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A View of the World from Japan

Here’s yet another entry about my 1998 trip to Japan, inspired by Sarah “The Hollywood North Report” Marchildon’s blog entries about her moving there to teach English for a year.

Depending on how old you are — or what magazines you read — you may or may not be familiar with Saul Steinberg’s cover for the New Yorker titled A View of the World from 9th Avenue, which depicts how a Manhattanite supposedly sees the world:

Saul Steinberg's 'New Yorker' cover: 'A View of the World from 9th Avenue

This cover has inspired a number of parodies. Here’s one: it’s Ted Rall’s A View of the World from Pennsylvania Avenue:

Ted Rall's Parody of Saul Steinberg's 'New Yorker' cover: 'A View of the World from Pennsylvania Avenue

(For those of you outside North America, Pennsylvania Avenue is the street on which the White House is located.)

When I was in Japan, I visited the school at which my friend Anne taught English. I was there as her assistant for the day; my job was to talk to the students, give them English practice and an opportunity to meet a real live foreigner.

The strangest thing about the experience was the sense of deja vu that I got during the exercise: every Japanese person at the school remarked at how good my English was. Until that time, I’d only gotten that reaction from white people — it happened a lot in the 1970s — but these days, it’s incredibly rare that someone says this to me.

They thought I was Japanese and were surprised to discover that I was Filipino. “You don’t look it,” they said.

“Give me a pole to dance around and look again,” I replied.

They didn’t get the joke.

In one of the school hallways, I saw these large sheets on which the younger students had done an English exercise. I got a laugh out of them and had to take these pictures.

The first one was a list of things they associated with America:

List of things that Japanese students associate with America.

Remember, this was October 1998, so Clinton was president, and this only a few months after Clinton’s admission that he’d had an “inappropriate” relationship with Monica Lewinsky. As for “Mr. Big”, I have no idea what they’re referring to.

Here’s the next poster: a list of things they associated with Britain:

List of things that Japanese students associate with Britain.

Once again, this was October 1998, just over a year after Lady Diana’s death. It’s interesting that the students would associate gardening with Britain; although it’s a fair association, I doubt you’d get that answer from a North American student. I like the “Pank music” item too.

And finally, Canada. How do they see us?

List of things that Japanese students associate with Canada.

8 replies on “A View of the World from Japan”

I’m assuming that the “Mr. Big” reference is to the Chris Noth character on _Sex and the City_, but I couldn’t be sure…

I doubt that it’s a Sex and the City reference. It would probably be at least a year or two before the show would get dubbed, and I’m sure in Japan it got renamed to something like Uppity Gaijin Girly Bimbo No-Pants Self-Indulge Big Battel.

Isn’t it a reference to the chocolate bar? Was it on sale there? According to Wikipedia it had world wide sales.

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