The other day I was invited to a BBQ skate jam by some friends at a place called 海風公園 (Umi-Kaze-Kouen) which translates into Ocean Wind Park. The skateboard park is right next to the ocean and is a very refreshing place to go to. When I started skating, I could already feel an exciting sense of freedom being there and was having a blast doing what I was doing and then I looked up, took out my head-phones, and noticed a bunch of kids watching and clapping. They came up to me and started talking to me right away, asking me how to do some freestyle tricks.
I was surprised to see that the two girls standing to my left in the picture named Kokona and Mizuki were already able to do some freestyle. The two of them were usually skating next to each other doing some footwork and some incredibly stylish 360’s. I found out later they learned from some of the other freestyle locals at various parks in Japan. That’s the awesome thing about kids is that they are excited to learn and have lots to say regardless of what you might look like. The thing is, being a foreigner in Japan (especially if your non-Asian) you will usually be subject to one of two things by people you run into for the first time.
Some people will be scared to talk to you and may try to avoid you. This isn’t because they are being racist (actually foreigners here are treated very well), it’s mostly because they are worried you might ask them a question in English and they simply don’t know how to reply as most of the people here haven’t opened an English textbook since High-school or University. However, if you start to speak with them in Japanese or at least try, they will feel much more comfortable with talking with you. Which them brings me to the next thing that will likely happen.
No matter how much Japanese you speak, about half the time you will be treated like a baby. All I have to say is “Konichiwa” with a short introduction and it’s like a get a standing ovation. It sounds nice and everybody means very well, but believe me, it gets old fast. Once you start to get to know the person more and not be just another acquaintance however, that does change eventually and people will just talk with you normally.
The great thing about kids though, is that they see past all of this and just talk to me normally.
Regardless of the things I mentioned above, Japan is an amazing country and I love it here. Everybody means well and even if you have these things happen to you when your in Japan, it’s never out of hate. I never like to use the term racism for these situations as I feel like that word has a lot of hate behind it. Friendly misunderstandings or misconceptions are definitely the best way to put it. The best thing I can do is take it all and stride and have a good time with it. There are definitely lots of interesting stories that have come from these misconceptions some people have of foreigners, but that’s for another blog entry. Until then, thanks for reading and take care you guys.