Sunday, May 30, 2010

And I enjoy my gaijin bubble, thank you very much.

Good morning

When we went to Utsunomiya the other day (monkey waiter town), Arianna told me a story she heard about an intrepid gaijin intern at NTT from a while back. Apparently he was all about traveling around Japan, but didn't want to pay the fortune associated with a ride on the shinkansen bullet train. So in true smasher fashion, every single time he would go to the ticket gates, explain in rapid-fire English that he had left luggage on the other side, then get lost in the crowd and head to the train he wanted. On shinkansen there are unreserved seats for those who buy tickets last minute and don't reserve a seat, and apparently these are checked by ticket-checkers en route much much less often. Combine that with the gaijin repulsion and you've got an surefire way of getting across the country with zero cost. On his way out of his destination station he'd just plow through the ticket gates and walk nonchalantly away as only a gaijin can.

So sometime later that day, after returning the rental car and paying Yoichi for his services, I said goodbye and headed to my station. I then found myself in front of the ticket gates with 30 yen on my Suica card (the trains ride I needed was 150 yen), no cash in my wallet (a serious mistake in Japan) at midnight (ATMs and ticket desks are closed at this time).

For a second I thought "Shit guys, I'm going to have to walk home. And I have no idea how far it is on foot or where to go."

Then I just walked through the gate, got on my train, got off my train, walked out of one gate and then into another, got on another train, then finally plowed through the Aobadai gate, my home station. When you walk through a gate these paddles come up to block you and it beeps loudly. Its easy to push through them, they are hardly rigid, but the thing beeps for 5 seconds or so and doesn't let people through in this time. While I was gaijin smashing my way home, the gates were always packed with people going through at a frantic pace, and they were understandably confused when a loudly beeping gate blocked their passage. Everyone obviously realized what I did but no one rose to the occasion to inform me of my transgression. Thanks Japanese people for minding your own business and not saying a word.

In some cities (Venice and their vaporetto water buses and Milan's extensive streetcar system), its common for people not to buy tickets and just jump on the public transit. This is most definitely not the case in Tokyo, as there really isn't an excuse to not have a Suica card and the transport is pretty cheap. Saving a bit of money by doing this all the time is tempting, but not worth it I think. Maybe for shinking, but definitely not intra-Tokyo transit.


English graffiti in Japan. I hardly ever see Japanese graffiti. But there is no way that gaijins are doing this stuff. Weird.

Short rant on the so-called "Gaijin bubble" if you don't mind. Some foreigners here (nipponophiles all) are of the opinion that unless you're sleeping on tatami, eating nothing but Japanese food, reading Japanese manga and newspapers, trying to speak only Japanese, associating only with Japanese people, watching only Japanese TV and fucking DREAMING only in Japanese, you're not getting the full experience and Japan is being 'wasted' on you. They say that going out with English speakers, keeping some western food on hand, preserving some of your cultures features like pillows and Nutella, reading western news and books and generally keeping in touch with home is forming a "gaijin bubble" around yourself, separating yourself from Japanese people and culture, and effectively ruining your stay.

To these people, I say: 먹어 딕. I enjoy my gaijin bubble.

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