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Why do you live here?

July 27, 2012

Why do you live here?

 

I get asked this question a lot. By the way for those of you who don’t know I’m a Tokyo-based……guy. I guess if I was cool and actually doing something meaningful with my life at this present moment I could tell you I was a “Tokyo-based journalist” or “Tokyo-based scholar” or “Tokyo-based man of action” or something like that. Anyway, back to that question.

 

You see, I don’t really have an answer.

 

That hasn’t stopped me from giving people answers over the years mainly out of politeness. It’s quite awkward to say in the middle of a conversation you have no idea why you live in the place on Earth that you live in. It leaves the other person full of questions they might not want to ask someone they don’t really know, like “What the fuck is wrong with you, dingleberry?” so I make things up. I tell them that I was left with a feeling of unfinished business after my time in Yokosuka was up with the Navy. I guess that is true, but you’d better not ask me about what business I feel I need to finish, cause I have no clue. I tell them that I love the vibrancy of the atmosphere and the amount of things there are to do, this is also true, but people just don’t seem satisfied with this answer. I feel like they want some kind of soundbite, like everybody is required to play Karl Rove and prepare their talking points on this question and then rehearse them in the mirror, and they just can’t understand why I have failed to do this.

 

But if the kind of person exists who can boil down their choice of city or town or country into one sentence…is this someone you really want to hang out with?

 

“I live in America because monster trucks.”

“I live in England to act like a snob and feel like I’m getting back at America.”

“I live in France because bleahrarhgh.”

“I live in (anywhere) because of my husband/wife.” Ouch.

 

The simple fact is I live here because I like it. If you want a more detailed explanation than that, you’re just going to have to suffer through me listing every single reason why I like Tokyo and Japan. Moreover, I haven’t rehearsed this so it’s going to be jilted and awkward. And just when you think I’m finally done, I might remember something else. So maybe you shouldn’t ask me.

 

The moment when this question comes up the most is when I relate to people that I don’t really like Japanese food, usually posed in a shocked and somewhat aggressive manner. Of note here is Japanese people almost never react that way, it is almost always some weeabo foreign dork. And just like the “Why do you live here” question, this also has many complicated dimensions. When I say I don’t really like Japanese food, I don’t mean that I don’t like any of it. But this country has a particular fascination with soft textures, sauces, mayonnaise, and mixing things together, four things that normally intersect to create an unpleasant dining experience to my taste. But there is a lot of Japanese food that I do like eating. Again, I don’t feel like explaining all this to random douchebags that I meet. I don’t even feel like blogging about it in detail!

 

I think people put way too much emphasis on food in general. It is, after all, only fuel for this machine. No reason to spend 6 hours making something that takes 6 minutes to eat. I’m just not into cuisine, period. I don’t really care about food anywhere. Put me anywhere on this planet and I’ll still be boiling pasta, sauteeing chicken breasts and heating up oatmeal. Why? Because it’s easy and it tastes all right. Maybe I really sound American now, but I am god damn it. I didn’t flee to Japan to escape the oppression and abject misery of not having a French patisserie (whatever that is) on every corner. You’re talking to a dude who refuses to cook his own breakfast unless he has at least 6 hours before he needs to be somewhere. I used to roll into my community college class with two Special K protein bars and a Monster I would pick up every morning from 7-11 and people used to call my diet fucked up. You’re the fucked up one waking up at the crack of dawn to scramble eggs like a prick. So all you anthropologists and sociologists talking about the historical importance of food as a ritual and measure of culture can anthropologize deez nuts.

 

But obviously in this country food isn’t seen like that, and I understand. When I first got here in 2007, and began meeting Japanese people, one of my earliest impressions was that of a distinctly unpatriotic citizenry. Almost everyone, especially young women, confided in me that they didn’t like Japan and they wanted to leave. Ironically now, in 2012, when things are arguably much worse, this has changed dramatically and I’m talking to a lot more prideful patriots these days. But even in the bad old days of patriotic apathy, that never extended to food. Pride in Japanese cuisine was strong. I had the sense that you could lambast Japan’s political, economic and social institutions all you wanted, but if you ever came for the onigiri so help them they bludgeon you to death with a bokken. (I just did something I really hate..intentionally alienating anybody who doesn’t know those words and making people who do know them feel cool, AND I used italics. Sorry everybody. Onigiri is a rice ball, bokken is a practice katan—-sword for kend—Japanese fencing, and if you knew those words you are not cool, stop feeling that way right now. I also have just slapped myself).

 

Is McDonald’s still serving breakfast?

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