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On Monday I had coffee with a girl named
Sato. She contacted me because she saw an
ad that I put in a local magazine. I was
looking for a language exchange partner in
the Shibuya area where I work. A lot of people
wrote to me, but it turns out that she already
knew who I was through Hunkabutta. She told
me that she and her Canadian boyfriend were
both big fans.
I arranged to meet her at the dog statue
called Hachiko in front of Shibuya Station
at one o'clock, it's a very popular meeting
spot. Do you know what she did while I was
standing there waiting for her? She secretly
took my picture! Can you believe that!?!
After all of the hundreds and hundreds of
covert pictures of people that I've taken
here in Tokyo, she was the first person to
ever take one of me.
I really laughed when she showed me the picture.
She took it with her mobile phone. It was
taken from pretty far away and I was just
a little figure in the picture frame. I asked
her why she didn't just stand next to me
and do it since I had no idea what she looked
like. She said that she was way too nervous
and that her hands were shaking while she
was doing it even at that great of a distance.
We walked across the street to Starbucks
and had a very engaging conversation over
coffee, but I found myself noticing something
very strange in our repartee. Sato knew so
much about me, but I knew absolutely nothing
about her. It took her almost no time to
begin to relate to me like an acquaintance,
when in reality we had only just met a short
I kept catching myself telling her things
she already knew. For example, I told her
something along the lines of how I don't
get out that much, "because I have a
young son" (as if this was new information).
She answered back something like, "Oh,
yes, Jack. He's so cute. And he's walking
now,...isn't that great."
I finally figured out what kind of relationship
Sato and I had: We were intimate strangers.
She told me that she felt like she was meeting
a celebrity. This is of course both funny
and very flattering at the same time. I know
that I'm just some average Joe Schmuck, and
you know it too when you stop to think about
it, but the fact that I 'appear' well known
imbues my persona, as you perceive it, with
a certain special aura.
There is something very unique about the
celebrity status afforded to bloggers, especially
bloggers of the diarist strain. Their celebrity
is very different from that of a movie star
or an athlete. When you meet a movie star,
Robert DeNiro for example, you feel somehow
close to them, you believe that you have
some sort of knowledge of their character.
I feel that Robert DeNiro is smart and tough
and has integrity. However, the reality of
it is that you know absolutely nothing about
them, your entire impression of them is an
amalgam of all of the characters that you've
seen them play in the movies coupled with
the contents of a few interviews they gave
that were scripted by their publicist.
However, when you meet a weblogger you do
in fact know very intimate and personal details
about them. You do have knowledge of their
character. You do have a sense of who they
in reality are. In a way, you really do know
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I've got some really good news: I lost my
job last week! I'm serious.
I know I should be all sad and bellicose
and bitter and shit like that, but you know
what? I feel like I am just awash in a light-green
sea of future possibilities. I have been
let loose upon the world once again.
The down-sizing axe has been hovering over
my neck for many, many months. This is no
surprise. And truth be told, I have been
amazed at how long my company has kept me
on, considering that I have had no real work
to do for a really long time.
For those of you new to Hunkabutta, I am
(was) a web application programmer for Netyear Group, one of the largest general Internet consultancies
in Japan. Netyear is a good company, and
has, as an organization, been very kind to
me. But the fact is, I was hired specifically
to work with one of their strategic partner
firms, the American-based Blue Martini.
Netyear management felt that it would be
a good idea to have a native English speaker
working on the Blue Martini projects and
interfacing with the Blue Martini staff.
I was a webmaster for one of their English
sites at the time, so I plowed my big Canadian
foot right through the paper door and got
what turned out to be an amazing job in an
wondrous industry in an awe-inspiring city.
It was a dream-like work experience, at least
for the first year and a half. But things
change. Offices move. Friends quit. Finally,
when Blue Martini left to strike out on its
own I was left with my ethernet cable dangling.
So, anyway, I've got a few choices to make.
The tech job market right now is pretty abysmal
here, and there aren't a lot of job openings
for slow-moving, monolingual Canucks in the
best of times. I'll probably have to wait
a while before I get a new programming job.
The question is what to do in the meantime.
Pretty much the only jobs open to me (not
speaking Japanese very well) are English
teaching and head hunting (executive recruitment).
I don't particularly want to do either of
these things, but if pressed I'd choose head
hunting, just because the money's better
and because I might learn something new.
I've already put my time in teaching English
However, there is a third option: School.
This is the path I'll probably take. I could
study Japanese intensively (3 hours of classes
a day, and many, many hours of homework)
for six months or so, at the same time I
could work part time, earning just enough
to get by, doing the odd freelance tech job
and some English teaching.
While enrolled in school, I could continue
to cultivate my options for tech jobs, and
expand my social and professional networks
by focusing on some of the clubs that I'm
involved in. I could also spend some more
time with my son Jack and pursue some of
the more creative things that I enjoy.
I'm very excited about this course of action.
I feel that many new doors will open for
me. Doors in walls that I didn't even know
After my course of study is finished,
still be faced with the choice between
teaching and head hunting, but at least
be well on my way towards fluency in
Japanese language. I must admit that
be pretty proud if I could speak Japanese
So, like I said, I had some good news today.
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Last night I went to a get together put on
by Neoteny for Ben and Mena Trott, the inventors of
the popular blogging software Moveable Type.
The Trotts were a really sweet couple, for
some reason not at all what I expected. This
is their first time in Japan, they arrived
on Wednesday, so last night they were still
kind of jet-lagged and overwhelmed. Tokyo
will do that to you.
There were about 30 people at the event.
It was held in the bottom of Neoteny's office
building, which is actually a restaurant
plaza. I was told that the restaurant is
owned by Akebono, a celebrity sumo wrestler.
It was certainly cool to meet the Trotts,
but by far the best thing about the evening
was meeting several other Tokyo-based bloggers.
I got so excited talking to everybody that
I totally forgot to take proper pictures
of Ben and Mena, something that I had in
mind to do all week.
Nadine of tokyoshoes.com recognized me from my picture on Hunkabutta,
the first person ever to do so. I also met
Mie from tokyotidbits.com, Jeremy from antipixel.com, and Cameo from Kiad.
We all went for drinks across the street
at the Hobgoblin Pub after the Moveable Type
thing was over. It was scary how well we
all got along, like we'd all known each other
for years. I suppose the fact that we write
blogs from Japan is a fairly significant
interest and hobby to have in common.
So, we decided that we're going to try and
organize an informal meeting of Tokyo bloggers,
probably within the next month. I'm going
to try to get in touch with everyone that
I know blogging out of Tokyo, but if any
of you Tokyo bloggers are reading this, and
you'd like to come out and meet the rest
of us, then get in touch with me.
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On November 21st I wrote a post here on Hunkabutta
about my impression of racism in Japan. In
that post I explained that the racism here
often has a benign, or even naive, tone.
I came across an article in the Japan Times today that perfectly illustrates this point.
It tells the story of an Indian man who telephoned
a housing agent (speaking in Japanese) and
tried to rent a house.
The employee at the the agency asked him
what the color of his skin was. To quote
the article directly:
|The employee asked him, "What color
is your skin?" and "Is your skin
a normal color?"
When the plaintiff asked what a "normal
color" was, she responded, "It
is a color like Japanese," according
to the court.
When I read stuff like this I can't help
but ask myself, 'What was this woman thinking?'