As some of you may know, the term “gaijin” is a Japanese word that refers to a foreigner that the Japanese don’t like. Although a derogatory term, I have fully embraced it as a joke, since humor is one of the most effective tools for neutralizing the power of things like it. I say this just so everyone knows that if I use the word gaijin I am doing so knowing full well what it means but also demonstrating that it has no ability to hurt me or others if we simply disarm it. With that intro out of the way, lets get to today’s writing piece.
Sometimes I joke about being a travel snob, but there is one way in which I sort of am. I cannot deny that it feels good to be the only western tourist in an area out here in Japan. It’s like I’ve found a little place that no other westerner knows about and I can brag about it when I get back home. When another (western) gaijin shows up or I arrive somewhere and find it already populated by gaijin, I sometimes feel strangely disappointed, and maybe even frustrated. Interestingly, I know I’m not alone in this feeling, as I’ve clearly seen it on my fellow gaijins’ faces when they arrive somewhere and then notice that I’m already there. They thought they had come across their own special spot in Japan, but nope, some other gaijin ruined it all for them by his mere presence. Psychologically, I’m guessing that this all goes back to the appeal of secret knowledge and that a lot of us want to feel like we’ve got a one-up on other people by knowing about a hidden place that others aren’t aware of. I’m unfortunately not above this level of pettiness yet, but hopefully by the end of the trip I’ll embrace the fact that it’s perfectly fine (and expected) to be seeing my fellow gaijin wherever I go on this trip.