2005 photo essays
Finally, I put up a page with all the content that couldn't fit in at other places. Most of this is a lot of bullshit, but anyway I'm not forcing you to read this. After all, I spent so much time writing that it just isn't right to put it to waste in the depths of my hard drive. So here come my previously undisclosed outtakes of Expo essays.
· Expo profiles Pt. 1: The hard-working people
Upon talking with some other Expo staff about their work, I had the idea of conducting short interviews and profiles of people working in other pavilions. This was canceled due to the lack of time to set up meetings with people.
· Fun things to do at the Expo
This was intended as a collection of activities on the Expo site outside of mere exhibition presentations. It was supposed to include activities such as riding the canopy tour in the Centroamerican pavilion, having your name written in Egyptian, riding the ferris wheel, taking your picture at the Hessen camera, or drink some Beerlao and Lao coffee. I canceled this due to the overall lack of fun to be had at the Expo.
· The foreigner bonus
This was supposed to treat the issue of being a white foreigner in Japan. When living in Japan as a foreigner, you can use the foreigner status as an advantage. If there is any trouble, say, with the police or your landlord, you can just pretend to be a funny, dumb alien who has no fucking clue about what's going on. Also, you normally have lots of space on the train, because even if there are some free seats right next to you, they will usually remain empty, because nobody wants to sit next to the foreigner. After all, you can never know what they are up to. They might do something unexpected, and unexpected situations are what is generally avoided at all costs in Japan.
This suspicious attire is also common with security personnel and police, even if they are only guarding a building site or traffic intersection. When they see you coming around a corner, they will look at you for a second, then at once avoid eye contact when they realize that you are looking back at them. They obviously can't keep their cool, because they will still eye you suspiciously from time to time and always keep you in their area of vision, just as if in the next moment you will suddenly thrust forward and punch them in the belly or kick them in the shin (or maybe pull out a bomb, start taking hostages and demand that your fighting comrades be released from injustful incarceration). When you are gone, they probably wipe their brow and say to themselves "Phew, that was a close one. I got away without being confronted by a foreigner." When they come home, they probably tell their family their historic encounter and brave defusing of the situation. This way, legends come to live.
A late experience on the train fits this topic quite well. I was sleeping on the train and suddenly woke up, jumping towards the door and asking "Is this Nagoya?". The last man who entered the train answered, "No, this is Fushimi, Nagoya is next" I thanked him and surrendered my seat to him, and only then realized that the man was blind. No other Japanese would have answered my unsolicitated question, only the person who didn't see that I was a foreigner would answer me without any qualms. A funny experience.
· The new race segregation at the Expo
This was the title of the supposed entry about the the introduction of the evening staff bus due to the complaints of Japanese visitors about Expo staff skipping the Linimo queue. I assumed this to be an act of racism to introduce racially segregated staff buses to prevent contact between Japanese and foreign staff. If you read the update in the Week 6 entry (link above), you can see that I touched the subject of racism in Japan while comparing the situation with the American race segregation laws.
This was somewhat over the top (a fact I realized when riding the bus myself - see below), but still, a trait of xenophobia seems to be indigenious to the Japanese. The creation of an atmosphere intolerant of foreigners was aided by Japan's geographic location as an island country, its historically low foreigner population, and the myth of the superiority of the Japanese people by descendancy of the Sun Goddess.
For quite some time there has been a saying in Asia that the Japanese are like a banana - the outside is yellow, the inside is white. This saying stems back to World War II when the Japanese led a mercyless expansion war against China, Korea and the South-East Asian countries, murdering and raping their way through the mainland. The reasoning at the time was that the Japanese would need to protect the Asian subcontinent from the threath of colonization by the West and therefore establish the Asian Prosperity Sphere (under Japanese leadership, of course). During the brutal reign of the Japanese military until the unconditional surrender in 1945, millions of Asians were killed by the Japanese military in combat, concentration camps and civil massacres.
With this background, the meaning of the "banana" saying becomes clear: even though the outside (the skin) is yellow, just as the other Asian peoples', the inside (the thinking) is white; meaning that the Japanese, even though they look alike, are just as racist towards other Asians as the Westerners are. It's even worse with black people - they are looked down on in Japan, their moniker being "ape" (saru).
Because this was a rather generalized entry, and also not quite correct in connection with the introduction of the staff bus service (see below), I decided to remove this text.
· The staff bus incident
This was a special incident just a short while after I wrote about the introduction of the evening staff bus. Well, the staff bus was not really a race segregation item, as it was used mostly by Japanese staff - a fact that we learned when we used the bus for the first time.
On this occasion, we commited one of the biggest crimes in Japan: skipping the queue to meet some colleagues from the German pavilion. Even though this was clearly seen by everybody, nobody complained about it, and the bus staff didn't say anything to us; however, they threw out two little Japanese girls from the queue to make space for us (we only learned about this later). We didn't think much about it, but in the bus, a Japanese girl from the German pavilion made an angry speech to us that "we should leave the bus at once", "we're in Japan and need to obey Japanese rules" and that "everybody on the bus thinks this way, only nobody dares to say anything because we are foreigners". It was clear that she made the speech to us to separate herself from us and not be associated with us, because we obviously came from the same pavilion. In some way, this incident once again opened our eyes about the way Japan works.
· Spicing up my working day
This was supposed to contain a few ideas to have some fun at my work and would have included some fake souvenir montage photos before backgrounds such as the 1966 Wembley final match, the moon landing, and the Killing Fields. It would also have included some references to the funny comments of Japanese customers who confused the Castle Neuschwanstein with Castle Windsor or who thought that the Brandenburg Gate was constructed out of the stones of the Berlin Wall. Nothing really funky, though.
· Experanto sign language
This was inspired by the sorry custom of many Japanese visitors of not asking questions normally but inquiring in ape sign language; for example, asking for the location of the stamp of the German pavilion would usually be conducted by moving the fist up and down in a stamping manner and shouting "Sutampu? Sutampu?" The inquiry for the German restaurant would normally be accompagnied by a "drinking from a jug" movement and the question "Biiru?" We were even thinking about creating short movies but in the end, this stupid manner of the visitors was not even funny any more.
· Causing international outrage at the Expo
This was planned from the beginning as thinking out some funny stunts to cause international outrage at the World Exposition where participants from all around the world are gathered in one place. Some ideas included: -Donating condoms to the African pavilions; -Smuggling fake occupation postcards into the souvenir shop; -Donating rice for North Korea to the Korean pavilion; -Creating a "Terrorist Guide to München"; -Inquiring about Thai massage for staff at the Thailand pavilion... and so on...
· Japanese language special
This was supposed to touch the subject of unique particularities of the Japanese language, such as mashi ("still better than"), sekkaku ("because it's the rare occasion of"), yappari ("as we assumed beforehand"), and the strange custom of using English expressions for negative words, such as miss ("error"), trouble, and claim ("complaint"). In the end, these language-specific topics are not really interesting for anybody who has no connection to the language.
· In, around and above Nagoya
I created a whole page with my photographs of Nagoya and the area around my apartment. In the end, I didn't need the following entry:
I went on various strolls around my apartment near the train station of Hoshigaoka, all the while carrying my camera and recording what met my eye. Later, I started venturing into the city center and take pictures of the (mostly rather uninteresting) Nagoya cityscape. I have no clue whether this is of the least interest to anybody, but anyway here come my Nagoya photographs.
Nagoya was planned by shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu and constructed as a castle city for his ninth son Yoshinao in the year 1612. The city was heavily damaged by bombs during the second World War. Even though the reconstructed city of Nagoya is now inhabited by over two million people, it certainly doesn't radiate the air of a metropolis. The local industry includes Toyota (whose homebase is located in nearby Toyota city) and Brother Industries; Japan's third largest city has the atmosphere of one large small town, dominated by manufacturing industry instead of culture.
In and around Hoshigaoka: The area where I lived was not in the middle of nowhere, it featured a Mitsukoshi store, the Hoshigaoka Terrace with lots of fashion stores and a bowling arena, and a Yamada electronics store. Certainly not the worst place to be stuck it, even though I didn't really have time to explore the area.
Around my home.
Nagoya has its share of drab places. Some views are so desolate that I didn't even dare to take pictures because it would be too depressing. For example, take the Tomei expressway that cuts through the city near Hongo. This multi-level concrete bridge construction razes through the cityscape and pushes down your mood with its weight whenever you pass it (which, for me, is every day).
· Expo souvernirs
Finally, I collected a huge number of souvenir photographs as a memory of my stay at the Expo. The following presents a selection of my favorite pictures of the last six months.