I was sitting on the train in Japan waiting for it to go to my local countryside town, when a young couple stumbled onto the train. As they walked in to the train everyone’s eyes started glaring at the young couple. The girl was Japanese and the young man was African American. They forgot to push the button to close the door on the train. As she walked to push the button to close the door, the American yells:
Why are all you mother fuckers looking at me and my girl!?
I was staring at my smartphone reading some Manga and looked up to see him mad dogging everyone on the train. His girlfriend told him to calm down. He said:
“ I just don't get why people be staring at me all the time!”
I felt bad because that guy was saying what I think everyday, as people stare at me everywhere I go in Japan. I wanted to tell him that it's because we're Gaijin
(Foreigners) but I realized he was a bit drunk and I wasn't sure if my joke would lead into an unneeded fight.
That's the last show we need to be putting on for all the people already staring at us.
During this situation I realized two things:
1 - I've been in Japan so long I handled the situation the same way as all of the Japanese people on the train did.
By ignoring him and staring at my smartphone, now in my defense I was already staring at my smartphone and not pretending to like everyone else was.
2 - I really did want to say something, but didn't want to be starred at more than I already was for not being Japanese.
Being in Japan for almost 4 years I've gotten used to people staring at me. I haven't seen someone get upset about people staring at them in public for 4 years since I left the U.S. We were the only people of color on the train and I felt so bad that I handled the situation in such a Japanese fashion.
I was little ashamed that I didn't take the time to reach out to him to get to know his story. But I guess it wasn't the time or the place. In a weird way he made me miss America. His last comment he made out loud to his girlfriend made me laugh inside my head:
“I'm crazy and these mother fuckers are scared of me.”
Maybe your reading this and thinking he was off the handle but I've seen many other Americans literally lose their minds out here to know what the signs look like.
There is only so much silent staring and glaring a person can take, until they finally crack. Some feel like rockstars and become victims of their own Ego's. While others get sick of being a "Gaijin" (Foreigner) and never really getting past that label. Maybe he's almost there.
Before I got off the train I decided to break out of my shell and introduced myself to him. He apologized for yelling and made it clear that he wasn’t directing his anger at me.
I told him he wasn’t crazy and everyone was staring at him and the few that weren’t, started to after he lost his head. It doesn't make it right, but it happens, especially out here in the countryside. Many of these people have never seen a foreigner in person.
He laughed and said he knew better, but that it just gets to him sometimes, especially when they glare at his Japanese girlfriend for dating a “foreigner”. Turns out he’s been living out here for about a year. But it was his first time coming out to the countryside. I told him that I get my share of stares but that they mean no harm. They’re just curious and too shy to say anything. We wrapped up our conversation and I said goodbye.
As I got off the train I realized that sometimes being out here, I complain that I never talk to anyone outside of my wife and coworkers. But I’m glad I broke out of that pattern today. Like I mentioned earlier I’ve seen many Expats come and go. One day my card will be up as well. I can only hope that my short conversation with that young man, will help him with some of the culture shock he is going to experience out here.
I want to make it clear that outside of staring, Japanese people are some of the kindest people I have ever met.
You just got to get past their shyness and introvert issues.
Social Gelo with Angelo
Angelo Ferrer (M.S. Psychology)