It’s always interesting to explore the “when worlds collide” moments between Japan and the U.S. Tomo, the J-List employee who keeps our site stocked with interesting DVDs, import visual novels and some of the more colorful Tenga stress toys, is a huge fan of the Beatles, and basically taught himself English by translating and memorizing their songs. (When the “perfect edition” CD boxed sets were released he bought both versions, despite each costing $500 in Japan.) I don’t think he ever expected to meet an American who had gone the opposite direction, embracing Japanese pop culture in order to learn his language, as I’ve done. One day we were talking about the classic 1972 song “Alone Again (Naturally)” by Gilbert O’Sullivan, which a student of mine had ironically played at her wedding, not understanding that it was one of the saddest and least wedding-appropriate songs ever written. I had mistakenly thought the song was by the Beatles for some reason, and I’ll never forget the look of shock on Tomo’s face that an American could get a fact like that wrong — he assumed that everyone from the West would know everything about the Beatles by default. Ever since coming to Japan I’ve loved onsen, Japan’s volcanic hot springs, and I’ve been to dozens all over the country. When Tomo told me that he’d never visited one, I was equally shocked that a person could live in Japan and not automatically love the bathing culture as I do. It was quite an educational experience for both of us.
Tomo had been sure that every American would have intimate knowledge of the Beatles by default.