Culture Shock – Column

cultureshock2200Culture Shock

Photos and captions by Chad Van Wagner, our man in Japan

Culture shock is a weird thing. When I moved to Japan, I assumed I’d miss things like cheeseburgers, TV, and clothes that fit a lumpy Midwestern dude. I was wrong.

Culture shock gets you in the nooks and crannies of the day. Imagine your last crappy day. Now imagine having that crappy day in a place where the ride home resembles the area at the front of the stage of a Slayer show. Only instead of a preponderance of greasy metalheads, you’re being crushed by Japanese schoolgirls.

OK, maybe that’s not a particularly good example.

Mostly, it’s the language barrier. My spoken Japanese can get me lunch, but my ability to read it ranks just below “tard.” Without being able to read what signs and such actually say, you’re stuck trying to interpret their meaning via illustrations. But what, precisely, could a cartoon duck, a sweating businessman, and a bowl of spaghetti be selling? Especially since you see these three images together in what looks like a hardware store. And don’t even get me started on the random crap the various city planners have seen fit to include in the landscape.

Together, Twinkie Man and I, your humble narrator, take this challenge. Actually, we run from it and just kind of make shit up as we go along. But the thought is there.


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There is nothing more romantic than holding hands and chasing a shaving cream-eating alien when you’re tripping balls.


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PLEASE tell me those are clouds coming out of the flying condom there.


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Because nothing says “badass” like poor word choice.


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If only… if only I could think of a joke that could somehow integrate the words “wet” and “beaver.” If only.


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“What do you wanna do with the 50-foot screaming concrete ape?”


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Translation: “Do not taunt the tiger. He will give you such a pinch.”


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There are some other names for girls that are a little less loved.


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That clears it up. Thanks.

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