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05 March 2010 @ 08:41 am
"What do you mean 'we,' white man?"  
Hitting "Detect Location" had Tokyo pop up. Japan is small and crowded, but not that small.

Yesterday, on the way home from work, the train stopped at the Atomic Bomb Dome Park. There were a few other foreigners on the tram (Kiwis, by their accents), and one of them realized almost too late that we came to her stop. She got up and frantically rushed around until her friend directed her to an exit. Unfortunately, it was an exit without an attendant, which means she left without paying. Several of the Japanese people on the train watched her as she ran out with obvious disapproval in her eyes, and my first thought was, "You idiot, now what will they think of us?"

Then I kind of stopped, because after all, what "us" is there? I'm not one to greet random foreigners on the street or try to talk to them, because shared non-Japaneseness isn't really a useful starting point for a conversation. Plus, just because they look like me doesn't mean they are similar--they could be Americans, yes, but maybe they're Russian, or Polish, or Italian, etc. But, in Japanese, we're both 外人 (gaijin).

You may hear that this means foreigner, but that's not strictly true. Foreigner is 外国人. Even when overseas, Japanese people will still use gaijin to talk about the people around them, because its real meaning is more like "someone who is not Japanese." And if you want a one-word version, the kanji translate as "outsider."

Worried about the actions of others because they might reflect on how the majority sees me. It's an interesting perspective, coming from a town that's probably ~85%+ WASP. Not a moment of satori, at least for me, but I think most Americans should try living in a place where they're the minority for a while. They might learn something about our own society b
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Michaelping816 on March 5th, 2010 06:54 pm (UTC)
Does attending the most ethnically diverse school in the mid-west count? :-p
Matt Lindquistgreenblackevil on March 7th, 2010 01:23 pm (UTC)
B? B what? They might learn something about our own society b-ecause I'm about to give Matt a million dollars?

Or... They might learn something about our own society b-y the way Matt, here's your own spaceship?

Wait. No. THEY GOT HIM!!! Somebody stabbed Brian with a stake through the heart!

There will be a memoriam where we can all share our fondest (two) memories of Brian. May he rest in peace. I'm gonna miss you, Bro.