Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Hey, I am supposed to be writing a little music report once in a while for a friend of mine at the University of Winnipeg radio station. I wrote the first one a while ago, and it is high time I got started on installment number 2. So anyway, here is the first one...

How appropriate. The first entry of my reports to Bruce is being written on the train. I spend a lot of time on the train in Japan; most people do. I am sitting on the bench with lots of room around me (while a number of people stand) because, as it appears, my fellow commuters have not yet gotten over an ancient nervousness about gaijin. Gaijin means foreigner. Well, more accurately it means outside-person. And it is not p.c. anymore either - only us foreigners use it, like friends of mine at home in the North End who call themselves Indians. In the newspapers and on T.V. they've gotta call us gai-koku-jin. That means person from an outside country. Thank you. I feel much less foreign. Now if somebody would just sit beside me.

A little introduction: I am John Janzen, and I have split the last ten years of my life between Japan and Winnipeg. In both places I was supposed to be a teacher, while trying to be a musician. That is a little easier to do here. The teaching pays you more and works you less, leaving you more time to play around the hundreds of small clubs in the city. Well, they don't say clubs, they say "live houses"and that comes off more like "raibu hausu" And your gigs aren't gigs, they are "raibu"s, hence performed in a raibu hausu... Anyway...

Being a foreign performer in Japan has its plusses and minuses. Though perhaps on its way, Japan is not exactly a multi-ethnic society. Especially in my city of Nagoya, the percentage of ethnically Japanese people would likely be in the high nineties. So being of oddball ethnicity definitely increases the stop-and-look factor. But it can also mean that you can't even enter some music venues. You don't have to look that hard to find a "no foreigners allowed" sign.

But I would say that good outweighs the bad. Generally, the America-worship so prevalent in Japanese culture means that most foreigners come out with more good stories than bad.

And hey, someone just sat down beside me on the train. And he is falling asleep on my shoulder.

The band page is over here.

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