*ahem* Sorry, Facebook's new 'English (Pirate)' language setting has rather gone to my head.
Right - Gaijin Super Powers. Now, I know many of you will already be familiar with the concept of Gaijin Super Powers, having already experienced them yourself or even just having read about them, but for those of you having no prior knowledge, I will attempt to briefly summarise them.
Gaijin Super Powers are, as the name suggets, awesome X-man-like powers immediately acquired by a ny foreigner the moment they set foot upon Japanese soil. The strength and variety of Powers available to you vary according to just how 'foreign' you are (now, I know that clearly I am not foreign - I'm English, all these Japs are foreign - but for the purposes of Gaijin Powers I sort of am), thus tall black men have the most potent Gaijin Powers, I do pretty well being tall, broad, bearded and acutely white, but small Asian women can use only the most minor of these abilities. These powers also grow in strength the further you travel from Tokyo, so while I'm currently only able to use 30-40% of my Gaijin potential, should I ever travel to the countryside I will become virtually unstoppable.
Several specific Powers have been identified (also, I can't really take credit for any of this: go to http://www.gaijinsmash.net/archives/gaijin_smash.phtml for the guy who came up with all this. He probably writes it much better than I do anyway).
- Gaijin Smash! - A Gaijin Smash! is the act of subduing, subjugating or dominating a Jap to get your own way by sheer force of will alone. This power is greatly enhanced by application of the "No Speaky Japanesey" technique - very few Japanese speak English with any degree of confidence, and will go out of their way to avoid having to confront a foreigner in his own language, so you can do what you want. Advanced practitioners can also apply the very difficult but powerful "No Speaky English" technique - if you are unlucky enough to come up against an English-speaking Japanese adversary, this move is invaluable, as it is virtually impossible to counter.
- Gaijin Perimeter - the ability to repel Japanese people via an invisible force field projected by the Gaijin mind. This usually manifests itself as an empty seat on either side of you even on a very crowded train. This technique can be powerful enough to repel Japanese people out of their existing seats and 10 yards further down the train.
- Gaijin Optic Blast - often a curious Jap will be unable to resist staring at a nearby Gaijin. This is when the Gaijin Optic Blast comes into play - all it takes is to catch his gaze for split-second and the Jap is sure to be staring at his feet or pretending to sleep for at least the next 5 minutes.
For example, coming back from Yokohama last weekend, I was able to Gaijin Smash! my way onto 3 trains and through 6 sets of barriers without buying a single train ticket. My Gaijin Powers were extremely potent that night/morning, enhanced by no sleep (my first train was at about 7am, my final Gaijin Smash! to get off at my station was around 11.30am) and lots of beer (I am a follower of the Drunken Master school of Gaijin Super Powers). I achieved this feat via various methods: the easiest way was to swipe my Pasmo card repeatedly (like an Oyster card. It had no money on it though) looking confused and drunk, and before long the poor man at the ticket booth, faced with the prospect of a drunk, confused, and potentially dangerous gaijin simply presses the little button to open the barriers. The second technique is a little less subtle but requires more athleticism - look for a ticket gate which is still open from the last customers and walk quickly. If you can't get there in time, don't worry - Japanese ticket barriers are not that strong, although at this stage it becomes less a question of force of will as much as force of thigh. Still, it worked though.
Two good techniques, and enough to get you through most situations without difficulty, but when I got to my final station, neither of these techniques worked, so I had to step up my game. I actually had to go to the ticket office to negotiate my case with the man on duty. It was at this point that I realised the full force of my Gaijin Super Powers. I went to the ticket office, handed the man my Pasmo card (which had no money on it, but had recorded the fact that I had travelled about 30 miles without buying a ticket), and swayed slightly. The man looked at my card, put it in the machine and looked at me... Our gazes met... Out of nowhere I hit him with a Gaijin Optic Blast against which he was totally unprepared. Shaken, he handed me back my card, waved me through the barrier, and apologised.
I believe this is what's know as a SUPER GAIJIN SMASH!
So, this is how Gaijin Super Powers can be used for my own wicked ends (Mwahahahaha!), but earlier today on the train I was able to use them for good!
Riding a quiet mid-afternoon train back from Ikebukuro to Fujimidai, where I live, I noticed a strange man - he wore grubby tracky bottoms, broken trainers and a baggy, shapeless, greyish top, and his faced was oddly... concave... He boarded the train, which was not very crowded, and moved very close up behind a woman who facing out the window. Now, at rush hour, of course, you don't have much choice about who squeeze up against, but there were only about 4 people standing on this train, so there waas plenty of room to have your own space. But this man kept moving closer and closer, sweating heavily, shuffling nervously, sliding his hand down the handrail closer to hers.
Now, you would think that it would be foolish to attempt the whole creepy-man-touching-girls-on-the-train thing on a not-very-crowded train in the middle of the day, but Japanese etiquette requires that when on the train you never make eye-contact with anyone, never look around and pretty never lift your head. This is why Japanese people on trains invariably read manga, fiddle with their phones or just pretend to sleep. Thus creepy man was able to sidle up pretty damn close to unfortunate girl without any of the Japs in the carriage being any the wiser.
Fortunately we Gaijin are not bound the rules of Japanese etiquette, and as he glanced around the carriage nervously to check that no one had noticed him, I saw my opportunity - BLAM! Gaijin Optic Blast with all the force I could muster. It knocked the poor perverted bastard so off balance that the girl noticed him and was able to move quickly away.
Gaijin Super Powers save the day! No, no, there's no need to thank me. I was merely fulfilling my sacred duty as a foreigner.
In other news, look what I saw at Yoyogi Park (near harajuku) the other day:
Isn't that fantastic? And did I mention that Japs are crazy?
Incidentally, I'm pretty sure the main line in the chorus of this song went:
"Come on everybody,
You've got a penis!"
although it might have been:
"Come on everybody,
You want a Penis!"
At this stage I think either of these options is equally likely.
Okay, so I think that's my 'fun and frivolity' quota filled, onto the 'news' section.
I started lessons on Monday. It's actually good to have something to do every day and some reason to get up in the morning. I don't react well to having nothing to do because it makes me lazy and depressed - it's too much effort to come up with new fun things to do every day, so I end up doing nothing at all and it becomes rubbish. Also, when I have to be up a 7am every morning I can't get drunk every night, which is good for my health, my sanity and my wallet, and it means that I can appreciate getting drunk when the weekend comes around.
Did someone mention drinking? That brings me onto my next important point.
Pop quiz - Name That Beverage:
Let's consider the evidence:
- It's brewed by Asahi - reknowned brewers of beer
- It's yellow at the bottom, white at the top - the same colour as beer
- It's fizzy and tastes bitter and faintly hoppy - a bit like beer
- It says on the can "Clear Asahi is brewed with select barley malt, hops and grains by using our pure cultures yeast" - just like beer
This is Happoshu. In Japan tax on beer is much higher than tax on other kinds of alcohol, so the devious Japanese breweries have come up with various ways of brewing stuff which looks and tastes kind of like beer, but which actually isn't. This one isn't actually too bad - it actually a small amount of malted barley, although most of it is corn, wheat, potatoes, dogs etc. - but last night I was drinking Kirin Nodogoshi Nama, which, like this, looks exactly like beer and tastes kind of like bad beer, but is in realitya soy-protein-derived beer-flavoured foaming alcoholic beverage, classified under Japanese tax law as Alcohol - Other (Miscellaneous).
I have never felt so deceived, so wronged, so misled as the moment when I realised what a cruel trick had been played upon me. Never was a man so notoriously abused! I have subsequently lost all faith in Japan as nation and I feel I will probably never be able to trust a Japanese person as long as I live.
The worst part is that -actual- beer is so expensive here that I have no choice but to buy beer-flavoured foaming alcoholic beverages instead! I suppose there is a small upside to all of this. Whereas beer is delicious and deeply satisfying, but oh-so-moreish, this Happoshu crap is disappointing, barely satisfying but not in any way moreish. So it comes to the end of a long day of work/video games/pornography, and you really fancy a beer. You grab a 'beer' from the fridge and get involved. It's cold, fizzy, bitter and alcoholic, so it just about serves the purpose of drinking a beer, but it's so disappointing and unpleasant that it doesn't make you want another. They should prescribe this stuff to alcoholics!
Incidentally, I hope you all appreciate this diatribe - I had to open a can especially to take that photo and it's on 5.30 in the afternoon. Oh well, it's a Friday - what else am I gonna do with myself today?
In summary: Happoshu - the taste of sadness.
In other news, I started classes on Monday (actually, that's the same news as before, but I somehow got distracted).
I had to take a placement test the day after I arrived in Japan. Severely jetlagged, tired, and having not revised at all over the summer, I kind of bummed at it, so now I'm in group J3 (out of 5). Everything I'm going to learn this semester I covered in first year, which sucks bums. On the other hand, much of what I'm going to learn this semester I have more-or-less forgotten, so I guess they put me in the right group after all. Yay! Besides, I think most of the stuff I actually learn this year is going to be self-taught (My main focus is on speaking and Kanji, which they don't really teach us in the classroom) so it's all good - if my Japanese classes were actually difficult, it might distract me from actually learning Japanese!
I'm rapidly getting better at talking Japanese, although I still lack 自信 (confidence), and I feel like all those Kanji I've unlearnt recently are beginning to trickle back. So when I get back for Christmas I should be speaking Japanese like... I dunno... a retarded Japanese child probably, but when i get back after the summer I'll be speaking Japanese like someone who has literally conquered the entire nation of Japan. Woo!
I've been reading a lot of books, too. Japanese ones. Anyone interested in literature should look into some modern Japanese authors - I've been reading Murakami (obv.), Natsume Soseki and Taichi Yamada, and I've just started (and nearly finished in one go) one by Banana Yoshimoto (teehee, her name's Banana). They tend to be slightly unsettling, dark and introspective, with a definite propensity towards the fantastical, but all very compelling and rewarding books. I'd strongly recommend I haven't Dreamed of Flying for a While by Taichi Yamada - a very poignant and moving love story, which is at the same time unsettling, strange and harrowing.
Oops. Sorry. I got all literary there for a moment - I don't know what came over me. Won't happen again (for a little while at least).
Okay - I've been writing this for about an hour and a half now; afternoon has suddenly become night and I'm about to be called away for some 'asobi' (It literally means 'playing', but int his context it means drinking - a delightful way of phrasing it, no?) so I had better sign off.
Okay - I hope this joke isn't getting too old yet, but it's the best I can do at short notice.
Here's Die Apocalyptischen Reiter (The Riders of the Apocalypse) performing - you guessed it - Dschinghis Khan.
Take it away, boys!