Like dozens of others living on the correct side of the Atlantic Ocean, I am once again an occupant of Eastern Standard Time. My body is back and subordinate to the same time as the sewage labyrinth of New York City, the putrid swamp of Washington D.C., and the musky Cuban paradise of Miami. Perhaps as it should be. It is not my intention to wax philosophical on where I do or do not belong, but as qnuw’s former Guy(?) In Japan and current Guy(?) No Longer In Japan I feel that some degree of closure is in order for the fragmented narrative any of you may have had the misfortune to read.
Yes, cities are sewers, and Tokyo, although boasting a level of cleanliness far above the likes of New York or Paris, is no exception. And as should be expected of a mega-city (and as I not-so-subtley wrote in a previous entry), despite that the people you see on the street on your day-to-day will number in the thousands, you will find yourself hard-pressed to think of them as full-fledged individuals like yourself. Some of them may even browse the same MLP fetish zetaboard forums as you, but to encounter so many people in a day, even just as passerby, is exhausting. You will become desensitized whether you like it or not.
To counter this, I drank a lot. No, I do not like alcohol. At least, a love of drink was not what motivated me to do so. I found that the best remedy to this vague restlessness and fatigue was a trip to a local pub, where I would inevitably be accosted by a drunk salaryman off of work. The topic of the conversations I had with these men were anything but varied. As a rule, they were curious about what a foreigner thought of Japan: what he likes, what is different, what is funny. These men could not speak English, and although I speak competent Japanese there were times when I felt that there was some kind of barrier between us preventing easy communication. But that kind of hindrance was rare, and although the topic of conversation hardly ever went off the beaten path, I never tired of it. Their enthusiasm for some kind of personal international exchange was written all over their faces. It is no lie to say that they were invariably thrilled to find a foreigner they could speak frankly with. They laugh when you bring up Japan’s inconveniences and they brighten up when you praise its appealing points. This attitude is of course not limited to drunk men. Visit a roadside stand in some sparsely populated town in the countryside and you’ll likely get similar responses. It is an isolated country and the average Japanese has no confidence in their English, so odds are that any with the necessary courage to speak to a foreigner will delight in the act. The salaryman may be drowning his sorrows, and the townspeople may simply be killing time, but both of them are most likely in positions with a certain degree of sameness and uniformity. Striking up conversation with some pale, badly proportioned ogre may prove a welcome diversion for them.
It would be silly to propose this attitude as innate, common to all Japanese. They have too much Ainu blood for that. Just kidding– all I offer is anecdotal evidence, from a year of carousing with Japanese from Tokyo and otherwise, and my experiences were mostly of the positive kind. I almost always felt like I had made a friend after these conversations. Japan, to many, is the country that gave birth to tentacle porn; it is unfairly pigeonholed in many different ways, some of them trivial, some not. But I’d like to let the record show that it is also full of personable, friendly people, many of whom you don’t have to speak very good Japanese to get along with.
This concludes my postings on the everyday aspects of The Naruto Archipelago. There will be more to come concerning different fields, hopefully much less sporadically. Stay tuned.