By Kevin Burns
Kintaro and the Gaijin Advantage 南足柄市、神奈川 I live 90 minutes south of Tokyo in a small town called Minami Ashigara. I often say, “Hello” to Kintaro. He speaks English, and he’s good at sumo with bears. I heard he won yesterday. There are few foreigners here. The only time I see a “gaijin” is when I look in the mirror. I am happy because Kintaro never calls me a “gaijin.” He calls me Kevin, which is great because I am just a person like you. I may look different, but I am really not that different. I have a heart; I love my children; I work hard and I like to play, too.
Are we so different? I don’t think so. Kintaro isn’t afraid of me, and you needn’t be, either.
Then some of the bad things about being a foreigner in Japan are that you get stared at, and some people don’t know how to act around you. They become very nervous and are sometimes fearful of you. But the good things are that often you are treated especially well, and can sometimes get into places for free, or get a special discount. You are also forgiven for many things. Often foreigners can bend the rules, and I like to call this the “gaijin advantage.”
There was the time I forgot my ticket to the NHL ice hockey game in Tokyo. My beloved Canucks were in town, and I thought my friend, Tadahiko, had both our tickets in his hand. He went through the ticket gate, and I followed without a ticket. The lady at the gate said something incomprehensible to me, and I simply said, “Sumimasen ga wakarimasen.” I continued walking into the stadium and asked Tadahiko for my ticket. He laughed. I said, “Seriously, where is my ticket?” and then he reminded me that he had given it to me a few months ago. I was shocked! I had just gotten in without a ticket. No one had tried very hard to stop me. The “gaijin advantage” had worked again.
One time when I was driving, a guy who was tailgating me sped around me and yelled at me. I was angry, too, and honked. Well, he stopped his car — blocking my path — got out and walked towards us. He was a big guy, too, and aggressive. He was fuming until he realized I was a foreigner. Then he changed from speaking very rudely to talking very polite Japanese — the Japanese you might use if you were speaking to Princess Masako. In a very sweet, polite voice, he said I should pull over if I were going to drive so slowly. This politeness was surprising coming from a school gang member — The “gaijin” advantage had struck again!
Kintaro and the Gaijin Advantage Vocabulary
足柄山のガイジン生活 get stared at じろじろ見られる
fearful of ~ ?を怖がって
get into places for free いろいろな場所に無料で入る
(be) forgiven for ~ ?を許される
bend the rule 規則を曲げる
NHL (= National Hockey League) 北米アイスホッケーリーグ
ice hockey アイスホッケー
remind ~ that … ?に…を思い出させる
speed (→ sped) around ~ スピードを上げて?を追い越す
yell at ~ ?に向かって怒鳴る
block one’s path ?の行く手を阻む
pull over 片側の車線に寄せる
school gang member 不良少年グループの人
The “gaijin” … again! また、「外人」の利点が効いた