At the risk of stating the blatantly obvious: Japan is a ridiculously different culture from America. They love American culture, including our movies and music and TV, but it still doesn't change the overall culture that they have (yeah, that's right Canada, you don't have to keep us out to keep your identity.)

As everyone knows, the education system here is very strict and they have very impressive educations stats. 95% literacy rate. 95% high school graduation rate (which is not only higher than the States, but just flat out more impressive because you don't get the wide swing between good schools and bad ones.) Possibly a side effect of the higher education rates, simply a cultural byproduct, a result of the strict laws, or a combination thereof, the crime rate in this country is extremely low.

So, already we've got better education and safer. Throw in cleaner, and an overall healthier lifestyle and you've almost got the bizarro-America right here. But, on top of all those factors, you've still got things like a strict (though loosening) gender divide. There are still a large percentage of housewives, and women are expected to be subservient to the men. And yet, there is no trace of the American ideal of "manliness" in this country. It's pointless to call a guy "metrosexual" because it's such a widespread thing. In America, the term "metrosexual" was created because there was a small population of men who were conscious of appearance, not tied to the ideal of being "a man", and people needed a way to label them. Here it's just the way things are. You're no less of a man if you look like a fucked up gay Bon Jovi. You're no less of a man if you don't drink beer or hard liquor. Hence the popularity of Sho-Chu. Not to mention all the hip-hop kids drinking Smirnoff Ice and Zima (yeah, Zima is popular here. I wondered where they were getting enough money to not go bankrupt.) Couple all of the above statements with the fact that Japanese men just flat out don't have the so-called "rugged, masculine" look that you find in Western society (and by that I mean square jaws, muscles, and full beards,) and you've got a sea of vaguely androgynous men and a sea of doll-like girls.

I'll say it again. This right here is the bizarro-America. It's hard to wrap my head around it all. It's hard to shift my perspective that much. Maybe it would be easier to do if I knew Japanese. At least then, I could explain things in the language that bore them. As is, I have to try to explain things in a language designed to express hate and violence. In Japanese, there are at least 5 ways to say "Thank you" and each of them implies some sort of guilt or regret in some way. In English, saying "I'm sorry" doesn't even always imply regret. Anyone who doesn't realize yet how much our language creates the way we see (read: interpret) the world had better check again. Any writer out there knows how difficult it is to express true joy, happiness and beauty in English, the language isn't built for that. Yet, every writer can also tell you how easy it is to express ideas like pain and sorrow in English. That's our language, that's how it is built and therefore how we are built. It's fucked up and annoying, but not really something we can change without huge amounts of change.

Anyway, I'm loosing my buzz. I need to get back to "The Mighty Boosh" (which is fucking brilliant by the way.) I'll leave you with a quote from episode one of said show:

Vince: "I'm a Cockney bitch. A young ragamuffin from the streets."
Howard: "You're a French Duke if ever I saw one. You lie around in hammocks all day eating soft cheese."

And one quote that's a bit more to the point of this post:
(They've just walked into a boxing gym.)
Howard: "It smells a bit funny in here."
Vince: "A bit funny?"
Howard: "Yeah, a bit musty."
Vince: "That's the smell of brutish men squirting out hot jets of man-foam."