Japan: Are you a man or a woman?

Me: Me?

Japan: Yeah, i never know exactly who i’m talking to. You’re just called, “Me”.

Me: Well, that’s who i am. Does it make a difference?

Japan: Well, yeah, i mean, it might change how i talk to you.

Me: So, you’d treat me differently if i was a woman?

Japan: Well, yeah, i guess.

Me: So, for example, if i was a woman you might objectify and fetishise me in ways you very rarely do with men? Would you treat me more as some kind of cute, smiley decorative thing to be viewed and admired physically rather than mentally.

Japan: Erm…maybe?

Me: Isn’t that a bit, well, sexist?

Japan: Sexist? No, no, no. It might be a bit unfair though.

Me: Unfair?

Japan: Yeah.

Me: But not sexist?

Japan: Right.

Me: What about the social stereotype that your men don’t want a woman who has a bigger brain or pay cheque than himself so his ego can remain firmly intact?

Japan: That’s a bit silly isn’t it? Unfair really.

Me: But not sexist?

Japan: No, no, no. Not sexist.

Me: And what do you think about the women who are in their 30s who are referred to as “Christmas Cakes” because they’re passed their “use by date” and nobody wants one anymore?

Japan: Also unfair. Childish really.

Me: But not sexist?

Japan: No, no, no. Not sexist.

Me: Do you have an opinion on the blurred, legal, illegal interpretation of prostitution laws? And hostess bars? And armfuls of pornography available in the convenience stores?

Japan: Erm, well, i guess it’s all good fun for the fellas.

Me: And for the other half of the population?

Japan: Yeah, it is a bit unfair isn’t it? Exploitative even.

Me: But not sexist?

Japan: No, no, no. Not sexist.

Me: And did you hear about the diplomatically retarded governor of Osaka who said that female sex slaves were “necessary” in World War Two so men could “maintain discipline” and “get some rest”?

Japan: Yeah, that was a surprisingly, ignorant and stupid and thing to say.

Me: But not sexist?

Japan: No, no, no. Not sexist.

Me: And the almost complete absence of women in politics?

Japan: It’s, yeah, regrettable.

Me: What do you make of the Gender Gap Report 2012 that ranked Japan at 101st place; lower than Bangladesh and Tajikistan?

Japan: That’s slightly unfortunate. Definite room for improvement there.

Me: And the fact that such reports never seem to get that much oxygen and daylight in the media because most of your news editors are, well, men?

Japan: Seems a touch unprofessional. Unfair really.

Me: But not sexist.

Japan: No, no, no. Not sexist.

Me: What do you think of the social stigma attached to working mothers that limits family choices and forces people to quit careers at companies that provide little or no childcare or maternity leave even though your working population is shrinking and the IMF stated just this year that “low female labour force participation represents a significant missed opportunity to strengthen economic development and growth in many countries”? All the while you seem to be happy to continue with the stereotype of women as being child rearing, kitchen dwellers.

Japan: It’s a bit outdated, isn’t it? Old fashioned.

Me: But not sexist?

Japan: No, no, no. Look all these issues you’ve brought up here are very important but they don’t have anything to do with gender or equality.

Me: Don’t they?

Japan: No, no. The issue here is whether you’re unlucky enough to be born female.

Me: And if you are?

Japan: Well, let me just say right now that being born female is definitely not sexist.

Me: Erm…okay…But it might be a slight disadvantage as far as you’re concerned?

Japan: Possibly, yes.

Me: A hindrance?

Japan: At times, maybe.

Me: Unfair even?

Japan: Right.

Me: But it’s not sexist?

Japan: Absolutely not.

Me: OK. Well, thanks for clearing that up.

Japan: No problem.


May 27, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.


Me: I went to an onsen the other week.

Japan: Really? What did you think?

Me: It was nice. Very nice.

Japan: Good. I think everybody enjoys a communal bath with old people in searing hot volcanic mineral rich water amongst tectonically active mountain ranges don’t they?

Me: It might be best not to word it like that in your tourist information. Anyway, i have a few questions.

Japan: When don’t you?

Me: Is there a particular reason why it’s communal? It doesn’t really fit with your conservative stereotype.

Japan: Well, it’s old and traditional. Plus, it’s volcanically heated water so they have to be on the large size. You can’t really expect to go in one at a time can you? And anyway, it’s not really communal. There’s a male and female section. Don’t confuse me for one of those weird liberal Scandinavians.

Me: OK. People seem to like striking up conversations in the onsen too.

Japan: Yeah, why not?

Me: That seems a little odd.

Japan: Why?

Me: Well, on the train out of the city nobody was talking to each other. When i had lunch nobody said hello. When i went to the onsen changing room nobody really acknowledged my existence. I got cleaned and scrubbed at the nice sit-down showers you have and the silence continued. It wasn’t until i plopped my naked self down into a massive hot bath that an exchange of nods led quite quickly into a conversation with a wrinkly old man about his honeymoon in New York decades before and his advice on what i should eat for dinner.

Japan: There are two places where it’s ok to talk to strangers.

Me: Where?

Japan: When hiking halfway up a mountain and when naked in a volcanic bath.

Me: Why?

Japan: I don’t know. People are weird? Cities are impersonal? Infrastructure evolves faster than brains?

Me: And you’re not allowed into the onsen if you have tattoos, right?

Japan: That’s right.

Me: Why?

Japan: Because only criminals have tattoos. The Yakuza always have them. Dangerous, dangerous people.

Me: Hmm. And how do you make sure that tattooed people don’t enter?

Japan: Well, you put up a sign saying “No tattoos”. Or you just ask people.

Me: You just ask? And then what? They say, “no”?

Japan: Erm, yeah.

Me: That’s not really a full proof way of finding tattooed dangerous, dangerous people is it?

Japan: Well, no, but what can i do? I can’t strip people naked in the lobby and inspect every inch of skin can i?

Me: I guess that would make things a little less relaxing. Another thing?

Japan: Yeah?

Me: While i was sat in this bath, randomly chatting nakedly to old men about the success of the London Olympics, an old woman came into this big shower bath room place that was filled with naked men and started cleaning stuff up.

Japan: OK…and?

Me: Well, is that normal?

Japan: Normal? Old women cleaning? Yeah, of course it’s normal. That’s what old women do. They seem to love it. It’s one of their major plus points and a big reason why i’m so neat and tidy. I’ve got loads of old women.

Me: So many that it’s fine for them to clean the onsen when it’s full of naked men?

Japan: Well, yeah, who else is going to do it? Who else is going to be totally unmoved by the site of a naked man than an old woman? Anyway, why all the questions about this? Don’t you have onsens in your country?

Me: It’s a bit difficult to have communal volcanic baths where i’m from.

Japan: Why?

Me: There’s a complete absence of volcanicness.

Japan: Ah.

Me: Plus there’s probably a lack of healthy old women who would voluntarily clean them when full of bathing men.

Japan: Oh.

Me: Also the culture doesn’t really have a long happy history of getting naked together.

Japan: I see.

Me: And the baths that people have in their homes can actually fit a fully grown human in comfort without resulting in leg contortion and/or back pain…unlike yours.

Japan: Really?

Me: Yeah. You can lie down and stretch your legs out in my country’s baths. It’s great. Your baths are tiny. Really uncomfortable.

Japan: Well of course.

Me: What?

Japan: Well, if you didn’t have any back pain then you wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate the onsen, would you?

Me: But if you had…doesn’t matter. Onsens are nice. And bit odd.

Japan: Thanks. I think.

May 15, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.