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Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2003

THE ZEIT GIST

Life imitates art for gaijin charmers

Japan Times readers share Charisma Man and Western Woman moments

We had a fantastic response to our "Charisma Man" competition in last week's Community Page.

Below is a selection of some of the good, bad, and ugly tales kindly sent to us by our readers.

The look of love?

On a crowded train one evening, I was lucky enough to have found a seat. Women of all ages were around me. In Charisma-man-speak, I was an isle of manhood.

News photo

This was the first time that a train had excited me since I saw Rebecca DeMornay and Tom Cruise in "Risky Business." The train continued to fill, and the lady right in front of me was shoved forward against my knees. She was an attractive, middle-aged office worker, and was suspended over me for several stops. During the entire time, she looked at me oddly, almost quizzically, seeming as though she wanted to talk with me.

Was this my Charisma-man moment? After leaving a transfer station, at which point the train emptied out, she decided to act.

She leaned down and spoke to me. It was in Japanese. Oddly enough, most of the women around me reacted. I didn't understand, and simply smiled at her while giving gestures to indicate that I wasn't sure what she said. She stared at me kindly and repeated herself. I still didn't understand.

She seemed at a loss for words, and obviously didn't know what to do next. The girl to my right came to her rescue. She leaned over, pointed between my legs, and said, "Pants open." -- Steve, Tokyo

Crowded out

A friend of mine from Down Under has just recently fallen in love -- with a Japanese girl. The first time he asked her out, he wanted desperately to impress, and finally decided upon a funky, yet stylish little izakaya tucked away in the back streets of Tokyo.

Without a booking they were both made to wait. His girlfriend seemed more than impressed at his choice of dining facilities -- until they hit the waiting room, which was jam-packed full of couples: pretty Japanese girls hanging off not particularly handsome foreign men, all of them furtively attempting not to make eye contact.

My friend cringed in embarrassment as he swore to leave at least a good 6 months between the appearance of a restaurant recommendation in Metropolis, and him taking a girl out on a first date. -- Amanda, Chiba

Dead wrong

A student of mine frequently takes me out for a drink after our lesson, and since we always go to the same place, I've gotten to know the mama-san there quite well.

One day the place was jammed with older people.

The mama told us that she was closing early that day and went on to explain that a group of her regular customers, who had been coming to her bar for thirty years or so, were having a party.

Figuring that I had gotten the basic idea, I said, "ii desu ne." But she became angry and yelled: "Yokunai yo!" We left shortly afterward, with me feeling very perplexed. When we got outside, my student asked me if I had understood what the mama had originally said.

I said that I thought I did, but had missed one or two words of what she'd said.

My student said that I seemed to have missed the key word -- "funeral."

Apparently, one of the old woman's regular customers of thirty years had died and the others were getting together for the wake -- not exactly "ii," desu ne? -- Jocelyne, Shizuoka

Exposed

I went back to Australia for my sister's wedding, and, riding high on my Charisma Man buzz, I was dazzling people with my confident communication skills at the reception party.

While informing people I was a professional in the world of ESL (I worked for a chain language school), a good-looking blonde asked me which language school. Upon replying (thinking she had never been to Japan), she said she had also worked there, for only six months, though, and informed the gathered company that, in her humble opinion, anybody who worked there was far from being a professional in the field, and was rather a bit of a loser.

I spent the rest of the reception quietly sipping champagne within the comfort zone of my own family members. I was only only too happy to get back to Japan, where I knew I wouldn't ever have to face those kinds of nasty challenges -- Alastair, Shizuoka

Sorted

I was born in South London in England and grew up with a strong Londoner cockney accent (not too different to David Beckham's). Back home, its looked down upon in some areas.

Compounding my difficulties (with women mostly), were my spots, my beer gut, man boobs and a lack of self confidence.

However, I was fortunate enough to spend a year in Montreal, Canada, as part of my degree.

Going over to North America changed my life. I could not believe how much everyone loved my accent. Soon enough, I had women in their millions surrounding me, unable to get enough of "cuuute" accent.

Everywhere I went -- Toronto, Vancouver and more so in the States -- women would overhear me speak and come running.

My accent had completely transformed me from a spotty, fat b*****d, as painful to look at as to listen to, to a suave, charming, babe magnet. It was also very satisfying, seeing the rage in the faces of North American, model-like, buff pretty boys in bars and clubs.

Unfortunately all good things come to an end, as the saying goes, and so did my year in America.

For a while I once again became a fat, spotty, self-deprecating geek with an appalling accent. But not too long after that I came over to Japan -- to become "Charisma Man" once more! Hehehe!!! -- Gil Cruz, Saitama

Busted

I went on a date a couple of months ago with a Canadian guy who had been here for 3 years, and after a while he came up with: "it's nice to be with a girl with breasts for a change." What a charmer. -- Fiona, Tokuyama

What's in a name?

A friend of mine was seeing two different Japanese women at the same time, and, as a relative newcomer to Japan, was having trouble with their names. He was also well into Skymail and e-mail over the "k"-tie and was messaging both of them all the time. One day, to save time, he decided to just copy the first message and send it to the other lady -- of course changing the name in the letter. However, he forgot to change the name in the e-mail address and the "poor" guy ended up sending the same e-mail to the same girl but with a different name at the top. Mind you it made it easier for him as he had only one girl to mail after that. -- Steve

Dancefloor hit

I went to a para-para club in Matsuyama when I first came to Japan, and I was the only "obvious" foreigner there. Despite feeling conspicuous, as a tall Western Woman, I decided to have a dance. The Japanese people were dancing and waving their arms in the air, so I did what they were doing -- and immediately punched the only good-looking man in the whole place in the head.

The arch-enemy

My sister and I had been in Japan for one week when we walked into our local McDonalds in Saidaji. We saw a foreign guy, who scored about a 2 on our babe radar, and he was sitting with a gorgeous Japanese girl. We were new to Japan and didn't quite "get" the "foreigners don't acknowledge each other rule," so we misguidedly said "hi" to him. Well . . . in two seconds flat he had his brown Maccas bag over his head and he and the girl were heading out the door with their happy meals and toys at Godspeed. At the time, we thought to ourselves "who does that ugly he think he is?????" Now 5 months later, with the hindsight of "Charisma Man" -- we realize we are the ARCH ENEMY!!!!! -- Phoebe

Charisma Woman?

I am Charisma Man! In high school, I couldn't get a date if it killed me. And in college, I was snubbed by women left, right and center. But now, here I am in Japan, married to an attractive Japanese woman eleven years younger than me. A Charisma Man success story if there ever was one.

But there does seem to be a strange corollary to the Charisma Man phenomenon. I am often asked by Japanese women: "Why is it that gaijin men always pick such plain or ugly girls to go out with, or to marry? I have yet to see a gaijin man with a good-looking Japanese woman!" They believe what they're saying, and I have sometimes heard this comment made in the Japanese media,too.

Do there exist different standards of beauty between Japan and the West?

In other words, do the Japanese see the women who date gaijin men as "Charisma Women?" -- Tom, Tokyo

"Charisma Man: The Complete Collection 1998-2002" is available nationwide at bookstores, or direct from the publisher at charismabook@yahoo.com

Keep sending your weird and wonderful tales of life as a foreigner in Japan to community@japantimes.co.jp. Every week, we'll publish a story sent in by one of our readers, and if your revelations get printed you'll receive a 2,000 yen gift voucher from Tower Records or Kinokuniya Bookstores.



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