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A pleasing land of drowsy-head it was, Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye
October 28, 2007 10:18 PM   Subscribe

The Yamanote Halloween Train vs. Japanese Netizen Rage The Yamanote Halloween Train party was planned to be held on Saturday night in Tokyo. However, sometime on Saturday morning, the Japanese megaforum 2ch.net discovered an English-language post about the event on JapanProbe, and translated the information about it into Japanese, igniting a raging storm of anti-foreign hatred and sending over 10,000 visitors to the popular English-language blog about Japan. Scroll down for an interview with a JR employee about the event.

FG reports on the 2ch reaction to the Halloween Train, and fairly points out that there are many 2channelers who are not crazy or racist.

FG also has some great posts on its front page these days...
posted by KokuRyu (39 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
The best part? "[If any of you are wondering, Akismet spam protection can automatically detect and flag ASCII text art of male genitalia as spam.]"
posted by puke & cry at 10:22 PM on October 28, 2007


So who won the first prize for biggest asshattery, the Japanese trolls or the Western drunkards?
posted by Iosephus at 10:27 PM on October 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Maybe the U.S. and Japan can set up some sort of racist-asshat exchange program, since it's obvious that the two groups could learn so much from each other.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:30 PM on October 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Once upon a time, long-long ago, I did the whole party on the Yamanote-line thing. I'd like to think that back then we weren't asshats or racists, but it's hard to tell as I was ridiculously drunk at the time.
posted by nightchrome at 10:33 PM on October 28, 2007


discovered an English-language post about the event on JapanProbe, and translated the information about it into Japanese, igniting a raging storm of anti-foreign hatred

I am seriously missing something here, and Japan Probe did not illuminate.
posted by dhartung at 10:37 PM on October 28, 2007




I am seriously missing something here, and Japan Probe did not illuminate.

Here
posted by KokuRyu at 10:41 PM on October 28, 2007


Goddam foreigners oughtta get outta Japan, each and every one of 'em!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:52 PM on October 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


wtf? they're pissed about a foreign holiday festival that lasts what, an hour or two? late on a saturday night? once a year?

jesus thats petty.

i used to live in nyc, where just about every ethnic group on the planet had week-long street fairs closing down a few blocks of the city pretty much year round. i coudnt possibly count the number of times i was delayed getting around by it. did it ever make me mad? hell no...its cool. its neat. its fun and always different.

xenophobia is sooo yesteryear.

however, they are light-years ahead of us in the field of ascii art.
posted by sexyrobot at 11:03 PM on October 28, 2007


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posted by puke & cry at 11:24 PM on October 28, 2007


puke & cry Astro Boy is missing his arms there.

I also did the Yamanote line thing several years ago, but I recall that most of us got off and dispersed at Shinbashi because we heard people were being hassled by the police at Shinagawa.

It wasn't that thrilling, most people not involved were just amused and I don't recall seeing any outrageous behaviour. Seen much worse on a Friday night after bonus time from drunken oyaji salarymen.
posted by gomichild at 11:27 PM on October 28, 2007


What is that fellow with the skin coloured suit and a white box dressed as?
posted by tellurian at 11:31 PM on October 28, 2007


Its certainly not the 'headless horseman'.
posted by tellurian at 11:34 PM on October 28, 2007


This thread is useless without rimshots.
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:14 AM on October 29, 2007


meh. subway halloween celebrations are nothing new, here, and it's ridiculous that there is a sudden burst of interest...obviously among people who don't get out much in the first place.

and yes, I've seen worse behavior from the drunken salarymen.

that said, I love dressing up...I've just always preferred to attend parties with other costume-clad celebrants rather than going out of my way to co-mingle with tired commuters. every city with foreigner-friendly bars has them; we live in a relatively small city in the center of the country and there are 4 different bars which hold annual parties within one neighborhood alone.
posted by squasha at 12:27 AM on October 29, 2007


posted by tellurian What is that fellow with the skin coloured suit and a white box dressed as?

A game show contestant.
posted by fandango_matt at 1:37 AM on October 29, 2007


> Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye

Very interesting post (says I from a safe distance.) Favorited for the headline--fuller tips hat.


> Seen much worse on a Friday night after bonus time from drunken oyaji salarymen.

I hope to see Japan some day. If I have that opportunity I don't plan on judging my behavior as a guest by comparison to the worst I see around me by the locals. Bad idea from the git-go. I imagine the reaction if a mob of Japanese tourists in this country carefully kept their behavior just a hair better than the worst American yobs on display.
posted by jfuller at 3:40 AM on October 29, 2007


Maybe the U.S. and Japan can set up some sort of racist-asshat exchange program, since it's obvious that the two groups could learn so much from each other.

It's called the Jet Programme. Internationalization!

Was anyone dressed as a vending machine?
posted by betweenthebars at 4:14 AM on October 29, 2007


KokuRyu "FG reports on the 2ch reaction to the Halloween Train, and fairly points out that there are many 2channelers who are not crazy or racist."

Nah, those comments were just by racist 2channelers being ironic.
posted by Bugbread at 5:18 AM on October 29, 2007


What is that fellow with the skin coloured suit and a white box dressed as?

Justin Timberlake.
posted by scalefree at 6:29 AM on October 29, 2007


Back on topic, this is a fascinating window into nationalistic pride from a non-American viewpoint. Japan, love it or leave it?
posted by scalefree at 7:00 AM on October 29, 2007


Could someone please explain to me what the hell this is and why it's important?
posted by Afroblanco at 7:14 AM on October 29, 2007


This isn't necessarily important, but is interesting because it really exposes the latent racism that is present just beneath the surface of Japan's ultra-polite, highly stratified, regimented and rigid social framework.

You see, for foreigners in Japan, it really is a culture of smile-in-your-face-but-talk-behind-your-back. There are what I would call 'thresholds' that foreigners cross as they assimilate in Japan, and with each new circle of understanding comes a realization of just how marginalized outsiders are. It's only barely palpable to the 6-month foreign exchange student; for the English teacher it becomes apparent in their treatment and exclusion at work; for long term residents, those with Japanese spouses, and others married to the system, the truth about uchi-soto is obvious.

That's not to say that all Japanese are awful xenophobes, but just as the Jena 6 imbroglio in Louisiana reminds America of its own lurking racist sentiments, so too does this show that Japan has not come to grips with its gaijin, a group that increases each year the country continues with negative population growth and struggles to recruit more bodies to keep up with expected economic progress.
posted by dead_ at 7:47 AM on October 29, 2007 [4 favorites]


Also, thanks for this post.
posted by dead_ at 8:07 AM on October 29, 2007


Exactly.

Those "thresholds" are multitudinous...perhaps somewhere around the number of levels in Dante's version of hell. I know I'm making conscious decisions to remain within the public margins that have suited me well this last decade (the first 3 years were more of a struggle...before uchi-soto became 'workable' for me, if not entirely palatable.)

I suppose I avoid those who embrace henna gaijin ("wheeee! I'll never fit in, so I might as well act the role of the crazy foreigner!") behavior because they inevitably bring out the worst of the racist response, and my language level is now functional enough to understand the worst of said response. Of course, I wish the underlying racism wasn't there, but I can only educate one small portion of the population at a time, you know?

Fortunately, there are more than enough private (and subcultural) spaces within my life here that allow me to blow off steam when necessary.
posted by squasha at 8:17 AM on October 29, 2007


This isn't necessarily important, but is interesting because it really exposes the latent racism that is present just beneath the surface of Japan's ultra-polite, highly stratified, regimented and rigid social framework.

Thanks for the plaudits on the post, but I can't really agree with this statement. Rather, Japan is no more racist than, say, the United States. In fact, during my ten years there, I can't even remember a racist conversation. However, come to Vancouver, and everyone complains, for example, about 'crazy Chinese drivers' on No. 3 Road in Richmond.

True, Japanese folks can be rude to foreigners, but it's very in-your-face. The vitriol spewing from 2ch threads and blogs is an interesting glimpse at behind the scenes Japan, much like 4ch and freeper forums in Western culture. If you want to see how a common Japanese person views the antics of the Halloween train, read the interview with the JR employee. His comments are really the epitome of the Japanese character, which is tolerance, decency and good humour (wrapped up in a somewhat authoritarian package).

I would argue that most regular Japanese folks (like my in-laws) are more turned off by *different* behavior. Imagine living in a society where there is appropriate etiquette on how to sit on a train, how to open a door, how to place shoes when you take them off, how to sit, and how to speak in different situations. Then imagine being confronted by a giant foreigner waving his arms around gesticulating wildly when he talks...and then being late or even not showing up for appointments (gasp). It can be a bit of a turn-off. But I noticed that once I mastered adult, polite Japanese and controlled my body-language a bit, my entire experience changed.

Japan's government, on the other hand, is undoubtedly racist. Abe and his crowd were rightists and crypto-facists. Hopefully this is the high-water mark of their influence on government. Probably in five years we will see the fingerprinting procedures being abolished again.

As you can tell, I love Japan (maybe not the government).
posted by KokuRyu at 9:11 AM on October 29, 2007


I agree with almost everything you have to say KokuRyu. I'd like to note, though, that I'm in no way saying that the US is any more/less racist than Japan, but that we share many of the same problems when it comes perceived 'outsiders.'

I also have had a similar experience as you with increased language proficiency.
posted by dead_ at 9:19 AM on October 29, 2007


I agree with KokuRyu too. I don't think there is latent racism underlying Japanese culture as a whole (there is a lot of stereotyping, but stereotyping isn't synonymous with racism, they just go hand-in-hand a lot). There is latent racism underlying certain segments of Japanese culture. The elderly is one of them. Politicians is another. 2channelers is a third.
posted by Bugbread at 9:38 AM on October 29, 2007


Ok, so basically a bunch of Japanese people wanted to throw a party, and then they got pissed when a bunch of foreigners wanted to show up?

Sorry, but the linked post didn't really explain things too well.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:53 AM on October 29, 2007


Afroblanco writes "Ok, so basically a bunch of Japanese people wanted to throw a party, and then they got pissed when a bunch of foreigners wanted to show up?"

Ah, ok, let me help:

There's a tradition in Tokyo, for a few years (many, perhaps, I don't know). There's a loop line, the Yamanote, which just circles the city continuously. For Halloween, a bunch of foreigners meet up and basically take over one car of the train and have a roving party-train. It's not all foreigners, but considering that the identifiably foreign population of Japan (that is, the non-east-asian foreign population) is roughly 0.5%, and the party train was described as being 60% or so foreign, it's safe to pretty much consider it a foreigner party. This usually causes a lot of headaches for Japan Rail, but no big big problems I know of (no rioting/fighting/smashing of windows/etc.). This year, somebody crossposted an article mentioning the upcoming party to 2ch, which is...well, it's pretty hard to describe. It's a vast, vast, vast forum that has no parallel in the English internet. It's like if you rolled up the Fark forums, the SomethingAwful forums, Metafilter conversations, slashdot, gawker, the consumerist, pet-talk, furry forums, skiing forums, raver forums, etc. etc. etc. all up into one gigantonormous ball, sans images or html/bbcoding. It's fucking huge. It also has an incredible number of intense, intense assholes and racists (I can't read it, because even on threads about innocuous stuff like snowboarding or dance clubs, there are millions of racists and pretend-racist-trolls running around talking about killing all the Koreans and Chinese). These apparently swamped the site with the article talking about the train party, wrongly assuming that the site with that article was actually the one coordinating the party.

That's pretty much the gist of it.

Random trivia: if you've seen anything quirky from Japan that isn't corporate (i.e. not quirky movies, tv shows, or products, but quirky flash animations or music remixes or the like), it probably came from 2ch. They've got lots of assholes, but they also have the greatest number of people-who-actually-make-amusing-stuff.
posted by Bugbread at 10:07 AM on October 29, 2007


Bugbread and others - thanks for the explanations. This is, indeed, an intriguing look into Japanese culture.

I wish that the initial article did more explaining, or that the OP had included some supporting links. I felt like it was assumed that I knew what was going on with all this Japanese internet stuff.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:30 AM on October 29, 2007


People in costumes congregating, talking, laughing, etc. on a train doesn't seem like a big deal.

People getting stinking drunk, taking off their clothes, and breaking the light fixtures (all of which apparently happened) is another story.

None of that justifies racist commentary, but some of these partygoers were being idiots, and probably deserved to be arrested.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 11:10 AM on October 29, 2007


Artifice_Eternity writes "People getting stinking drunk, taking off their clothes, and breaking the light fixtures (all of which apparently happened) is another story."

I agree that the light fixture breaking was just plain wrong. The shirtlessness is a bit more of a cultural difference thing (you see a lot more barechested guys in America than in Japan), so it was more culturally wrong than "just plain" wrong. Now, the stinking drunk thing, I'm not so sure about. Japan is much, much laxer about drinking in public than America (witness that there are no laws against public intoxication, there are no brown-bag laws, and there are outdoor beer vending machines). Getting stinking drunk on a train is quite a deviation from the norm, but being stinking drunk on a train is the absolute norm for Friday and Saturday nights. It's just that people get blind stinking drunk and then get on the train to go home.
posted by Bugbread at 11:33 AM on October 29, 2007


Just for the record, he was not just shirtless, he was in fact pantsless as well. There's pretty much nowhere except Burning Man where that's allowed.
posted by scalefree at 12:02 PM on October 29, 2007


scalefree writes "Just for the record, he was not just shirtless, he was in fact pantsless as well. There's pretty much nowhere except Burning Man where that's allowed."

I was about to say "hey, shirtless and pantless is matsuri-style", but seeing that picture, he's pantsless in both the American and British definitions of pantsless. Which, unless there's a hot spring feeding into the Yamanote-line, pretty much Just Plain Wrong in every country involved.
posted by Bugbread at 12:12 PM on October 29, 2007


I see BoingBoing has picked up the story (although MetaFilter scooped them). Funny how the comments section in BoingBoing is starting to resemble YouTube's.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:16 PM on October 29, 2007


Yeah I participated in the whole Halloween train thing this past Friday. I figured I was new to Japan, and this would be an experience. The train was hot, and packed to the brim. There was no real outrageous behavior, just drunk people laughing and what not. The only "outrageous" thing I did see was a half naked Japanese man with a banana stuck to his speedo. As far as I know the train light fixtures were not broken, because the train never experienced any prolonged delays and lights were on at all times. It was amusing, and something to experience but not something I'd do again. The only thing I didn't like was a Canadian guy heckling a Japanese blogger until he left the train, while he was just innocently filming the thing.

I think it's a given that one will experience the occasional dirty look and racist comment from a Japanese person. I've been told to go back home, to get out of someone's way very rudely, and even been called a gaijin to my face, but I take it in stride because there are plenty of young Japanese people willing to just come up to me and start a conversation. Like with almost every country ethnocentricity is a given.
posted by vodkadin at 2:35 AM on November 1, 2007


vodkadin writes "I think it's a given that one will experience the occasional dirty look and racist comment from a Japanese person."

I don't think that's a given. I've been here 11 years, and I can't recall ever having gotten a racist comment from a Japanese. I've heard some racist comments about Koreans and Chinese, and, needless to say, every time Gov. Shintaro opens his mouth there's some wonderful new idiocy, but I've never had a racist comment said to my face that I'm aware of.
posted by Bugbread at 2:46 PM on November 1, 2007


Seconding bugbread on his comment directly above.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:28 AM on November 2, 2007


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