Even the cans

So yesterday my coworker bought me a can of coffee. After I drank it, I tried to crush its canny being, to show it who was boss in this here drink/drinker relationship. I wouldn't squeeze. I slapped it around a bit, punched it with one knuckle, with a whole fist, but nothing. So I ax my coworker: What the fugz up wit this can? and she say, Mothafugn can made a steel, man.

I said Man. She said I know.

Japan's a steel country, and in a more sense figurative sense than Pittsburgh. The idea of shame and face exist here strongly, just like the idea of The American Dream is strong enough to delude thousands of business management majors every year. That's not to say shame is a delusional thingy-doo: it's quite as important and respectable as the ideals of the Occident. But whatever the case, the cultural mindset over here with regards to personal space, one's relation to his peers, elders, and countrymen, makes people emotionally tough. Nobody says hi to anybody else on the street. I am living in a major suburb of Tokyo, so maybe the city atmosphere has as much to do with it as anything else, but nonetheless: the busy atmosphere of metropolitan Pittsburgh or New York has a decidedly more forced feel to its silence--like people don't trust one another, like a trrrst might suddenly spring up and start stabbing bitches. I don't feel that tension in Japan. It feels like everybody's comfortable with public silence.

I heard this was the case before coming over here. It's very interesting for me, a Westerner in adamant denial of his own culture shock, especially as a late 20th century boy. A friend of mine read a psychological study that suggested the sociology of Americans shifted in the 1980s, such that people growing up in the 70s and 80s were culturally trained to be able to do a job, and do it well. They had a typical Old World work ethic. People of my generation, on the other hand, can do a job just as well, but we need the occasional pat on the back. We're less self-confident, for whatever reason. For my part, I can see my generational fingerprint every time I feel the need to rant about something, to let off some steam verbally. From the looks of the Internet, lots of people my age get the same urge, constantly.

But this generational foible doesn't seem to exist in Japan. People are happy keeping themselves to themselves. Ad, like I said before, it's not an American privacy, based on trust, but a much older respect for privacy, based on ideals of human relationships. No wonder Shinji went the way he did in End of Eva.

Anyways. There's the question of pressure relief. A lot of Americans my age, apparently, bitch off their stresses. I know I do. A lot of Japanese drink off their stress--public drunkeness is legal and common, and it seems to be a very quick cure for the incredible stress of their work week. The gaijin over here with me seem to have converted to the Japanese system: they're very reluctant to complain about specific people, focusing instead on the job in general--but they drink and fuck incredibly. Even compared to college folk. So it's interesting, at any rate. I'm still pretty malleable over here, but I'm reluctant to want to do as the Romans do, for obvious reasons. Still--I can't complain. Literally or figuratively. I've got it good over here. The food's good, the people are nice albeit quiet, there's a mundane beauty even in the sewer grates, and even the coffee cans won't let me down, steely bastards.

This sort of isolation was pretty common in Kane. I figured out a way to abate it this summer, by turning to art. I did some stuff I was pretty proud of. Maybe it'll work over here, once the emotional high inevitably fades.

Anyways. Steel cans. Boy howdy.

1 comment:

tarepanda said...

Not only that -- I don't know if you've noticed... but cans have an extra-thick bottom here. It makes the drink feel like it weighs as much as its American counterpart. When you've drunk it all, it feels like there's still something in there, but there isn't. The can's just heavier.