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The Uni-Files

A candid look at EFL life and lessons from a university teacher's perspective.

February 16, 2009

Parody- Armadillo's Blog

Today I’m not going to talk about teaching English at universities in Japan but rather about one aspect of the English-speaking diaspora in Japan, specifically Japan-based English blogs. Why? Until recently, I remained one of the dozen or so foreigners living in Japan who didn’t have their own blogs, but was recently asked by English Teachers Japan (ETJ) to start the one you are now reading.

This meant that I spent a few months beforehand doing what I had for the most part previously avoided doing, looking at other Japan-based English-language blogs authored by foreigners (or in some cases naturalized Japanese) to get a feel for the local blog culture. While a fair number were balanced, amusing, informative, and well-written, more than a few seemed to have a tiresome ‘chip-on-the-shoulder-about-Japan’ air, especially in the comments sections. If you want to know what I mean you might want to check out the parody blog below. Let’s call it Armadillo’s Blog, with Armadillo being the host blogger.

Welcome to Armadillo’s Blog-
Comments Section:
(15 comments)

1. Dear Armadillo,
Recently, I went into a book store in Nanikamachi and to my surprise and disgust there was no section for English books, except for textbooks and study guides. Since Japan wants so much to be seen as ‘internationalized’ I found this shocking. What do you think?
Farkey

2. Farkey,
You are right to be concerned about this so-called bookstore’s failure to serve certain ‘problematic’ customers (namely NJs). I called the shop and talked to the manager, a Mr. Yamamoto, who apologized for the lack of English books, claiming that he was not aware of any substantial demand for English books at his shop. However, he said that he would “look into” displaying a small section of English books in the near future. We’ll see.
Armadillo

3. Armadillo,
According to the most recent statistics, the total population of Nanikamachi is only 150,000, of which the foreign population makes up less than 1%. Here is the link. I don’t think that foreign customers represent a profitable demographic for that type of retailer. Anyway, there is another book shop (here) in Nanikamachi which seems to have an English section. Given this, I certainly don’t think that this particular shop’s decision to not sell English books is in any way strange or discriminatory.
Prokop

4. Prokop,
Are you just here to troll by pasting links or are you going to give a coherent argument of any kind?
Armadillo

5. Prokop,
Your a looser and a moran!!! if no books is in English in the store how Can my students get there english to be good ? LOL
Stubby

6. Armadillo,
I went back to that book shop in Nanikamachi 6 months after my post (above) and yes, there was a small display of English books there now. But do you know where it was? Right at the back, near the toilet! What does that say about their attitude towards foreign customers?
Farkey

7. Farkey,
It’s these kinds of not-too-subtle messages about the position of lowly NJs in Japan that make my blood boil. Anyway, I called Mr. Yamamoto again, who gave me the spurious argument that some section has to be placed at the back at the store near the toilet. He also rationalized the fact that the English section was near the toilet entrance as a mere coincidence (Yeah, right!). Anyway, he said he would do his best to change the location of the display. We’ll see. Armadillo

8. Armadillo,
I visited that racist book shop in Nanikamachi the other day and I noticed that their English section was now way up front near the counter. What’s up with that? Probably they are they worried that foreign customers will steal books so maybe they think they have to keep an eye on us. They treat us like criminals just because we’re foreigners!
Velcro

9. And the Japanese government does nothing!
Tumbleweed

10. Velcro,
This particular shop has clearly been flouting the basic human rights of foreign customers for some time now. I tried to talk to the manager, Mr. Yamamoto, again but after some background discussion apparently he was ‘out’ and the assistant (and I use that term lightly) manager, a ‘Miss Watanabe’, simply kept on repeating “I see. I see” when I presented my coherent and valid complaints. Obviously they have no intention of properly serving foreign customers. Boycott!
Armadillo

11. Armadillo,
Recently, as I was getting off a Japanese airline (the national carrier) on a domestic flight, the stewardesses were saying, “Arigatou gozaimashita” to all the departing Japanese or Japanese-looking passengers. But when I walked by they said, “Thank you very much” in English. This is unequal treatment and racial profiling! Not only that but they are treating me as if I’m too stupid to understand their language. I am still hurting from this blatant act of discrimination.
Mastodon

12. Mastodon,
As a national airline, their discriminatory behavior actually contravenes the UN Declaration on Human Rights, the Geneva Convention, and just about anything written by Amnesty International. But don’t expect the GOJ to do anything since so-called laws in this country mean nothing.
By the way, I’ve started filing a lawsuit even as I write this.
Armadillo

13. Armadillo and Mastodon,
Aren’t you guys making a big deal out of nothing? The stewardesses simply said, “Thank you” in a way that they’d be sure you understand. What’s the problem?
Prokop

14. Prokop,
Don’t you understand? The airline workers are probably getting told by the police to single out the foreigners. Maybe they get trained by the government who probably tells them to treat foreigners less politely than Japanese. Maybe they have it written in a manual. They probably learn it in schools too, which are controlled by the government, probably.
How can you support government-sponsored racism like this?
Velcro

15. Prokop,
Why are you such an Uncle Tom apologist? Our rights are slowly being destroyed by this airline passenger apartheid. What’s next? Marks on our foreheads? This is precisely why Japan is not respected and is thirty years behind the rest of the world in terms of human rights. If this happened in any ‘civilized’ country there would be riots in the streets!
Tumbleweed

…And so on.
You might think that ‘Armadillo’s blog’ is an exaggeration but you’d be wrong. The only allowance I’d make is that there are usually a few more reasonable folks (like Prokop) chiming in (and often hosting their own, more well-balanced, blogs). Other than that, what you see above is not uncommon. Of course, blogs rarely make for highbrow reading (thank goodness!) but scanning some of them can provide an interesting insight into the English-speaking milieu in Japan for both Japanese and foreign residents. Unfortunately, a number of them do end up sounding like English soundbites from Japan’s notorious 2ch, although the ‘seedy underbelly’ element of the blogosphere may be precisely one of the reasons it is worth checking out.

By the way, if you liked the spoof please feel free to link or copy it, with the usual protocols in mind.




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Comments

Spoof, huh? Shame on you, Mike. I'm going to have to tell Debito Arudou about this.

Debito? Who is this 'Debito' of which you speak? ;-)

Mike

Thanks for a great laugh!

longtermer

Funny, Michael! This too being one of the first times I've read a blog in English written in Japan.

XYZ-country bashing is very common. It's the result of a natural tendency whenever we're not happy with our political or social environment. Doing it in our home countries is called politics. The real issue centres on the context in which we do it. A personal blog isn't any more insidious than ranting to mates in a pub: ranking about the same in this web-ubiquitious world. Overhearing such a tirade most of us would more likely than not ignore it.

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