Monday, November 17, 2003

A Place Called Usa
Perhaps you have noticed that from time to time I refer to the town of Usa. I don't live in Usa, but it's only one town over. It's a town of about 50,000, so not a metropolis by any means. But, compared to my town of Ajimu, population 8,000, it is a lot bigger. And it has a fair amount of bars and Karaoke places to hang out in (unlike Ajimu). So on any given night, I'm far more likely to make the drive over to Usa, then to stay in Ajimu.
Of course Usa is a Japanese word, usually written in Japanese characters. But, as you can see, when it is transferred into Roman letters, it shares same spelling as the good old U.S. of A. This leads to a lot of bad jokes. For instance a resident of Usa, after consuming a bit of alcohol, might lean over to me and say, "I too am from the U.S.A. See, Usa. U.S.A." The first time I heard this, I thought it was worth a smile. Two years later, I'm ready to punch the next bastard who makes that damn joke again.
There is also a rumor among us expatriates that Usa was so named so that exports from the town of Usa could be stamped, "made in the USA." I never really believed this rumor because Usa is such a small town, nothing is really produced inside it. A drive through Usa reveals just lots and lots of rice fields. (Although again, it is bigger than Ajimu, and has a few fun bars to hang out in.)
But, wasting time on the internet the other day, I found this rumor mentioned on Snopes, the Urban Legends website. I don't know if anyone else regularly visits the Snopes website, but I was very surprised to see Usa was mentioned there. Since Snopes is an American website, it means this rumor about Usa is worldwide. I was surprised that anyone outside of Oita Prefecture even knew about our little town of Usa.
Anyway, here is the link

And well we're wasting time: the same sight also has an interesting, if rather disturbing, article on the Japanese Lolita complex. (Here's the link: Lolita Complex)
The Lolita problem in Japan is perhaps somewhat akin to the Gun violence problem in America in the sense that it is a big social problem, but it is something you hear about mostly on the news as opposed to observe in person. For instance, since I've been here in Japan there has been a lot of things reported in the news. There are problems with under-age prostitution, and high school girls sleeping with older men in exchange for gifts. And in my own prefecture, there has been a number of incidents last year of teachers who were caught sleeping with their high school students. A stricter code of conduct for teachers in Oita Prefecture was created as a result of this.
But have I observed any of this personally? Well as the article mentions, Japanese women in their 20s and 30s will often act like young girls, and this is very noticeable. But as far as sketchy relationships between older men and young girls, I haven't seen any of this in Ajimu. (Although some of the literature available at the local convenience store is very disturbing.)

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