Am I invisible? – A seemingly reasonable question for people living in big cities like Tokyo.
As any foreigner in Japan will tell you within moments of setting foot in the country, you are far from being invisible in Japan. Even in a major metropolis like Tokyo which is full of international restaurants and claims to be aiming to be a larger part of the global market, foreigner (or gaijin as they are referred to by so many of the Japanese around) are still stared at on a daily basis.
We are stared at, even monit0red in so many everyday situations. Japanese people watch us as we walk down the street, or stare at us as we sit on a train. Our neighbors will monitor our every move to make sure that we are separating our garbage correctly and that we are putting it our on the right day in the correct spot. Even friends and family of friends watch us in awe and amazement as we masterfully display our capabilities in using the ancient device known as Chopsticks. And even Police will ask us to stop so they can check our bicycle registration or bags, just because.
Nearly every minute of every day (that we are around people at least), we are being watched, monitored, and even judged by the Japanese people around us.
So why is it that Japanese people seem to think that they are completely invisible?!?!
Not sure what I’m talking about?…
Even if you have been in Japan (especially a big city like Tokyo or Osaka) for a short time, I challenge you to think back to how many times you have seen the following things happen right out in public:
(and I’m not talking about a quick clean and wipe but rather a full-on gold hunt)
For more on this, check out Japanese Gold Diggers.
(everything from sleepy people on the train to drunk salary-men on the streets)
Check out – Sleepy Japanese People, Don’t Sleep on Me (>_<)
Blatant crotch scratching
Or even someone simply touching their crotch repeatedly for no reason
And if I had to dig into the deep and dirty, I could even go as far as sexual harassment on trains.
Most of these people really aren’t that subtle or secretive about it. Sometimes it’s so open and obvious, that its hard to believe that its happening right in front of your eyes. (For a more in-depth example of what I’m talking about check out my post about the 14-year-old pervert)
Most, if not all of these behaviors (and more that I haven’t listed) are visible all around us and are so blatant that with enough time in Japan, it’s easy to forget that these things are not normal. If you were to ask a Japanese person what they think about seeing someone pick their nose or scratch their magic area in public, you may be surprised to see them shrug it off with a laugh and a “well, that’s Japan“.
Now, while its fair to assume that in a very crowded area, people tend to feel more of a sense of anonymity and get the feeling that nobody is looking at them, this only really accounts for a few of these actions….
But what about the 19-year-old Yankii standing and talking to 5 of his friends while he gives his **** a good scratch-a-roo?!?!
Years ago while hanging out with a group of street-racers here in Tokyo, there was a guy who it didn’t matter where he was, who he was talking to, or what he was doing, he just seemed to feel the need to give himself a good old rub. At first I kind of assumed he was itchy (that would have been the logical conclusion anyway) but over time it became more and more apparent that he just really liked touching himself…
What really threw me for a loop is that nobody seemed to care or even notice (O.o)
And while this is a somewhat extreme and even rare example, I find myself wishing that I could say he was the only person I ever saw do this…
I will tag in here, that Japan is not entirely unique in this sense. I would be hard pressed to try and claim that you wouldn’t see similar things in any other city in the world. In fact, if you were to go to NYC, I am sure you would see a range of actions that would blow you mind, but this is not the U.S.A Rants, it’s The Japan Rants!
And so I put the question that every Japanese person in Tokyo should be asking, flat on the table:
Am I invisible?