Like many other lifers I' met here, I had no intention of making a career out of
Japan when I stepped off of the figurative boat back in 1975. A year in Sapporo, on to
Korea or wherever, take ten years and see the world. That was the plan.
It was only after inadvertently making a coffee shop waitress cry and wreaking similar
gaijin havoc my first week due to my total lack of Japanese that I took up the language.
It began as a casual affair, but I soon discovered that, for the first time in my life, I
had found something -- besides travel -- that consumed me. In winter, 1976, I left Sapporo
for a Zen temple in a small town in the Fukui Prefecture where I thought I could study
both Zen and Japanese.
I was wrong. There was no time for Japanese in the temple, so after six months I moved
into the city limits. Living in a rural Kansai burg of 35,000 imbued me with a curiosity
value on par with, say, the Loch Ness Monster. This curiosity was at work -- along with
some of my own -- as I became friends with the local yakuza chieftain and proceeded to
scandalize the town with our association. Among the highlights from that period was a
two-month stint at a major cabaret in Nagoya -- his intro, of course -- where I worked as
a doorman and English teacher to the hostesses. Seeing those three quintessentially
Japanese worlds -- religion, organized crime and the water trade -- from the inside taught
me more about this country in less time than any alternative imaginable. The way I see it,
in most cases, is that the ideal approach to things here lies about halfway in between the
Japanese and Amereican ways.
Life returned to some semblance of normality upon arriving in Tokyo in 1980. I went to
graduate school at Sophia University, worked as a copywriter at Dentsu until 1988, then
started my own mini-agency in 1991. What has Japan meant for me? One, having begun to work
at the age of 31 -- not the career move of the century -- it has given me a second chance
at a profession. And two, it has afforded me a more objective perspective on my own
Back in 1989, as a measure of comic releif for the many frusterations that foreigners
are bound to expeience over here, I got the idea for "T-shirst for gaijin"--
something they can relate to or just chuckle at. In late 1994, I chose my four favorite
captions -- "This country should come with instructions ( a smash hit at the
Immigration office), "Gaijin make better aijin,'" "It's a deal! You
practice your English, I'll practice my sex", " and "Yellow cab driving
Instructor" and began production.
I interupted this activity after the Kobe earthquake in 1995 to create a charity with
an American designer to aid the victims of that disaster. we donated JY1,250,000, which I
personally delivered to physically handicapped and other deserving groups in the region.
Like Tokyo Classifided and other English language publications, my T-shirts are an
attempt to reach for foreign/English speaking community inTokyo and Japan. As an
"expat" veteran and inveterate fun lover, I'd love to see more products along
these lines. If anybody out there feels the same way, don't hesitate to email me.
INFO email: email@example.com.
Do you know an
interesting person in Tokyo? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org