starlady: Uryuu & Ichigo reenact Scott Pilgrim (that doesn't even rhyme)
A friend of mine who's coming to visit in a few months linked me to an interesting article in the New York Times magazine, Meet the Unlikely AirBNB Hosts of Japan. I had more than a few good laughs, but there's also quite a few home truths in the article.

# It is 200% true that people in Japan with foreign experience of some kind are much, much more likely to be open to interacting with foreigners. Not coincidentally, they can also understand irony. Most of the people I've developed more than a passing acquaintance with fall firmly into this category.

# The Orange Sweater thing is a metaphor as well as a literal truth. Everyone here wears grey or black overcoats, for example (with young women also holding out for pale pink or cream). Me, I tend to take the attitude that since I'm going to stand out anyway, I might as well work it; my winter coat this season has been a red/orange/blue/purple sweater coat thing. But in a typical day's circuit around Tokyo I will see one or fewer other people wearing brightly-colored outerwear.

# I would also connect "uncertainty-avoidance" to efficiency and the desire not to inconvenience other people. One of the things that's really struck me this time is just how information-dense an environment Tokyo is; I think this is part of what foreigners tend to find so disorienting, since I'm not sure it's really equaled in any other place I can think of off the top of my head, except maybe the London transport system. But the point of offering signs everywhere is so that a) everybody can get where they're going as quickly as possible while b) bothering other people as little as possible, because bothering other people is an imposition. (Yes, even if it's technically their job to be bothered.) 

# The skydiving obaa-chan AirBNB host is my hero. Also, 200% not surprised that she can only do the hosting because her husband's dead, and that her friends say they'll start doing it when their husbands have croaked. One of the reasons obaa-chan are great is because they don't owe a damn thing to anybody, societally speaking, and they do what they want even if their husbands are still alive. Once the husbands are gone they're totally free to be nonconformist, or whatever.

# The meta-irony about the guy who says that most of his friends have never spoken to a foreigner is that Tokyo is miles away the most cosmopolitan place in Japan. There are far more foreigners here and it's far easier to find foreign food in stores than it is anywhere else in the country. There's also lots more places with English menus (which I make a habit of refusing).

# I actually live pretty close to Love Hotel Hill. It's not sketchy at all. But it is quiet.

# The speaking Spanish thing that the author reports is a pretty common response to being in a different language environment; I've experienced it many times myself. Usually I find myself trying to speak Chinese to people, which is really awkward in places like Peru and Turkey.

# I had to lol at the Japanese businesswoman quoting her countrymen's attitude as "What do you even eat?" considering that when Japanese tourists do go abroad they tend to go on group tours which are conducted entirely in Japanese and in which they eat nothing but Japanese food (indeed, this is the appeal of Hawai'i, as that's particularly easy to accomplish there). My friend M wondered about consulting a Japanese guidebook to Bali before we left, for example, but I nixed the idea on the grounds that it would just be a map to all the Japanese restaurants. Even relatively cosmopolitan people will eat entirely Japanese food abroad.

# It's definitely not because of the goddamn sakoku policy during the Tokugawa shogunate though (sakoku wasn't even formally a thing as such) (bingo!). People in Japan were quite cosmopolitan in the Meiji and Taisho periods, from everything I've seen in my research and reading. The ideology of Japan as unique and singular came in in the postwar period, but that's another story. 

# It's been a long time (happily) since anything I read brought up "the ideology of wa" as an explanation for anything. I definitely became a historian to get away from that kind of culturalist bullshit explanation that was so common in Asian Studies.

# People here are going to flip the fuck out in 2020. Commercial air travel was in its infancy in 1964, the last time Japan hosted the Olympics. I'm not sure they're really prepared, conceptually, for the hordes who will descend. Personally, I'm already over the Tokyo Olympics and the disfigurements it's wreaking on the urban landscape; I just wish they'd hurry up and finish refurbishing the train stations already. (It would be easier to list the subway stations that aren't being redone than the ones that are, from everything I've seen.) I'm also totally over the English signs saying that you can get cash from foreign accounts at 7-11. Really, I got that.
starlady: One World, One Dream: Beijing 2008 (more in the breach)
This post is dedicated to [livejournal.com profile] olewyvern, classicist and friend extraordinaire, who was on the trip to Greece with me in 2006. Happy Birthday!

Via [personal profile] oyceter, a post evaluating the concept of an indigenous Olympics. Unsurprising evaluation is unsurprising, though I do think that the Vancouver Olympics have inaugurated a new level of indigenous participation, and hope that future Games will build on this beginning.

The following is a collation of the photos, journal entry, and notes taken from our licensed tour guide's talk by me at ancient Olympia on 15 January 2005, salted with a few links and later comments. Short version: Ancient Olympia was one of my favorite sites in all of Greece, one of the places at which I felt closest to the past in the present. It's also, not coincidentally, one of the best preserved. And the ancient Olympics were fascinating.

But if, my heart, you wish to sing of contests, look no further for any star warmer than the sun, shining by day through the lonely sky, and let us not proclaim any contest greater than Olympia. )
starlady: One World, One Dream: Beijing 2008 (more in the breach)
Electra is not-so-secretly obsessed with the Olympics. Fair warning.

Citius, altius, fortius )
starlady: Toby from the West Wing with a sign that says, "Obama is the President."  (go vote bitches)
Sadly, President and Mrs. Obama will not get to welcome the world to their neighborhood in 2016. In the meantime, yay for South America! Slowly but surely, the Games are becoming truly global.

I do think Chicago being eliminated in the first round of voting was essentially a red herring--I attribute Madrid hanging on to the third round to Juan Antonio Samaranch's last-ditch appeal to cronyism, which of course the IOC under his leadership was well-known for, as well as the selection committee's lingering parochialism. Realistically, let's look at the Summer Games distribution since 1992 (first Games post-Cold War):

1992--Europe (Barcelona, Spain)
1996--North America (Atlanta, Georgia, USA)
2000--Australia (Sydney)
2004--Europe (Athens, Greece)
2008--Asia (Beijing, China)
2012--Europe (London, Great Britain)
2016--South America (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

So clearly there's been a preponderance of Games in Europe over the short and long terms. I don't think Tokyo was ever a serious contender for 2016 because of the 2008 Games taking place in Beijing (with the selection vote coming barely a year after their conclusion), but given that Tokyo was an Olympic city in 1964, I do think it's virtually assured of getting the Games again, and that its chances for 2020 or 2024 would be good if it went in again. Madrid, by contrast, probably doesn't have a realistic shot until 2024 at least, but by the same token, I think Chicago has an equally good shot at 2020 or 2024--particularly 2020, since presumably President and Mrs. Obama would still be around to campaign for their city when the vote transpires in 2013.

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