DEBTOR NATION

VIDEOS

Wolf Richter On The Keiser Report
"Debtonomics and the NSA"

Wolf Richter on the Keiser Report
"Where Is The Fear"

Wolf Richter on Max Keiser's "On The Edge" 
"The Pauperization of America"

Wolf Richter on the Keiser Report
"Where the Money Goes to Die"

Clarke and Dawe: European Debt Crisis
Two favorite Australian Comedians

Clarke and Dawe: Quantitative Easing
Big industrial-strength printers, all facing the window

The Fastest Drive Ever Through San Francisco
Don't try to do this yourself
 

humanERROR - by "Frying Dutchman"
Powerful, lyrical appeal to the Japanese. Slams nuke industry, MSM, bureaucrats, and politicians.

Entries in Culture Shock (23)

Saturday
Feb082014

Personal Perspective: I’ve Hammered On Japan’s Fiscal Nightmare, Abenomics, TEPCO, And Debacles... But There's More To Japan 

Dear Readers, friends, traders, gladiators, hard-working guys dreaming of retirement.... My personal relationship with Japan goes back to 1996, so here’s something different, something that isn’t cynical and harsh and dark, but appreciative and I hope enjoyable.

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Sunday
May132012

Sunday Photographer

Tokyo, June 1996. Satoru-san is already at the izakaya near Mita Station when I get there, and I’m early. Despite the swelter, he’s unflinchingly dapper in his charcoal blazer, gray shirt, and silver tie. “I’m sorry I’m early,” he says, perhaps his standard greeting when he isn’t late, which he probably never is. “I benefit from my freedom. My wife doesn’t allow me to drink. Like many Japanese, I lack the enzyme that breaks down alcohol.”

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Sunday
May062012

Communication Problem: Buying Ointment for Ji

Tokyo, June 1996. Ji is the word for “hemorrhoid.” I looked it up. The sound is identical to chi, “blood,” and only the Japanese can distinguish them. My problem is I’ve run out of hemorrhoid ointment. A wiry lady in a lab coat, the only person in the small pharmacy, greets me apprehensively. I greet her in my best Japanese. “I’m sorry to trouble you,” I add, a fixed expression used in front of a question. It comes out smoothly, and I feel more confident. Her apprehension grows.

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Sunday
Apr222012

Almost Spilling Her Scotch

Tokyo, June 1996. We go see the French film Le Zebre, and afterward at a dining bar we discuss it, how great it is, how French love stories have a special charm, how they’re more honest because they don’t have happy endings but French endings that leave you confused and searching for answers. Our lips are moving on autopilot while our hearts are communicating via our fingers that are intertwined across the table.

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Saturday
Apr142012

Those Scammers on Wall Street

Tokyo, June 1996. Wouter the Dutch guy’s words course through my head like a refrain in a traveler ballad: You’ve got to go to Russia, you’ve got to go see Inga in Irkutsk. And I’m researching the first steps in that direction at the Maruzen Bookstore in Ochanomizu, which has a gaijin corner with a Lonely Planet shelf. I pull out Russia. But next to it are other evocative titles, like Vietnam, China, and Mongolia.

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Sunday
Apr082012

Deer Sashimi

Japan, June 1996. With 40 minutes left before the departure of our train, we make a beeline for the restaurant, a boisterous Formica-steel-and-plastic kind of place. Izumi orders mountain-vegetable pilaf. I order deer sashimi, a mountain specialty. The thin slices of raw deer are served with raw onion rings, fresh garlic, fresh ground ginger, and a vinegar-soy sauce. Possibly the best meat dish I’ve ever eaten. But I shouldn’t have eaten it.

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Sunday
Apr012012

Bluebelly Mousse

Japan, May 1996. The joys of eating cement us together, and the harmony between us emboldens me. We finish the fifth course, sautéed almond trout, and as I’m pouring the remainder of our bottle of wine, I broach the subject that has been on my mind for weeks and that I’ve broached in subtle ways before without getting a response. Now I want to violate yarikata. I want to communicate with her clearly and directly, with personal pronouns and all.

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Saturday
Mar242012

Poverty, Violence, and Crime

Tokyo, May 1996. At the immigration office in Otemachi, I’m asked to write my request in English on a piece of paper and submit it. After a wait, I’m directed to an office. A middle-aged white woman with puffy cheeks and a gray-blond perm thrones behind a desk.

“So, you want to stay in Japan longer,” she says with an icy British accent.

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Sunday
Mar182012

Loitering Inanely by a Sign I Can't Read

Tokyo, May 1996. My relationship with her exhibits all the characteristics of the one-sided trade relationship between the US and Japan. I pay a fortune to be in her country. Though I’m learning Japanese, she refuses to speak it with me. She has seen every aspect of my life in Japan. But I’m not allowed near her house, and her parents don’t know I exist. I haven’t met any of her friends, don’t even know their names.

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Sunday
Mar112012

The Bomb Incident

Tokyo, May 1996. One of the newsstands at Takadanobaba station carries the Wall Street Journal Asia. Before 8 a.m., the wrinkled prewar archetype has two copies. By 8:45 a.m., he’s down to one. By 9 a.m., he’s out. And now that I live a few minutes away, I get there in time to grab the last copy. Surely, the same two guys have been buying them for years, and now I come along and muck up their system. I feel like a thief.

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Saturday
Mar032012

Geisha in Kyoto

Kyoto, April 1996. We hike up the alleys to Kiyomizu-dera Temple. They’re lined with noodle shops, cafés, snack shops, and souvenir shops in wooden buildings, some with multilayered curved and pointy roofs and patinated copper gutters—when two geisha in flamboyant kimonos, theatrical makeup, and dramatic hairdos hobble arm in arm out of a side alley.

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Sunday
Feb262012

'They should Revolt'

Tokyo, April 1996. The problem is money. It dematerializes in multiples of 10,000-yen bills. There’s even a word for ten thousand: man. Anything less is change. You pay two man yen for dinner and drinks, plus one man yen for a love hotel, plus one man yen for breakfast, lunch, and miscellaneous expenses. You’ve blown four man yen, or about $400, without having done anything fancy.

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Sunday
Feb122012

Stewing At Ikebukuru Station

Tokyo, April 1996. Takano-sensei is mysteriously pleased with my progress or has changed strategy and is using false positive reinforcement to motivate me to work harder. Either way, it emboldens me, and I’m in high spirits when I enter an Internet café and ask in Japanese if they have AOL.

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Sunday
Feb052012

Burnt-Rice Tea

Tokyo, April 1996. Cacophonous cawing of crows weaves itself disconcertingly into my dreams until it wakes me up altogether. It’s 5:45 a.m. Even the dual building walls of the love hotel fail to deaden the racket, and when you’re half asleep, it’s almost scary. But in front of my eyes is a tuft of black hair. She sleeps without sound, without movement, her arms contorted underneath her. I inhale her chemistry as if it were a controlled substance.

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Wednesday
Feb012012

A Forbidden Act

Tokyo, April 1996. Mr. Song has already left. Mr. Kim is watching a garish talk show on TV. The kitchen sink is full of dirty bowls, utensils, pots, and pans. Vapors of grease and kimchi hang in the air.
“I’m going to walk to school,” I tell Mr. Kim.
“Walk?”

Now he has what he has been looking for: incontrovertible proof that I’m crazy.

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Sunday
Jan222012

Conspicuous But Invisible

Tokyo, April 1996. I scour the alleys of the entertainment quarter of Takadanobaba for love hotels but still don’t know what to look for. Instead, I find a business hotel for the underlings of Japan Inc. It’s modern and impeccable. The rate is reasonable, and so I book a room for tonight. I’m elated, having accomplished something on my own. I’ll spend the night with Izumi. The logistics are in place.

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Saturday
Jan142012

Love Hotel

Tokyo, April 1996. Our fingers laced together, we mosey from the Imperial Palace through Hibiya Park to Ginza’s shopping avenues. She picks a café on the second floor, and we settle into Viennese-coffeehouse armchairs by a floor-to-ceiling window. I’m the only male in the place. On the menu, only the prices are legible.

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Sunday
Jan082012

Foreign Particle In A Tarry Liquid

Tokyo, April 1996. 4:45 a.m. Daylight shines through the opaque windows. I slide one open. My new neighborhood: sheds pieced together from rusting corrugated iron, green corrugated plastic, and weathered wood; tiny yards cluttered with junk; and concrete buildings finished with brown tiles. Windows are opaque for a reason. You don’t want to be confronted with this on a daily basis.

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Monday
Jan022012

Tell-Tale Signs Of Official Exasperation

Vibrating with irrational post-flight euphoria, I place my feet on size 24 yellow footprints painted on the floor at immigration and wait. Travel lore has it that Tokyo Narita is a congested and problematic airport. But at 8:25 a.m. I see no congestion and no problems—until an immigration officer waves me over. He studies my ticket, doesn’t like it.

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Saturday
Dec242011

Culture Shock

Bali, 1996: The taxi driver honks his way from the airport through Denpasar’s polluted, dusty chaos and drops me off at a walled compound in Kuta by the beach. From the gate, I see a tropical garden, a pavilion with a pointy ceramic-tile roof, a swimming pool, and two-story guest buildings. A girl in red flowery sarong and sheer blouse....

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