Monthly Archives: June 2015

wEiRd JaPaN: 4 Genuinely Peculiar Things About the Land of the Rising Sun


The chorus thunders back and forth across the internet, erupting in reference to everything from cosplay to game shows to dating sims. “lol Japan is soooooo crazy!” subsequent verses exclaim. “They think weird things are normal and normal things are weird–and did you know they sell used panties in vending machines?” In the eyes of the web, Nippon is both glorious and surreal, a land of almost hallucinogenic strangeness, a place that severed all ties to reality the moment somebody slapped a cute anime girl on a body pillow, a country of loonies with coffin-sized bedrooms and Pocky addictions.

Sorry, internet, but I’m afraid I have to spoil the fun. Most of what is said about Japan in the Western media has been cherry-picked to reinforce a certain image. Not only are the “weird” aspects of Japanese culture less pervasive than Buzzfeed and its ilk would have you believe, but Japanese people are fully aware that those aspects are weird. No Japanese person looks at something like Cho Aniki and says: “Yeah, that’s a totally normal thing you see all the time here.”

Cho Aniki

“Heck, I do that every day on the way to work.”

In Japan, as in America, certain things are designed to be strange to elicit laughter. (The concept of humor exists in Japan. Bizarre, I know.) Assuming the Japanese take them seriously is like watching an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force and assuming it tells you something deep and meaningful about the American psyche.

That said, there are some genuinely strange and fascinating stories buried within Japanese culture. I’ve assembled a few of them below. There aren’t any used panties involved (yes, I once saw them in a super shady store; no, they weren’t in a vending machine), but if you can muscle past that disappointment, I’m sure you can find something to intrigue you.

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Body Horror with Heart <3

anatomical diagram

Hey gang, sorry I’ve been M.I.A. for a few weeks–I’ve been preparing for my upcoming trip to Japan. Speaking of which, I’ll be posting an article about WeIrD jApAn later today. It’ll be my last post before I disappear into an aether of cherry blossoms and excellent public transportation, so hopefully it’ll tide you over until my return at the beginning of July.

And now, an announcement: my short story “Whole” will be published in Pulp Literature volume 8, scheduled for release this fall! The premise can be described thus:

Having made a wish to switch places with her recently deceased sibling, a young woman finds herself rotting alive. With her insides liquefying and her brother slowly reviving, our heroine must cope with the bizarre ramifications of her sacrifice.

It’s as grotesque as it sounds, but I like to think there’s an undercurrent of sweetness to it. I’m extra pleased that Pulp Literature accepted the longer, grosser version–not the toned-down one I wrote in an attempt to appeal to more delicate sensibilities. I’ll share additional information as it becomes available!