Jan 22, 2008

From a Morning Walk in Narita

Two bits from my walk this morning before work-

The guy was skinny, white, and wearing an awful sweater. It was the sort that had a giant snowflake-like pattern on it, and I could tell that from his walk that he was going to approach me.

"Hello," he said. His accent was Irish.


"Have you been here long? On holiday?" He asked.

"I live here."

"Oh," he replied, "even better."

"Do you need some help?" I asked. "Lost?"

"No, I have this magazine..." He reached into his bag, and my first thought was that is must be some trade or networking mag aimed at gaijin. There are all kinds of resources for foreigners networking in Japan, particularly in Kanto. I wasn't opposed to looking at whatever gaijin 'zine he might have had.

But, it wasn't a gaijin 'zine. It was The Watchtower. I've seen Jehovah's Witnesses once before here in Narita, where they actually came to the door of my school. They left a few Watchtowers for the lobby which the manager rather naively left on display, as they were in English. I remember being a bit uncomfortable having them in my workspace, but they eventually vanished.

I told this particular Witness that I wasn't interested. He gestured to the cover of the particular Watchtower he was holding, which asked "Is There Hope For the World?" and asked me what I thought. I said that yes, there was hope for the world. He asked how it was possible for there to be hope for the world when so many people didn't believe in the Bible. I said didn't have any good world peace solutions on hand (which was true) and that I had to be going (which was also true).

Walking a bit further, I saw two guys doing sanitation work on a public toilet. They were decked out in all kinds of safety gear, most of it looking rather redundant. From behind his goggles and gas mask, one of the workers surprised me by gesturing and saying "hello!" in English.

"Konichiwa," I replied.

The other worker, though, raised a mass of wire and pipes above his head and sang out, yes, sang


He wasn't wearing a gas mask or goggles, and if it weren't for his huge smile and the juxtaposition of his singing and sanitation gear, I would have found him a bit obnoxious. Instead, I was sort of pleased this random Japanese sanitation worker was singing good morning to me. I laughed, and was on my way.

Such are the joys of being obviously foreign.


Sydney said...

Wow. That is just... Like they don't have enough English-speakers to harass. There was a Church of Scientology in Lyon. Oh, sorry, "L'Eglise de Scientologie." And I thought that was weird. But that is nothing compared to being handed a Watchtower in Japan. By a potentially Irish guy. In a snowflake sweater.

Rip Tatermen said...

Dude, maybe he knows Prince.

I got on the elevator in my student housing once with two Mormons, who were chatting to each other about their work 'mongst the heathens. My first instinct was to say 'hi' to my fellow Yanquis, followed instantly by a 'Fuck! Don't talk to the missionaries!' hot stove reflex. I did my best to pretend I was German, or someone who didn't speak English (which would not be a German, since they all win at language) and they ignored me. Easier to pretend you're foreign in Germany than Japan, though.
Then, of course, came the 'What? I'm not good enough to get my own planet and basement full of canned goods and goofy underwear and multiple wives?' response. Maybe they've read my poetry.

Joseph said...

Man, I wish I lived in a musical. I've tried spontaneously bursting into song a couple times, but people just look at me funny.

Eric said...

Musicals frighten me in a way that only well-choreographed troupes of people can. To my very core.