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Conveyor Sushi Video 2.0
March 2, 2009 11:34 AM   Subscribe

Another camera-on-conveyor incident rocks Sushi-loving Japan.
Previously
posted by Mwongozi (112 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm waiting for a music video shot like this.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:39 AM on March 2, 2009


It works quite well with the theme tune from "Roseanne".
posted by Mwongozi at 11:40 AM on March 2, 2009 [8 favorites]


Good thing the Japanese are so polite. Otherwise, someone who didn't enjoy having a running video camera stuck in their face while they're eating might have accidentally spilled an entire pot of tea over its delicate electronics.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:44 AM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


OR EATEN IT!!!!

Ha ha ha, really though that almost never happens.
posted by Science! at 11:47 AM on March 2, 2009 [8 favorites]


hee!
posted by cowbellemoo at 11:48 AM on March 2, 2009


Good thing the Japanese are so polite.

Actually, they are more good-natured and good-humoured than polite.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:51 AM on March 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


just counting the seconds before the remix with the R.E.M. overdub.
posted by jadayne at 11:52 AM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


There was a video just like this set to music in the last month or so I saw somewhere online, perhaps Boing Boing. The music definitely gives it a different feel.
posted by PigAlien at 11:52 AM on March 2, 2009


What did I just watch? Not that I am complaining.

Someone should do this with at a baggage claim in an airport. Just sneak down on the tarmac, stick the camera on the conveyor belt, run up to the carousel, and claim camera!
posted by cjorgensen at 11:56 AM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Found it:

Sushi conveyor belt music video.
posted by PigAlien at 11:56 AM on March 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


The kitchen staff were great. I don't know what the woman in the orange shirt was planning on doing with it...
posted by Xoebe at 11:56 AM on March 2, 2009


What? Why is this camera going around?

Gaijinsan desu.


haha, such racists
posted by dydecker at 11:58 AM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


It looks like it could be a Wim Wenders film.
posted by zippy at 12:03 PM on March 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


dydecker, what does Gaijinsan desu mean?
posted by exhilaration at 12:06 PM on March 2, 2009


I wish someone would invent truly instant Jell-O so I could say things like "How quickly would I encase that in Jell-O" and it actually be feasible. Or I could always be carrying a block of Jell-O wherever I go.
posted by spec80 at 12:06 PM on March 2, 2009


Almost everyone who saw it smiled.
posted by mattoxic at 12:07 PM on March 2, 2009


what does Gaijinsan desu mean?

Is means something along the lines of "The foreigner is here".
posted by Mwongozi at 12:09 PM on March 2, 2009


what does Gaijinsan desu mean?

"It's/They're foreigners." Which really isn't racist or inaccurate at all.
posted by explosion at 12:10 PM on March 2, 2009


Gaijinsan means "foreigner".
posted by dydecker at 12:11 PM on March 2, 2009


I choose to believe that the camera is stationary and all the people are on a conveyor belt.
posted by LordSludge at 12:14 PM on March 2, 2009 [15 favorites]


Someone should do this with at a baggage claim in an airport. Just sneak down on the tarmac, stick the camera on the conveyor belt, run up to the carousel, and claim camera!

And get a free trip to Cuba! Offer ends soon!
posted by From Bklyn at 12:15 PM on March 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Of course it's a racist comment. If you want to explain why a camera is on a conveyor belt, why is the nationality of the person who put it there the first thing out of your mouth? Because you believe that the person's nationality is an explanation of their behaviour.

Bear in mind this video is shot in the deepest of Japanese backwaters.
posted by dydecker at 12:16 PM on March 2, 2009


I dunno...if I saw a camera on a conveyor belt at, say, a roy rodgers at a rest stop on 95S in Delaware I'd be pretty sure I knew the nationality of the person who placed it there too.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:20 PM on March 2, 2009


>It looks like it could be a Wim Wenders film.

I thought Jim Jarmush. In fact the first few minutes of "Down By Law" is basically this - but in New Orleans.
posted by rongorongo at 12:21 PM on March 2, 2009



Of course it's a racist comment. If you want to explain why a camera is on a conveyor belt, why is the nationality of the person who put it there the first thing out of your mouth? Because you believe that the person's nationality is an explanation of their behaviour.


If the person who put it on the conveyor belt is the only person in the place wearing a hat and you say "It's the guy wearing a hat" does that mean you believe that wearing a hat explains their behavior? It's shorthand to refer to the person(s) who put it there.
posted by juv3nal at 12:22 PM on March 2, 2009


"It's/They're foreigners." Which really isn't racist or inaccurate at all.

"Gaijin" frequently has negative connotations, beyond the neutral "foreigner."
posted by Krrrlson at 12:23 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


the nationality of the person who placed it there too.

i.e. most likely one of those deplorable and overly inquisitive Dutchmen.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:24 PM on March 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't know enough about Japanese culture to really say, but I do know "Gaijin" is considered offensive for non-Japanese who have lived in Japan for a long time, or something like that. Is Gaijinsan more polite? Does it depend on where this was filmed?

People seemed to react a lot less to this camera then the one that got sent around a while ago. I wonder if most of them had seen the last video as well.
posted by delmoi at 12:34 PM on March 2, 2009


"It's/They're foreigners." Which really isn't racist or inaccurate at all.

As someone else pointed out, this is very disingenuous. "Foreigner" in and of itself has a very negative connotation in Japan. It's an extremely racist place.
posted by Justinian at 12:36 PM on March 2, 2009


I really like the musically accompanied version, PigAlien. Enough to look up the musician: shrift .
posted by spacely_sprocket at 12:38 PM on March 2, 2009


I wonder how the mood of the piece would change with Raymond Scott's Powerhouse playing in the background.
posted by spacely_sprocket at 12:39 PM on March 2, 2009


"Gaijin" frequently has negative connotations, beyond the neutral "foreigner."

I done' speak Japanese, but doesn't -san denote a certain level of respect? OR at least lack of animosity?
posted by lekvar at 12:43 PM on March 2, 2009


I done' speak

I done' speak English good, neither.
posted by lekvar at 12:44 PM on March 2, 2009


please forgive me
posted by zippy at 12:45 PM on March 2, 2009 [12 favorites]


I do know "Gaijin" is considered offensive for non-Japanese who have lived in Japan for a long time, or something like that. Is Gaijinsan more polite?

Yes, "gaijinsan" is more polite. I'm not saying the guy is being nasty or anything, he's just trying to make sense of what's going on, all kinds of rules are being broken, the kitchen staff are making a fuss, and his big idea the first idea he reaches for is "it's a foreigner". Because a Japanese would never do that, or so he thinks.

Maybe he's right
posted by dydecker at 12:45 PM on March 2, 2009


my above link is the benny hillified version. also, the ads on the site are borderline nsfw
posted by zippy at 12:47 PM on March 2, 2009


Though the Japanese may not have them, we have cameras that take off from conveyor belts.
posted by euphorb at 12:48 PM on March 2, 2009


Translation of the kitchen sequence:

Kitchen staffer with glasses: “What’s this? There’s a camera going around.”

Other lady off camera: “What’s wrong?”

3rd lady: (LAUGHING) “Hey- it’s okay, it’s on a blue plate!”

Lady off camera: “The customer’s inside? Whose is this?”

Lady holding plate: “There’s a camera here someone may have forgotten!”

Lady in glasses: “Yeah, that’s it, they’ve forgotten it.”

Older lady in background: “Put it back- it’s a mistake!”

Lady: (WALKING WITH PLATE) “We’re in trouble.”

She rings the bell, and the sushi chefs come to the window.

Lady: “This was going around and taking video…”

Chef: “Ah, this, it’s probably a customer’s. Umm, it’s a foreigner.”

Lady: “They put it on here?”

Chef: “Yeah, they tried putting it out, to take a video. Of the, er, of the scenery.”

Plate goes round, back to girls.

Sushi Chef: (TO GIRLS) “Oh, it came back, didn’t it?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 12:48 PM on March 2, 2009 [15 favorites]


It kind of reminds me of Miss You by m flo.
posted by CrazyJoel at 12:49 PM on March 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


I want to know what cost the blue plate represents, so if I encounter another situation like this I know whether or not I can get away with a cheap price for a video camera.

Gaijinsan is more polite, but in this case it is likely because the chef was speaking to an older employee, or someone of higher position. I'd also opine that the chef wasn't really thinking, "Oh these crazy foreigners and their silly ways," but rather used it so that the kitchen staff would think that and let it go. His tone indicates to me that he found the whole thing humorous and innocent. At the end he engages the owners in friendly conversation.

I found it was kind of like trying to explain to your grandmother about teen fashion as quickly as possible, and hopefully without need for further exposition.
posted by CancerMan at 12:52 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would like to watch the camera on a conveyor belt video from unreal Japan sushi bar. The Japan where ninjas fight pirates and zombies. Where catgirls flick their ears, blush, and bounce. The unreal Japan where demons are crawling out of people's mouths; the Japan where half a city explodes in fire and life goes on in the other half. The unreal Japan where beautiful women fit snugly into mecha armor and pose coquettishly with terawatt lasers. Where boys with hair the size of an umbrella wield swords the size of a VW Golf. The Japan with giant cats, invaders, robots, ghosts, villains, heroes, gods and talking hamsters.

All sitting down, eating sushi together.
Because everyone needs sushi.
Even talking hamsters.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:53 PM on March 2, 2009 [8 favorites]


haha, such racists
---
"Gaijin" frequently has negative connotations
---
but I do know "Gaijin" is considered offensive for non-Japanese who have lived in Japan for a long time
---
"Foreigner" in and of itself has a very negative connotation in Japan
---

From the sci.lang.japan FAQ:
Whether the term is offensive or not is open to debate. Japanese has several cases of using gai (外) (outside) plus a noun to indicate one of `noun' from another country. For example gaisha (外車) for foreign cars, or gaika (外貨) for foreign currencies.

Some people are deeply offended by the word, saying that gaijin refers to outsiders rife with undesirable characteristics. There is no doubt that is one meaning of the word.

Gaijin is also used in many cases where it is probably not intended as a negative statement. Consider that it is common in the Japanese language to address people whose names are not known, or even if names are known, by titles: omawari san, Mr Policeman; sushiya san, Mr Sushi Shop. It is not unusual for a Japanese speaker to call a non Japanese who is otherwise not known, gaijin san.
I prefer an earlier version of the FAQ which included this:
White Americans who complain about the word "gaijin"
unreasonably vocally
(1) are ignorant of the Japanese language, and
(2) have racial prejudice toward the Japanese.
I think automatically calling "racist!" on anyone who dares use the word "gaijin" is actually racist in itself. Especially if you have no knowledge of the language and are just going on what you've heard from others or from the internet.
posted by splice at 12:54 PM on March 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm waiting for a music video shot like this.

Sort of like how the Black Eyed Peas video for Lets Get it Started is basically Google street view: the music video.
posted by jfrancis at 12:56 PM on March 2, 2009


i have recently discovered the SECOND kaiten sushi restaurant in my neighborhood...ooh and its lunchtime! later, ya'll
posted by sexyrobot at 1:03 PM on March 2, 2009


So- is there a consensus here on the negative overtones of gaijin? How far does the -san suffix soften the offense (or is it, under the circs, a little snarky)? Are the Japanese doomed by their language to be Superior to us outlanders? Is there another word for foreigner which is free of any connotation? If so, is it widely used? (Is there any kind of Politically Correct movement in Japan to combat the native superiority thing, or would the very suggestion just sound odd?)

I ask in all seriousness.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:03 PM on March 2, 2009


Okay, this was cool, but nowhere as cool as finding out about M-Flo. That's insane. I love my Metafilter and hybrid Japanish hip-hop pop.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 1:07 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ok, the next time you see a kuhraaaazy Japanese game show or weird fetish or TV show or whatever and think about how weird and nutty Japanese people are, remember the people in this restaurant. They are the real Japan, and they're not well represented by LOLtentacleporn, or whatever silliness.

End of rant.
posted by zardoz at 1:07 PM on March 2, 2009 [6 favorites]


Not knowing much about Japanese culture, this sounds like the american use of 'nigger' in, say, the 1950's. It's a word that most whites might use with each other but never to an African American's face.
posted by exhilaration at 1:11 PM on March 2, 2009


“Hey- it’s okay, it’s on a blue plate!”

hehe! inside joke!
posted by cowbellemoo at 1:18 PM on March 2, 2009


Not knowing much about Japanese culture, this sounds like the american use of 'nigger' in, say, the 1950's. It's a word that most whites might use with each other but never to an African American's face.

You're right -- you don't know much about Japanese culture.
posted by The Tensor at 1:19 PM on March 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


So- is there a consensus here on the negative overtones of gaijin? How far does the -san suffix soften the offense (or is it, under the circs, a little snarky)?

I have no objections to the word 'gaijin' per se, in theory it's a perfectly useful word to distinguish non-Japanese from Japanese. In practice, however, it's like it says in splice's cut and paste FAQ: gaijin is a role: you have an omawari-san, you have a sushiya-san, and you have a gaijin-san. The problem with Japanese society is that if you're a gaijin-san, you can never really stop being a gaijin-san in society's eyes. In this case even if you're an okyaku-san (customer), you're first and foremost a gaijin-san, like in this chef's eyes, and treated accordingly.

After a while, the word is like nails on a chalkboard, for all it represents.
posted by dydecker at 1:20 PM on March 2, 2009


As I said before, "Gaijin" means "foreigner (lit. outside person)" There is a more polite version, "gaikokujin," which literally means "foreign (outside) country person," but it's almost overarchingly too polite for many circumstances. It's not the difference between "nigger" and "black person," it's the difference between "black person" and "person of African descent."

Acknowledging, of course, that with the right tone of voice, tones of racism can be inferred from use of the word "black," the word "black" itself is not racist, but merely a descriptor of race. Similarly, in Japan, the word "gaijin" can be used in a racist manner, but is not inherently racist.
posted by explosion at 1:24 PM on March 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


All the Japanese import TV that we've seen recently has always made me think, of the Japanese, "they're more American than we are!" This video just confirms that feeling; regular folks in an affluent modern nation. Weird shit happens and the kids respond with a goofy grin and a peace sign. Life is good.
posted by mmahaffie at 1:26 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Man, people who base their understanding of the connotations of words on what they hear from other people are the worst.
posted by blenderfish at 1:31 PM on March 2, 2009


Why can't this somehow be something we can watch on television, instead of the endless parade of sad reality shows that are nothing more than people arguing on cue?
posted by davebush at 1:31 PM on March 2, 2009


Man, people who base their understanding of the connotations of words on what they hear from other people are the worst.

I know right? Every non-baby out there is such an asshole.
posted by delmoi at 1:47 PM on March 2, 2009


Ok, the next time you see a kuhraaaazy Japanese game show or weird fetish or TV show or whatever and think about how weird and nutty Japanese people are, remember the people in this restaurant. They are the real Japan, and they're not well represented by LOLtentacleporn, or whatever silliness.

Message recieved, zardoz. ;-) My favorite is the older lady who's waiting for the kid to finish up so they can get out of there. She looks so bored.

And man, that place must do crazy business. They've got plates stacked up over a foot high.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:48 PM on March 2, 2009


My japanese isn't the best, but I think the sign just after the second turn reads "We Have Cameras."
posted by eriko at 1:56 PM on March 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Gaijin is a word. It can be offensive, but most Japanese people don't see it that way. The Japanese language in certain ways is a very limited language (there isn't an overabundance of adjectives, for example, leading to the same words being repeated again and again), and part of that derives from the isolated culture thing. There's Japanese people, and there's people who are from outside of Japan. And that's, linguistically, all there is too it. Yes, gaijin can be made to sound racist, and it is, at its very core, a word that shows a certain unwillingness to expend effort to make distinctions.

It is not, however, meant by most people as an insult. When that happens, usually they attach other words to it, like baka, or stupid. For most Japanese people, gaijin is a word denoting a person. Kind of like there's a word for doctor, for building, or for sushi. It's just the word they use. People who get bent out of shape upon hearing a descriptive noun probably don't enjoy living in Japan too much.

And, as for the "oh, I see" factor after being told it's a gaijin, there's a simple reason: Japanese people wouldn't do this. They wouldn't plop a camera on the conveyor belt and film people without their permission. It's pretty freaking rude, in my opinion, but the Japanese response is essentially, "they're people from outside our culture, and don't get that we would rather they didn't do that. However, due to the language barrier, it's just less trouble to let it go, rather than try to explain to them why we'd rather they not do that."
posted by Ghidorah at 2:35 PM on March 2, 2009


Just out of curiousity, is there any difference in the way surveillance cameras are used in Japan? In the west, cameras are getting more and more common, and it seems pretty acceptable to monitor people without their permission. Is the situation the same there?
posted by Kevin Street at 2:47 PM on March 2, 2009


Surveillance cameras aren't too common in Japan. The crime rate is pretty low compared to the West so it's not really an issue.
posted by dydecker at 2:55 PM on March 2, 2009


Japanese people wouldn't do this. They wouldn't plop a camera on the conveyor belt and film people without their permission. It's pretty freaking rude, in my opinion, but the Japanese response is essentially, "they're people from outside our culture, and don't get that we would rather they didn't do that. However, due to the language barrier, it's just less trouble to let it go, rather than try to explain to them why we'd rather they not do that."

Most of the people who explicitly notice the camera seem amused/charmed by it. As for the claim that "Japanese people wouldn't...film people without their permission"--anyone who has been to any major European tourist destination knows that that simply ain't true.

I think everyone here could probably switch to a slightly lower horse.
posted by yoink at 3:01 PM on March 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


As for the claim that "Japanese people wouldn't...film people without their permission"--anyone who has been to any major European tourist destination knows that that simply ain't true.

But Ghidorah didn't claim Japanese wouldn't film people without permission, which they certainly do do. He says they wouldn't do this thing with a video camera on a sushi belt, and I think he's right. The interesting question is why not.
posted by dydecker at 3:22 PM on March 2, 2009


they wouldn't do this thing with a video camera on a sushi belt

That's a remarkably specific cultural taboo.
posted by yoink at 3:24 PM on March 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


It's called "mewaku o kakeru" (causing a bother) and it's drummed into Japanese children from a very young age as a big no-no.
posted by dydecker at 3:28 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


That camera makes everyone look overweight, pale and slightly unhealthy.
posted by stbalbach at 3:35 PM on March 2, 2009


Why can't this somehow be something we can watch on television...

Hint: Plug your computer into your television.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:42 PM on March 2, 2009


It's called "mewaku o kakeru" (causing a bother) and it's drummed into Japanese children from a very young age as a big no-no.

I think the video itself is Exhibit A in the case for "Japanese people by and large don't give a hoot if someone sticks a video camera on the sushi conveyor."
posted by yoink at 3:42 PM on March 2, 2009


I was so surprised when I saw them put it back on the conveyer.
posted by OwlBoy at 3:44 PM on March 2, 2009



I think the video itself is Exhibit A in the case for "Japanese people by and large don't give a hoot if someone sticks a video camera on the sushi conveyor."


I'm sure they enjoyed it, just as you might enjoy something completely out of the ordinary happening, like your dinner being interupted by surprise belly dancing, or some such. That doesn't change the truth of Ghidorah's statement that a Japanese person would not do this.

Here's a link about meiwaku and Japaneseness
posted by dydecker at 3:49 PM on March 2, 2009


Hint: Plug your computer into your television.

Then take them both down to your local sushi bar...
posted by yoink at 3:50 PM on March 2, 2009


And man, that place must do crazy business. They've got plates stacked up over a foot high.

That's normal. Everyone has a big stack of plates at the end, especially a whole family. Go in really hungry, and the first couple of plates (which is just three or four bites, really) is just the appetizer. Then you chow down. That stack of plates is how the waiter adds up your bill--he just counts plates.
posted by zardoz at 3:52 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just out of curiosity, is there any difference in the way surveillance cameras are used in Japan? In the west, cameras are getting more and more common, and it seems pretty acceptable to monitor people without their permission. Is the situation the same there?

I've heard they've started getting a lot of cameras in Tokyo. They have hardly any crime but I guess since everyone else is doing it and the cameras are so cheap, why not? (Also I've heard crime rates have gone up). I did a little googling, here's a Briton with a Japanese middle name complaining about how 'behind the times' the Japanese are when it comes to survelance. Mainly he's talking about their analysis, but the article does mention that survelance has "Exploded" in the past few years.
posted by delmoi at 4:00 PM on March 2, 2009


I did something similar last year, but as my experiment took place in the rather more pedestrian locale of Emeryville California, I pointed my camera down the belt instead of out at the patrons.
posted by argh at 4:06 PM on March 2, 2009


I was so surprised when I saw them put it back on the conveyer.

Just wait until you leave your wallet on the train in Japan. It will always come back. Sometimes without any cash, but you'll always get it back.

Umbrellas and bicycles, though, are a different story...
posted by KokuRyu at 4:08 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here's a link about meiwaku and Japaneseness

Thanks, that was interesting. But it seems from your link that it would only be the foreigners who would be guilty of meiwaku in this situation. That is, your link describes meiwaku as someone from outside the group interfering in the actions of the group. Thus is could perfectly describe what we see in this video, but wouldn't seem (simply from that one source) to apply to one of the regular Japanese diners in this place doing the same thing.

That said, once again we have this video itself which suggests that none of these diners felt particularly outraged or that a terrible act of meiwaku had occurred. It seems to me that the claim that Japanese people would find this a particularly disturbing and repellent act is the one that needs substantiation here. This thread proves that there are plenty of non-Japanese who would be upset to be caught on film in this way (which seems odd, to me--but then I'm not one of those people who puts a hand in front of my face as soon as someone pulls out a camera). In my experience, Japanese seem less rather than more self-conscious about being caught on camera than most Westerners, but I've never lived in Japan.
posted by yoink at 4:13 PM on March 2, 2009


But it seems from your link that it would only be the foreigners who would be guilty of meiwaku in this situation.

Children in Japan are frequently instigators of meiwaku, but regular adults can be meiwaku, too: bicycle parking in Japan is a prime example.

But, anyway, the people in the clip are behaving like, well, foreigners. Putting a cam on a sushi conveyor belt in Japan is not something I would ever do now, but when I first arrived in Japan (and still could not get over how being foreign gave me a free pass to do anything I wanted, short of committing crime) it would be something I would do.

It's a choice non-Japanese people can make when living in Japan. They can act like foreigners, or they can try to somehow fit in.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:36 PM on March 2, 2009


I think everyone here could probably switch to a slightly lower horse.

My horse is a tiny magical pony named Lemondrop.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 4:38 PM on March 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


yoink, the wall of separation (and in Japan it does feel like this - it's a bit like living in a bubble) between the different people in the restaurant is between the different sets of customers, not between the foreigner and the rest of the people. That's to say everyone has their own group, and the inside/outsider dynamic exists between the groups. This dynamic of course happens in the West, but in Japan it is magnified to the nth degree, with everyone being very careful not to engage outside of their group if they can avoid it, except in ritualised structured relationships where everyone knows what is expected (eg a buyer and a seller). this system is called "wa" and it kinda seeps through everyday life in Japan.

Now when something does force people to connect where they don't usually, like in this video, it's very interesting because there is amusement, and self-consciousness in the reactions, and that's the same as the West, but there's also an undercurrent of uncertainty and fear (fuan) there, which I think is very Japanese. It's not anger, but it's a kind of like there's been a bit of a faux pas, the rules have been broken, and no one is quite certain what the right reaction is. Can you detect that feeling watching the video?
posted by dydecker at 4:45 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


That said, once again we have this video itself which suggests that none of these diners felt particularly outraged or that a terrible act of meiwaku had occurred. It seems to me that the claim that Japanese people would find this a particularly disturbing and repellent act is the one that needs substantiation here. This thread proves that there are plenty of non-Japanese who would be upset to be caught on film in this way (which seems odd, to me--but then I'm not one of those people who puts a hand in front of my face as soon as someone pulls out a camera).

I don't think that these people were outraged to have been filmed, but rather that it was kind of a rude thing to do. They didn't go out to eat expecting to be filmed, and I expect that they were irritated or at least would rather not have been filmed in the first place. I can't speak to Japanese people in Hokkaido or other parts of Japan, but in Kanto most people would simply have ignored the camera without comment while thinking, "Who the heck put this thing on here?!" Being a nuisance doesn't necessarily elicit a response, but that doesn't mean it isn't a nuisance. I think that being filmed without permission in any case, especially if it was being done in secret, would elicit annoyance at the very least from Japanese and non-Japanese alike.

In the case of putting a camera on the kaitenzushi belt, I think that in addition to the idea of not causing a nuisance to other diners, it's simply a matter of Japanese people taking it for granted, whereas for non-Japanese the idea of a conveyor belt moving food around is a novelty.
posted by armage at 5:01 PM on March 2, 2009


Can you detect that feeling watching the video?

Perhaps amongst the older generations, but I did not detect such in the younger customers. Even then, the "sense" appears more like annoyance rather than uncertainty and fear.

That said, one could opine that such a feeling is only present when I project it onto the media. If I watch that video again, without considering the faux pas inherent in conveyor-belt etiquette, I could pass off everyone's reactions as ranging from slightly bemused to mildly curious.

I do agree that most everyone seemed to have no idea about how to treat the camera, except for the few that decided to smile and pose. And the kitchen staff who wanted to confirm what a camera was doing on the conveyor in the first place.
posted by CancerMan at 5:03 PM on March 2, 2009


But, anyway, the people in the clip are behaving like, well, foreigners.

Most of the people in the clip are Japanese people. Japanese people who don't seem especially bothered or offended by this camera trick. A few of them do seem kinda worried about someone's possibly lost camera, though.

They can act like foreigners, or they can try to somehow fit in.

Huh--not the sort of thing you read everyday on Metafilter.

Now when something does force people to connect where they don't usually, like in this video, it's very interesting because there is amusement, and self-consciousness in the reactions, and that's the same as the West, but there's also an undercurrent of uncertainty and fear (fuan) there, which I think is very Japanese. It's not anger, but it's a kind of like there's been a bit of a faux pas, the rules have been broken, and no one is quite certain what the right reaction is. Can you detect that feeling watching the video?

Well, not really. I see a bunch of people who mostly ignore the camera, and when they see it are either a little puzzled ("hey, what's that? Is that meant to be there?") or amused (the family groups at the tables tend to point it out to each other and laugh). The "earlier" video shows an even warmer response. Most people smile and wave at the camera or give it a peace sign or a thumbs up sign.

Obviously they could be wracked with fuan behind it all, but having a video of happy people on the one hand and bare assertions by non-native informants on the other, the happy video is carrying the day for me so far.

If this video was from a Japanese website and featured a film taken by a Japanese tourist in a restaurant in, say, New York City, I wonder if this thread would be full of "why doesn't he act like a normal American" and "Americans don't just go around videoing strangers! It's rude!" and "you know, there's this concept called 'personal space' in American culture--I know those insensitive Japanese wouldn't understand it, but the least they could do is try to learn our ways!" and "sure, the locals are smiling and waving at the camera, but that's just embarrassed politeness, anyone can tell that!"

Of course, all those things would likely be true to a degree. Many Americans would feel that a trick like this was intruding on their privacy. Many would smile in an embarrassed sort of way, many would think 'oh no, not a shot of me eating!" etc. etc. I'd still think the video itself was kinda cool and that the slight tweaking of social norms that it took to create it was essentially a case of "no harm, no foul."
posted by yoink at 5:14 PM on March 2, 2009



Japanese people wouldn't do this. They wouldn't plop a camera on the conveyor belt and film people without their permission. It's pretty freaking rude

Then the Japanese friends and tourists I've known over the last 45 years of traveling all over this world who shamelessly poke their cameras at any and every circumstance or person have all been some magical exception to your rule?

Right.
posted by tkchrist at 5:17 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hint: Plug your computer into your television.

I think you may have missed my point.
posted by davebush at 5:30 PM on March 2, 2009


tkchrist, there's the way that people behave when they're home, and the way they behave on holiday - often two completely different personas.
posted by HopperFan at 5:36 PM on March 2, 2009


tkchrist, there's the way that people behave when they're home, and the way they behave on holiday - often two completely different personas.


Exactly.

Why "Japanese people wouldn't do this." is silly. "Non-tourists probably wouldn't do something like this" would be much more accurate and less annoyingly provincial.
posted by tkchrist at 5:40 PM on March 2, 2009


Yeah, I'd say if you work behind the counter and deal with lots of Japanese tourists you would think they are the rudest bastards ever. (In Japan customers don't even bother grunting thank you most of the time, and unfortunately many take this habit with them overseas)
posted by dydecker at 5:41 PM on March 2, 2009


Exhilaration, you don't know much about American culture either.
posted by headless at 5:42 PM on March 2, 2009


""Non-tourists probably wouldn't do something like this" would be much more accurate and less annoyingly provincial."

That makes sense to me.
posted by HopperFan at 5:46 PM on March 2, 2009


I love this really just love it.

Also dear, Metafilter stop picking everything to death.
posted by nola at 6:09 PM on March 2, 2009


I'm kinda perturbed at the notion that the Japanese are a monolithic block of things that react in certain ways to certain stimuli, and you can predict what these thing are because hey, they're Japanese and you've deciphered their secret code.

The video, if you bothered to watch it, showed a bunch of people who were reacting differently. Not "The Japanese" - people.

Their reactions and appearances may be colored by their experiences living in a culture different than ours, but they're still individuals... unpredictable ground-apes, just like you and me. Making assumptions about a people as a whole has caused no end of trouble, even if you mean it kindly.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:14 PM on March 2, 2009 [9 favorites]


God I love sushi....
posted by GratefulDean at 6:28 PM on March 2, 2009


I'm kinda perturbed at the notion that the Japanese are a monolithic block of things that react in certain ways to certain stimuli, and you can predict what these thing are because hey, they're Japanese and you've deciphered their secret code.

It's called culture, and frankly it does program you to react in a specific way to specific things, almost like an automaton in fact. For example, I defy you take something handed to you without saying "thank you". It's almost impossible. It is inculcated into English speakers when we are toddlers to by their mother's to do this. "Say thank you. No, say thank you." The fact that other cultures do not teach their babies this, and teach them to nod and bow, and react this way to x y and z, and indeed have a whole bunch of other sets of rules and behaviours that they teach and expect members of society to conform to, and that these behaviours are different around the world, is irrefutable and uncontroversial, and it strikes me as strange that it would pertube people to talk about. (Is this like a Thomas Friedman thing where everyone under their skin is assumed to actually have American values? Cos that's a lie).

All this doesn't t make anyone less human, or less of an individual.
posted by dydecker at 6:58 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'd say if you work behind the counter and deal with lots of Japanese tourists you would think they are the rudest bastards ever. (In Japan customers don't even bother grunting thank you most of the time, and unfortunately many take this habit with them overseas)

Jesus Christ, how did an innocent thread about something fun turn into a snarling shitfest?

My wife is from Japan, but I'm not inclined to think of her as "Japanese", and, like others have said in this thread, it's tough to treat 125 million people as a monolithic entity.

However, if were to describe a quintessential Japanese character trait (beyond their good nature and good humour), it would have to be humaneness. Watch any Ozu or Hirokazu Kore-eda film to see why your wallet (and your video camera) are safe in the hands of strangers in Japan.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:24 PM on March 2, 2009


I think we may be beginning to overthink this particular plate of rice.

Nonetheless, I think there is a real difference in terms of reaction of these people and those in the original sushi conveyor belt. In the Origional video people seem much more likely to be bemused, laugh or smile. The restaurant has a different vibe. In this one I did see more people who seemed annoyed or irritated. The original restaurant video also seemed like a much more 'upscale' type of joint.
posted by delmoi at 7:42 PM on March 2, 2009


Thanks, dydecker and delmoi! That's very interesting about how the police didn't release the image of that killer until much later.

That's normal. Everyone has a big stack of plates at the end, especially a whole family. Go in really hungry, and the first couple of plates (which is just three or four bites, really) is just the appetizer. Then you chow down. That stack of plates is how the waiter adds up your bill--he just counts plates.

Now that's just cool. Thanks, zardoz.
posted by Kevin Street at 8:19 PM on March 2, 2009


Kokuryu, sorry I didn't mean to be rude. I heard that particular comment from my uncle, who works in duty free in Sydney Airport. He asked me why the Japanese never said thank you to him, and I explained. (I lived in Japan all my adult life until recently). Once he understood that it was a cultural thing, he found it less offensive.

Anyway, I liked the video posted. It's certainly more realistic and interesting than the those crazy Japanese kinda things which get posted on Metafilter, which to my mind are more about fantasy than reality. I thought I'd say what I thought of the video, and the ideas it brought up, and that's it. But maybe people prefer the tentacleHentai stuff
posted by dydecker at 8:44 PM on March 2, 2009


Jesus Christ, how did an innocent thread about something fun turn into a snarling shitfest?

It was posted on Metafilter.

Also known as SnarlingShitfestFilter.
posted by tkchrist at 9:06 PM on March 2, 2009


Most of the people in the clip are Japanese people. Japanese people who don't seem especially bothered or offended by this camera trick. A few of them do seem kinda worried about someone's possibly lost camera, though.

Japanese people can be pretty inscrutable. Just cause nobody starts yelling doesn't mean they liked it.
posted by Earnesto at 9:13 PM on March 2, 2009


I'm sorry if I turned this into a snarling shitfest. To be honest, I'm not a big fan of saying "The Japanese" do something or don't. What I was trying to refer to was that this is something that Japanese people, in Japan, are unlikely to do, mostly due to the meiwaku concept. They don't expect foreigners to "get" the concept, and so, as mentioned earlier, gaijin in Japan are given a lot of leeway. People here are honestly surprised to see that a foreigner can speak any Japanese whatsoever (even if you have been here for years), sometimes to a slightly condescending extent.

Anyway, the camera on the conveyor belt thing, it's a tourist thing, and that's what I meant. It's pretty rare to find people who don't do "tourist things" when they're being a tourist, no matter what country your from.

My main grudge was with people assuming gaijin was a racial epithet. Don't say things like "I don't really know Japanese, but isn't that racist word?" Just, y'know, don't. Pretty please.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:28 PM on March 2, 2009


Japanese people can be pretty inscrutable.

Did I just hear a gong?
posted by tkchrist at 9:28 PM on March 2, 2009


My main grudge was with people assuming gaijin was a racial epithet.

Remember: Everything is Racist on Metafilter.

Not Blue-ist.
posted by tkchrist at 9:31 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Some people just don't like being given a role they have no say in.
Not much will change that, even if it's a neutral or positive label they get slapped with.
I've been here for ages: I was gaijin when I stepped off the plane, I'm gaijin now, and I'll be gaijin the day I die. Not really a big deal.
It's what you do with the role that matters.
posted by nightchrome at 9:46 PM on March 2, 2009


Q: what does Gaijinsan desu mean?
A: fucking tourists
posted by sanko at 10:10 PM on March 2, 2009 [7 favorites]


sanko wins. That's probably the closest version you can get. It might help if you add "who don't know any better" plus a tsking and shaking of the head.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:53 PM on March 2, 2009


I know the Japanese are amazingly different from Americans. But they are also amazingly the same, for all that difference. I think I might enjoy being Gaijin. At least, outside of Tokyo.
posted by Goofyy at 1:38 AM on March 3, 2009


The equivalent word to gaijin here in Korea is waeguk-in, 'foreign person'.

The expression in and of itself is not pejorative and is used innocently and maliciously, by Koreans and foreign residents both. It can be used in a racist way or it can be used merely as an identifier. Most Koreans would consider the word itself to be neutral.

I personally don't like the word one bit because it is a reminder and a constant reinforcement of the insularity and tribal identification and an us-vs-them mentality that's deeply baked-in to Korean-ness, for better or worse. But that's not racist, arguably.

I suspect it's much the same in Japan.

As I've said before, words in and of themselves are without power. It's how they are used.

Also, I liked this video. Like dydecker said, it's much better than the LOL WACKY JAPANESE stuff we see more often.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:01 AM on March 3, 2009


apparently the camera was not just set on a blue plate - it was a blue PLATE OF BEANS.

delmoi, props for the joke, on your part.

my god, what is wrong with metafilter today? not just overthinking the thing, but kicking it to death. angrily.
posted by lapolla at 4:17 AM on March 3, 2009


I enjoyed the clip immensely as well as this discussion. The clip shows various people reacting to an unusual situation and the thread shows us just as much and adds depth (thanks for the translation).
I think they might have a chance at the Turner prize!
posted by asok at 4:45 PM on March 3, 2009


For the sake of harmony and the betterment of Metafilter society, can we agree on one thing?

We are overthinking a plate of natto.
posted by zippy at 1:31 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anyone stating the "fact" that calling someone "gaijinsan" is racist is ignorant on multiple counts. One, like anything else in the Japanese language it depends on context. It clearly wasn't a racist statement in this particular case. Two, race and nationality aren't the same thing.
posted by briareus at 1:14 PM on March 4, 2009


Update: Mwongozi's original link (as opposed to delmoi's Origional) has just been locked away behind a password. Tragic, because it was the best, IMO.
posted by Rash at 4:24 PM on March 14, 2009


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