LOST IN TRANSLATION: Letter From Tokyo

[Photos by EVA LIAO]

EDITOR’S NOTE: Longtime Phawker editrix EVA LIAO is currently living in Tokyo where she is learning to speak and write Japanese as a certified business communicator. From time to time she sends dispatches back to the home office detailing her adventures and observations as a stranger in a strange land.

Dear People Who Read Phawker,

If, for whatever reason, you plan on visiting Tokyo in the near future, here are the Top Ten things you should know. 

1. There is no such thing as a non-smoking establishment in Tokyo. Without all the stateside taxes, a pack of American Spirits cost me 3.00$.

2. If you’re white person sitting on the train, and the Japanese person sitting next to you suddenly gets up and moves to evathumb.jpganother seat, the answer is yes, you do smell. Ya’ll whiteys have different sweat glands than Japanese people do. To them, you smell bad!

3. As a general rule, expelling anything from the body is a deep social faux pas. That means no farting or burping or blowing your nose in public, and deep long sighs outwards are also considered rude. On the other hand, anything taken in is A-OK, hence the fun but sometimes messy habit of making super loud slurping sounds with your noodles. People here also have the unbearable habit of sniffling uncontrollably for hours to avoid blowing their nose in public.

4. If overweight, like 60% of Americans, you probably won’t be buying any of the one-size-fits all doll-sized clothing for sale here. But you can chose from a selection of the best pair of socks you never knew existed, high-end electronics sans English instruction manuals, life-like cartoon action figures costing as much $1,000 and up, amazing fuck-me heels for girls and baller’ sneaks for guys (not available in the US), cookwear good enough for the Iron Chef himself, and some of the world’s best makeup. Japan has everything under the sun from high fashion to useless inventions. Chances are, you can find anything you could ever imagine in this city. But it all comes at a very unaffordable price.

5. No matter where you are in Tokyo, you are in someone’s way. Personal space does not exist. If you’re walking down aevathumb.jpg crowded street or trying to maneuver through a small store, someone will bump into you. They may even knock you sideways, and they won’t look back. Try not to take it personally. We Americans are spoiled by our big empty spaces and tend to whine and bitch when people get in “our way”. Here, they don’t have that luxury and being crowded and jostled is simply a way of life. Take, for example, the standing sushi bar where, in the name of saving space, people stand throughout the entire meal.

6. You will sing karaoke. You will sing and and you will like it. Not because you have to, but because the magic of the private rooms with its disco lights and smoky atmosphere will make you the diva you’ve always wanted to be. Be Michael Jackson, be Morrisey, be David fucking Bowie. My advice: pick out songs you like before you get here and memorize the lyrics. My personal favorites: Hall & Oats, Teenage Fan Club and Devo.

7. If you’re a girl, you will not get laid. Yes, you heard me correctly: you will NOT get laid. If you’re just here for a visit, you won’t have time for the whole month-long dating process that is necessary to lead up to any actual sex. As an American female, your ideas and opinions will scare Japanese men. You’re aggressiveness will turn them off. And chances are, you’re too tall. However, you’re comparatively bootylicious figure will cause people to stare. And given the opportunity, say in a dark club where you’re surrounded by 5,000 other people, the Japanese man will cop a feel, squeeze your tit, and run away. Folks, I’ve seen it happen.

8. If you’re an American guy, there are three types of girls who will talk to you: A. The truly cosmopolitan, open minded evathumb.jpgcreative type that’s looking to meet different kinds of people (these are few and far between). B. The 30 year old single girl who is considered too old to marry by Japanese standards. She’s turning to you as her last hope. C. The undercover hooker who wants your money. In all 3 cases, be prepared to take them on at least 4-7 dates before you even kiss, in which you pay for everything, plan everything, and make the first move.

9. But fear not, after automobiles, SEX is the second biggest industry in the country. If all else fails gentlemen, you can go to one of these places.

10.
With every cool thing about the Japanese bathroom comes the annoying, inconvenient thing. Pro: toilet seat temperatures are adjustable to be as warm or cool as you’d like them to be. Right now, its like 9o degrees in the city, so the icy cold toilet seat is in fact very welcoming. Con: many bathrooms don’t come with substantial sinks. Instead, there is a faucet on top of the toilet that leaks out water for you to wash your hands with before it flows in the septic tank. Its good for the environment, but slightly inconvenient, which leaves me thinking there are a lot of people out there who don’t really wash their hands after handling their junk. Pro: Public toilets play music or flushing sounds in case you want to mask the sound of a massive fart or explosive defecation. Con: Sometimes the toilet is just a hole in the ground.

Best,

EVA LIAO,

TOKYO CORRESPONDENT

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