|Perl Monk, Perl Meditation|
JapanJapan is a country where by and large folks have a bad impression of Americans and I am ashamed to say it but they have damn good reason to be. Folks from the US are not very sensitive by and large to cultural differences and IMHO seem to think that the world is an extension of the good 'ole USA. But enough sermonizing.
Once you can convince someone in Japan that you are not the typical "Ugly American" they will warm up to you slowly at first but once you make a friend they are a friend for life.
In many ways Japanese pop culture (and my info is slightly dated, I was there last in 1981) is similar to the 1950's culture in the US. I kid you not, you will see youth riding scooters and motorcycles wearing leather jackets and combing back their "DAs" and young ladies in poodle sweaters and bobby socks.
Bars in Japan have an intersting gig. You do not buy shots of whiskey there, you buy the bottle. The bottle then has your name printed on it and is stored at the bar where the bartender will dispense from that bottle when you are there. When it runs out you buy another bottle. I participated in this in Sasebo and shared the contents with some fellows I befriended while I was there. I would not be the least bit surprised if I went back to that bar (assuming it is still there) to find my bottle on the top shelf waiting for me.
Koreans are among the most friendly people I have ever met in my life. They are especially so with Americans. During my stay in Pusan (pronounced Busan by they way... I'm told there is no "P" in the Korean alphabet) I was latched onto by a young man who wanted an American to practice his English on. He was planning on going to school in the US and didn't want to " sound like a foreigner" while he was in the US. Hmmm.. Some Americans could take a lesson here... (OK! I'll stop that!) In return he was my tour guide during the daylight hours and showed me a lot of Korea I would not have otherwise seen.
Nighttime was another story. I met up with these three nefarious individuals who wanted to attempt to drink this Yankee under the table. Lots of luck! I'm German/Scottish in my heritage and in those days had quite a capacity and could hold my liquor and maintain control of myself even when blotto!
Unfortunately, this incident became famous as the one and only time I got so wasted that I couldn't find my way back to the ship. The three gentlemen in question ended up in taxi cabs that their wives sent for them (!) with the cab drivers delivering the message from their wives that it was time to come home. Hmmm... some things never change no matter what country you are from.
Other than the drunken debauchery described above I learned an awful lot from the folks from both countries about their respective cultures. Not to mention the fact that I talked my way into more resturaunt kitchens to learn first hand how to prepare some of the food indigenous to the countries in question. I'm an avid gourmet cook so this aspect was worth the trip all by itself.
The one common theme that I found all over Asia and I would imagine is very true everwhere in the world. The individual people themselves don't give a rat's a** about Communists vs. Democracy vs. Ayatollas or anything else in the political arena. They just want to be left alone and allowed to raise their families and pass their customs, traditions and Grandma's Kimchee recipe down to their kids.
One thing: if you start snapping pictures in Japan you are likely to be accosted by school children who want you very much to take their picture. Another thing: As much as the Koreans dote on their children it amazes me that they tend to be the most polite children in the world. Even more so than the Japanese children I met.
I could go on and on with this topic, but it don't have a thing to do with Perl... ;-)