This response is for Zach, longtime reader and supporter of Loco in Yokohama.
First off, Zach-san, thank you so much for your support over the years. It’s readers like you that make blogging worthwhile. readers who not only read and enjoy but comment and interact and for that I’m humbly grateful.
So, here’s Zach’s question:
What’s up, Loco?
I’ve got a question for the folks who live in Japan. How long was it before you noticed folks staring at you? I’ve been to Japan 3 or 4 times for about 3 weeks at a time each time. I’m not sure if I’m just oblivious to it or it is my situation, white guy with my Japanese wife at my side and only visiting big cities, but I don’t really notice being stared at. What do you think?
I don’t intend to minimize your unpleasant experiences but I’m just curious about my own in relation to other non-Japanese folks.
Hey Zach! The answer to your question is: Day 1. From my arrival here in Kawaiiland, I noticed.
Better question is when did I start wishing I could not notice it. That took a little longer.
I’m not gonna expand on that answer because, to me, of all the annoying, patience-trying, irritating shit Japanese do, staring is the least offensive. I wish it was the only offense I had to deal with here. My life would be 100 folds better.
Yokohama is a big city. So is Tokyo. Can’t speak for the other cities or the small towns, but the vast majority of the things I write about are things that occur in both of those great metropolises.
And if you miss it you might have been too busy staring yourself…you know, taken with the sights, sounds and smells. Unless you look Asian or are, like you said, truly oblivious. If you are, I envy you yo!
What made me want to highlight your question, though, is your remark about being in the company of your Japanese wife when you’re out and about.
And, you’re right, sir: it makes a WORLD of difference being in the company of a Japanese person. I noticed that right off. In fact I wrote about that in my first series, “10 ways NOT to go Loco in Yokohama” as you might remember if you’ve been with me since the beginning. It was in #5, a piece titled: Make Japanese Friends.
Allow me to quote from that piece (I feel funny quoting myself lol): “When you’re with a Japanese person Japanese people react differently to you. Mind you, it’s no less offensive because of the contrast with how they behave when you’re sans nihonjin. It’s like by virtue of your being with a Japanese person, it suggests to the Japanese in your vicinity that you’ve been vetted, appraised by a trustworthy authenticator (one of their own) and found true. Actually, I’m trying to be nice. It actually feels more like you’re some type of animal that if allowed to roam free is dangerous but in the hands of a master trainer (one of their own) you’re safe to approach and in some cases even pet. I’ve noticed this phenomenon hundreds of times over the past five years so trust me this one is a sure bet. If you can forget the statement this change in behavior makes and just luxuriate in these moments of normality, it will do wonders for your sanity.”
At the time, though, I was referring to male Japanese friends. Japanese female friends, whether co-worker, girlfriend, fuck buddy, wife, what have you, is an ENTIRELY different story, and, in hindsight, I realize is a horrible oversight on my part. One I intend to rectify now.
While male company appears to convey to those Japanese in the vicinity that you are safe to approach, the female companion apparently sends another message.
I’ve found that, while the scrutiny I receive alone is one of fear, that fear is relieved. That’s great, right? Yeah, not so much. That fear is replaced by something that I often find darker and uglier. While Japanese tend to stare at me when they believe I’m unaware of them, and upon my turning on them will do most anything to avert their eyes, that “courtesy” is not extended when I’m in the company of my Japanese girlfriend. The stare is not at me though. The stare is at her, so intense that they don’t even realize I’m watching them do it! Of course my girlfriend is unaware too, like some comedy of errors. She always seems to miss it. I used to go all out to get her to see how her people are looking at her, but I’ve given up.
The look varies from curiosity to envy to shock to disgust (if I’m reading the faces right). The Japanese women represent the curious and envious and shock, the Japanese men show shock too sometimes, but generally bring the disgust.
Not to suggest I haven’t seen this phenomenon back home in the US. Of course, I have. I discussed this a bit in my racism series. Let me show up most anywhere in NY, but especially in Brooklyn, with a white woman on my arm, and the black women will react like the Japanese men do here. And the black men, like the Japanese woman. It’s just so disturbing here because I’m so unaccustomed to the aggressiveness of this action on the part of Japanese men. Generally, they are pure pussy…ahem, I mean passive to the point of my questioning their masculinity. But when it comes to their women being with a foreign guy, and I suspect especially a black guy who’s rumored to be packing a RPG in his boxers (I’m more like a hand gun…a high caliber one lol) they suddenly grow these great big hairy kintama (balls) of steel.
It’s really disturbing.
Anyway, just wanted to answer your question thoroughly. Anything for my handful of dedicated readers.
And, that’s what’s up!
PS’: Follow Loco!