Just home from Thanksgiving in Saskatchewan. Spent lots of the weekend explaining to in-laws this sudden decision to take off overseas once again. Told lots of stories about cultural differences and just why it is that Japanese folk often want to get married by a westerner. Japan is the strangest mix that way. On one hand you can say that they have a somewhat-overboard fascination with the West, but they are also well-known for the fierce clinging to the more ancient aspects of their culture. Maybe the restaurant Denny's is a good illustration of the collision between these two tendencies. Go to a Denny's in Japan. On the outside, it looks just like any Denny's you would find on this side of the Pacific, but then go inside and order something. All the food has been Japanized. And the portions are way smaller. Funny, I hated this at the beginning, but after two years of living there I came home thinking that North Americans eat too much (and that Japanese food is much better than ours).
Japanese folk on the surface are rarely arrogant or condescending. They are usually humble, almost to an annoying extent for a Westerner. But underneath the very polite exterior, I found that most Japanese are as proud of their country and their ways as any Canadian. I remember seeing just a trace of contempt for things un-Japanese once when I was talking with a friend of mine. He had just returned from a trip to America and the thing that struck him as digusting was that most often Westerners put the toilet and the bathtub in the same room. He said, "We Japanese feel that to put such a "clean thing" and a "dirty thing" in the same room is something barbarians would do." I responded that us Canadians feel that not cooking your food is something barbarians would do..." Ooooo. Tense moment. But you don't get too many of those.