Thoughts on life after the PhD
I vividly remember a piece of advice I got during teacher training for AEON, the English language company that I spent three years working for in Ichikawa, Japan. “Students will be curious about you,” the trainers told me, “and we encourage you to share as much about yourself with them as you like. There is one area, though, where you may have to be dishonest–and that’s regarding drug use.” Basically, if I’d ever used marijuana, I was told not to admit it. Having a casual attitude about the use of any kind of illegal substance just wasn’t acceptable to the Japanese. “They’ll associate you with criminals, and they’ll lose respect for you really quickly,” I was told.
During my six years in Japan I was surprised by the lack of drug-related scandals in the media. If movie stars and musicians were using drugs (and I have to believe at least some of them were), they were REALLY careful about it. I was never much of a hard-core partier, but in all my late-night club sessions and outings to house parties I was never once offered a joint, much less a hit of ecstasy (supposedly popular among certain segments of the foreign community in Tokyo) or anything resembling a hard drug. Lonely Planet keeps it short when advising tourists on drug use in Japan–don’t do it. Penalties are harsh, and getting busted for marijuana possession is essentially the same as getting busted for heroin.
So it’s understandable that the Japanese public are “shocked” by the recent string of marijuana-related scandals that have made the news, many of them involving sumo wrestlers. Reading the news reports, I can’t help but hope this will lead to an end to the reefer madness-style horror and panic that is associated with marijuana use in Japan, though I doubt that change will come any time soon. I’m not even a pot enthusiast, but I do wish the government would act a little more outraged over the huge numbers of men vomiting and passing out nightly on public trains and pay a little less attention to a college kid keeping a Ziplock baggie of weed in his dorm room.
writing•translation•scholarship on Japan (and a few other things)
tales of travel, research, and life
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