A meditation on population demographics, foodways, and intercultural tolerance. (NOTE: Due to the heated response that this piece has drawn, we have tagged this article as satire. Hopefully, literary scholars will not take offense at our loose use of the term.)
By Ken Seeroi, Japaneseruleof7.com
Every spring, thousands of sakura trees bloom magnificently across Japan. And in synch, millions of Japanese folks don surgical masks, which they won’t take off until winter, their allergies made exponentially worse by clouds of pollen blowing from distant mountains of cypress trees.
“Years ago, we started chopping down the hardwood,” Setsuko explained, “and replacing them with fast-growing cypress.” Setsuko’s my girlfriend with the runny nose. She knows a lot of stuff.
“Maybe you could not wear the mask, at least while we’re on dates?” I pleaded.
“But you hate my sniffling.”
“Well, true. But how come nobody thought about this before all the chopping and planting?”
“Japan likes flowers and needs wood,” she said, matter-of-factly.
“Yeah, don’t we all,” I said. “I mean, I’d get wood right now, if I could.”
“Or maybe the Japanese just aren’t good at long-range planning.”
“Looking at a map of Tokyo,” I said, “you’d never guess.”
The Muslim Migration
For some reason, every time I check Google News, there’s a new story about Muslims in Japan. It’s almost as though the news was being personalized just for me. And that I was a Muslim. Strange. Anyway, all over Japan, now there’s Muslim folks chilling at the airport, eating halal food in Kyoto, and being courted as tourists for the 2020 Olympics. This is vastly different from parts of Europe, where everyone’s stressing over immigration like a reprise of Colonel Custer’s last words: “Whoa, look at all them Indians.” In Japan, the same groups are being greeted with open arms. Hey, it’s 2015. Being popular because you’re white is so 1995. Remind me to get me a hijab.
“You don’t need to be a prophet to figure that in a few years, Japan’s gonna look a whole lot different than it does now. And maybe that’ll be good.”
Now let me hasten to add that Ken Seeroi has nothing at all against Muslim people. Don’t go all jihad on me. Every single person I’ve met has been exceptionally nice, and anyway other people’s religion isn’t my business. Although maybe the whole capturing, torturing, and killing-folks thing was a bit over the top. Violence is always a poor solution. Wait—that was Christian America? Oh, my bad. Well, moving on.
So let me just tell you three short stories about four friends of mine:
Stanley and his wife packed up and left Tokyo for Vietnam. “The food’s spicier, the people are nicer, and there’s actually jobs that have a future,” he said.
Robbie studied Japanese in college, spoke it fluently, and lasted three years in Yokohama. His final words were, “Enough with this Japanese racism, I’m out.”
Bonnie moved back to America. “Dating in Japan sucks,” she said. “My advice for women going there would be, Buy a dildo.” Ah, Americans. You have a solution for everything.
See, I told you they were short. But there’s another story. One about the Egyptian bartender at my corner izakaya, who’s got two kids with a Japanese woman. And the group of students from Bangladesh I met on the train, all working like crazy to learn Japanese and make a living here. And the Pakistani woman who attends my Thursday night Business English class. In this story, throughout Japan, there are loads of Muslim people.
Asians, Always Good at Math
Again, nothing wrong with that, but it’s a story that unfolds in numbers. Japan’s population’s taking a nose-dive. Counting on the Japanese to repopulate Japan? Tokyo’ll be underwater before that happens. There’s a steady influx of gaijin English teachers who show up believing that Japan’s some mysterious Oriental land, but they mostly fly home two years later none the wiser. Meanwhile, masses of workers from the Philippines and the Middle East are migrating to a nation better than the one they left, and putting down roots.
Whither then, the future of Japan?
More and more kids born with curly hair, is whither. If Japan makes it hard for Westerners to integrate (they just look so, you know, different), it seems to have less problem with people from Muslim countries, who can sometimes pass as Japanese, provide great cheap labor and, uh, by the way, aren’t leaving. And hey, I’m fine as long as they continue to open delicious curry restaurants. But you don’t need to be a prophet to figure that in a few years, Japan’s gonna look a whole lot different than it does now. And maybe that’ll be good. Integration at last, just maybe not the way you envisioned. Pass the falafel, Takeshi.