Thursday, May 19, 2011

"What did you call me?"

Despite the interconnectedness of the 'global community,' 日本 (Japan) remains a homogeneous culture. Due in part to centuries of isolation and nationalism, all things foreign may sometimes be treated equally but are always treated as foreign. While urban epicenters such as 東京 (Tokyo) or 大阪 (Osaka) are filled with thousands of 外国人 (foreigners), each one still sticks out like Godzilla on a low budget studio set (please excuse the insensitive simile).

But I enjoy being different. Having white skin, freckles, and a smile only a dentist could profit from automatically grants me oodles of attention. I like that! Sure, it may not always come with sprinkles, but nonetheless I feel alive.

Typically while strutting, bicycling, or moonwalking down the city streets I often hear guttural reactions to my presence.

"外人" (gaijin/foreigner)

Gaijin is a semi-derogatory term for foreigner is often uttered by adults. Thankfully, younger generations help to inflate my ego.

"かっこいい" (kakkoii /cool)
"かわいい" (kawaii / cute)
"すごい" (great)

Today, a new reaction was added to the glossary.

Turning the corner, a pair of rambunctious lads nearly crashed into me. Disgusted by their intrusion of my self-allocated temporary parcel of personal space, I stood still and...stared. I stared, and I stared. Not a word was spoken. The boys nervously battered out a spattering of English, "hello," "sorry," "yeah" as I shook my head walking away. And then it happened. Yards away in the trail of my dust, something was said. Something I've never heard before. From the mouths of two giggling girls came...

"White Bear"

I thought, "They can't possibly be referring to that lovable cute, and cool guy." But seconds later a grammatically incorrect sentence confirmed it.

"Mr. Cravak is white bear."

1 comment:

Jon said...

It sounds like a compliment to me! Bears have such a great place in the Japanese psyche. Mostly as some cute cuddly mascot, but still.