Tag Archives: Japan

About Innocently Prodding Someone’s Bum

Saint

When it comes to childhood or child-rearing, some things just don’t translate to North America or just 2017 in general. I remember when I first came to South Korea, I was teaching English to young children. Some of the boys would play around shoving their fingers into each other’s bottoms, occasionally including mine. It was playful and not sexual at all, but in order to avoid any confusion, I discouraged it in class. I have my suspicion that it probably originated in some sort of sexual submission/domination dynamics, but I really don’t think the kids were thinking of that. It was horseplay. It was horseplay that was odd, and is probably less common now than it was even ten years ago.

The thing is this isn’t really a Korean thing, shoving things up bottoms as a form of horseplay. It is an Asian thing as far as I can tell. If I grew up in Japan, I probably would’ve had to deal with kancho. In Taiwan or China, I would probably deal with it under a different name. I remember having to deal with it as a young child. It wasn’t amusing back then. If anything, I always thought it was a throwback to when kids and people in general truly didn’t know any better. I didn’t put much malice in it. I just thought that the other person better wash their hands afterwards.

But it really doesn’t translate to North American countries. Not in Canada. Not at all. Kim’s Convenience tried to explain it to mixed results, and as much as I understand the practice and don’t want to be the straight person in the skit, it really does seem like a throwback. Even when the Korean character equated the practice to a wedgie, it didn’t really help the situation. When was the last time you got a wedgie? Even I am too old to experience the hilarity of giving and/or receiving wedgies when I was young. It was outdated back then, and it would be seen as cruel now. In fact, the only person who was interested in shoving things up my bum as a prank was my father, who I imagine used to play around with his peers that way when he was a child back in the 60s. Different environment, uncomfortable to put up with now, but I move on. It’s the same way I saw my young Korean students when they were keen on putting fingers up bums… different environment. I don’t want to be ethnocentric and tell them that it’s wrong or put malice into it; I just discouraged it like every other horseplay.

But in the same spirit of ethnocentrism, in Canada, we don’t shove fingers up children’s bottoms as a form of horseplay. It’s not that there’s malice in it, but it’s best to avoid doing it to prevent confusion. It’s not really wise trying to shoehorn questionable horseplay or pranks from other countries into North America when it could be interpreted differently, especially in this day and age. If an immigrant parent or grandparent does that to a child, and by some miracle, the child is okay with it, the neighbors, friends, or other relatives might not be. It’s best to avoid that confusion. There other aspects to one’s culture that are much better to pass on to the next generation, things that won’t get one suspected or arrested for abuse.

 

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Not Talking About Suicide

carnival

I used to occasionally go to suicide forums and talk to people… because why not? Like many people who suffer from depression, the thought of suicide has come to my head, but I’m much of a coward to really give it too much serious thought. It was more like, “if I’m going to kill myself, I’d do it this way” or “if this happens, that would be the thing that would make me go ahead and kill myself.” It was a thought experiment more than anything else. But as for the forums, occasionally I would read people’s posts. They were mostly young people, complaining about their lives, or people frustrated by their significant others. It’s rare, but sometimes, I would respond back. Instead of being a community of people seeking help before they do what they shouldn’t, I think it’s really more a community of people just trying to get their voices heard. It’s a place where a person can say their troubles instead of being deconstructed or given solutions to their problems. There was no judgment. It was a place that tells people that they are not insane, nor are they alone. That there’s nothing new under the sun and that they’ll get through whatever it is that’s giving them trouble. I suppose I might be accused of being a tourist for being there, but for a time, it really helped me with my depression. It felt good telling a complete stranger that things we’re going to be alright.

I live in a place where suicide is quite common place. People often regard Japan as one of the suicide capitals of the world, but really, South Korea has it beat. Even the former president committed suicide and in some ways normalized the whole thing. But as horrible as South Korea is when it comes to its suicide statistics and the reasons for why so many people are committing suicide (societal pressures, money troubles, elderly depression, stigma against seeing psychiatric help…) it surprised me to learn that Canada isn’t doing too well when it comes to suicide either.

Canada’s in the thirties when ranked with other countries. But when you look at that ranking, it disguises the fact that some communities are more susceptible to suicide than others. Aboriginal males are six times more likely to commit suicide than non-Aboriginal males. In 2000, out of 100,000 Aboriginal males, 126 committed suicide. For non-Aboriginals, it was 24. If you consider the size disparity between non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal communities, the suicide rates affecting small areas in the country is staggering. It’s gigantic compared to the suicide rate in South Korea (27 out of 100,000).

What’s shameful is that with countries like South Korea and Japan are actively doing things to help stop their suicide epidemics in the face of the horrible statistics. The police are patrolling suicide-prone areas, and there are groups which monitor vulnerable people. People are talking about the problem and how to deal with it. And while Canada has been helping some communities deal with depression, addiction, and mental health issues, I’m not sure if we’re doing enough to help prevent the high rates of suicide. I think it’s such a non-issue with the average Canadian that I wouldn’t even be aware of the problem if I didn’t have an interest in it myself. Clearly, present-day efforts are not enough for Aboriginal communities. There are initiatives that help them deal with problems once they are already dealing with them, but I’m not sure if Canada is doing enough to help prevent depression and mental health issues from developing in the first place. Now I’m not saying that South Korea and Japan are doing a lot more than Canada to help their citizens have more fulfilling lives to help prevent suicidal thoughts (I don’t think they are, they’re just doing more to keep people from committing the act), but I think Aboriginal communities are much more susceptible to this problem that it’s something the country should address. After all, much of the First Nations’ woes have been the result of its history with the Canadian government.

 

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Osaka Again

Goat 4

Off to Osaka this week. I’ve been going to Osaka quite frequently recently. It’s a great city, people are friendly, and most things to do are pretty accessible. If you’re going to do Japan for the first time, I recommend Osaka. Tokyo is way too busy. Most of the interesting places to visit in Tokyo are separated by several subway rides. Tourists would end up spending a great portion of their time on the train. Go to Osaka instead; all the key Japanese things to do are pretty much in the same area.

Speaking of Osaka, I saw a short virtual reality video off of Littlstar, the VR video network. Here’s a tip, if you’re gonna make a video and call it “Passport Osaka,” don’t spend half of it on the tattooed expat. Most of the people visiting Osaka aren’t there to visit a foreigner’s tattoo parlor. And I really wouldn’t call Dotonbori and Amerikamura “best-kept secrets” either. They’re two of the main places where tourists go. Blergh.

 

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Japan Again

Flowers

Visited Japan again. Japan is a great place to visit. I would live there if the living expense vs. wages is more reasonable. Anywhere but Tokyo though. Tokyo is a nightmare of trains and buses.

One thing I always liked about the country is the general respect towards others and the overwhelming sense of empathy. People are always mindful of how others are… smiling, not getting in each other’s space, not being too loud on their phones, etc. It’s great. Here in Seoul, despite having a history of Confucian, community-centered value system, people tend to be more self-centered. They are not aware of other’s personal space. I got mine; you go get yours, type of attitude. It’s not a big deal, and I’ve gotten used to it. But it’s often the small things that make one appreciate a place more.

Maybe this is just me being Canadian and missing general politeness.

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Mommy Issues

Octopus

In Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, Nazi scientists were curious about parental bonds, especially regarding identical twins. (SPOILER!) Young identical twins of opposite genders are kept by the scientists with their mother. Occasionally, the boy would dress like a girl and the twins would be nearly impossible to tell apart. On what was probably the last stage of the experiment, the mother was forced to choose one of the twins. She was to give up one of them to a fate unknown to her. At the time, the boy was dressed like his sister, and both children desperately clung to their mother, not wanting to be taken away. Crossdressing however did not save him, and the mother, after struggling for so long, finally let go of her son.

The boy grew up to be the main antagonist of the story, fueled by the mystery of that fateful day. What was the meaning of that day? Did his mother truly let him go or did his mother mean to let go of his sister instead? And if his mother said she meant to keep him with her, could that really be believed? This is the genius of Naoki Urasawa. He has a gift of exploring people’s most common insecurities.

It’s the life raft question. What if you were the one left in the ocean?

I have three sisters. I grew up, knowing that my mother loved us all but not equally. I knew this even at a very young age. And even after she passed away, I was reminded that she loved me less compared to one of my sisters. It makes me bitter sometimes knowing this, but it didn’t turn me into a monster the same way Naoki Urasawa’s character did. I am confident, that like all mothers, she would sacrifice herself to save her children. But just like the story, given the choice, I’ll probably be let go to the hands of Nazi scientists.

Writing this now, I look back at how this truth, albeit common, might have affected me as a person. It might have affected my confidence growing up, doubting why I wasn’t as beloved as my sibling. But that lack of confidence could also have been fueled by a father who was never really the most encouraging person in my life growing up. I was told I threw a ball like a girl before I was even taught how to throw. Perhaps it affected how I see women in my life. Growing up with sisters have been a great influence in making me more sympathetic to feminist concerns, but perhaps my childhood has given me mother issues that affects not only how I relate to women. I don’t know. I’m just throwing this out there. It’s a bit late for Mother’s Day, but I remember feeling three things on Sunday. One is gratitude and longing for a mother who passed away. Two is regret for not being there for her during the last years of her life. Three is bitterness… selfish, idiotic bitterness.

The thing is this is not the only time I’ve had the mixed feeling of being second best (if that). I remember dating a girl once knowing that she liked another guy long before she even took notice of me. Now this is true for most relationships in the world, but I felt like she could drop me anytime this other guy showed any affection towards her. I was grateful for the attention she was giving me, but I was also insecure. At worst, there was even a hint of bitter victory, like “Ha! Finally, you like me now, after ignoring me for so long, you bitch!” And all the time she was with me, I kept wondering if she’d rather be with that other guy instead. It was very confusing.

Now as for my mother. All of the love and kindness she has given me, a dumb part of me would sometimes feel that it all pales to the love she has for my sibling. Enjoy the scraps. Your sister is getting the full meal. And just like with that girl, would my mother really have spent all that time with me? Wouldn’t she rather be with my sister instead?

Now, I realize how juvenile that all sounds. It’s juvenile, petty, and competitive. It probably doesn’t reflect her true feelings, but sometimes my mind goes there. It just does. In many ways, I should be grateful for having such a wonderful mother raise me. After all, there are many others who don’t have the luxury to complain about their parents. Or worse, having parents who mistreat them. I just wish sometimes that I merely suspected my mother having favorites, instead of having it proven to me several times in my life.

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No Asian Characters For You!

Phonograph

Ghost in the Shell is close to my heart. I’ve been watching anime since I was a child, but nothing really captured my imagination than Masamune Shirow’s vision and his infectious enthusiasm over his subjects, often evident in notes either throughout the manga’s pages or in long essays at the end of his books. After stumbling upon the fifth issue of Ghost in the Shell (this was before the trade paperbacks), I followed most of his works in film and even video games.

 

It’s been a while since I’ve seen anything come out Shirow outside of the erotic material which he’s recently devoted most of his time to, so it’s a bit disappointing that the latest film based on his work is not only whitewashed, but it seems to have been concocted more by film investors than by people actually familiar with the work.

I realize that one of the main reasons why Scarlett Johansson was hired to play the Japanese Motoko Kusanagi is that without her, the film probably wouldn’t have been made. The film needs to attach itself to a big name in Hollywood to guarantee a certain amount of audiences in theaters. Unfortunately, it’s this same type of mentality that keeps minorities from getting roles and populates many Hollywood movies with the same small group of people over and over again. Now granted, the film will also star Takeshi Kitano as one of the Japanese characters, but this reeks of casting for the sake of the actor’s name. Kitano isn’t really the best English speaker, and I suspect it will come off as awkward and as badly as his flat performance in 2001’s Brother. I remember reading that Kitano would regularly get involved in projects that he doesn’t fully enjoy (gangster films) in between artsier and unfortunately less profitable projects. If this was the case, it makes me think that this Ghost in the Shell movie is the former, but a certain amount of people will see the film just for the Takeshi Kitano name alone. It’s pretty cynical. Instead of relying on Hollywood star power, the filmmakers should just focus on the strength of the writing. Great movies will sometimes have breakout stars, and they become breakout stars because filmmakers took a risk on them and believed in the story they are telling.

As Jon Tsuei wrote in a Twitter rant, the story of Ghost in the Shell is a unique product of the Japanese experience. Even the book sees and talks about everything from a Japanese standpoint. Many people have pointed out that the character Motoko Kusanagi looks and IS white, but this is a critique of the anime and manga as a medium (most characters are drawn “white”), it is not valid point when it comes to the specific story and the character which are both Asian. To remove it from its roots creates a product that might as well call itself a different name. They already did a western adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. It’s called The Matrix Trilogy. Can we not just leave it at that?

And going back to the defense that anime and manga characters physically look white. This is the laziest close-minded defense. They don’t look white. They rarely physically look Asian either. I don’t see too many races where people have giant eyes with orange and purple hair. If anything, the way they’re often dressed makes them look Asian. Their character and mannerism makes them look Asian. It’s the reason why there’s something a bit odd when foreigners dress, talk, and take on the mannerisms of Asian people. It’s not just the language. Just see the western adaptation of My Sassy Girl where Elisha Cuthbert takes on the character and mannerism of a Korean girl. It doesn’t work.

Many fans fear that the western adaptation would result in an inferior experience, and they can’t be blamed for feeling that way because Hollywood doesn’t really have a great history with adapting Asian IPs. Godzilla was a bust. Oldboy was far inferior to the original. Dragon Ball was a disaster. And on a personal note, I just don’t buy Scarlett Johansson as an action star. I find the Marvel movies quite tedious, and I don’t find her physical scenes in the movie believable (yes, I realize it’s a comic book movie). Despite the success of the movie Lucy, I think it’s a very poor action film both in its execution and writing (SPOILER: She ultimately “evolves” into a USB thumb drive!).

In the end, I think this just adds to a long list of whitewashed characters in Hollywood. I realize many of the whitewashed characters are fictional and are thus open to reinterpretation. Not many actors are trying to pull off black faces; the characters are just turned white. But it’s exactly this reinterpretation that keeps media mostly white and minorities with very little representation. Call it the reality of moviemaking, but it’s also a very racist thing to do, denying people their characters and stories. It’s rare for minorities to have their own stories… their stories often have to whitewashed in order to be told.

What boggles my mind is that there’s a completely watchable Ghost in the Shell animated film that people can still watch. Not only that, there’s a couple of seasons of the animated series as well. I don’t really see a need for a live-action western adaptation. This is like when OldBoy was adapted by Spike Lee, when the 2003 Chan-wook Park original is not only superior, the visuals still stand out to this day. Go pick up one of Shirow’s books (not the art books) or watch the anime. Forget this movie.

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Canadian Anime

Emily_Murphy

Printed and distressed my Canadian posters to make them look more authentic. I’m hoping I succeeded (http://josephmreyes.com/Blamco.html). People can compare the results from the images I posted in the past couple of months. I’m happy with the resulting images. I’m hoping others are too.

 

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Unsolicited Nocturnal Comforts

Courer_des_bois

A short piece about comforting the cold:

We had a few drinks, things were good. I met her at a party in Osborne Village. She knew I was married, but she was totally cool with having drinks me somewhere else. Later, we ended up in her place for a few more drinks.

Things were getting hot and heavy, her thermostat finally started working and my bladder was getting heavy. It was this time when, unfortunately for her, she passes out.

This left me no choice but to do that thing which I believe most men would end up doing in such a situation… I grabbed a colorful Afghan from a closet and casually laid it over her. Manitoba mornings can get really cold.

Some might say I draped her. But I like to think there was some understanding between us after she took a couple of shots of Fernet-Branca.

Anyway, she’s now accusing me of being a drapist and dragging my good name in the mud.

An article from the Winnipeg Sun says that she woke up all stinky and sweaty, not knowing how she got to feeling so disgusting. She said she didn’t consent to being draped and was perfectly fine sleeping without an ornamental Afghan from Pier 1 Imports covering her.

That was just the beginning of my troubles.

No one bought her initial accusations, so she found some other women who claim I draped them as well. Some women were from as far back as college. I could barely remember their names. One woman in particular claimed she passed out after a party and I put a California king-size duvet over her. Then my buddies took turns putting blankets over her to keep her warm. It was -30 in Winnipeg.

She claims she was gang draped.

Another woman said I tried to put a small microfleece blanket over her while we were out camping in Portage la Prairie. I did, I’m not gonna argue that. But I thought she was cold and she was asking for it. Also, that blanket wasn’t so small. Some might say it’s even bigger than the average microfleece blanket.

A supervisor I used to work with in a nursing home claims she saw me putting bouclé blankets over people as they slept. They woke up all toasty, not knowing who draped them. Some don’t even realize they’ve been draped, to which I say is more plausible. They could’ve draped themselves!

The supervisor says she kept silent over the drapings because one time when she was in her office catching a quick nap on her desk, she claims I snuck in and covered her with a machine-washable Hudson’s Bay point blanket. She ended up sleeping for over an hour.

Of course I deny all of these draping allegations, except for that one incident back in 97.

There was an old gentleman sleeping on top of cardboard mat in an alley behind the Burton Cummings Theatre. I ended up covering him with 1200TC Siberian goose down comforter in the dead of the night without his consent.

Okay, I’ll give them that. I draped a homeless man once. But I swear he liked it. In any case, that doesn’t make me a serial drapist.

 

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Mommet Dearest

Octopus

My grandmother on my mother’s side is currently in a nursing home in Hawaii. She hasn’t been well for years, and we received a bit of a scare over the weekend. Last I heard, she’s recovering and is under observation. A relief, but for a couple of hours there I wish I was swept with strange emotions, but honestly, I really didn’t know what to feel.

I love my grandmother dearly, but I haven’t really been the best grandson to her. The last time I saw her was over eight years ago, that was when my mother died. Even then, a part of me resented her presence at the hospital. I was thinking, “I realize you’re weak and all, but my mother is dying. Can we focus all of the attention on her?” My heart and my mind wasn’t in the right place. And I’m not sure if it recovered after that. She lived in Hawaii, far from me, so I barely thought about her. The years after my mom’s passing, our family’s gone through so much without my grandmother, that I can honestly say I only remember her in passing.

Which makes the weekend strange. I felt somewhat like a bastard, like someone who missed the train (or someone who will soon miss it), and will forever be much less because he missed it. Even though I was upset, I felt like I should be more upset than I was. And the thing is, I don’t know what I was upset about. Was I upset about her, or more about me and how I’ve behaved? Or maybe I was just upset at the passage of time. Eight years…. What happened in eight years? What the hell?!

My best memories of my grandmother, we called her Mommet, was growing up and visiting her house every Sunday after church. I used to hang out with her and my great grandmother. I would help my great grandmother sew by putting thread through needles. The house back then had this great garden with different fruit trees. Mommet’s garden even had sugar apples. My sisters and I would recall her trying to feed us lucuma (chesa or dien taw)and none of us liking it. Weirdly, it was the place where I first saw my first salamander. It was also the place where I first stepped on dog shit. When I was a bit older, I remember discovering the Beatles at my grandmother’s house, when I saw my mom’s old records.

The series of Virgin Mary sculptures I made were inspired by my Mommet’s bedroom. It had a shrine of Catholic saints. I thought it was very pretty, and I made my series of sculptures inspired by the colors as well as the stories behind each and every character on that shrine.

Mommet used to be a bigger part of our lives, until finally she wasn’t, until she was in Hawaii and I barely saw her. I suppose it was better for her. After all, who wouldn’t want to live in Hawaii? It’s just a shame that in the process, I ended up losing a strong relationship with my grandmother. I’m relieved to know that she’s still with us, although it would seem that I’m writing an entry as some sort of eulogy. I’m not. I’m just ranting. I guess if anything, this is more of a eulogy for the dead part of me that wasn’t reacting properly over the weekend… or perhaps it is a precursor to how I’ll be devastated when the inevitable finally comes.

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Octopus Love

Hentai

Back in Seoul. Kinda busy catching up, so here’s a quick image.  It’s a tad small here so go to the larger image. Here!

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