Thursday, April 24, 2008

A frightening moment of Japanese Xenophobia

So I was at Matsue Station, passing time while I waited for a train to Yonago so I could get my little Yakuza Tough Sticker, and this dodgy guy in a rough-looking suit sidled up to me. He had a bruise and a cut on one side of his face, and bad teeth - the latter being a very poor signifier of social class in this country, but I assume the former means something in a land of perfect grooming. He snuck up on me from nowhere too, the kind of approach which always starts a conversation with me on a bad footing.

"I am a policeman," he said to me in moderately well-pronounced English.

"I don't believe you!" I replied jauntily, assuming this was going to be another tedious foreigner-meeting conversation.

"Do you speak Japanese?" he asked me then, and whisked an identity card from under his coat. To my shock, he really was a policeman! The conversation then proceeded as follows:

Policeman 1 (P1): Could I see your passport please?
Me [chuckling, because that very day my passport was in the mail from Tokyo after some dispute over my eligibility]: I don't have one, but I can show you my Alien Registration card
P1: Yes, please, that would be good.
Policeman 2 (P2) [appearing out of nowhere, also in a rough suit]: Hello! Where are you from?
Me: Australia.
P2: Oh! Australia! How cool! And you speak Japanese!
Me: Not really. By the way, why are you checking my Alien Card?
P1: Because it is illegal to be in Japan [or possibly in public - I didn't catch this bit] without carrying an Alien Card or a passport, and we are checking foreigners to see if they are carrying theirs.
Me: Oh! I didn't know it was illegal!
P2: Hey, I recognise you from your haircut. I often see you around the uni with a foreign woman.
Me: Yes, that's my wife [meaning of course the Delightful Miss E, to whom I assume he is referring].
P2: She has red hair, right? What does she do?
Me: She is an English teacher at the University.
P2: Really? Cool!
P1 [with a certain glint in his eye]: I wish she would teach me English!
Me: well, you would have to return to University, right?
P1 [with the same glint]: Well, I want to return to University!
P2: Well, thank you for showing us your card and enjoy your stay in Japan. Say hello to your wife for us! Thank you very much!
P1: Thank you very much, goodbye!
Me: Um, thank you...

Another moment of Japanese xenophobia passes me by in scary technicolour...

2 Comments:

Blogger Cracklypork said...

Wow. Um. Wow. At least they left you alone after that.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Sir S said...

the whole experience was amusing, not scary. The guys were friendly and cheerful, and they were more interested in making jokes about meeting the Delightful Miss E than they were in seeing my alien card.

11:42 AM  

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