Home > Gaijin Smash > I Go By Train

I Go By Train

I was coming home from Osaka late one night. It was actually the last train back home. As such, there weren’t too many people on it. But before the doors closed and the train rolled out of the station, a guy came and plopped down right next to me. And then proceeded to stare at me. Not normal staring mind you, but the staring where you have to physically turn your body so you can get the best possible look.

Now, I get stared at a lot. More than you can possibly imagine. Especially on the trains, which are a hotbed of staring. What I’m not used to however, is for someone sitting right next to me to physically turn around so they can stare right at me. Every fiber in my body said “Get up. Get up, go, move, switch seats, get in a whole ‘nother train car.” And yet, I didn’t. I can’t say why I didn’t, only that I’m a stupid, stupid man.

The train tumbled along, with my friend continuing to gaze lovingly into my chocolate features. After five minutes or so, he finally worked up the courage to speak. “Where you going?” he blurts out in badly slurred Japanese. He was obviously blasted – his breath smelled of wine and cranberries. Don’t ask me why cranberries, I don’t know, I don’t want to know.

But aha! He spoke to me in Japanese! I can now use the Gaijin Ultimate Defense – “I don’t know Japanese.” It’s a wonderful little phrase that gets you out of almost anything here. Mixups at the train station, run-ins with the police, and especially the guy from public TV to collect money for the boring stupid TV channel you’re not watching anyway. It doesn’t however work against the Japanese Jehovah’s Witnesses (yes, they do exist), who either speak fluent English (how the fuck does this work?) or just happen to be carrying pamphlets in every language that exists on Earth, not just English. Ain’t that some dedication? “Ok, got my leaflets in Japanese, English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Arabic, Klingon, Binary, Smoke Signals, and Swahili Tongue-Clicks, just in case.”

So anyway, I use my Gaijin Ultimate Defense here.

Him: (badly slurred Japanese) Where you going?
Me: (English): I don’t understand.
Him: (badly slurred Japanese): I said, where you going?
Me: (English): I don’t know what you are saying.
Him: (badly slurred Japanese): Where you going?
Me: (English) I don’t know Japanese.
Him: (badly slurred Japanese): Where? You? Going?

Perhaps finally getting the hint, he manages to spit out his meaning in even worse, mangled English. I should have said I don’t speak English here, but I get the feeling somehow this would have made things worse. So I told him what stop I was getting off at. Which he needs to confirm like twelve times.

Him: (the name of my stop)
Me: Yes.
Him: (the name of my stop)
Me: Yes.
Him: (the name of my stop)
Me: Goddamnit yes.
Him: (the name of my stop)
Me: Yes. See, we’re at (current stop) now. Next is (station name), then (station name), then (name of my stop).
Him: (BSJ) Aha! You do speak Japanese!
Me: No I don’t. I just know the names of the train stations. That’s all.
Him: (BSJ) But your pronunciation is good.
Me: I’ve lived here for almost three years, that’s why. I don’t know Japanese.
Him: (BSJ) Yes you do.

Ain’t this some shit? Japanese people don’t normally believe that I (or any other foreigner) can speak Japanese. They just refuse to wrap their minds around the concept. There are people who’ve known me for two years, and KNOW I have Level 2 proficiency, but will STILL be like “Oh, do you like puppies? Do? You? Like? Puppy?” With the hand gestures and everything. It gets pretty frustrating, considering I’ve spent a good number of years studying the language and working hard to be able to converse with people in everyday situations, only for them to believe I am incapable of doing so merely because of how I look.

And the one time, the ONE TIME I can’t convince someone I don’t speak Japanese is with Mr. Drunk Cranberries. Why why why? Is being completely wasted out of your gourd what it takes to get Japanese people to believe that a foreigner is capable of learning their language? Shit, if that’s the case, let’s just start handing out the Bacardi 151 on the streets. Put it in Mr. Salaryman’s coffee. Put it in Ms. Housewife’s afternoon tea. Let’s go to the kindergartens and spike the milk. Yes, we’ve come to that point.

Anyway, my friend isn’t quite done with me yet…

Him: (Badly slurred English) Oh, (my train stop)! Me! My friend! I have! (My train stop)!
Me: Well, that’s good for you.
Him: Next, next, we meet, (BSJ) Next time, we play.
Me: Sure! If I can’t find someone to kick me in the crotch repeatedly, I’m game (I actually said this, he didn’t understand of course).
Him: (BSE) What you name?
Me: John. (My name’s not John)
Him: (BSE) Okay John. Next, next play!
Me: Oh, hey, look, it’s (my train stop)! I gotta go!
Him: (BSJ) See you again!
Me: Only if God really hates me as much as I think he does! Bye bye!

What I really want to know though, is where the fuck was Densha Otoko? Scratch that, gimme Densha Onna. Let some uber-geek girl come to my rescue and save me from dudes who’ve been drinking in a cranberry patch for too long. Then let us start an awkward and clumsy relationship, where I find out my geek girl is good-hearted and really hot with a proper makeover. Let her take me to her room adorned with Street Fighter and Transformers action figures. Where the hell was this? No, all the Japanese people on the train just quietly kept to themselves, probably thankful there was a Gaijin In The Mist to take the fall for them.

Lately, the problem of groping on trains has gotten so bad, that several railway companies have had to institute “women’s only” cars during peak hours. Can’t we get a Gaijin Only car or something? I mean, this kind of thing is more than enough certification. Maybe put the Gaijin Only car next to the Women’s Only car, and soon enough Japan’s birthrate will climb right back up. See? I’m killing two birds with one stone.

Categories: Gaijin Smash
  1. Vidgmchtr
    January 22, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    When I studied abroad in Shizuoka, my usual commute method was by train. My story isn’t nearly as weird as yours, but definitely of note.

    The days and weeks I commuted to and from school by train, I also got stared at, being a fat white guy. I usually pretended not to notice, or screwed around with my iPod to take my mind off the Japanese eyes staring at me.

    I eventually figured out one day that they were not staring at me because I’m white, they were staring at me because people like me aren’t in their normal routine.

    One afternoon heading home, I was getting stared at by everyone, until a mentally challenged Japanese dude got on the train. He was making a bit of a scene, walking around quite a bit, making noise (which I’m sure you know is frowned upon. Quiet trains are happy trains.), and generally fidgeting about. All of a sudden, I was no big deal. I noticed ALL THEIR EYES were on him now. He, a Japanese dude, was getting stared at. The fat white guy sitting there being absolutely quiet? Oh, he’s nothing. Don’t mind him.

    This guy had never been on the train prior to or afterward (never saw him again), so I’d imagine that like me, he was not a part of their normal routine. Though I stood out, he stood out more. So he got the staring.

    I get the feeling that had this drunk dude not found you so appealing and sat elsewhere on the train being all drunk, he might have been stared at by the others instead.

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