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The Invisible Gaijin
Talk work only

Illustration by Dot

Nothing seems to phase us as we skillfully skip past that seventh pool of vomit; not that mass of people racing towards us like world-class athletes nor the high-pitched ringing of that bicycle trying to weave its way through the unweavable. No, today we are invincible, we are gaijin gods strolling through Tokyo. Invincible, that is, until we spot something horrific bobbing towards us on the horizon. A sight that leaves every one of us completely void of all rational thinking; a sight that is quite simply another gaijin.

As the problem strides ever closer, etiquette tells us that we must avoid eye contact at all costs, so we proceed with zombie-like senses, eyes transfixed far ahead in the distance puzzling over what it is that overcomes us when we pass another gaijin in the street. Is it envy, is it fear, is it lust or is it simply just a basic loss of vision? Whatever it is, it is clear that we are all somehow trained to ignore each other with spectacular precision.

Now this ritual, although occurring almost instantly, is by no means immediate. Upon arrival we are foolishly generous with our greetings - a nod of the head here, a slight gesture with the hand there - small common courtesies that in addition to going outrageously unnoticed, fully expose the exact number of days and weeks since our arrival.

Sadly, these early stages seem to be torturous. Invisibility, the new power we have harnessed and a once desirable attribute during much of pubescent life, is suddenly thrust upon us uninvited, leaving us doomed to wild motions of unacknowledged nodding and waving until finally our battered egos can take no more and we, equipped with the knowledge that our days of swapping pleasantries are numbered (as well as with a tinge of bitterness), take to the streets to silently persecute that next unfortunate gaijin.

It seems existing ideology says we shouldn't squander our "hellos" on people we don't know. The I-don't-do-that-kind-of-thing-at-home-so-why-should-
I-do-it-here attitude prevails. The fundamental problem with this school of thought, however, is the huge amount of effort it takes to convince that passerby that we didn't actually see them. I mean of course we saw them. Why wouldn't we? It was a western monster after all. But still we work painfully hard fixating on the most acutely boring things as if they contain the answers to human existence, until the victim has passed or until we've momentarily slipped into one of those seven pools we were so skillful with earlier.

The bitter fact is that the road to invisibility is treacherous, but it is a path we tread with relative ease. We accept invisibility as second nature, and why do we do this? Because we are aliens and that's what aliens do.

Many thanks to reader Christopher Newlands for this Rant.

Got something to get off your chest? Send your 500-word rant by fax to 3423-6931, or by email to

Metropolis Online
349: Life in the cycle lane
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348: Daisuki na Tokyo
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347: Nihongo dake!
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346: People make the city
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345: Cross Training
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344: Yellow Line Fever
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343: Welcome to Tokyo
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342: Positive thinking
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341: I'm a rounder...
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340: Discard your bank cards
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339: Shoganai...
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338: Respect your environment
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337: Strike Three - You're Enlightened
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336: Missing manners
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335: Goodbye jitensha
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334: War of the Words
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333: ENGLISH ONLY, please
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332: A menu carved in stone
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331: The Zen of Looking Busy
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330: Lyrical Phlegm
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329: Rock harder, Japan
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328: Noise Deficiency
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327: Chopstick Diplomat
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326: Game over
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325: Grown pains
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324: The Price of Fame
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323: A Customary Affair
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322: Robber barons
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321: Tegami Or Not Tegami
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320: The Garbage Men
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319: Holidaze
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318: Box your ears
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317: The winter of my discontent
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316: The Bells
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315: The Big Tokyo Trash Mystery
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314: The Kamikaze Spirit
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313: Movie Mania
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312: Geek parade
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310: Lower Mathematics
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309: Escalator clots
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308: Sky's the limit
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307: Bring on the studmuffins
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306: Burning Rubber
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305: Fishy Business
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304: The Invisible Gaijin
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303: Talk work only
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302: From kotatsu, with love
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300: Why 2K?
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ISSUES 350-381
ISSUES 250-299

ISSUES 233-249