Acts of retaliation #2: Joystick

A while back, in my efforts to maintain my sanity, I’d taken to avoiding looking at Japanese people by walking through the streets of Yokohama with my head down.

Sounds ridiculous, I know, but I’m dead-ass serious! I still do it, sometimes.

Enter, or sometimes even approach, a space currently occupied by Japanese and the atmosphere palpably changes. The Japanese body language of uneasiness ensues everywhere you look.  If I enter a confined space like a train car or an elevator, at best, the atmosphere becomes something akin to the atmosphere of a room where everyone is catching everyone else up on the latest bit of nasty gossip and it’s about me. I enter and the people around me transform into stiff and self-conscious caricatures of themselves. Faces turn from joyous to grim, or freeze into a plasticity that is painful to watch. That’s on a very good day. Typically, though, the space becomes a classroom and I’m a notoriously strict teacher who has been known to occasionally behead students in his immediate vicinity with no provocation; a mortified hush comes over the trembling student body as they silently pray to exit the classroom in the same condition they entered: with their heads intact.

The overall effect is it leaves me feeling like such a ruiner; the rain on the Japanese parade, the fog creeping over the hanabi, the typhoon threatening the hanami season. It’s a disheartening feeling because you’d like to ideally have just the opposite effect or, after you’ve been here a while, just to be ignored. It’s also a sickening feeling because you know it really has nothing to do with you personally. It’s spawned from an ignorance you have very little hope of addressing and there’s  little or no recourse. It’s an unavoidable aspect of  life in Japan. One of those syouganai things that require patience to the Nth degree.

That’s why I resorted to keeping my head down as often as I could. And, you know what? It actually helped a lot!

Back in NY, people who walk with their heads down or avoid looking at people are flagged as shady, dodgy, and potential evil-doers. Or suffering from some kind of mental derailment. But, here it’s quite the opposite. People tend to avoid eye-contact as well as any kind of confrontation or conflict as a matter of course.

I found that keeping my head down served two purposes. One, it impacted the behavior of Japanese people significantly.  A good number of Japanese people, it seems, feel better if they believe that they are flying below or above my radar; invisible as ostriches with their heads in the sand. The difference between those whose presence I acknowledge with even the merest glance and those I go out of my way to avoid acknowledging whatsoever is measurable. The behavior I mentioned above is reduced by at least half. They can walk past me with a reduced concern for their well-being.

The second purpose walking around looking like a mental patient (from my perspective) serves is if I’m not paying attention to them, then, if I really try hard, it is unlikely I’ll see the actions  they are almost certain to take to indicate their discomfort with both being seen by me and being in my vicinity and, consequently, I feel a lot less like a pariah and a killjoy on a daily basis.

It works like a charm usually!

However, walking around like this did not come natural to me at all. I mean, I’m not a confrontational person per se, but I don’t shy from it, either. And, conflict…well, it’s my belief that the best stories are derived from conflict (at least that’s what my writing teacher used to say) so why in the hell would I avoid it when I’m endeavoring to be a solid writer?

As I walked around, looking like I’d lost my winning lottery ticket somewhere, I’d ask myself questions like if they’re ignorant and xenophobic then why should I care what they think and do? I’d have arguments in my head. Part of me defending them, echoing the excuses they always spew in my ear like: our culture is homogeneous and we are shy and we can’t speak English etc, etc. And another part of me would argue on behalf of my creative self reducing Japanese, by virtue of overwhelming evidence, to simple statements like: If it slithers and hisses and sheds its skin like a snake, then it’s a snake.

But, whenever I could stop playing the blame game and take a recess from the courtroom drama playing out in my head, I’d think seriously, and rather selfishly, about my life here and the impact it was having on my character. I’m a fairly proud person and a really observant one. So, I had to make a decision: shall I keep my head held high and endure, or keep my head hung low and evade?

The idea of keeping my head down, thereby denying myself the visual stimulation that spurs my creativity, in order to appease ignorant people, was not only stupid, I’d concluded, but worse: counterproductive and counter-creative. Like a paparazzi photographer scared to take pictures of people without their consent. So, little by little, I started lifting my head again, and every time I did I told myself, “you can handle this. This is nothing. grandma went through worse. Take it like a man!”

The bombardment of offenses would still disturb me, somewhat, but the knowledge that I was going to use these emotions to spur creativity soothed me. Yes, it took a bit of soul searching but eventually I decided that this kind of ignorance I would not encourage nor reward, nor would I let it mold me into a bitter, cynical person. I decided I would face it head-on. They say whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (god, I love cliches) so I started working on ways to keep my head up, to not let them beat me.

It was at this time that I stumbled upon something that made keeping my head up a little more fun.

I realized, quite accidentally, that I had the power to manipulate Japanese people into performing some pretty bizarre behavior simply by being near them.

One day, I was walking through Yokohama Station on my way to work, with my head held purposely up, exposing my chin, hoping it was not made of glass. A man was coming towards me. Our eyes met for a moment. I could see the recognition and the fear, the desire to evade, seize him. My temper flared a little. On his current path we wouldn’t walk into each other but he would pass dangerously close to making physical contact with me (our arms might brush or maybe our briefcases would brush one another’s) and this was apparently too close for his comfort. He suddenly stopped, looked around as if to non-verbally say ‘now, how the hell did I get here?’ Like he’d been beamed to his current location without his knowledge.  Then, just as suddenly, he displayed the body language of  “oh, I know where I am now! I need to go that way!” That way was out of my path…he darted that direction. I see this behavior at least 5-10 times a day so, though it vexes me, it hardly surprises me. However, in his hasty detour, he ran smack into a woman, dislodging her purse from her arm and almost knocking her over. I laughed out loud. This was something that happens occasionally but I never used to get much of a kick out of it. That day I found it hilarious, though. It felt like instant karma.

He apologized to her and kept moving. I tracked him visually, watched him make a another sharp turn back onto the path he’d detoured from a few feet past me. The woman had continued on her way, too.

That got me to wondering…if I shifted directions at just the right time could I cause the person trying to avoid coming near me to crash into another person? Could I actually cause a collision? Certain conditions had to be met for it to be possible, of course. First of all, it had to be a fairly crowded space. Secondly, the person had to be headed towards me at a fairly rapid clip. Thirdly, the person had to be of a mind to avoid me, as opposed to one of over a dozen other ways Japanese display their discomfort at the potential impending graze against me.

And, there had to be a third person…so the timing had to be impeccable.

I decided to give it a shot. The next day, as expected, I met eyes with an approaching salaryman…but he turned before I could find a third person. He only turned slightly, and not very abruptly, like if he were avoiding a puddle. A couple of days later a woman was coming my way and our eyes met. Fear. She stopped, and spun around slowly, timing her spin perfectly with my passing  so that our eyes would never meet again yet she could confirm I had passed at the tail end of her spin, and that she was once again safe to go about her business in the gaijin-free world that existed only in her warped mind. It’s a pretty drastic maneuver I unfortunately know all to well. I get it at least 10 times a day, but that day I did the unexpected. Just as I was passing her I stopped. When her eyes came around to confirm that I had passed, there I was behind her. She liked to have jumped out of her skin! I looked off as if I had stopped to see something off to the left. I didn’t even acknowledge her alarm. Then I continued walking.

This was going to be harder than I had anticipated.

It was a week of practice and failures before I was able to get to the next level in this game I had created. Nintendo, step aside. It’s Ningendo! (ningen means human) A man was coming my way. Our eyes met. He becomes a mask of utter disgust.  I looked for a crash dummy. Another man was approaching from his left…I veered right abruptly placing myself on a line that would take me to a kiosk and would make our passing that much closer. The disgusted man veered left suddenly and bumped squarely into the third man. I think their foreheads collided! Yatta ze! (I’d done it!)

I’d become a human joystick in a not-so virtual reality game!

Though I got a kick out of turning their xenophobia against them I didn’t like the idea of  involving an innocent person. So, I wondered  if I could make the offending person walk into an obstacle like a wall, or even stumble and fall, or something like that?

Well, it’s only been a a year or so since I started my game and I don’t play too often. Only when I need to release a little steam. And I’ve yet to make anyone walk into a wall or stumble or fall. I haven’t reached that level, yet. There have been several unintentional collisions, though.

And I relish each one.



PS: I’ve written, and am in the process of revising, a novel. It’s unrelated to my experiences in Japan. If you enjoy my writing and have a little free time please check out: Real Gods require Blood. I’ll be posting it chapter by chapter.

Thanks in advance

38 Responses to “Acts of retaliation #2: Joystick”

  1. December 30, 2008 at 12:24 am

    I long ago decided to not worry about it. I get looked at or glanced at but I do not see any fear and most people go about their business without any other reaction or care. And this is in a small town where there are almost no foreigners whatsoever.

    • 2 Locohama
      December 30, 2008 at 1:12 am

      Hey Tornado-san,
      Consider yourself lucky you don’t see fear. Fear from people you’ve never harmed for no other reason than ignorance really sucks. If it was just looks or glances I could ignore them without any problem. But when 5-10 people a day jump out of their skin or run or any number of other ways they show their discomfort, well, it can get a bit much sometimes, and it takes a little more effort not to lose it.
      But, I think I’ve got it under control. (-:
      Thanks for the shout


    • 4 Locohama
      December 30, 2008 at 2:46 am

      hmmm….maybe I placed to much emphasis on eye-contact. Because my sunglasses make little difference. People still behave the same. Only if I don’t look will I not see it which is why I took to keeping my head down initially. I guess it’s like that question about the tree falling in the woods making a sound. Anyway, nowadays I just roll with it as much as I can. I get stronger everyday (-:

      But, thanks for the suggestion Zen-san,


  2. 5 Mo(NL)
    December 30, 2008 at 3:16 am

    Yo Loco,
    Nice one….

    A lot of times people struggle with their own demons, If they like to see you as if you are a Ogre ( like Shrek , but better looking one 🙂 ) the let it be there problem…Your the king of that Jungle en everybody fears you …so what…….I think a lot of those people struggle with their own demons. Fuck it! 🙂 . As long as you are not rude..end the are acting RUDE (simple minded) …ho is a better person.I think you would Win for sure.

    How many Japanese friend do you have. end how do people react then( in the streets,bus,subway ,shops, at movies. you name it) ….especially if you’re with your girlfriend ;p .

    Please don’t let theme get you down….( even it’s mentally heavy) there are worst things than being ignored or looked at ( i speaking from my one experience, as a refugee in Holland, live was hard, but me and my family managed it and conquer d a lot of fear and difficulties. thanks to the neighbours and family .

    As long as you have a group of (friends ) people that like you and support you than there are no Difficulties. only live itself 🙂 .. enjoy your live bro !

    Happy New Year

    MO ( and not Mzzzzzl 🙂 )

    • 6 Locohama
      December 30, 2008 at 3:30 am

      Mo-san, thanks for the shout!
      Yep, got a handful of friends and a girl (-: And if I’m with them the vibe is totally different. Unless I’m with my girl. Then they are giving her a dirty look like she’s disgusting for being with a gaijin which really makes me want to drop kick someone. But I keep it together. Man, you have to be here I guess to see what I’m talking about. I wish I had a hidden camera to record some of this shit. Maybe I’ll try to rig one somehow…
      Thanks again for the shout!!!


  3. December 30, 2008 at 10:40 am

    Hahahaaaaaaaaaa way to cope, that’s hilarious… I’d SO like to give it a try, but I don’t think I’ll be able to get any of them fearing me unless I put on some crazy warrior face makeup or something.

    • 8 Locohama
      December 30, 2008 at 4:21 pm

      Justin, as always, thank for the shout! (-:
      Yeah, (unfortunately (or fortunately) I don’t need a mask or makeup to play…the skin I’m in seems to be ample.


  4. December 30, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    I have a question – I hope it does not make you more loco because I am not at all dismissing your experience but I wonder if they have eye/physical contact with other Japanese people they do not know? I have never been to Japan (that’s probably obvious). But I do wonder if maybe their normal behavior is not created for you but exaggerated when they see you. I have heard that my girls especially will get a lot of attention because they are blond/blue eyes in India. It will be very weird for all of us.

    • 10 Locohama
      December 30, 2008 at 10:24 pm

      Actually maybe I should go back and edit out the eye-contact part. it’s not really relevant to my main point. If they merely avoided eye contact with me I wouldn’t mind at all. It’s all the other behavior they engage in to indicate that they don’t want to be near me that’s troublesome. I don’t think the behavior has any connection to eye contact whatsoever. The eye contact part merely means they see me. Poor writing on my part raises that question in your mind. As far as physical contact, well, they don’t shake hands and kiss cheeks and stuff like Americans and others but they don’t make detours to avoid brushing against each other either. If they did it would be impossible to go anywhere because everywhere (at least in Yokohama) is pretty crowded. no, what I described is pretty much reserved for foreigners only…or perhaps Japanese people with leprosy or elephantiasis (-:

      No, you’re not making me Loco (-: only helping me with the editing so thanks a lot

      Yeah, I’m sure India will be a real trip!


  5. 11 Afro Samurai
    December 31, 2008 at 10:26 am

    Thanks for your insight and your blog all together. I want to relocate to Japan one day and reading your blog really gives me a balanced description.

    You don’t blow smoke but then again you highlight the good and the bad.

    Keep up the good work.

    Upon moving to Japan do you feel its better to stay in foreigner friendly places or to engulf yourself in other areas that might not be as freindly to foreigners.

    i ask this because some might feel that by moving to foreigner friendly places, you might miss out on something and not get the true Japanese experience.

    • 12 Locohama
      December 31, 2008 at 10:44 am

      Afro Samurai, thanks for the shout!
      There are no real foreigner friendly places, to tell the truth. The whole country is simultaneously friendly and unfriendly to foreigners and it mostly depends on your outlook, and your tolerance and patience levels. There are certain areas where foreigners tend to live or play and these are known as “friendly” because the Japanese people in these areas are “accustomed” to seeing foreigners so they aren’t so apt to freak out or stare with mouth agape when they encounter you. But that my friend is the only definition of “foreign Friendly” I know of. There are no decidedly unfriendly places…I’ve never heard of any lynchings or stonings or anything like that so if I were you I would base my decision of area to relocate to based on what you’re looking to get out of your experience here. If you want to learn the language and quickly and understand the traditional culture and what not I recommend going to the country so you can immerse yourself more. If you’re looking to have fun, well the city would be best. I really can’t tell you (even after 5 years) what’s the TRUE Japanese experience, but i can tell you this much: It’s what you make it. (I guess that’s true of any place ne)

      Well, hope I’ve been helpful (-:
      And thanks again for the props…


  6. December 31, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Hey Loco- I wonder if this about you being black (you are right?) more than it is about being being just a foreigner, so a foreigner compounded by being black, pushing the xenophobes a little further in a direction a little more likely to find you fearful.

    I also wonder- do you dress in a scary way? Do people veer away from you when in a suit, or do you wear hip hop stuff, or throw gang signs, or are an especially big person, or something like that? I don’t want to sound stereotypical or anything like that, nor that any ‘blame’ should be assigned- I’m just trying to understand better why you’d see so much fear.

    For myself, and my friends- pretty much all of whom happen to be white- the problem is less one of being avoided and more one of being walked into. I don’t notice it so much, but some of my friends complain a lot about Japanese being completely ignorant of their own body position and trajectory, such that they will walk into someone plainly standing in front of them, brush them too hard, or fail to make way at all.

    So I judge- they are not generating fear, but you are. What is the difference?

    On another note- I applaud your decision to not draw innocent bystanders into your game of human collision chicken- very mature.

    • 14 Locohama
      December 31, 2008 at 11:30 am

      Thanks MJG I try to be grown up sometimes (-:

      As for your other question, well… That’s a difficult one. Thanks for asking. I’m sure it has something to do with race. I’m observant enough to note that the Japanese reaction to whites is significantly less fearful than their reaction to blacks. In fact, Japanese (a good number) clearly aspire to be white or to be accepted in what they feel to be a world where the top of the power hierarchy (at least until very recently) was almost entire white. And I’ve intuited the following to be their beliefs based on their remarks and behavior: on the upside: Success is white but cool is black, intelligent is white but creative is black, superiority is white but physical superiority is black, mental aptitude is white but spiritual aptitude is black, etc… On the downside: arrogance is white and danger is black, heritage is white and homelessness is black, hatred is white and savagery is black, Globalization spreading is white and disease spreading is black, war-mongering is white and whore-mongering is black, etc… It’s clearly the thinking of the majority of the people here (and I’ve interviewed enough to confirm this) and this would explain almost everything different about the black and white experience in Japan. I get positive attention because I’m cool (though I’m not so cool actually) and negative reactions because I’m dangerous (more so than when I first came here) (-: and so on. Who’s to blame? Who the hell knows! Perhaps everybody is to blame.

      The way I dress does have a mild impact, however, and so sometimes I do the camouflage thing and wear a suit occasionally, but my job does not require them and I hate them. Usually I dress pretty conservatively. Jeans (not hanging off my ass thank you very much) and…if you wear Timberland boots does that make you Hip Hop? Or a Kangol Fishing Hat? How about an Abercrombie and Fitch hoodie? What the fuck is hip hop anyway? (-:

      And I agree with you about the body position and trajectory ignorance. i see it quite a bit, but I RARELY get bumped into. Quite the opposite.
      I’m not so big 6’0, 200lbs give or take (-; (sorry I still don’t know metrics well (baka america-jin dakara) but i think it’s 180cm 91kilo. And I know the tendency to exaggerate here probably makes me appear to be the Incredible friggin’ Hulk, but I don’t tower over people and I’m looking into faces on the trains, not the tops of people heads, so I’m no freak (not even by Japanese height standards.)

      But, I do occasionally throw gang signs and wear my “colors” so maybe you’ve got a point there. Do Japanese have it in for gangbangers? Does the tattoo on the side of my face, a la Mike Tyson, have something to do with the fear factor I provoke? Have you heard something I Haven’t? (-:

      Seriously, though, the question about what’s the difference between who’s generating fear is an interesting one. If by generate you mean produce that sounds like a metaphysical question. Does it go to intention? I mean, I don’t intend to generate fear. And, I’m certainly not afraid of them…unless you mean I might be afraid of what their reaction to me might provoke from me thus I keep my head down occasionally.

      I gotta give that one a little more thought…

      Anyway, thanks again for the shout!!!You always engage me (-:


  7. December 31, 2008 at 11:37 am

    once again you are walking to think and I continue to enjoy your insights – I hope that 2009 gives you all the best! Happy New Year!

  8. January 1, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    ‘But, I do occasionally throw gang signs and wear my “colors” so maybe you’ve got a point there. Do Japanese have it in for gangbangers? Does the tattoo on the side of my face, a la Mike Tyson, have something to do with the fear factor I provoke? Have you heard something I Haven’t? (-:’

    lol- excellent.

    All the stuff you say about how J-folk view black vs. white definitely resonated- in that I’ve felt/noticed that before in people here. As for ‘what the hell is hip-hop’, hmm, I guess that’s a masked way of me asking- ‘do you dress like a gang-member, like the gang members we see in Hip Hop and Rap music videos?’ The Timbalands and hoodie, sure I suppose that goes some way towards that. You’re also young I take it, which can’t help (as the stereotype goes).

    Also 6 foot and 91 kilos is pretty big, maybe not so outstanding in the US sure- but here you’re bigger than about 90% of the population I’d say.

    So- I get it that you might provoke fear. Now, what to do about this. I suppose you’re already trying to deal with it, trying to will yourself not to do the ‘human joystick’ game, but maybe stop a minute and think. You are a big guy, you do provoke if not fear- then certainly unease. Are you going to blame the people who feel the fear? That’s kind of ridiculous. Fear is a visceral reaction, sure inputted via stereotype and a certain kind of education- but stereotype serves to protect us. If you had a young female J-friend and she was going to visit NYC, wouldn’t you advise her to watch out for certain types, avoid certain types if she could?

    It’s not entirely the same thing sure, I’m just trying to suggest stereotypes serve some purpose, we both know it, and so you bear some of the responsibility for the fear you generate, since you’re aware you generate it, and aware some of the things you do make it worse.

    What to do, well. You won’t undo the stereotype by ‘human joysticking’ people into each other, you’ll just make it worse- in which case you can hardly complain about it. If you want to do something larger to fix the problem, you’ve got two choices really, as I’m sure you know: just accept people are reacting instinctively in ‘fear’, but do nothing to reinforce the stereotype (no ningendo-ing them), or change their fear reaction by attempting to dress more conservatively and stop throwing gang signs all the time ;).

    • 18 Locohama
      January 1, 2009 at 8:45 pm

      Come on dude, give me some credit. They aren’t aware that they’ve been joysticked…geez. They just think in their ridiculous and unjustified haste to avoid me they injured themselves and perhaps another. Not my fault actually. I didn’t jump out at them. all I did was avert my course like anyone might do at any time for any reason. I would hope that they would walk away from the encounter feeling stupid for reacting in such a way. I’m actually trying to help them in my Loco way. If they actually walk away from this encounter thinking that it was my fault then they have some REALLY serious issues. I do not indicate in any way that what I’ve done is intentional. So, they have no way of knowing i was trying to cause the accident unless they’re psychic.

      No I wouldn’t tell her to watch out for certain types, sorry. I would say fear not for in NY you never friggin no where danger awaits or how it will look. It may be black, may be white, it might wear timberlands, it might wear oxfords…u get my point. But, I would warn her to avoid certain situations like arguments which may have been staged in order to distract, and those three-card monty guys too. (-: They took me for a couple of hundred one time )-: dem MFers!

      thanks again for the shout dude
      And Happy New Years!!!!

  9. January 1, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    Ah OK- I envisaged more of an aggressive thing- if not that, then I see it’s not so bad really.

    Happy New Year!

  10. 20 sputnik
    January 4, 2009 at 1:17 am

    As a white guy who went to Japan for only a short time, I didn’t see much of what you experienced. The only looks I got were ones of curiosity and sometimes amusement when I was riding my bike to school amid the hordes of Japanese school kids. I guess I should count myself lucky. It’s pretty sad how blatantly some Japanese give in to stereotypes (as in your case).

    Hopefully this coming year will see you losing less marbles!

  11. 22 Kanshenku
    January 4, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Being in Korea I understand a lot of what is going on with your experience. Koreans have a more accepting outlook to Americans, but when I ventured to the down Highway 1 to Busan, also called Pusan the P and B are interchanged here, I realized I wasn’t quite ready for the asian culture.

    Thanks to your insight I’m able to make a more rational decision about spending my time in Japan. Maturity takes time I’m not at the right level to spend my time within other countries, especially my favorite Japan. Once I return from my obligations in Korea and Italy I’m going to do a little soul searching of my own, get my education and whatnot.

    Thanks to your post I can understand and be a little more on top of things. To me it’s good to pass down the info, so I am very grateful.

    Keep things going, never give in.

    • January 4, 2009 at 11:58 am

      Hey Kenshenku, thanks for the shout!
      You’re welcome. Yeah, life in Japan is a helluva challenge, but in the end I think it’s a good proving ground, and definitely a good way to build up one’s resistance to overwhelming ignorance. It has been a real eye-opener for me. I was spoiled in NY, big city of buzz words like tolerance and diversity. Japan has given me a much greater appreciation for these terms. Sounds like Pusan/Busan was an eye opener for you. Well, nothing wrong with a little soul searching.

      Good luck in all your endeavors.


  12. January 12, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    I understand exactly what you are talking about.

    • January 14, 2009 at 9:28 am

      Free-san, I bet you do! A greaser in Tokyo! But, hell, whatchagonnado…can’t go changing everything you like about yourself just so people don’t dodge you, can you?
      Thanks for the shout, as usual
      Peace and hairgrease

  13. 26 Andy
    February 10, 2009 at 1:22 pm


    Laughed my a&& off at this. I get the same thing here. Maybe I am more sensitive to it since I am the definition of a suburban white guy, and never experienced the sort of bigotry at home that I have here. Thanks.

  14. 27 Frank
    March 3, 2009 at 3:04 am

    I am still a college student in Alabama. We have many Japanese students attending the college.
    I am friends with most of them but lately some of them have been avoiding me just like in you post. They were not always like that. What do you think could have happened?

    • March 3, 2009 at 5:50 am

      Well, if you’re black it’s probably your cologne…too strong
      if you’re white it’s probably your aftershave…too fragrant
      if you’re Chinese it’s probably jealousy…no one wants to meet their Creator until their dead.
      If you’re none of the above, it’s probably your imagination…people tell me that all the time
      How the hell should I know.??? All I know is it’s a great opportunity to get in some Ningendo (-;
      Remember the rules…don’t cheat. Just think “be the joystick, be the joystick” and you’ll have them crashing into lockers and trophy cases all over school.
      ganbatte, and let me know what you score


  15. 29 Frank
    March 8, 2009 at 5:23 am

    It worked. At first I could only herd some of them into certain places. With a little practice I got the hang of it. I managed to get one to crash into the school mascot and another to walk into into wet cement.

  16. June 17, 2009 at 5:56 am

    Loco, this is one of the most interesting blogs I’ve ever read. Thank you for your illuminating writing about your experiences in one of the most fascinating places on Earth. As an African-American living in New York and raised in Chicago, I couldn’t help but be interested in your adventures, and they do leave me with one question: When you consider the immense cultural history of Japanese nationalism, mixed with the intense suppression of individuality that seems to typify the average Japanese salaryman, do the behaviors seem less focused on you? Growing up I had many friends who would tell me that if a white person or even a black person uses the N-word toward me, that I shouldn’t let it bother me because I know that word does not describe me. In other words; does it help if you make their reactions about them and their culture rather than about the “Courtroom Drama” playing in your head? I know this is an oversimplification of a very difficult experience but I was immediately struck by your plight and by the need to figure out a solution for myself if I were ever to find myself in that situation. Another friend of mine, also African-American, has had different experiences there, most notably with Japanese women, who seem to climb all over him from the minute he steps off the plane. I.E. he gets laid there a lot. But… he’s also not the most sensitive guy on the planet, so he may not notice or care about the responses of the folks around him. In any event, this blog is fascinating. Can’t wait to read more. I hope my questions don’t offend you or minimize what I’m sure is a very difficult situation.


    Michael Boatman

  17. June 17, 2009 at 8:32 am

    Boatman san, thanks for the thoughtful reply!
    I think your friend has the the one and only solution: total desensitization.
    Japan is no place for racially sensitive or socially observant. If you have visions of Hello Kitty, Anime and Temples than you’ll enjoy it immensely, if you care about how people react to you than you will not.
    My writing is fueled by my sensitivity so I dare not turn it off or even down, and it’s given depth by my powers of observation, reason and attention to detail, so I dare not stop looking and having that courtroom drama in my mind. It’s a Catch-22!
    Thanks for your concern though…I’m sure I’ll be fine. This is going to make a great book, I hope.
    Besides sometimes there just isn’t an answer…or perhaps I’m asking the wrong questions…I’m on my final approach to an epipihany (-:

  18. July 15, 2009 at 5:52 am

    well just to spice things a bit more; I have to dissagree with this part, eye-contact is an importan part of the daily life in japan, it really surprissed me all the time that ýou need not to speak any word, you just make a quick eye-conversation and know if you need to stop, continue or whatever the circunstance demands, and feels its part of the flow, I mean if you notice people rarely bump on foot or vehicle over there.

    yet ofcourse in all cultures we have the shy types, or the I cannot help myself but to stare at you, that we must try not to mistake them with what loco has write about so much here.

    I should mention that sometimes they will also try to catch a glimpse of ones eyes, maybe as if to see if we are aware of what, where, how and when we are. becuse some of them even if they don’t like us will feel compelled to help you. I mean the only time this didn’t work for them is when they ussually thought I was lost. But this I think is one of their tipical stereotypings and/or my not so bright appearence xD (LOL)

    ofcourse I wasn’t an expert either…

    yet this eye-contact is almost impossible in our occidental culture, either people will feel threathened or feel this is a challange of some sorts, so for any eye-to-eye contact either you know the person or are at a setting/environment that won’t arouse any missunderstandings. Need an example? “hey what are you looking at me? you have a prob…? etc.

    so this makes me jump into the guys that got bumped, well you suffer the opposite of fear, to show no fear (LOL).

    you most likely got bumped intentionally, its just so damm hard to catch them on the act, so you need to pay attention. How do I now that, well besides try to bump me when riding bycicle, a guy who only stand briefly next to me to fart me x* , and just plain face to face confrontation.

    But I still love those J-guys, here its much worse cause you know someone will carry a gun and/or even be intoxicated of some sorts.

  19. 34 corvus cornix
    October 9, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    Although been to Japan for only 2 weeks I experienced what you described in the first paragraph all the time (although I look like the usual mid 20s whitey tourist) but you certainly have a way with words, you nailed the atmosphere part. My most extravagant experience was on a late evening train, it was fairly empty with no-one standing, so us two (my brother) decided to sit down near this 50ish guy…we obviously bothered him and messed up his chi as he suddenly got up and acted as if he had discovered he was on the wrong train and basically ran out. We froze and looked at each other and the people around us dumbfounded, the JP guys near seemed to have this look on their faces that could only described as “well, what did you expect, you’re gaijin”.

    All that said I believe it’s only a really mild version of xenophobia, compared to many other places on earth it’s nothing. Also, people tend to object to this kind of treatment but consider this – if Japanese people do start behaving differently toward foreigners, there will be other things that change as well, nothing is constant. I believe gaijin living in Japan tend to overreact to these kind of things after some time since the expectancy is that “if I fit in and adjust, so should they”, though it’s only natural. I don’t agree with your (psychological) aggression toward these mild-xenophobes but I do understand why you do it.

    Great blog, hope your book does well.

  20. 35 Cedric Domani
    November 20, 2009 at 8:54 am

    As an African living in a small town on Shikoku Island I can relate. I’ve been here 9 months and depending on the day and my mood I can more or less tolerate their mild-acts of xenophobia.

    I must point out that I travelled quite a bit in my life (for school and work mostly) and I came to the conclusion that everybody is racist and xenophobic to a certain point and that there are worse places to be as a black man than Japan. Trust me.

    In Japan it’s all about visual cues and keeping up with apperances. I do get treated better when I’m in a suit compared to hip hop clothes (although I look more like an Ojii-san with my beanie). And the days I’m in a good mood or smiling or in “whatever-mode” people around me are less tense and sometimes even talk to me *gasp*. And this is in a small town with only 3 other black people….

    Nice blog, I love your writing style. I’ll drop in every once in a while to drop my 2 yen in if you don’t mind.

    PS: I won’t lie: I never leave home before listening to M.O.P first. It gives me courage. heh.

  21. 37 lisa
    December 10, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    i think… people in my country (not Japan) act the same way towards blacks too, but not ‘orang putih’ (meaning white people). they act extra nice, extra friendly towards white tourists when they’re asking for directions or so, to promote hospitality.

    people try not to go to colleges rumoured to have a lot of blacks from Africa, because they’re associated with robberies and rape cases around college areas and in the country. motto: avoid blacks at all cost. the only colleges with blacks are of creative kind, like arts and the likes.

    my friend even commented she’ll not choose a certain college as her examination centre for her course as that college has a lot of Africans. i heard a lot of people degrading them as ‘negros’. they’re called ‘orang hitam’ (black people).

    to me, whatever kind of skin colour doesn’t matter. the most powerful man in the world is a black–i admire President Barack Obama.

    ignorance is not an excuse. homogeneous society is not an excuse. Japan is one of the most technology advanced countries in the whold world and yet they act this way. i found it excessive and so rude the way they act in Hawaii, in the post u wrote. Hawaii is America?! gosh!

  22. 38 Cedric Domani
    December 13, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    First of all, my apologies to all my American friends.

    After living in America for a 3rd my life (I’m 34), I used to think that Americans were the most ignorant people I’ve ever met, but the more I travel, the more I find out it’s not the case, so for that I apologize.mea culpa.

    Lisa’s comment on Africans in her country (somewhere in southeast Asia I assume) struck a chord. I realize that attitudes towards blacks/ Africans in some part of the world are not only unintelligent but so backwards too (I mean, “raping, stealing blacks” ? C’mon that is no 17th century….) why would someone leave their country to go all the way to Asia (on a scholarship I assume) to study at a university level only to end up raping and robbing local people? That sounds like the usual mix of bovine manure and xenophobia. It’s insult not only to blacks, Africans but anybody with an ounce of intelligence.

    What I find deplorable is that when THEY come to Africa to extract oil and diamonds and other resources necessary to the functioning of their economies, they bring the same kind fucked up racist attitudes with them. I always think that us Africans are too lenient and patient with other people’ s nonsense. Maybe we need new leadership…..


    PS: as an African student who studied at an American university (business, not arts) I often planned on raping and robbing locals after classes but instead chose to smoke weed and watch football. You’d be pleased to know that I did graduate (with a business degree, not arts) and no one was raped and robbed…by me.

    @ lisa: Spread respect and understanding. Spread the word. Thank you. 

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Copyright © 2010 Loco in Yokohama / All Rights Reserved

Please know that this blog is my original writing and may not be reproduced in any way without the expressed written permission of the author (that's me!) Thanks!

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Everybody is a star
I can feel it when you shine on me
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Not the one you feel you need to be
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