...and yeah, everywhere else too, I guess.
Keep those connections alive - especially those JET alumn among you!
Recently I've had some experiences/conversations that have led me to reflect on the difference of behaviors and expectations between consumers and specifically service industry workers (though I'm sure this applies more broadly) in the US and Japan. And you know, this particular instance defies the usual stereotypes. Defies, I say!
In English, we have expressions like "the customer is always right" and "the customer is king" (at least I think I've heard the latter one before). Once upon a time this may have been so, and some of the better companies may still try to adhere to this kind of thinking. However, the US is a very individualistic society, and a lot of us don't like taking crap from people, including those we're supposed to be serving. Sure, there are the perpetually moody denizens of the DMV and the Postal Service and a slew of others out there who hate their jobs, but I think a good amount of service workers just want to try to be positive and get through the day without being yelled at for things (mostly) beyond their control.
We also have the expression "You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar." Having worked in customer service positions before, I know that if I get combative and angry at an operator or receptionist, they may feel pressured to let me have my way or rectify their mistake. But they also won't go out of their way to help me. The tactic may also backfire and they may decide to drop the call or drag their feet as revenge. Either way the experience will be a lot less pleasant for both of us if I take out my frustration on the lowly service worker.
Sure, there are tons of asshats in this country. I've talked to plenty of them on the phone. But I know there are also a fair amount of people who think like me - when dealing with customer service you need to be assertive but patient, and try to be nice.
Now let's talk about the Japanese side:
The key Japanese expression to remember is "the customer is God."
|"I SAID NO ONIONS!'|
|A real man isn't ashamed of reading this kind of stuff.|
So Marty Friedman is not Japanese, in case you didn't know. In fact, he hails from the same town I'm currently living in. It wasn't until a few years ago that I learned he had anything to do with Japan, actually. No, my knowledge of him was much more traditional.
During high school I developed a taste for rock music that over time grew and matured such that my college years were partly soundtracked by the likes of Metallica, Megadeth, Jethro Tull, Blind Guardian, and a number of other heavy metal bands of varying notoriety. And so my exposure to Marty Friedman can be credited to his role as lead guitarist for Megadeth.
A few years ago I remember Dylan mentioning on a tangent to some conversation that Marty Friedman had moved to Japan and spoke perfect fluent Japanese. "Cool," I thought, but it didn't really register.
Fast forward to now. A couple weeks ago I met and caught up with a friend that I hadn't seen in 6 or 7 years, since we studied together at 上智大学 (Sophia University) in Tokyo. She lives in NYC now, and I was in town for a couple days. Turns out she is a big metal fan, and we got to talking about different bands and artists. The other day she sent me this awesome video of Marty Friedman and Paul Gilbert on a Japanese TV show:
There are two more parts, if you care to watch. I think it's pretty rad seeing those guys rock out and speak Japanese. After watching, I did a little research. It turns out that Friedman has been living in Tokyo for about 10 years now, and last year he married a Japanese cellist. He's been a regular on several music and English-themed TV shows over there, and has done cameos in other media. He still plays, and perhaps most notably for you anime/game fans, he's a member of Sound Horizon.
Ahhhh, I remember karuta. Every year the freshman class would play it at the gym in my base school, and I was asked to join in (the teachers would take turns reading off cards). But I get ahead of myself. Today's post is written by a fellow DMC fan, Jessie Guill of Pokerlistings.com. Take it away, Jessie.
|Torifuda on the left; Yomifuda on the right|
|A screenshot from the anime Chihayafuru where the main character swiftly takes a card|
Just recently I was lamenting the fact that it's difficult and/or expensive to buy Japanese media in the US (or I guess any non-Japan country). This is still true, but just a week ago or so I discovered that Japanese books can be ordered in the US. From warehouses in the US.
Kinokuniya, one of Japan's largest book retail chains, has apparently been quietly doing some international expanding over the years. In the US, they have store locations in New York, California, Oregon, and Washington state. They also do online ordering and domestic shipping. Their US website is here.
The other day I ordered a textbook for about $55 and another book for about $12. Shipping was $8. Not bad! So if you're in the market for some J-books (they also have Chinese and some English titles, though don't know why you'd want to buy the English books from them), go check it out.
They also have a membership program. I believe signing up for a year is like $20, and then you get discounts on all your purchases. Worth considering if you plan on buying a few books.
As noted in the comments on the YouTube page for this video, I think it's pretty easy to get this commercial without understanding any Japanese.
It's a little difficult to imagine how hard it must have been to study Japanese, or any other language, years or even decades ago. These days it's easy to lament that learning a language removed from its natural environment is very challenging (and it is), but there are so many more resources available now than there used to be.