Wednesday, April 19, 2006

In Honor of Sei Shonagon

As I now try to become Japanese, like Anjin-san in Shogun; Tom Selleck in Mr. Baseball; and of course, Tom "I'll eat the placenta" Cruise in the world's most ridiculous movie, The Last Samurai, I have begun to recall some of the ancient traditional Japanese cultural icons that I learned at Washington State University where my undergrad major was Asian Studies.

One earlier writer whom I admired was Sei Shonagon, the author of Pillow Book in the late 9th/early 10th century. Sei was a bit of a snob and a bit sarcastic which made her work fun to read--- much more so than the tedious, repetitive, Tale of Genji. (Has anyone, Japanese or not, who is not a translator or researcher ever read that whole thing?)

In honor of Shonagon-san I have jotted down a few things that I have actually observed over the last week.

Things that are disgusting:

A McDonalds employee catching a cough in his hands and then picking up a cheeseburger and filling a drink with said hands.

A guy on the train sneezing repeatedly, and often catching the sneeze with a hand. Then playing with what he caught on his and, rubbing it between his fingers and playing with what he sneezed out it.

A guy sitting close who has a bit of a cold or allergy. His nose is runny with snot almost leaking out. Just in time he SNORTS it back in. WAY BACK in. Repeatedly. Perhaps 3-4 times a minute with constant smaller sniffs every 1.2 seconds.

A man letting his little 2-3 year old boy playing right in the middle of a cycling path. As cyclists approached, he backed away from the child. If there were to be an accident, he didn't want to be involved.

A guy at Starbucks near Kamiyacho in Tokyo wearing gloves when handling food, but then keeping those gloves on when handling cash; then going back to handling food with the same gloves.

An old student who has lived in the US and seemed somewhat openminded who associated the number of foreigners in Kabukicho, Tokyo with the crime rate there. Foreigners always contribute to higher crime rates.

Hearing politicians, the press, and a student criticize stock investing because "
WE Japanese don't like to get money for nothing," while at the same time lottery ticket sales are very big, as is gambling, as is pachinko (not direct money for winning pachinko, but you can chose an over-priced stuffed animal or accept cash instead).

Me, for saying nothing. I am adapting.

Soon, like Tom Cruise, I will be more Japanese than the Japanese. Hopefully, I can avoid the placenta eating that Tom enjoys. (OK, He was joking. Like when he made The Last Samurai.)

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