The Epic Gai-Nihonjin Intro Survey
Number of times you've been to Japan: Twice
Amount of time you've stayed in Japan: First time was for a year (well, 8 months) from 08/04 to 04/05, second time was for 2 weeks this past June.
Where you've lived or where you've travelled in Japan: Tokyo and surrounding areas (Yokohama, Kamakura, Chiba, etc)
Reasons? (School, vacation, etc): Junior year of college abroad (at TUJ), and vacation
Japanese language fluency: One year of Japanese immersion and classes with a year and a half of rust piled onto it
Favorite Japanese food: conveyor belt sushi! My record is 15 plates in a sitting. Ramen bowls come a close second
Favorite Japanese musical artist: ELLEGARDEN, Asian Kung-fu Generation, the Pillows
Favorite Japanese film/TV show: Battle Royale for film, Evangelion for TV
Favorite Japanese sports team: National soccer team (go Samurai Blue!) and the Hanshin Tigers
Why do you miss Japan?: Good food, amazingly friendly people, great public transportation, and cool stuff EVERYWHERE
What's one thing you don't miss about Japan?: Being frustrated at not knowing enough of the language
What facet (cultural, technological, etc) do you wish you could bring to the US?: Cell phones, my god. I'd have to pay $200 to cancel out of a Verizon plan here, wheras I paid 3500Y to cancel out of my AU plan... also conbinis. We have WaWa in the Philadelphia region and that comes close, but it's not quite there.
What facet (see above) do you wish you could bring from the US to Japan?: Cheaper CD/DVD prices.
Random memory of being in Japan: Going to do one for each trip.
Trip the First
In what was possibly the biggest test of playing my "Gaijin License", I and a friend went to the Press-Only day of the 2004 Tokyo Game Show armed with nothing but my video camera (a formidable VX2000), a still camera, and several business cards that I'd printed the night before. We went straight to the press booth, where I explained that I was an American filmmaker doing an independent documentary (handing over my meishi in the proper manner at the same time), and that my cameraman and I would both need press passes.
Trip the Second
kyouppe will hate me for bringing this up - my hotel this time was the Tokyo Stay Shibuya Shin-Minamiguchi (say that 3 times fast), about a 5-10 minute walk from Hachiko. On this particular night, I decided that I would relax my weary ankles and spend the night resting and watching TV. I decided I was hungry, threw on some clothing and grabbed my wallet, and ran outside so that I could hop over to the local Lawsons and grab something.
Little did I know that they were filming a J-Drama in the goddamned alley. I ran into a PA who spoke fluent English and he told me that they were filming an episode of Gal's Circle that would air in 2 weeks. He said as long as I stayed out of the way I'd be fine, so I ended up watching them shoot stuff for about 3 hours. It was pretty goddamned cool.
And finally, a pic:
So, here's the story behind this one - I (far left w/ the black hat) decided in late April that I would join my friends (next to me) on their trip to Tokyo that they'd been planning for about a year. Our first full day there I took them to Shibuya. While I was inside a ticket shop buying us 1000-yen tix for a Swallows game, they apparently ran into a gaggle of schoolgirs outside the shop, who wanted to pose for a picture with them. We complied, and this particular photo got taken on my camera. We fully believe that we were Gaijin'ed.
I'm really glad to hear that I'm not one of the only people who believes they're better off living in Japan. I first came across Japanese culture via anime in the summer of 2002, right before I started college. A year later and I had taken a class on Buddhism and was taking Japanese courses over the summer at UPenn. A year after that and I'd declared myself to be a film AND asian studies major and had decided to spend the year abroad in Tokyo. A year after that and I was lying in bed following ankle surgery (made necessary by a previous health problem plus all of the walking you do in Japan), wishing I was still there.
I think I really figured out that Japan is where I belong on my last night in Tokyo when I lived there, April 18th 2005. I went out in Shibuya for a meal at Matsuya (my favorite beef bowl haunt), one last visit to HMV and Tower Records (to spend what I had left on my point cards), and to get my keitai de-activated. I remember walking out of the AU store, testing my cellphone to see if maybe, just maybe it still worked. When I saw that it didn't, I felt this weight in my chest, I looked around and just felt so out of touch with everything around me to the point where I almost had to hold back tears. And then the sky opened up a little and it started to rain - not enough for everyone to open up their umbrellas, but it was almost like the city was telling me that it would miss me too.
My most recent voyage made me realize how much I missed living there - I still remembered all of the hidden side streets in my favorite districts, I still recalled enough of the language to remember how to order food and do various things. In referring to Japan's soccer team (I left the day the World Cup started), I referred to Japan as "we", causing my friends to say "Dan, you don't live here anymore." I'd usually reply with something like "I'm a non-residential citizen, dammit," and that's where the idea of the gai-Nihonjin first came into my mind.