So, as you may or may not know, Monday is part of my week-end (Saturday is not) and this afternoon I was downtown with 康代. It actually was her first time downtown since 華’s birth.

Just as we were getting out of Marugamemachi Green, the newest shopping mall that just opened downtown (and that my friends, a shopping mall that opens downtown is an important thing! Not for consumerist reasons, but for revitalizing downtown reasons) I saw a Westerner on a bike on the other side of the street, ready to cross and head towards us.

Nothing special really. However, the guy was visibly not from here and traveling on his bike, as I could see a lot of baggage on the back and he simply looked like a traveler.

The thing is that this morning I randomly stumbled upon the blog of a French guy who’s currently doing the Shikoku Pilgrimage on a bike.

Could that be him?

That would be a funny coincidence.

I hesitated for a second and then walked to him and asked him if he was French. He was not. He was American. I told him my story (the one about the blog this morning) and he told me his: he’s riding his bike from Osaka to Hiroshima via Shikoku. Impressive, especially when he told me he was on Awajishima this morning.

The thing is that he had just arrived in town, hence the reason why he looked a bit tired, and as he usually camps at night, he was worried about where to sleep tonight because of the sort-of-typhoon coming our way (I had barely heard about it, maybe I should check the local news sometimes). So he basically was looking for a 24 hour internet café.

I advised him one of the Funkytimes in town, and I hope he understood my explanations (it’s not exactly easy to give directions to any of the Funkytimes I know from where we were).

So, tonight, Sam from the US who lives in Hanoi and is currently traveling through Japan and Shikoku on a bike, I hope you’re going to sleep in a dry place and have a safe journey until your final destination.

And yes, I’m totally typing this for the very unlikely chance that he finds it so that I can know more about him and also tell him that I’m sorry I was not more helpful as we were in a rush and had to go.

This episode is a good reminder that I need to make myself new “non-business cards” for situations like this one.

Finally, that little anecdote reminded me of a conversation I had with my boss a few months ago. A conversation about the always awkward moment when you run into another Westerner in Japan (especially in places like Takamatsu, I’m sure things are different in cities like Tokyo or Kyoto).
I told him, that my take on the thing is that I feel stupid if I ignore the person because I obviously noticed them and it’s ridiculous to pretend not having noticed them. But I also feel stupid acknowledging them as I would ignore them under other circumstances (i.e. running into them not in Japan).
So as I am going to feel stupid either way, I’d rather acknowledge the person as it’s the more polite thing to do.

His take was slightly different. He told me that he always acknowledge because you never know what is their story, and then explained how he almost saved a woman’s life one day by simply saying hi to her. Unfortunately the story is a bit too long and it’s not mine, so I won’t share it with you here.

So, in any case, say hi or at least nod to the other Westerner that you run into in Japan, it’s simply called not being a jerk and a hypocrite.

As for you Sam from the US who’s riding your bike across Shikoku, I hope you’ll sleep in a dry place tonight and have a safe journey wherever you go.

 

Symbol Tower from behind.
(note that this picture is totally unrelated to the story)


  

6 thoughts on “Today in Downtown Takamatsu”

  1. Great story David and looking forward to hearing the one from your boss one day. I think it is just common courtesy to acknowledge another foreigner with a simple hi or just a nod of the head. I hate it when I walk down the street and the other person just ignores me. It is the polite thing to do as we are all just people in a foreign land.

    John

    1. Unfortunately I won’t tell the story. Not that I don’t want to, but I really don’t know enough details to make it a story I tell.
      Basically the woman was in a big distress, alone in Japan, with no money and not much of anything else (I don’t know why) and she didn’t dare to ask for anything, she probably didn’t even speak Japanese, and because my boss said hi to her, she felt that she had someone to ask for help and that’s what she did finally after probably several days not talking to anybody. That’s pretty much all I know/remember.

      1. If ever we hear British people in what’s clearly a confused or upset state in a shop or somewhere else, we always intervene to see if we can help with language problems or local infor. I think we’re hardwired to want to assist others, and the tribe mentality is there too.
        Fascinating to learn about Sam. He’s a dedicated cyclist and I bet he’s having a wonderful experience in Japan.

        1. Yeah, when in France, I alwys try to help English speakers when I hear them having trouble AND not being obnoxious (if they are, I pretend to not speak English or I’m very patronizing).

          The situation in Japan is a bit different though, as foreigners are scarce and obviously highly recognizable, even if they’re silent. And when foreigners run into each other, there’s almost always this awkward second where they wonder what they should do.

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