Japan - from Asahi to Zen
Traditional terms, and a pop culture glossary through the eyes of a raw gaijin.
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Gagaku,   Gaijin,   Gaijin Card,   Gaijin Groupie,   Gaikokujin,   Garbage,   Gardens,   Geisha,   Genji Monogatari,   Genkan,   Genki,   Geta,   Geza,   Girl Hunter,   Go,   G.O.D.,   Godzilla,   Golden Pavillion,   Graying of Japan,   GRO,   Gyaku Nanpa,   Gyaru

Traditional court music, used for royal ceremonies and religious rites.

A strange, smelly, often nasty creature, with peculiar eating habits and bizzare mating rituals.    Gaijin must be watched at all times, lest they do something bizzare and unthinkable.

The literal translation of the Kanji characters is "outside" "person", i.e. Foreigner.

As an English Teacher, one thing I try to do is to teach my students common word-pairings:    "heinous crime," "overwhealming majority" etc.    These are called 'collocations' - words that go together.    Some common collocations for 'gaijin'?

  • abunai gaijin = dangerous foreigner.
  • baka gaijin = stupid foreigner.
  • henna gaijin = weird foreigner.

See Also:    Ainu,   Black,   Brazil,   Gaijin Card,   Gaikokujin

Gaijin Card
The Alien Registration Identification which foreign residents are required to obtain within three months of ariving in Japan.    Your Gaijin Card is your personl property and responsibility, and should be carried with you at all times.    It may be demanded by the police as proof of identity, and must be surrendered when you're finally leaving the country.

Gaijin Groupie
A local who likes to spend time with gaijin "friends".

Many Japanese people are difficult to get to know, due to varioius linguistic and cultural barriers on both sides.    Some however are open to meeting foreigners.    When you befriend someone though, make sure that you haven't been sucked in by a gaijin groupie.

Gaijin Groupie's are a class of (mostly) young Japanese who like to meet foreigners, without ever becoming true friends.    Some may see foreigners as easier to have sex with, others are looking for free English conversation lessons.    It may cost them a little money to buy you a drink etc., but basically it's a lot cheaper than getting the same things from Soaplands or a Juku.

See Also:    English,   International Nights

A Foreigner.

Technically Gaikokujin just means the same as the much more common term Gaijin - both mean "Foreigner".    However, there's a world of difference between the two terms, and many Gaijin are aware of it.    Looking at the root meanings of the Kanji characters we see that the underlying meanings are subtly different.
  • "Gai"
  • Outside
  • "Koku"    
  • Country
  • "Jin"
  • Person
    So "gai" "jin" is an outsider, but "gai" "koku" "jin" is a person from another country, ie. a foreigner.    Which would you rather be, a foreigner, or an outsider?

    Unfortunately, whilst "gaijin" can often carry overtones of "barbarian", not everyone uses or intends it in that way, it's all in the tone of voice, much like "gringo" in Latin America.    What you can say for sure is that if a Japanese person is using "gaikokujin", then they are making an effort to be polite and respectful.

    See Also:    Ainu,   Black,   Brazil,   Gaijin Card,   Gaijin

    Tokyo has an almost fascist recycling policy.    Trash must be seperated into 6 different categories, and each category of trash may only be thrown out for collection on specific days.    You'd imagine that with this level of recycling, there'd be no real garbage problem.

    You'd be wrong.    The Japanese throw some of their trash into the bays around the islands, using garbage to build reclaimed land areas, but most of your rubbish gets burned.    70% of the world's incinerators are here, and despite health and environmental concerns, they continue to be used extensively.

    Whilst the Japanese have made great advances on the Recycling front, they do seem to forget that "Reduction" and "Reuse" are far more important than "Recycling".    One of the first things that you'll notice when you go shopping in Japan is the extent to which everything is over-packaged.    Almost anything you buy in the supermarket will be wrapped in several layers of packaging and plastic.    Until the Japanese try to Reduce their output of trash, incineration and land-reclimation are the only options.   

    See Also:    Chopsticks

    moss garden in Kyoto Through skillful use of their elements, Japanese Gardens seek to evoke natural beauty.    Heaps of earth represent mountains, ponds become oceans and flowing water reminds us of rivers.    This is in marked contrast to Western gardens, which are generally laid-out geometrically.

    As a further enhancement the technique of "Borrowed Scenery" is often used.    This seeks to incorporate the natural backdrop of the surrounding area and its skyline, into the design of the garden.    If there is a nearby mountain, then the designer knows that the garden and mountain will be viewed together.    Taking advantage of this, the designer seeks to harmonize the garden with its natural surroundings.

    zen pebble garden Also, there is the Zen Garden.    Using a "dry landscape" technique, hills and waterfalls are expressed by rock formations, whilst rivers and oceans are evoked by spreading white pebble sand and raking it into fine lines.

    The idea here is for the garden to act as a focus for meditation.    The one time I've tried it, the garden acted much like a psychologist's inkblob picture, or abstract art.    It wasn't so much what the garden was designed to represent, as what it happened to represent to me, through free asociation.

    See Also:    Arts,   Zen

    Traditional female entertainer accomplished in the arts.

    In Old Japan, Geisha were indentured servents, sold at a young age into Geisha Houses where they lived and were trained in the arts of Poetry, Flower Arranging, Dance, Shamisen, and all the Arts.

    What is not so commonly mentioned is the fact that they also provided sexual services, and so their status in society was extremely low, even though they mingled amongst some of the richest and most powerful men in society.

    These days, Geisha are still to be seen, and are still in service, although the Japanese I have spoken to say that the Geisha in the Tea Houses in Gion, in Kyoto don't form sexual relationships with their clients anymore.    Frankly, I find this hard to believe.

    The one time I have seen genuine Geisha, men were going crazy over them, trampling over each other, and over small children in order to reach them.    I have never seen people go that crazy before.    The power these Geisha women had over the men there was frightening.    I wonder do they like it?

    For an engrossing account of Geisha training, I recommend Arthur Golden's fictional but factual novel, "Memoirs of a Geisha".

    See Also:    Floating World,   Maiko

    Genji Monogatari   
    The Tale Of Genji , by Lady Murasaki Shikibu is claimed to be the world's oldest novel, completed in or around 1008.

    genji book cover At that time, ladies of the court weren't supposed to attempt to learn Chinese, but Lady Murasaki picked it up from her brother's lessons, and using the new Kana writing, she composed this huge, and beautiful novel, famed throughout Japan for its sensitive handling of the sadness of beauty, which is always passing, and the melancholy of the Japanese spirit and Buddhist world.

    Here are a few short quotations, to get the flavour of the thing:

    "The lady, when no answer came from Prince Genji, thought that he had changed his mind, and though she would have been very angry if he had persisted in his suit, she was not quite prepared to lose him with so little ado."


    "..among the leaves were white flowers with petals half-unfolded like the lips of people smiling at their own thoughts."

    It is worth remembering that this novel of the ritual and intrigue of court life, this delicate novel exploring the delight of nature and the vibrations of the human heart, this novel was written 100 years before the Battle of Hastings, when our ancestors were scratching out a living in primitive conditions.

    See Also:    Mujo,   Writing

    vertical view of modern genkan The foyer or entrance hall of a house, for changing from outdoor shoes into indoor slippers.

    When you enter the genkan, you step out of your shoes, and step into the house proper.    Then turn around, kneel or bend down, and turn your outdoor shoes around so that they face the door - ready to be slipped into again when you leave.

    Also, note, the Genkan is considered part of the outside of the house, even though it is on the inside.    This means that for example, when the Gas Man, calls, he will happily step into your Genkan, but will then wait there for you to invite him into the actual house itself.

    See Also:    Fusuma,   Futon,   Irori,   Kotatsu,   Shoji,   Tatami,   Tokonoma,   Windchimes

    This is a term that really doesn't have a dirrect translation into English, but I'll do my best.
    • The dictionary says: "good health", or "lively".
    • The Kanji characters depict: "origin" and "spirit"
    • As far as I can tell, it means: "bubbly, enthusiastic, excited, happy"

    Another foreigner used this word and when I asked what it meant she mocked me with a happy-clappy giggly-girly laugh.    Then I realised that she wasn't mocking my question, but rather, was attempting to demonstrate the answer.    I get the impression that "genki" cheerfulness is what all Japanese girls are supposed to display.    You should be genki, regardless of how you are feeling.

    Traditional wooden sandals.

    These days you still sometimes see Kimono-clad women wearing this footwear.    It is common at festivals, and special occasions, but also you would often notice the odd one or two in the subway, on the way to the theatre etc.

    See Also:    Kimono,   Obi,   Yukata

    The slatted musicians room, at the far left of the stage in Kabuki plays, where the various types of background music are performed.    Sound effects such as bells, gongs, drums etc. are also provided.

    Girl Hunter
    A guy who pays random ordinary women to have sex with him.

    No, I'm not joking.    These guys dress to kill, hang out around busy train and subway stations and proposition passing female commuters to come to a Love Hotel and make a little extra money.

    The next time you're in a station, stand back a little, look around, and you'll see a guy or two dressed in sharp suits or tuxes.    Wait a little longer and you may see an Officelady approach, covering her face with her scarf or newspaper, and hey presto, off they go.

    As far as I know, these girls don't end up in Snuff Videos, but who knows what really goes on?    Do they pay extra for Bukkake, or for some Cosplay for example, or is it strictly straight sex only?    If you have any ... eh,.. experience,... in this area, please let me know.

    See Also:    AV,   Bukkake,   Cosplay,   Enjo Kosai,   GRO,   Hentai,   Kogal,   Naked Sushi,   Salaryman(6),   Soaplands,   Underwear

    Gaijin On Display

    Have you ever felt the need to be the 'token black guy', but were always held back by your white skin?    Well if so, then your prayers have been answered:    Come to Japan, and you can be the token Gaijin On Display.

    See Also:    Gaijin,   Gaikokujin


    Sometimes obsession with a monster just goes too far....    Be afraid... be very afraid.

    Perhaps the most famous Japanese monster of all time!  Godzilla is the granddaddy of them all!   Coming from the depths of the pacific to rip Tokyo, Yokohama or even Hong Kong apart - Godzilla can fight just about anything!

    Everyone has heard of Godzilla of course, but how many people know where the name comes from?   

    Godzilla = gorilla + kujira (whale)

    There you go, perfectly useless information, but interesting nonetheless! ;-)

    See Also:    Doraemon,   Aibo,   Tamagotchi

    Golden Pavillion    Kinkaku-ji
    goldenpavillion The history of Kinkaku or the Golden Pavilion began in 1397 when Ashikaga Yoshimitusu abdicated in favor of his son and began to build this villa as a retreat.

    The history of Kinkaku-ji pretty much ends when in 1950, when a novice monk, who apparently believed the aesthetic qualities of the pavilion detracted from religious concentration, burned it to the ground!

    Actual Pavillion, 2003 There are thousands, if not millions, of cliched photos of what is the most famous (and pictureesque) temple in all of Kyoto.

    This image will be familiar to anyone in Japan.    It may not be exactly what you find when you get there though. ;-)    World Heritage Site it may well be, but that requires a certain amount of maintainence..., when I visited this famed magnificent Golden Pavillion, this is what I saw. ;-(

    See Also:    Kyoto

    The Graying Of Japan
    Japan has the best life-expectancy in the world, but the birth rate drops year-by-year.    You do the math.

    Japan's population is gradually getting older, on average, and the major problems will come in the early years of this century, when the populous postwar generations start to turn 60.    With more pensioners and fewer workers, serious taxation and benefit questions arise.   On the other hand, it does mean good news for those facing into the Exam Wars.

    Traditionally the Japanese have celebrated long life and revered their elders.    Long life is especially celebrated on the 60th birthday, and again at ages 70, 77, 88, 90, 99 and 108.    However some are beginning to question this orthodox view, with the coming realisation of the burden old people may be for their families.    Check out short stories such as "The Hateful Age" (Iyagarase no Nenrei) by Niwa Fumio for more on this.

    See Also:    Exam Wars,   University

    Guest Relations Officer

    GRO is the euphemism used to describe the (mostly) Filipina women working in Soaplands, AVs and various other aspects of Japan's sex industries.    They describe themselves as "entertainers" or "escorts", but basically a GRO is little more than a common prostitute, and certainly not to be confused with the native Geisha.

    That being said, I don't mean to be critical.    If I was living in the Philipines, in poverty, and had the chance to make the equivalent of a year's wages in two weeks in Japan, well, what would I be prepared to do?    So I think you've gotta sympathise with the GROs, because of their economic dilemmas, but also because of how their lives develop in Japan.

    Often, to maintain a work visa, a GRO will marry a Japanese man.    Even if she is already married with kids back home.    Of course, the Japanese "husband" wants his conjugal rights, and the work of a GRO has its own complications, and so, often, the GRO ends up with Japanese children as well.    These kids aren't welcome in Japan, and so are shipped off home to the Philippines, or whereever, and raised by the GRO's mother, who is also raising the GRO's original kids.

    In many countries in South East Asia, emigrants remitances contribute a lot to the domestic economy, and the wages of the GROs are a large proportion of those remitances.

    Finally, please note that even if you are sympathetic to them, please think twice before approaching any Filipina woman in Japan.    Usually, that means only one thing...

    See Also:    AV,   Bukkake,   Cosplay,   Enjo Kosai,   Girl Hunter,   Hentai,   Kogal,   Naked Sushi,   Salaryman(6),   Soaplands,   Underwear

    Gyaku Nanpa
    Reverse Nanpa

    Nanpa refers to guys hitting on girls.   Reverse Nanpa is where girls hit on guys.    It happens, but for obvious reasons, it is far less common than regular nanpa.

    See Also:    Girl Hunter,   Hentai,   Nanpa

    gyaru slappers gyaru manga The "Gal" movement.

    Fashion-victim girls staggering around in towering, thick-healed boots, temptingly-tight ultra-short miniskirts, bleached blonde hair and bizzare make-up.

    One other odd thing about these girls is the number of them who seem to be bow-legged.    Maybe this is just my imagination, but a lot of them seem to walk strangely.    Two explanations have been proposed to me about this:

    1. That they, and many other Japanese women, tend to wear high-heels all the time.    Heels are easier to walk on if you place your weight on the outside of your foot.
    2. That the way Japanese girls sit down, keenling with their feet pressed under their hips, strains the legs somehow.

    Basically I don't have a clue about this alien world, but if you'd like to see for yourself, in Tokyo, head out to Harajuku at the weekend, and be prepared to feel underdressed.

    See Also:    Loose Socks

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