Mirrored with permission from Outpost Nine and Azrael

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 pamphets in every language that exists on Earth, not just English. Aint 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 prounciation is good.
Me: I've lived here for almost three years, that's why. I don't know Japanese.
Him: (BSJ) .....Yes you do.

Aint 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.

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