I love Japan.
I’m so into it, I eat my cornflakes
I want to fit in.
I’m so into it, I wear a fake, jet black
top-knot of my bald head.
Japan is everything I imagined
it would be. They still hate us;
it’s a chance to re-experience WWII.
On the trains at night, late, I imagine
someone might run a bayonet through
my knee, screaming, “Stand up straight.”
They greet visitors at the airport
with a test. “When,” they’ll ask,
“are you planning to leave?” If you answer,
“Never,” they send you home. There’s
only one acceptable answer to this question.
Many foreigners love it even more
than I. They eat rice cakes for breakfast,
lunch, and dinner. They bow as they talk
on the phone. They have all their body hair
removed. They wear tattoos of men raping carp.
They regret not having slept with their mothers
during college as many locals do.
Visitors often say how they love it here.
They declare themselves smitten; they gush.
They adore all of it, even the green or pink
poodles, the boys with yellow toenails,
and the men wearing red lipstick and mascara.
I love them, too. I especially love the male retirees
who take their pants off at the cinema.
I love the soiled underwear sold in vending
machines. I appreciate the home delivery of fresh eggs. I
crave the beer-fed beef sold by the gram, at over $400
per kilo. I’m addicted to the parmesan cheese made of sawdust
and powdered soy. What I love most are the young housewives
who wear Disneyland bras and Donald Duck panties. Quack.
My ardor, however, does not compare to that of my colleagues.
They love it so much they hate their own countries;
America, England, Ireland and Canada are all in their eyes
nothing but shit. They don’t miss home at all. What they love
best about Japan is that those on death row are executed
in secret. They like the denials of war guilt, the cult of the Emperor,
and the open hostility to “inferior” nations.
What attracts them immediately and what they embrace is
the Japanese love of peace. It’s their delicacy,
their manners and their politeness that stand out.
When they chop a prisoner’s head off, they shout,
“Excuse me.” But this is not what I love most.
I love the citrus, a variety that tastes familiar but different.
It’s something like a tangerine but it’s yellow. It’s small,
but looks like grapefruit. It could be called a Japanese orange.
Its name is Yuzu.
My conclusion is that there must be something in the soy sauce.
It must cause blindness, because when I wave at the locals,
they never wave back. When I smile, they don’t react. When I whistle,
they run. Or is it something in the saké? Perhaps something in the water?
It rains every day, but they fine residents for running the tap.
My only guess is that they’ve sold their water to the Chinese.
They say that’s why there are so many of them in Hokkaido.
Heads will roll, thank God.
And with that, it’s time to leave for the airport. If they’ll let
me. My taxes may not be paid up. I made $28,000 last year,
but they taxed me as a multimillionaire. They withhold over 70%
from foreigners out of fear they might abscond. Once you do,
you can never go back.
Let’s see if it works.
David Lohrey was born on the Hudson River but grew up on the Mississippi in Memphis. He currently teaches in Tokyo. He has reviewed books for The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register, has been a member of the Dramatists Guild in New York, and he is currently writing a memoir of his years living on the Persian Gulf. His latest book, The Other Is Oneself: Postcolonial Identity in a Century of War: 20th Century African and American Writers Respond to Survival and Genocide, is available on Amazon.com. He is also the author of Machiavelli’s Backyard from Sudden Denouement Publishing.