Friday, November 01, 2013

Background Artists

I recently heard my buddy Deep Mikey L. get interviewed for a podcast on Notebook on Cities and Culture (the name of which never fails to remind me of the second Talking Heads album, though it really should remind me of Wim Wenders).  In the interview, Michael mentioned that the majority of his friends in Kyoto were Japanese.  This saddened me a bit.

I too once had my fair share of Japanese friends.  This was the usual state of affairs in the 'Nog, where amidst a population of over 100,000, a mere twenty or so were westerners.  And even most of that small number revolved in and out every summer.   I felt like I shared equal time on stage with my Japanese friends, as I lived out the performance that was my life there.  

I met my current wife a few months prior to my moving down to Kyoto in 2006.  Upon her return to Japan from a year spent in Canada, she had had the good sense to choose native English speakers as flatmates, in order to keep her language abilities up.  So it was that when I moved here, I joined a pre-made, foreigner heavy friendship base.  

Most of the Japanese people I know are students or teachers from the yoga world, or from my Takeuchi dojo, and I don't really know any of them very well.  We get along fine, and frequently share laughter, but I know next to nothing about them.

A part of this could be the conservative aloofness of the Kyoto native, a status bestowed only after a number of generations here. (Kyoto is the only place I've ever been where a person on a quiet street won't return a friendly greeting.)

And with some profound regret I feel that I am no longer sharing my experiences in this country with the people of this country, and that the Japanese I see rushing around me every day have taken on the part of mere extras.

On the turntable:  Thievery Corporation,  "Lebanese Blonde"
On the nighttable:  Charles R. Scott, "Rising Son"



Mikely L said...

"Kyoto is the only place I've ever been where a person on a quiet street won't return a friendly greeting."

People in my own apartment building won't return a friendly greeting!

ted said...

Perhaps it's because you hang out with too many foreigners.

Oh, wait a minute...

butuki said...

I'm surprised to hear that about Kyoto; I always thought it was Tokyo that had all the unfriendly people in Japan. I've never lived anywhere else in the world where you can see the same people every morning in your apartment building and never receive a greeting from them, even after you've greeted them.

I have close, native local friends everywhere in the world, except Japan. I've lived here all my life, and don't have a single close friend who knows me beyond mere chitchat. It's like Japanese have no interest in me, or if I do get an interest from a woman, then it is always in the context of having a romantic relationship. If it doesn't turn into something more then those women tend to forget me forever. Forget making friends with men here.

Which is strange. I consider myself a pretty friendly and outgoing person, easy to talk to, fluent in Japanese, and fun to be with. So what gives with the Japanese?