Some time ago, I found myself in the perfect storm of cultural hijinks – too much time, not enough supervision, a willing audience and a video camera. While waiting at a local train station for a friend to arrive, several pals of mine and I got into a fair bit of trouble “testing” the sensitivity of the train gate sensors. You can read all about it and see some fancy little videos I posted HERE
While the feedback I received initially was altogether cheerful and appreciative, our comic hijinks were picked up a Japanese news-gathering/community website called “2 Channel”. This site is one of the major Japanese internet communities, so I suppose I should be flattered that they stumbled across my little corner of the internet. The site is completely anonymous, unlike many English-language sites (eg YouTube, Fark, Digg, etc) that require a username. The total anonymity means that the site is rife with that special form of honesty for which the internet is so effectively used. You can read about it here if you want to know more.
As many of the posts were in Japanese, I had a hard time figuring out what was up at first. Internet slang is well beyond my meager nihongo, and it also confuses the shit out of the literal translator application over at Google. (1)
Some more posts followed, and people were kind enough to post their thoughts in English for my benefit (and surely your benefit as well, dear reader). They were a bit cryptic at first, including such gems as
the level is too low.
Others were clearer in their points, offering straightforward bits of wisdom:
gaijin get out and creepy pink
Some of the folk expressed their feelings about our comic stylings with
All Japanese don't like this.
Stop stupid action.
F---ing crazy pig, get out of Japan.
get away from jp
typical retarded caucasian bastards. this one's so classic.
Some people had very subtle and well thought out arguments as to why this behaviour upset them:
...Just go back to your homeland and lick your mother's ass next.
BRAIN DEAD ASSHOLE, GO HOME!
I think this guy was touched on some sort of deep emotional level. Maybe he has a toy train set or something.
This little flame war helped me to remember an important truth of our time: people enjoy being jerks on the internet. Maybe this is because of the pseudo-anonymity, or perhaps because of the fact that text-based communication removes all of the potential for sarcasm, emotion and other non-verbal communication to register. Maybe people feel safer on the internet, or they take personal and cultural slights far more seriously. Maybe this phenomenon is similar to the way dogs act really tough when they are behind a door or the other dog is tied up. Whatever the reason, I'm happy to see that internet-sulting is not an exclusively western phenomenon.
I’m not going to deny that I’m immune to this, because I certainly fired back. I did manage to restrain myself from the lowest of blows, being (a) attacking people’s grammar, especially that of non-native English speakers and (b) proving Goodwin’s Law, which holds that as the length of an online discussion approaches infinity, the probability that someone will make an analogy including Hitler or Nazis approaches 100%.
People did throw around the “You’re a racist” stuff, of course. As if by goofing off at a train turnstyle or pointing out things I find funny I am somehow heaping some massive insult on several thousand years of Japanese culture and history. I think you'd be pretty hard pressed to get the impression that I don't like Japan from this blog, or that I am spearheading some sort of cultural invasion that is going to undo J-society.
/bwah hah hah?
Anyway, my favourite character was the one that successively called me 1) An American, 2) An Australian and 3) A racist.
“I think you are racist.
If you say "no",do same thing in America.
That was internet reasoning at its best: making massive, faulty generalizations based on ethnicity, WHILE calling someone a racist. You can have your cake, or you can eat it, but you can’t have both without a semi-anonymous commenting system.
I pointed this out to my semi-anonymous friend, and he responded with the usual “I’m not a racist, I just worry that foreigners are going to commit a lot of crimes.”.
I suppose he’s right in that people with different cultural backgrounds have different expectations about behaviour. I’m the first to admit that 95% of the shit that I pull would not be pulled by your everyday random Japanese national. But I hold firm that those who make cultural generalizations are not allowed to use the term “racist” as an insult. There are certain rules about these sorts of things. Much like black folk are the only ones allowed to use the “N” word (and there are debates about that… I know *I* can’t even type it, anyway), and the use of the word “fag” in non-british-cigarette contexts is politely restricted to those who have reclaimed it.
Anyway, I digress. Go read the comments on the videos if you want some wit. (You can reach them right here if you want to:
As a final thought, I was quite pleased to see that a number of other people came to my defense to some extent, and chastised the angry “foreigners get out/don't disrespect the turnstyle” crowd.
One fellow seems to be from the same humour school as I am:
You were having some fun. What a bunch of complaining idiots. This from an employee of a transit system for 25 years. Retired,but if I saw it I would have laughed. Keep having fun and don't let a buch of dweebs ruin your sense of humor.
Perhaps most heartening was this sort of thing:
I'm sorry for the comments below. As you know, those who wrote these insulting words are definitely not typical Japanese. They misconstrued your blog and other stuffs, for they cannot understand English. However, I advise you not to upload "cheating Japanese train gates", because some people may take them as a covert disregard to the Japanese rules, and thus think that you are looking down on Japanese society.
Anyway, I hope you would fully enjoy your rest stay in Japan.
Sincerely from one genuine Japanese boy
Well, genuine Japanese boy, I know that people like you make up the huge majority of people you meet in Japan. The other jerks are too busy hurling insults around various message boards to really bother anybody.
So, thanks to those guys who laughed with me, and to all of you grumpy people that don’t like foreigners, I suspect you’d be a lot happier with your lives if you spent less time criticizing those enjoying theirs.