Today I went to Taco Bell at Shibuya, which had opened last Tuesday as Japan’s first Taco Bell store and hundreds of people had waited in queue for more than two hours in front of the store on the first day only. Today there was a long queue, too. A staff member standing in the end of the queue said that I had to wait up to two hours to be served from there. It was a bit tough for me to wait such a long time, but it couldn’t be helped to do it to enjoy the American taste I’d ever had at New York where I had travelled for a business trip.
The Hiroo neighbourhood is one of the places I visited very frequently because a training centre of the company I worked for was in that area. I visited there from time to time to have an English test or a training for English writing or business skills when I was a young worker. Every time I had classes there, I dropped in on the supermarket to see the shoppers coming from abroad, mainly the United States, who looked rich enough to afford the imported products sold there. To see such successful people encouraged me to make my best efforts to learn English and business skills for my success.
However, several years later the training centre was closed and moved to another place. Most of the products sold in the supermarket has become what I can get online for the same prices as in their home countries, without paying extra money at such an imported grocery shops. Besides, the United States is no longer the goal for successful persons, seeing the current circumstances of it.
The supermarket was a dream for me, and a wonderland that offered me a space of extraordinariness, but it ended the role as a symbol of success with the change of the times. Without the supermarket, I will visit the Hiroo area more rarely than ever.
We Japanese know that English is the world’s de facto standard language everyone in the world need to learn to communicate with each other in this fast-globarising society. Mastering English is, nevertheless, one of the greatest hardships for most of Japanese who were born in Japan and raised by Japanese parents within Japan. They learn English as a mandatory subject in middle school, high school and even college for up to eight years, but very few of them have a good command of it.
Quite a few analysts have given comments why most Japanese are weak in English. Some say it’s because English’s structure of language is quite different from that of the language they usually speak. Others point out the problem with Japan’s English education policies, relying overly on teaching translation techniques from English to Japanese rather than communicative English.
It is also said that English isn’t necessary for Japanese people’s everyday life. Even if English is taught in school, it’s what they can forget after managing to pass the entrance examination of their highest education facility at long last. Once they finish studying for exams, they can do without English for life as long as they stay within Japan. Rather, showing off English is considered in many cases as rude, affected and disgusting behaviour by other average Japanese, especially elderly people who have less chance to learn English.
Why do average Japanese living in Japan hate such people who speak English fluently, though they may neither feel rude, affected nor disgusting to good painters, professional musicians, skilled karate masters, or those who are good at something other than English? Japan has been subject to America’s control in business, economy, military, culture and everything else since WWII, and various kinds of things have been brought into Japan. People in Japan have been mesmerised by such American-style things and, because it has been noised about especially for the last 15 years that all examples in America are the global standard they should follow, they have made their best efforts to try to incorporate them in their daily life. However, a few things are what they can’t manage to do it —- English is the one. Affection to what they try to get in vain turns into hatred over time, and the hatred will be expressed at those who successfully have it. Due to such nature of Japanese people, most of them don’t or pretend not to speak English well so that they won’t generate unexpected resentment among people. Because it’s considered affected to show off speaking English in public, they have less motivation to use it.
In my humble opinion, one of the important attitudes to master English is to stop admiring America too much. English is not a language for Americans only, but a lingua franca everybody in the world learns whether or not he is a native English speaker. You’ll find out that American English mainly taught in Japan is not dominant in the world if you travel countries in Europe, Middle East or Southeast Asia, where British English is widely used in conversation and signs in public. People in the UK, India, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia use their own local English. Even within the United States, you’ll see various kinds of people from businesspersons to hotel clerks, taxi drivers and newsstand workers who speak in various kinds of accents. Nothing is right and nothing is wrong. Nothing is fashionable and nothing is dowdyish. They are all English.
We should be a master of English, not a slave of it. We should learn it as not so much one of American cultures as an interface language to get our views over anybody in the world, regardless of his mother tongue, representing the nation we stand. The more Japanese can do it, the more they can influence in the world, resulting in the benefit of our country.
Every time I begin to visit a US military facility I feel that spring has come. Yesterday I went to Camp Zama for US Army Cherry Blossom Festival as this year’s first visit to US military bases. It was a little cold but fine. Cherries were almost at their full bloom and looked the most beautiful. There were plenty of people coming the venue.
Here’s the video recorded by a camcorder of my cell phone at Camp Zama yesterday and you can see what went on there.
I visited Negishi Heights today. At first it was scheduled to open to public last Saturday, but the festival was put off until the next day because of rain. Several US military bases are open in the spring season but I couldn’t go to most of them this year because I caught a cold in the base-open period. All I could go in this season was Atsugi NAF and Negishi.
Here are some of the pictures of Negishi Heights Friendship Festival.
I uploaded a set of all of them on Flickr.
Spring is the best season to visit American military bases of the Kanto Plain. They are open to public to let people see cherry blossoms, see American buildings, and get American foods, drinks, T-shirts and goods. I enjoy feeling American taste every time I enter on base.
The first gate-open in this year is NAF Atsugi. I uploaded a set of pictures on Flickr.
Congratulations, Barack, on your inauguration to become a new US President today, and on having a chance to create a new, powerful, cheerful and great era for the United States, and for the rest of the world!
Barack, I want you to make the best efforts to create a more peaceful country not only for American citizens but also for the people of the other countries. I urge you to open the door so that we have easier access to the United States and so that foreigners who love America can have more chances to study at a school or to get a job there. And, as a netizen, I also hope you to make the internet world as free, exciting, and open to many people, Americans or foreign people, as in the era of Bill Clinton.
May America keep being good friends with Japan, one of the strong allied countries.
This afternoon media announced that Barack Obama had made history. He’s going to be the first Black US President in American history, as well as the President from the Democratic Party which has not sent the President for eight years.
Whichever will become the next US President, Obama or McCain, as a Japanese citizen our big concern is whether the new President will treat us well or not. We are afraid that Japan’s national benefit might be somewhat impaired by the Democratic administration. Unlike Republicans, governors and congresspersons from the Democratic Party have treated Japan coldly in the past. We are anxious about the so-called “Japan passing” attitude coming up again. We’ll never forget that, when the former President Bill Clinton visited China in 1996, he “ignored” to see Japan and returned home without dropping in.
Our national security is also an important issue. There are several countries of which we need to be cautious, including China and North Korea. The current President Bush, apart from his other policies, has been playing an important role together with Japan’s Prime Ministers to keep the Asia-Pacific area still safe and secured, with great influence over those countries. On the other hand, seeing that the Democrats will be dominant in American government and congress, we wonder how much the United States will help us to protect our country from those “dangerous” countries. How much will Obama Administration be cooperative to save abducted people out of North Korea?
Nevertheless, however much we feel uneasy about Obama’s policies, Japan can’t live without the United States. We have no other options but to keep up with America’s way. All Japan has to do is to keep good relationships with the US, and, more than that, to make its best efforts not to be “ignored” by America and the other countries in the rest of the world.
Now people are lining up to vote for America’s next presidential candidate in every state. If Barack Obama wins, he will be the first African-American US President. If John McCain wins, Sarah Palin will be the first female US Vice President.
I can’t poll because I don’t have US citizenships, but it’s my big concern which will win the race, because Japan’s future depends a great deal on how the new President will handle the United States.
The first polls will close in less than an hour. Hope no troubles will occur in the vote.