Many Japanese, when walking towards me, have a tendency to (upon noticing me and while at the same time noticing that there is little room or little time to make a run for it) put a hand up to their faces, like one might do if the sun was in one’s eyes. Only, I’m the sun and since I’m not above them but ahead of them and oncoming, the hand goes between their eyes and me, as if to block out any hypnotic suggestion I might be trying to transmit or worse, to blot me out of their world view. This is primarily done my men, but women do it, too. The women do it coyly, however, while the men more aggressively.
I call it the tic because it appears to be involuntary. I can walk past ten people in a row and 7 of them will perform this tic. It has other manifestations. Sometimes the arm between us swings up in an “I’m prepared to protect myself from you so don’t even think about trying anything” kind of gesture. The ones ashamed (I guess it’s shame) of this instinct catch themselves and try to make it seem like they suddenly had to know the time or check the sleeve of their suit for moth holes, elbow held high and defensively. These people used to make me so angry. I wanted to justify their fear so badly, but i usually didn’t.
That is why I love rainy days in Japan. With an umbrella obscuring my features (and by features I mean me) from the oncoming pedestrians I’m just another human being trying not to get wet. I can be virtually anonymous. I don’t have to endure the daily onslaught of offenses, at least not on the streets. But, I have to make sure that I have a colored umbrella. Sometimes, when the rain comes unexpectedly I’m forced to borrow a cheap umbrella from the collection of discarded umbrellas that sit in the umbrella rack in front of my school for just such an occasion, and most of them are the cheap umbrellas you can pick up in the convenience store for anywhere from 100 to 500 yen. Unfortunately, they are typically transparent. These umbrellas do not offer as much sanctuary.
It’s raining in Yokohama today. I’ve always been a big fan of rain. Long walks in the rain with a special someone always makes me feel closer to the person. Making love while it’s raining always seems more romantic and intense. I love water. Rivers, lakes, oceans, beaches, showers, baths, Crystal Geyser (until recently), onsens…something about water makes me feel in balance with and connected to the Universe.
Japan has given me a new reason to love the rain: Anonymity