Conversation 2/06/10: Are you 100% Japanese?

A conversation with my student over coffee at a Starbucks in Yokohama:

Me: So what did you do yesterday?

Student: I went shopping at Jiyugaoka.

Me: …in Jiyugaoka…

Student: Sou sou sou sou…in da ne.

Me: That’s good. So, what did you buy?

Student: I bought  nothing, but I meet…met a very nice woman.

Me: Really? In the store?

Student: Yes, she was shop staff…she want to meet you!

Me: She wants to meet me? Why me?

Student: Before, she live at…janakute  in Brooklyn.

Me: Really? But how does she know about me?

Student: I talk about you, of course.

Me: You told a stranger working in a shop in Jiyugaoka about me?

Student: Yes! She is very exciting. Me too!

Me: She was very excited, you mean.

Student: Yes yes yes yes yes.

Me: I’m sorry, but you told me to correct you every time. I can stop if you like…

Student: Yes, please, today. No fix my terrible English. I want to be like natural. Just today.

Me: Good idea.

Student: So, at the shop, ne. She see me in the shop and she say am I Hawaiian…

Me: Why?

Student: Because of my hair…it’s not usual hair for Japanese, very long, and my, how you say, sun tan?

Me: Oh, I see…go ahead.

Student: So she asked me am I…junsuina…pure…bleed, pure brood…how you say?

Me: Huh? How do you say what?

Student: For example…if your mother is a Japanese and your father is not a Japanese…like so…

Me: You mean Purebreed? Pure blooded?

Student: Sou sou sou sou sou. I tell her of course I’m junsuina nihonjin, I 100% Japanese…And she…

Me: I’m sorry to interrupt you, but…maybe I don’t understand correctly…a staff person in a shop asked you if you were 100% Japanese?

Student: Yes…all the time, you know. Because of my hair and….

Me: ….and your suntan. Yeah I got that.

Student: And she want to meet with you…what’s wrong?

Me: I was just thinking about the axis of evil…

Student: The…nani?

Me: No, the Nazis.

Student: Wakannai!

Me: It’s not important…and I’d be happy to meet her…why not?

Student: That’s wonderful! I will tell her…

Me: Can I ask you a question?

Student: Of course.

Me: Don’t you think that is a personal question?

Student: What question?

Me: About junsui…about your blood status, your pedigree.

Student: Ee! Personal?

Me: Yeah, VERY personal, I think. And very irrelevant, too. I mean, to a salesperson anyway.

Student: Irrelevant?

Me: Kankei nai.

Student: Sou deshou…demo, to Japanese not kankei nai. Not personal.

Me: Why?

Student: Wakannai

Me: Okay…well, let’s start the lesson, shall we?



16 Responses to “Conversation 2/06/10: Are you 100% Japanese?”

  1. February 8, 2010 at 10:00 am

    By the way I think that this story clearly shows that the Japanese are from Venus and we are from Mars 😉

    • February 8, 2010 at 2:25 pm

      Hey Chottom, funny. yep there are definitely some plantetary size differences in some areas. thanks for the shout!

  2. February 8, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    I actually had a very interesting experience with the same sort of thing. I had met a wonderful girl one night in Shibuya and things were looking good, like we might see each other again. As the night ended she had asked me my blood type. Me, not really understanding what she was trying to get at, just told her. She never responded to my e-mails and well never tried to contact me again. It was almost as if, despite the amazing night on the town, she was scared by my blood type. Apparently blood type is a strong indicator for how a relationships will work out in Japan. Am I right?

    • February 8, 2010 at 2:23 pm

      Hey Kuro-san,
      yeah it’s strong but I’ve never heard to that extreme. But what you’re talking about is the equivalent of a girl not calling you again because you’re a anal-ass virgo or a violent over sexed scorpio (these are the astrological stereotypes.) What my student was talking about is TOTALLY different. I hope you understand.
      thanks for the shout!

  3. February 8, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    “Student: Yes! She is very exciting. Me too!

    Me: She was very excited, you mean.”

    I always have to tell the girls that telling a bunch of boys that “I’m exciting” can be the beginning of a big missunderstanding 🙂

    Yabai yo!!
    I straighten them out 😉

  4. February 8, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    I’ve heard that they do ask a lot of what we would consider personal questions in Japan. I think for them it’s polite, cause their trying to show that they’re interested in you.

  5. 7 jen
    February 8, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    i’m not really sure if “at” cannot be used at all.

    i sometimes used like “.. was shopping at ‘building name'”

  6. February 8, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Reminds me a lot of classes I’ve had where I realize how casual racial differences are here.

    In Japan I’m constantly casually told how the different races and peoples are different, where such comments in America usually mean someone’s job.

    My favorite moment was the class that told me that Japanese people didn’t wear sunglasses because of their superior vision to westerners. The entire class nodded their (regular)glasses-wearing heads in affirmative, while I stared on in shock, lacking any sort of corrective eyewear.

    It’ll also come up whenever you mention Japan’s chances in a World Cup…

  7. 9 Cedric Domani
    February 8, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    She wasn’t talking about blood types but “pure Japanese blood”. Blood purity issues usually leads to …….

  8. 10 WC
    February 8, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    Wow. I can’t even imagine asking someone that if I knew them fairly well, and the student didn’t think it was personal at all…

    It seems like every week I learn another thing about Japanese culture that is amazingly different from anything else I’ve experienced.

    (As a side note, I finally got on lang-8 recently and my first correction was to turn my direct statement into an indirect one. That is going to take a lot of getting used to.)

  9. February 8, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    Sorry, Loco, I’ve been beaten into numbing submission. The shit just doesn’t faze me much anymore.

    Well, ok… it does.

    BTW, I’m at http://tokyofilter.com full-time now.

    Hope you don’t mind updating your blogroll.


  10. 12 Moogiechan
    February 9, 2010 at 12:08 am

    Wow. Just…wow. I’d think even an acquaintance would be uncomfortable asking such things, and that complete strangers like shop staff would never think of actually asking that. Shows what I know.

    I can’t even imagine what sort of conversation you’ll have with this woman so please let us know!

    About the sunglasses — I was told that Japanese think only shady people wear them. I’ve also been told that blue/grey/green-eyed people are more susceptible to eye damage from the sun than other people, which at least makes a little sense. The “superior vision” thing is new to me, and funny in a country that wears glasses at the rate that the Japanese do.

  11. 13 Aria
    February 11, 2010 at 3:45 am

    I guess it’s because I grow up in Hawaii, but this wouldn’t faze me at all. People would ask me all the time what my ethnicity is or if I’m mixed. The only thing that did faze me is when people from a certain ethnic background exclaim proudly that I look like I’m from their ethnic background.

    • February 12, 2010 at 4:54 pm

      I get that last bit a lot. I’m 1/3 British, 1/3 Dutch, and 1/3 Israeli, and I somehow look japanese, chinese, and mexican all at once… Wtf…

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