Saturday, 10 November 2018

Paris syndrome & the world as we know it

I was just reading my current book, “We” by Yevgeny Zamyatin, when a sudden thought in my mind caused me to get my phone and google something. I do not remember what it was but yes, this is usually how I like to spend my free time (until I get motivated to write something on my blog, that is).

It brought me to Paris Syndrome, which I have heard of before but never really thought about that well. Oh yeah, of course, Paris is just so different from what Japanese people imagine it to be that when they get there, they are shocked. But wait, they get shocked up to the point that they hallucinate, feel depersonalization, derealization and anxiety? About 20 people per year? Can that still be brushed off as a little thing or are we finally starting to realize that Japanese media and society is creating a huge, and I mean really HUGE, bubble around its people, so crazy huge that once you get out of it, you realize that you have been eating the lies that they have been telling you?

banksy: the joy of not being sold anything
What have you been sold lately? Any new lies you did not want to hear? Banksy makes remarks on our modern society.    

Man, Paris Syndrome must be something Neo has experienced when he came out of the Matrix, only it was more like, Dude, machines are ruling our planet and you have been living in a lie-Syndrome. The same way you could say Paris Syndrome is actually Japan is not the center of the earth-Syndrome. Or what Japanese media says especially about foreign countries is not true and has nothing to do with the truth of other countries, but more so with the dogma of Japan and its identity-Syndrome. Or wait, Japan is not the only country with four seasons-Syndrome. Or wait, wait, Japanese society is not unique and once you get out of it you have the chance to realize who you really are and find your own identitiy-Syndrome.

Okay, enough truth bombs. I think I said everything I wanted to say with those newly named syndromes.

Though we do of course by the media of our own country experience a slightly different real world when we visit another country, I believe Paris Syndrome really hits the bullseye for the Japanese society: complete distorted view on France, and several, if not all other countries, in the media.  Because Japan is the best anyway. Why wouldn’t you want to live in Japan? Oh right, because as a foreigner with a brain, you might get a mental breakdown including psychiatric symptoms like depersonalization, derealization and anxiety. While as a Japanese with a brain you might experience that very same thing ‘backwards’ when you visit another country and are not willing to lie to yourself (as I know some people actively, in and outside of Japan, practice DoubleThink and DoubleSpeak).

But come on now, seriously, why would you not want to live in Japan? Or Paris, for that matter.  

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

why MSG will kill us all - can we finally stop overhyping Japanese food?

Remember that thirst, that unquenchable terrible thirst the last time you had Japanese food (preferably in Japan) or maybe even Chinese food? Ahh, the quintessence of all Japanese chefs’ compositions, the tool that makes their creations so irressistable, the secret ingredient, the key umami component, the only thing that makes our taste buds dance at the first bite (because actually they have been poisoned, overpowered and numbed): monosodium glutamate (MSG).

I am actually still shocked by how many people, especially Japanese people, seem to be oblivious to why their food is tasting so good. I am surprised that even Americans I have met rave about Japanese food that much and do not know that the secret umami is nothing more than that chemical compound.

Now obviously, the world devides into two sorts of countries: those raised on MSG and those raised without the use of MSG.
Take for example Australia, where children are basically spoon-fed with MSG from childhood (Vegemite). In contrast to that, in Germany we do have MSG food additives in the form of sauces (Maggi Würzsoße) or similiar, but not many people feed it to their children. Which is probably why I experience some Australians realizing that the Japanese food is not actually good (also food quality in Australia is quite amazing, if you ask me).
So think about it, getting MSG fed as a child, everything tastes amazing to you. As a Japanese (spoilt) child, you will get out into the world as a man-child and think: Japanese food tastes so much better! And you are so wrong. It’s the MSG that makes the Japanese food taste better but if you take it out, you have some way more bland-tasting dish. However because of the professional brainwashing in this country, you will probably say that it still tastes good even if it does not (because people are social beings and tend to say it tastes good even when it does not but everyone else says it tastes good).
Besides that, how are you ever going to know the real tastes of the ingredients if MSG makes everything taste so incredibly intense, as in it makes your senses drunk in a way? How are you going to know it’s not actually rotten or at least partly rotten food in your dish? Surely the MSG can mask the bad food quality very well because when your senses are drunk, you are definitely not going to be the sober food inspector. What does it mean now, if you can’t taste whether your food is fresh or not? Yes, literally, you could be eating food that has long since gone bad or even worse - is not even food at all but some sort of plastic or substitute.

 when cooking at home is sometimes more expensive than meals at most reasonably-priced restaurants, it starts to get suspicious

I already hear the ‘conspiracy’ comments calling me out on this but from my own experience, you must be stupid to think that Japanese food quality is good. Compared internationally, it is supposed to be not much worse than Germany but I do believe that the actual quality of foods in restaurants is way lower than the quality of foods used for however they measured the quality (certain foods give me and some other white people I know stomach problems... and yes, only in Japan).

So can we please stop saying how Japanese food is amazing? Or can we at least start praising food that does not have MSG in it? And also let’s stop raving over sushi which is basically rice bathed in sugar (among other seasonings)? Eat high grade sashimi with very very little soy sauce (better yet: none, or at least organic) and you will actually be surprised by how ‘normal’ and not overpowering it tastes.

So I do hope we don’t kill each other with spreading MSG on all the bad stuff we should not eat, finally get back to eating ‘real’, adult, non-sugared non-MSG non-GMO food that we know the actual taste of so we can survive as a cultivated race who can taste every single ingredient as what it is - and not for the overpowering opium-of-the-people umami flavour.
Asking for too much? Probably. Am I going to give up my stop-Japanese-propaganda attitude? Never.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Love as a need to fulfill: studies of the contemporary Japanese society

“Good evening, my name is XY. Please treat me kindly.”
“Good evening.”
“What’s your name?”
“My name is YZ.”
“Oh, what a nice name. Have you been here before?”
“No, but someone recommended this place.”
“Oh, nice. Did you go drinking somewhere else before coming here?”

A regular conversation at a hostess club in Japan. The men who come there, usually drained by work or society, or by their own boring personality, do not have much to talk about. It is usually the hostess that does all of the talking. In the case of a foreign (non-Japanese) hostess, sometimes positively racist remarks are made about how tall she is or how big her nose is or how white her skin, especially in the case of a white hostess. Then if the hostess is black, it is mostly assumed she must be either from the United States or some African country. But let us not talk about how racist the Japanese are. Let us talk about why Japanese men go to hostess clubs.
I often hear or read western people saying they do not understand why Japanese spend so much money at these clubs. Obviously it is the same people who have no real understanding of the depths of Japanese society and about how messed up it is. Though, if you really wonder why these clubs are so popular, can’t you tell that there must be something wrong?

One of the non-regular customers I encountered at my own work place, a man who was born in Hokkaido, told me he was very tired of the standardized conversation he usually had at Japanese hostess clubs. It was that remark that made me a bit more awake, though I was already very tired and worn out of the amount of standardized conversations I had that week. I asked him why people have these conversations here in the first place, and what he answered was: “Because most people who come here cannot even hold conversations like that.” There, you see, the Japanese are in a way retarded (as suggested by Ken Seeroi).
Of course we all long to have a conversation sometimes, and sometimes small talk is necessary. In the countries like the US and Australia, having a bit of small talk with a stranger or with someone you do not know very well is considered polite. Even in Europe it is considered polite, but it really depends on the people involved and the situation. However, that is a few minutes of small talk, not 30 minutes or even an hour, as in the case of Japanese hostess clubs. It makes you wonder if the Japanese are okay in their head - paying 3,000, 6,000 or even 10,000yen to have small talk with a pretty girl for an hour?

There are theories that say Japanese men go to these clubs because they do not want to go home to a nagging wife. They do not want any tiring conversation after a long day of work. I completely understand that but at the same time I understand their wives because most of them probably do not nag for no reason. Maybe the husband’s salary is too low or their working hours are too long or they spend too much money after work, or, if you are a very lucky wife (sarcasm), all three combined.
Still, the Japanese men, no matter how little they earn, how recklessly they spend, how little they care about the needs of their wife or family, want to be loved and cared for. Here comes the whole society crumbling down these days - our generation Y, who are obsessed with themselves. It does not matter so much what I do for others, it is all about our new-age so called ‘acceptance’ of everyone who is different: I deserve to be loved and accepted.
I cannot imagine what hostess clubs were for generation X people, especially in the bubble era. Maybe it was just an outlet for groups of salarymen to go to, in actual large groups, to celebrate whatever successful business deals they had made that day. In that case, it would surely be more understandable for the western mind because these groups do not come only for certain girls, and they do not spend their private money but the company’s (simply to celebrate, as you would spend money on a company party).

That is more the mind of generation X customers, but let us come back to our self-obsessed generation Y customers that come mostly alone or in a group of up to four people, though mainly alone or with just one male companion. Those people who want to be loved after a long day of hard(ly any) work but do not want to work for that love. Love, you would think, especially in the case of Japan, is a need one wants fulfilled. As Hiroki Azuma pointed out in his work Database Animals:

“The difference between animals and humans is that they pursue an unquenchable meaning to life. Animals, in turn, aren’t searching for meaning. They only want to have their basic needs met.”

Azuma describes these “animals” of the Japanese society as Otaku. I go as far as describing the regular Japanese hostess club visitor as Otaku. He just wants his basic need for love met. In the BBC documentary “Storyville: Tokyo girls” that describes the lives of idols and their fans, one female commentator even goes as far as saying that these men do not want to put any effort into a real relationship with a girl, they want to be loved and accepted without doing anything for it (watch it here; 38:59).

Now though, what if we see this all in a postmodern way, and think about the Japanese society as evolved, with the Japanese Otaku, craving love and fulfilling that need with anime characters, idols, and hostesses? Indeed all the needs we have in life can be fulfilled artificially in that way, and there is no denying that we all want to be loved. Now if that love can be consumed, is that so bad or is that maybe simply less traditional? It starts to become a very Science Fiction like scene at this point, and if we look at new movies, let me here throw in my deeply beloved Blade Runner 2049 as an example: it predicts a society where women, especially the ‘unreal’ women (holograms, androids), are consumable goods. Through making these movies, our society faces the change that is occuring these days: we forgot how to connect or we have no time to connect and build a reliable bond. Or are we simply too lazy and too self-obsessed to become anything more than Otaku?

Personally I see nothing wrong with hostess clubs. After all, women can consume the same sort of love with male anime characters, male idols (movie stars and musicians) and male hosts. From my neo feministic point of view, this is all very equal and I cannot criticize the mere consumption of love. However, we all have to be aware that the love we consume from those places is fake love. It is love that is meant to be consumed, it is wrapped prettily and it is prepared to be consumed. It is not real mutual love with a deep meaningful relationship behind it.

In that sense, is the Japanese Otaku community - that is growing dangerously big and difficult to distinguish from our non-self-obsessed more westernized crowd - simply the android society in the Blade Runner 2049 sense? Are we all less human than we think we are?

Friday, 23 June 2017

Work smart, not hard - don't be a fool, buy cheap! Latest Japanese fashion trends

Guys, I’ve had it with Tokyo. No, seriously. I’ve had it.
What, no hello, no hi how have you been? No, none of that. I became too much of a Tokyoite, looking fresh and oh so cool from outside but being bitter on the inside. Besides, who the hell even says hello here? Right, only people who study Japanese. Or store attendants.
By now I’ve just been in Tokyo way too long. And it’s true what they say, after the 4th, 5th, 6th or at least after the 7th year you will start hating Tokyo. Or grow bored with it. Or it’s a mix of hate, boredom and disgust, like in my case. Or you already gave in to everything and accepted it, then congrats. Or you lost your brain somewhere among the zombie crowds, in which case I feel sincerely sorry for your loss.

Either way, hey, I finally got out of the drained state (tokyo vampire lemonade hah) for a second, and lately I have been thinking of restarting this blog. There was so much I wanted to write about the last few weeks and finally, finally after watching 3 seasons of Sex and the City (yeah, I actually never properly watched it) I thought: hey, I should write! I should share all the things I have to say! Maybe there’s something useful in what I have to say.

Let’s start with all the cool stuff about Tokyo that’s still actually rocking, besides food (which will make you get stomach or another form of cancer sooner or later but let’s save that for next time):


The fashion is still freaking awesome and cheap considering the not too bad quality (I am not even being sarcastic I can’t help sounding like that even when I want to praise Japan).

Yes, Gyaru fashion toned down and everything became really onee-san-y or leaning towards Kyabajo/Agejo-ish fashion because let’s be honest, those girls are basically the only group left wearing that fashion. Those or the freeters, NEETs and maybe some of the high school/universtiy students.

With the identity crisis among the Japanese and the rush of working women who are stressing through managing their household chores as well as their office (lady) jobs that demand more and more overtime hours, what time is there left for fashion? Actually if you look more or less decent after finishing a 50 hour work week plus additional unpaid work at home, you will be happy to just throw on anything and go out to have fun, if you still have the energy that is.

No idea where women like Sayo Hayakawa take the energy &time to raise a child alone on top of all of that work
(I swear I am not being sarcastic)

Where, I ask you, is the time to find your own identity or fashion sense? Or fashion, for that matter?
And hence, what you see these days is either the old gyaru-ish toned down, the childish-sweet inspired or the foreign inspired fashion. And by foreign I mean mainly European/American or Korean. I’ve mostly really seen a raise in Korean fashion (hence I probably don’t go out much anymore haha). There’s nothing much to see besides that. But at least it has become cheap!
Since the wages are dropping while taxes are rising (I feel like half of what I am writing should be put in a paper about Japanese culture), we can see that ‘I will buy it all as long as it is cheap & cute’ attitude. Fabric, quality, size? Yeah, don’t care too much about that, it just gotta be cheap.

There there, girls, now let me introduce you to the shop that every girl and there Japanese mom is already shopping at: Puci Puri (actually: puchi pri taken from the french petit prix) / Qoo10

Let me tell you one thing, I have seen these sandals a lot and even in Shinjuku already... last summer! And they’re still going strong.

Also, want one of those trending mini Furla style bags but not spend all that $$? Save that money for your next trip out of Japan and go with this one!

I have bought these cool bags myself and they were cheap considering they look exactly like in the picture! Of course the quality isn’t that amazing but how amazing do they look?! The design is just art! This art smells quite a bit of plastic though, so be warned. But then again, I've seen one of the other versions hanging on the shoulder of a young woman in Kabukicho just 2 days ago!

If you’re like me and love the mere feeling of collecting and owning beautiful shoes and bags, this store is for you! However, don’t forget to notify the seller you buy from once your item arrived or else they won’t get the money you paid. For Japan it’s a quite new shop system to buy from other countries, directly from foreigner sellers and this has been heavily promoted since at least last year (I found it by chance through a purikura sales promotion mail).

The awesome comfy shoes that I bought, rarely wear because of the super thin heels but nevertheless needed to possess

Though be warned, that stuff is still cheap and that means cheaply made. Besides the bags, I have bought 2 pairs of shoes of which one was quite awesome and the other one rubs against my feet until they bleed but they also look quite awesome. I’ve also bought a shirt that I wasn’t very satisfied with, it had a way more unflattering cut than expected. So be sure to always check the reviews!

Do you have any experiences with that site? I would be glad to hear about your experiences. To everyone else happy shopping~