effort to tone things down.

Jizo

 

jizo

 

We walked to the beach at Kamakura as well and decided it was pretty ugly and dirty. For dinner, we thought we’d go to Chinatown in Yokohama. On the way there we saw something I’ve never seen before – a parent falling asleep instead of a child. It must have been a long day.

Tired on the train

 

We walked around Chinatown and finally made it to dinner.

Yokohama Chinatown

 

Yokohama Chinatown

 

Yokohama Chinatown

 

Of course, on our travels, we saw a few things that just didn’t make sense to us.

I’ve never seen a name this long in Japan

I've never seen a name this long

 

Huh?

 

A pork ice cream shop?

 

I have no idea how Amish cooking is related to Kamakura.

Japanese Amish

 

Japanese Amish

 

 

On Sunday, Tomo and I got to hang out together. We saw Star Trek. He had not seen any of the Star Trek movies and enjoyed it. I liked it too, although I think J. J. Abrams needs to stay away from time travel in everything he does. It is too convenient.

There, that’s a major blog entry.

忘れ物を忘れないでください

Last weekend was a terrific weekend. It didn’t start out so good, but I convinced myself to turn my frown upside down, pack up my troubles, sing halleluiah and get happy, and not let it bother me.

My friend David (or Dave) from Los Angeles / San Francisco was visiting Japan with his from David (or Dave) from San Francisco. Apparently, Nagoya isn’t interesting enough to warrant a visit (sigh) so I made the trek up to Tokyo. That’s a huge sacrifice of course, having to go to Tokyo.

Dave (my old friend and not his friend) and I planned to meet for dinner on Friday night at 8:00 pm in Shinjuku. Dave had met my friend Jin during his visits to LA so I invited Jin to join us as well. Of course, I had to work, but was planning on bugging out early to that I could get home, drop the work clothes and computer, grab my bag, and head to Tokyo. Of course, I had a meeting run long, and it really wasn’t a meeting I could leave. The intensity level was ratcheting up, and I needed to be there.

With one eye on my watch and another eye on the mood of my Japanese colleagues, I was able to wrap things up in time to catch a 4:20 pm train back to Nagoya. I got home, did the drop, changed clothes, finished packing my bag, and high-tailed it out of the apartment.

It was a pretty muggy day, so I was feeling sticky before I really even started traveling. I got to my subway, timed it well, and was on the subway BACK to Nagoya station and it looked like I’d have just enough time to check in to my hotel and catch the subway to Shinjuku. I noticed a scary old man in front of me on the train, and the train was crowded too and I felt like I was knocking people with my bags. The scary old man got off the train rather quickly.

I too was moving rather quickly to the Shinkansen but had not yet exited the subway. As I was heading towards the wickets, I noticed a crazy old man (was it the same one) kind of looking at me and waving his hand with a goofy grin, and it seemed like he was tapping his pocket.

[As I write this, I hear fireworks exploding in the background. Has fireworks season started? What matsuri am I missing?]

So the crazy man caused me concern. Did I get pickpocketed and was he brazenly taunting me? I tapped my back pocket and, much to my surprise, I found no wallet. Generally, Japan is very safe and I maintained good judgment. I calmly thought to myself, “Oh, drat” and then broke out in a frustrated soaking sweat. I turned around, got on the subway, and headed back home, hoping that my wallet was sitting somewhere in my apartment.

This little round trip of about 15 minutes meant that my start location and end location of my subway ride were exactly the same place. I never actually LEFT the subway. I knew this would present problems when exiting, so I went directly to the attendant and explained I had forgotten something. He worked his magic and I was allowed to exit.

I got home, went to my bedroom, and there was my wallet sitting on my bed. Teasing me. Oh well. Now, of course, it was getting late. If I caught the 6:00 pm shinkansen I would be able to take the Chuo Line from Tokyo to Shinjuku with my camera bag and surprisingly heavy weekend bag (traveling with an extra pair of shoes and a computer adds weight), maybe find a locker, and JUST get to the meeting place in time to see David and Jin. I treated myself and went Green Car of course, and remained calm. I made it no problem right at 8:00 pm.