Tag Archives: Japan

Me,me,me. Copywriting vs. Citizen Journalism

I started writing for GaijinPot about a month ago and I have to say it’s a totally different kind of writing than I’m used to. I’m a copywriter by trade, which means my writing takes on the client’s voice. I write for your vision, your company, your brand. But op-eds or citizen journalism is about what goes on in my sick little brain. Let me put it this way… if you’ve been a back up singer whose job is to make the pop star look good, and then you get handed the center stage mic, one of two things will happen.

1) You’ll either wet yourself and run off stage or

2) You’ll go big, even if you suck, just to have your moment in the spotlight.

Not sure where I’m at just yet… but I’m loving it so far. 🙂

Check out my articles here. I’m writing weekly so stay tuned. 🙂



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Filed under Writers on Writing

The “Other” Woman

I’ve never had it rough. Ever. A healthy white girl from a great family, I grew up in nicer-than-average Californian suburbs and spent most of my adult life in San Francisco. Beyond shoes, books, and  travel, I’ve never really wanted for anything. A close friend of mine likens this kind of life to “playing a video game on the easiest level.”

my life

I love this analogy 1) because it’s so true, and 2) it also speaks to the natural curiosity that goes beyond perpetually playing Level One. Traveling off the beaten path to developing countries has taught me that I have absolutely no right to bitch about anything. At all. It’s also shown me the chasm between the obscenely wealthy and the crushingly poor, and who ends up on which side of that chasm often has little to do with hard work or perseverance, but rather luck of birthplace. Of race. I guess that luck is a big reason I moved to Asia.

Now I’m not in a hut in the middle of Calcutta. But being in Japan for a few weeks has made me unpack my longing to live abroad, and not just in another English-speaking country like Australia or England. For over a decade, I yearned to be turned upside down completely, I just never knew why.

The foreign population of Japan is less than two percent, and being a minority– an extreme minority– is a jarring experience. I’m overtly stared at and photographed on the train. I’ve been blatantly ignored and avoided. I hear conversations in rapid-fire Japanese and pick up “Shinshia” and realize people are talking about me, right in front of me. I talk to people who’ve never spoken to a Westerner before. Being the only person of another race in a room is an unclear feeling. It doesn’t exactly bother me, sometimes it’s strangely freeing to be the novelty, but I’m constantly reminded that I don’t, nor will I ever, fit in. I could speak fluent Japanese, live here twenty years, marry into a Japanese family, learn every possible cultural custom, and not much would change. It’s sounds like I’m whining, but I’m not. I asked for this because I needed to experience first hand what otherness feels like. I don’t know why exactly. I’m not sure that it matters.

Maybe it’s good to feel uncomfortable sometimes. (I know– very Robert Frost of me)– but when you’ve been so lucky in your life it’s important to remember that most aren’t as lucky as you. Being lucky doesn’t make you special, it just makes you lucky. And maybe not being grateful for that luck is the definition of being spoiled. It’s a real fear of mine– forgetting just how lucky I am.

I hope this doesn’t sound like syrupy, white-liberal rambling–though I’m pretty sure it does. And I realize despite being part of the”other” two percent here, the racism or exclusion I deal with isn’t a fraction of what some endure. When you bring on the otherness yourself, it’s something of a contrived experience. It’s just the best I could come up with.

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Filed under The Big Red Dot

No Hablo Nihongo

It’s been just over a month of living in Japan and I still have no idea what I’m doing. I have a slightly better idea than I did when I got off the plane four weeks ago, but that bar was pretty low. Pretty much on the ground. Actually there was no bar. More of a random line of dust.

Trains, directions… easy. Just be patient and follow directions. But banking, post office-ing, taking a bus: the language barrier makes doing even the simplest tasks exponentially more time consuming. And the few phrases I do know are pointless because they invariably evoke questions for which I have no answers. For some INSANE reason, I sometimes try to answer in Spanish, (the only other language I do know) so I find myself saying “si” when I should be saying “hai.” It’s like the Foreign Language Department in my brain is headed by a over-tenured professor who hears a question, shrugs, and says, “Here try… this?” and then goes back to his New Yorker. Lazy bastard.

I was fake-whining about shopping with a friend today who, like me, has traveled extensively without the native language…but as a tourist.“Oh just buy what you know,” he tells me, “fruits and vegetables… things you recognize.” OH OKAY.  Gee why didn’t I think of that. Have you been to the grocery store?

Is this soy sauce? Fish sauce? Mystery evil pipe cleaner sauce? What about soup? Or coffee, or tuna, or butter… or those squishy purple things in the meat case? WHAT ARE THOSE. Even things I think I recognize aren’t what they seem… I bought a case of eggs…EGGS for crying out loud, and they were partially hard-cooked for some magical fish broth egg soup dish. Eggs. I can’t even buy eggs right.


But other things I buy really right.

Like the Family Mart mini pancakes with happy-sauce inside.

I am SO nailing you when we get home.

Or the Calbee potato chips in Nori flavor.

And even some healthy stuff I happen upon by accident, but that isn’t nearly as exciting as when you stick the contents of a cartoon packet of madness in your face and realize not only that you’re not going to get sick, but you’re going to possibly eat whatever it is, forever. The little successes keep you rolling.

Same thing goes for the beauty stuff, which by the way, like the Nori potato chips, the Japanese have mastered. Hair products, makeup, skin care, body voodoo creams… I’ve just scratched the surface of what’s going on because I can’t read anything and just go by the photos… or the occasional generous phrase of English. Want to know the fairy dust they use over here for amazing skin? I’ll post about it later but here’s a hint:

This is happening.

Since being here:

  • My skin is looking rad (surprisingly), no thanks to stress, weather, Nori potato chips, and Crunky.
  • I’m eating more junk food than I have in years but I’m not gaining (I attribute this to chasing trains and constant fear of offending someone with my apparently giant 8.5 feet. PS: Shoe shopping? Another story).

I can’t imagine what I’ll discover once I can speak at a higher level than age four.  In the meantime, when I do ask for help, people are always kind enough to give it to me, but seldom to they take the initiative to offer it without request. I’ve come to the conclusion that in Tokyo, there is nothing more frightening than a middle aged, unmarried, nori-chip reeking American woman with giant feet.

You know what they say about women with big feet. THEY WILL CRUSH YOU.

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Filed under Fun Stuff, The Big Red Dot