A few folks commented that I overgeneralized about the people of this nation, and no doubt that's true. However, I'd like to add a few things.
Now, do I really need to add a disclaimer, to say "this is true of some Japanese people, but not all of them, and will depend upon variables such as age, gender, region, social status, and the observer's relationship to the individuals in question"? Really? I mean, if I say, "I went to America, and everybody was fat," do you take that to literally mean every single person? No. Of course there's somebody who's not fat. I don't know who they are, and I didn't happen to see them, but I'm sure there's somebody. Well, maybe.
More importantly, there are countless articles and books that talk about how "polite" the Japanese are and how important bowing is the Japanese. Do you take those writers to task for overgeneralizing in statements such as "Japanese people are polite"? Again, no, because that would be silly. Naturally, there are polite people and impolite people everywhere. People of different cultures manifest politeness and rudeness in different ways, but one can be certain they are present the world over.
If Japan appears polite, I believe it's partly because Westerners (and sometimes Japanese folks themselves) mistake bowing and deference for politeness, in the same way that handshakes and smiles can be confused with friendliness. Now, those gestures may mean that, or they may not, but it would be a mistake to presume such to be the case.
I'm actually hoping readers will reevaluate some of the common generalizations propagated about Japan and consider both the good and the not-so-good of the nation. Not that it's a bad place, but the faucets don't run hot and cold Mountain Dew either. Like everywhere else, this nation has got pros and cons, and they're usually two sides of the same coin. If you're only seeing one side of things, hey, maybe you've missed something.
To get an accurate picture of any country, I think it makes sense to pay attention how people behave and to try to understand their motivations. (The same holds true for Japanese living abroad, who often remark that the U.S. is such a nice, friendly place.) To understand Japanese people, don't look at how they treat you personally. Take yourself out of the picture. Look at how they behave towards each other, on the trains, on the street, and in the stores and restaurants. And then if you have a different impression of things than I do, that's fine too.
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What could be more typically Japanese than bowing?
Sniffling constantly and refusing to blow your nose?
That's a good one. I see you know Japan well. You could probably add to it, Coughing without covering your mouth.
Come to think of it, there are a lot of typical Japanese behaviors.
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It was unfortunately far too real, down to the last detail.
As for happiness, or what passes as such, I can only add that I've also experienced something similar with the death of a close family member. At such times, emotions run so high, I think the brain must just be flooded with endorphins. Or something, what do I know? But maybe there's so much grief and horror in realizing just how temporal life is that we shut down our logical thought processes and just revert to pure emotion. Some of which is, occasionally---what? Relief? And then guilt for feeling relief. It is, to be sure, incredibly sad.
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Several people asked whether this story was true or not, so let me address that.
Although all of my stories are based in actual experience, most are clearly embellished. Where facts are stretched, hopefully the scale of the exaggeration makes it obvious. So if I say that I drank a hundred beers, ate fifty eggs, or that kanji was invented a million years ago, hopefully nobody takes that to be the literal truth.
This story is different from the others here and on my website. It is entirely factual, and was not exaggerated in the least. I certainly wish it was.
Thanks for your kind words and support.
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Say what? You mean to imply that "ain't" and "gotta" violate the rules of grammar? Is you sure?
By the way, love your name. You should meet my friend Deez Nutz.
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Thanks for reading. Seriously.
A lot of people wrote nice things. That made me happy. Then Frungy wrote a mean thing and it made me sad, but probably it was just because I happened to be listening to 2Pac’s “Life Goes On.” Thug life, baby. So I poured out a little Japanese malt liquor from my balcony. My neighbors find me amusing, no doubt.
Most folks don’t know that before I write anything, I go to the temple and pray. Just looking at me, you wouldn’t think I’m so spiritual. But I so am. They don’t call me the Bob Marley of Japan for nothing. I fairly reek of patchouli. So this time when I prayed, I said, God, I mean, Japanese God, do I have enough degrees, licenses and panache to write about this subject? And Japanese God said, Dude, for sure. If not Ken Seeroi, then who? If not now, then when? Now let’s get a beer, already. Anyway, I think that’s what he said, because he had a really thick Tohoku accent. So if what I write isn’t correct, don’t blame me, blame God. Japanese God, I mean.
So then I typed a long, tearful reply. And also some more stuff about the grammar-translation method. But of course I can’t just write a paragraph like a normal human being. I got all spastic and wrote a whole post; so I put it up on http://www.japaneseruleof7.com/, which is where all my stuff originally appears. PS, if you want to address me directly, that’s the place to do it. PPS. Thanks for the inspiration, Frungy. Seriously.
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Whoa, a lot of comments, very cool. I appreciate the outpouring of support from those who have, um, outpoured.
Well, a few people have suggested that I may have been slightly inaccurate, off-base, or, perish the thought, wrong as hell. Let’s just clear that up right now. Me wrong? That's unpossible. Everything I write is tinged with the faintest hint of truth and imbued with the very essence of accuracy. Maybe I used a semicolon when a comma would have sufficed, but other than that, eh, pretty much on par with Wikipedia, I figure. Thanks for reading.
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I certainly agree with everyone who said that it takes a long time to become proficient in Japanese. I touched on that this week in http://www.japaneseruleof7.com/the-best-way-to-learn-japanese/ , along with examining some of the mass-marketed programs that promise you'll soon be speaking Japanese in your sleep. Just by eating three magic beans or something.
But in this article, I was interested in exploring the discrepancy between knowledge and fluency. They often seem to have little relation to one another, which I find surprising. I thought the two would go hand in hand, but hey, they don't seem to.
Some people who have tremendous knowledge have difficulty putting it into practice, while others with quite limited vocabulary and grammar are able to hold conversations just fine. And that's in English. From what I've seen, it is possible to acquire decent Japanese grammar and enough vocabulary to discuss a range of topics within 6 months and two years. Beyond that, how deeply or articulately one can discuss a subject, well, that's a lifetime endeavor. I haven't found that limit yet.
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