Shibuya: History and beauty

Shibuya, one of the most cosmopolitan districts of Tokyo, is everything you would expect from a modern city: cheeky, entertaining and provocative.

 

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But it wasn’t always this way. In fact, Hachiko could tell the story better than anybody else. He could tell you about the war days and how the bombs took his beloved master, how he bravely kept waiting for years until death came for him, too.

He let Shibuya be at night with the condition to restore its well-mannered behavior during the day.

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Shibuya, has come a long way since the days of WWII and has become, along with its little sister Harajuku, the center of the Japanese fashion world.

 

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In Shibuya time is ethereal

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Shibuya is in another dimension, where bad memories can become sweet and precious. If you don’t believe me, you can ask Hachiko yourself.

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Japanese business etiquette II: Business cards

Although, Japan is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. Our daily business interaction hasn’t changed much in the last decades.

What do you mean? You may ask

I mean that our ways to interact, to connect, to build relationships in business are still traditional. We still don’t rely on social media as most people, in other countries, do because we don’t trust it much yet.

We still go old school when it comes to “network” We go through the whole process. We make phone calls, send faxes (yes, you read that correctly) we make appointments, wait for appointment confirmation. Then on the day of the appointment, we dress formally, make our way to the meeting place, while being sure to arrive at least ten minutes before the agreed time, wait in the lobby room and greet our counterparts one these arrive.

And once we get inside the room where our meeting will be carried out then we finally exchange business cards.

There are also few steps for this simple and yet crucial moment.

1.- Hold your card with both hands. Do not simple handle the card. But offer it.

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2.- Then respectfully receive the business cards you are being offered.

3.- Once you get back to your seat, lay all the business cards you have received and read them.

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As you can see, business cards, physical business cards are a must, because business cards tell the person you are meeting that you are trustworthy. And if you translate your card even into simple Japanese, people would be grateful. And you’ll be showing your commitment and your willingness to go the extra mile, which will speak highly of you. Moreover, as Japanese people tend to be shy, your business card will be giving them “a hand” because they will make small talk based on the information you provide on them (your business cards).

In other words, business cards are still ,in this time of internet and social media, the best way to introduce yourself in Japan. And secure the beginning of a good business relationship with your possible clients and business partners.

Japanese theater: Noh and Kyogen

The origins of Noh theater can be traced back to the 8th century,  when sangaku, a form of entertainment that included music and performances was brought from China.

But as everything that arrives in Japan “sangaku” would go under a transformation, becoming Noh, one of the most emblematic cultural expressions that would ever be born. Noh is intense. It penetrates the air with its flute, drums, and songs. It will transport you to a mythical Japan, where demons and men fight the eternal battle between good and evil. But above all,  Noh will bring back the spirits of forgotten ancestors that still hovering the island.

Noh is a gust of air that becomes a tornado. And that’s where Kyogen, its loyal companion comes in handy. Without the fresh air kyogen blows into the room, I couldn’t recover from all the emotions Noh brings to life. Kyogen is lighthearted, it presents human nature, as it is, a maze of countless contradictions, which put in scene are rather amusing to watch. And perhaps their contrast is a reflection of our complicated and unpredictable lives.

  • A little video from the Noh National theater garden.

Being an immigrant

 

Being an immigrant, I feel thankful for all the opportunities I’ve been given in all the countries, I’ve been lucky enough to be welcomed. For all the people, who received me, not as a stranger, but as a friend, as one of them. And for that, I’ll be forever grateful.

Since I learned to read, my favorite topics were literature, history, and geography. To hell with mathematics and algebra, who needs to know how to convert algorithms in real life?….I’m actually asking you. Do you know why they torture us with those classes? Anyway, I was always curious, so I had lots of questions: Why Italy was called Italy? Why doesn’t everybody speak Spanish? How come English sounded so scary? Believe me, when I say, my English teachers didn’t make my learning process very easy.

Moreover, growing up with my Okinawan grandparents only fueled my natural curiosity, because I learned there was a different world out there, and I was going to discover it. But, truth be told, I never thought, even in my wildest dreams to land on this beautiful island. I was happily living in my cold Colorado, eating hot pockets and rocking the world. When suddenly, everything changed. It felt like an earthquake in my life, but I’m sure it was part of what we call destiny, and I arrived in Japan in 2006. Exactly, 10 years ago. And although it wasn’t easy at first, I realized that maybe, I could make myself at home. After all, I hadn’t forgotten all the Japanese my grandfather dutifully had taught me while playing the sanshin (Okinawan guitar) in the warm afternoons we shared at home so many years ago.

Since my experience, I can tell you that being an immigrant is not so bad, as long as the locals welcome you, and you try to adapt. In other words, like in every relationship, everything is 50%-50%. Give and take. We, immigrants, need to adjust to the new land; we need to learn the local language, respect the local culture and the law. We can’t just arrive and do things our way. We must remember that we are guests in a foreign land.

Please, do not think for a moment, I’m a Bretix or a Trump supporter. Those two catastrophic political events are nothing but a shame. Moreover, listening to Trump talk is like listening to Hitler. A monster using ignorance to catapult its political ambitions. So, let’s just be careful about our choices. Because if the locals support this kind of politicians then God helps us all. There is no hope.

Furthermore, if we think immigrants are the cause of the social problems in our countries, then I advise you take a closer look at what’s happening in the world. Outside your community, outside your borders. Search for information, read and try to understand that the world is not the same as fifty years or merely two decades ago. In these days, to get a job, we need more skills, more experience. And as we, immigrants, know we have to work hard, study and never stop learning to have a chance. A chance. Sometimes, literally one chance, we are aware, we have to prepare constantly, and untiringly, so we are ready for any job that might come along. Our advantage is hard work because we are trying to survive. And maybe have the chance of a life.

Please think of that before voting for Trump. For Britain and Brexit, it might be a little bit too late. But seeing Boris Johnson becoming the new foreign secretary, I’m convinced more than ever that karma does exist for countries that do not choose their leaders wisely.

To my beloved white supremacists: Here is your brown mommy

Hey, you all…!! Come on..! What are you so sad about? What did you say?

People do not understand you..!!! Oh, my..!!

You poor little things. Now, come here and let me give you a warm hug. There, there it’ll pass. You’ll see.

What is that? That the Brown people are taking your jobs? And that the African Americans have been mean to you?

Come on..! Do not cry..! Now, put down that tiki torch.

There, there… good boy.! Now come on, let’s talk..! But first, let’s blow your little white nose. Nice..!! I will definitely have to throw this handkerchief away now.

No, I will not call you master.

Now, what is that non-sense of starting a genocide so you and your children can have an opportunity in life?

Oh, I see..!! You had privileges before, and there given to you, not because of your intellectual abilities but for the color of your skin, and that’s why you don’t have any (intellectual abilities)now.

But honey, there are so many smart and successful white people out there, what is the difference between you and them?

Ahh..! I see, they worked hard, they studied hard, and they actually made a great effort to succeed in life. But you want none of that nonsense, what you want it’s things given to you.

You want things the way they were before the civil war.

When the white man was respected and feared, and that’s why you voted for the Donald Trump, although, the functionality of his prostate interferes with his “brain abilities.”

Honey, let me give it to you straight, to succeed in life, there are no shortcuts, you have to work hard, study harder and stop with the rallies and shenanigans, why don’t you work on yourself instead of trying to bring other people down? Because that ain’t cool.
And now go on your way because this brown hot mamma gotta keep working.

 

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Curvy girl: learning to love her juicy bits

Although during my teenage years I loathed my curves, I have to admit that I have grown fond of the generous flesh that surrounds my bones. Tenacious flesh that has resisted diets and exercises.

During those innocent years of my first youth, I tried every possible diet. As there were always “helpful” people, who let me know what was wrong with my body, I was very well aware of what parts of it should be covered the most as they were exceeding in size and proportion I was told. That’s why I was always up to date with the newest miracle that would promise to give me the body I was never destined to have.

In other words, I was the subject of different experiments from “well-intentioned friends,” but I have to say that once maturity finally settled down in me. And I got rid of those “friends” I found out that I was never meant to be a slim beauty, and I am more than ok with it. I am, in fact, I am happy with it.

I rejoice in my juicy bits, I really do.

And in my personal journey to self-love, I learned that I am a happy curvy girl, with a merry soul, who, every day learns to love her juicy bits all over again.

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Introducing yourself: In Rome do as Romans do

A sunny day of spring, I bravely made my way to the closest Japanese school and tried to make one of my most precious dreams come true: Stop speaking Japanese like a barbarian.


When I got to the class, there were all younger than me, as I had expected. And all Asians. Most of them Chinese. And as I don’t speak Chinese I was feeling rather left out.

I tried to smile in a rather sad attempt to connect with them. But it was all dead silent. I was cursing myself already for being an idiot. At my 30’s something, I should have known better. I was already thinking to call my boss to apologize and ask him to give me my job back. I am sure he will believe I was “temporarily insane.” When suddenly a young teacher entered the room. Stopping my thoughts at once

He looked at us, smiled and introduced himself as our tutor. When he finished, he asked us to do the same. And if as someone had switched a lamp, the whole room became alive. The youth woke up, and the dead whispers became an animated chorus of singing cicadas in summer. It was a magical moment.

When we all finished introducing ourselves, the veil that had covered the room in the gloom was simply lifted.

And I am sure this was inadvertently for them, but for me, I had just witnessed the power of self-introduction in Asia. I have all these years thought, stupidly, that it was mainly a Japanese cultural characteristic but I was wrong, it is an Asian cultural characteristic.

In Asia, you need to introduce yourself. You must introduce yourself. As if giving the person you meet a rope to not fall off a cliff. And for me realizing this was like a car crash because I do not like introducing myself. But in Rome do as Romans do.

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