Years ago I was wandering around a residential neighborhood in Osaka, Japan looking for a restaurant that was recommended to me. Far away from places that tourists might frequent, the natives were shocked and dismayed at this tall foreigner in their midst. I had been to Japan often enough that the double-takes, stares, and whispers didn't bother me anymore, but the feeling of "not belonging" was always there.
As I tried my best to navigate Japan's bizarre address system and find the building I was looking for, I ran across a young boy standing outside a small group of people. Not wanting to alarm anybody, I smiled at him and picked up my pace a bit so I could pass by. But escape wasn't so easy. Mouth agape, the boy asked if I was a "gai-jin" ("foreign person") as I approached.
All conversation by the group of people stopped immediately as they turned and looked at us. A couple of them had faces frozen in horror, as if I were going to eat the kid or something.
"Yes," I replied. "But I'm a friendly monster, so it's okay."
Hearing a foreigner speaking Japanese is usually cause for confusion. But once that wore off, a few smiles and guffaws escaped the crowd. Then a 20-something man piped up in his wonderful Japanese directness and asked "Why are you here?"
"I am looking for a restaurant," I said, as I held out a slip of paper with the address written on it.
After a quick look, the man replied "It's there!" and pointed across the street, one block down.
I thanked him for his help, retrieved the address with a slight bow, then started to walk down the street... only to have the man walk alongside. Apparently he decided to accompany me to my destination and make sure I arrived safely. But that wasn't all. When I glanced behind me, I noticed that the entire group was following us. Albeit slowly... and at a distance.
It was a surprisingly uncomfortable situation but, fortunately, it didn't last long. A few minutes later we arrived, so I thanked the man again and said goodbye. Across the street, the group of people were waving at me, so I waved back with a quick bow and escaped into the restaurant.
After dinner I poked my head out to see if they had waited for me, but they were gone.
I guess even friendly monsters end up alone eventually.
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What an interesting story. Have you experienced a similar reaction to foreigners in any of the other places around the world you’ve visited?
David thank you for sharing this,accomplishing another language is amazing I am truly envious. The story made me smile and my heart sing, I felt like I was there with you.
Friendly monster… great story.
I hate to think how long they would have followed you for if they had been waiting :p