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Saturday, July 14, 2012

WHEN EAST MARRIES WEST

The fear of phobias


A peek at "The Phobia List," a webpage cataloging the accrued fears of our mighty human race, finds a list of over 500 documented phobias.

Some on the list are interesting all by themselves. Such as . . .

Barophobia — Fear of gravity . . . (You can run from this. But you can't hide.)

Epistemophobia — Fear of knowledge . . . (Rampant in all my classes.)

Arachibutyrophobia — Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth . . . (Lots of dogs suffer from this.)

Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia — Fear of long words . . . (Yikes!)

Ballistophobia — Fear of bullets or missiles . . . (Well, yeah. Especially when they're aimed your way.)

Papaphobia — Fear of the Pope . . . (Look out! He's behind you!)

Pteronophobia — Fear of being tickled by feathers . . . (And he's got a feather!)

Zemmiphobia — Fear of the great mole rat . . . (I have never heard of the great mole rat, but chalk me up as zemmiphobic. The idea alone scares me to bits.)

Amnesiphobia — Fear of amnesia . . . (Because then you might forget and keep re-reading this.)

Yet, more than these everyday, run-of-the-mill type terrors, I feel Japan produces its very own unique apprehensions. Especially for foreign residents.

We all know these fears are out there. They only need the proper names.

Hoopophobia — Fear of bureaucrats . . .

In the U.S., William Faulkner once quit a job as a postal clerk, stating he hated being at the mercy of any idiot with a two-cent stamp.

But in Japan it's the idiots behind the counter who have the power. Which, when they want, they can employ like circus ringmasters to make citizens leap through bureaucratic hoops.

What's to fear? Well, some foreign residents think that — seen through the eyes of clerks — we all look like hoop-jumping kangaroos.

Do I have the correct paper? And the right stamp? With my name in the proper language? Like on all the other endless forms?

Oh the dread of the poor Hoopophobiac! Burdened with paperwork in a land that loves bureaucracy. For somehow he just knows he's going to have to do everything twice. At least.

Blushophobia — Fear of talking to the doctor.

And not about the flu bug or a bum knee. Rather about indelicacies. Like, for example, that purple rash on your . . . you know.

The topic is awkward enough, even in one's homeland. But here the embarrassment skyrockets. As does your appearance as a possible loony tune.

You try Japanese, you try English, you try kiddy-talk, you try acting it out in a small skit. Nothing works.

Except your efforts prove magnetic. In only seconds you have drawn in three more nurses, two more doctors and a cleaning lady with a mop. At which point, the chief doctor decides to exercise his very best English sentence. When he says . . .

"OK. Please show."

A scene that brings out the willies in all Blushophobiacs.

Harophobia — Fear of being an English target . . . I know others are more versed on this topic, and I myself am not Harophobic. Yet, here's a quick description that tells it all.

I take a bus once a week and riding with me is an elementary school boy. We had made our journey together over 200 times, always in silence. And then one day . . .

This time the boy entered with a group of buddies. And suddenly it was show time.

"Haro! Haro! How are you!?"

Delivered at shotgun volume, with his mouth wrenched in just the right grotesque way to impress his friends. All of whom jostled around.

"Haro! How are you!?"

How was I? I yearned to grab the boy, snap my teeth and roar, "I'm HUNGRY!" And then lick my lips.

Because that might have stopped him. Forever. An image that allowed me to sit and smirk and let it all wash off.

But a true Harophobiac would have cringed, even before the showoff struck. For he or she would have sensed it was coming.

Pitophobia — Fear of Japanese toilets . . .

This is an ancient terror that still lurks in the souls of all long-time foreign residents, who can remember when Western-style facilities were few and too far between.

It was one matter if you were slender. But if you were the type that enjoyed that extra bowl of rice, uh-oh. You were a big fish in a small pond, with an even smaller target. Plus you had to wrestle with your clothes.

These days Pitophobiacs are not restricted to foreigners, as Japan's Washlet generation has been raised in Thinker position. Yet the pits still exist. As does the fear.

Japanophobia — Fear of Japanese . . .

This one is not contrived. It made the actual list. Some people in the world apparently fear Japanese.

Even if not married to one.

Not that my wife is scary, but she does have her moments.

You just have to know how to handle her.

Which is why I carry a feather.



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