Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Know your rights!

I was perusing the Internet when I stumbled on an article written by one of my favorite politicians, Ralph Nader. Even if you`re not a Nader fan, you still might want to check it out, especially if you`re planning on taking a flight any time soon. Airports around the U.S. have started using full body scanners as a security measure. While I`m all about being safe from terrorist attacks while on an airplane, I am not a fan of being doused with radiation, especially when the scanners went through very little safety testing. Many scientists are concerned that the radiation levels can significantly increase your chance of skin cancer.

Nader`s article lets you know what your rights are as a passenger.
Naked Insecurity

I`m going to opt of being scanned until the government can prove it`s safe, and even then, I might be wary. This is the same government that continues to allow parabens in makeup, after all.

gaining perspective

I`m going to start running today. I swear.
I`ve been putting it off long enough. I signed up for that half-marathon in October. A procrastinator should not sign up for things so far in advance. I feel like I just have a sea of time stretched out before me. I can take my time and linger, stop and look at things along the way. But I just realized that it`s already July 1, and I`ve only gone running twice. Both times for less than 20 minutes.

I was never the exercising type--PE was my personal Hell as a child--but I really want to change that. I started running March of last year around the time that Zack went to Japan and I was stuck in America for three months. I had gained weight. I don`t really gain weight typically. You notice even 5 pounds when you`re 4`11` (still can`t make quotation marks), and I had gained 11.

I think I was a hummingbird in a past life. I love sweets more than anything and my metabolism is crazy fast. Er, was crazy fast. I never had to do much to be skinny. Just kind of flit through life. But it took running to get the weight off last year. I ran 4 or 5 days a week up until I left for Japan at the end of last June, and I felt great. My skin was clearer. My pants fit the way they did when I started college.

Erica sent me a package full of Easter candy. I just got it two days ago. I forgot how sweet American candy is, in all its brightly-colored, HFCS-laced glory. I can eat it, but in much smaller increments than I used to. Something at the back of my mind tells me to slow down and put the hot pink Peeps and bag of jelly beans away. I`m bordering 25. I guess I`m finally starting to accept the fact that I am a grownup and that my body is changing. My body now wants to savor sweet things instead of consume as much sugar as it can hold in one sitting. It wants me to exercise to stimulate my metabolism instead of just expecting it to be automatically stimulated.

Don`t worry. I`m not that worried about my weight. I`m not going to starve myself or go on a crash diet. But it just occurred to me that I`ve been saying my whole life that one day I will be in shape, like good-lines-in-my-stomach kind of shape, and I`m still not. If I don`t start getting into these good habits now, while running is still easy, then I might never do it. That`s why I signed up for the stupid half-marathon in the first place.

So, now that I`m finally starting to accomplish what I want with writing (completing stories and submitting them for publication), I figure that I might as well keep on with my checking off of life goals.

The thought of wearing a bikini in Bali at the end of July is also pretty good motivation.

Monday, June 28, 2010

rebel with a lot of causes

As July 4th approaches--my homeland`s birthday--my mind starts drifting towards America. We`ve had our ups and downs, but in my heart, I will always love that big, crazy melting pot of a country.

The distance between Georgia and me seems the farthest when something bad is happening. I can see a map in my head with a big red line arching between us, showing how far it really is. Home is where the heart is, they say.

And right now, my heart is in the ocean, in the Gulf of Mexico, that beautiful coastline right next to where I grew up. The oil is creeping closer and closer to the beaches of my childhood.

BP is burning animals alive right now, trying to fix their fuck-up as quickly as possible. They are using fireproof boons to contain big bubbles of oil and burn it up. The problem is that turtles can get trapped in these boons. BP ships have been blocking the ships of environmentalists who want to rescue the sea turtles before the fires are lit. Read about it here.

I told my oldest sister to take her five-year-old daughter to the beach as soon as possible. I didn`t realize that what I got to see in my childhood--stretches of sand with nothing but plants and shells and seagulls--might one day be a rare luxury for the people of planet Earth. After watching children run happily on a beach covered in trash on the coast of Japan, I realized that this is the world we are becoming.

People are learning to accept the unacceptable. Beaches should not be covered in trash. Endangered animals should not be burned alive because a mega-corporation can`t get its shit together. And I shouldn`t have to worry that by the time I get back to my home state, I won`t be able to recognize Tybee Island for all the oil washing up on shore. Or worse, dead animals.

I`m not the best environmentalist there is (I don`t want to talk about how many times I`ve flown in the last year), but I truly believe that every little thing we do makes a difference, even if we can`t make our entire lives environmentally sustainable. Every time you take your own bag to the store, you`re taking one more plastic bag out of the ocean. Every time you order the vegetarian option, you`re taking one more animal out of a hellish factory farm.

Right now, we need to come together and say that the oceans need our help. The Bluefin tuna is on the brink of extinction right now--its only breeding ground in all of the Americas was in the Gulf of Mexico--and people are still clamoring to the store to buy cans of Chicken of the Sea. In Japan, people are covering tables at Kappazushi with ¥100 yen plates of maguro sashimi.

I`m going to start posting links to petitions and causes on my blog and try to get more readers. Not many people take these online petitions seriously, but it is online petitioning that just saved the whales this week. The Humane Society started a save-the-whales campaign to help keep the moratorium on commercial whaling in place. Representatives from various countries were about to vote on whether or not to lift the ban on whaling, but lobbying on the part of special interest groups helped sway the vote. Thanks to their work, whales are as safe as they have been (which isn`t that safe, but better than extinct). Petitions work! And if we don`t sign them and keep these movements alive, who will?

So this Independence Day, I`m going to ask everyone who cares about America and the world to sign at least one petition for a cause they believe in. And better yet, why not donate to an organization you love? Most places take donations as small as $5 and put every last penny to good use.

Every week (or whenever my heart wants me to), I`m going to write a post about a cause or organization that I think is important. A cause or organization that we can help by something as simple as signing a petition or sending an email. I probably sign a petition every other day at least, and I usually see only positive results from it.

Here is a petition for today. Currently, companies are only responsible for paying up to $75 million for a spill cleanup. This petition is urging the government to raise that cap and make BP pay for its mess. Sign the petition.

I think this is a weekly feature that I can stick to.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It`s not.
--Dr. Seuss, from The Lorax

Friday, June 25, 2010


I turned down the magazine that wanted to publish my story. I'm going to hold out for one of the other places that I submitted to. It's taking a risk because maybe I shouldn't be picky, but this place is pretty amateur and I'd rather get the story into a more respected place.

I feel like a jerk for even sending the story there. Oh well. At least I'm learning about how all this stuff works. I'm still happy that someone likes me and I hope that someone else out there does, too, and that this wasn't a big mistake.

Here's an article I read that really helped me figure out what to do (I also asked the advice of Brandi Wells, a much more successful writer than me):
Submitting to Lit Mags

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Someone wants to publish my story! I`m so shocked that I don`t know what to do. I guess I should just accept the offer and be happy. YYYYYYYAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYY!

Monday, June 21, 2010


I`ve been thinking about PC a lot. I guess it`s because I`ve actually been submitting my work and writing every (week) day. I finally feel that pull again, that little tug that makes you want to sit down and write out your thoughts. Now that I`m starting to understand what his life was about, I just wish that I could talk to him. I wish that I could send him my latest short story. Whenever I do get published (because I am determined to be published), I want to send him a link to it and then have him write back Great. Now keep writing.

In case you don`t know, PC was my mentor in college. He was the professor who inspired me to be a writer. Before I was just a journalism major. He passed away a month before I graduated. I didn`t know him as well as I would have liked, but I was still asked to read something at his memorial service. It was the biggest honor of my life so far. If I do nothing else in this life, I would like to think that old Peter Christopher is sitting on a cloud somewhere, smiling and saying, That`s it, Em. You got it.

Anyways, I googled him the other day to see which journals he was published in (everything he ever wrote was published, except for the story collection and novel he was working on when he passed away). I found this:

(sorry, for some reason links don`t post correctly on my blog so you`ll have to copy and paste)

It is an essay that his wife wrote after his death. It made me realize how little I knew about him, this man I admired so much. He was a true artist and an amazing teacher. I actually thought about him a little on Father`s Day. I won`t let you down, PC.

All thrive.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I'm going to submit to 10 more places. Maybe 1 out of 20 are the odds I need...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

unreachable things

I just want to eat a snack. There are at least two snack tins strategically placed around the teachers` office, but I have no idea if I am allowed to eat the snacks. I am starving. I only brought my lunch (which isn`t for another hour at least), a banana, and a piece of bread to eat today. I doubt that I am supposed to eat out of the snack tin because there is probably a money collection every month for the snack tin, just like there is a Coffee Club and you have to pay ¥1000 each month to drink the coffee. Or ¥50 (which is like $0.50) per cup. I might just pay the ¥50 to drink a cup and hope that it fills me up.

Everything seems worse when I am hungry and the sun isn`t shining, like today. I got a rejection within hours of sending out my short story. It was from Word Riot. The story I sent to Glimmer Train last month was also rejected. I know that being rejected isn`t necessarily a sign that I suck, but today it kind of feels like it. I keep thinking of all the things that I wish I was but that I`m not. I wish I was taller and prettier. I wish people called me `gorgeous` in picture comments on Facebook. I wish I was funnier. I wish I could figure out how to type quotation marks on a Japanese keyboard. I wish I wasn`t a procrastinator and that I would start training for the half-marathon already. I wish I was a really, really dedicated writer, and that I could sit at a computer for hours typing and be content.

I was just watching the second graders play volleyball in the gym. All of them could play. I couldn`t even dribble a basketball when I was in the eighth grade. It just occurred to me, sitting there on the gym floor, that I`ve never really won anything my whole life. Aside from Honors Day in public school, when they give out those paper certificates like candy on Halloween. But I mean like a contest or an award for something that really matters to me. I was a finalist for the Roy Powell Award in college and in high school, we got second place one year at One-Act Play, but I`ve never won, been first place, had my name somewhere for my achievements. I don`t know if it even matters whether or not you win some contest that someone set up, but I really want to. It just seems like I`m never talented or pretty or smart enough to be a winner.

I don`t write because I want to win contests. It`s just something that I`ve always wanted to do. I write because it helps me understand the world and myself. I write so that one day maybe I can give someone that feeling that I get when I read a great story or book. I want to connect with someone else and teach them about themselves, about humanity.

So I guess today I`m just in a bad mood. Maybe I`ll sneak into the snack tin when no one else is around.

learning Japanese

It`s the last day of `no classes, students do random things` this week. So I`ve decided that today, I`m going to study some Japanese. I realized that I need to keep studying if I ever want to have a meaningful conversation with my coworkers. Here is a typical lunch time conversation:

Me: Is that meat?

Coworkers: This? Yes, this is meat.

Me: Is it delicious?

Coworkers: Yes, it is delicious. What is that?

Me: Tofu.

Coworkers: Emily, do you love tofu?

Me: Yes. Yes I do love tofu.

Old Man Groundskeeper: Emily, (something something something) America (something something)?

Me: Sorry. I don`t understand.

That is all said in Japanese. After our exciting conversation, my coworkers all turn back to their animated talks about really funny things. I just sit there and eat. I always finish first. Then I have to sit there until someone decides that enough people are finished for us to leave the table and say `Gochisousama deshita,` which means something really polite in Japanese but doesn`t really translate to English. I think it means something like, thanks for the food, I am honored or something. My life is full of mysteries right now. This is why I need to study Japanese.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Well, I did it. I finished the story in a haze of my own words, and submitted it to 10 different journals. It was a lot like applying for a job, except that none of this will result in me getting paid. But at least I was at work when I got all that done.

I`ve only ever submitted two stories besides this one for publication. And I only sent those two stories to two journals each. Not good odds.

I think my odds are all right this time--1 in 10 chance of being published somewhere. Who knew that writing was such hard work?

doo doo

So I don`t know if I really like that little weekly feature I was trying to do. It felt too forced, and no one likes things that are forced, right? Besides, my blog is pretty much just one long rant about what to love and hate about living in Japan anyways. But I`ll still try to post helpful photos sometimes.

It`s a special week at えいめい ちゅがこ (Eimei Junior High School). The first graders (7th graders in America) are camping for two days, the second graders (8th graders) are doing job shadowing, and the third graders (9th graders) had sports day yesterday and are doing volunteer work today. I`m not sure what everyone is doing tomorrow, but it means that I have nothing to do this week. And Monday, I didn`t even have to go to work because they had sports tournaments all weekend and the students had a day off. So I only had to teach class on Tuesday. That`s it. I get three days of revising my short story (which is pretty much done..I just have to decide whether the first paragraph should be in past tense or present tense) and trying to come up with activities for next week.

I used to get annoyed at the ever-changing and mysterious schedules of a Japanese school, but now I`m starting to see how good it can be for the students. They work their asses off, but they get rewarded. They even have a swimming pool at their school. It`s all blue and glittering now.

I tried to explain to one of the 英語 先生 (I think that means eigo sensei, which is English teacher) that in America, you just couldn`t have cool field trips. I mean, you could have cool field trips, but not cool field trips. Last year, Zack accompanied his junior high students on a mountain climb. Up a real mountain. The kids had to leap across treachorous rocks at various points on the climb. Can you imagine taking over a hundred (I`m not sure how many students went) on a mountain climb in America? It just wouldn`t happen, especially in middle school. I was explaining to Maki-先生 that the liability is too great. People will sue for any possible reason, even if it doesn`t make any sense whatsoever. If the lawyer can sell it to a judge, someone will try it.

There`s more of a `survival of the fittest` vibe here in Japan. People are tougher. The sidewalks are tiny and completely inaccessible to wheelchairs. If you teeter off the sidewalk, you might fall into a 外人 (gaijin, foreigner) trap. A 外人 trap is a steep concrete ditch that foreigners sometimes drive their cars into because the roads are so narrow and most outsiders aren`t used to steep concrete ditches flanking the road. If you fell into one of these ditches, and you didn`t have a cell phone or friend with you, you could definitely die. Or at least be seriously injured. I heard a true story of a girl who got trapped in one last year. She was wearing a 着物 (kimono) and drowned. She was only 24. I get nervous when I see old people tottering down the road, their backs hunched and their hands crossed. They never seem to fall or get hurt, though.

Every morning, I see elementary schoolers walking themselves to school. They are usually in groups, but it`s still strange to see children walking without adults on these narrow streets (or any where). Kids also run amok in parking lots. Very rarely do kids hold their parents` hands. It`s just another way in which our society is different. People feel safer here, and they can. The crime rate is only a fraction of what it is America. (Although I question the car accident rate.)

One day, I was warned my vice principal that a strange man was wandering around Chino so I should be careful. I almost laughed. Can you imagine trying to count the weirdos in any American city?

I don`t let my perceived safety cloud my judgment. I dont`t walk alone at night here even though I did in Miyada. I`ve finally learned how to call for help and how to tell someone to call an ambulance or the police. Maybe it`s my American paranoia at play, but I truly believe in our old adage `better safe than sorry.`

Sunday, June 13, 2010

miracle at ZaZa Arts Festival

We went to ZaZa Arts Festival this weekend. It was a small-ish event set up by Krissy Werner, an ALT with the JET Program. There were African drums, paintings, crafts, and later on in the evening, some performance art. Music, bellydancing, and a couple writers reading their work.

I felt stupid. Here I was, standing in the audience, just watching Molly read her story. I didn't feel stupid because Molly was reading (her story and poems were really great); I felt stupid because it wasn't me. All I could think was, "I'm a writer, too, dammit. Why didn't I think of reading something at this event?"
I knew the answer. The reason I didn't bring anything to read was because I never feel like anything is good enough. Even if I feel brilliant during the writing process, even if I feel like I'm saying what I want to say in a way that I like, it just never feels done. I just like to keep things unfinished so that I never have to let them go and have other people read them. If they aren't final, then I can always go back and make them better.

But in that moment, I didn't care about that.
"Can I have the car keys?" I said to Zack. He looked confused but handed them over. I knew that I had cleaned out my backpack--the place where I had been carrying several story and essay drafts--before the trip. I knew that it was hopeless, that I didn't bring anything to read. I would be silent. Another day, another failure. I was thinking these thoughts--almost on the brink of tears because all the beer was making things seem much worse--when I found it. Folded into a small square tucked into the front little pocket of my book bag. My latest attempt at fiction. It was the most complete draft of the story I had written, but I still wasn't sure if it was done. I did a quick read through in the car. I took a breath.

"Fuck it."
I ran inside with the little square of paper just as Krissy was announcing the next event for the night. I ran up to the stage.
"Hey, Krissy, can I read this story? I can do it later or whatever..."
She looked at me. "You can read it now," she said, and gestured to the mic. I took off my shoes and stepped on the tatami stage.

Alcohol makes a reading much more enjoyable for everyone involved. I wasn't nervous at all. I felt alive and really good about myself for once, good about the words that I had put together. When I finished, people clapped and cheered. One girl said she wanted to quote the story on her Facebook page. (I think that alcohol might have influenced that comment.)
The best part was seeing Zack's face.
"I never heard that before," he said.
"It's just a draft," I said. "It's not finished."
"I think it is," he said. "I think you could submit it."

So that is the story of the miracle at ZaZa Arts Festival. I read my story and have decided that it is ready to be submitted (after some slight nitpick-y editing). It was the first reading I've done in almost two years. I can't wait to share my work with even more people.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


The only comments I get are from Japanese spam monsters.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

lost in translation

I keep meaning to bring a camera to school so that I can document an average day at a Japanese middle school. It`s a lot different from American middle school. The schedule changes day to day and week to week. There are special events regularly, so classes are always being cancelled or switched around. Yesterday, a man who survived the Hiroshima atomic bomb came to speak to the students. A little later in the afternoon, this old man groundskeeper asked me if my grandfather fought during World War II, and if he did, if he was a pilot or not.

Japanese people age amazingly well (they usually look like they`re late 20s/early 30s when actually they`re in their 40s), so I have no idea how old this man is. He has age spots, wrinkles, and gray hair, but he also climbs ladders and does manual labor on a daily basis. He could be in his 70s and still working for all I know. So I can assume he was alive in the 40s and old enough to remember it. He is probably around the age that my grandfather would be if he were still alive today (he passed away in his late 60s from cancer about 10 years ago). So there was a pause. I`m sure my face turned red. He asked me this at the lunch table, where I eat with all the other random staff who don`t have homerooms to eat with. I know that my grandfather was in the military, and that he fought in the Korean War, but I have no clue if he was involved in WWII. He was in the Navy I think. So I could at least say that much; that he definitely wasn`t a pilot when the atomic bombs were dropped. Between my broken Japanese and his broken English, I have no idea if he understood me. AWKWARD.

I also had an awkward encounter today, when one of the English teachers informed me that the skirt I wore on Monday was `too sexy.` (I apologize for the punctuation; I don`t know how to make quotation marks on a Japanese keyboard.) It was a floor-length plaid skirt with a little slit in the front. The slit went high enough to show my ankles and part of my calves. I`ve worn it before, but I probably had on tights. That`s the Japanese modesty cure-all: if something is questionable, just throw on a pair of black tights. So I apparently made the male students crazy with desire because they got a glimpse of my pale, unshaven calves. I also learned from this teacher that I shouldn`t eat breakfast during the morning meeting, even though I have no input and no idea what`s going on. I`m just glad that she told me straight up. The Japanese usually deal with problems in a roundabout kind of way that some people refer to as `indirect confrontation.` It`s sort of like when your significant other does something to piss you off, and instead of bringing it up right away, you let it fester and add it to an ongoing list of things that piss you off. Then, once the things that piss you off have formed an uncomfortable ball in your stomach, you spew it out all at once at the person. This is common here. Bosses typically don`t yell at you until it`s almost time for you to be fired. That`s what happened at my last job. So I really like my current job, even though I have to buy a lot of tights to keep it. The students let you know when you have a tiny run in them because `they are just too kind` as one teacher put it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

For some reason, I signed up to run a half-marathon that takes place on the day after my 25th birthday. I clearly don`t like myself.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Things to love/hate about living in Japan #2

A thing to love love love about living in Japan is dessert. The cakes for sale at bakeries, even grocery store bakeries, are made from high-quality ingredients and aren`t as sweet as those fluorescent icing-covered cakes you can get at Wal-Mart and Food Lion. Compare:

a typical Japanese cake (this one is for Christmas, but many birthday cakes look similar). The bakers use pieces of chocolate with `Happy Birthday` or whatever message printed on them to customize the cakes, so you don`t have to worry about crappy handwriting.

a fairly typical American cake, making use of plastic figures and extravagant colors.

The cakes that I have eaten in Japan have been light and fluffy, with equally fluffy icing. There`s nothing heavy or overly sugary about them. Even the whipped cream tastes more like old-fashioned cream rather than chemical Cool Whip. Of course, that quality comes with a price. Cakes here are expensive--about $30 for a small circular cake. I`ve never even seen a big sheet cake in a Japanese bakery. The high cost of sweets might be part of the reason that people don`t make as big a deal out of birthdays in Japan as they do in the States.

And did I mention that the chocolate here is divine? I`d take a Ghana bar over Hershey`s any day.

Soft serve ice cream in Japan is also heavenly. The fruit flavors, like strawberry and blueberry, taste like actual fruit instead of some sugary fruit imitation made in a lab.

I`m not a big fan of goma (sesame seed) or macha (green tea) ice cream, though.

But the best part of Japanese desserts is that they embody the rule of everything in moderation. Cake slices and dessert portions are just right. The flavors are more subtle and little details, like chocolate shavings or a dollop of fresh cream, are perfectly balanced. People rarely even eat sweets; they are saved for special occasions instead of a guilty regular indulgence. You savor every crumb. Some Japanese sweets, like yatsuhashi, are even good for you because they are made from beans and rice. When you save the good stuff for special moments, you appreciate it more. And that`s sweet.

Friday, June 4, 2010


Zack and I finally bought some plane tickets the other day. We're going to Bali for two weeks this summer! I can't wait!!!

I bought a Lonely Planet guide for Bali. It's the first travel book I've ever bought. I didn't really see the point of a travel book until I wandered the streets of London and Tokyo aimlessly. I realize now that it's probably worth the $20 to have a direction.

Tonight is Taico Club, this big techno dance party in the middle of a wooded park in Kiso Valley. I'm listening to Electric Six to sike myself up. A night of dancing is the perfect way to celebrate the great things happening in my life right now.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Things to Love/Hate about Living in Japan #1

Wow, I really dropped the ball on posting this on Saturday. Oh well. I did it to surprise you, like when you forget about someone's birthday and give them one of those belated cards and pretend like you did it on purpose.

Before I start this post, I just want to make it known that I love Japan! But just as when you get to know a person, especially a person that you love, you start to see their flaws. This is just my perspective as an outsider trying to understand a totally foreign culture. I'm just getting to know this country and all its crazy quirks. It's fun and frustrating. I have lots of "things to love" to write about in the future.

The first thing to hate about living in Japan is FASHION. Many people will argue with me. People will call me crazy. But if you had to walk 30 minutes to work everyday past modern-day Japanese youth, you'd go crazy, too. This is supposed to be the land of gothic lolita, of Harajuku and people who look like video game characters. And it is, in many ways. This is the land of cute, and there are some snazzy dressers that will make you feel like roadkill in comparison to them.
But just as NYC is a far cry from Statesboro, GA, the fashion trends of Tokyo don't always trickle down to the more rural areas of Japan, like our humble Nagano Ken.
It's as if no one in this country has a helpful older sister to teach them that brown and black do not in fact match, and that a cohesive outfit does not consist of four or five articles of clothing picked at random from a store.

I feel like I'm either in a weird anime or a romantic comedy from the 90s whenever I wait for a train.

Apparently everything has been done before, so it's no surprise when trends are recycled. But why every trend? Why stirrup pants? Why this?

The dresses look cute until you try them on and feel like you're pregnant with quintuplets.

Yes. Weird straw hats. Shorts with tights. Maybe I'm out just out of the fashion loop, but I don't remember anyone sporting this look the last time I was in the States. Everyone does it here. Women. Children. Teenagers. Sometimes even men rock out leggings with their shorts. Is it UV protection, modesty, or just very misguided ideas about what articles of clothing go together?

I don't want to be a fashion fascist. I think that fashion should be a way to express yourself, to show what you value, in a way. Maybe you value comfort and warmth over bright and flashy colors. Maybe you're the opposite. But what I see many people in Japan doing--moreso than people in America--is take outfits directly from mannequins, even if the outfit is ugly. Fugly even. In fact, the majority of outfits I see here, that would be considered outlandish in the US, are just variations of one outfit on display at a store. Taken from a master mold.

Zack and I think that a big part of this phenomenon is the uniform culture of Japan. This is a land of homogenization, of nails that stick up getting hammered down. All junior high school students have to wear uniforms, and many high schools and elementary schools have them, too. Many offices force their employees to wear flight attendant-esque uniforms. Even most little kids seem to wear similar outfits.

I guess one of my biggest qualms with the couture of Japan is that it doesn't fit. It doesn't fit our times (1992 called. They want their ugly hats back)--

--and it doesn't fit actual people. I thought I was coming to my home land, the land of the short people, the land of pants that would fit me. I was so wrong. Apparently, my feet are too small and my ass is too big to find proper-fitting attire in Asia. The quest continues. Many fashionable shoes (i.e. pumps and flats that I love) come in sizes S, M, and L, not incremental sizes. So I wear a size S and most stores start carrying shoes at size M. I notice a lot of young women sliding around in their cute-colored pumps, choosing fashion over proper-fitting shoes. I'm not that desperate yet.

The clothes are either maternity-shirt baggy or superhero-tight. No real in between. It makes all women big and floppy up top and super skinny down below. Even different body shapes are molded to look the same.

Sorry if you like the 90s grunge look. I used to like it, too. But really, when you see it every day in real life, it isn't as cute as when Bridget Fonda wears it. Especially when paired with weird Spartan sandal high heels.

Just because something can be classified as retro does not mean it should be resurrected. Lots of bad things are retro: DDT, for example. We don't want to start wearing that, now do we? And just because something is considered fashionable enough to be on a mannequin or model doesn't mean that it should be worn. By anyone. You should just wear clothes that make you happy and make you feel good about yourself. That's the only rule that anyone should follow. It just never occurred to me that looking like other people could make anyone happy.

Maybe I'm just really homesick for diversity, the hallmark of American style. Sure, America has tons of people just copying the pages of magazines, but there are just as many people finding their own way. I don't want to generalize all Japanese people, because there are plenty of non-conformists in this strange country, but I have to say that the pressure to conform is the biggest hurdle to fashion that Japan has right now. That, and their insistence on wearing black tights with everything. Even in the summer.

(Note: Sorry that the photos aren't actual photos of Japanese people. All the pictures are fairly accurate examples of Japanese fashion as I see it. I think that many Japanese outfits are not as cute as the ones pictured above though. It's hard to inconspicuously photograph people. But I will try to get some actual evidence of this disturbing 90s grunge/fugly trend).