Culture Shock – Column

cultureshock200Culture 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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No comment.


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Reacharound extra.


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Even their manhole covers are cooler than ours.


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Some of the scenery is OK.


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Chicks dig Twinkie Man.


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There are lots of English teachers in Japan. Just not, apparently, lots of proofreaders.


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I am making happy! Shop great let’s!


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Translation: “Birds offer you hippo ass here. Do not dare refuse.”


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Is it really a good idea to name a medical clinic after something that has to die first in order to get better?


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There is no limit to the things you can buy here.

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