Friday, April 24, 2009

She was of a marriageable age

年頃 So I think congratulations are in order - according to my Japanese teacher I am now of a marriageable age! You all know how much it must have thrilled me to hear that because I have been just waiting to be declared of a ripe age for getting hitched. She was so subtle about it too. After catching up on my recent trip to the continent she asked how it was seeing my family and then out of nowhere, was my father in particular worried about me? Sensei then elaborated on how she thought he must be worried about me living here by myself and basically wondering what the hell I am doing, especially in light of the fact that I am toshi goro or of a marriageable age. I laughed at her and explained there were no such worries and that if I did go ahead and get married at a young age, that would be more of a cause for concern to my parents. Isn't it funny that only a few years ago my friend and I were having in depth discussions about the downfalls of dating men over 30 and I am now discussing marriage strategy with my teacher in Japan?! (And, ahem, living with a man over 30 and finding no downfalls.)

This brief chat with my sensei could not have come at a more coincidental time as it was just last month at a Kaisha mixer that one of the Professionals (the one who always gives me chocolate and doesn't know how to end a dying conversation) took it upon himself to teach me a new word: kon katsu, a contraction of the longer term kekkon katsudo, which refers to the activities undertaken by one in search of a marriage partner. Similar to shushoku katsudo which is the name given to recruiting activities participated in by college students looking for their first job, kon katsu are the recruiting activities undertaken by singles looking for their first husband/wife.

From what I can tell, engaging in kon katsu involves taking a business-like approach to finding someone to mate with and will even involve paying a matchmaking service to set you up with other singles who meet your requirements. You then have interviews, I mean dates, and if all goes according to plan you will have completed a successful M&A transaction by the next fiscal year.

Now maybe it is all just a big coincidence but I am in my 25th year, which means I am going to go down in value after next year according to the Christmas Cake Rule. Despite congratulating myself on the fact that these silly Japanese rules are not applicable to me, perhaps I was wrong and those around me are subtly trying to marry me off. Or urge me towards marriage recruitment activities. Maybe not though, as I can remember my Japanese friends asking me when I was 22, 23 whether I wanted to marry the beau. Where I come from that isn't usually one of the first questions asked of another's gentleman friend. I remember feeling taken aback on numerous occasions when girls I had barely met started popping that question to me but now it rarely elicits a blink.

Never one to shy away from some light research, I found some interesting things about kon katsu and choosing a mate in general here in Japan. First the basics: in 2000 the average age of first marriage in Japan was 28.8 for men and 27 for women (for comparison's sake, in Canada it was 34.3 for men and 31.7 for women). Among some interesting lists of essential characteristics in a potential mate, there was this one:

- Non-smoker

- Can carry me [apparently she is a bit tall and wants to know her husband can carry her in a medical emergency]

- Has lived in a country where a language other than their native one is used

- Can speak more than two languages or is studying them

- Wants children right away

- Believes mothers belong at home [She was a latchkey kid]

- Won't cheat

- Places the husband/wife relationship above that with children

- Same interests

- Laughs at similar things

- Deeply involved in the children's education

- Likes to eat

- Smarter than me

- Good at telling jokes

- Can have a discussion without fighting and can accept that the other may have a different opinion

- Likes to dance

I wonder if that list was the product of one night's work...She has been married and has one daughter now in case you were wondering. The List, what a concept. Who is to say that method is any worse than just falling in love before knowing whether you partner can carry you or is smarter?!

I next looked to an article about how men and women are matching up these days according to their academic background and salary. Interestingly, the article says that young women planning to marry rich in the future best improve their mind and intellect over their physical appearance. Needless to say I was surprised. Japanese men are looking for women they can depend on and who can also bring home the bacon, not just sit at home polishing their nails. After surveying 525 women in their thirties and forties with university degrees, they found a surprising 61% to be single and 39% to have a partner. However, when they divided the results by salary, for the group of women making over 6 million yen, the percentages were almost the reverse of the entire group ones. What does this mean? Well the article says it means that career women making money are the most successful ones in finding love, or at least a partner.

The survey indicated in other figures that there is a tendency for income-earning men to marry income-earning women in a similar income bracket. Of women making more than 8 million yen, 75% of them had husbands making more than 8 million. You get the picture, rich men are marrying women with income of a certain level, not tending to go for women with low salaries. Someone from a marriage consulting agency is quoted in the article saying that men nowadays want wives close to their lifestyle, women who enjoy conversation and similar interests and who can contribute to an affluent lifestyle, rather than the "traditional" model where the man makes money and the woman is primarily at home, not earning money and probably not "out" in society as an income-earner would be. That's right ladies, we are being advised to "level-up" if we want to snag a rich one.

It's a jungle out there people. There are lots of more riveting statistics about how academic history also figures in, but I must leave it there for a cocoon bar awaits me in Shibuya this evening. I will end this by saying that despite being at my peak this year, I will continue to forge on as foreign salarygirls before me have (well, maybe not that many) and enjoy my non-conditional life with the beau, while the rest of Japan loses its head over marriage recruitment activities.

On a side note, there is a new dorama on Fuji starting this week called Kon katsu. Maybe this will help me gain insight into this fascinating mating practice.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fit's FIT'S!

A couple weeks spent prancing about in Paris and a short jaunt to London and I am totally behind on the cultural scene in Tokyo. In that short time I have missed out on the newest dance craze. I must get out my dancing shoes and start practicing immediately. I'd seen this on TV before leaving and prematurely wrote it off as an extremely annoying commercial and only now do I realize that I need to put out my own version of it on YouTube to be considered hip again. Or was I never considered hip in the first place?! Without further ado...

It is now being practised and copied by everyone so jump on the bandwagon!

Schoolgirl style...

Obachan style...

Salaryman style...

B-boy style...

This is just a mere sampling of the talent out there, you can find more on YouTube, which is co-sponsoring a dance contest with the gum's maker Lotte. If you too are an aspiring Fit's dancer you have until April 27! The winner will be decided by the number of hits each video gets on YouTube. You can also check out how to consume the Fit's gum ("Pick! Get! Pull!") on the Lotte website, in case you were unsure.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Postcard from the Kaisha 4

Wet doorknobs, what are we doing about them people? I have several internal doors to get through when returning to my desk from jaunting around somewhere else in the office and I am always vaguely disgusted at the wet doorknob. Granted, you can generally assume it is clean because the ass that left it was returning from the bathroom but still. There is something truly disturbing about having to clutch a wet doorknob to get where you're going. The worst is when someone is coming in right behind you and it looks like you're the ass, lubricating doorknobs everywhere because you couldn't be fucked drying your hands after washing them. I always want to turn around and beg innocence. A quick wipe on the pants would even work for me, anything is better than making the doorknobs that everyone has to use all slippery. Maybe I could get a memo sent out about this....

P.S. In other news, I went to hand something to my secretary the other evening and her desk was cleaned out, void of her soft pink blanket and plush toys. My first thought was Damn, biatch has up and left the office to marry one of the Professionals and couldn't even spare 2 minutes to tell me she was leaving. I bought her a stuffed moose toy from Canada for fuck's sake, surely that should get me a year of minimum human courtesy. Before breaking out the Kleenex I checked with HR and turns out she just moved down the hallway but failed to think me significant enough to warrant a head's up. Nice. Real fucking nice.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

mm yeah, not so atarimae

I love the word atarimae. I employ it like a valley girl to say something is, like, so totally obvious. It is used to mean "a given" or something that is normal, or natural. Like the ability to sew possessed by any woman worth a damn.

The first time I was handed a needle and thread during my kitsuke class and told to attach a piece of fabric to another piece of fabric with them I looked down at the objects in my hands as a caveman might have gazed upon a microwave. The last time I put fabric together in some semblance of apparel was when I look traditional Japanese sewing classes as an exchange student and whipped up an unlined kimono with some heavy-handed help from my sensei. As in, she practically had her hands over mine, guiding them, the entire time. When the kind but scarily perfect proper and prim headmaster of my kitsuke school saw me struggling along with lots of finger-gouging and drunk ass stitches, she offhandedly asked, Oh you don't do much sewing at home? Shoot me now I thought, I have entered a sisterhood of sewers. The only girls in my acquaintance who are my age and who sew do it for a living, not as a skill to be added to the long list of other lady-like accomplishments like drawing, piano forte and singing (sorry, I've just finished reading five Jane Austen novels).

The last time I actually made a stitch was when I was 12 and sewed a pair of red silk boxer shorts with little white cows on them for home-ec class. In this day and age we are no longer taught the value of domestic skills growing up. I wish I could cook, sew and give my apartment a proper cleaning, not for a husband and brood of brats but all for myself. What a fantastic skill to be able to sew your own clothes! Enough fantasizing though. I can't sew, not even a measly hand stitch to create a passable hem. But the way the headmaster asked me, it was all too clear that I should know how to sew. I felt like asking her where everyone else learned because you can't tell me every woman in Japan has continually practiced sewing since home-ec in middle school.

Last week I sat across from my teacher at a small table on the tatami floor as she taught me how to attach a han-eri, which is a decorative collar worn under kimono. I tried to preempt any surprise at my complete lack of stitching skills by telling her that I never sewed and couldn't recall the last time I had. Still, it was painful to have her sitting across from me the whole time, watching me fumble along, probably wishing she could just do it for me.

At the end of my class this week my teacher commented on how nice another student's furoshiki and matching bag were, which prompted the student to offer that her mother had just whipped it up for her from some old obi fabric. I felt instantly resentful and recognized the same feeling as when I had heard another student talking about how she had gone to her parents' house to pick up a kimono that her mother had fixed for her. Lucky bitches, I thought, they don't realize just how not a given having a mother in the same country and knowing how to sew really is for some people.

Happy April Fools' from Tokyo Metro

I am so very pleased to announce that the Tokyo Metro peeps realized they hadn't even scratched the surface with these manner posters! There is no longer a time limit on these puppies so you can expect to see more in the coming months. And of course, the biggest news of all is that Creepy Sweepy got himself a girlfriend! She's certainly not the hawtest bird you ever saw but I think it's sweet that they have matching glasses.

Either that, or he really is a weird perv touching on a fellow passenger who also happens to be getting kicked and imposed on by the guy to her right. He looks a bit foreign doesn't he, maybe they are discriminating against the gaijin again. Just kidding, I won't get all Debito on you. Whatever Mr. Imposer is, he is clearly a grade A asshole. Kind of like the one I shoved on the train yesterday morning. You see, the problem lies not only with behaviour on the train but behaviour in the station and on the platform. I am becoming increasingly physical with those around me and I don't mean that in a whorey way. Try as I might I often arrive at work steaming after getting body-checked or booby-bashed and it is not good for my mental health. I do go looking for it sometimes however, and if I see that some asshole intends to make me move out of the way by literally standing still in front of me, I will shove into them and believe me, it will hurt. I don't know why I do this, I guess I figure if the fucker is going to run into me anyway because he's not looking or assumes I'll get out of the way, I like to add a little force to the encounter that says, Don't fuck with me please.

I'm all about the rules in train stations except for extenuating circumstances such as running late or having feet that are being killed softly by my heels. Especially during rush hour, people need to line up in the appointed areas and wait their fucking turn. Unfortunately my station has lots of unfortunately-placed pillars that happen to coincide with those lines that indicate where the doors are. So the dilemma is, do you feel up the pillar and stay within the line or do you stand on the other side of the pillar, both missing the line and anyone standing within it? Not surprisingly I like to stand within the line when I am the first one waiting. Despite this, some mornings bitches ignore that fact and stand on the other side of the pillar outside the line. This is OK if they give me right of way or if I can easily take right of way by a quick and precisely-timed side step. Yesterday the grade A was too fast and made it to the side of the door I had planned on standing by while some people got off the train. Somewhat surprisingly I took this in stride and waited on the other side until I could jump in the train and grab a seat before him. The alighting traffic eased up earlier on my side so I hopped on but he was having none of that and shoved his way on, past me, and practically ran to a seat, salivating. So I shoved him from behind. Hard. He looked about to topple and then pathetically tried to shove me back as I went past him. I'm not sure how this looked to other passengers. Hopefully they just thought he was a fucker shoving poor innocent me out of the way. Perhaps they just nodded their heads and thought, yup, put a gaijiness in a pencil skirt and heels and she is still a barbarian. After all that the motherfucker got off at the next station.