Once upon a time, Lady Gaga met Kyary Pamyu Pamyu…sort of

Before we get to the actual story I’m going to slap some background in here. A couple of weeks ago, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu met with pop star Katy Perry. KPP and Katy had fun in their interview, chatting back and forth, generally having a good time.

Katy is really complimentary to KPP. They had a ball getting to know each other and Katy seemed to really enjoy her company. For me, this is what I’d call a successful interview and cultural exchange. They are both two pop stars from two different countries who get along, and that’s something I’m thoroughly happy to see.

I don’t think this is what happened at all with Lady Gaga.



MusicStation is a popular channel here in Japan that, bet you couldn’t guess, mainly features musical artists and their latest creation/abomination that they want people to buy. Lady Gaga appeared last Saturday on the show, which was of course a huge deal because Lady Gaga is a huge international star. Also on the show was Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, who has expressed multiple upon multiple times that she is Gaga’s biggest fan ever, she’s gaga for Gaga.

As seen in the above picture, Lady Gaga decided to inspire her outfit with the Japanese fashion style of kawaii (cuteness overload), which is KPP’s shtick. Fans of Pamyu Pamyu have expressed no small amount of outrage at this seemingly upstaging of their idol’s fashion, which in Japan isn’t just a fashion choice it’s also a whole lifestyle. Ladies in Japan who take up kawaii like KPP live and breathe cute in everything they do, from the way they talk to the way they eat to the way they walk down the street.

Lady Gaga most likely saw her fashion choice as a Westerner views it, that it’s the tool you use to express yourself in the given moment. Therefore, when she came onto MusicStation decked out in her latest eccentric project, she kind of looked a little insulting. Not to mention the fact that the manga eyes she painted on her face are actually done wrong. But perhaps she can be forgiven! After all, she’s just trying to show that she loves Japanese sub-cultures. She’s a self-proclaimed Japanophile in the fashion sense, so all is well, right?

Not so much. If you couldn’t tell from the look on KPP’s face, the interview is disappointing, since she simply gets to sit in the background while Lady Gaga takes over. Also, all the ARASHI members are in the background looking displeased for some reason. I never could figure out why. MatsuJun even looks a little too stern, much more so than usual. I can only speculate on the why of it, but I’d put my money on the fact that it looks like she’s giving KPP the cold shoulder, ignoring her completely.

I know that Lady Gaga doesn’t most likely get to choose how the show gets set up and even who she can or can’t talk to during the show. However, I find it highly ironic that the song she’s set to sing is her latest single “Applause,” a song that’s all about fan love, and yet she’s appearing to stick her nose up at a fan that looks up to her as a role model in the pop industry.

It’s my hope that Lady Gaga and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu got to at least talk more backstage or maybe hung out somewhere in Harajuku and drowning in kawaii clothes. Yet, I think that this kind of interview didn’t exchange much of anything. No one learned anything new here. In terms of cultural exchange, I think this kind of platform dooms itself to failure from the beginning to the end anyway, since the type of interview is all about the big star and what she’s doing. I realize that wasn’t the goal for this show, and I realize that Gaga doesn’t owe KPP anything. Still, I think it is a shame when opportunities for something more than just talking about trends end up getting lost, and I don’t think that being aware of the culture behind the fashions is too much to ask from someone who claims to be an artist.

On that note, here’s “Applause” with a fuzzy blue key-tar at the end because Gaga:

Random Fact: My School is Terrifying at Night

I went to my school tonight because my JTE needed to send an email before we headed off to dinner. I made a scary discovery about my school when we did: it’s horror movie terrifying in the empty dark. No one is around to hear you scream and the whole thing brings back memories of Japanese horror movies I watched a long time ago.


I tried to not imagine something lurking in the dark but I failed. Luckily I had my JTE and the staff room lights on to defend against the evil surely waiting for me out there.


My JTE even tried to comfort me, “This is a new school so it’s not like the other schools.”

I laughed nervously, “So no ghosts here? Right?”

She nodded and laughed. Of course, my brain decided to go, “Wait. Did she just say other schools are haunted?!”


Nightmares, I will have them.

Translating My JTE’s English

I’ve worked in Japan for awhile, so I’ve come to realize that my Japanese Teachers of English speak a certain kind of English that has all the right vocabulary and grammar for English, but all too often also uses Japanese politeness, indirectness, and “feeling the air” kind of sentences.

It goes something like so:

JTE– “Maybe we won’t have time to do it. Maybe next class we will have more time for your activity. Is that alright?”

Translation– “We don’t have any time for your shenanigans. Next time, ok?”

JTE – “Can you help me?”

Translation– “Help me, woman! Why are you just standing there?”

JTE– “Can you come with me to class?”

Translation-“Class is about to start. You are not in class. Go there now!”

JTE-“Maybe that’s too difficult.”

Translation-“That’s too difficult for me to understand. Explain it better or scrap the whole thing. Jeez, this is your second year, Jessica, get on it!”

JTE– “I want you to (do something). Do you have time? I know you are so busy.”

Translation– “We need this (thing) done by (this time). Please and thanks.”

JTE-“I’m sorry. I think that maybe you might have to help me (with something). I think maybe it’s (sometime). Can you come?”

Translation-“Hey, I need your help (with something). Come to (this place) at (this time).”

JTE– “I want students to do some more (practice work of some sort). Hmm, what do you think?”

Translation– “Agree with whatever I am saying. I don’t actually want your opinion.”

JTE– “I think that maybe your (thing) needs a little more work. I don’t know how students will like it. So….”

Translation– “I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but this idea is super dumb. NO!”

JTE– “Jessica, do you have a moment?”

Translation– “This is my only window of opportunity to talk to you. If you can’t talk to me now you won’t get to talk to me the whole rest of the day.”

JTE– “I was thinking about class tomorrow. Maybe a game would be best. I’m not sure. So…”

Translation-“Think of something to take up the whole class time. I don’t want to do a lesson! I’m sick of lessons! Give me a game, for the love of GOD!”

JTE– “Tomorrow the classes might be a little different.”

Translation– “Everything will be absolutely confusing tomorrow. Come in ready to deal with not knowing what’s going on. No, we won’t post the changes until tomorrow morning, and even then, those might change as the day goes on. Enjoy!”

If you notice a pattern, usually questions aren’t questions. They are orders masquerading as questions. It actually took me a good couple of months at the beginning to get the hang of it. At first I would take it to mean I had the option of not doing whatever it is my JTE was talking about, but that is simply not true. Whatever they’re “asking” for me to do, odds are I’m supposed to do (or supposed to have already done it, oops).

Sometimes I have more of a challenge, with teachers speaking a lot at once and I have to try and understand what exactly they want from me. It can get a little mind bending trying to figure out what’s important and what’s not.

For example:

JTE– “When we do class tomorrow, I want students to (do something). Maybe the lesson is kind of difficult. I think that they will be very, how do you say? [Take a moment to figure out the right word] Challenging! Yes. Maybe it’s a little bit challenging for them. So I think we must make it easier to understand. I’m not sure how to make it easier, but I want them to have fun and understand, too. I think a game is good, but we also need to do the lesson plan. My lesson plan is a little complicated, so it will take some time. So…How do you feel about it?”

Translation-“This lesson plan is going to be a pain to teach. I want you to help me make it fun. Game, song, anything is cool, but they’ve got to learn the grammar point at the same time. Give me ideas. Ready? Go!”

It can take a long time to figure things out, but I should say that it’s worth taking the time to do it. Communication with JTEs is integral to making a good lesson plan so students can actually learn. Forming a working relationship with JTEs makes teaching much easier. Even if it’s sometimes confusing, I know that I’m really lucky to have JTEs that not only speak English but are more than willing to talk to me in English. I’m quite blessed.

For example:

JTE- “Jessica, I think that you are doing a good job teaching. Thank you for your hard work! I hope we can teach English again after the summer break.”

Translation– “Yes, I was trying to make you cry. Love you!”

To the Person Who Stole My Underwear

I’d heard rumors that people like you existed. People told me to beware of your perversion, to never let my laundry stay alone for long.I always knew the risk was there, so I was vigilant. Yet, I am human, and I err. For forty five minutes I left my laundry alone. I was hungry so I went home to eat dinner, and you took your opportunity to fuck up my good day.


Last night, when you took all of my bras and underwear out of the top left dryer in the coin laundry, you probably assumed that I wouldn’t kick up a fuss. It’s just laundry, after all, what’s the big deal? Then, I suppose you needed a way to carry your ill begotten goods out of there, so you also took my light blue laundry basket, which also held my laundry detergent. Who would really get upset over some old laundry basket and soap? It’s not exactly the end of the world. Besides, most women don’t report such thefts, after all, since it’s a “harmless” crime. It’s embarrassing to report, it makes people uncomfortable, so why would your victim even bother to go through all the trouble?

Well, guess what? I’m American, bitch, and I’m not going to be your victim. I’M GOING TO BE YOUR DESTRUCTION.

Kicking up a shit storm for trivial reasons is America’s national pastime. I called up the Itako police and my Vice Principal. They took my report, and they even took down a list of all MY STUFF that you stole. Yes, it was absolutely one of the most humiliating moments of my life, but it’ll be worth it if they find you. They took pictures. They’re going to review the camera footage outside the coin laundry (which may or may not work, I’m honestly not sure).

Yes, it’s just laundry, but it’s MY LAUNDRY. Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to find bras in Japan?! In the end, I don’t. I wait until Christmas when I go home to buy them. You took my favorite one, dude! Why? You’ve got a thing for purple and bows? You sick bastard. I don’t know who you are, but I’ve imagined you in my head as a stereotypical old geezer with a lecherous smile sitting on hoards of other taken lacy garments.  Alternatively, I also picture you as a closeted transvestite who doesn’t want to risk exposure. As much as I might slightly sympathize with the latter, the underwear was MINE. The basket was…well, technically it was free from my predecessor, but then it was MY FREE BASKET. So fuck you.

The police took down my phone number and said they’ll be in touch. I’m not sure how serious they’ll actually take it, but I’m more than willing to hope someday soon I’ll get a phone call telling me they caught you (hopefully NOT wearing my stuff, ew). Rest assured that if all else fails, then you should know I’m not even done.

I do have a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired through college antics. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you return my underthings now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will…most likely report you to the police. Killing seems a tad excessive, but I can make sure you at least get some jail time for it. Justice shall prevail (maybe)!

You should be aware that Hinode is a really small part of town, so everybody and their mother already knows what happened. They’re more than upset about it, saying that you are one of the reasons Hinode gets a bad rep for theft. They are not pleased, and they like me more than you. We’re looking for you, sir, ALL OF US.

Good luck trying to take my laundry basket out into public, doucheschnozzle.

I normally don’t do this, but please forward! Garin Dart Missing

Garin Dart Missing

Foreign Volunteers Japan co-founder, British citizen, long-term and well-known Tokyo resident Garin Dart, has been missing since last Wednesday (May 22) at 13:00. Anyone who knows Garin - either as a friend or businessperson - will appreciate that this is really out of character. Garin runs a highly successful events company, Bluesilver, and has a young family here in Japan. I've been asked to support with the search; if anyone has any information, please call Bruno Damizzio: 080-9573-8846 (And, please share this update if you think it might be helpful.)

Foreign Volunteers Japan co-founder, British citizen, long-term and well-known Tokyo resident Garin Dart, has been missing since last Wednesday (May 22) at 13:00. Anyone who knows Garin – either as a friend or businessperson – will appreciate that this is really out of character. Garin runs a highly successful events company, Bluesilver, and has a young family here in Japan. I’ve been asked to support with the search; if anyone has any information, please call Bruno Damizzio: ((_080__9573__8846_))


Foreign Volunteers Japan co-founder, British citizen, business manager, long-term and well-known Tokyo resident Garin Dart, has been missing since last Wednesday (May 22) at 13:00. Anyone who knows Garin – either as a friend or businessperson – will appreciate that this is really out of character. Garin runs a highly successful events company, Bluesilver, and has a young family here in Japan. If anyone has any information, please call Bruno Damizzio:  ((Bruno_080__9573__8846_))

Garin went missing in Tokyo one week ago in the middle of the afternoon, and police are looking for any information about his whereabouts. As CEO of event management firm Bluesilver, he was last heard from by his colleagues on May 22nd as he sent messages about an upcoming meeting with clients at the Tokyo Hilton Hotel. The messages cut off at roughly 13:00.

His worried wife, Yukako, who is pregnant with their second child, raised the alarm when he did not return home that evening, and has already filed a report with the Tokyo police, who have begun investigating the case.  The British Embassy and Garin’s family in the U.K. have also been contacted. Interpol and the British police has also been notified.  The Tokyo police have already confirmed that he has not been taken into custody, nor has he been admitted to any local hospitals. According to reports, his bank accounts and credit cards are untouched.


Garin moved to Japan in July 2003 and launched Bluesilver, an event company that he had originally founded in London. After a decade of successful projects, the gradual expansion of his company, a loving family and many close friends and colleagues, it seems unlikely that he would just disappear by his own will.

In the days following the March 11th 2011 disaster in Northern Japan, Garin was instrumental in setting up the network that would become Foreign Volunteers Japan. He used his extensive business and personal networks to connect people of all means and abilities to be able to secure donations, deliver goods, and to directly volunteer in the tsunami-hit regions.  Besides sending aid, supplies and volunteers up to Tohoku directly, the FVJ network quickly became an essential information hub for the International communities in Japan to assess and debate the safely of the Fukushima reactor meltdown, and to find practical and feasible means to best get involved in tsunami relief activities.  Currently the community is on alert, and trying to do all we can to help find any information that may help in finding Garin.


Ayako Kawauchi, a Bluesilver employee and the last person to see Dart, says that on the day he went missing they first thought he may have fallen asleep somewhere, since he seemed tired from working so hard recently. But she adds that the behavior is not at all like Dart, and Bruno Dammizio, also with Bluesilver, says the company is the busiest it’s ever been in its history.

“He has literally vanished into thin air. There has been no trace of him in any shape or form. No communication with friends or family.”

If you see or hear of anything that may lead to information regarding Garin’s disappearance, please contact his colleague at Bluesilver, Bruno Damizzio: 080-95_73-88_46
Information regarding Garin’s disappearance and updates from his concerned friends and family can be found on the FVJ forum:
Thank you for your concern.
沢山の外国人が参加しているForeign Volunteers Japan network(日本在住の人も、日本を訪れる外国人にも情報提供しているネットワーク)の創設メンバーの一人でもあり、東京に住みながら長期ボランティアをしているゲリン・ダート(Garin Dart)さんが、先週の水曜日13時以降から行方不明です。(5月22日)彼を知ってる人も、仕事仲間も、連絡無しで消える人ではないと言っています。ゲリンさんはBluesilverという大きなイベント会社を経営していて、まだ子供も小さく、日本人の奥様のお腹の中には二人目のお子さんがいて、とても心配しているそうです。上記時刻に自社の社員と電話で次のヒルトンホテルでのミーティングの話しをした後連絡が途絶え、警察では留置されていないことも確認済み、病院へ搬送されていないことも確認済みです。下記が彼の写真です。もし情報がありましたら、ブルーノ・ダミッゾ(Bruno Damizzio)さんの電話までお願いします。: (__080__9573__8846__)

ゲリンさんは、被災地への物資搬送他支援活動に熱心で、Save Minamisoma Projectの物資搬送のフレームワークも、彼の力があったおかげでできました。もし、先週の水曜にヒルトンあたりで何か変な事象を見たり、聴いたりした方などいらっしゃいましたら、教えてください。


– Foreign Volunteers Japan*note:  Some information above is collated from comments by friends, colleagues and reports in the following articles:

Itako Iris Princesses Meet Abe!


(Translated into English from a Japanese article via nikkansports.com)

Today the Iris Princesses went to Tokyo to visit the 24th Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe. The Iris Princess invited Abe to the Itako Iris Festival.We look forward to welcoming Prime Ministersaid Iris Princes Saori Sekiguchi (25) in her yukata, while looking at the prime minister with a smile, “we think you should go.

According to Mazda Chiharu,the mayor who also attended, he expressed his worry to Prime Minister Abe about the recovery status of tourist arrivals after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Ayame Musume Meet Abe

An Interactive Forum How-To Guide

Interactive Forum is an educational program designed to help Junior High School students in Japan gain confidence in conversational English. The usual Interactive Forum I’ve encountered has two rounds, the first round using easy topics such as school, family, friends, and etc. The second round involves a little more challenging topics such as TV programs, music, and etc. I will be coaching my group of students until August, trying to prep them for the stage.

All too often, I’ve been asked how exactly Interactive Forum practices should be done, and honestly I don’t think there’s one set way. I’ve done it for two years now and I still have trouble every once and a while with my students suddenly going silent and forgetting to speak. I have picked up some tricks and tips along the way, so I hope that these will help others trying to coach as well.

How to Set Up a Practice

Before you even start talking, I recommend setting up the students in a half circle. Let them get used to sitting like this and talking to each other comfortably. It will make it easier to transition onto a stage if they’ve already got some experience talking in that formation.

Also, make sure you’re in a room where you can write on a board. You’ll most likely need to stop and give some grammar points throughout the practice session. If you don’t have a board it takes up much more time to explain a grammar point (especially if you’re coaching alone like I am).

Make sure you have all your materials before you start practice:

-stop watch




-dry erase markers/ chalk

-(Optional) Interactive Forum Pamphlet

I’ve made a pamphlet for my students that has all the previous years’ topics with English questions and answers. I’ve left some places blank for them to fill in with their own experiences. It’s not absolutely necessary to use one, but I think it makes things easier for students to prep. Also, I like that they can look over the pamphlet to review for practices.

How to Do an Interactive Forum Practice

First, choose a topic. It can be anything from previous topics to something you made up yourself. Then, have every student go around and introduce themselves quickly.

The introduction should go like so:

Hello! My name is (full name).

Please call me (first name or nickname).

I go to (school’s full name in English).

I am ____ years old.

Topic sentence: (Ex. I have four members in my family).

Thank you!

Use the stopwatch and have to students talk for a set amount of time (between 3-5 minutes is best). At a competition, students have to talk about a topic for five full minutes. However, at first it’s best to just get the students talking, so if they’re a little nervous start at 3 and work your way up to 5.

When it’s the first few practices, be involved in the discussions and help keep the flow of conversation going, but don’t be the one dominating the conversation. Try to make sure everybody talks. It’s really important for everyone to not only get a chance to speak but also that the students take the chance they’re given.

It’s a good idea to take notes on things the students have issues with during the conversation. It also helps if your JTE(s) or English Department Head want a report after the practice. If you’ve already got a JTE there, it’s still a good idea to take notes to compare with the JTE after practice.

When you’re finished with one topic, give feedback. If your students need help with a certain grammar point, go over it on the board and have them write it out in their notes. If you need to look up what a word is in English, go ahead and have the students look it up in the dictionary. It’s also important during this time to give praise for what the students did well. I know I’ve made the mistake often of going all American and pointing out everything that’s wrong so they can fix it and we can move on. Don’t do this. It makes students feel like they’re doing nothing right.

After that, move onto a different topic and start the whole process over. Usually, I practice for about an hour each day after school, so I do a topic for five minutes followed by about five minutes for feedback and then a new topic.

Use Different Tactics for Different Types of Students

Students chosen for the Interactive Forum competition are sometimes really confident at speaking. If you’re lucky enough to have a confident communicator, then make that student a kind of co-leader of the practices. Give the student a responsibility to help out the other students. In the Japanese education system, sempai (older students or more experienced students) are often expected in most sport teams and club activities.  Using this cultural element in your Interactive Forum can make your coaching experience smoother than if you try to lead all on your own, since the sempai can help the students later when you’re not able to be there.

Most likely, the majority of students chosen for Interactive Forum will have some trouble speaking up at first. It’s very important that you DON’T FORCE THEM TO SPEAK. They will shut down if you push too hard. Even when you wouldn’t consider yourself being forceful, remember that in Japan forceful and aggressive behavior is scaled in a whole other way than almost anywhere else in the world. Try to make a relaxed atmosphere. When you talk to a shy student, take time to get them to come out of their shell by bringing up things they like.

For shy students, it’s also important to not overly correct them at first. If you spend so much time telling them what they’re doing wrong, they will think they’re failing. Don’t let them think that. Correct small things at first. With more practice sessions will come a better understanding and relationship with your students, and then you can correct whenever you please.

The Non-Verbal Portion

Notice that the competition is about communication. Communication is 63-90% non-verbal communication and students will be scored on it in competitions. Gestures, smiling, eye contact, all of these are important to keep in mind when students are practicing. Make sure you use gestures when you talk with your students. Students will pick up on them if you use them.

I made a sheet of Hand Gestures for my students and we’ve been practicing using them. It’s awkward for Japanese students since they’ve been taught since they were very young not to do hand gestures. I’m not entirely sure why, but hand gestures are generally discouraged in Japanese culture. Getting them into the habit of using them can be a little challenging, but if you are consistent in how you use them then the students will be too.

Make it Fun

The last thing you want to do is make English feel like work. Even though you have so much to teach in a short amount of time and it’s for a competition, be sure students enjoy practicing. Make them laugh with a corny joke, get them to open up about something silly they did with their friends, trade “scandals” about various TV dramas, talk about “who is your type” of guy/girl, and so on. Remember, even though it’s a competition, the best thing you can do as a coach and an English teacher is try to make the lessons you teach stick, both in and outside the classroom. Make it an enjoyable memory that they can associate with English in the future.

Rape Culture in Japan and GACKT Fans

Rape culture is an international issue. From India to the United States to Canada to Egypt, reports of brutal rape and murder of women have surfaced to show that in a so-called modern enlightened era women still face the threat of violent assault. Japan, albeit a country with relatively low crime rates, doesn’t escape this issue either.

Right now, there’s a minority of GACKT fans enraged over the recent news about GACKT’s alleged crime. According to “Oh No They Didn’t!” the story from the tabloid magazing FLASH claims:

“The victim is a 27 year old woman, who will be referred to as “Ms. A”. In September 2011, GACKT visited the cabaret club (kyabakura) where Ms. A was an employee. He stayed for about an hour and would leave around after 3 am. Since it was late, GACKT offered to bring Ms. A home. She declined, stating that her home was quite close to the club. Despite this, he forced her into his car….He grabbed Ms. A by her hair, slapped her face and forced her to do things against her will.”

Whether or not GACKT did commit this crime is beside the point. The problem is quite a few of GACKT’s fans are fueling their anger at the wrong person.

These horrifying little gems can be found scattered all over comment sections on various news sites:

“How can it be rape if it’s GACKT? No one could say no to him!”

“I’d let GACKT rape me!”

“I’d brag about it if GACKT did this to me!”

via YouTube

via YouTube

These kinds of statements are a big part of rape culture and the misconceptions surrounding rape as a crime. Rape isn’t about sex; it’s about power. Many people think of rapists as strange stalkers of the night that are desperate for sex, but that’s not the truth of the matter. It’s about taking away control from the victim and asserting dominance. Rape takes away all consent from one person for the pleasure of another. It’s not an experience to “brag” about, and whether or not GACKT has thousands of willing partners doesn’t matter. Even if only one time a woman said no and he said yes, then that makes him a rapist.

Such rape myths still exist in cultures on an international scale.  Japan, along with many other countries, still clings to old fashioned ways of thinking about what constitutes sexual assault. Chisa Fujioka of Reuters reported in May 2007  that “Contrary to the law, there is still a widespread belief that only assaults by strangers can be defined as rape.” Even though the study previously mentioned, and others, show that rape victims generally know their attackers before they’re assaulted.

However, this group of GACKT fans is a product of societal viewpoints on rape. Fujioka reported, “Activists and lawyers say that sentiment toward rape victims remains chilly in a society where many feel the woman may have led the man on, she is lying, or that she could have fought back.” Most of the GACKT fans who show their support generally call the woman a liar either through at least implications or at most in big caps lock accusations.

Also, Ms. A- the name given in FLASH for the alleged victim- works as a hostess in a club. Several fans latched onto this tidbit of information in order to question her legitimacy.

“Isn’t it her job to sleep with people?”

“It can’t be rape if she was PAID to do it.”

GAckt fan idiocy 1 (2)

via YouTube

First of all, a hostess is not automatically a prostitute. Even if she was a prostitute, if she said, “No.” or didn’t give consent to anything that might’ve happened to her that night then it’s RAPE, end of discussion. Lastly, Ms. A’s character shouldn’t be under question due to her job. She’s a woman with the same rights as any teacher, doctor, or what have you. As such, she should be treated with the same respect as any of these women deserve, not looked down upon because she works in a bar. She is still a human being with the same fundamental rights all human beings share.

Much like in America, there’s a shame factor around rape that prevents many Japanese women from coming forward, mainly because so many victims blame themselves for what happened. Only as many as 11% of rapes in Japan will be reported, which means about 89% of rapes go unreported. In Japan, rape is a crime that requires a ‘formal complaint’ by a victim before an investigation or prosecution can occur. Many cases end up being settled out of court, and rapists go free. Everything stays quiet so as not to “make a fuss” and bring shame on the woman, which is the wrong mindset. In my opinion, a part of the shame to come forward to issue a complaint is due to statements like the GACKT fans’ claiming the woman’s chosen occupation puts her in some way to blame for her rape.

Now, other people have stepped up to the plate to demand why Ms. A “waited so long” before reporting the rape:

“Isn’t it strange that she waited two years before reporting the rape?”

“Please! There’s no evidence. She made sure of that when she didn’t report it right away.”

“Why wait so long? That’s rather suspicious….”

via aramatheydidn't!

via aramatheydidn’t!

I got even more pissed off when even GACKT said in his idiotic, temper tantrum throwing LINE post:

“In the end, if it was true, that I committed a crime and imprisoned and raped her that year, then wouldn’t have the police taken any action before already?”

No, GACKT, it’s actually more common for women not to report rape. Karryn Cartelle reported about an assault at the Yokosuka U.S. Navy Base. In her article Cartelle said:

“In 2006, Japan’s Gender Equality Bureau released a study titled “Violence Between Men and Women.” Of the 1,578 female respondents, 7.2% said they had been raped ‘at least once.’ Sixty-seven percent of these rapes were perpetrated by someone the victim ‘knew well,’ and 19% by someone they had ‘seen before.’ Only 5.3% of the victims reported the crime to the police — around 6 people out of 114 cases. Of those who remained silent, nearly 40% said they didn’t step forward because they were ’embarrassed.'”

It doesn’t help that even certain politicians seem to be on the side against rape victims. Recently, nationalist Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto spoke about the comfort women issue in Japan. Hashimoto said, “For soldiers who risked their lives in circumstances where bullets are flying around like rain and wind, if you want them to get some rest, a comfort women system was necessary. That’s clear to anyone.” By calling rape and brutal assaults on women “necessary,” Hashimoto essentially tells all women that he puts their welfare as his last priority, that in his  twisted view women do not have the same basic human rights as men. For this to come from a man who is a part of the governing body of Japan, it must make victims of assault even less inclined to come forward to report assault knowing that their own government doesn’t support them.

Fortunately, the majority of opinions on Hashimoto’s statements were quite vocal in their displeasure. The Abe Cabinet refuses to support him, which I think is the right move on its part. However, the damage dealt with this statement is huge, and I hope that Abe will show that he finds such women rights issues to be of great importance.

Japan has taken strides to change the system when it comes to rape. Legislation since 2004 allows women to seek restraining orders against husbands who are not only physically abusive, but who inflict sexual abuse, including forced sex. In court cases for rape, women can now be accompanied by a counselor and victims of sexual assault or rape can also testify from outside the courtroom through a video link. In 2000, Japan also scrapped a rule that had prevented victims of sex crimes from launching a criminal case if six months had lapsed since identifying the suspect — a limit victims’ groups had fought for years to change.

Also, it is comforting that the majority GACKT fans don’t attack Ms. A, instead only trying to draw support for their idol. To be fair to GACKT, the story was published in a tabloid, not exactly the most legit of media sources. Also, during September of 2011, GACKT spent some time in Canada on a fan club tour followed closely by a huge YFCz tour in Japan, so many fans place their doubts on when exactly GACKT could’ve had free time between all the interviews, shows, and recordings (as Graffiti was released that month as well). However, according to the FLASH article via translation on “Oh No They Didn’t!”:

“Ms. A has reported all of this to the police, and at the end of last month, the police headquarters in Shinjuku accepted her charges of “rape” and “forced acts of obscenity” against GACKT. In her file of complaint, there is her report of the event, photos of her bruises and torn clothes that are included. If you consider the report that was handed to the police, there is probably no way that you can consider this whole situation as nonsense.”

Support for women like Ms. A is hard to find, and I think that’s a grave oversight on the part of Japanese system. Although the Shinjuku police have taken her case, I think she has a long and terrible road ahead of her.

I wish for Ms. A and other victims of sexual assault to know that you are not alone. Stay strong and keep fighting.

Advice for victims of assault in Japan:

*Get immediate medical care and document everything. You will need as much evidence as possible, so it’s recommended that victims of assault in Japan go to the hospital before the police, as other victims have not been allowed to receive medical attention until after hours of questioning.

*Inform your embassy or consulate. They will often prove to be a great support. If possible, take an embassy officer or friend with you when going to the police to file a complaint.

*Seek guidance from people who have been there. Contact a support group like Warriors Japan (www.myspace.com/warriors_japan) or Lamplighters Japan (www.thelamplighters.org).

If you are a woman living in Japan and require help due to sexual assault, or if you have a loved one who was a victim, here are some helpful contacts:

Asia-Japan Women’s Research Center
To learn more about this gender equality advocacy group, see http://www.ajwrc.org (Japanese and English).

Tokyo English Life Line
Call 03-5774-0992 for English support daily 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Or see http://www.telljp.com for more information.

Tokyo Rape Crisis Center
Though English information is available on their website (www.tokyo-rcc.org), counseling services are currently in Japanese only, Wed 6-9 p.m. and Sat 3-6 p.m.

Warriors Japan
An organization founded  in May 2002, the aim of it is to create a 24-hour rape crisis center. The support group seeks volunteer advocates, translators and interpreters, as well as sponsors and donations. Email warriors.japan@gmail.com for more information.

Be aware that the process to justice is not an easy road, but don’t let it deter you from trying to get it. All women deserve to have their day in court against their attacker. At the same time, if you feel the system won’t help your case, I still urge you to seek help from medical facilities and to get in contact with rape crisis counselors. Don’t stay silent. Talk to someone about what happened so you can move forward in your life and not stay trapped in that memory (or in even worse scenarios, memories). And remember you are never at fault for your rape no matter what the media, courts, or anyone else says. No means no; yes means yes.

The fight against rape culture is real. May we all get to a future where rape is the fault of the rapist and not his/her victim.


UPDATE: Gackt was found not guilty of the crime of rape. However, the comment section is just full of disgusting examples of even more rape culture at work.

via マジで!? MAJI DE!?

via マジで!? MAJI DE!?

Not to mention my own comment section is now full of the same nonsense, but regardless Gackt is free to do as he pleases. According to some sources, Miss A apparently attempted to blackmail Gackt before resorting to going to a tabloid in order to shame him into giving her money. Gackt vehemently denies the rape, but does claim they went home together. In other words, it’s a “He Says, She Says” scenario, one Miss A can’t win due to the fact she tried to blackmail him.

Therefore, the charges have been dropped. Gackt fans, rejoice. Even though I’m not a fan of the G-chan any longer, I hope this makes you happy.

As to the possibility of this being a false rape allegation, Miss A and those like her should realize that the consequences of such an act make it even harder for activists trying to turn the tables on rape apologists. People who attempt to use the justice system for petty shit like revenge for someone cheating on them or for some cash payout have made it all the harder for true victims to come forward with their stories. The damage dealt by a false rape claim can be extremely hard to recover from, as in it can completely ruin the life of a person who never even committed a crime in the first place. Even though rape allegations are rare and only make up about 4% of rape claims, it’s still too many. Stop trying to use this horrific crime as some twisted way to get ahead or get famous.

To the true survivors of rape, I want you to know that even though this is a story that ends on a sour note, I believe that your story does deserve to be heard. Don’t allow what one person does ruin your fight for justice if you wish to pursue one. I and others in the blog-o-sphere support you.

Learning to Shake with the Quakes

Early this morning, I woke up to my apartment shaking a little bit. I didn’t bother to get up for this one. I was comfy in my nice warm bed and it was way-too-early-something a.m. I rolled over as something clinked and fell somewhere in my kitchen. I made a grumbling noise as I pulled the blankets over my head to go back to sleep.

I started drifting off, feeling the earthquake kind of rocking me back to sleep. Strangely, I thought to myself, “This one is actually kind of enjoyable.”

Now that I’m awake I felt a bit puzzled over that reaction. Two years have passed since the big 3/11 earthquake here in Japan. Still, I get people asking me how safe I feel in Japan with all the earthquakes. The answer is actually a little complicated. I’ve come a long way from my first encounter with earthquakes about a year and a half ago. The first big one I ever encountered I was staying with my predecessor, Lauren. We were roomies for a couple of weeks before she headed back to the good ol’ USA.

Maybe the third or fourth night I woke up to the entire apartment swaying and rocking. The dangling light fixture in our room violently swayed back and forth. Stuff on the desk fell off. Lauren told me to just hand on, this one wasn’t so bad. I remembered thinking, “What the #$%@ does BAD feel like?” My mind couldn’t help but recall the news footage from the big earthquake that only happened few months before I arrived. I shuddered a little at the thought, but suppressed the fear.

Steadily, the earth settled down. The swaying stopped. Lauren got up and I followed her outside. Neighbors across the way were outside. Lauren and I said we were okay and we asked if they were, too. When we were sure everyone was alright, we headed back inside. Lauren smiled at me as we climbed back into bed (well, futon for me), “Congratulations! You just experienced your first earthquake!”

I laughed at that and we talked a bit. It took me awhile to settle down from the excitement, but I went back to sleep a little while later with no problems. I wasn’t afraid of another 3/11. I knew that the odds of another one happening in my lifetime were slim, not to mention that most of the injuries and deaths occurred due to the tsunami that followed the earthquake and not the quake itself. Also, I suppose it helped that I loved Japan more than enough to put up with a few odd quirks. Kentucky has tornadoes. Japan has earthquakes. I could deal.

My first “bad” earthquake happened in September of 2011. I can recall this day with clarity because there was double the trouble. A huge typhoon came bashing its way over Itako. The winds were so damn strong I thought they were going to break my kitchen window. On top of that, my phone’s earthquake alarm went off. I shouted at it, “Really?!” just before the biggest shift happened under my feet. The electricity flickered on and off a couple of times before it went out completely. I stumbled my way into a doorway and held onto the frame for dear life. For all of maybe a minute, my apartment shook so hard from the wind and the quake that I seriously wondered if it would break. Luckily, it passed without any harm done, but the electricity was off for most of the night. Dark and stormy, indeed.

And with that, I discovered what “bad” meant. I was oddly thankful for the rather early terrifying experience. I followed the wise advise from the senior members of our JET collective in Ibaraki and made myself an emergency kit. Water, food bars, copies of passport, and much more got put into a backpack that I put away in my closet. It’s still there, waiting to be used, even though I’ve totally stolen some of those bars for breakfast every so often. I adopted the stance that I wasn’t going to live my life in fear of the next “big one” but I’d be prepared for one just in case.

Since then, I didn’t really consider most of the others that shortly followed to be nearly as awful. I didn’t even blink an eye when the small tremors come and go in a matter of seconds. More than once, I slept right through a medium level quake, only to discover from my co-workers in the morning. Oops! For quite some time, I got into this false sense of security.

My complacency ended when another “bad” one happened. In January of 2012, I was working out with my friend Ai at the gym. We were on the exercise bikes, talking about this and that and the other. Suddenly, everything abruptly shifted so hard I stumbled off my bike. The gym is located under Kashima Soccer Stadium, so I felt tons of concrete and steel jerking back and forth right above my head and wondered for a brief, horror filled moment if it could come down on top of me.  Of course, it didn’t, and steadily everything settled right back down. Ai and I checked each other out and everyone around us went into a flurry of checking their phones and the news for reports. Gym attendants came in to tell everyone the gym was closing up just in case of aftershocks.

When big ones hit usually all the people in my area will feel it as well. I’ve called people to check on them and used Facebook to message some people when I can’t get a hold of them. I’ve now made it a regular habit to post a quick status update about the earthquake after it happens so everyone knows I’m alive. I stay on top of the news and ask people what’s up right after it happens. Since I was doing it anyway, I went ahead and volunteered to be a block member for my area. That basically means that I keep track of the JET ALTs in my little southern block of Ibaraki. It’s all of four people and myself, so the job is far from daunting.

In the end, I suppose the best answer I can give to how I feel about earthquakes is that I’m staying on alert all the time in the back of my mind.  I don’t think about it consciously, but I’m as prepared for one as I’m going to be. With some experience under my belt, I take each quake as it comes and react as is necessary. As I mentioned before, the the small bits of fear I feel are kind of thrilling for me. And I got to admit, getting rocked to sleep by mother nature was freaking awesome.

When Living Abroad, Fear is Part of the Thrill

I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked by people back in the good ol’ USA,  “Aren’t you scared to live all by yourself in a foreign country?” Usually, the last bit implies that I might as well be willingly trying to drive myself straight into hell itself. Who would want to leave the comforts of home to go off to some unknown part of the world and live there? Not to mention, it’s dangerous to go alone! The awfulness of it all, oh the horror!

Sakura in Shibuya Park in Spring

The horror!

A follow up to the frequently asked question is this statement, “Wow, you are so brave!” Brave? Hardly. I scream like a little girl when I feel like I’m in peril. I’m not proud of this fact, but it’s true. I don’t do stoic or composed very well. I won’t lie, on the plane ride over to Japan for the first time a year and half ago, I clutched the arm rests so hard on take off I indented the headphone plug’s shape into my palm. Also, I kept whispering to myself over and over again, “Statistics, statistics, statistics!” while praying I didn’t end up living out the opening scene from Final Destination.

Also, I moved to Japan. While it’s not a crime free country, my little sleepy town of Itako doesn’t do big time illegal activity (except for the whole Pachinko thing, but that’s not a big deal). Everybody here is kind, polite, and generally just awesome small town folk who want to just chill.

Still, a little bit of fear here and there makes the experience fun for me. I kind of like being scared, of not knowing what’s coming around the corner. It gives me a small thrill to know that there’s a small chance of danger, that I could run smack dab into a situation I’m not prepared to handle.

Oddly enough, I find it even more thrilling when I hit those moments and come out the other side winded from the experience but still intact. It’s just like the thrill of riding on a roller coaster and getting off all wobbly knees and smiles. I survived! Heck yes! Fist pump and get back in line. That’s why I got back on a stupid 14 hour plane ride to go back home for Christmas. In case you hadn’t gathered, I hate flying.

I suppose living abroad trills me for the same reason that I love horror movies. I go in knowing that there’s a distinct possibility I will end up with my heart pounding and screaming from fright. I love them so much that when I took off some time last year to go home I hit up the Scarefest Convention in Lexington, KY.

Jonathan Breck

Jeepers, creepers! Where’d you get those peepers?

In Japan, I can get those same sort of feelings when I venture to certain cafes and nightclubs in Tokyo.  I once went into a dingy hole in the ground type club thinking, “This probably isn’t a good idea. This is how horror movies start.” To be fair, I didn’t go alone, I brought my friend Candice with me. Turned out to be a pretty awesome place. I ended up having a dance off with a guy named John and spending two hours down there shaking my groove thing.

I will admit there are times where I’ve been a little in over my head. I once ran off to Tokyo without my cell phone. I needed my phone because I was meeting up with a group of friends to go to Gunma. Of course, I didn’t realize that I’d forgotten my cell until I arrived in Tokyo without it. While kicking myself for my mistake, I attempted to find the group in a vast station without them. I failed.

Luckily, I used my head to figure out a way to get ahead of the group on their train line for a later, not to mention quite lucky, rendezvous. Even though I managed to find them, I could’ve very well ended up walking through miles of snow trying to find them if I had arrived up at Gunma alone.

We totally ended up doing the whole walking through winter’s wrath thing as a group a mere two days later, but that’s beside the point.

We were not prepared.

Trekking down a mountain during a white out blizzard is as fun as it sounds, as in not.

Alternatively, there’s the more mundane issues I face, such as bus schedules I can’t read and I’ve got to get to an ALT meeting in less than freaking ten minutes so screw it I’m just going to take a taxi this time. I also encounter people who startle me with words I can’t understand but I know somehow they’re important. More than once, I’ve come face to face with a Japanese person behind a counter at some cafe or a store clerk. I may ask simple question in Japanese such as, “Do you have (insert item here)?” The response I get ranges from short and concise to so complicated I can’t even, wait, what? I can’t follow, speak slower please! Gah! It’s like playing communication roulette. I end up sticking it out and eventually figuring out what they said, more or less, but I end up getting slight headache from the strain.

Still, I’m glad I have every single one of these memories, that I got on those roller coaster rides and lived those horror movie moments. I don’t know how to explain this to people without sounding utterly insane. “Yes, it’s scary, and I like it!” just doesn’t generally give the impression of sound mind. However, it’s true, and I don’t know how to convey that rush to people who’ve never experienced it. The best equivalents I can give also probably don’t sound like much fun to people who hate roller coasters, horror movies and/or traveling.When I share my stories, home bodies usually only hear noise coming from me, not anything that sounds like fun. To me, though, it’s great, and I’m excited for the next thrill.