Kirk Douglas was one of the first American celebrities to appear in a television commercial on Japanese television. Kirk appeared in a series of Maxim commercials. When the movie "The China Syndrome" with Michael Douglas came out in 1979, Japanese television commentators said, "Michael Douglas is the guy whose father appears in the coffee commercials." The very first American celebrity to appear in a series of Japanese television commercials was Steve McQueen (for Honda motorcycles). He was followed by Sammy Davis Jr (for Suntory whisky) and Charles Bronson (for Mandom male cosmetics).
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The best skit I remember from Japanese television (in the mid 1980s) had Shimura Ken as an old man asking where his wife was. His middle-aged son and his wife responded with, "Don't you remember? She died." Shimura Ken as the old men asked when that had happened. They told him obaasan had died quite a while ago and then tried to be as gentle as possible in telling the old man that he was senile ("boke"). This interaction went on for quite a while until they had him convinced that he had become senile in not knowing that his beloved wife had died quite a while ago. Then, the joke played on the old man became evident when the old man's wife walked in. "I thought you had died!" Shimura Ken as the old man exclaimed. "Oh, Papa, you are so boke!" The most tasteless thing I ever saw on Japanese TV was broadcast when I was in the hospital (I would have changed the channel if I had been at home) with a bunch of other patients. It was a kind of candid camera affair that involved a guy who was enticed into a hotel room by one of the young ladies in a nightclub. What he didn't know was that his wife was watching all this on closed circuit television. When he got into the hotel room, he sat on the bed removing his clothes while the young lady went into the bathroom to "slip into something more comfortable." As he sat on the bed in delightful anticipation, he pulled open his jockey shorts and checked himself out. Then, "the woman" came out of the bathroom in a bathrobe and rubbing a bath towel over her head as if she had just taken a shower. When she removed the bath towel, surprise, surprise! it was his wife.
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I lived in Japan (Tokyo, Obihiro, Sapporo) from 1971 to 2002. In reading over the article and the responding letters, I see that Japanese television has not changed much at all since I left Japan, or from 1971, for that matter. According to the letters, Beat Takeshi and Sanma are still as prevalent and as annoying as they were 40 years ago. Those appearing in the studios still radiate the annoying "Aren't we cute and witty?" chuckles. The background noises such as "EEEEEehh?" or "Heeeeeeh?" are still there.
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Around 1977 there was an essay in TIME about the value and legitimacy of the British royal family that I think made a good point. It pointed out that, although Queen Elizabeth II has no legal governmental authority, the British Prime Minister is obligated to sit down and talk to her on a regular basis. And that just knowing that the Queen, as the representative of all the British people, is going to ask him, in effect, "Well, what's happening? What are you doing about XXXX problem?" is going to keep him/her on his/her toes so that he/she can give a competent, responsible, honorable answer. I imagine that it is, or at least could be, the same with the Japanese royal family and whoever happens to be the Japanese Prime Minister at the time.
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"Sayonara" does have a connotation of finality. At the end of the James Mitchner book, Sayonara, the American flier says "Sayonara" to his Japanese lover. But when they made the movie, they decided that such an ending would be too depressing, coming after the double suicide of Airman Kelly and his Japanese wife. So, Marlon Brando asked his Japanese lover to marry him and she said yes. But they already had the title. What to do? They had the press reporters asking Marlon Brando that both the Japanese and U.S. Air Force establishments wouldn't like their decision. "Do you have anything to say to them?" Brando replied, "Yes," looked up to his left to his cue card, and continued, "Tell them we said 'Sayonara.'"
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In his 1997 "Deconstructing Harry," the character playing "Harry's" (played by Woody Allen) sister lambasts him by saying he focuses on "sarcasm and orgasm." Harry retorts, "Hey, in France I could campaign for political office on that platform and win."
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I guess he couldn't see the oncoming traffic. After all, "tomei" means "invisable" in Japanese.
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I know it is quite cold up there during the winter, and that the winter lasts a long time up there. But isn't walking out on the ice as late as March 21 a bit dangerous?
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Regarding the middle class Americans who reside in Japan: If the US tax law hasn't changed since I lived in Japan, something like the first $80,000 of overseas yearly earnings (the figure changes year by year) can be written off by filling out a form 2555 and including it with the form 1040. Every American I knew in Japan was a middle class type who did not earn over $80,000 per year. Many Americans who lived in Japan were not aware that they had to file the 1040, and the form 2555 was "use it or lose it" deal: If you didn't file with the 2555 form, you lost the right to write off the first $80,000. A couple of Americans I knew in Japan to earn far less than $80,000 per annum were hit with a letter from Uncle Sam saying that the IRS was arbitrarily charging them a penalty fee of $5,000 on the basis of what the IRS assumed they had earned during the cited year. Recognizing that a substantial number of Americans residing overseas sincerely didn't know that they were obligated to file yearly 1040 and 2555 forms, it was approximately in the year 2000 that the IRS offered an amnesty program whereby the American citizen residing overseas filled out 1040 and 2555 forms for all of the prior years that they had been living overseas and had not filed. By filling out these forms for those years, the Americans would not be penalized but they would be recognizing the obligation to file US tax returns for all future years.
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I think a more accurate translation of "kaishain" would be "full time salaried employee." The term "business person" has the connotation of "entrepreneur." The "kaishain" and "komuin" (civil servant) results of the survey show that the Japanese males from an early age desire white collar middle class security. Anyone who aims to be an entrepreneur is a significantly different type of person who is just as likely to be wearing a black T-shirt and worn jeans.
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Agnes Chan was still a teenager, a nation-wide singing sensation, and a fellow student at the International Division of Sophia University in the early 1970s. One of my professors at the time felt sorry for her, saying that she was only earning a lot of money and would soon be a forgotten has been. Instead, Agnes has certainly come a long way, picking up degree after degree (BA, MA, EdD, PhD) and becoming an ambassador for UNICEF. During her Sophia years, instead of the other international students mobbing her, the other students so much refrained from what they thought would be bothering her that whenever I saw her around campus, such as sitting alone in the cafeteria, she looked lonely.
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Decades ago studies showed that there is a medical reason why folks who begin smoking before the age of 21 are significantly more likely to become nicotine addicted than folks who try smoking after age 21. When my son was around 12 years old, I told him at the dinner table, "When you get older, you may drink a little but YOU AREN'T GOING TO SMOKE AT ALL." He shrugged, "I'm not interested in either." (We were living in Sapporo, so the idea of drugs didn't come up at all.) My son is now 39, the CEO of his own international business with offices in Tokyo and San Francisco, and a light partaker of wine. But he has never smoked anything in his life.
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"It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it." Robert E. Lee during the American Civil War (1861-1865) The obvious horror of THE BOMB likely resulted in a Cold War standoff (remember MAD?: Mutual Assured Destruction) in contrast to the opened Pandora's Box of the Post Cold War extremist wars and lone wolf terrorist strikes all over the world now.
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The answer to one fundamental question is left out of the article: What is the proper way to dip the sushi in the soy sauce? In 1977 a Japanese man who postured himself as being an expert on eating sushi told his audience that the proper way is to turn the sushi piece over so that you are dipping only the fish slice in the soy sauce and thusly, prevent the soy sauce from soaking into the rice.
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Sounds like a poignant, namida chodai, ending.
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Read Suzuki's "Japan Unmasked" for an assessment of the Japanese people as being ugly. As I remember reading the book in 1973, one sentence goes "With the possible exception of the Hottentots, there is no more ugly people on the face of the earth than the Japanese." Suzuki was fired from his post with the Japanese state department as a result of writing the book.
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I suppose De Niro ordered the restaurant cook to make sure there are exactly 14 blueberries in every muffin.
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"Foreign workers" need not necessarily be the unskilled who commit crime and send remittances back to their home countries instead of spending it in Japan (a previously submitted concept). In addition to the foreign worker idea, there are the following two ideas that would support the Japanese economy: I Fully integrate the female work force instead of relegating them to the role of Office Ladies between the ages of 20 and 24 and then (after two decades of motherhood) to the role of supermarket cashiers after the age of 45. In 1974 my most esteemed Sophia University graduate school professor Father M. Bairy quipped to our class, "Did you ever think of what would happen with Japan if the Japanese women ever took over. After all, we all know they are smarter than the men." II Cease the practice of dumping Japanese corporate employees at the age of 55. They have several more productive years ahead of them, especially if the Japanese system would consider the idea of continual education for their employees instead of the mythical "lifetime employment" system that has senior employees earning the position of "leaving the work to the subordinates."
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I remember when this news story came out a decade ago. I thought it was funny (albeit of the black humor variety that permeated "Fargo") that Ms. Konishi chose to go looking for the briefcase full of cash during the winter season - because Steve Buschemi had buried the million dollars (minus the $80,000 he pocketed) IN THE SNOW.
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Getting rid of bullying, in addition to punishing or doing some other form of re-education on the bullies, also involves helping the bullied type to not get bullied. I know this because, as a non-confrontational type kid growing up in America, I got bullied. However, my half-American, half-Japanese son growing up in rural Japan with foreign features, including blond hair until he was three years old, did not get bullied. And this is why: He was the product of unconditional love and admiration. Therefore, he was cheerful. When he was only a "gaijin" toddler in Obihiro and some other kid ran over to him in a park, shoved him, asked in Japanese, "What are you?", instead of taking that as a threat and squirming, "Don't hit me!", Brandon cheerfully and playfully shoved back in a way that was a bit stronger than the other kid was expecting, and responded "Brandon desu. Asobo!" The other kid was taken aback but responded, "Ah. Yoshi." Unlike me at his succeeding ages from kindergarten to graduating from a Japanese high school, Brandon was never bullied and never bullied anyone else.
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This article and the resulting letters remind me of the "toilet paper panic" that overtook Japan during the "sekiyu panic" of the early 1970s. Newspaper articles of that era described Japanese tourists descending on department stores in Hong Kong and buying out all of the toilet paper to take back to Japan as omiyage. "They are like locusts" one article quoted a department store clerk in Hong Kong. (It turned out that the shortage of toilet paper in Japan was the result of a rumor that the oil shortage would mean a shortage of toilet paper. Once that rumor got out, every housewife in Japan ran out and bought up all the toilet paper she could find. This caused the stores to be totally empty of toilet paper within 24 hours and the panic was on. A few months later, when I visited my in-laws in Obihiro, Hokkaido and opened their large shed, I found a wall of toilet paper stacked floor to ceiling. When I asked my wife, "What's this?!" she calmly responded, "When my mother heard about the impending scarcity of toilet paper in Japan, she phoned the toilet paper factory."
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It just occurred to me that it was 20 years ago this month that the city of Sapporo instigated the "studless" law. A two or three year study had ascertained that "studless" tires could drive safely on snow and ice-covered roads. The study was done on the basis of driving "studless" winter tires over snow and ice that the studded tires had broken down into safe powder. By December first, 1994 we all had to either buy a new set of "studless" winter tires or remove the studs from our tires using a screwdriver-like instrument. When all the studded tires were gone from Sapporo winter roads, the ice covering them remained slick and cars slid into each other as well as into power poles and people. Tired of paying overtime to all the police personnel who had to respond to accidents all over Sapporo, the Chief of Police announced that the Sapporo police would not be enforcing the studless tire law.
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Re: the snow-laden photo of Obihiro. I lived in Obihiro 1976-1979 before living in Sapporo for the next 23 years. In Sapporo between November and April, it snows approximately every other day a little bit, with an occasional blizzard. However, although it is not unusual for Obihiro to get snowfall beginning in October, Obihiro can go without any snowfall at all for two to three weeks but then there is some silent overnight dumping and you wake up to a deluge of the fluffy white stuff that is almost chest high. It doesn't melt for months because of the consistent intense cold. In fact, it is so cold throughout the winter that the snow never becomes melty enough to make a snowball, let alone a snow man. Coincidentally, this past Monday, in a trip that required four flights and 32 hours, my wife flew from the US east coast to Obihiro to be with her father. She arrived at Haneda airport just as the snowstorm hit and cancelled her scheduled flight to Obihiro.
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During the 30 years that I lived in Japan, I peridically commented to my (Japanese) wife and son about a show they were watching, "This show is horrible! This would never be popular in America." I made that assessment especially when they were watching some Japanese show in which a succession of embarrassingly no talent amateurs sang in front of a panel of celebrities who then each gave their critiques, some complimentary and some quite hurtful. Eventually, by way of internet application procedures and telephone conference calls, I secured a legitimate career in America. Upon reaching Raleigh-Durham International Airport, while waiting for my suitcase to arrive at the carosel, I saw on the overhead television sets a broadcast of some American show I had never seen or heard of: "American Idol."
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As I remember it, Japan cowered to the Middle Eastern interests in 1977 who objected to the movie "Black Sunday" and the film was yanked from Japanese theaters after only one or two days.
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Reminds me of a rather comical episode of LA Law about 25 years ago wherein after some old guy died, they found a large collection of pornography in his den (man cave). At first they were shocked. But then they discovered that it could have a huge dollar value. The chief guy (played by Richard Dysart) negotiated the price up with a potential client by mentioning, "I haven't even contacted the Japanese yet about this sale."
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I got my first indication of the system of teaching English in Japanese universities in 1971 when living in a boarding house with a Japanese university student. He asked me to help him with his homework. I said OK. He gave me an isolated section of some pedantic English language essay on managing a museum. (It took even me quite a bit of effort to even ascertain what it was.) Even as a native speaker of English, I had a very difficult time in understanding what it was all about. Yasuo's "homework" was to translate that section of a pedantic essay into Japanese. Apparently, his university professor had gotten a job translating the entire article. So, in the guise if assigning it as "homework," he arbitrarily cut it up into sections and assigned the students in his class the task of translating it by sections. Just one of the problems for each student (and, as it turned out, me) was that without knowing even the title of the essay, to say nothing of having not been privy to the introductory paragraphs, it was difficult to know "just what the hell is this?" Japanese academics have the tendency to assume that if the English is difficult to read, it must be English of a high level. The truth is that, more often than not, if the English is difficult to read, it is simply poorly written.
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