Thursday, March 3, 2011

Will someone help a humble Gaijin!?

Just yesterday, I was lost in Tokyo...

Okay, I'm exaggerating. I was under the impression that one of the buses in Mitaka station would take me home to Hibari-Gaoka.. but, unfortunately, none of the buses have even a little bit of English on them.

So I just went up to the drivers.. "Hibari-Gaoka?" I asked.. One shook his head and pointed to another bus across the circle. Relieved, I sprinted over there and asked the same question. The driver shook his head no and waved me away. Confused, I tried another bus... "No, no!" The driver explained.

By this time I felt like I was going on a wild goose chase. I tried a bus that had just pulled into the station. The driver again, shook his head no, said "gwleen bus, gwleen bus!" and pointed.. he was referring to the second "green" bus I had already tried. I furrowed my brow in frustration. Are they just messing with me, now!? I thought. Did they get on their walkie-talkies and conspire to keep me running around in circles?? I'm just some white guy wearing a backpack, looking lost. I ended up taking the trains home. Won't someone help a humble Gaijin?

Gaijin, as far as I can tell, just means "white person." I have yet to figure out if it's derogatory or not (possibly like "gringo?"). But, a gaijin I remain. Honestly, we stick out like sore thumbs. Even if it was derogatory, it would probably be understandable.

No one wants to sit next to a gaijin on the train. I frequently find I will only have someone sit next to me if the other seats are full. It makes sense. There is a strong probability that I will ask you a question if I am confused or lost. Citizens of Tokyo consistently would prefer to zone out.

And who can blame them? Rubbing shoulders with other people all day. I would shut people out, too. I already find myself, doing so, in fact. Most of the time, people just sit on the train looking at their cell phone. It seems to be instinct, in fact.

Every train ride looks something like this. Breathing masks. Cell phones. Hats, coats, iPods, Playstation Pockets.. No one wants to acknowledge the fact that they are surrounded by other human beings. No one cares. It's better to just try and get to your station in peace..

People Watching, Camera Games (Gaijin-cam!)
I've been playing a game lately where I take pictures of people as sneakily as possible. Getting caught in my gaijin-tourism photos is pretty much what a Japanese person would want to AVOID. So I do it without asking, and, hopefully, without them noticing. I'm like Google.

I call this game Gaijin-cam! I hold my camera in my hand by my waist, covering it with my fingers in the front, just letting the lens peek out.. then I snap a picture with my thumb. I try to do this while I'm walking, or I pretend to stop and be thinking about something, looking the other way. I'm trying to snag photos of fashion mostly.. Japanese people in their natural environment. Too obvious, and it's awkward. Yes, I'm a creeper.

I've gotten pretty good! Not great. I still get a lot of blurry shots, but there are a few you might be interested in:

In general, Japanese fashion among young people looks like you took the entire century of the 1900s and smashed it together into one decade... 80s, 20s, and all. I'm still working on finding pictures of some of the bizarre and rare fashions... but I will find them. OH YES. I WILL find them *maniacal laughter*.. check out this article to see what I mean.

One note on fashion is that, while many young people may display this "century-hodgepodge" of fashions and designs, most people over 35 look exactly the same. Seriously. Greys, browns, suits, turtlenecks, pleats. It is not cool to stand out in Japan. I can't illustrate this enough. Architecture, clothing, behavior--it is all part of the collectivist culture. The nail that sticks up gets pounded down. You don't want to stand out.

Case-in-point: Burberry scarves. You know those plaid scarves that are so hot in the states this year? Guess what.. everyone has one here. Everyone. I'll see groups of girls all walking around wearing the same scarf. Businessmen. Moms. Schoolkids. Boys. Girls. Doesn't matter. (I'll try and Gaijin-cam this, soon)

One of these days, I may stab someone with chopsticks for wearing a Burberry scarf. Or claw my eyes out... And, as a gaggle of bicycle cops are chasing me down, taisering, and restraining me, I'll just smile, knowing I freed one person from the tyranny of Burberry... Collectivism apparently makes me crazy.

Girl Day
Apparently Feb 3 is Girl Day in Japan. May 5 is Boy Day. It's just for kids, really, but hey! I'm all for celebrating gender. In honor of this, my language tutor gave me a delicious treat, which I photo-documented.

It's sweet bean dip filling wrapped in cherry dough. The leaf you see on the outside is a sakura (cherry) tree leaf! And yes, it was oishii (delicious)! I'm not sure what boys get on their day.. maybe squirt guns?

I have had lots of other great experiences here so far this week, but I'll have to cut this short, and tell you about them when I get back. Simply put.. I'm getting hungry right now. And it's too beautiful here to stay inside any longer! Oh, is it 39 deg. in Nebraska right now? I'm sorry to hear that. Really. I'm crying in my stir fry.

Alright, everyone. Going to Shibuya tonight with some friends to do it up! Let's hope I see some craaaaazy fashions. Wish me luck!

Michael out.

1 comment:

  1. Those Gaijin-cam pics are pretty cool. We're headed to DC in a few days and I might give it a try there. :)