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Published: September 21st 2008
Well, it happened. Last night I came face to face with the racism that lies underneath the culture here in Japan. It all started when I was stopped for being white in Japan.
I left my home at around 8pm. Within one minute I felt myself being tailed by this unmarked car. In New York or in other places in the world this is a sign that you are about to be jumped. But this is Japan people don't just jump out of the car and punk you. This place is safe as all hell. So finally this car rolls by me and drives a little further down the road. I am thinking ok that was weird, but whatever. Then the car stops and two men slowly get out of the car. They start walking toward me. Then they pull out their police badges. So they are plain clothes cops. They stop me and ask me if I am in the army. Ask me questions like where I work and live. They want to see my alien registration card. I like what the hell. Why the hell are you stopping me for just walking down the street? Anyway, they let
me go and I head into Susukino to continue on with my night.
When I get back to my neighborhood after a night's drinking I stop at a local bar and have some drinks. The bartender is a really cool guy and me and all the other customers are having a great time. At the end a Japanese friend talks me into one last drink at another bar. So I say, sounds good to me. It turns out the bar that he wants to to is the bar I used to go two years ago when I first came to Japan. I used to go there all the time to practice my Japanese and just hangout with the locals. But then I stopped going because I made other friends and had other things to do. We walk in and the bartender I remember is sitting at the bar with a customer, and some new guy is behind the bar. So at first there is no problem we all drink together for about an hour. But the old bartender doesn't seem very enthused by my presence. Then out of nowhere he starts speaking rapid Japanese. I can tell that he's talking shit about me, but have no idea about what. Then he gets up and walks toward me. He wasn't very threatening, but whatever he was saying was enough that my Japanese friend put his arm out to hold him off.
I am not sure what made him react like that. Maybe he didn't like that I was a gaijin. Maybe he was upset that I stopped coming to his bar. Who knows. But eventually it seems like he wants me to pay or that he thinks I was trying to come in there and get free food and drinks. So he makes this big show of how I have to pay and that I can't leave until I pay. I tell him I have money and there is no problem, but he still sitting there talking shit. So I start talking shit back in English, which he of course doesn't understand. Tit for tat, you know? Eventually I am just like just give me the bill. So again he sarcastically adds up the bill and tries to show me up like I am not planning on paying. It is for 2200 yen. So I take a 5000 yen note from my wallet, stand up, and dismissively toss it on the bar, say "Fuck off" and leave. All of the guys follow me out on the street and there is some commotion. Eventually they force me to take my change. Me and my friend walk away. My friend was so apologetic, bowing repeatedly. So anyway it was an interesting night.
But I always seek out new experiences and in a way it was great to feel what true racism feels like. Because growing up as a white guy in America you never experience that. Being stopped by the police purely for the color of my skin was an eye opener.
Also after living here in Japan for more than two years now I know I will never be accepted by this culture. Last night I also talked to a French guy who has lived here for 12 years, owns his own business, is married to a Japanese woman and has two kids. He was saying the exact same thing. But still I am working hard to learn the Japanese language so at least I can converse and get my own viewpoint heard and understand what is going on around me. To that effect I am now taking private japanese lessons twice a week and really focusing on improving.
But don't get me wrong I have a lot of cool open minded Japanese people here. But it still interesting every so often to come face to face with the undercurrent that lies beneath,
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