26 February 2009

The Furious Guide to Being Passive Aggressive in a Japanese Office Environment

Or, "How To Be An Asshole So Subtly That No One Really Notices" (volume 1)

1. If someone leaves anything on your desk on days you aren't there, hide it on the days that you are.

I've had huge stacks of marked tests, sample MEXT-approved textbooks and a big bag of white rice (only in Japan) waiting for me on my desk after a couple being away for a couple of days. While there's a 99% chance that if it happens, this belongs to a teacher directly beside you who forgot you actually work there, studies have shown [citation needed] that quietly picking up this object up, bringing it to an empty table nowhere near the offender's desk and discretely abandoning it sends a firm but absolutely innocuous message. The first time you'll get an apology from the offender, and after that they'll keep quiet.

2. If you forget your lunch, there's always omiyage.

Shiroi-koibito and day old green tea are part of a balanced lunch.

Plus, Shirokoibito was my club name back in Roppongi in the 80's.

Surely, no one will notice a few extra missing, but they may quite possibly notice those few extra wrappers on the edge of your desk and wonder who the hell you think you are.

3. Cut someone off when they say goodbye

If you're in the process of stealthily "going home for lunch", and someone catches you red-handed and begins to say "otsukaresama desh---" [have a nice d---], cut them off with a friendly, if not brisk "konnichiwa!" You're the forty-seven ronin, and the front door is Kira Yoshinaka and Nishimura-sensei is Prince of Sendai [see below]. Right?

You gotta do what you gotta do, man.

4. Laminate shit.

That's what the laminating machine's there for.

5. If you make a spelling or grammar mistake in class, blame it on your dialect.

This happens to the best of us, where the teacher -- who obviously has read "The Furious Guide to Being Passive Aggressive in the LL Room", or felt scorned by what they read in "Your ALT is Just Not That Into You" (both available from Doubleday) -- smugly points out an obvious mistake you made in front of the whole class, and it's always embarrassing, unless you act a bit holier-than-thou, up on your English high-horse, and say that they're wrong and it's actually a very common way of saying it in your own dialect, and then indignantly lament the misfortunes of the Americocentric English education system.

If used properly, this guide will help bring about antipathy, foster a vague infamy, halt pesky enkai invitations and help cement negative stereotypes about Westerners.

14 February 2009

Case of the Racist Hatemongers

So I was walking around Tenjin, Fukuoka this sunny February afternoon, spending copious amounts of money on CDs and music equipment, singlehandedly saving the local economy. I walked past a group of fascinating gentlemen -- pictured below -- and out of the corner of my eye I caught the word 外国人 ("foreigner") on their banner. My interest piqued, and I joined their small audience of a two old women and a glassy-eyed junior high school student.

On closer inspection, it turns out they're racist hatemongers. It's easy to tell a racist hatemonger in Japan from any other kind of protester* because, try as you might, they will not make eye contact. They won't even pose for a nice group photo.

* Note: There are always protesters in Tenjin, it seems, and the vast majority of them are pretty cool, so I don't mean to generalize them or Japanese people at large. Last time I was there we were approached by some people protesting the war in Gaza, who were interested in discussion, not shouting scat out of megaphones.

So what makes them racist hatemongers? Well, let's focus on what makes them hatemongers to start. This group is called "在日特権を許さない市民の会", or "Association of citizens who will not allow special rights for zainichi", with "zainichi" (在日 -- properly "Japanese people of Korean descent" but literally "Koreans living in Japan") being a common ethnic slur for Koreans.

To let the matter speak for itself, I'm going to quote their website:

In a Japanese society where wild ideas based on a bygone mistaken understanding of history such as "victims of the Empire of Japan" or "poor zainichi" have still not been wiped out, it is a fact that an unspoken social agreement to handle Japanese of Korean descent and [mainland] Koreans* still remains.
* Note: A slur for mainland Koreans this time.

If you're unaware of who these "victims of the empire" are, I suggest you head to your local library. I'll give you a hint though: it's about the same number as "victims of the Reich".

On group leader Sakurai Matoko's website, he describes the Japanese colonization of East Asia to be a very good thing for the region, and describes the Chinese (using another slur, of course) and Koreans as "beasts" who hold no value in human life. And one fun little tidbit even accuses Confucius of cannibalism.

Anyway, not to harp on this, because -- like I said -- there are more people in Fukuoka who are protesting for human rights than protesting against them, but I have a personal problem with the way these right wing groups that talk about Koreans. This stems in something I saw at ground zero in Hiroshima last year. In front of a monument dedicated to the 20,000 Korean victims of the atomic bomb, many of which were "forced labourers", there was a black van giving an idiotic racist rant similar to Sakurai's.

This is like skinheads protesting in front of the camp in Dachau. Absolutely jaw-droppingly disgusting.

And the reason I would post any of this here is, I think the vast majority of Japanese people want nothing to do with assholes like Sakurai, but in a general sense, there are a lot of soft-core historical revisionists in Japan, and to make a spectacle of these hate group's ignorance is the best way to fight this dangerous ideology. The best way that doesn't involve balaclavas and baseball bats, that is.

And if you want to send a message to Sakurai personally, you can reach him by e-mail.

Sakurai's screen name, by the way, is "Doronpa", which I believe translates as "scatmuncher".