Crazy Things I Learned in Japan

If you’d ask me if I ever experienced culture shock when I first came to Japan, I’d have to say, “No, not really.” I came expecting almost everything to be different than what I was used to. However, there were two things that surprised me about Japan: the roads are so narrow and there’s so much green foliage. The first one is probably a given since the US is known for having wide, open roads. But as for the second one, I grew up in the desert where we had green lawns and some green trees and that was about all, except here and there where there was some water. But in Japan, there are green trees and plants everywhere, something I wasn’t used to but found I really liked.

Here are some other things that I learned while living in Japan that may seem crazy.

Corn on pizza is great!
Look at a pizza delivery service’s flyer or go to the grocery store and look at the frozen or pre-made pizzas and you’ll see that corn is a common topping in Japan. You’ll also see other unusual toppings that you may find weird, like fish eggs, squid, shellfish, or potatoes (Pizza Hut has an Idaho Pizza). Corn, on the other hand, makes a great topping! But I never saw it in my home country, while there, pineapple is a popular topping. My Japanese friends can’t believe I like pineapple on pizza. Also, Tabasco sauce is commonly put on pizza in Japan. Restaurants serving pizza will usually have bottles of Tabasco on the table or available on request.

Comedians and Musicians Make Terrible Drama Actors
Personally, I can’t stand watching most Japanese TV dramas or movies, mostly because of the bad acting on the part of comedians and musicians who appear frequently in these. I know that comedians and musicians doing acting is not unique to Japan and happens a lot in the US also, but at times it seems that Japan thinks that having some acting skills is much less important than being famous in order to be on camera. True, some comedians and musicians are good actors/actresses, but having a comedian act out a serious scene in a drama is often torturous. I once watched one comedian on a TV drama in a scene where he finds his friend has been killed. At first, I thought the show was a comedy and kept waiting for the funny part since he is a comedian. And his wailing and crying over his friend’s body was so unconvincing and so out of character with his usual comedic performances, I actually thought his friend would sit up and say, “Psych!” and there would be the soundtrack of an audience laughing. To be honest, I was channel surfing and came upon that drama by accident and only watched as much as I did because I actually have met that comedian.

Use Your Luxury Bag, Smartphones, or Other Expensive Items to Save a Seat
In almost every other country, leaving your cell phone, wallet, or bag on a table or seat you wish to save and then walking away is a guaranteed way to have it stolen. However, here in Japan, people do this all of the time and yet, incredibly, their valuables are usually not stolen. Japan is known to have a low crime rate, yet crime still happens. Yet I see time and again people in restaurants, cafes, and other public places leave luxury handbags, laptops, wallets, smartphones, and other valuables unattended or to save their seat. I just shake my head at the stupidity of leaving an expensive personal item to save a free seat. But at the same time, I feel thankful that I live in a place where people feel comfortable doing this.

Raw Fish is not So Bad
When I first came to Japan, eating sushi and sashimi, which are famous dishes featuring raw fish, was a culinary adventure that I looked forward to, yet with some trepidation, I’ll have to admit. The first times were challenging to overcome my natural gagging reflex and I made sure I had a full cup of something to drink beforehand. I didn’t really taste the fish as I was just trying to get it down without throwing up (which I never did). Now I’m much better but still don’t really like the taste of fish and cannot eat strong fishy-tasting fish. But I’m still willing to try most of the time. Over the years, I’ve eaten many kinds of fish raw, such as tuna, mackerel, saury, and amberjack, as well as other sea creatures like squid, octopus, and lobster. Side note: I know more fish by their Japanese names than their English names, so excuse me if I use the wrong name. I had to look the names up in a Japanese-English dictionary.

Cockroaches Are Hard to Kill and Scream
Before living in Japan, I really had no experience with cockroaches (or just roaches). I had maybe seen only a few small ones where I grew up. But I quickly learned after coming to Japan that you do not want them near you. I first roomed with a couple of other guys, so our place was not the cleanest and we saw more than a few roaches. They taught me that the best way to kill roaches was to spray dish detergent on them. It does work, but you usually end up wasting a lot of detergent and the walls become soapy. However, I gave this up after seeing one roach flop on it’s back after being sprayed and emit an audible high-pitched sound that sounded like a scream of death. Now, I just try to whack them with a tissue box, rolled-up newspaper, or anything else I can grab. I’m not brave enough to crush them with my bare hand.

Drive on the Left-hand Side of the Road Isn’t So Hard
A number of years ago, I got a job in rural Japan where I had to drive. So I had to change my US driver’s license to a Japanese one. Since I think of myself as a pretty good driver in the US and being too cheap to take a Japanese driving course at a driving school, the first time I drove on the left-hand side of the road was when I took my first driving test for the Japanese license. I found it really wasn’t hard. I even went back to the US for a visit and was OK driving on the right-hand side there, came back to Japan, and continued driving on the left-hand side without any problems.

Rice Has Different Grades
Before coming to Japan, I thought rice was rice and that there were only about two kinds: the brown rice that my Dad likes to eat, and the white rice that we would have occasionally. I have since learned that there are way more varieties of rice as well as different grades of rice eaten in Japan. I admit I have not bothered learning the grade names, but I can now tell when I’m eating a high-grade rice (rarely) vs. eating medium grade (normal) vs. low-grade rice (usually at cheap bento places). Who’d thunk it!

The Toilets are Heavenly or Hellish
I have come to really love the toilets here. I’m talking about the heated, washlet, buttons on the side, Star Trek command chair kind of toilets. To go back to normal toilets, well, it would be like stepping back to the Dark Ages. However, I have also experienced the squatting toilets with no seat, just a porcelain hole you squat over, take care of business, and flush. People have told me that these are better for your body as it forces you to go in a more natural position. BALONEY! I get more out on a regular sitting toilet, without legs cramping up, and making a big mess. Plus I don’t have to worry about hitting my head on the door or a wall or sink as these are usually in a very small room.


How I Came To Be In Japan

Every once in a while I’ll meet someone visiting Japan and they ask me, “What brings you to Japan?” This post is what I want to answer that question with, but because of time concerns (and their interest level fading), I’ll usually answer with a plain, “Because I like living in Japan.” But the truthful answer is longer and more complicated than that. So here’s the real scoop on why I am in Japan.

Even after living in Japan for a total of eight years, the word, “Japan” will still occasionally bring to my mind a far-off and mystical land that I imagined as a child. I feel a rush of adrenaline and want to shout, “Wow! I’m in Japan! I’m actually in Japan!”

My earliest associations about Japan was formed from the movies and TV shows I watched, like The Karate Kid Part II and ninja movies. I imagined Japan was a beautiful, mystical land, filled with ninjas. Everyone there knew karate and had mysterious, almost magical knowledge and powers. I guess I had quite an imagination as a kid.

My first exposure to the real Japan was in high school when I enrolled in a Japanese language class. I wanted to take a foreign language class, but the normal foreign language classes, German, Spanish, American Sign Language, and Ute (spoken by the Native Americans in my area) were not appealing. However, that year my high school offered a new foreign language class, Japanese. So I decided to give it a try. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was a pivotal choice that would affect me for the rest of my life. At the time, I thought I was just trying to fill up an elective slot and improve my chances into getting into the college of my choice.

My High School  Japanese Club T-shirt. For some reason, the phrase

My High School Japanese Club T-shirt. For some reason, the phrase “bimpi desuka” became our unofficial club slogan.

Besides learning Japanese, we also learned about the culture, traditions, and a little Japanese history and geography. Since our teacher was an American who lived in Japan for only short time, we were also lucky enough to have a Japanese exchange student at our high school who helped out teaching us about Japan. (Incidentally, she is still living in the US, while I currently live in her hometown in Japan.) We also formed a Japanese club and occasionally held Japanese food parties after school. One of my fellow students even designed a great t-shirt for the club, which I have managed to hold on to.

It was a fun class, but I learned a lot about Japan and Japanese culture, including how tough the Japanese language is to learn. It was one of the few classes where I had homework almost every day. At work after school, I practiced talking in Japanese, usually counting while working. I worked for my dad and he picked up a few words from me. Even today he says he can count in Japanese and will say, “Ichi Ni” as he scratches his knee (Ichi Ni = itchy knee). Sorry, those are the kinds of jokes my dad tells.

I was fascinated with learning about Japan and enjoyed the challenge of learning the language. Japan was fascinating because almost everything about it was so unique and different from the US, if not as mystical as I once thought it was. I wanted to go to Japan to learn more and to experience Japan for myself.

My wish came true, for after graduating from high school and turning 19 years old, I went to Japan on a two-year voluntary mission for my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I arrived in Japan knowing only a few words and phrases in Japanese and barely able to string a full sentence together. My two years studying Japanese in high school had helped me a little, but not very much.

During my two-year mission, I lived in four different cities for about six months each. As a missionary, I was assigned to a city by the president of my mission area and was transferred to another city with little advanced notice. My days were busily spent studying Japanese and talking with people, mostly Japanese people. There was one day a week to do other things, usually household chores, but I sometimes visited castles or museums on these days. The many rules I willingly followed as a missionary prevented me from experiencing some aspects of Japanese culture, but I didn’t mind. These two years were among the best years of my life, but far from the easiest. I learned so many things and experienced so many things. I won’t go into any of these stories or experiences in this post; maybe in a future post I will. But one immense challenge I faced was learning Japanese, which I did literally through blood, sweat, and tears (the bleeding paper cuts from flash cards and tears of frustration were real). During these two years, I met and talked with innumerable people and made numerous friends.

When my two years as a missionary were up, I didn’t want to leave Japan. I felt my Japanese language skills were just starting to take off and I was able to almost anything. In fact, I was dreaming in Japanese (something I still occasionally do) and was actually starting to forget English. I really liked living in Japan; I loved the food, the Japanese lifestyle, and so many other things about Japan. But most of all, I didn’t want to leave the people or the missionary work I was involved in. Sure, I was exhausted and wanted to see my family. All I wanted to do was to take a vacation to visit my family, have some fun and relax for a little while, and then continue being a missionary in Japan. Unfortunately, once the two years are up, my time as a missionary was over and I had to return to the US and real life. My last days in Japan as a missionary were filled with many mixed emotions. I was very sad to leave this beautiful country and wonderful people. But I was excited to see my family again and to see what the future held for me. I made a promise to myself that I’d return to Japan one day and hoped that I’d have a chance to live in Japan again.

When I returned back to my small hometown, I felt out of place. I really missed Japan, especially the food and the people and had few opportunities to use my Japanese language skills. I didn’t want to lose my Japanese language skills from disuse since I had worked so hard to learn it (remember the blood, sweat, and tears?). Before I left Japan, a Japanese friend, who had gone to college in Hawaii, told me about Hawaii and how many Japanese people visited there. He described how easy it was for someone who could speak even basic Japanese to get a job there.

After trying to live at home for about three months, I decided to move to Hawaii, which had been an idea even before leaving Japan. I decided to move to Hawaii so I could continue studying Japanese and would the chance to use it. Regardless that I didn’t know anyone in Hawaii, didn’t have any employment lined up, or even a place to stay, I left my family, friends, and hometown behind and moved across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii.

I lived in Hawaii for around eight years. During this time, I had many experiences and life events, including graduating from college, marrying my wife, and becoming a father. I enjoyed living in Hawaii immensely and had many opportunities to use Japanese in my professional work as well as my personal life. My wife doesn’t like to speak English and enjoyed having many friends and acquaintances who were Japanese or spoke Japanese. There were plenty of Japanese restaurants and even the supermarket sold many Japanese foods and other goods. Plus there was the tropical weather and natural beauty surrounding me.

Even though we loved living in Hawaii, both my wife and I wanted to live in Japan and we looked at different ways to be able to move there. We took a few vacations to Japan where I tried job searching, but was told that I’d need to be living in Japan before any company would consider hiring me. The lack of funds was a major obstacle to moving there and I couldn’t afford to move to Japan before finding a job.

Instead, we moved to my home state, where living costs were lower and where we could save more money. It was also nice to live so close to family, but at the same time, it felt a little weird, since we were used to living far away from any family members. But again it did not feel like home and we felt out of place. So about two and a half years later, we finally were able to make the move to Japan. I still didn’t have a job offer in Japan but the company I had been working for wanted me to continue working for them as a remote worker for a couple of months longer and at the same time, I could search for a job.

After living in Japan for over six years, it has become home for me. I’m very comfortable here and have no desire to return to the US. We visited the US for Christmas one year and it felt like a foreign country to me. The old feelings of being out of place and uncomfortable were still there. They reaffirmed my desire to stay in Japan. Yes, I do miss my friends and family at times and there are many challenges and difficulties. But life would be boring if I could read all of the posted signs and understand everything that was spoken to me.

Happy 60th, Mom!

At the first of last month, my sister sent out an email to my me and my other siblings and our spouses letting us know that next month would be our Mom’s 60th birthday (because a lot of us didn’t know it was her birthday, let alone know how old she is). My sister gave us a writing assignment with the vague topic of something Mom has taught us, we learned from her, and/or how she made an impression on our lives. Or something like that. I’m writing this and I’m still not clear. Lil’ Sis said that the grandkids could draw a picture instead of writing something. At first, I was thinking that drawing a picture of something would be easier than writing a whole paragraph, so I drew a picture.

I showed it to my daughter, who insensitively asked, “Why is the chicken laughing at the clown? And why is it raining on the chicken?”

“No, that’s Daddy when he was a kid and he fell down and was crying and my mom, your grandma, made me feel better,” I told her.

“No, it’s a chicken and a clown,” she answered back, finishing the conversation.

Due to certain critics, I scratched the drawing plan* and set to work writing something. Here are a few of the many ways Mom helped me learn important life lessons and also things I want to thank her for.

*The above story is fiction but would have been true if I had attempted to draw a picture.

First of all, as some of us siblings are scattered across the globe, we can’t keep up with family news. So Mom keeps us informed of what is going on with our brothers and sisters, since we seem to take after Dad in writing letters/emails to each other (which means it happens rarely). I really enjoy reading Mom’s emails about happenings in the family. Mom, thank you for them.

Besides the family news emails, Mom sends us packages, newspaper clippings, letters, and cards. We really appreciate how thoughtful she is, especially since shipping is not cheap to Japan, where we live. Sometimes Mom writes that she’s been worrying about us, which comes as a surprise since we usually haven’t been worried. We also appreciate this and feel so loved that she worries more about us than we do about ourselves.

I admire that she courageously rode airplanes for many long hours to come visit us in Hawaii and last June, in Japan. We really appreciate her and Dad’s sacrifices to come visit us and their willingness to try raw foods. Well, at least new kinds of food that were cooked. We loved having them in Japan and sharing the culture with them.

The next few items are things that Mom did for me while growing up that I’m truly grateful to have learned. One of the most obvious things that I always took for granted while growing up and really missed when I moved away was all of the wonderful, home-cooked meals she made for us. I loved most of them, except for meatloaf, but I don’t like any meatloaf. Looking back now I’m amazed at how good of a cook she was and still is, whenever I get a chance to eat her meals.

Speaking of taste, I am very grateful that Mom taught me the importance of having clean language and not repeating swear words or bad language that I heard and learned from my friends. I can still taste the soap that she twice used to wash my mouth out with after I did use such language.

Having clean, laundered clothes was another big thing I took for granted and really missed having after moving away. I also appreciated that she taught me to check my pockets before putting the clothes into the washing machine. This saved me from having experiences like turning white dress shirts to pink dress shirts after forgetting to check the pockets for red pens (which happened to a friend).

Growing up, we always had a clean house thanks to Mom’s hard work. Seeing our dirt/mud footprints on Mom’s clean floors helped us to see that our shoes were dirty before walking into a friend’s house (we usually had to clean the floors after we tracked in mud and dirt). And because Mom had us kids help vacuum the house with our old, heavy vacuum cleaner, I can now quickly vacuum a room with the small, light, but just as powerful vacuum cleaners we have here in Japan.

One other thing that I am grateful to have had while growing up was fruits, jams, and sauces we had year-round, thanks to Mom’s hard work in canning and bottling fruits and vegetables. Not only did these provide nourishment, but they sometimes provided entertainment and strange, new experiences. Like the time one brother mistook spicy salsa as mild chili sauce (with Dad’s help) or the time I drank fermented peach juice (it didn’t taste very good).

Thank you again, Mom, for all that you have done for me and also taught me while I was growing up as well as now. I know you’ve done a lot more for me than what I’ve written here. Have a great birthday and know that I am thinking about you on this special day as well as every day. I love you and my wife and daughter love you also!

Mom at Miyajima, Hiroshima, Japan

Mom being a tourist at Miyajima, Hiroshima, Japan. Behind her is a deer, one of the many found roaming the island.

Experiencing Childhood Again

As you may know, I am the father of a beautiful, VERY energetic daughter. She and my wife are the center of my universe and I really enjoy being a father. As I’ve watched my daughter grow up (when did that happen?), I couldn’t help but compare her childhood to my own.

For the most part, I believe I had an awesome childhood, so I want my daughter to have the same experiences I did, as much as possible. However, her environment and circumstances are very different from what mine were so it is impossible for her to experience everything I did. Plus, her personality, likes, and desires are different from what mine were. Forcing her to experience things that she doesn’t want to would be a very bad idea.

One of the biggest differences is that I grew up in a small town in the USA, in a house with a big yard and empty countryside surrounding it. She has grown up in urban Japan with little open spaces. As a boy, I spent many hours roaming around the surrounding area on my bicycle or on foot, exploring, treasure hunting, building things, sledding in the winter, or just hanging out with friends. I grew up without a TV to watch, video games to play, and I had brothers that were close to my age to play with. We were outside a lot because we had no TV or video games.

My daughter, on the other hand, is an only child. Unfortunately, we are unable to have any more children and I feel really bad that she can’t experience growing up with other siblings to play with, share things, and fight with. She has only lived in apartments with no yards and the most of the surrounding areas are paved with asphalt or concrete.

My daughter has TV, video games, dolls and toys, and many other inside amusements, but she loves playing with other children and loves playing outside. She especially loves going to parks where she can quickly make new friends. When she was younger, I would take her to parks as much as I could. Now that she is older and can go by herself, I encourage her to go (after she has her homework done, of course) when I can’t take her. But this is something that my wife and I don’t see eye to eye on. My wife doesn’t want my daughter to go anywhere by herself, worrying that something could happen to her. I agree that is a worry, but I want her to be playing outside, being independent and trusting her to be cautious.

I do wish that we could live in an area with a lot fewer people (and traffic), more open spaces so my daughter could roam to her heart’s content without us worrying about her too much. I also wish she could have the experience of having brothers and sisters as well as having pets. I also wish that her summer vacations were much longer, instead of only a month.

Some things from my childhood that I don’t wish her to experience include having rock fights (yes, my friends and I threw rocks at each other) and doing roofing work, mostly picking up tons of old, crumbly shingles (which I did a lot of for my dad’s roofing company). I do appreciate the opportunity it provided me to earn spending money and to learn about hard work, but I hated almost every moment of it. How many wonderful hours was wasted being hot and dirty, picking up those old things, when I could have been bored out of my mind.

Hurdles of a Newbie Writer

I’ve recently started writing a book, something that has been a long term goal and is on my bucket list. The seed for this goal was planted in my mind way back in my wild college days. No, I wasn’t out partying and being wild back then. But those days seem wild now because I was working full-time, going to school and studying, dating, and enjoying living in Hawaii. I know that my life was very mild when compared to some friends I knew. But compared to my life now, it was wild. Now, it’s just dull and boring.

Anyway, in college, I had to take an English class. English had always been an easy subject for me in school, but not one of my favorites nor one of my hated subjects. I loved it when we were reading stories or novels but hated it when studying grammar. So in high school, I gladly dropped it for Japanese instead.

Because I hadn’t taken an English class in about five years, and also because I’d lived for two of those years in Japan, speaking primarily Japanese and knowing I’d forgotten some English, I was apprehensive about this English class. But I did pretty good in it. My writing skills weren’t too rusty and I was able to use modern technology to make up for my spelling, which had suffered, and forgotten vocabulary. In fact, the instructor suggested to me, after one fiction writing assignment, that I should take more advanced English classes and also said something about a career in writing and writing a book. At the time, I had other goals but that stuck in my mind and gradually morphed into a “someday” goal.

As I’ve said in my earliest postings, I started this blog to sharpen my writing skills in order to write a book sometime. But this past New Years, I actually decided to start writing it. I’ve had the basic story in my head for a few years now and made a rough outline of it. And within the past few weeks, I’ve written a few of the beginning parts.

My main problem is finding the time to write. My current company works me pretty hard and I usually don’t have two days off every week, only Sundays, which are busy also. After work and then after getting home, eating dinner, and spending time with my daughter, I’m too tired to do much of anything besides going to bed. So I’m excited for my days off when I can spend at least a few hours of writing on my book.

Another problem that I’ve been having is while I’m writing, my internal editor kicks in and makes me go back and fix something I’ve already written. A misspelled word here, change this word, or add or remove something else. And the auto correct on my iPad makes it worse. It’ll change a word I typed correctly to something else or insert words when I’m not watching. I know that I should only focus on writing as much as I can and proofread later. But right now, I’m not in that habit. I have turned off my iPad’s auto correct and will just keep trying to concentrate only on writing.

One unexpected problem I’ve run into that has stalled up my writing is characters’ names. From what I saw on different sites about writing on the internet, it’s a very common problem. Someone said they use a generic name at first or even something like GIRL in upper caps, do the writing, and then go back and find the perfect character name. The problem I have with that is I feel I have to really get into the characters’ minds to write this story. And it’s hard to do that when the character’s name is HERO. In addition, the characters in my book will be from many different countries, so coming up with good names from like, Zimbabwe, makes it even more difficult.

But one of the biggest hurdles i have is my own laziness and tendency to procrastinate and do something fun, like play a video game, right now. Plus I’m willing to be easily distracted. I am very excited right now about my book and that I’ve started it. I can hardly wait until i have a chance to write more in it. But once i do sit down and start to write, I have a hard time thinking about what to write and then I get distracted by some other thing. For example, this blog post. Today I was thinking, “Tonight, what should I do? Write more in my book or write a blog post.” You’re reading the winner of that debate because I procrastinated again. But at least this was working on another of my New Years goals: write a post for my blog every week.

Taking the J Train

Typical trains in Tokyo. These are operated by JR or East Japan Railways.

Typical trains in Tokyo. These are operated by JR or East Japan Railways.

You may or may not know that riding trains and subways are a main form of transportation here in Japan. (I group subways with trains as many trains become subways and vice versa) Before my first stay in Japan, I had never ridden a train before, unless you count the Kiddie Chu-Chu. But here in Japan, and especially in big cities, it is very common to ride the trains to work and play.

Station attendant pushing passengers into over-crowded trains. All in a morning's commute.

Station attendant pushing passengers into over-crowded trains. All in a morning’s commute.

The mornings and evenings are the worst times to ride. These are when everyone and their dog ride the train to work or home (literally, I’ve seen people with their dogs on the train). Tokyo is famous for having crowded trains and the stations have attendants pushing people into the train cars. These are not fun times to ride the trains in Tokyo.

Not even standing room left.

Not even standing room left.

Until recently, I’d been fortunate to not have had to ride during these peak riding hours. However, last month, I had to work in Tokyo and ended up riding as a sardine to and from work one day. As an inexperienced sardine, I ended up being stuck in a very awkward position, one hand way over there gripping a handle and the rest of my body over here. I could not straighten out due to the number of people pressed against me. My arm muscles soon began to spasm and cramp and my spine was killing me but I could not move until the next station. When some people finally got off, freeing up a tiny bit of room, I elbowed the people pressed around me so I could stand up straight and be in a little more comfortable position. Needless to say I was exhausted when I finally got off the train and not all from work.

Mostly, riding the train is boring. If you can get a seat, it is a great chance to view the scenery, read something, or take a nap. I’ve taken many power naps on the train. Just be sure to wake up before your stop.

One of the funniest things pranks I saw happened on train. A group of junior high school boys got on my train car and I could tell they’d just finished playing baseball (they probably had played a game or had a hard practice). There was only one seat available and one boy sat down and promptly fell asleep. When his friends saw he was asleep, they quietly slipped into the next car. At the next station, the kid who was asleep woke up when the train stopped and looked around for his friends. Not seeing them, I guess he assumed that he’d missed their stop, so he ran out the train doors right before they closed. He then saw his friends, still on the train, laughing and waving at him as the train started moving away. I was laughing also.

That was one of the funniest things I ever saw while in Japan, ranking next to the time I saw some old men and women crawling on their hands and knees under the opening metal door of a pachinko parlor in a race to the best pachinko machines. But I’ll have to right about that in another post.

Super Brawl 49

I had the day off (Monday here in Japan),the wife was at work, and my kid was at school, so I decided to watch Super Bowl 49. It was quite nice how the start time worked out to be 8:30 AM here in Japan. Enough time to get the kid to school and some snacks prepared before The Big Game started.

Now, I don’t follow football or any sport for that matter, having become sick of the commercialization of almost all sports at almost all levels. In fact, I haven’t watched a football game in years. I believe the last one I watched was called the Rice Bowl, a college football game between two Japanese colleges, and I only happened to find it while channel surfing. That was over four years ago. Past Super Bowls were over before I realised there had been one, so I haven’t watched a Super Bowl in many years. In fact, I can’t even remember the last one I watched or who played in it.

But this year, I happened to find out that Super Bowl 49 was this weekend, well Monday morning, Japan time. I decided to overlook the commercialization (and the Super Bowl is, well, the super bowl of commercialization) and just enjoy watching a football game, something I haven’t done in a long, long time. And maybe watch some of the much hyped about commercials that are supposedly really good. I didn’t see any that I thought were that good; Japanese TV often has some commercials that are much, much better. Cup Noodle’s Yoda commercial comes to mind. But that’s off topic. Back to the game.

It was a great game! The score was tied at the half, both teams made some brilliant plays and some mistakes throughout the game. The four quarters flew right by and I couldn’t believe how short the game seemed to be. Then, with seconds left in the fourth quarter, players start pushing and shoving each other. Not just two or three or four players, but many more than that. It looked like almost all of the players on the field were brawling and the refs were running around trying to stop everyone.

It sickened me to see such a big display of unsportsmanlike conduct. It embarrassed me also to see so many highly-payed players pushing each other around like elementary school children. This poor display in the final seconds of the game ruined the entire Super Bowl experience I just had. Even though up to that point, it had been an exciting and close game, I’ll always remember now only the players’ poor conduct in the final seconds. It’s like the time I ate a delicious ice cream cone and got to the tip of the cone that was filled with chocolate, only to have that tip fall to the ground. I felt like I had been cheated and unsatisfied. Oh, that was a Japanese ice cream cone. Another analogy would be eating a delicious, juicy red apple and before taking the last bite, seeing a worm inside the apple. You don’t remember how good the apple (or the game) was; all you can remember is “the worm” at the end.

Why is this worm in my apple?!!! (NBC Sports photo)

Is this the way that sports are played in America now? Has sportsmanship lost its value? Is selfishness and losing your temper OK to do now? I’ve been out of the country for over six years now, so I really don’t know the state that American sports are in. These football players (and other professional sports players) are looked up to by numerous kids. They are role models. Even if things are not going your way, brawling with other players is not OK.

Super Bowl 49 was ruined for me in the last few seconds. So I angrily turned off the game before the clock ran out, not caring what happened in the last few seconds. To me, it seemed like the sportsmanship clock ran out before the game clock ran out. And like my ice cream cone tip that fell on the ground before I could eat it, I want to throw it into the garbage.