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Monday, October 20, 2003

 
Contagious!
Today I was teaching my class about moods and such related vocabulary. As an activity, I had them make dialogues in pairs that had to contain at least one mood word, following the examples in the book. I told them to be as creative as possible. One pair came up with this:

"Did you buy many things at the outlet mall?"
"Yes, I did. I bought winter boots, a knitted cap, and a bag."
"Oh, you found many things."
"Yes, I was very joyful."

I had described "joyful" as meaning "more than just happy or cheerful; very happy." What do Japanese speakers immediately think would be a joyful situation? Shopping, of course. There were two other groups who used joyful in that context as well.

I thought it was funny until I realized it was contagious. The desire to go "to shopping" is like a virus that pervades the very air you breathe in Japan. The most popular activity to do on a date is go wandering aimlessly in the major shopping areas with your significant other. The most convenient place to arrange to meet someone is in the shopping area downtown. All social life begins to center around consumerism, even if you are not Japanese, nor are you meeting with Japanese people. It becomes the norm. You get sucked in.

And it was true. When I lived in Japan, I regularly indulged in consumer therapy. Feeling irked about school? Time for a new pen from Muji! Tired of pondering what to wear when getting up on those frigid, "I can see my breath in the house" mornings? Get a new sweater from Uniqlo. Bored during lunch? Go across the street and peruse the new silly snack foods.

They were never big things, or truly expensive things, or even really lots of things, but I have no doubt that I shopped more in my time in Japan than I ever have before in any other 12-month period of my life. Since I got back to the US, I've been to, ummmm, the grocery store and Meijer (think Target, but more northern). The first and only time I have been in the mall was on a whim last Wednesday because Mark took me to lunch at a restaurant across the street from it. Shopping in the US holds no real glamor or excitement for me. It's a chore, something that could more efficiently be done online or via catalogue.

I'm not Japanese anymore.

That's kind of sad.

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