Friday, October 24, 2008

Gaijin Not Welcomed here...Sorry

I have always felt that Japan is one of the most accepting places in the world. For the most part this is very true. In Tokyo for example, I see just about every color of the rainbow. People usually get along very well in Tokyo despite the mix of cultural and racial backgrounds.

Although, in the end Japan belongs to the Japanese. I have always been mindful that Japan is not my birth place. My `right` to be here is very different from the natives. I have been given permission to live in Japan. I have been given permission to call Tokyo my home. While I am grateful to live in Tokyo, a recent experience left me feeling shocked and slightly hurt.

I must say now that I do not live in the downtown area of Tokyo. I live in Adachi-ku in the Aoi area. Aoi is a little neighborhood which is almost completely residential. Oddly enough, Aoi rest in between Kita-Senju and Ayase which are hot beds of gang activity. Usually, these areas are actually pretty safe to hang out in as long as you do not get in the way of `business.` Recently, I was board and really had nothing better to do than wonder around late at night. I took the 20 minute walk to Ayase station just to see what was happening. Well, it was just the usual all night bars,internet cafes, and pink action. The only thing I was really interested in that night was a cold beer. First, I went to a bar that offered a gaijin staff. It was run by a couple of black guys. Almost no body was there but it was Wednesday after all. I did kind find it a little strange that a gaijin bar was located in a building full of pink businesses. They must have a `special` deal with a local gangs or something.

After having an over priced beer I decided I wanted to get away from that building all together. I wondered around a few streets for a while until a spotted a bar with the English name `Come On.` It seemed like an ok place so I went in. I sat down at the bar and I quickly realized that something was not right. Everyone was dressed in black and looking at me like I was the devil. In fact the entire bar, including the tables and chairs, were painted black. I asked for a beer, in Japanese, but was not given one. Instead, a guy came out from the back took me by the arm and booted me out of the place. After tossing me onto the street he simply said to me, `No gaijin sorry.`

A numb feeling took over my entire body. I was in the most extreme state of shock I had ever felt. It was like my brain knew exactly what had just happened but I was unable to feel the correct emotions. I really didn`t know how to react. I remember saying to myself, `did they really just refuse to serve me because I am not Japanese?`

I walked down the street with this numb painful feeling washing over me. I wanted to kick something. I wanted to tell someone what had just happened. I wanted to do something so I could break the unbearable numbing pain. Sadly, there was nothing I could do but just take it.

The experience does not make me hold anything against Japanese people. This is the first time I have ever been toss out of a place just because I am gaijin. I assume this is a very rare thing to happen. I did ask a few of the locals and while they had never heard of the place they did tell me that it was most likely a gangster bar. I still do not know the correct emotions to feel. I have decided to just let it slid off my back. If anyone else has had a similar experience please share it in the comments section.

Monday, October 20, 2008

It is all in the Eyes

Until I actually started living in Japan I always thought that the Japanese use very little body language. I have never seem any other culture of people who can keep a straight face in almost any situation. Sometimes it may be easy to think that Japanese people are way too serious. Even when they are really upset, a lot of Japanese, do not change the expression on their face. I have come to understand that the Japanese do use a lot of body language; just in a very different way.

Japanese body language seems to be much more slight and passive than in America. A lot of Japanese have told me that it is so easy to tell how an American is feeling and what they are thinking. They say we over express ourselves. We wear our emotions on our face. Their comments are more true than I ever realized. I have noticed myself giving away my thoughts and emotions just by the expression on my face. I have never really tried to control my facial expressions until I made Japan my home. Living in Tokyo has taught me the value of being aware of my facial expressions.

From what I have observed the two most common use of body language is the eyes and mouth; the movement of the hips and feet can also be very telling. Eyes say a million words in Tokyo. Making eye contact is a big deal in the land of the raising sun. I has raised that it is just good manners to look someone in the eyes when you are talking to them or get their attention. It appears that eye contact can take on a whole different meaning in Japan. When wondering around the streets of Tokyo never brush off a quick glance or direct eye contact. If you do you might just pass up someone who is `very` interesting in you or might even offer you something that you are really gonna want. The easist way to get someones attention in Japan, I have found, is to make direct eye contact and smile. It also helps to slightly lower my head as to show I mean to danger. I have been able to get a lot of people to open up and talk to me on the street just by looking them in the eyes, smiling, and lower my head just a little bit. Making a quick deep glare and motioning with my head to follow me ro come near me has also worked magic.

The power of a smile in Tokyo is almost endless. A smile is an invite. It says; `Come here I like you` or `I want you to come over here and talk to me.` I have experienced many times in Tokyo that a smile ended up getting me into interesting situations. If someone smiles at you on the streets it is usually a good idea to find out what they want. There is also the universal factor of if you smile at somone they will usually smile back. I have discovered that a smile is a great way to find out what someone is looking to do; what is their agenda for the day. If you are the kind of person that fits into their plans a smile can get you a piece of the action if you know what I mean. So, don`t be afraid to smile at someone who looks interesting to you on the streets of Tokyo. Just remember to stay relaxed or you might mess up the whole deal.

I should also mention the use of feet and hips. It is very aggressive to show the botton of your shoes or foot when setting down. There are a lot of people who will be set off my this action. The body language of the hips are still kind of confusing for me. Although, I have noticed that the movement of their hips to communiate is different from Americans;this is more true for women. The movements of a Japanese gals hips can say a lot about her mood. If a gal in Tokyo is talking to you and she is moving her hips a lot there is a good chance she is enjoying your company. I don`t know if this is true of all Japanese gals from in my experience hip movement is a tell tell sign.

As a spend more time in Japan I will learn more about Japanese body language. Japanese tend to not say what they are thinking or feeling. They show you though body language more often than not. This might very well become a life long study project for me.