See the introduction to this series here: Letting The Chips Fall Where They May
In the original 2008 series, tip #2: Props and Camouflage, (Please check it out here) I stressed the need for the foreigner living in Japan to use visual and audio aides to convey the message to the suspicious uncomfortable masses that you are indeed knowledgable of their language and customs, and that your presence in their midst is in a professional capacity, there by alleviating much of this anxiety, reducing acts of Iwakan and xenophobia to an almost acceptable tally (by life in Japan standards) and making your life here less unpleasant.
No, I recommended simply wearing a suit.
Yep, slip into some business attire and it will speak on your behalf, explaining to your fellow straphanging Japanese that you are gainfully employed, holding down a role in society comparable to their own or at least respectable by their (and, let’s face it, many people’s) definition . It voices to passengers on the bus, pedestrians on the streets and patrons at the café that there’s a strong possibility you’re not criminal-minded, not inclined to disturb their peace, not a threat to their well-being.
Even then, I found the necessity to do this problematic, as I explained:
“The idea of being forced to wear a suit just so that Japanese people would feel more comfortable around me was offensive, as well. If your child is acting out in the supermarket over some candy they simply must have, sure you might go ahead and buy it just to shut them up, or you might pop them upside the head, like my mother would do, and they’ll learn how to behave out in public. But, in the interest of maintaining your sanity (and your freedom) you had better take tip #2 to heart. It can put a big dent in the number of offenses you incur daily. Trust me.”
I also recommended the use of audio aides. These aides were mostly to address the hackneyed Japanese excuse for their persistent edginess (yes, I’ve asked many Japanese people) when you’re around: the presumption-induced fear of being placed in an embarrassing situation by purportedly extroverted foreigners rudely accosting them with English. I suggested in tip #2 that you might try the old “Note to Japanese via Self” technique where, while you’re standing around trying to look un-threatening, you stage a fake phone call to yourself at a volume where those in the vicinity could easily overhear you speaking your best Japanese.
I explained that:
…While you’re having this conversation with the people on line, via yourself, you might notice some of them, upon hearing your fairly native sounding Nihongo, visually relax, like they’d been waiting to exhale ever since they first noticed you. Try not to laugh. It’s important to learn some native sounding phrases and practice them over and over until they feel natural to you. Some of the people on line couldn’t care less if you were fluent or not. But, you’ll relieve the anxiety of a handful, guaranteed.
Throw in a prop or two, like a Japanese language newspaper, magazine or manga that you read (or pretend to read if you lack the skill) and between the camouflage, the audio aides and the props — PRESTO-CHANGO – you’ve pretty much neutralized nihonjin nervousness like Raid rubs out roaches. For the record, these tips WORK! They have been tried again and again and found true by a most discerning tester: yours truly (-;
Unfortunately, it won’t do the job on everyone, so don’t throw out your dancing shoes just yet, I advised. Those Japanese whose discomfort isn’t relieved by your conspicuous efforts to assimilate seamlessly into the flock will continue unabated for reasons that have nothing to do with language, but with something else (within or outside of your control).
But, hell, you can’t please everyone.
Yep, this was my position four years ago. What do you think of it?
Pretty shitty, isn’t it?
While, yes, the above works like gangbusters — positive measurable results achieved instamatically– I’m afraid dear readers I’m compelled to retract it all. That’s not the life I live. And that’s certainly not the person I am. I won’t do it, and I won’t advise others to do it.
And, let me tell you why.
Because I was that guy! I lived it and touted it, stood by it for years…and while the short term returns were favorable, and instant gratification was met admirably, over the long haul, it slowly tears you apart, scruple by scruple, gonad by gonad, and nudges you ever so gently closer to the edge of sanity.
I shit you not!
And for obvious reasons: how can you EVER fully respect as an equal any adult who needs to be mollycoddled in this way? Sure, you’ll mentally accept this level of tolerance as the cost of living, and you’ll be able to find some semblance of solace in a murky amoral corner of your psyche, but emotionally, spiritually, unconsciously, and even subconsciously, you’ll come to resent it. Unless you believe or can at least convince yourself that either this isn’t real, is only temporary, or this is the way human beings should interact with one another, replete with deceit and pretense, camouflage and props, your whole life one big Cosplay, and all for the greater good or peace of mind (or some rhetoric like that), you’ll sooner or later take umbrage and come undone.
That’s not to say you’ll snap and go postal…I certainly haven’t. You’ll be able to temporarily temper this vexation with a dose of the utter goodness you’re bound to come across from time to time, mitigate it with the unmitigated tenderness imbued in the smiles of children, sooth it with the souls you touch who get you, feel you, and ally themselves with you in bonds of comradery…but, this deep-seated resentment WILL surface.
You can bet your life on it.
For example, you’ll hear yourself subtly maligning them, feeling a certain perverse vindication when you inform them that staples like tempura comes from Portugal and Tofu (and so many other things the Japanese will ignorantly thrust at you as uniquely Japanese stuff every chance they get ) come from the much decried Chinese. Oh yes, you feel bad about it, but this resentment finds it way to the heart of things.
One day you might even find yourself looking in the mirror, asking “Geezus! Who is that???”
You won’t be seeking outward for a target of derision anymore. You’ll be blaming yourself, calling yourself reprehensible names as you search for the good person beneath that camouflage of a “good” person you’ve cloaked yourself in, that person who shouldn’t need props to be accepted, for his essential goodness to be fully recognized. You’ll call yourself the problem…and others will concur. It’s your weakness that allows and attracts this. It’s your shortcomings that force you to masquerade around. This is your comeuppance for not fully opening your intolerant heart enough and trusting that what you perceive with your eyes is all in your mind. All that time you thought you were navigating through life here unscathed, overcoming adversity with cleverness…ha…The joke’s on you, bruh!
Still feeling clever?
Yeah…I’d stay away from camouflage and props, if I were you. That’s a dark path…
Instead, try tip #2: Man the Fuck up!
Yes, this shit IS happening! Don’t delude yourself like some people here do, and try to convince yourself (and others) that the pervasive fear around you is all in your goddamn mind. It ain’t! It’s real! So, live in the real world…not denial. In this real world you must learn to look these daily indignities in the face and say, “I got better things to do with my energy than expend it fretting fuckers who accuse me of paranoia or those who pre-judge me poorly. Making them feel comfortable is not my job, and getting angry at them for their irrational, unwarranted fear is unworthy of my time.” Keep your head held high, and try to forgive them their bloody transgressions. They are entitled to do as they please, sit where they want, flee if they want, clutch their pocketbooks, protect their children, pat their wallets, turn their backs on you, criticize you if they so desire, etc… That’s their prerogative.
Don’t let their actions distract you from taking action!
As for my prerogative? Well, it’s ain’t that hard: reaffirm my overall well-being everyday by doing something good for me and something good for others. If I have (or create) the chance to make a change, I will…otherwise, just write my ass off and take care of me and mine the best I can; address the ignorance around me, when possible, with all the skill, talent, intelligence and charisma at my disposal, or ignore the ignorance if it isn’t addressable, no matter how intense it gets.
And somehow manage to keep my heart and mind open to the possibilities that life will inevitably send my way!
It ain’t that hard.
Nothing can hold you down…once you man the fuck up!
PS: Check out my book: Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist, available on Amazon here and at most online book shops around the world! You’ll be glad you did, and so will I (-;