Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Why there were no comments

In the early days of this blog, I allowed comments, but rapidly problems developed based on what is, perhaps, the somewhat unique nature of this blog. The main problem was that people either failed to grasp or refused to consider the nature of this blog no matter how meticulously I went out of my way to explain it. What was more, when I pointed out the explanation, people got angry at what I'm sure they felt was my tapping some arbitrary sign on the wall to shut them up. I understood their frustration, but I'd like to explain mine here.

The main problem was that the short nature of the posts, which was my absolute intention when creating this blog, created issues. Those issues were as follows:
  • The need to infer things that were neither said nor implied was overwhelming. My words were not taken at face value. To give a neutral example, it would be as if I said,  "I like my pants in dark colors," and the comment would be, "you hate light colors!" There is a profound difference between saying I like something and saying that I hate the opposite, and I didn't want to waste my time constantly defending or re-explaining myself against statements I neither made nor implied. I also didn't want to feel pressured to expand the nature of the posts in order to prevent erroneous inferences.
  • Some people felt a(n) (exhaustive) social, cultural or political context should always be offered concurrent with an assertion. If I said that I wouldn't miss being refused service in Japan, I was attacked for not saying that other minorities suffer from similar problems in other countries. This isn't a blog about broad issues or filled with extensive commentary. It's a list of my feelings about life in Japan. Commenters could not or chose not to respect this and went on the offensive.
  • Comments were made expressly to invalidate my experiences without consideration of the circumstances. This is actually quite common among a lot of foreign bloggers in Japan in particular. This is because there is a weird sort of "turf war" about life here. There is competition for who is offering up "the truth", as if there is only one real experience that can be distilled through dispassionate and scientific observation (which no blogger is capable of). I've been in the Japan blogging world long enough to have no patience for this type of thing anymore. If you can't grasp that your physical countenance affects how you are treated everywhere (including and possibly especially in Japan), and that your experiences may greatly differ from mine as a result of that, then this blog probably isn't your best reading option. I can acknowledge repeatedly that my experiences are mine and I don't expect others to share them because they don't live in my skin in my neighborhood, but people will still feel it's necessary to say, "that isn't what life is like in Japan." It is what it is like for me. This need to invalidate is not commentary of value and just adds to the noise ratio.
Mainly, I took away comments because I've got a goal for myself to write 1000 posts and another blog I write for. I currently do 8 posts a week without fail and I generate all of the content alone and entirely from scratch. I'm not riffing on other people's blog content, news articles, or recycling content. I have neither the time nor inclination to deal with people who are acting on personal agendas or their needs to be mad at someone about something.

In many ways, I regret that I can't allow comments because I think that there definitely is the potential for input of great value from readers. For instance, I would have welcomed people from other cities or rural areas adding in their own subjective experiences which differed from mine. I know from limited experience visiting Osaka that some of the problems I experience in Tokyo (such as people not looking where they are going) did not occur there. Unfortunately, early commenters weren't able to offer their parallel experiences without including the invalidating statement or tone of "you're wrong because my experience is different than yours". The opportunity for this blog to be a repository of many people's varied experiences of life here was lost because of the tone and behavior of early commenters. That would have been a "bonus", but ultimately that wasn't the original intent of this blog and I quickly concluded that commentary adding in different perspectives without an agenda of invalidating my assertions simply wasn't going to happen. 

Perhaps in the future when I've got my 1000 posts done, I will open things up for comments because the self-induced pressure to do a set number of posts will be relieved and I may have the time to deal with all comers regardless of the types of comments they make. I would welcome mature, intelligent, insightful and positively motivated input. I'm just not prepared to be the dog people want to kick at the end of a bad day or to waste my time kicking back.

About Me

Since I've received, on occasion, unsolicited e-mail from people who believe that they know me based on my posts here, I thought it might be useful to provide some actual information about me. By no means will this reveal who I truly am (as that would be impossible from something as limited as a blog, particularly one about something other than myself), but at least it will provide some context for the posts on this blog. 

I was born in 1964 and I have lived steadily in Japan since 1989. I spent the bulk of my 20+ years in Japan working in a Japanese office for a small Japanese company that created and sold correspondence lessons. I consider my experiences in Japan rather unique compared to most foreigners for a variety of reasons. Among them are:
  • My work required me to interview thousands of people. I mean that literally. I continue to do this type of work for my former company on a freelance basis so the number of different people I speak with continues to increase. I would say that a conservative estimate of the number of different people I have spoken with in a person-to-person capacity would be 12,000. I think this experience has allowed me to know Japan on a broader level than most foreign people who live here.
  • I primarily spend my interactions with Japanese people asking questions about their culture, psychology and their lives. For the most part, I don't spend the time talking about myself or trying to engage in chitchat to form personal bonds with people or to simply get Japanese speaking practice. My goal is to get Japanese people to speak about themselves as much as possible, their thoughts, opinions, and lifestyles.
  • I'm married to a fellow American. This means that my perspective isn't the same as those who are married or in relationships with Japanese people. I have no need to temper my views or obfuscate my conclusions in order to culturally assimilate as I don't identify as strongly with being a potential permanent resident of this country. Many people who are married to Japanese folks (by no means all) adjust to the difficulties of being a foreigner in Japan by re-framing their experiences positively or negatively or by elevating or degrading the Japanese perspective. I have no incentive to do this since I don't have to adjust my life in the same manner that those in relationships with Japanese people do. They require a much higher degree of adjustment than I do. I do not speak pejoratively when I say this of foreigners who engage in this type of behavior. It is something all humans do. It is part of Fritz Heider's Balance Theory. The main difference between me and those married to Japanese folks is my need to balance is less strongly motivated and influenced mainly by the need for a sense of internal peace with my life in Japan instead of a desire to assimilate or integrate with a Japanese family structure.
  • I'm hyper-aware of being ethnocentric. I question every thought and emotion I have when something happens in Japan which bothers me. I always ask if my reaction to an experience is the result of my ethnocentric tendencies (and we all have them, including the Japanese themselves) or if truly unfair or biased behavior is being directed toward me. If I conclude the latter, I do not adopt an apologist stance. As I am accountable for my behavior, so are Japanese people. My barometer is not how people should behave based on my culture, but rather how they treat each other in their culture. The question is always, "would a Japanese person treat another Japanese person the way I'm being treated," not "would I be treated like this in America." That being said, this is a subjective account and I reserve the right to complain about things based on my personal preferences, but I do recognize and note in the applicable posts when I am having an issue with something because I'm being ethnocentric. 
  • I'm female and have no children. Many Japan bloggers are male or mommies. Japan-based mommy bloggers have very different priorities than me (and rightfully so). Male bloggers have very different experiences because being an obviously foreign-looking male in Japan is a far more favorable experience than being an obviously foreign-looking female. Note that being a foreigner of Asian descent is an even more different experience as such foreign folks can live without the same level of overt scrutiny that I experience. If you are easy to distinguish from the natives, then you are treated differently than if you blend in. I am aware that people will disagree with me or dismiss my experiences because they personally haven't had the same ones. That doesn't invalidate my views.
  • I'm not a Japanophile, nor have I ever been one. I don't idolize anything in Japan. I think it has both good points and bad points, just like every other developed country in the world. Part of the reason this blog came about is my awareness of that fact. I have no desire to put Japan on a pedestal nor to vilify it, just to talk about my impressions of small aspects in short posts.
  • I studied psychology with an emphasis on social psychology. This means that I have a strong awareness of the dangers of generalizing anecdotal experience. I realize that I cannot speak with authority or expertise based solely on my experiences in Japan. This is why I state clearly that this blog is subjective and has a limited scope. I can only speak as an expert on what it is like to be me in Japan. You can draw conclusions about Japan as you like based on what I say and my impressions, but I take ownership of those impressions and my emotions as an individual and do not expect others to necessarily share them even if they have similar experiences. Until you've lived in my skin, you can't possibly have my perceptions or experiences, nor can I have yours. That's the nature and limit of reality for all of us. 
Thanks for reading.

Will Miss #1 - the plethora of sembei varieties

When it comes to loving sembei, I've been a decidedly late bloomer. For an exceptionally long time, I associated sembei with an overpowering baked rice, soy sauce and fishy smell. I've learned that there is a cornucopia of sembei flavoring out there from brown sugar to corn soup to garlic to wasabi.

I'm going to miss the casual access to so many interesting and enjoyable varieties of sembei.

Won't Miss #1- not finding shoes in my size

In America, I wear a size 8 1/2 shoe. This isn't the most petite foot, but it's also nowhere near a gigantic side. In Japan, this translates to my feet being a 1/2 size too big for women's shoes here.

I won't miss not being able to find shoes in my size at shoe shops.

My Raison D'etre

My husband and I have lived in Japan for a little over 20 years and our thoughts sometimes turn to how we'll feel when we eventually leave.

I'm starting this blog to catalog the thoughts I've been having about the possibility of leaving Japan after such a long time. My hope is to find (at least) 500 things I will miss after I leave and 500 things I won't miss (hence the 1000 things). Why 1000? Well, I'm absolutely inspired by the blog 1000 Awesome Things.

If you stumble across this blog, I hope you find the content interesting and potentially educating. Thanks for taking the time to drop by.

Contacting me by e-mail

If you would like to advertise on this site, have a business offer, or would like to interview me or provide a promotional opportunity for this site, you may e-mail me at: orchidsixtyfour@gmail.com

Thank you.

Please note that this address is not for e-mailing comments about the blog.

What This Blog Is and Is Not

This blog isn't an attempt to address social issues or even life in Japan on a macro level. It's a highly personalized take on life in Japan based on my experiences and feelings. I'm not making any assertions that all places in Japan or all people are reflecting things that are mentioned here, nor am I implying that the things I mention here are not present in other parts of the world or cultures. This simply is an account of my feelings about life in Japan from a highly subjective viewpoint.

The format of this blog is intentional. That is, the short descriptions and personalized phrasing ("I will/I will not") are intentional limits that I placed on myself when I decided to do this blog. There are a variety of reasons for this, but the biggest one is that I've done a great amount of longer form writing in the past and this is a different sort of writing exercise for me. Clearly, the format has its limits, but this is meant as a notational format. It is not meant to be deep and broad in scope.

Each post should not be regarded as a whole and complete opinion on a topic. These ideas are facets of a whole, and each individual post is incomplete. So, please do not infer from the lack of a complete picture that there has been a lack of consideration of every angle of an idea. The full picture of a situation may not fully emerge until several posts have appeared, or indeed, until I've reached the end (or beyond) of making 1000 posts. This blog is a list and the nature of it is intentionally brief, not exhaustive. I edit myself for brevity and try to keep to a very specific point. These are not intended to be representations of my entire view and every single thought I may have about a particular issue. If you're looking for that sort of blog, you're in the wrong place.

Also, please note that the pictures on this site are representative, not literal depictions. For example, I may talk about health clubs and how expensive they are in Tokyo and show a picture of Gold's Gym, but that doesn't mean I go there or that that is the health club I'm talking about.

Thank you for reading!