|Gaijin desu or “I’m a foreigner”….Every once in a while I am reminded that I am a foreigner here in Japan. I’m not talking about discrimination, although that can happen from time to time, but rather by something kind of funny that happened today.
Spring is in full swing here in Japan and I took advantage of the great weather today and decided to go for a longer run than usual. On a typical day I run for 30 minutes to 1 hour, in the general area around my house. But today was so nice, I decided to do a little exploring as I went for my run.
I have included some pictures I took today. Mostly shots of flowers and random scenes from the roads and paths around my house. (I do not take a camera when I go running and thus was not able to get any pictures that relate directly to my story.
I headed down a road I had never been on before and decided to find out where it went. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the weather was perfect. Warm, but no humidity.
I make a point about the lack of humidity because all to soon Japan will turn into one large steam cooker. Summers are notoriously hot and sticky here. And having also lived in the State of Georgia, I can definitively say that Georgia can’t hold a candle to Japan when it comes to humidity.
This place gets hot. Not hot in any terrestrial sort of way, but rather what I imagine the surface of the planet Venus is like on your average July afternoon. Standing-in-the-shade-naked-doing-nothing-and-still-sweating-like-a-pig-hot.
But enough about the humidity, I don’t want to think about it. It will be here soon enough and I can complain about it more later.
Back to the story…
The thing that reminded me that I am a gaijin is what happened when I got out pretty far off the beaten path. I had been running for about an hour and the roads were getting smaller and smaller. The noise of traffic started to fade off into the distance and I started to really enjoy the scenery. Every once in a while I would pass by some people on the road, always giving a friendly nod of my head to them as I slipped past.
Then it happened…BAM…the reminder..
I was coming up on a grandfather going for a walk with his granddaughter. She must have been about 3 years old. I angled off to the side of the road to give them enough room as I passed them. They were heading towards me and I gave the grandfather a friendly nod and then looked at the little girl…
She must not have seen too many foreigners before because she got a look of shock, wonder, and interested on here face. She kind of went mentally blank for a second, and that was all it took for here to forget that she was also walking, and end up tripping on her own feet..and..BAM! Face-plant on the ground, forehead first.
It made a really sharp slapping sound, shockingly loud. I immediately stopped running and asked the grandfather if she was ok. He picked her up, brushed her off and took a look. By this time she was wailing like a stuck pig. Other than a nasty scrape right above her eyebrows she appeared fine.
I apologized for scaring her, and her grandfather said it was ok.
I really do feel bad about it. After the traumatic experience the poor kid will probably be terrified of foreigners for some time. I hope I did not scare her too badly. Who knows, she could go on to develop a phobia of foreigners later on in life…
All said and done this is not too much to write about. The only reason I put it down here is because this is not the first time this has happened to me! A similar thing happened when I was out for a walk one day about a year ago. That time the kid was a boy, and a little older but the result was pretty much the same. I make eye contact-the kid freezes-and trips on his own feet. BAM!..a dirt torpedo.
The only question I have is what causes these kids to lock up like that?
Is it that rarely that they get to see a real live foreigner? And is it really that shocking, or are we (foreigners) just that ugly to them?
I’m not talking any normal kind of ugly. What I am referring to is your above average ugliness…. A scare-the-paint-off-a-fence kind of ugly.
Just kidding. I know exactly what is it.
Racially, Japan is a very homogeneous country. More so than almost any other country on Earth. (maybe that’s because this is not really Earth…Like I said before, this place is like the planet Venus…Hmmm….) 98.99% of the people are Japanese, 1% are some other Asian race (Korean, Chinese,…), and the remaining 0.01% is made up of me and some guy named “Roy” who lives in Hokkaido. (Not really, it just feels that way sometimes.)
So I guess I can understand their shock. Heck, for all I know that very well could have been the first time they saw a gaijin.
Hey, it’s not everyday that one gets to make “First Contact” with an alien species.