Amazon Encore has kindly given Boing Boing an exclusive excerpt of Tune in Tokyo, a true story by Tim Anderson.
Tune in Tokyo is the true story of what happened when a tall, white, gay Southerner decided to move out of the country to escape a rut. Although he didn't speak a lick of Japanese, he spontaneously chooses to teach English in Tokyo, a decision that will change not only the next two years of his life, but the way he views the world forever.
Tune in Tokyo contains 16 howingly funny stories of culture clash as Tim jumps into his new life, feet first. As a "gaijin" (outsider) in Japan, he finds himself playing drums in an otherwise all-Japanese noise band, trying to rein in a dirty-minded female student in his English classroom, seeking out a giant Buddha, and scoping out the latest in Harajuku fashion, be it at a noodle shop or a risqué club. Tim explores the city with gusto, learning that in order to truly enjoy life, one must let go and let life happen.
Excerpt from Tune in Tokyo, by Tim Anderson
I have a free period and decide I'll pop in on Bob, a gigantically tall teacher from Wales who is in what we call the free-con room with about ten students.
I open the door and hear him saying, "Yeah, I really don't like the taste, it just doesn't appeal to me."
I put on a smile as I look around at the students, all of whom have a look of utter horror on their faces.
Bob turns to me. "Tim, do you like manko?"
"Manko…manko…" I think aloud. "Oh, manko! Isn't that that bean paste stuff?"
He nods, looking around and wondering what the students find so horrifying about someone not liking manko.
"Yeah, I don't like that either. The first time I ate manko I was expecting it to taste like chocolate and it just didn't at all." I screw my face up into a look of distaste. "I was so disappointed. Because, really, what's more delicious than a creamy chocolate-filled doughnut?"
The students are still in shock about something, and a few of the ladies cover their mouths and giggle, red-faced. Things are clearly getting a little uncomfortable, so I do what I usually do when this happens. I walk out of the room and let the other person deal with it.
A few minutes later the bell rings and Bob comes into the teacher's room looking redder than any Welshman I've ever seen.
"Oh, my God, oh my God!!" he bellows in his resonant baritone. "I've just made an awful, terrible, horrible mistake! I can never go back into that room again! I want to die and be buried immediately. Immediately! Shit! Fuck!"
Between his exclamations of "oooooooooh, I wish I were invisible" and "aaaaaaaaah, I want to go back to Wales," we get his story.
In class, they'd been discussing Japanese food, and the students had asked Bob what food he really doesn't like. Bob answered that he really doesn't care for bean paste, a perfectly reasonable answer. It is the answer I would have given and, in fact, had given when I'd stuck my head in. Unfortunately, he'd used the wrong word for bean paste. Instead of "anko," which means bean paste, he's said "manko." Manko means pussy. He'd just told the class he really didn't like eating pussy.
And I had, too.
All the teachers squeal and cover their mouths.
Right on cue, in walks Jill with a smirk on her face, oblivious to the atmosphere of confusion and despair engulfing us all and still intent on bringing the America empire down, colloquialism by colloquialism.
"You know my least favorite American word?" she squeaks. We are dying to know, absolutely can't wait for her to tell us.
"Mom. Why don't you just say mum?"
I wrack my brain trying to think of a good reason why we Americans refer to our mothers in such a venomous and disrespectful way. But I'm too appalled right now to take this bait.
I flop into a chair and look sadly at my Japanese book, wondering if there's a handy way to politely apologize not only for saying the word "pussy" at least four times in a ten-second period but also for expressing that I don't really like eating it.
I decide maybe I should go down to Burger King and get some fries. I've got a really horrible taste in my mouth.
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