Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Girl I Didn't Know Who Knew Me

Yesterday, I was getting on the train. A young Japanese girl, who was no more than twenty, came up to me and started talking to me as if we were old friends. I had never seen her before... but apparently she knew me. She knew my name and that I lived in the city.

How could she know me?

This attractive girl, who was leaning in rather close to get under the rims of my glasses and take a peek at my blue eyes, who was she really?

We sat down together on the train and she pulled out a brand new iPhone. Having a little trouble with opening her apps I asked if I could help her. She said sure. I showed her how to do it, and she smiled, then opened up a file with some family photos.

Instantly I recognized her little brother. He is one of my junior high school students. Then she opened up another pic--her little sister--who is one of my elementary school students!

Ah, so this is how she knew me.

I got her name and we chatted for twenty minutes. She then got off at her destination and cheerfully walked a way. Her step had a bounce to it.

Laughing to myself, I realized, I used to be young like that. Now I am teaching the kids of my students who are in college already. Have I been in Japan that long?

Yes.

Today is my last day of classes. Tomorrow Sayaka, Solara, and I will get on the plane and head back to the U.S. for Christmas. It will be the first time home in over six years. I am greatly looking forward to it.

See you all soon!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jesus Clause & Santa Christ



Student: Did the baby Jesus grow up to be Santa Claus?


Me: Yeah, sounds about right.


True conversation I had yesterday with my second graders at Elementary school. They have no idea who Jesus is. And this was after a class where I explained who he was! I explained that Christians believe Jesus died and became God. One girl asked: What's a Christian? Yup. I love Japan!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The Art of Staring and Getting Caught Graceiously


My wife scolded me yesterday for being a pervert. Although this is largely true, I try not to make a public show of my perviness (pervy-ness?). Although, her best girlfriend finds my risque sense of humor downright hysterical, and so I sometimes tease her, using innuendo and double entendres (some of them fairly inventive--I think you'll find--considering I am making bi-lingual puns and the like).

Yet having spent over half a decade living in Japan, I have found that I have to vent my sexual energies somehow. Since we have had a child, there is no time at home for, well, naughty videos. Even "fun time" with the wife has been severely restricted--almost non-existent. That's married life with kids, I suppose.

So joking is one way to enjoy the risque and still be socially acceptable. However, Japan being the way it is, I constantly find myself facing what I (personally) find to be the most attractive women on the planet.

Of course my wife is the most beautiful woman I know, although I am sure my daughter will someday surpass even her mother's beauty, but in terms of general preference, I have a weak spot for beautiful Asian women. I mean, who doesn't?

Unlike many American women (and Western women in general), however, Japanese women are usually very slender, many of them petite, but hardly any of them obese. Even the plump girls are "fit" by American standards--and very rarely do you see anyone bloated up to whale size. In a city crowd of thousands of holiday shoppers, you can go an entire day without spotting a single obese person. Japan is one of the slimmest nations in the world--mainly due to a strict diet which consists mostly of fish, miso soup, and white rice. Genetics also plays a large part.

So I usually like to take the time to admire the myriad of types of faces--and shapes--of all the beautiful women with their alluring almond eyes and slender curves. Smiles with crooked teeth I tend to find adorable. Black hair, brown hair, or dark brown hair. Sometimes bleached and died. The differences are subtle. All of them have dark brown eyes--but the exact shade varies. I find women beautiful, so I watch them with interest. I am interested in their beauty. I don't think that's a crime. Just simple adoration. As my wife always reminds me, it's okay to look but not touch.

The train ride is perhaps the best way to sample the variety of feminine beauty. It ranges from mothers with small children to business women to high school girls maturing into women. It's all a gradient. There are different scales of beauty, different types, different classifications. None of them better or worse than the next, just different. Staring at women is like taking a long hard long appreciative look at art (of course this analogy isn't perfect. Certainly I am not implying that women are merely objects to be desired or objectified. I don't think that).

Perhaps the reason I am so drawn to feminine beauty is that nature made women so desirable. For the obvious set of reasons--I shouldn't need to spell it out--I hope. Acknowledging the fact that women have a power over the man's imagination, indeed a power over all of us--to acknowledge this feminine enchantment over our imaginations is a sign of maturity. To ignore it would be to naive. To attack it is lame. To distort it into something to be owned or possessed is sinister. Feminine beauty is like a glorious sunset--nobody can own it--be on possession of it--it's just a force of nature. It's out there--staring back out you--whether or not you take the time to truly appreciate it. Women, for me, are truly inspiring. They are the very embodiment of beauty, in my opinion. I'd rather look at a beautiful woman than a sunset, but then again, I'd rather look at her with the soft light of a sunset washing over her and enhancing her lush beauty with a thousand tints and hues as it amplifies every vivid detail of her appealing mystique.

Staring can put many people off. My rule of thumb is, if they appear like they don't appreciate the stare--I stop. I don't intend to make anyone uncomfortable. There is a difference between molesting someone with your eyes and mutual flirtatious glances. I try to respect a person's comfort zone--which also varies from person to person. The trick, I have found, is to make staring fun--not icky. Gauging your timing and paying attention to the behavior and temperament of the woman is key. Watch for markers, changes in body behavior, is she nervous, put off, engaged, even interested?

Having the only blue eyes homing in on a woman in a flood of brown eyes, I find, makes me the target of their stares as well. Partly because they are curious--a set of blue eyes is a rarity--to see it once after having grown up without ever having seen it can be quite an experience, I'd imagine. It is sometimes hard not to get locked into a gaze with a beautiful stranger--hypnotized by the exotic blue eyes staring back at her.

How one responds will determine whether or not the other person, a complete stranger, reacts to the act of staring. I usually hold the gaze, then right when I feel she will break away I smile, and this usually prompts a smile in return. She maintains the gaze longer than she would have if not for the pleasant smile disarming her fears. I have it down to an art. I can get nearly anyone to smile back at me. Some call it charisma. Perhaps it's simpler still. Either way, warmth from the smile is a sign of friendliness. It's the first step to showing that you're not a perverted stalker or serial killer. Also, it helps to have a nice smile. The smile is important. It washes away the fears and builds that instant rapport that is needed to make the stare mutual and not one sided.

Nobody likes to be stared at--but people often love to stare into each others eyes. But you have to know how to read people--and even then you can find someone on a particularly bad day who isn't in the mood for playing such games. Leave them alone--there are other fish in the sea.

Speaking of which.

Last month I got "Sharon Stoned" on the three thirty train ride home. I couldn't bring myself to tell anyone about it at the time, because I had no idea how to say in all seriousness that some pretty lady I don't even know pulled a Basic Instinct and flashed her furry kitty at me.


Suddenly you're wondering what the situation was.

Like everyday, I was just getting on the train after school, before the high school rush hits. I sat down across from a OL (office lady)--she's a regular commuter. I see her everyday. We dailies all have our preferred cars and seating arrangements. Predictable, I know. But it helps us keep the rhythm of our daily routines. We have often shared some glances with each other--but usually she wears a mask as not to catch anyone's cold (it's a Japanese thing) and I can only see her eyes. Although she wasn't wearing a mask this day, I noticed.

She was wearing her usual business attire, a short skirt-suit, with a white blouse top, and an open collar. Typical, sexy, Japanese business woman. She is a woman I have watched get on and off the train for several months, fairly attractive, but not glamorous. Young, probably in her mid to late twenties. She sometimes glances at me and catches me staring at her longer than I probably should be. Then I turn away. Sometimes I catch a smile on her face before I break eye contact.

Well, several weeks ago she came onto the train and sat down across from me. It was the early afternoon train so there was hardly anybody in the car.  She looks up, sees me, we exchange smiles--acknowledging that we recognize each other. Next she pulls out her mobile and begins texting someone. She crosses her legs to block the view going up her skirt (her awfully short and revealing skirt).

Without warning a large smile breaks out on her face, as if she just read something funny. Perfect teeth. Wasn't expecting that. Her neck runs down into the white triangle opening of her collar, then trails down into a crevice of cleavage cut off far too abruptly, the rest is left up to the imagination. Suddenly I am staring at her legs. I can't help but think they are dark--even for a Japanese woman. But they're naturally tan, not artificial. Dark skin is exotic. Alluring. As is the rest of her skin. Nobody else seems to be on the train, except for a couple of people in the far back, and here is this gorgeous lady I've seen a thousand times before sitting in front of me like any other day. She flashes a look to check if I am still watching her. Yup, caught.

I glance away but eventually my eyes wonder back up her legs. Her legs are smooth. She looks fit. Her fitness is part of what makes her so attractive, I think to myself. All the curves bending and flowing over her feminine form. All right where they ought to be. She laughs again at the email. Then looks up. I'm caught--again. This time I don't try to look away. She holds my gaze. Luckily, she doesn't seem bothered by the prolonged exchange.

Shifting in her seat she she arches her back and pushes out her chest, then uncrosses her legs, opens wide, and then crosses them again.

I blink hard.

My eyes become frozen, locked onto the slender line of her feminine legs running together up into the dark shade of her skirt. For a brief instant that shade lit up with light streaming down through the train window. My brain is still a little slow processing what it has just seen.

For a second I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. No, I tell myself, it couldn't be what I thought it was. She looks up at me. No smile, just checking to gauge my reaction. I was still frozen--in a daze--speechless. Without so much as a response she goes back to texting. Was it a conscious act, I wonder? Did she assume I just hadn't noticed? Needless to say, I had a little trouble figuring out what had just happened-- more importantly why it had happened.

Either she didn't care that I saw or she wanted me to see. But I saw it all--and it was beautiful.

A minute later we are at the next train stop. Her friends get on and sit down on either side of her. She is telling them something. They all laugh, and with flushed cheeks they all glance at me. Damn, caught again. I look away. Was I part of some kind of inside joke? I didn't know. I decide to stare out the window, even though it makes me slightly dizzy, for the remainder of the trip.

When they get off they look back at me and all three giggle, cheeks glowing bright pink, and then they're gone.

Two stops later I got off the train, and thought to myself, what the hell?

It's the third time I have been flashed like this during my time in Japan (I'm not joking). The prior two instances are nothing to write home about. Simply a case of high school girls gone wild--at least as wild as can be expected from Japanese school girls locked into rigid forms of social behavior. Just panty shots--use to provoke. Entice. Mess with the foreigner and get a rise out of him--see what his reaction will be. If I were fat or ugly they probably would ignore me altogether, but they're just playing.

This was the first time a real woman had flashed me. Still, I couldn't tell if it was intentional or not. She seems to like the attention my eyes give her. She sometimes glances at me to see if I am watching her when I'm gazing elsewhere. I catch her in the corner of my peripheral vision--only to then glance at her--baited, caught, and reeled in like a fish on a hook.

But what is a guy to do with all this pent up sexual frustration?

I will tell you what I do. I listen to my wife's advice. Look but don't touch.

It's sound advice, I think you'll agree.





Monday, November 07, 2011

Currently Reading



Just a heads up, this post is more about my personal life and less about anything religious in nature. If this is not your cup of tea, feel free to skip it. 

Usually I like to keep people posted on what I am reading, however, the past couple of months have been hectic as I have moved to a new city, had to find a new job, found one, then had to get accustomed to it. Luckily, the people that I work with at my new school are much more personable than at my last couple of schools. Also, I have access to the Internet unlike my old schools--which prohibited use of the Internet--because it was somehow "evil."

Well, they didn't just come out and say it. But many of the teachers were abusing it for, well, checking email, Facebook, and blogging. Even if it was related to school activities.

I once tried to convince my school to move the school newspaper to an online blog--where the students would have control of the publication and content. That didn't fly well--because then they'd need a teacher to teach them how to do all that stuff--you know--like posting articles online. I tried to explain that it was simple, sort of like writing an email, but then the idea fizzled out--because the Principle didn't want kids spending valuable class time writing emails. *Sigh. 

But what can you do when people just don't get it, moreover, refuse to get it even when it is drawn in easy to read crayon for them? Pretty colors and all. It's like trying to explain the benefits of the invention of the wheel to a dinosaur. They just won't care about your silly little donut-whole of a contraption--they're living in a different era on the space time continuum. But I was taking for granted that I am in Japan, surrounded by technology, and the fact that it's the 21st century. Living amongst the tech doesn't mean people are necessarily computer literate. Computers are a specialized form of tech. But oh well, like I said, not much I can do about it now. 

I am just glad the faculty at my new school is a bit younger--a lot of twenty and thirty year olds fresh out of college teaching their first, second, or third year. Most of them are with the times--and I finally have people my own age to talk to! It's great. 

But I digress. Enough about work. I enjoy my new school, my new location, and living in the city is great. For those that don't know--I live in Kumamoto, Japan. 

As for books, it has been slow reading as I have had to meet deadlines as I try to finish editing my short novella series called The Scarecrow and Lady Kingston

I am currently finishing the fifth short story, prepping the third and forth ones for publication, and plotting the finale. Meanwhile, I began my first foray in the genera of horror, thriller, survival type stories. Yeah, it may sound cliche, but I thought I would take a stab at writing my first zombie story. It's still in the first stages, but I can tell you this much--it will be called Bitten: A Resurrection Thriller

When I do get time to read, that is when I am not writing a book or a blog, I have been working my way through the lectures and interviews of Robert G. Ingersoll, which I am almost done with. One might find it hard to match such a great mind as Ingersoll's, and they would be right, so it was sort of difficult to select my next read. 

Happily, however, I discovered a decent Kindle edition of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, also known as the Emperor Philosopher of Rome, and I am already making my way into his philosophical mindset. He was of the Stoic school, a non-superstitious, non-believer, and his humanistic insights into the world are quite moving and inspirational. 

To balance the philosophy side of things I downloaded Lisa Randall's new book Knocking on Heaven's Door, which is a comprehensive overview of the most up to date physics, theories, and concepts in science. It also is a discussion on how science, and scientific thinking, benefits us in our daily life--and I highly recommend this book.









Sunday, October 23, 2011

Useful ESL Resources

In preparation for the Kenshukai (Education Research seminar) later this year, I have collected together a few of the beneficial ESL websites I frequently utilize.


Nearly all of these websites focus on ESL learning and together form a useful database for English materials, such as flash cards, word puzzles, worksheets, and English based activities and games ready made for your convenience.


The reason I am posting this information on this blog, is because I may need to reference these sites at a later date, and I thought it would be nice to be able to do it from my smart phone in real time instead of having to save files onto a SD card and try and transfer them manually, which can be a pain. Also, I can direct others to this post which may help them build their own data base of English teaching materials.


1. Eigo Note Blog (www.eigonoteblog.com)


2. Eigo Noto (www.eigo-noto.com)


3. Boggles World ESL (www.bogglesworldesl.com)


4. A4 ESL (http://a4esl.org/)


5. ESL HQ (www.eslHQ.com)


6. Eigo Batake (http://eigobatake.x0.com/)


7. MES English (www.mes-english.com/games.php)


8. Genki English (http://genkienglish.net/)


9. Matsuka Phonics (http://www.mpi-j.co.jp/)


10. Dave's ESL Cafe (www.eslcafe.com)


11. My Vocabulary.com (www.myvocabulary.com)


12. Livewire Puzzles (www.puzzles.ca/)

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Scarecrow & Lady Kignston: Escort Escapades



As many of you know, I love to write, and as such, I write, write, and write some more. Some might even call me a writer.

The second installment of The Scarecrow & Lady Kingston, Escort Escapades, is now available for Kindle and Kindle Fire on Amazon.com!



Here is the summary of the plot, which continues after the events of part one.


A strange assassin prowls the streets of L.A. A well known adult entertainment actress becomes collateral damage in a corrupted Senator's night life, and once again Julie finds herself involuntarily connected to the bizarre events. The FBI butts into Detective Julie Kingston's affairs causing her to be more ill tempered than ever. Meanwhile, her vulpine rival, the starlet Kateland Ramese Beckensale, gets tangled up in the whole mess when she becomes the assassin’s next target. To make matters worse, Julie gets stuck in the middle of having to dismantle a bomb set to detonate in downtown L.A.


Scarecrow, with time running out, tirelessly works to piece together the puzzle of seemingly unrelated events—and save his partner—but will he solve the mystery before it's too late?


The Scarecrow & Lady Kingston: Escort Escapades is approximately 15,000 words long. Warning: contains sexual references, action based violence, and some offensive language. Recommended for mature audiences.


This novella makes for a great gift for oneself--especially if you like action/adventure, mystery, suspense, comedy. Be sure and check it out!


P.S.
The wycked cover art was provided by my long time friend Sedat Oezgen.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kumamoto: Solara: October Updates!


 A gorgeous setting Japanese sun. I took this shot on me cell out in the Amakusa bay.


 A gorgeous little girl picking "cosmos" flowers.


Sunset over the JR line. Taken at Kumamoto station on my cell phone.


Another angle at the station. My late night commute.


Dad and his lovely little princess. We went to Moenosato park near Mt. Aso. We spent all day there. It was so much fun.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Earthquake (Level 5!) Kumamoto

On Thursday this past week (Oct. 6) at 11:33 in the evening Kumamoto was rocked by a level 5 earthquake. The good news is that TKU and RKK news networks have reported that nobody was seriously injured.


It was the first level 5-upper JMA seismic intensity level earthquake to ever hit Kumamoto.

Other than my wife getting spooked and bundling up the baby in a big soft blanket and pacing the hallway waiting for aftershocks, which luckily never came, everyone at the house is fine.



Thursday, October 06, 2011

Phonics Mother Frackers! Phonics!


Japanese teachers of English (JTEs) usually get flustered if you, the eager assistant language teacher (ALT), exuberant to extol supreme English knowledge to your non-native speakers of English as a second language (ESL) students does something insane... like... teach them a new word... in English.

Immediately protests are mounted. The teacher complains, "But it's too difficult!"

"What the frack?" thinks the ALT. "All I did was teach them the word *moon*. What's the big deal?"

"That word isn't in their vocabulary list," informs the JTE. "They won't learn it until next year."

English learning suddenly comes to a halt.

You would be surprised at how often this form of protest is levied against the poor ALT who can't understand what their job is supposed to be. After all, here is the ALT thinking they were hired to help assist English learning--by using their native English speaking powers--like a master Language Jedi--to transform their students into masterful English users.

Instead, the ALT is lectured to, usually in front of the class, that English is "just too hard" for the students. It makes one wonder how well this bit of reverse psychology motivates the students to learn English? The students probably only hear, "You all suck at English! Don't even bother."

The average Japanese person, stuck on a small island, where everyone looks the same, it taught to think and behave in the same manner, and where they are constantly told that English is just too difficult for them--they grow up thinking, "Heck, this English is just too hard. It's not for me."

Not exactly a great way to excite Japanese students and ignite their passion for English.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Riding the JR Line


My new job is an hour and a half train ride out of town. By car that's roughly a two hour drive with the traffic. Now you know why I've entered the world of train culture. Trains are much faster and many times safer than driving.

Japan is infamous for timely trains. Two minutes late and everyone on the platform starts checking their watches and smart phones. Four minutes late and the control room is sending out apologies then announcements stating that the train shall arrive shortly. And you know what? It always does!

I've never seen a late train in the sense that it didn't arrive on schedule. Personally, the latest I've seen was around five minutes late. Only in the case of random freak accidents does a Japanese train not make it to it's destination on time. Usually suicide jumpers flinging themselves in front of a speeding locomotive. But if it wasn't for suicidal folks completely inconsiderate of the time schedule, the trains in Japan would probably never be all that terribly late. All in all, I must say, that it is pretty darn impressive.

So here is a breakdown of my daily commute.

5:00 AM ... Wake up.
6:10 AM ... Ride bike to tram line.
6:45 AM ... Switch from tram to JR line.
7:00 AM ... Switch trains at main station. Buy breakfast.
7:24 AM ... Ride train to destination.
7:50 AM ... Arrival.

My breakfast usually consists of a coffee with a freshly baked panini. Now, I am a little behind on the times, because this was the first time I have discover the wonderfulness that is panini. The way the bakery at Kumamoto station makes paninis is splendid. They slice a small cut into a thin loaf, then put on all the toppings, seal back up the loaf, and throw the whole thing into the large oven.  The oven looks like a pizza ovens. Then after a minute, they pull it out, and presto--a panini!

I prefer the bacon, lettuce, tomato with cheese panini. The cheese melts inside, and it is truly scrumptious!


After that I head to school. Actually, I work at three schools. Two elementary schools and one junior high school. The transition from my old job, where I had taught at three different junior high schools and ten elementary schools, was fairly smooth.

The new faculty and staff, teachers and students, all gave me a warm welcome. Usually, when starting at a new school, it takes a few weeks for everyone to warm up to you. Especially the students. But this time, for some reason, it was completely different. The students keep asking what day I will come, and one of my junior high school 3rd graders (equivalent of a freshman in American high school) stated, "What days do you come to school? We always have more fun when you're here."

I'm glad they are having so much fun. Although, all I have really had time to do is chat with them in the hallways between classes. During class, Bikkuri Vick takes over, the crazy wild teacher--and goes wild teaching English. Gets the children motivated. My philosophy is, you have to raise you energy level to theirs, or at least the excitement of learning, if you want them to absorb what you're teaching. Also, when teaching ESL I have found that it really helps to be animated--the larger the gesture or expression is, the more likely they will be to make the correlations between the vocabulary and the action.


After a hard day of work, Bikkuri Vick often likes to stop for a drink. Of course, the preferred beverage is Bikkle. Why Bikkle? Because Bikkuri Vick likes to drink Bikkle.

Actually, you wouldn't know it by reading the English, but this is an inside joke with my students. In Japanese, there is no sound for the letter "V" so inevitably it becomes the letter "B." As such, the sentence, said in Katakana sounding English, becomes an extra humorous rhyme in Japanese.

"Bikkuri Bikku laikusu tsu dorinku Bikkeru."

Yes, I do. I do like to drink Bikkle.

After a nice refreshing drink, to cool off and regain my sugar levels, I walk ten minutes back to the station, and repeat my train hopping all the way home. I usually get home around 6:30 PM. Well, that's my daily routine involving riding the JR line! Busy, busy, busy.


P.S. This is the bike which gets me around. Notice the Bikkle along with the bento in the back of the bike.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Updates: More Japan Coming Soon!


More updates coming soon. I've been busy taking photos of my new town, job, and schools. It will take a few more days before I can blog about everything happening as of recent. Until then, as you can see, I picked up a little something something.

Peace!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Image of Youth: Japan’s Age Old Obsession

The Image of Youth: Japan’s Age Old Obsession

[Disclaimer: I am currently researching this issue to better understand a common tendency I have noticed while living in Japan for older men to have a strange sexual fascination, if not borderline obsession, with adolescent pop idols and young girls in general.]


Are Girl Bands and Gravure Idols an Extension of Pedophila?
In Japan, music groups like AKB48 are hugely popular. These girl bands often contain anywhere from three to two dozen members, all of them teenage girls, usually around fourteen to fifteen years old. In the case of AKB48 there are a total of 60 members (AKB48 currently holds the Guinness World Record for being the world’s largest pop group).[i][ii] This makes girl groups like AKB48, or Idoling, Girls Generation, Kara, etc. extremely popular with the younger crowds (especially my junior high school students). But here in Japan, such groups usually have a large following of older males as well. The men are typically in their mid thirties and early forties. In fact, AKB48 has done several concerts catering entirely to this unique demographic. It is a strange thing to turn on the television and see an entire crowd of middle-aged men holding up their cell phones and taking pictures of underage girls wearing short mini-skirts. However, such a practice is common place in Japan. The gravure idol industry specializes and excels at exploiting the sexual attractiveness of these young women and many more like them.[iii]

You will often hear stories of teachers marrying students in Japan. For a long time I thought this was just a theme found in Japanese animation, called anime, but having spent half a decade in Japan I have heard of two such cases. When I first came to Japan, the first school I worked at was going through a difficult time, as the school counselor (a man) had just been fired for getting caught taking pictures up the skirts of junior high school girls with a secret camera in his shoe. A year later an elementary school teacher I worked with had to be shamed when her husband, who worked in the school district over, was caught with child pornography in his school work locker.

Having spent so much time in Japan, I have formulated various reasons which help explain such tendencies for men to prefer younger women. Japanese culture is just generally obsessed with youth. The entertainment industry is obsessed with the image of youth. Needless to say, the two obsessions feed each other. In fact, the obsession seems to be so ingrained into the society as a whole that hiring practices for jobs often reflect a tendency to hire young beautiful Japanese girls over higher educated men and women.[iv]

Even so, the Japanese obsession with adolescent youth is so prevalent, that you can’t help but notice it. In fact, it is nowhere more prevalent than in the manga industry (i.e., Japanese comic books). Manga aimed at adult audiences frequently depicts extreme hardcore sex with girls which are drawn to look adolescent, or often times, are adolescents in the stories. In fact, the depiction of young girls in sexual graphic manga was so prevalent that Tokyo Gov Shintaro Ishihara passed Bill 156 which seeks to regulate manga that “unreasonably praises or exaggerates” the extreme sexual depictions of minors.[v]


Even so, the idol industry and publishing industry are only banking on that which is profitable to market—sex—or the idea of sex anyway. A friend of mine at university was obsessed with finding out why Japans idol fascination was so strong, his conclusion made sense. After several years of research, he concluded that modern day idols are filling an entertainment void left open after the decline of working Geisha. Many geisha begin their apprenticeship as underage girls, called hangyoku and many of these girls would start as young as nine years old, before child labor laws were passed prohibiting the work of minors. In her final stage of geisha training a young girl becomes a maiko, and works as an apprentice until she acquires all the skills of a professional geisha.

In Japan, the biggest industry has always been entertainment. According to Wikipedia:

“The biggest industry in Japan is not shipbuilding, producing cultured pearls, or manufacturing transistor radios or cameras. It is entertainment.”[38] The term geisha literally translates to mean “entertainer.” Some prostitutes refer to themselves as “geisha,” but they are not. A geisha's sex and love life is usually distinct from her professional life. A successful geisha can entrance her male customers with music, dance, and conversation. “Geishas are not submissive and subservient, but in fact they are some of the most financially and emotionally successful and strongest women in Japan, and traditionally have been so.”[26]

My friend’s theory was that with the decline of young female entertainers during the war era and Japan’s reconstruction, the need for such entertainment returned with a boom during the baby boom era, of young Japanese professionals more hungry for entertainment than ever. Thus Japanese idol culture was born.

Now that is the simple version of what I think is a much more complicated cultural phenomenon, but what is interesting to me is the continued obsession with youth. The question I would want to ask is, is it merely cultural? Or is something else at play? Why is it considered alright to idolize scantily clad teenage adolescents beyond just their entertainment value? In other words, I am interested in whether or not girl bands and gravure idols (and perhaps AV idols as well) are merely cultural, or perhaps, can be explained as an extension of paraphilia, such as pedophilia and the sexual preference for adolescent girls.

It would make sense to me, that in a non-Christian influenced country, such as Japan, that pedophilia would not be so well hidden from sight. Maybe what we are seeing is the general tendency for a natural occurring pedophilia in Japanese culture, where it is considered normal to have such preferences. Maybe such transparency in a culture is healthier than trying to cover it up, as which seems to be the case within many religious organizations. All these are questions which, I feel, deserve further investigation and consideration.

Yet as I thought about it, I realized I really didn’t know or understand what pedophilia is, other than the pejorative term for a child rapist. As such, I couldn’t really say whether or not what I see going on in Japan is related to pedophilia or is something else entirely. So I decided to investigate.


What is Pedophilia?
Even as the notion of pedophilia is controversial in most every civilized society, we cannot just write it off as a mental illness. It seems to me that pedophilia may prove to be more than just sick perverts getting off to images of child porn and molesting small children.

Don’t misunderstand me, I still believe pedophilia is morally reprehensible when acted upon. In fact, I agree with pedophilia being classified as a mental disorder for those who follow up on the urges. According to the International Classification of Disease, pedophilia is a “disorder of adult personality and behavior” in which there is a sexual preference for prepubescent children, or of pubertal aged children.[vi] The problem is, however, it might not actually be a mental disorder, which would cause us to seriously rethink how we classify and address pedophilia in modern society.

Likewise, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classifies pedophilia as a paraphilia in which a person has intense and recurrent sexual urges towards and fantasies about prepubescent children and on which feelings they have either acted on or which cause distress or interpersonal difficulty.[vii]

Paraphilia simply means unusual sexual interests. American Journal of Psychiatry describes paraphilia as "recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors" generally involving:

  1. Non-human objects
  2. The suffering or humiliation of oneself or one's partner
  3. Children
  4. Non-consenting persons

Homosexuality was included on the list until 1973.

Needless to say the view of paraphilias as disorders is not universal. For example, while pedophilia is considered a mental disorder, the closely related hebephilia (sexual preference for adolescents typically 11-14 years of age) and ephebophilia (sexual preference for later adolescents typically 15-19 years of age) are not. Obviously, with the latter one, ephebophilia, in many countries and cultures where girls are considered legal consenting adults from 16 to 19 years of age there is no ethical dilemma. Of course the exact age varies from culture to culture, and the dilemma only arises depending on what age we designate as a legal consenting adult, but it is important to realize that in most cases the defining line is drawn at puberty.

Some professionals, such as Charles Allen Moser, have suggested that paraphilia should be eliminated from diagnostic manuals as strange sexual preferences are not always bad or illegal. Nonetheless, the psychiatrist Glen Gabbard has noted that “the term paraphilia remains a pejorative in most circumstances.”[viii]

This is certainly true when we equate pedophiles with corrupt, insane, child rapists. Yet medical professionals still seek to understand the reasons for strange sexual urges. Many assume that pedophilia may have a genetic basis, as does homosexuality, which causes a person to automatically have a sexual preference for adolescent age groups. Although any direct biological associations are still being investigated. However, according to a recent study (2008) it seems that with pedophilia, and other paraphilias, the study suggests these may be “a dysfunction at the cognitive stage of sexual arousal processing.”[ix]

What this means is pedophilia may not be a psychological disorder but a brain disorder.

Additionally, if this proves to be true, then pedophiles are the victims of a life crippling disability. However, more research needs to be done before we start defending pedophiles, but if it turns out there is a genetic and biological relationship to the cause of such paraphilias, then pedophilia would no longer be classified as a mental disease or psychiatric disorder but would be something similar to sexual orientation, in this case, sexual preference for adolescents.

I suppose we must be careful not to equate homosexuality, which is a sexual orientation, with sexual preference, as the two are not entirely mutual. If pedophilia turns out to have a genetic or biological cause, then it would be just as valid, if not more accurate, to equate pedophilia with genetic obesity. Homosexuality in itself, is not unhealthy or dangerous. Obesity, on the other hand, is extremely dangerous for an individual’s health. If pedophilia has a biological explanation, then I would see it equating more along the lines of something like genetic obesity, something which is adversely affecting the individual, and which may have social and cultural implications.

However, pedophilia, unlike obesity, becomes a legal issue because there is the concern of protecting the well-being and rights of adolescent children. As most pedophiles prey on children, who are not mentally mature enough to deal with complex social relationships let alone sex, it becomes and imperative to protect the children from the acts of pedophile predators.

Needless to say, I think we must continue investigating the cause for pedophilia and the sexual preference for prepubescent teens. The sooner we can understand it, the sooner we can take action in learning how to deal with it, and hopefully learn to better safeguard our children—regardless of which country or culture we live.


Conclusion
Pedophilia proves to be more complicated an issue than I initially thought. This makes pronouncing any set conclusion rather difficult. All I can give you is my opinion on what I think may be happening, based on personal experience and research, but I can’t say whether or not an obsession with girl bands, gravure idols, and the image of youth in general is related to pedophilia or not. Much more research needs to be done first.

In the end, however, I suppose it comes down to figuring out whether or not the cultural tendencies for our sexual preference denote a biological predisposition or a cultural one, or perhaps a little of both, and then determining where we draw the line. For example, with regard to Japanese girl bands and gravure idols, we might ask, although it is illegal to have sex with those who are still minors (under 16 years of age in Japan), does this make the sexual desire to want to have sex with them abnormal, or would this merely reflect a naturally occurring sexual preference? We might ask whether or not there are cultural biases and other external factors we haven’t accounted for, such as stigma against such behavior or the sponsoring of it. When I see a girl band consisting mostly of adolescent girls, dressed down into nothing but their underwear and posing provocatively, is this ad supposed to elicit a sexual response? Am I supposed to be attracted to these teenagers? Or is the media’s sexploitation so out of control that it is sending the wrong messages? Additionally, we must consider whether or not is it designed to exploit an inherent sexual preference in us for prepubescent teen girls, and if so, what are the moral implications of such advertising? All these questions (and more) need to be addressed, but I am afraid further research must be done first. As it is, I wouldn’t rule out Japan’s obsession with girl bands, gravure idols, and the like as an extension of pedophilia. It seems a real possibility, but I don’t want to jump to any conclusions.




[i]  "Guinness Worlds Records - Largest pop group". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 2011-6-29.
[ii] "AKB48 is officially the world's biggest group". 2010-11-15. Retrieved 2011-06-29.
[iii] Just check out this website Idolex, an online gravure idol index, to see what I mean about the sexploitation of young women so prevalent in the entertainment industry. (Warning: some nude and semi-nude images—viewer disgression is adviced). http://www.idolex.com/
[iv] “Are People hired based on their looks?”Available online: http://injapan.gaijinpot.com/2011/06/17/are-people-hired-based-on-their-looks/
[v] “Ishihara ordinance adamant on Manga Censorship.” Available online: http://injapan.gaijinpot.com/2011/06/21/ishihara-adamant-on-manga-censorship-ordinance/
[vi] World Health Organization,International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems: ICD-10 Section F65.4: Paedophilia (online access via ICD-10 site map table of contents)
[vii] Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders DSM-IV TR (Text revision) . Arlington, VA, USA: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc. .. 2000-06. p. 943. doi :10.1176/appi.books.9780890423349 . ISBN 978-0890420249 .
[viii] Gabbard GO (2007). Gabbard's Treatments of Psychiatric Disorders. American Psychiatric Press. ISBN 9781585622160
[ix] Schiffer B, Paul T, Gizewski E, et al. (May 2008). "Functional brain correlates of heterosexual paedophilia". Neuroimage 41(1): 80–91.doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2008.02.008.PMID 18358744

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sayonara Sera!


July 31st was officially my last day working and living in Sera, Hiroshima, Japan. After five years teaching in Sera Town with the Sera Town Board of Education at three junior high schools and ten elementary schools, including a city sponsored adult language class every Tuesday night, I made many good friends. Among my closest friends were some of my ex-students, who I continued to stay in contact with after they had graduated JHS.

Imagine my surprise, when on the very last day, I was taking a load of trash out to the garbage bin area when two of my favorite past students, now finishing their second year of high school, came strolling up to me at 7:30 am in the morning. They quickly informed me that another one of my favorite past students would be joining them shortly.

A few minutes later the final girl showed up, and I gave them all some tea. They chatted with me for almost two full hours, and let me know how much they appreciated me as their Sensei. They informed me that I was the best English teacher they ever had, and that by helping them with speech contests, eiken tests, and club activities over the years, that they felt close to me, as if I was their big brother.

I felt extremely overjoyed by their surprise visit, and tears were welling up in all of our eyes as they left on the long walk to high school. From my old apartment it takes about 45 minutes by foot to get to the high school.


I will miss each and every one of my students dearly, but these three (including a fourth who was unable to make it) I will miss most of all. I watched them grow from elementary students to young ladies, and it was an honor and a pleasure getting to know them.


Another set of lovely and wonderful ladies we will dearly miss are the mothers of Sayaka and Solara's Mama-Tomo group. Mama-Tomo is short for Mama Tomodachi group. They were not only extremely supportive, and caring, but since all of their children were roughly Solara's age, she had many good play friends.

Often times the Mama-Tomo group met up on weekends and we would have fun adventures going fruit picking, including strawberries, plums, and nashi (Japanese pears). They all partook in the local events, and we all went to see the famous children's show Inai-Inai-Ba! live when it came through town and the beloved character Wan-Wan the green dancing dog!  Wan-Wan jumped off the stage, ran up to me, the one foreigner in the front row, and shook my hand and said to me, "Taihen desu ne, Pappa!"

On our last official day in Sera, the Mama-Tomo group showed up, unexpectedly, and took Solara with them and babysat her for the full day allowing Sayaka, myself, and our dear friend Tani-san to have time to thoroughly clean the apartment. Nagamori-san even came down from upstairs to help us, even though she had just had her second baby a couple months earlier, she was working just as hard as any of us. I can't even begin to express my gratitude for all the help we received.

We'll never forget any of you!


Over the years living in Japan, I became close friends with the local high school ALT, Arend Sijnja (aka the Sardine Ninja). Of all the foreigners on JET Programme,  he was the only one I related to on a person to person level. I'm sure there are other fine JETs on the programme that I would have liked to get to know better than I just didn't have time to (Dan, Ryan, and Luc come to mind), but Arend and I hit it off. Not right away of course. I don't think we even talked the full first year in Sera, but gradually, via bus rides and hanging out in Hiroshima City during orientations and mid-year conferences, we got to know each other. Our friendship blossomed, and we began hanging out in Sera more often, spending time watching movies, talking about Japanese culture, and sharing our experiences, feelings, and hopes and dreams with each other. More than this, however, we could be ourselves. We didn't need to "act Japanese" but we could just be who we are--and that was liberating--just to have someone who you could open up to and share with, who would understand you, and give you feedback.

Arend is definitely one of the closest friends I have, and I will make a valiant effort to keep in touch with him, as he has returned to New Zealand.


Many of my funnest memories are with the adult students from my Eikawa (English conversation) class. Kumiko Inuoe (top left) was like a host mother to me, and threw some amazing Christmas and Halloween parties. Fujimoto-san helped me a lot before I left Sera, as did Ishibashi-san and others at the Board of Education. They're care and guidance will be missed. None will be missed more than Yasuo Izzuka, my first supervisors, and one of the nicest, dedicated, and most hard working man I have ever met. Izzuka helped me with everything from setting up bank accounts, to getting Internet installed, to helping me buy my first car in Japan. His hard work and dedication are only matched by the bigness of his heart.

Oda-san, a salesman at Honda who, along with Izzuka, helped me get my car, will be missed as well. He was like my host father, so to speak, and always made us welcome in his home. We spent many a fun barbeque over at his place shooting the breeze and relaxing. Likewise, Mr. Utsumi, the bona fide master chef at Kaizumi, will be missed. Every dish he makes, every morsel of food he touches with his magic hands, turns out heavenly. His hospitality and his going out of the way to make us the best atmosphere in any restaurant ever--made us enjoy eating at Kaizumi more than any other restaurant in Japan. Not only that, but his food is unbelievably good--I'm talking $150 plate delectable. The only reason we could even afford to eat his cooking, is because of his passion for it, and his desire to share how amazing food can truly be with everyone--no matter their budget.


Although I will miss teaching at my schools, and miss the teachers and students alike, I will especially miss the students and faculty of Sera Nishi Junior High School. Due to the schools small size, everyone you see in the above picture is it, we became close knit--and students and teachers no longer seems like pupils and co-workers, but rather, sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters.

After an amazing send off, I kept my nerve the whole day, accepting gifts along with intimate hugs and goodbyes. One of my English teachers broke down in tears, saying she'd miss me horribly, and I didn't even know I had made that big of an impact. I stayed cheerful, even as there were so many eyes brimming with tears, but I kept it together--that is until I packed up the final box of my things into the car and started driving away. Sobs and tears unexpectedly broke out, as I broke down in the car. Five years is a long time, especially when you feel so close to such a tight community of parents, teachers, and their children--it felt like I was being torn away from my family.


I will hold dear the memories of the people I met at Sera Nishi, the times we shared running marathons in the blizzard in the middle of winter, whether it was arm wrestling in class, or answering the often personal questions by my curious students, or just handing out with the students on a hot summer day--lounging around on the high jump pads, and watching Japanese anime on my laptop with the students. Everyone at Sera Nishi Junior High School impacted my life, and I hope, that maybe, I impacted theirs too.


So with fond memories, and a heavy heart, know that I love you all--and will miss you more than mere words can reflect.

Sayonara Sera!