The Black Nerds Expo on Thursday, February 28 from 10:00AM to 2:00PM at MiraCosta College (1 Barnard Drive, Oceanside, CA 92056) is a space for attendees to explore and celebrate black comics, books, art, video games, and pop culture. This event is open to everyone! Register at http://blacknerdsexpo.eventbrite.com for free!
Here is what the expo will offer:
-Meet people in the art, video game, and comic book industries
-Make new, local friends who like black pop culture
-Participate in opportunity drawings for active attendees
-Take Instagram-worthy photos at the photo booth
-Day-of point card to collect comics-related stickers and prizes
-Learn about upcoming projects and releases information in anime, manga, video games, media, and pop culture
How much is it to attend the Black Nerds Expo?
It’s free! Just make sure to either pre-register or register on-site for entry.
Why is there a need for a black nerds event?
Could you name at least three black superheroes outside of Black Panther, Storm from the X-men, or Luke Cage? Could you name at least three black authors without searching on Google? Could you name at least one black artist outside of comics? Events such as the Black Nerds Expo is to make aware the existence of black pop culture that isn’t usually shown or celebrated in mainstream media.
If I’m a vendor, artist, or would like to table for the Black Nerds Expo, how can I make that happen?
It’s free! We don’t want tabling or exhibiting fees to be a barrier for exhibiting. Please contact Jd Banks at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible since space is limited.
If I can’t be there personally but I or my business would like to contribute, how do I do that?
Send any promotional materials (i.e. flyers, postcards, business cards, posters) to the following address by Thursday, February 14, 2019 to give them time to arrive:
ATTN: Jd Banks, Student Equity (MC: #10C)
1 Barnard Drive
Oceanside, CA 92056
Is it possible to sponsor something for this event?
Sure! We would like to do an opportunity drawing for attendees, so any swag items such as T-shirts, hats, buttons, wrist bands, DVDs, posters, cups, or figurines relating to black pop culture would be appreciated. In return, the Black Nerds Expo will cross-promote your brand on social media and other marketing materials. Please email Jd Banks at email@example.com for information.
Are you providing any stipends or paying any fees for vendors, artists, or representatives to participate in the Black Nerds Expo?
No. Participants will only be provided a table, refreshments, and day-of logistical support.
What sort of things would be great to bring as a vendor, artist, or representative to the Black Nerds Expo?
If you are a comics vendor, comics and graphic novels concentrating on black superheroes such as Black Panther, Storm, Luke Cage, Black Lightning, Green Lantern, March, Miles Morales Spider-Man, Ironheart, Batwing, Cyborg, Mister Terrific, Vixen, Nubia, Rocket, XS, Tattooed Man, Afro Samurai, and more would be great. Find a list of black superheroes at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_black_superheroes. Books from Toni Morrison, Ben Okri, Karyn Parsons, John Lewis, Alice Walker, Octavia Butler, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Michelle Obama and other black authors would also be great. Artwork can be fan-created artwork of current black superheroes and/or original artwork with black and African-American attendees in mind.
From September 25th to October 1st, authors, readers, publishers, and constitutional right advocates will celebrate books that have been banned for whatever reasons. This year, Banned Books Week is looking at diversity. Although diversity isn’t a new word, some may imagine diversity as a person of color. Diversity, however, includes people who are of different appearance, ethnicity, religion, gender and gender identity, age, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation, military status, and economic status.
Between the boxes filled with clothes and Japanese souvenirs, a cat weaves through the narrow spaces, finally pressing their little claws into the cardboard. No matter how much the owner shoos their cat away, an ominous cloud floats above them. The owner and Mr/s. Kitty are leaving Japan.
The ominous cloud always follows people returning to their home countries with a (new) pet. While the know-how is available, all of the pieces don’t always apply to those going from Japan to the United States. I had to bring my cat, Ninja, from Okinawa to the United States in August 2015. Even as a JET Program participant, I had little help in booking a flight where the airlines allowed pets and going through the process of taking a cat on a plane.
Find out if your cat is allowed to be transported. If your cat is a certain breed, they may not be allowed for travel. Hairless breeds and cats with flat snouts are usually not approved. Check with the airline to see which breeds are allowed for travel. Also, cats under the age of 90 days old or over the weight of 32 kg (71 pounds) won’t be permitted to travel. Airlines that allow pets on flights since August 2015 are EVA Air, United Airlines, All Nippon Airways (ANA), and Singapore Airlines.
Find an airline that allows pets. The only way to do this is to call the airlines customer service line. Some airlines such as Cathy Pacific Airlines don’t allow pets, even in their cargo space. When looking for an airline that allows pets, always ask if the pet can be in the cabin (usually under the seat with you) or if they must be in the cargo (in an airline-approved kennel where checked bags go). It’s better to get on a flight where the pet is allowed in the cabin. If you’re a JET Program participant, tell your prefectural advisor well in advance that you will be bringing a cat with you so they can book your flight with a pet-permitted airline. Try to get a flight that only has only 1 stop so you don’t have to do a pet importation permit for each country.
Get an airline-approved kennel or carrier. Before booking a ticket for your pet, you must have the kennel or carrier’s weight, dimensions, and brand. Sherpa, Petmate, and Bergan make airline-approved carriers. I used a PetMate VariKennel, which are sold at Cainz, Meikuman, and any big pet store in Japan.
Get your cat’s vaccination and microchip. At least 30 days before the flight, make sure your cat has all their shots and vaccinations updated and in English. If they haven’t been microchipped, get that as well. It’s required for all pets entering the United States. If your cat has a vaccinations record that has not expired, this is efficient for travel.
Book your cat’s ticket. You can only do this once you get your airline tickets, or in the least, the reservation number. Call the airlines and tell them to add a pet ticket. The airline agent will ask you for your cat’s name, breed, weight, length, and age along with your carrier’s weight, dimensions (sizes), and brand. For JET Program participants, you will pay at the ticketing counter on the day of travel.
Schedule a checkup with your veterinarian at least 7 days before travel. You must get a Health Certificate with a Letter of Acclimation saying that your cat is healthy enough to fly. It’s usually good for only 10 days.
Submit application for Export Quarantine Certificate for Animals Under the Rabies Prevention Law. You must do this at least 7 days before travel. On the day of travel, you will bring your cat to the Quarantine Office with your travel permit, your flight receipt or boarding pass, and vaccination records. Once all the paperwork is finished, your cat will be examined by the on-location veterinarian. From there, you will get an Export Quarantine Certificate for Animals Under the Rabies Prevention Law that will be used for check-in points throughout the flight.
Schedule an appointment with the Quarantine Office in the airport. You must do this ahead of time. On the day of travel, you will bring your cat to the Quarantine Office with your travel permit, your flight receipt or boarding pass, and vaccination records. Once all the paperwork is finished, your cat will be examined by the on-location veterinarian. From there, you will get an Export Quarantine Certificate for Animals Under the Rabies Prevention Law that will be used for check-in points throughout the flight.
If you are stopping in other countries, check into their pet importation procedures as well as specifics for vaccinations. For Taiwan, if the cat is coming from Japan, you must file an application for a Permit for Animal Transit by submitting an Application Form for Transition with your cat’s vaccination certificates. This can be done by snail mail, email, or fax. I emailed the Hsinchu Branch Office (Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine, Phone: 886-3-3982431) at firstname.lastname@example.org and received an application form for the permit and the procedure for traveling with my cat. It takes about 2 or 3 weeks to complete this part, depending on when the branch office responds to your initial email.
Get an engraved tag with you and your cat’s information. It’s for identification as is the microchip. Make sure to include your cat’s name, your name, your phone number, and your future address, even if you’re unsure of your more permanent location back home.
On the day of travel, make sure your cat is well hydrated before taking them to the airport. Take your cat to the Quarantine Office with your paperwork. The Quarantine Office will require you to take your cat out of the carrier for a brief check. After you receive your travel permit and your flight is within the hour, you can go straight to the ticketing counter. In the preliminary screenings before you get to the ticketing counter, you must hold your cat while the airline staff X-rays the carrier. Once your pet is back in the carrier and you get to the ticketing counter, the airline staff will help you finish any ticketing procedures for your pet, and you’ll be asked to sign a liability release form. During travel, you are not allowed to bring your cat’s food with you unless you arrange it with the airline staff at the ticketing counter.
If you are stopping in Taiwan, a staff member will show you a photograph of your pet or bring your pet to you before boarding the next flight. They may ask for your pet importation forms, especially if you have any special instructions (i.e. giving food, water) for the staff.
Landing in Los Angeles Airport (LAX) is probably the easiest part of bringing a cat to the U.S. After landing and going through immigration, there is a section in the baggage claim area for animals. When I went to pick up my cat, there was no desk or staff to claim my pet. She was in a cart with the ropes from cargo around her carrier sitting by herself in the middle of the floor. The pet importation paperwork, which I tucked under my arm as I went through the last screenings, wasn’t checked at all. Anyone could take my cat from LAX. I don’t know if anything has changed since August 2015, but that’s something to be wary about. If you do not see your cat in their carrier somewhere in the animal claim area, report it immediately.
Resources for importing a cat to the United States:
7 Free to Cheap Things to Do for Job Hunting after Japan
The job hunt has changed, and whether you’ve been in Japan for 1 year or 5 years, returnees must learn how the hunt works again.
#1: Clean up your online presence.
If you are tagged in drunken or half-naked pictures on Facebook or in an inappropriate debate within 140 characters on Twitter, odds are you don’t care about your image. Why would any company think you about their company’s image?
No Cost. It only costs your time. Do a Google search with your name in quotations (ex. “John Smith”) to specifically find you. Remove unflattering photos and messages in social media. Scrub your Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, and any other social media accounts until they show a shining version of you.
#2: Create your personal brand.
Use free online articles and any online resources to make anything with your name has a consistent, personalized feel. Make sure your personal logo, LinkedIn, social media, website, blog, business cards, resumes, cover letters, and even your email signatures give the same image and feeling as who you are.
Cost? If you have a friend who is an artist or graphic designer and they’re willing to make a logo in trade for portfolio credit, this can be free. If you don’t, no worries. There are plenty of free logo designers and generators online such as Logomakr (see example below).
Here’s a free logo I made in 5 minutes on Logomakr.
#3: Get 5 to 10 references.
Gone are the days to write “References upon request”. Online applications demand them, and you’ve gotta deliver. List all the jobs you’ve had, pick references who will give you positive recommendations, and contact them. Send them a copy of your resume so that when employers ask about you, your references will have a better idea of the you now.
Cost? It’s free, if your references are happy to do it, but always remember to send them a thank-you note ($1 for 10 from the Dollar Tree) or a $5 gift card to Amazon or Starbucks. This may be your ticket to a job, and if not, you’re still showing your appreciation.
#4: Quantify your experiences in simple language.
When reading your resume, a hiring manager doesn’t want to read, “Completed secretarial duties.” They want to see how you among hundreds of applications can contribute to the company. How did you make a difference at your last work places and by how much?
If you’re coming out of the JET Program, you can quantify your experience with how many students you taught. “I taught English to over 300 elementary school students.” If you can’t quantify your experience, qualify it. I went with, “changed English education culture at 2 high schools”. The best balance for getting a job is to quantify your past work and add value to them with what you did. As before, I used, “changed English education culture at 2 high schools by planning, marketing, and creating English-related events; consistently introducing effective and creative activities; reviving the English Club and recruiting students for the club; and building relationships with American bases for day exchanges and competitions”.
No Cost. Just take your time, sit down with a list of your work experiences, and write how you made a difference in those jobs.
#5: Go pro.
Get a professional to critique your resume. TopResume and Prepared to Win are companies that specialize in maximizing job hunters’ one-page resumes and land jobs.
Cost? TopResume has a free resume evaluation, though their other services may have fees. Another resource for resume design is simply by Google searching your industry resume. For example, if you are looking for a job in technology, use “engineer resume”. You’ll get to see interesting and unique resume designs that can help make your resume get to the top of the pile. Always remember that your experience has the spotlight, not just the look of your resume.
#6: Don’t rely on the digital world.
It’s very easy to send a resume via email or an online application system such as Indeed or Monster. You don’t have to be like everyone else. If you really want the job, research the company and get the company’s mailing address and the hiring manager’s information. After 2 weeks of applying or the application period has ended, follow up on your application status. Send handwritten thank-you cards to the hiring managers or call them. Go to job fairs and network the traditional way with business cards and printed resumes. Add flair to your printed materials by using high-quality or premium paper. Talk to returnees who were in your program while in Japan and ask them about their current occupation. Maybe they can help you find a job, even if it’s temporary.
Cost? Get 10 handwritten thank-you cards from the Dollar Tree and the 99 Cents Store for $1 plus tax. The price for business cards varies at different stores. (I use OvernightPrints.com instead of Vista Print because they use recycled paper and really thick cardstock with fast shipping.) Buy premium resume paper at Wal-Mart for around $6. Most job fairs are free, but if you need a place to start, check out EventBrite or your local classifieds section.
#7: Down-play select experiences.
The one thing that came as a surprise to me in returning to the States was that a lot of hiring managers didn’t care about how many things I did in Japan. In cases where my husband and I were applying for work in retail, customer service, technological and clerical industries, we were treated with disdain after learning we had graduated from college and lived abroad. For me personally, I didn’t know if it was because of America’s anti-education culture and ethnocentrism. It really came down to the manager’s ego. Being younger, more educated, more global, and multilingual made some managers uncomfortable, and in some cases, hostile towards us during interviews.
Down-playing certain experiences for specific jobs, especially in entry level areas, could be the difference in earning a paycheck or leaving an interview disheartened. Be prepared to make a case for yourself when you’re applying for a job outside whatever you did in Japan. If you’re going for a sales or tech job, don’t go into detail about your time as a teacher.
Also, don’t take it off your resume just because it doesn’t seem to apply as it will look like a huge gap in your job history. Align the skills from your Japan job with the skills from the jobs you’re applying for and put those on your resume. Instead of using, “I taught English to 2 senior high schools,” you could use, “I learned to use PCs and trained other employees with various software in English and Japanese” or “I used Microsoft Office in Japanese and English to create multilingual documents in a fast-paced environment.” They show that you have adaptability and technical skills.
#Jade: How I Found a Job after Japan in 5 months
Hunger. That’s what fueled me through my 2-month temp job at the Consulate General of Japan in LA despite my 5 hour daily commute. That’s what got me to apply for 2 different positions in the community college down the street. That’s what got me a job within 5 months. It wasn’t my stomach growling–“Hey, you don’t have enough money to get through the month!” It was the hunger to set up my new life in the U.S. It’s not to say that I didn’t feel discouraged or upset at being unemployed without unemployment benefits. I had to re-think my approach and remember:
“Every ‘no’ is one step closer to a ‘yes’.”
From the stories of JET alumni and former expats, I’ve learned that the job industry hasn’t shrunk since I was a college student. The job industry had moved to online applications and keyword software to filter applicants. I couldn’t just be a secretary anymore. I had to be a tech-savvy administrative professional with the skills and go-get-’em attitude of 2 or 3 people.
Aside from the intrinsic qualities, adaptability was key. I had to learn from books, read articles, subscribe to job alerts and newsletters, and upgrade my skills with diplomas and tests to land a wonderful job in 5 months. If you’re not landing jobs and you’re doing the same thing each time, change your approach.
What have you done (differently) to get a new job since leaving Japan?
What tips would you give to job hunters post-Japan?
It’s easy to learn a little bit about a foreign country in a year. In 5 years, any foreign resident will discover the ins and outs of their new home country. For me, I’ve learned about Japanese people, culture, and lifestyles that most foreigners won’t see in a year or two of residence.
10. You’ll be thoroughly surprised by the lack of technology Japan uses on a daily basis. The image of Japan usually includes robots on the streets, high-end luxury cars with races on straightaways, and girls in school uniforms carrying swords in their bags. Um, no, that’s a stereotype. In actuality, Japan maintains close ties with tradition–meaning that some of Japanese technology is lacking. When I wanted a copier to number my pages, my co-worker said, “Sorry. Here are these stamps.” As I sat stamping each page with what I thought were obsolete number stamps, I asked myself if all copiers in teaching places were like this. They were, and I learned to number the pages on my computer first. (I used the same copiers in business offices with the same functions in the States.)
9. You will be asked the same questions from the start of your journey to the very end. When I arrived in Okinawa, everyone asked me typical questions. “Where are you from? What is your favorite food? Do you have a boyfriend?” Along with the questions came the same remarks. “Your Japanese is good. You’re good at using chopsticks.” For fellow expats in Japan, don’t take it personal. They’re icebreakers. Segue the questions into questions about them and see where it takes you.
8. You will always have to show extra paperwork because you’re a foreigner. I don’t know how many times my husband and I had to bring unnecessary copies, documents, and forms to the bank, police station, immigration office, and the airport because people wanted to give us a hard time. My husband had it worse because he looked like a tall white man, so Japanese men thought he had a Japanese wife or girlfriend, which happens a lot when foreign males go to Japan. I solved that issue by making a binder with all the important documents and copies. It also doubled as an emergency binder. In the event of a fire or tsunami, grab the binder!
7. Whether you’re black, white, or purple, you’re in the same boat as every other foreigner. Japan is a homogenous country–you’ll mostly see and hear Japanese. The control freaks who arrive will want to immediately fit into Japanese society. No matter how well you speak, read, write, or think Japanese, Japanese people won’t fully accept you. Even half-Japanese people aren’t fully accepted (check Miss Japan). Though that seems like a dire way of looking at Japan and its people, it’s close to how privileged people in any other country treat the unprivileged populace.
6. You’ll learn how to check your attitude, anger, pessimism, arrogance, and ego if you really want to fit into Japanese society. Japanese people are very humble. You’ll find that as time goes on, Japanese people are reluctant to boast about their differences or what makes each one of them unique.
5. You’ll learn Japanese, but unless you study and maintain what you’ve learned, you’ll just be functional in spoken Japanese. You can learn Japanese without studying after listening and speaking to people for several years. Still, many expats don’t learn and maintain written Japanese without study.
4. You’ll see that options in everything is limited…except in green teas, ramen brands, and seaweed wrappers. After learning that the aisles in San-A are different from your former grocery haunts, food and marketplaces are equally unique in serving a mostly-Japanese populace.
3. You’ll notice that the Japanese lifestyle is really minimal and uncomplicated. When I returned to American life, I was surprised by how everything and everyone were fast, fast, fast, and when something was slow, it was too slow. Commuters behind me would groan at any human delays at the ancient MetroLink ticketing machines.
2. You’ll see how humans are unwilling–and even visibly scared–of change or difference. April in Japan usually meant a changeover in staff, a new school year in a new school, an assurance that you as a human had moved to the next stage in your life. I’ve noticed in between Japan and the States that people like their habits no matter how rigid or unhealthy they are to their lives. It could be eating habits, going outside the city, changing how something is done–people are afraid of change. The lesson to be learned in today’s world is that everything is always changing, always looking to grab you by the ankle and pull you under. Accepting change will keep you and other skeptical Japanese folks from drowning.
1. You’ll notice the real strength of women. Before coming to Japan, I thought that the country boasted unhappy, naive women who reluctantly accepted their roles as mothers and housewives. After watching, talking, and befriending many Japanese women, I realized that these women didn’t only define their lives as mothers and housewives. They were also teachers, workers, budget-balancers, hobbyists, cooks, cleaners, and disciplinarians. No matter how much work came their way because of their jobs or families, they could still smile and laugh and play without much worry or complaint. My problem was looking through the eyes of an American woman who wasn’t expected to do all those things. When I was put in the same positions (outside of motherhood), I couldn’t understand how other women did everything like clockwork while most men looked on. I found myself frowning at the men, especially retiring men who didn’t have any other discernible skills than work. As I looked at the women in my life and in my husband’s life, I noticed that women who worked, balanced and paid bills, cooked, cleaned, and cared and listened to their rambling, ungrateful children were the strong ones.
Similar to an earlier post, Jade’s Escape from Japan, settling into American life has been a little rough, but there are slivers of silvers sparkling from their edges.
No Stomachaches, Just Stomach Gains. My body’s adjusted to the over-saturated American diet, even gaining 10 pounds in the first 2 weeks. Once I eliminated Del Taco’s bean burritos from my diet and signed up for a gym membership, I lost 5 pounds, putting me only 6 pounds heavier than when I first came back. Even with vegetarian and vegan options at stores and restaurants, I’m still struggling with maintaining my weight. On top of that, I get pressured by my husband and his family’s habits to ditch my diet. “You’re too skinny now,” my husband tells me, but these ideas won’t deter me from declining chicken dishes and sausage links. I worked really hard to get to where I am, and I don’t want all that effort to vanish just because I’m back in my home country. Sometimes I’m fighting a whole culture of fat, sickness, and laziness.
The silver lining: While living with meat-eaters who don’t care about their health or waistlines challenges my willpower, I know I’m improving my life not just now but in the long run. Plus, I’m now at my high school weight, which was my resolution this year.
The Multicultural “Gaijin-ism”. The word gaijin hasn’t disappeared from my brain whenever I see a non-Asian person, but the reaction of seeing different colored people has. My ears perk up at different Lyft drivers’ accents, and when I ask them where they’re from, I learn their stories, their motivations, their needs and wants in life. Whether it’s through broken Spanish or simple English, I’m excited to meet people from all around the world and learn something new.
The silver lining: I can study any language, and there will be people who I can speak with.
The Unemployed and Dependent Adult. Here’s the truth: finding a job after living in a foreign country is dismal, especially in California. Many companies and hiring managers don’t accept working abroad as anything but an experience abroad, leaving one big resume gap for returnees. On top of that, the job-hunting game has changed. If you were a capable player before, you’ll find yourself being benched at every tournament. It’s discouraging, especially when other former expats tell you that you’re not going to get a decent job for at least a year, so hunker down and be patient.
The Unhomely Home. Since I’m living with my in-laws, things are completely different–and sometimes, nonsensical–compared to what I’m used to. I just have to get used to it, right? In the meantime, I’m similar to the guy who never moves out of his mom’s basement.
The silver lining: I learned patience in Japan. Why not use it? Plus, I don’t have to pay for the basement.
No Fear = New Connections. I thought when I returned to California, I wouldn’t need to use Japanese. In the most random places–Kohl’s in San Diego, Kapsoul in LA, the Amtrak between Union Station and downtown San Diego–I’ve met Japanese people, and I’ve been happy to flex my Japanese tongue. I’m not afraid to jump between English and Japanese when I meet these people. They’re immigrants or second-generation Japanese people, nikkei, making lives for themselves in the States. Aside from meeting Japanese folks, I find I’m not afraid to speak to anyone and everyone. The man who wants my number, the bum looking for an extra dollar, the Cuban Lyft driver, I’m not scared to say what I want. Japan has taught me to appreciate the ability to be heard.
The silver lining: I don’t feel as Japan-sick as I did when I first landed in LAX.
Blue, red, and white happi coats moved through the crowd with “festival ” splashed across their backs and brown printed belts cinching their waists. The bodies inside them sweated and smelled, and the heads perched on the shoulders and necks held smiling faces, yakisoba in their mouths, bandannas around their foreheads. As people walked through Naha City awaiting the start of the big tug of war, their happi coats showed that the festival atmosphere started at home. When the rope, which stretched for three blocks through Naha’s 58 street, was pulled by Okinawans and Americans and cut into strips as good luck charms, the happi coats, the festival bearers, came off at home. Once laundered and pressed, the happi coats must be folded.
I folded happi coats after an event in Los Angeles. One fold here, a flip there, but the creases were the most important part. I wanted to fold them to be stacked the same length and size. When I tried to fold a happi coat without using its preset crease–“let the coat fall over at the crease”–I was inferred, not so much told since that would be too forward, to follow the folding method as everyone else had done before. The precedence was more important than the practical and stackable look of those coats, the same crease blindly to set a path than the person who wore or folded them.
Creases are made when a fabric submits to an iron, and the iron can make creases anywhere the person handling it feels. Why do some people hold the iron or fold past the creases to make a new pattern? Why not make changes instead of submitting to the creases everyone else has made?
While happi coats on bodies are uniforms for festivals and tugs of wars, their creases are traps for those who don’t want to be uniform.
So I went to Japan 5 years ago to escape the American recession and lifestyle as well as my mother and live out my dream of working in Japan. Now that my 5 years are up and I’m back in the States, life should be better…But there are tons of things people didn’t warn me about when it came to re-adjusting to my home country.
The Constant Stomachaches. In Japan, I became a vegetarian (from July 2014), and since my husband returned to the U.S. first, I could adjust my diet every month to a lifestyle teetering on veganism. I eliminated most salts, refined sugars, and fats from my food by planning, measuring, and cooking every meal, and in 4 months, I lost around 33 pounds (15 kg). The return to America cost me dearly–in a week, I gained 10 pounds (4.5 kg). Everything I eat, even without meat, makes my stomach flip upside down. And it doesn’t help that my husband isn’t considerate of my new eating lifestyle because he isn’t vegetarian. Maybe part of my stomachaches are from stress.
The Wonderful “Gaijin-ism”. Where I lived in Japan, there were few gaijin, or foreigners. When I did see a foreigner, my first thought was, “Gaijin!” That’s how few and rare foreigners are in Japan save for the heavily-populated cities. Back in the U.S., I had to stop myself from being surprised by “foreigners”. Everyone, including myself, aren’t foreigners, so I’m in the middle of re-training my brain to think, “People!”
The Unemployed and Dependent Adult. I had a job and an apartment in Japan for 5 years. Now I’ve got job history and a former apartment that’s already passed to my successor, but no employment or space of my own. I have to depend on my husband’s family before I can look to getting a place, and the job hunt for something I actually want–a position in the writing industry–still makes me ask for help from my in-laws. I’m suddenly a dependent, and it makes me feel small and unreliable. I thought being in Japan would make me more independent, but in returning to America, I find myself in a worse situation than before I left the country.
The Unhomely Home. I got no warning about coming home when you’re not really home. The U.S. doesn’t feel familiar to me anymore. I look at the people and the stores and the houses, and I just think, “I want to go home.” My Okinawan apartment and the places I frequented there pops up in my head, and suddenly I’m finding home to be a far away place in my memories. Part of this foreign feeling comes from my immediate family leaving California. I can’t see my mom or brothers, and it really makes me sad. With the ensuing stomachaches and uncomfortable lifestyle, I just want something familiar, something normal, and that was my family. When I want to eat my mom’s soup because I have stomach pains or I want to laugh with my brothers, I can’t.
The Lost Relationship(s). What kills me is the one thing I’ve left behind: missing someone. I made many friends in Okinawa, and even though I’ve said in past posts that Japanese people are hard to accept foreigners, the friends I made accepted enough of me to let me into beautiful and loving relationships. I just knew that when I got on the plane, I’d never know if I’d see them again. Sure, there’s email, but it’s not the same as facing them at a table in Mr. Donuts or Spicy Kitchen and saying, “How’s it going?” Craving someone’s words or smiles or stories makes me feel as if I’ve lost something really precious in my life.
Unused talent: Ken Watanabe and Bryan Cranston do not work together. It’s not even a Bryan Cranston movie.
One-dimensional actor takes the boring lead: Aaron Taylor-Johnson keeps looking at the camera, adding to his unconvincing role as Bryan Cranston’s military son.
Too many kids: This is not a family movie! When did throwing kids into the mix equal “human element”? True Lies, Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, and Back to the Future had kids in them, but they actually served some role other than “Let’s make this a family movie.”
Gun/nuclear-happy Americans: I would have to say that this pro-military movie portrays Americans’ top specialty–using their guns first and coming up with sound answers later.
Horrible villain monsters: In the Godzilla franchise, there are tons of interesting and badass monsters to choose from. I would’ve gone with King Shisa (I’m impartial to the Okinawan shisa) or King Gydra (the Hydra).
Picture from the best Godzilla books ever in Japan, ゴジラ人間 series, printed in 1984 by Shogakukan Publishing.
Friendly Godzilla: When was Godzilla on our side? OK, so he crushed a few buildings, but he’s nothing like the Godzilla from the past franchise.
Movie should’ve ended in the beginning: If you’re a foreign who gets arrested in Japan, unless you’re married to a Japanese person, you’ll get deported, not sent back to your apartment. Godzilla would’ve easily ended in the first 20 minutes of the movie.
Japanese people don’t speak English: Sorry, English teachers, but I know this as an English teacher here in Japan. Few Japanese people speak English, especially fluent English, and most freak out when they see a foreigner, even if it’s in a convenience store.
Japanese people don’t take orders from Americans: How many foreign executives have you seen in Japan?
I started watching the 1998 Godzilla: The Series TV show just to wash the taste out of my mouth.
Big Hero 6 Manga
This is a first: before Disney’s Big Hero 6 release, Disney is releasing the manga for free through Amazon.co.jp, Boollive!, and Yahoo! Bookstores etc. from August 20th (limited time only). You can read the manga in Japanese here.
Did you know I’m left-handed? My father, my grandfather, my aunt, and my husband are also left-handed. Imagine all the smear stains we’ve gotten on our cuffs, how many artful turns of a paper we did to avoid ruined sleeves, how many decisions we’d have to make–throw left or right?–in our entire lives. No matter how many left-handers there are in my family, there aren’t many in the world (only 10 percent!). Left-handers are just as rare in Japan as in the States, but unlike their American counterparts, they don’t have as much trouble dealing with a right-side world.
In Japan, left-handedness isn’t seen as a conspiracy to make do with the Devil as it is in Western and Catholic countries. Sure, there was a time when Japanese viewed southpaws as impractical because of traditional calligraphy writing. Even though Japanese people still write from left to right when they make banners, the taboo of being left-handed, or giccho, is considered old news.
In recent times, Japanese students use regular notebooks or genkou youshi (原稿用紙), a Japanese manuscript paper for writing essays. This kind of paper has little boxes, each box for one character, and they’re read from right to left. Because traditional Japanese is read from the top downwards, essays are written the same way, top to down. It makes it easier for us lefties to write an essay in Japan, even if they’re apology or detention essays (you’ll see it in manga, anime, or in the discipline office in Japanese schools).
Poor Houtarou from Hyouka has to re-write an essay he forgot at home.
Of course, left-handers in Japan still face problems in the right-hander world. In contrast to manuscript paper, writing calligraphy on horizontal banners is oriented for right-handers. I wonder if famous calligraphers like Michiko Imai, Shinjo Ito, or Shingai Tanaka ever had trouble writing Japanese characters.
Oh, Flanders, the Simpsons and the Leftorium are washed up. Get your butt online, man!
Looking for your real Leftorium? Here are some shops that can help you with your left-handed needs on this fine International Left-handers Day:
How’s beer in Japan? The good news is Japanese beer is cheaper than any Western beers like Budweiser and Guinness ranging from 80 yen a can to 320 yen for a bottle. The bad news is Japanese beers all taste alike. “The nail that sticks up must be hammered down” is a proverb that explains both Japanese culture and the sameness between the top beer brands in Japan. I don’t know if it’s Kirin, Asahi, Sapporo, or Orion’s faults for making these beers. Maybe it’s just the people who’ve learned not deviate from the tastes of their peers and try something new, and so, the companies cater to their flavors.
I would recommend going to a liquor store, local brewery, import wine shop, or a good bar that sells import drinks for different beer tastes. My favorite place is the import wine shop in Chatan that carries imported German, Austrian, and Italian lagers and alcohol. Just watch out for the price tag–imports are very expensive.
SANTA MONICA, CA (July 19, 2014) –Aniplex of America, Inc. has announced today that the legendary TV anime series GURREN LAGANN, will debut on Adult Swim’s TOONAMI™ Saturday line-up this August. The first episode will premiere on August 16th at 2:00am EST.
From the SAME team that brought us KILL la KILL, GURREN LAGANN comes from the genius minds of Director Hiroyuki Imaishi and Script Writer/Series Composition Kazuki Nakashima. In response to its global popularity, the series was also adapted into two full-length films, Childhood’s End and The Lights in the Sky Are Stars. Aniplex of America re-released the GURREN LAGANN TV Series on home video last year featuring both the original Japanese and English dub which features many popular voice actors such as Yuri Lowenthal (as Simon), Kyle Hebert (as Kamina) and Michelle Ruff (as Yoko). This past July, Aniplex of America also released the GURREN LAGANN Movies in a Double Feature Blu-ray Set (Japanese Language only with English subtitles).
Story of GURREN LAGANN
This is the story of a man who has yet to realize what destiny holds in store for him….
In the distant future, mankind has lived quietly and restlessly underground for hundreds of years, subject to earthquakes and cave-ins. Living in one such village are 2 young men: one named Simon who is shy and naïve, and the other named Kamina who believes in the existence of a “surface” world above their heads. The destiny of these two starts moving drastically when the ceiling of their village falls in, and a gigantic “Gunmen” and a beautiful girl named Yoko, wielding a superconductive rifle, come from the surface. Together, Kamina, Simon and Yoko ride the mecha “Lagann” that Simon digs out of the ground, and fly up to the surface!
I got my “2014 Short Story Contest Finalist” certificate for entering the 1st Annual Little Tokyo Historical Society Short Story Contest. It came with a $10.00 gift certificate to Mr. Ramen’s, a ramen restaurant in Los Angeles. Although I didn’t win the top 3 spots, I placed top 16 out of 60 entries. I’m proud of myself! Writing the story, “Smile’s Sonata”, taught me that there’s another layer to myself that can be drawn out through writing.
And, yes, my name on this certificate is misspelled. 28 years later, and my name is still being misspelled. Lovely!
I’m at Super Saiyin status! Yup, I’ve reached 4 complete years of living and blogging in Japan!
I know, I know. Some Americans have reached city-stomping, moon-transforming monkey status in their tenth, twentieth, or even thirtieth years in Japan. Good for them! For me, it’s an awesome thing: I’m still living my dream! And I’ve learned a few things along the way.
Anime and manga does and doesn’t equal culture.
Just as any media doesn’t fully capture a single culture, it also says a lot about that culture. The Japanese population is mostly Japanese. From the time Japanese people are born until they die, there are certain things that’re taught to them. Did you know that Japanese students take Ethics and Morals in junior high school? And did you know Japanese students are punished more for not following the rules than their grades? No, maybe not. In reality, Japanese people aren’t allowed to stand out. Japan is a collective society, and in a country the size of California housing millions, the population can’t afford to be individualistic. But in anime and manga, you’ll see students who are totally different because of their natural talents or super abilities. In a way, these media are reflections of a country where the hammer strikes down the standing nail.
Design and marketing is on a whole different level in Japan.
Wherever you walk in Japan, you’re bound to find billboards upon billboards, posters behind posters, signs above signs of ads, ads, ads. Even if you can’t read them, these ads are successful at embedding colorful and creative images into your brain. Everything has a mascot (ever hear of Hello Kitty, Kumamon, Pikachu, or Luffy?). When I think of American ads, they don’t compare. Then again, the States has it good with creating recognizable brands. Hmm, maybe I’m wrong… Still, Japanese advertising makes me laugh!
Quality of (Insert a Noun) is cities above the American sense of quality
I’m absolutely in love with Japan’s sense of quality. It shows in mundane things: merchandise at thrift stores are clean and cared for; lunches are freshly prepared by mothers and lunchbox pros same day; fast food actually matches the pictures. So, yeah, quality of life is awesome in Japan. There’s the national healthcare that every working person can receive (OMG, Japan is Socialistic ::gasp::), and the older you are, the cheaper your optional car insurance becomes. Don’t get me wrong, I do miss the States, but some things–the crappy secondhand buys, the fat-salt-sugar-saturated processed food, and the bombardment of unhealthy lifestyles–aren’t living up to my quality of life anymore.
I miss the straightforwardness of the West
Japan is the land of beating around the bush. You can’t say anything directly because it’s seen as unfriendly. Instead of saying, “Why aren’t you wearing an undershirt?” you have to opt for a round-about way of saying things. “Aren’t you cold?” The real meaning: you’re not dressed properly for work! Then again, no one will tell you at the very beginning how to dress for work in Japan like in the States. “Do I have to wear suits? What color? How long?” You have to become a really great observer in Japan and answer the questions yourself. In a way, I find it refreshing. As Haruki Murakami wrote in 1Q84, “If you can’t understand it without an explanation, you can’t understand it with an explanation.”
American Prince of Tennis Manga Assistant to go to San Diego Comic Con???
You can help make this headline come true without the question marks!
One of my manga friends, an American manga assistant to the popular Prince of Tennis, needs your help! She’s trying to get to the annual San Diego Comic Con, the biggest pop culture convention in the continental U.S. In order to get there, she needs to find some funds.
This is what she wrote on her website and Facebook:
“I was invited to speak at San Diego Comic Con in July!!
The thing is that I need your help. I can only spare the time to come for the one day that I’m invited to speak, what with all of the chaos going on in my life, but I’ll fight hell or high water to be able to share my experiences with everyone. I just need some help paying for it. You know that I come from a poor family, and working for a mangaka didn’t pay all that well, nor does book writing (I wish that it did!).
But I don’t want the money to stand in my way. Instead of a corporation paying my way, I’m hoping that the fans will. That everyone who has heard my stories will chip in just a little bit.
Okinawa’s pissed. Why? The Okinawan governor recently sold out for another U.S. base in Henoko, the dangerous Ospreys (planes with a helicopter design) crash into a local university, and the rapes and incidents between American military men and Okinawans have people ready to deport all foreigners off the island.
It wasn’t a big surprise to noticed this little postcard in the back of the teacher’s office this morning.
In case you can’t read the postcard, it says:
“Dear President Obama,
The U.S. Forces have occupied Okinawa for 68 years. This oppression is unbearable. We demand the following actions for the restoration of our human rights:
1. The withdrawal of deployment of the Osprey aircrafts.
2. The closure of Futenma Air Base for safety reasons and its subsequent return.
3. The cessation of plans to reclaim land in the Henoko areas of Nago and the cessation of construction of Takae helipads.”
I know what you’re thinking: “As an American, why should I care about these brown Asian folks from some nowhere island?”
You’re a human being, right? Well, OK, let’s use something more practical: money. If you’re an American paying taxes, you should know that you’re paying for the stealing of someone else’s land that you won’t be able to go to even if you made it to Okinawa. You’re paying for the crashes and damages done by Ospreys, something that costs over $69.3 million for one aircraft. You’re giving a paycheck to rapists and pillagers.
And, no, I’m not being anti-American. I’m doing my duty as an American and questioning where my money’s going, where the soul of humanity has flown off to. “Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance. It is also owed to justice and to humanity. Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong” (James Bryce).
If you don’t feel a single emotion over this, you’re heartless, soulless, downright suicide material ready for the elevator to 6-Feet Under.
Japan should be called “Land of the Forgotten Commercials” starring Western actors looking for some easy money and international fans outside of their famous roles.
The former California governator, Arnold Scwarzenegger, made many Japanese commercials in his younger days for Nissin’s Cup of Noodles, Arinamin C Drink, and Direct TV. In the commercial above, he stars as a foreigner gambling with Japanese middle-aged men. In superhero fashion, he dashes away to pull out a Japanese energy drink while saying, “Good!”
Leonardo DiCaprio (Great Gatsby remake) in Japanese commercials mean that regular items like whiskey are going to be promoted as cool, premium items–even if those products will be sold for 800 yen ($9) at the local supermarket. Here’s Leo in a recent Cool Bourbon Jim Beam commercial.
Although Bruce Willis (Die Hard) tries hard to say his Japanese lines in these Daihatsu commercials with the disapproval of the director, he still looks very awkward and dubbed in every scene. I think taking the same measure as his Hollywood pals and saying very little (or nothing at all) would help.
The actor who takes the cake–er, the coffee–is acting veteran Tommy Lee Jones (Men in Black series). He didn’t just star in commercials for different products. Even to now, he’s a face for the canned coffee brand, BOSS. Everywhere in Japan, his wrinkled face adorns BOSS vending machines and ads.
In January and February, while my husband did a cleanse, I opted for only eating meat once a day. I don’t know if I dropped weight, but my clothes did fit differently–good for not exercising (my husband did, though). Just when we were going at a good pace, my husband hurt his back and the exercising (for him) and the non-meat meals stopped. It goes to show how much being in a relationship can affect your body.
Three weeks ago, I started doing Tae Bo again. It wasn’t as bad as I remembered (I did it last year for two months), but I decided to do cardio three times a week and strength training once a week. A week ago, I hurt my knee, so I’ll have to stick with strength training and minimum cardio. Injuries are the worst!
Plan: Do 30-45 minutes of exercise every other day. Two times a week include a strength training regiment (12 reps, 3 sets with weights), and work on abs every exercise day.
How to write “learn” in kanji
#2: Learn Japanese: Become a more fluent speaker.
I entered an international speech contest in Japanese, but I wasn’t picked. Maybe next year… Every day, I learn a new Japanese word (today’s word is 野良猫, noraneko, or “stray cat”) to build my vocabulary. I also write in a journal in Japanese, and some of my posts on this blog have a Japanese translation. So far, my reading comprehension has gotten easier as well as my kanji.
Plan for the rest of the year: Sign up for the JET Programme’s free advanced Japanese course and get ready for another speech contest (to get picked this time!).
#3: Save more money
I haven’t saved any money (according to my Mint account), but I have managed to slim our daily expenses. Instead of buying many snacks and going out to eat, we cook at home and avoid sugary products like cookies and fruit juices.
Plan: Send a set amount of money to my American bank account and not touch it except for emergencies and bills.
#4: Travel more.
Because of Item Number 3, traveling is out of the question. Sadness!
Once upon a time, there was a writer…
#5: Get to reading and writing!
I became a part of a creative writing circle. We get a prompt and two weeks to write something, then we post in on Google Plus. It’s very convenient because I never know how people will react to it. Also, it keeps me on my toes in keeping with deadlines!
Plan: Continue with the writing circle. Win at least one writing contest!