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RANT 'N' RAVE

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 rant@tokyoclassified.com

Metropolis Online
RANTS AND RAVES:
349: Life in the cycle lane
Playing chicken with a ladybike
348: Daisuki na Tokyo
Tokyo's my favorite!
347: Nihongo dake!
Why am I not fluent in Japanese yet?
346: People make the city
The beauty of Tokyo's people
345: Cross Training
Commuting by train in Tokyo
344: Yellow Line Fever
A guide for the blind... and a pain in the neck
343: Welcome to Tokyo
What did you bring me?
342: Positive thinking
Three reasons why we love Japan
341: I'm a rounder...
Veterans of Japan vs. Japan rookies
340: Discard your bank cards
The labour of replacing lost bank cards
339: Shoganai...
It can't be helped
338: Respect your environment
Poluution problem in Tokyo
337: Strike Three - You're Enlightened
How omiyage ruins a vacation
336: Missing manners
No manners outside of Japan
335: Goodbye jitensha
Is stealing bikes a popular pastime in Japan?
334: War of the Words
English borrows from other languages too!
333: ENGLISH ONLY, please
Don't bother writing your name in Japanese
332: A menu carved in stone
No special requests for lunch!
331: The Zen of Looking Busy
The art behind faking work
330: Lyrical Phlegm
Japan's spitting dilemma
329: Rock harder, Japan
Big, bad and ugly concerts
328: Noise Deficiency
The unrelenting quiet that is not Japan
327: Chopstick Diplomat
Constant questioning = constant answering
326: Game over
Cutting off the game for regular scheduled program
325: Grown pains
The hooligan behavior of middle-aged salarymen
324: The Price of Fame
Young teen actors light up on-screen
323: A Customary Affair
The universal language of consumerism
322: Robber barons
JR steals from the rich.. and the poor
321: Tegami Or Not Tegami
Deny the letter to save money
320: The Garbage Men
Variations of the "salaryman"
319: Holidaze
Japan - Home of the lamest holidays in the world
318: Box your ears
Be the karaoke star you've always dreamed of
317: The winter of my discontent
No oden if it's spring please!
316: The Bells
Going insane from bells and voices
315: The Big Tokyo Trash Mystery
No garbage cans + too much garbage= a clean city?
314: The Kamikaze Spirit
The war may be over but the spirit lives on
313: Movie Mania
Laughing alone in the corner
312: Geek parade
What's going on with gaijin men?
311: Gleaming gomi
Rinse it out before you throw it out
310: Lower Mathematics
Teaching practical mathematical equations
309: Escalator clots
Blocking the flow of escalator traffic
308: Sky's the limit
Favorite channel on the hit list
307: Bring on the studmuffins
Thanks to the "Men looking for women"
306: Burning Rubber
Narrowly averting bicycle collisions
305: Fishy Business
The sushi wasn't dead
304: The Invisible Gaijin
When gaijins collide
303: Talk work only
The Japanese perception of idleness
302: From kotatsu, with love
A blanket covered electric coffee table
300: Why 2K?
The millennium bug ain't no big deal

ISSUES 350-381
ISSUES 250-299

ISSUES 233-249