Monday, 7 June 2010
No foreigners allowed.
I travelled so much in May that I have exhausted all my yennies. The month of June will be spent having fun on a budget which I think will prove to be quite easy. It's warm, I have lots of good books to read, and lots of friends to picnic and play badminton with in the best back garden in the world - Marugame castle and its grounds.
This past weekend was spent doing all of these things and it was so relaxing. I hadn't realised how exhausted my travels had made me, so it was lovely to lie in and mooch down to the castle to sit in the sunshine.
I really don't like to write about my more negative experiences on this blog. It should be a place for happy things only, but the following account is something that has lodged itself very firmly in my mind.
On Saturday evening, myself and four of my newest friends here decided to go to a bar for a few drinks and some karaoke. After a lovely meal, we ambled down to said bar, only to find that it was closed. Not wanting to head home, we decided to go to the bar a couple of floors below, so three of us hopped into the lift with another man following close behind us. I felt immediately uncomfortable; the man had a particularly unpleasant face and for the duration of our time in the lift, he kept on glaring at me.
The 'no foreigners allowed' policy, although not prevalent, does still exist in Japan, but I have been fortunate enough to have never experienced it. This time however, within about two minutes of being in the bar, the unpleasant man (who, it turns out, was the owner)came storming over to our table. He looked furious and I instinctively sidled up to my very tall,gentle giant friend Andrew. The next thing I knew, the man had grabbed hold of my arm very tightly, to the point that it felt quite painful, and began screaming at me, telling me to get out, that I was a dirty foreigner and that I should go home.
I felt extremely intimidated and we left immediately. Luckily I was in the company of four of the most laid back, fun loving and care free people I have met so far here , so I was able to forget about it and enjoy the rest of my night at a bar where we were welcome.
The next day however, Saturday night's episode really played on my mind. I felt extremely aware of my foreigner status and the position I occupy in this little town. I know it was probably an isolated event and that this man was one of the few very narrow minded people who reside here. I also know that people of his kind can be found in cities, towns and villages the world over, but I couldn't help but keep thinking about this individual's quite frightening behaviour towards us.
I found myself being very very careful in my choice of clothing on Sunday. It was another beautiful hot and sunny day but I didn't want to stand out by wearing a sun dress, instead opting for something that would cover me up. I was reluctant to go into the supermarket. I've finally learned to ignore the stares (mostly of curiosity, but stares that make me feel uncomfortable all the same) when I go food shopping, but I knew that I would feel them this time. I decided to forgo the lovely mango I had intended on buying at the supermarket and made lunch at home. Similarly, when I was waiting to cross the road, it felt like every passenger in every car that passed by was looking at me.
That Sunday, I was so grateful that my friends were at the castle. I went and joined them, feeling glad to spend the day living in a foreigner bubble and forgetting that I was in Japan for a while.
Saturday night left a really bad and lingering taste in my mouth. I have found small town life to be extremely difficult and I still have days where I feel so claustrophic here. I hate feeling like an outsider so much. Saturday night made me feel even more of one. The experiences I've had with Japanese people here have been wonderful - I have been shown so much kindness and warmth by my friends, students, colleagues and even strangers. It was a shame that something like this had to happen, so close to my departure from Japan.
On a funnier note, I have a friend called Hiroki who is so eager to learn English. He tries so hard, but his English is still at a very comedic level. Next month, Hiroki is having a barbeque and he made a facebook invite for the event.
I am not mocking Hiroki's English in any way, in fact, wouldn't it be just lovely if everyone used English that was as endearing as Hiroki's is?
Here is Hiroki's invitation;
'Let's do the barbecue all together.
It plays volleyball in the coast.
It bathes in the sea.
It eats meat.
Please invite the friend by all means.'