Strike a pose.

I often get asked why I’ve stayed in Japan so long. The questioners are either students or fellow teachers. I have to admit, I don’t know too many people who’ve stayed in Japan for longer than I have – six years now.

I have two answers; one for students and one for others. For my students I tell them about how I enjoy the countryside, the food and the culture. For others I have this simple answer, “I see something that makes me smile every day”. They often smile too, because they know what I mean: Japan is weird.

Yesterday I had lunch with a co-worker outside in the afternoon sunshine, sitting near the station. We had a laugh at the guys hustling for girls. They used to wear loose-fitting black suits to go with their bad shoes and anime-inspired haircuts, but now it looks like they’ve switched to more casual gear. The results are mostly the same though – the girls are usually not interested in them. Good for them too – the guys are usually recruiting for hostess bars, porno or prostitution.

Then there’s the truly weird…

Take this story for example.

“Roland Kelts, of Tokyo University, an expert on anime, described the scene at the Koyasan Tokyo Betsuin temple last night as “perhaps the most extreme blurring of reality and fantasy that Japanese pop culture has produced”. The full Buddhist shokonshiki, or spirit-rising ceremony, represented the first time that a Japanese temple had held a funeral for a fictional character.

As the arch villain of one of Japan’s best-loved — and most violent — comics, Raoh has as wide a fan base as any music or film star. “Raoh showed us the inner strength of men and showed that power can rule the world as effectively as love,” said a sobbing 38-year old fan who called himself Lina, after one of the characters in the story. “

That’s right, a funeral was held for the fictional death of a manga character and more than 2,500 people showed up! Sobbing 38-year old fans who name themselves after characters in anime are icing on the cake in this world of weirdness.

Why do I stay? Ladies, Gentlemen, we have an answer.

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