Sunday, May 17, 2009

sticking out like a sore thumb

here I am sticking out like a sore thumb 2 years ago in DotonboriIt's a curse and a blessing. I know that I will just never get used to it. Sometimes it's nice to be noticed, but at the same time it's nice to have privacy, especially when it comes to the location of your domicile, or where you do your normal everyday things like grocery shopping.
It's just something you take for granted in a place like the U.S., where everyone is different, and unless it's Jennifer Aniston or George Clooney, most people really couldn't give a rat's behind about where you live or what you buy. I guess there are always exceptions, you know, like stalkers and other types who can't resist invading your privacy and harassing you.
I guess when it comes to my daily life here, I could go for a little anonymity sometimes.
For example, one of the faculty at one of my schools (we'll call her x-sensei) likes to keep her eyes peeled for me around town. Not only this, but x-sensei likes to inform me every week that she saw me doing this or that with person A or person B. She then interrogates me. "Where were you going?" "What were you doing?" "Who was that?" "Was that your boyfriend?" I honestly think that she is trying to be friendly and strike up a conversation, but this constant haranguing becomes tiresome every week.
Also, x-sensei fails to realize that just because she has seen a white girl running about town doesn't necessarily mean it was me. There are other ALTs living in the area, too.
Some of my close Japanese friends have confided that a lot of people are just super curious about me because I look so different from everyone else (i.e. not Asian).
There's an added layer of curiosity due to the fact that I am a foreign woman. Let's remember here people, that women's lib. was not very big in Japan. To be フェミニスト (feminist) is to be associated with all the negative historical aspects of being コミュニスト (communist). Which is a very strange association, I know. It has a lot to do with the fact that in Japanese, the words have a similar pronunciation. Despite this fact, life as a single young foreign woman in Japan is a significantly different experience than being a single young foreign man.
People will whistle at you on the street. They will flirt with you. You will get hit on by men who are at least twice your age. People will try to drunkenly grab at you. If you encounter any kind of sexual misconduct and report it, you have a 90% chance that nothing at all will be done to solve your problem. 90% of the time you will be at fault for being "so cute" or just plain foreign.

It is best to know your surroundings, have your wits about you, and to not allow any kind of vulnerability occur.
I'm always paranoid that someone is following me. When you stick out like a sore thumb it's easy to get this way. I proceed with extra caution so that people do not follow me home.
There have been some unfortunate incidents in the past with some other foreign women working here. When I lived here two years ago, a British woman who was teaching English in Tokyo was murdered. Her killer is still at large. Supposedly he was last spotted in the Phillipines, but I don't believe any of that B.S.

It's OK to be curious. However, staring and gossiping is just plain rude. Curiosity can turn into obsession... which can be dangerous.
Am I afraid of living in Japan? A country with one of the lowest crime rates (well... we can dispute this in another post) in the world? Maybe the fact that I'm so far away from familiar setting is what makes me uncomfortable. In theory I shouldn't be afraid, but man, when people are watching your every move its hard not to get wierded out.

Sometimes I like to stare back or if I'm having a particularly bad day, I flip them the bird. Or I'll ask just as uncomfortable questions.

How about you? Have you guys had bad experiences? Do tell!


  1. I agree with this post!

    Also, that girl who was murdered lived in Ichikawa, where I'm living right now. D:

  2. It's funny you mention your interrogator. I have one of those at my school as well. Sometimes it's the "what did you do" "where did you go" routine that you mention. It used to be even worse though, because he would often ask the same dumb question multiple times a week. "Did you ride your bike to school today?" "No, genius, I drove a lime green Ferrari with gull doors, PS please ask me this question tomorrow".

    I honestly think it is just a strong desire of some of the teachers to practice their English, mixed with terrible social skills. It's a fearful combination.

  3. How interesting! And eye-opening! Yet, the pluses must outweigh the negatives, or you wouldn't stay, right?


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