Monday, December 11, 2006

Nova Teachers...

Tonight, after work, baking brownies in my belly, cutting behind the Staba/Nova building to make the bus stop in time for the #9 home, I had the pleasure of walking behind a couple of Nova teachers.

Two tall guys, bundled against the cold. One was pushing his bike, the other was clutching a book. And they were engaging in the Official Sport of Nova Teachers, badmouthing the Japanese.

Something about a little kid saying, "Gaijin!" when encountering the bike guy somewhere in Hamamatsu or nearby. That part of the conversation, I missed.

"His mom slapped him," said bike guy.

"She slapped him?"

"Well, it could've been like-" (here he mimed giving a high-five) "-like for a kid getting the square shape in the square hole."

They chuckled.

That was one of the milder examples of the Official Nova Sport. In Toyohashi, we had teachers who hated, just absolutely loathed, everything about Japan and they were vocal about it. One guy was always telling me to read Dogs and Demons, by Alex Kerr.

Dogs and Demons is a critical analysis of modern Japanese culture, but it's one of those books that poses a thesis, then uses only the facts that support said thesis and none that disprove it. So it's the perfect book to read if you come to Japan to be constantly disgruntled.

Something about Japan put a bug up Kerr's ass, so he went and wrote a completely one-sided treatise about it. It's not that he's particularly wrong about the problems here, it's just that he's so pissed off about it, like it's a personal affront that Japan, of all places, should have a downside. But forget balancing out his arguments with examples that counter them- he wouldn't have a book then.

I thumbed through it, read the chapter on Japanese cinema and found it full of strawman arguments and other such fallacies academic types know the names for. I don't know the terms, just what they look like in the wild, in their natural state. For example, on the printed pages of Dogs and Demons.

Kerr argues that Japanese cinema is uncreative compared to Hollywood's, and how the Japanese produce virtually nothing but Pokemon anime and Pokemon anime sequels.

Never mind Kitano Takeshi's crime dramas and Zatoichi remake that featured a tap-dancing finale, or Takashi Miike's cross-genre insanity, or the continuing brilliance of Miyazaki Hayao and Studio Ghibli, or the new wave of Japanese horror (that Hollywood, by the way, can't seem to remake fast enough), or clever feel-good movies like Waterboys or Swing Girls (to be honest, they're basically the same film, the latter substituting big band jazz for the former's synchronized swimming) or all the other films I can't be bothered to list because smacking down Dogs and Demons is like beating a baby at poker.

Obviously, as a modern society, Japan has a number of problems. There's not a First World industrialized nation that doesn't have negatives to go with the positives. I'm not going to list either now, but I'm going to tell you I believe it's not even a 50-50 split. Things are mostly good.

Dogs and Demons and the Official Nova Sport appeal to the kinds of people who think only the negatives in life are real. You know- there are people starving in the world, so that offsets the efforts of others to feed them. There are wars, so let's not talk about people trying to make peace. There are crappy movies starring Vin Diesel, so let's ignore the ones starring Zhang Ziyi.

It's not just Nova teachers, most of whom are actually just young kids out for a good time. A lot of non-Nova gaijin here do the same thing. It's practically all some of them have in common as they spend hours boozing it up at gaijin bars while trying to score with mini-skirted Nihonjin chicks who want to practice their English, spending every experience out in the mass populace here looking for signs of racism or intolerance, at which point they'll react... wimpishly... but then go among their gaijin friends and say "See? Uh huh? Told ya so!"

In fact, even the term "gaijin" enfuriates them. But they're only here to exploit people, screw people, or hate people.

I think there's a cure for the problems in Japanese society these people find- they can get their miserable asses back to wherever it is they came from.

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