My Experiences with Dating in Japan

Dating in Japan

 

I can’t lie, before I moved this was one of things I was the most interested in/concerned about.  What would it be like to date a Japanese guy?  how would we communicate? would Japanese men even find me attractive? should I only date foreign men? would I be able to date at all? or would this time in Japan just be one long dry spell?

I’ve decided to make an FAQ, to answer questions I know I had, that you might have as well. And if nothing else you can be nosy and read all about my dating life :p.

Do Japanese Men want to date Foreign women?

Yes, some do and no, some don’t, and it’s as simple as that as far as I’m concerned.

Do Japanese men find Black women attractive?

I think straight men in general find women in general attractive, and if you’re an attractive woman men will be attracted to your feminine charms, no matter what race or colour you are. I think there is more of, for lack of a better word, a “demand” for white women, particularly with blond hair and blue eyes. I talk more about that in this blog post. However, I’ve been hit on/flirted with by Japanese men, so yes some do. I’ve briefly dated two Japanese men.

The first was when I had just come to Japan. We met at a club and I gave him my number, but his English level was very low, and my Japanese was even lower. So when he called communication was pretty much impossible, as we had said all the basic stuff when we met, so there was really no way that could go anywhere.

The second I met at another club a few months later. I was actually first sitting outside on the patio and his friend started talking to me, but then he somehow “swooped in” and took over the conversation. His English was much better because he’d lived in Australia for a couple years. We went out a couple times, and it was cool and we had good conversation, but it fell apart, I believe, because we didn’t have so much in common. Hmm, maybe I should stop meeting guys in clubs.

Do foreigners date other foreigners?

Yes, I’ve dated foreigners as well, most recently a guy originally from Cameroon, but it depends on the people. Perhaps you’re aware or the charisma man, charisma girl stigma? These are people who come to Japan with the aim of “sowing their wild oats”. They’re like, I dunno, cheese. Not only because they’re usually kind of cheesy people, but also because cheese is cheap and widely available in the west, but here in Japan it’s expensive, more valuable… you get my drift? If you want to date other foreigners, avoid the cheese people. It shouldn’t be too difficult though, as these cheesy people are usually pretty scared of you, and only have eyes for their “prey”, Japanese people.

Do cultural differences make dating more difficult?

They can, yes. If you’re dating someone who has lived in the West, that mitigates it somewhat. But I don’t think “cultural differences” are a good excuse for not dating in Japan. When two people really like each other you can get over it. The main problem foreigners seem to have with dating Japanese people is not really knowing what they think. In Japan, people are expected to be more empathetic. Because people try to avoid giving offense, you’re supposed to know, or anticipate when something is making the other person unhappy. That can be really difficult for us Westerners who value verbal communication. When communication with the second guy stopped, I didn’t actually know something was wrong. He was still really polite and attentive. My single clue was at the end of the date where he didn’t hug me like usual.

How can I attract a Japanese guy or girl?

Just be your vivacious self! I wasn’t particularly trying to attract the guys I did, they just saw something in me that they liked and went for it.

Do Japanese guys/girls just want to date me because I’m foreign?

There are definitely some people like that in this country yes. And you’ll be able to tell pretty soon based on their behavior and the questions they ask you. (“Do foreigners like this? Do foreigners like that?” As opposed to “Do you like this? Do you like that? ) Then it’s up to you to decide whether you care or not.

So that’s my experience with dating in Japan. I plan to be here for another year at least, and it that time, especially as my Japanese improves, I’m sure I’ll have more stories to tell. And please, drop a comment with your stories about love and dating in Japan and abroad.

 

 

What We’ve Learned by Living Abroad

You lucky reader, you are in for something really special. I’ve been doing a lot of reflection and contemplation, and even though I’ve only been in Japan for a little over 10 months, I feel like I’ve aged a few years.

So I thought, if this is how I feel after a few months, imagine what my fellow expats, who have been abroad for years, have to say. I reached out to them and together we’ve come up with a great collection of posts that will really make you think about life abroad, and life in general.

 

 

Loco in Yokohama

SoaplandLoco starts us off with a bang — not just one post, but a whole, ongoing series about the revelations and self truths gained after close to a decade spent in Japan.

…And that’s when I realized that, remarkably, for the first time in my life I had been the victim of outright, Jim Crow-style racial discrimination, not so much because I was black (actually I’ll never know if my color was a factor) but because I wasn’t Japanese (or Asian.)

And, ironically, instead of feeling a victimized rage in the pit of my stomach, and an irrepressible urge to do harm to someone (which up til that point I imagined would be my reaction whenever this dark day came to be) there I was consoling a friend… keep reading

Life of a Foreign Hachikin

Screaming into the AbyssAfter two weeks of serious deliberation Indi reveals her top life lessons from living in rural Japan.

…I can’t say that I’ve changed drastically as a person either. Not that most people change 180 degrees when they have life changing experiences like living abroad, but I do know that I’ve gotten stronger in some regards. I can say with certainty that I’ve become a more confident person. While the simple idea of standing in front of people used to make my heart squeeze in anxiety, I am now ecstatically looking forward to the first live show with my band in January… keep reading

 

Haikugirl’s Japan

Haikugirl writes about a hot topic for expats regarding Japanese culture — western “assertiveness” vs. Japanese “submissiveness”, and how it has affected her.

…The Japanese business style is very different from the way I had worked in the UK before. Assertiveness wasn’t really acceptable, and I learned to keep my mouth shut and get on with things a lot more than I ever had before. I also learned to show respect to my colleagues and seniors a lot more than I had done in the UK. There were formal phrases to use, and certain manners like bowing which I needed to follow… keep reading

 

We Live in a Fantasy World

We Need A Good Slap Every Now and ThenToby gives us an excellent post about resisting the urge to be co-dependent when living abroad, especially when you don’t speak the language,  and also the importance of  giving yourself a wake-up slap every once in a while.

…Then, I started realizing that I had gradually stopped asking for help, and just started doing without these things. I would just decide that it was too difficult to get tickets to some event using the Konbini machines, so I wouldn’t go.

I didn’t realize how terrible this behaviour had become until I met *Yinsan… keep reading

 

 

 

 

 

The Japan Guy

Cherish Those Closest to YouWith the anniversary of his fourth year in Japan on the horizon, the Japan guy brings us a two-part list of the top 7 things he’s learned about life and himself during his time in Japan.

4. Cherish Those Closest to You

It’s heartbreaking to lose those you know, it’s even more heartbreaking to know that you can’t make it home to their funeral because you can’t afford the trip. I’ve been there on a couple of occasions. You want those who are close to you to live forever, but the sad reality is that they don’t.

Living abroad can keep you away from your family for extended periods of time, and things can happen. However, the memories you share with them can last a lifetime. So if you’re living abroad, but making that much needed visit home. Make some great memories with the people you love: take pictures, make DVDs, whatever you can. These memories are timeless… keep reading

Thanks so much to everyone who’s participated, everyone who retweeted and shared, and everyone who’s reading now. For all of us, it’s been a great journey with both highs and lows, but I hope I speak for everyone when I say I wouldn’t do it any different, and I’d never give up what I’ve learned.

Three Reasons Why You Can’t Learn Japanese in a Year

This post was inspired by what was — I’ll say it — a stupid comment on another one of my posts: Why Living in Tokyo is Hard.  In it I talk about my struggle with getting everyday things done in Japanese. A person named “James” had this helpful response:

Seriously if you’re not going to learn the language don’t expect it to be easy living there… I’m sick of these blogs crying about how hard it is moving there when you SHOULD be getting your lazy ass fluent in their language…

For the record yes, I have been studying Japanese, and I’m waaaaay better than I was when I first came. (For example, I don’t run away crying at McDonald’s anymore when they ask me if it’s eat in or take out),  but no I’m still not fluent.

I’ll cut James some slack, because before I did any research at all about what being an expat in Japan would be like, I also thought that I would be able to converse pretty smoothly in Japanese after just one year. I was…wrong, so wrong, but I think this is an idea a lot of people have. The hard truth is if you move to Japan, especially to teach English, after a year you probably still won’t understand even half of what people are saying to you, and here’s why:

You’re Not Really Immersed in Japanese

In fact when you first get here most of your long and/or meaningful conversations will be in English because…you can’t speak Japanese! So you’re going to seek out English services, get friends and coworkers to help you, and continue speaking in the language you actually know how to speak. You’re going to stream movies in English, listen to your English music on your iPod, think in English, eat, sleep and shower all in the King’s English. Plus, if you work teaching English that’s — what — eight hours a day where you’re in an English environment. In fact where I work we’re discouraged from even letting the students know we can speak Japanese. The idea is to try to immerse the students in English for the time they’re at the school. So I’m actually not hearing as much Japanese as I thought I would.

You (Hopefully) Have a Life

Alright, I suppose it’s technically possible to become at least conversational in Japanese after only one year, but it will be at the complete expense of your social life and you’ll have no one to converse with anyway. It’s not like you can just hear Japanese and magically “learn” it. It takes time, and it takes study. Even if you did want to go the “I’ll just listen and pick it up” route,  think about this: A Japanese baby, living in Japanese society, hearing Japanese since birth, using his baby language-learning super powers to suck up the language into his eager baby brain, will still take a good three to four years to start stringing together sophisticated sentences. So if you want to get past cave-man Japanese in just one year, you’re going to have to work at it like it’s your 9-5.

People Will Want to Practice their English with You

So you’ve made some Japanese friends, maybe got a Japanese boyfriend or girlfriend, gotten chummy with your coworkers…what a great resource of people to help you learn Japanese right? Wrong, because you are actually a great resource, a real live English conversation specimen, they can use to hone their English. And referring back to point one, if you want to have any kind of meaningful conversations with your friend/partner it’ll have to be done in English. Besides, your friends aren’t teachers. They may mean well and truly want to help at first, but the halting conversations about the weather will quickly wear thin. I hate to say it, but it’s much more exciting/beneficial for your friends to use you to develop their own English skills, and who can blame ‘em?

So this is my story for why I’m still not bilingual yet, and I’m sticking to it. And don’t get me wrong, despite what I’ve written above I actually really enjoy learning Japanese. I get a secret thrill whenever I understand a few words of what someone has said, and sometimes I even catch a whole sentence! So although I won’t be fluent this year or even next, I’m going to keep at it. And if I’m lucky maybe this time next year I’ll be able to order a pizza.

…And screw you, James.

Take these 8 Pills for Homesickness

 

When I first moved to Japan there were so many new things to do and see I had months and months of distraction, and it was like some kind of  illegal super immune system booster.  Even the biggest earthquake in Japan’s written history could barely put a dent in my enthusiasm. But a few months back, the “stuff” stopped working as well as it used to, and I started to feel a little under the weather. And soon, though I tried to fight through it, I couldn’t deny that I’d definitely caught the bug. I was officially homesick. So I had a consultation with my inner doctor, and she prescribed these 8 proverbial pills.

1: Embrace the loneliness — Enjoy being alone. Do the stuff you like to do that would make you spontaneously combust out of pure shame if your friends ever found out. Go ahead and blast that Wham! CD. Sit back and admire your (mint condition) Star Trek figurine collection. Fire up that belly dancing for beginners DVD. There are some things that are meant to be done alone, and only alone.

2: DON’T call home – This only makes it worse, trust me. In fact, my homesickness really peaked when I made the rookie mistake of calling home during my family’s Canada Day party. After seeing them all together on Skype, and watching them eat home cooked food and play Cranium, I felt a little tear slip delicately from my eye…and then I spent the rest of the night ruining my pillowcase with watery eyeliner stains. Wait until you feel better to call home, or you’ll regret it.

3: Go out — If you must have human companionship (you pansy), call some of your peeps and go out. Also don’t turn down invitations to go out for no reason. If you spend too much time at home you’ll get “homesores” (TM), which are like the mental equivalent to bedsores.  Booze is not mandatory, but it’s encouraged.

4: Watch TV/listen to music from your home country It’s like a piece of home, and it’ll make you feel more in touch. I like to stream TV shows and listen to internet radio.

5: Find something (or someone) to love in your new country — This will create a connection to your new country, because we all know “home is where the heart is”. Take up a culturally specific hobby, or you could just marry a local.

6: Personalize your new space and new life — Make your new digs your home away from home. Recreate your old room if you really want. Just make it feel, well, homey. And get some routine going in your life. Find a cafe you really like and go every Tuesday. Go to the Gym. Do things you would do if you were home.

7: Have a good cry get it all out of your system.

8: Celebrate all you’ve learned in your new home — Learning a new language? You’re becoming bilingual and you can now impress people at parties. OK and I suppose it looks good on a resume too. Or maybe you’re learning to cook new exotic food. Or just learning how to be an independent person. Pat yourself on the back for making it as far as you did.

Yup, every time the sickness starts to come on I pop a few of these pills and I feel right as rain again. What does your doctor prescribe for homesickness?

How Nihongo Showed me I’m a Snob

 

Nihongo is the word for Japanese Language, and since moving into my own apartment, I find I’ve been much more motivated to study Japanese (see my “Why Living in Tokyo is Hard” post), so I’ve stepped up my learning by — no kidding — like 300%. Where before I would study “when I had time,” or “when I felt like it”, I now study for at least half an hour a day.

TIP: Listening to podcasts on the train is a great way to take advantage of down time and learn something new. For me it’s Nihongo, for you it could be Italian, Spanish, how to start a business, the rules to extreme Pavlackian chicken toss…anything!

As I study I’m learning more about how the language works, especially the levels of politeness. This is all well and good, but the other day I went to the convenience store, and I realized that when the clerk gave me my receipt I needed to say thanks. After listening to a recent lesson about all the different ways to say “thank you” in Japanese I found myself worrying about the best way to do it.

Should I give a polite “arigato gozaimasu” (thank you)? She’s about my age, that should be OK. Ah, but she’s just a convenience store clerk, just a short “domo” (thanks) is all she should get…

Hmmm… Just a clerk? All she should get? I didn’t like where this train of thought was going, so I gave her the usual “arigato gozaimasu” I always did, and took my booze and went on my way.

But it did make me think: how often am I judging how much respect people should get based on trivial things like age and occupation? Probably no more than people are judging me. This episode took me back to a comment from one of my students a week before. I was teaching him the word “connoisseur”, and we somehow got to talking about the fact that I speak a minuscule amount of french, having grown up learning it in Canada. For example, I can count to 1000 and do things like say the year, which I suppose is slightly more than the average English speaking person in the west, but by no means can I have a meaningful conversation.

Still, he was mighty impressed: “Wow, you speak French? I have to be honest, before, I just think of you as an English teacher, but now I feel you are…eeto…someone I must respect.”

Enlightening.

I’ve come to learn that hierarchy is a staple of Japanese culture. It’s built into the language, and drives the workforce. My students have told me that it’s very rare for someone to switch jobs, because at a certain age, someone should be at a certain position, so to leave and start over is very difficult. No one wants to hire someone over a certain age for an entry level or even mid level position. It will throw off the whole balance of the corporation. Now coworkers have worry about referring to their new colleague as Tanaka-sama, because he’s older than them or Tanaka-san, because their all junior programmers. No, we can’t have that.

But what I also learned is that this classicism was also there inside me all along, it just took a brush with Japan’s more overt system for me to realize it. And maybe it’s in you too. What goes through your head when you see someone over the age of sixteen working the drive through at McDonald’s?  What do you think when you see a hobo?

But so what? Who cares? We’re all entitled to our own beliefs, and if you want to rank people in the privacy of your own mind there’s nothing wrong with that right?

Wrong, because to live in the hierarchy you need to place yourself somewhere in this hierarchy as well. Do you really want to live under that kind of limitation? I certainly don’t. I believe this strict hierarchy is the driving force behind the suicide problem in Japan. According to the World Health Organization the majority of people committing suicide in Japan is men between the ages of 45-64. Perhaps men who have lost their jobs, and faced with the daunting, almost impossible task of starting over decide to give up. Or maybe men who are forced to work 70 hour weeks to maintain profits and an image of success as the big man on top, and are tired of running, running, running every day like their on a treadmill that can’t be stopped.

While there are many things I enjoy about Japan, I think this is one of the things that need to change. And I know I’ll be doing my damnedest to be aware of my thoughts, because thoughts form reality, and I want to break free of the hierarchy.

The Salary Man Who Called Me a N*gg*r

True story: I was out and about with a friend in Shinjuku, and we were starving and looking for a place to eat. Well, Murphy’s law must have a sick sense of humour, because just as we’re contemplating giving in and eating at KFC, a random salary man comes marching through the sea of people on the sidewalk towards us, and as he’s barreling by he leans in and yells:

“NIIIGAAAAA!”

“..Oh my God,” said my friend. “Did he just…”

I kept walking, in shock.

Did that really just happen? Maybe he was speaking Japanese and I didn’t understand.

But as the seconds passed and I kept replaying it in my head, I had to accept the tragic truth: I was a victim of a drive-by (well in this case speed-walk by) hate crime.

In hindsight I think my reaction, or lack thereof, was the best thing I could have done, because to be honest that guy seemed…crazy. Even if I had been able to catch up with him as he whizzed by, he picked me because I was an easy target — I’m smaller than him and running my mouth would have probably gotten me a nice pop in the teeth. I’m sure he would have had no qualms with hitting me. He seemed like a man who’s got nothing left to lose. For all I know this was the last line on his suicidal bucket list and he was headed for an appointment with the next speeding train. And it’s not as if he sees me as a human being, much less a woman. He made it pretty clear that all I am to him is a nigger.

But still, there’s a part of me that wishes I had done something, anything more than well, nothing.

It’s something else how I’m learning that some of the positive stereotypes about Japan aren’t all that true.

“Japan is such a safe country; you don’t have to worry about anything being stolen.”

Uh, no, two friends on three separate occasions have had money stolen from their wallets since I’ve been here, and NOT in Roppongi in case you’re wondering.

“The Japanese aren’t overtly racist, just lacking in PC skills.”

Uh, go back and read the first paragraph of this post.

But, you know, despite that, I still want to live here, because thankfully I’ve met enough pleasant and kind Japanese people to easily cancel out that asshole. And there’s still so much I want to learn and accomplish here.  So sorry racist salary man, but you haven’t gotten rid of me. Sure it was a disturbing experience, but sadly it’s not the first time someone’s said that to me, so you lose points for lack of originality.

I’ve got too much to do and see to let him get under my skin. And you know what, honestly, he’s not the real problem. At least there’s no mistaking what’s on his mind. It’s the ones in power, the ones who keep their racism under wraps to avoid a bad public image I worry about.

I guess I’ll take some extra time with the kids in my classes now, to try to keep them from turning into him.

 

10 Things I Like and Dislike About Tokyo

Tokyo Fashion

Shock and awe: Living in Tokyo has its hits and misses just like any other city in the world…how about that? And I do enjoy my glamorous life here, but there are some things I could do without. So enough of my rambling, let’s get to it.

A thing I like about living in Tokyo:

The convenience – especially where I live. I’m right in the centre of the city so everything I could ever want and more is within walking distance (and before you ask, yes that includes food, shelter, financial security, health, love and acceptance). There are three chain grocery stores nearby plus countless independently run shops, my bank, two post offices, two train stations, karaoke  (in case I have an unstoppable urge to sing badly and drunkenly), clothes stores, shoe stores, convenience stores and drug stores, restaurants, bars and a McDonald’s.

A thing I don’t like about living in Tokyo:

Lately, the earthquakes: Nothing like being shaken awake at 4am, scrambling to find the pajama pants I kicked off in the night because it’s so hellishly hot. And what’s merely inconvenient for me so far is devastating for the people closest to where they hit. As many of you know, the last big earthquake triggered a huge tsunami that wiped out parts of north-eastern Japan, and crippled a nuclear power plant. It will take years to recover. I heard one sad story of a farmer committing suicide because he couldn’t sell anything from his farm, for fear it was contaminated with radiation. The natural beauty of this county is astounding but earthquakes are a heavy price to pay.

A thing I like about living in Tokyo:

The nightlife: I’ve been known to cut a rug in my day, and there are lots of places to go out and party depending on what you want to do. There’s of course Shibuya, where there are lots of bars, clubs and izakaya restaurants. When I go clubbing it’s usually in Shibuya. Places stay open until between 4-5 am, so if I miss the last train all I have to do is stay drunk enough to party until the trains run again. There’s also Roppongi, where many foreigners go to party, and find willing “prey”. The gays live it up in Shinjuku’s nichome district. I’ve been there a couple times and people are always so friendly. Shinjuku’s also got a ton more izakaya and 24 hour restaurants.

A thing I don’t like about living in Tokyo:

Chikan, or perverts. Here there are women-only train cars because molestation on the trains is such a big problem. Luckily, I haven’t had any experiences myself, well except this one time. I noticed a salaryman was awfully and unnecessarily close to me on a train that wasn’t even crowded, to the point where his thigh was rubbing against my butt ever so slightly. I thought it might be an accident so I moved forward, and I soon found myself having to move again, until I was being pushed forward against the train door. I not-so-accidentally, elbowed backward into his crotch, but that only seemed to spur him on! Finally I turned around and looked him in the eye, and that got him to back off.  My roommate also told me that on her way to school every day during the morning rush, it’s so crowded she can’t even move her arms and legs. That’s when the chikan really come out to play. She says there are hands touching her butt, even going up her skirt! And there’s no way for her to tell who it is, or get away. I haven’t had to endure that kind of groping — maybe the chikan are afraid of my foreignness (they’re a bunch of cowards, groping women who can’t do anything about it) or maybe they can’t work out how to wrap their disgusting fingers around the unusual rotundness of my African-American behind. Whatever the reason, I’m glad it hasn’t affected me as badly as it could. Still, it’s an aspect of Tokyo life I really dislike.

A thing I like about living in Tokyo:

The fashion – I love playing dress-up and I get so many ideas just walking the streets of this city.  The shoes are my favourite part. Japanese women take the art of shoe wearing to a reverent level. I am not worthy! The dedication it takes to totter around the city on 5 inch, peep toe heels is staggering (pun intended). I know my feet get tired after 15 minutes, so I don’t know how they do it. But I have to admit, they look hot! I also like the layered look, the miniskirts, the hats, the bracelets, the necklaces and all that vibrant colour.  Looking good, Tokyo!

A thing I don’t like about living in Tokyo:

Not many people speak conversational English. I can hear you now all you Captain Obviouses: “Well duh, it’s Japan!”

Thank you, and I know that. I live here remember? I don’t expect everyone to know how to speak English, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. There are days when I really wish either my Japanese were better or the English of the person I was talking to were better.  Days when I’m tired and hungry and I don’t feel like charading-out my desire for three 90 yen stamps, or that I don’t want a meal set, just the sandwich. I knew coming here that it would be an issue, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying.

A thing I like about living in Tokyo:

It’s easier to get a job than back home — if you’re willing to teach English that is. There’s a big market for it here that’s increased since the March 11 earthquake, as some of the native English speakers who were working here took that as a sign to move back to their respective countries. For better or worse, all you need is a visa and your English speaking ability and you’re set.

A thing I don’t like about living in Tokyo:

The real estate prices — I’d like to move in to my own apartment next year, because right now I live in a little matchbox of a room, and the mountain of clothes I keep buying is threatening to bury my alive — I don’t even have a closet! However, the rent on my own place plus paying for utilities like heat, gas and internet will cost me an arm, a leg and three of four of the fingers on my remaining hand. It’s the price I’ll have to pay though, because I’ve been spoiled by the convenience and bright lights of big city life, and I don’t want to live out in the bush.

A thing I like about living in Tokyo:

My friends — I’ve meet some fabulous students and staff through English teaching, and met some more friends through blogging and even met a couple people out partying. When living in a foreign country making some friends is essential in fighting off the onset of homesickness, and I’m glad I have people I can talk to and hang out with, or life here would be very lonely. Another benefit is that my Tokyo friends introduce me to new restaurants and places to have fun of go sightseeing. So when my Toronto friends come to visit I’ll know where to take them.

A thing I don’t like about living in Tokyo:

The stares — I’m black, get over it! Ah, here’s Captain Obvious and friends to the “rescue” again: “Of course they stare at you, you look so different! Japan is a homogeneous society blah blah blah regurgitation blah blah blah ignorance. I still don’t like it!  And no I will not “just go home” because I’m making good money and there are many more things I do like keeping me here. But damn if the staring doesn’t get on my last nerve every once in a while. Couple that with the fact that I still can’t understand much Japanese, and I don’t know if people are talking about me or not, and it’s extremely unnerving.

Well there you have it my friends, the 10 things I like and dislike about living in this famous city.  What are some of the things you like and dislike about Tokyo?

 

 

I’m One of the Ugliest Women on Earth

Perhaps you have heard about this article by Satoshi Kanazawa. Titled, Why Are Black Women Rated Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women, But Black Men Are Rated Better Looking Than Other Men?, it was originally published in Psychology Today and has since been removed. According to this article it is scientifically proven that I am one of the ugliest women on the planet.

One of the ugliest women on Earth

One of the ugliest women on Earth

 

Isn’t that lovely?

Many before me have already commented on exactly why this article is not to be trusted. The “science” is faulty. Says Nanjala Nyabola on the guardian.co.uk:

He fails to provide information on the sample size for his research, or the social or economic factors (including race) that would have impacted on his findings so that readers can deduce for themselves as to what extent these findings can be generalised across time and space. As some tweeters have noted, it’s a classic trick in which pseudoscientists blind you with multicoloured graphs and three decimal place figures to convince lay readers that their research was thorough and is conclusive. I mean, who can argue with three decimal places?

I couldn’t put it any better. However I do wonder what the point of this article was in the first place? What was gained? What was meant to be the benefit to our understanding of the human race? Kanazawa concludes his article with:

The only thing I can think of that might potentially explain the lower average level of physical attractiveness among black women is testosterone. Africans on average have higher levels of testosterone than other races[...]women with higher levels of testosterone also have more masculine features and are therefore less physically attractive. The race differences in the level of testosterone can therefore potentially explain why black women are less physically attractive than women of other races, while (net of intelligence) black men are more physically attractive than men of other races.

…And?

I try to use the term “racist” sparingly, because if it’s used too often and when it’s really not merited, you have on your hands a “boy who cried wolf” scenario, and then when something comes along that truly does hold all the malice and/or ignorance that racism implies, few are likely to believe it. I gave some good thought to whether Satoshi Kanazawa’s article was actually racist or simply insensitive and unnecessary, and I believe it comes down to a matter of Kanazawa’s personal belief. If the article is an extrapolation of his personal belief that black women are the least attractive of all the races then, the way I see it, the article is in fact racist because we are no longer dealing with something objective. We are likely dealing with someone, possibly without even realizing they are doing it, twisting stats to fit their reality, and trying to pass that personal reality (a.k.a opinion) off as fact.

I believe that is what Kanazawa is doing and therefore I believe that the article is in fact racist. However I believe it is a racism born of ignorance rather than malice. The clues are in the body of the article.

As the following graph shows, black women are statistically no different from the “average” Add Health respondent, and far less attractive than white, Asian, and Native American women.

Black women are[...]far less attractive than other races. Would it be so difficult to be accurate and write “black women are considered by the respondents of this study to be far less attractive than other races”? This is supposed to be science right? Objective? No, he states this like it’s some kind of biological fact. Which is exactly what he believes.

Africans have more mutations in their genomes than other races. And the mutation loads significantly decrease physical attractiveness (because physical attractiveness is a measure of genetic and developmental health). But since both black women and black men have higher mutation loads, it cannot explain why only black women are less physically attractive, while black men are, if anything, more attractive.

First of all, “physical attractiveness is a measure of genetic and developmental health”. Oh! Of course! Well everyone knows that. Let’s squash all this nonsense about any kind of socialization affecting what we consider attractive. 1+1=2 and physical attractiveness is a measure of genetic and developmental health, period. Glad we have Satoshi Kanazawa here to tell us what’s up. And for the few who won’t be able to tell, I’m being sarcastic.

Second, “since both black women and black men have higher mutation loads, it cannot explain why only black women are less physically attractive”. You said it yourself Kanazawa: Your science can’t explain this one. At best all you can do is make a weak guess about testosterone. Maybe your mutation load theory can’t explain anything because it’s not true? Hmmm.

I think Kanazawa believes he is some kind righteous herald of scientific truth when all that his article proves is that there is a perception among his respondents that black women are the least attractive of all the races. He is trying to take this information and extrapolate it to mean that black women are objectively, inherently less attractive than the women of other races. I think this is misleading, irresponsible and  yes, racist.

And to what end? If Kanazawa was coming at this from some kind of social perspective I’d be right on board with him, really I would, because if the entire world’s perception of beauty is so skewed against one race and toward another that’s something worth knowing. Then the article would have some kind of purpose, because it points to something deeper: A lack of equality. In this day and age, especially in the west, we love to talk about equality. We love to say we are for equality but few of us know where to find it or how to achieve it.  Well one way is to take a good hard look at ourselves, to be aware of what we’re all really thinking. If we think one race is ugly we consider it inferior. If we think one race is beautiful it’s superior. I don’t think it’s a stretch for me to say we associate beauty with good and ugly with bad. Of course even this, a study in attractiveness, would only be one piece of the puzzle.

So how does this article concern me personally? Aside from the fact that I am a black woman, after living in Japan for four months, watching Japanese TV, talking to Japanese people and being bombarded by Japanese advertising, I think this country is a prime example Kanazawa’s findings if they are considered socially. The female models in this country (when not Japanese, of course) are frequently women of European descent, often with blond hair and light eyes. I can recall seeing all of two ad campaigns featuring black women in my four months here. Some Japanese celebrities undergo surgery to make their eyes bigger, rounder, less Asian and more European looking. If there’s a market for white women wanting to go so far as to get surgery to make their eyes look more Asian,  it’s minuscule.

It may sound like I’m ranting, but I’m just calling it as I see it. It may sound like I’m trying to say that whites are unfairly idolized. Not so. Right now I’m not trying to get into a discussion of fair or unfair, just equal. I’m simply giving an example of how living in Japan coupled with Kanazawa’s article has shown me that the world is still not equal, how the races are not still not perceived as equal. And it has not slipped my notice that Kanazawa is Japanese, and that his perception could be molded by this very environment. However, I’m not sure if he was born and raised in Japan or another country, like America, but frankly it doesn’t make much difference. This racial bell curve exists all over the world. All you have to do to see it is turn on your TV or look up at a billboard.

**update** Kanazawa has been fired from Psychology Today. It’s good to know that he had to face the consequences for writing this irresponsible article, but I can’t help but feel it was only due to public pressure that he’s gone. That said, it’s encouraging that the pressure even existed. An article like this would have been taken as fact maybe as recently as 50 years ago, so I think that even though it’s disheartening that the article was published in the first place,  on the bright side people are waking up, and seeing this kind of propaganda for what it really is.

This post is a part of the January 2011 Special edition J.Festa over at Japingu.

It’s the Little Things

Now that I’m back in Japan, I’m reminded of why I want to be here: It’s so different! And often those differences are in the little things. Every now and then I run across something that really makes me think, “Whoa….I’m in Japan!” A few of them are notorious and even people who have never been here know all about them: Toilets with control panels like they’re about to blast off to the moon, anime everywhere, neon everywhere, neon anime everywhere and people who dress like they’re on their way to a photo shoot every day. But there are also some things I wasn’t expecting, things that in their foreignness, their uniqueness, their utter strangeness loudly proclaim “this is Japan”. And if you’re willing to listen, I’ll let you in on what they are.

Cold medicine

About a month after coming here I got very sick. I had a really high fever but I didn’t want to go to the doctor because I felt it would be too much trouble. “So what if my brain cells are slowly burning away” I thought. “I can’t be bothered”.

Well after two days of running a fever of 39 degrees Celsius I got tired of feeling like my head was about to cave in so I (wo)manned up and went to a clinic that had English-speaking staff. Long story short everything went fine and I was being a big baby, but look at this medicine!

Meds

My Meds

I mean it worked like a charm, but what’s up with having each medicine separate? Look, the fever meds aren’t even in a pill! It’s just white powder.

Fever Powder

Cocca-I mean my "fever powder"

What, was I supposed to snort this? Cause that’s exactly what I did…just kidding. Or am I?

I, used to the North American way of the One Pill to Cure Them All, find this somewhat troublesome. It makes me feel like I was on the verge of death or something, having to take all these different medications.

Creepy Colonel Sanders Statues

When I was a child, I used to go into my mother’s clothes drawer and mess up her clothes, so to stop me she stuck a scary clown night-light on the drawer handle. I never went near the drawer again. Since coming to Japan I’ve eaten KFC all of twice, and this is why:

The Colonel

If all across the country one night these statues come to life like in Night at the Museum we are soooo screwed.

Come on Japan, this is just bad for business. That thing is scary. But maybe this is the reason why many Japanese people are so slim?

Pushing on the trains

If you ever come to Tokyo, try not to take it personally when someone shoves and pushes you into the train car without so much as a sumimasen or gomen nasai, like you’re a stubborn piece of overhead luggage. This is the Way of the Trains. It’s actually quite civilized and efficient if you think about it. Every train everywhere is crowded* and if we all took the time to say sorry to one another as we pushed each other out of the way so that we could catch the train two minutes earlier, or to get off in the five second window that the doors stay open, we would never get anywhere now would we?

Crowded Train

Look at that hand outstretched in desperation as that poor man, no doubt pushed from behind, flails for balance.

*Your actual experience may vary, but I’m probably right.

No heat in the corridors.

This is a real pain in the winter. Central heating just isn’t the cool thing to do here in Japan. Instead every room gets its own AirCon unit that heats or cools the room. It’s fab because I can control the heat in my own room in my guest house, but that run from my room to the bathroom, or my room to the kitchen is murdah in the winter, and so is waiting for the thing to start circulating once I turn it on. And don’t get me started on the mental tug of war that ensues if I need to use the little girls’ room in the middle of the night. It’s the epic struggle of the ages: Warm bed vs. full bladder and freezing, dark hallway. Of course, full bladder and freezing dark hallway always trump warm bed in the end, but I relive this horrible night time battle every time I walk through the adult diaper aisle in a pharmacy. One day, one day soon, I might crack and start wearing them to bed, and don’t you dare judge me!

The “oouuuh” noise Japanese people make

It’s hard to describe, but trust me it’s weird. It’s like the North American version of “huh?” or “whoa”, but it’s a drawn out sound halfway between “oh” and “eh” with an upward inflection at the end. The sound somehow seems too masculine for a woman to make and too feminine for a man to make, and worst of all I think it’s contagious. Sometimes when I’m talking to a student and they tell me something interesting I catch my lips trying to purse into the position it takes to make that noise, so that my “oh?” of surprise comes out kind of messed up like a half-hearted attempt at the real noise. But I fight it and I will continue to fight it because although there are many things that I think are great about this country…this is not one of them.

The truck blaring a creepy voice that announces garbage pick up or something.

Listen to it here. This truck sometimes wakes me up and it’s just disconcerting. I don’t know what she’s saying, but the tone of voice is just so dead and robotic and…post-apocalyptic. Every time I hear it feel like I’m in some kind of sci-fi movie and the truck is announcing who needs to report for sterilization or something, (I assume that in the future there will be a  population crisis and maybe 20% of the population will need to be sterilized every once in a while). That’s probably not what she’s saying but, damn it doesn’t sound like it. Am I wrong?

Really narrow roads

 

Narrow Roads

I'm really glad I don't have to drive here.

 

This one really freaked me out when I first came over. The above road is theoretically a  two way street. There is a noticeable lack of sidewalks. Sometimes when a car is coming I have to stop and flatten myself against the nearest building. I don’t know how it works, but it does. When two cars meet up, they somehow manage to squeeze by each other. I am amazed every time I see it. It’s like those cartoons where a man jumps from a diving board into a glass of water, except this is real life. I guess it helps that the cars are generally much smaller here, and that more people take the train than drive.

These are only a few of the things that, while mundane for those who were born here or have been living here for a while, send shocks of culture down my spine even today, and even though they’re strange and some are downright annoying, I know that once I leave this country I will secretly look back on every one of these little quirks fondly as if they were mischievous yet lovable children.

The Day the Earth Did Not Stand Still

The Day the Earth Did Not Stand Still
Alright Miss Amanda, Tokyo’s not measuring up to your ridiculous expectations? You want lots of new exciting experiences? You want stuff to write home about besides how many people couldn’t pronounce “relax” that day? You want the ultimate Japan experience? OK, I’ve got just the thing for you, something big. — The Universe

Today as I was merrily getting ready for work, I noticed the mirror on my desk began to shake. “No worries,” I thought. “These little tremors happen all the time, I’m sooo used to it by now.”

But the mirror continued to shake, causing me to smudge my eyeliner. And then the desk began to shake. And then the floor. Soon my whole room was shaking!

“Amanda! Do you feel that?!” my roommate called. How could I not?

“Open your door!” I yelled back.

I’d remembered that one of our Japanese roommates had said that any time there’s an earthquake we need to open all of the doors because the door frame can shift, and we can get trapped inside. I then ran out of my room to open the front door, and by then the place was really shaking hard.

“This is it,” I thought. All of the other times when I’d felt those little tremors my heart would freeze for just a hair of a second as I waited for the trembling to turn into something more, and this time, finally, it did. Outside I could hear the world around me rumbling like muted thunder: a very ominous noise like the ground was getting ready to explode. And I could see the houses swaying. It looked like the beginning of the apocalypse. My other roommates ran downstairs, one of whom had only been in the country for a few days, poor girl. We all dashed outside. I will never forget the feeling of the road swaying violently under my feet like the earth was trying to toss me off its surface.

I then remembered that the door frame is supposed to be the safest place during an Earthquake, so I ran back to the front entrance, and two of my roommates followed. We stood there for what felt like forever. “When will this shaking stop?” I thought. “Will the house collapse?”

It didn’t. After some time, I don’t know how long but if had to guess I would say, “too damn long”, the tremors stopped. Then it was very quiet, until instructions started blaring from loud speakers all around the neighbourhood entirely in Japanese. It was disorienting and surreal, like living in a sci-fi movie. I had work that day, so I walked down to the train station to see what the situation was. Predictably, the trains were cancelled, but there were many people waiting around in case they started up again. As we were all waiting the ground began its tell-tale tremors and what followed was a big aftershock that sent us all stampeding up the stairs for fear of getting trapped underground.
Here in central Tokyo we were very lucky. Not even a mirror was broken in my house. But in other parts of Japan people were not so fortunate.

Right now we’re still experiencing little aftershocks that are freaking me out, because that’s how the big earthquake started — it was a little tremor at first, but quickly turned into something that couldn’t be ignored. Even now as I write this I can see my coat swinging gently on my clothes rack. Getting to sleep tonight will be tough.