Metropolis Magazine
Issue #805 - Friday, Aug 28th, 2009
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Past Issues
804: Drama Scene
803: Heads, Tails & Snake Eyes
801: A Legacy of Emotion
800: Through the Monocle
799: Fighting spirit
798: Taking the Stares
796: Friends Don't Let Friends Become Salarymen
795: Fuzzy Democracy
794: Hung Jury
792: Highway to Hell
791: The Cartography of Cyberspace
790: Train Talk
789: A Confessions of a Teenager in Kimono
787: A Downloaded Question
786: Counterculture Shock
785: The Good Sensei
783: Me, Charisma Woman?
782: Stumbling Block
781: Paradise Lost
779: Half and Half
778: Road Rage
777: Dumb Luck
775: The M-List
774: Compatriotic Spirit
773: The Naked Truth
770-71: It Ain't Easy Being Green
769: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas in Japan
768: Japanese Lessons
766: Bad Credit
765: Chew on this
764: Red faced
763: Down and Out in Tokyo
761: Kicking the bucket
760: Thumbing It
759: Fixing the System
757: Smoke rings
756: Stalking the Predators
755: Banding Together
753: No Competition
752: Sex and This City
751: Let's Shogi
750: The Yasukuni Follies
748: Loud and Clear
747: I'll be back
746: Raiders of the lost SMAP
744: Magical Mystery Tour
743: Murder in Lotus Land
742: Stereotypes 'R' Us
740: The Mother of all Mothers
739: Crimes of Fashion
738: The Hafu Dad Brigade
737: The Green Team
736: Fight Club
735: The Paper Chase
734: The Wind-Up Writer Chronicle
733: Food For Thought?
732: Home and Away
731: The 2008 Nazi Olympics
730: The Two-Wheel Revolution
729: Gimme a Break
728: Power Play
727: Dying for a doctor
726: Footloose Revisited
725: Little Fish, Bigger Pond
724: Japan's Peace Monster
723: Language Abuse
722: Scumbusters "R" Us
721: First Action Hiro
720: The Return of Asashoryu
718-719: A Time to Give
717: My Homelessness Dilemma
716: The 30 Percent Solution
715: Past Imperfect
714: Killing the Kimono
713: The trouble with Tibbets
712: Surfing the Shinto-net
711: Falling Stars
710: Macho Man
709: Bad Impressions
708: Bloodsport
707: Our Last Word
706: Anonymocracy
705: The Air Up There
704: Read the Signs
703: The sky should not be the limit
702: My Year Zero Proposal
701: The Joys of Freeganism
700: Prada for the People
699: The Parasite Country
698: Washed up in Tokyo
697: Birthing's Not for Babies
696: On the Handlebars of a Dilemma
695: My So-Called Poverty
694: Get Out the Vote
693: The Ishihara Mystery
691: Let it Flow
690: Caf Culture
689: Oyaji Fashionistas
688: The Democracy of the Dysfunctional
687: Polite Disregard
686: Venting on Climate Change
685: Silent No Longer
684: To protect and serve?
683: Save the Sanshin building!
682: In the Realm of the Pond God
681: The Open Society and Its Enemies
680: Five-Ring Circus
679: Topic of Cancer
678: Pet Peeves
677: Why I am Banned in Japan
676: A long way to the top
675: Euro-vision
674: Child's play
673: Why I did it
672: I Love Japan
671: Running Crazy
670: Planet Apology
669: A peek behind the curtain
668: Opening Up
666: Pitching a fit
665: All wrapped up
664: Yule Rules
663: Field of Dreams
662: Save Lives, not Face
661: Why Do I Buy a Ticket?
660: Dying for a Nap
659: We, the jury
658: Grain of truth
657: Remembering The Maverick
656: A Rose by any Other Name
655: Heir today, gone tomorrow
654: Manhandled on the Metro
653: The bodyguards of the road
652: Separate but equal
651: Going for the gold
650: Being Audrey Hepburn
649: Not Sitting Pretty
648: Get Smart
647: Through foreign eyes
646: A failing grade in cute
644: Club Lands
643: Sayonara, Hide
642: The JET SET
641: What, me worry?
640: The Da Vinci Load
639: Making Waves
638: Final Cut
637: Resave the whales
636: Soccer Silliness
635: I, Smoker
634: The Ultimate Loss
633: Shoot the Messengers
632: The second sex
631: A Maverick Moves On
630: The curse of Baron Mitsui
629: Waiting for Heidi
628: Memoirs of a fake celebrant
627: Take it Outside
626: Wa? What wa?
625: A well-drawn life
624: St. Patrick the abducted
623: Bend over
622: The (Un)Late show
621: Oil spill
620: Ice Follies
619: Pride Goeth
618: Lost roles
617: Saying it with Cookies
616: Wrestling with foreigners
614-615: Blank Pages
613: Fretting Over Freeters
612: Farewell, Sensei
611: Sympathy for the wild ones
610: Back in Black
609: Out of many, one
608: Youth culture
607: The Russians are coming!
606: Meddle Detector
605: Tokyo, Mon amour
604: The Wailing Wall
603: Getting Abreast of Cancer
602: Willing Ally
601: New war,same story
600: The Big Chill
599: The Gray Zone
598: Jail break
597: Extremely Lost in Translation
596: Wounded Despot
595: History Lessons
594: Valhalla of the Imperial Army
592: Culture crash
591: Complaints Department
590: What lies beneath
589: Strange Games
588: Junk Science
587: The day the invaders came
586: The Test that Drove Me Crazy
585: Smile and say “lesbian”
584: Keep Article 9
583: The Great Divide
582: An ad for all seasons
581: Killing the Golden Goose
580: The other half
579: Give me back my bye-bye
578: Araki in Focus
577: Head out on the Highway
576: The hate that won't go away
575: Here's the beef
574: Yukking it up
573: Squatter’s rights and wrongs
572: The Trouble with Yokoso
571: Fire from the sky
570: Invasion of the gairaigo
569: Good company
568: Find Out What it Means To Me
567: Field of schemes
566: In the Name of Justice
565: Winner or Loser?
564: Staying Foreign
563: The Scare after Tomorrow
561-562: The Spirit of Things
560: War for remembrance
559: Storm damage
558: The Meaning of Godzilla
557: Who’s left to listen?
556: Paying respects
555: Gender Trouble
554: Coming clean at last
553: Go our own way
552: Hits of yesteryear
551: Heir apparel
550: Personal Reflections
549: Nuclear Reactions
548: Article of faith
547: Martyrs for the firm
546: A different anniversary
545: We, the jury
544: Wrongs & rights
543: Moore or less
542: Fair games
541: Developmentally challenged

By Robert Masucci

Taking the Stares
Or, how to avoid being gawked at in Japan

Robert Masucci is a student at Waseda University and a Metropolis intern

So there I am, heading home from the office on the Fukutoshin line the other day, and like so many prior occasions, I’m on the receiving end of critical glares from the obachan sitting across from me. Insecurity couldn’t decide whether or not to creep up on me. Had I unintentionally done something rude? Or did I just have a tiny but still-noticeable speck of nori stuck between my teeth?

No foreigner in Japan can escape being stared at. And while we may not know the exact cause of this phenomenon, we have, over time, developed strategies to help avert the gaze of even the most watchful eyes.

1. Stop acting like a foreigner You know. Those kinds. The ones that don’t shut up in the train or the elevator. The ones that don’t remove their shoes before entering someone’s house. The obnoxious frat boys on vacation lurking around the Nishi-Azabu crossing. Simply put, you’re in another’s country, so mind your damn manners.

2. Know thy enemy The enemy in this case is not gaikokujin per se, but rather, the stereotype thereof. Sure, pigeonholing foreigners (or anyone) isn’t cool, but like death, taxes and the popularity of J-pop, it’s an unfortunate fact of life. As the saying goes, if anyone speaks badly of you, live so no one will believe it.

Kohji Shiiki

3. Blend in A careless foreigner is like a tiny hair in your morning bowl of cereal: no matter how small it is, you always seem to notice it—and it’s always gross. Pay attention to the type of area you’re in and the kinds of people that surround you. If you’re stomping around Happo-en Garden wearing loud clothes and a loud attitude, or partying in a Nishi-Shinjuku restaurant with shorts and flip-flops, you’re bound to attract unwanted notice. Observe carefully and proceed accordingly.

4. Boldly march forth, young lad (or lass) Despite being the world’s most populated city, Tokyo still works, still flows well. For the sake of not disrupting this fluidity—and incurring the resultant stares—it helps to know where you’re going. Research your destination beforehand, and then set out confidently. Even if you don’t know exactly where you’re headed, pretend to. If nothing else, you’ll walk out of sight so quickly, no one will have time to stare.

5. Begin a quest Now that I’ve lived in Tokyo a while, my ears actually prick up when I hear my native language being spoken. But when I was back home, it was the languages I didn’t understand that turned my attention. Tip: it’s the same for Japanese people. If you haven’t already done so, start learning and using Japanese. The rewards will extend far beyond not being stared at.

6. Go maverick Do you ever cringe when you see foreigners clustered in a big group, looking around like they don’t know what’s going on? Me too. The only thing that sticks out more than a sore thumb is an entire hand of sore fingers, so whenever you can, take advantage of the fact that in this country—um, Japan, right?—you can actually hang out with Japanese people. You’ll be less noticeable while at the same time improving your Japanese language ability.

7. Know “movement etiquette” Facepalm (n): a face-to-palm gesture of frustration or disbelief, often accompanied by closed eyes and a condescending head-shake. Also a common reaction when foreigners suddenly stop in the middle of the sidewalk, blocking foot traffic behind them; or stand on the right side of an escalator (or left side, if you’re in Osaka); or execute the infamous “Gaijin U-Turn,” in which said party stops suddenly, realizes they are lost, turns 180 degrees, and continues in the opposite direction.

8. Memorize this sentence Satsu yoberuzo, sukebe! (Just kidding. Don’t say that.)

9. Give yourself a makeover I’m serious. (Besides, my editor says I’m not allowed to make two jokes in a row.) As an addendum to the idea of blending in, why not try adding some Japanese flair to your sartorial repertoire? In terms of eccentric style, you can get away with a lot here in Tokyo. So take a trip to the nearest accessory shop. Trade those flip-flops for a cool pair of heels or boots. Men, grow your hair out, get it shagged, and start carrying a man-bag. Try wearing sunglasses at night. Even if you’re an elderly woman, dye your hair Barney-purple—you’ll fit right in!

10. Stare back If all else fails, fight fire with fire. Psychologists say that most people can only maintain eye contact with a stranger—no matter how cute—for about a second and a half. How’s that for quickly seizing control of an awkward situation? Just don’t keep staring after they look away. Weirdo.

Got something to say about this article? Send a letter to the editor at letters@metropolis.co.jp.

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