I’ve gone through several phases over the past eight years spent here in Japan…
The first phase could be called my Black Anjin-San phase.
I’d be that black guy inserting my two-yen into a Japan bashing session at a Gaijin bar, saying shit like: “Man, how can you say that about these wonderful people?” or “You know what your problem is? You think your culture is superior to their culture. You have a superiority complex. You’re the reason you feel unwelcome here. Not them.”
I took great pleasure in interjecting platitudes and cliches like, “Be part of the solution not part of the problem,” and “be the change you want to see here!” Yep, that was me. That guy whose head you wanted to crack open with a bottle of Asahi Super Dry!
My roommates didn’t know what to make of me. They must have thought I had gone loco already. I lived with two white guys, a Kiwi and an Aussie. Both were music lovers. One, a serious guitarists, and the other a guitar enthusiast. They were two of the coolest guys you ever want to meet. However, both were heavy drinkers and a little on the “fuck that, I pay rent just like they do” tip. And here I was, a Black guy, from Brooklyn New York, no less, scolding them for being disrespectful to our neighbors and of our host nation.
I came to the defense of the Japanese in almost any situation. Although on the ground in Japan, I didn’t see much of anything worth defending, the Japan in my head was worth dying for. It was chock-full of James Clavell and a wildly romantic image of a Japan that could be penetrated by a foreigner of some intelligence, skill, and with the right mindset; someone like, well, like me.
I felt I was in possession of the prerequisite disposition to tear through the silk kimono and say, “Heeerrre’s Loco!”
Hell, I wanted to be a Kokujin (black) Anjin-san.
Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t entirely delusional. I mean, I read Crichton’s Rising Sun, as well as Clancy’s Debt of Honor. Clancy and Crichton (may he rest in peace) were two of my favorite authors, but both I thought did a bit of Japan bashing.
And I too wasted two hours and ten bucks on Lost in Translation. Personally I thought it was a boring, pointless movie full of the type of people who could never be Anjin-sans. They were just a couple of xenophobes abroad. No wonder they were lost.
They were the kind of foreigners I didn’t want any parts of, which is why I detested Gaijin Bars.
I felt about these bars the way Clavell’s Anjin-san felt about the place where his shipmates were being held, in the district where the “Untouchables”or “Burakumin” lived. After he’d left from reuniting with, Anjin San shed his kimono and demanded a bath. This is how I felt about Roppongi, as well. It was the modern day version of that area, a place where Japanese allow foreigners to carry on like the barbarians they are thought to be. And where low-life skanky Japanese go to consort with and handle the contaminated flesh of Gaijin.
I felt about my co-workers the way Anjin-san felt about his crew: ignoramuses, mostly, with a crude idea of the superiority of their respective societies, whether it be America, Canada, Australia, England, France or Germany. European values, Christian morals, rigid, self-righteous, close-minded hypocrites, the majority.
I couldn’t even spend too much time with other black people.
Most were military types who held most Japanese in contempt and thus were on a mission to be as Gaijin as possible, especially those who’d been here for a while. We call it “showing your ass” back in NY, and these guys loved to show their asses.
Downright embarrassing, that Japanese would associate me, the black Anjin-san, with those malcontents!
Most conversations I’d have with these guys would inevitably lead to a shitload of bad experiences being spewed at me. They took great delight in what they considered an imparting of the wisdom they’d acquired. Most of these guys regarded the Japanese as unblushing racist as well as proudly, inexplicably and, in most cases, intolerably ignorant of the world surrounding their tiny island.
I could understand their rage, somewhat. Here they are, told by their commanders that they are the only thing standing
between Japan and a Kim jong-il invasion, or Chinese vengeance for atrocities committed against their citizens during WWII, and as soon as they step off post they get treated by their protectorate like a disease. Any day now, that crazy Korean maverick could launch an attack, and these soldiers would be forced to risk and in some cases sacrifice their lives for people who have the audacity to refuse to serve them at Soaplands and “Fashion Health” parlors all over Tokyo and Yokohama.
But, at the time, I was all about making the most of this experience. I wasn’t about to let some disgruntled black guys rain on my parade.
I wasn’t really a Japanophile, though. I was just being the Devil’s Advocate. Something I do to keep my mind open to the possibilities. Walking in the next guy’s shoes is a good way to do that, so to speak. It’s something I’ve found to be very useful in gaining some objectivity. Part of my motivation for coming here in the first place was to learn for myself about Japanese people and culture. Not to have it dictated to me by a bunch of disgruntled expats and haters.
But, I learned that one cannot play the Devil’s advocate for long without the Devil himself showing up.
And it wasn’t long before Japanese beat the shit out of any fantasies I may have entertained about being anything but a gaijin here.
Who is this guy, Loco, anyway? Click here!
PS: This is a re-post, kinda!
PPS: Wanna chance to win a brand new Kindle Wifi from Loco? I bet you do! Well, just follow the new Twitter acct: Hi_MyNameIsLoco
You can peep the rules for the contest here: How To Leave This World Better Than You Inherited It