Making Glass | Outsider 外人Gaijin doesn’t fit in
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Outsider 外人Gaijin doesn’t fit in

21 Jul Outsider 外人Gaijin doesn’t fit in

Had a bit of an epiphany today and I know I’m not supposed to write this but I promised to try not to be a Hippocratic. this writing is what comes up comes out… thus the healthy disclaimer posted earlier. I’ve discovered a sort of power in I have in the land of the rising sun.

It’s the power of Gaijin. According to Wikkipedia, Gaijin is a Japanese word meaning “non-Japanese”, or “alien”. The word is composed of two kanji: gai (外), meaning “outside”; and jin (人), meaning “person” in other words , I don’t fit in.  Not just a Jew, in mass at the Vatican, more like a Mulatto at an Arian square dance. I’ve always had this power but I’ve always been able to be a bit of a chameleon that’s impossible here.

As politely as I try to  Speak  my dialect of Japanese, not just Aragato- Domo-Aregato- Goziomos …Bow  respect traditions & social boundaries (feet are the dirtiest part of the body take your shoes off) Don’t put anything you give to people in your pockets below the waist,  Don’t hand people money directly don’t take money directly. It’s nice but no mater how well I do these things I’m just not from around here, an Outsider a (Gaijin). Average Japanese generally don’t like confrontation, it upsets Wa-  Harmony- the order of things, especially those Japanese who are in positions of authority, (but not to much authority)  like a rent a cop.

I ran into a situation today that was a sort of emergency I needed to act fast like an American but I was In Japan so it’s tricky. There is always a work around here but the fastest way to it is not through logic. Logic doesn’t work here. My situation was this we needed to cross a highway with the kids the Japanese provide overpasses for just such reasons however they aren’t accessible with strollers like our Bugaboo. and to keep people off the roadway they put up fences. so I walked down the road about a block to the emergency vehicle ramp opening in the fence (there is always one) I crossed the highway by foot with the stroller while Sofi and Erika went over the overpass. (I’ve seen others do this with strollers in other areas it gave me the idea) As I approached the overpass the Disney on Ice show finished at Yoyogi Ice Arena.  When the doors opened thousands of people flooded the sidewalk pushing me toward the overpass  back to the other side of the highway! With Lennen in the Bugaboo we  made  it upstream through the parking lot gate of Yoyogi until we  got stuck behind barricades tied with rope 5 ft from the empty sidewalk and an exit door in the fence.  Lennon cutting new teeth was screaming! I asked the guard as politely as I could with limited Japanese and a screaming baby to let us through because I couldn’t go up the steps in the crowd and I needed to go that way…( the exit was 5 feet through the  barricade) he stopped me and ran to get his boss who told me to go the way I came and walk back the opposite way instead. I got on the phone to find where Erika was and as we were talking saw her on the other side of the fence. I told her I couldn’t get through. she said:

“Why, the door is right here- people are coming out”

I looked back That same guard had untied and opened the barricade for a Japanese woman with a stroller. I walked over before he could move it back  looked crossly at him and Barked:


in the american south where I was born, you can say almost anything about someone as long as you finish with “bless your heart” so I figure it’s similar here- after all, I did say thank you very much! ‘and if you’ve ever seen me in person you’ll know I don’t look intimidating at all…

Perhaps I should feel bad because I put the needs of my child before the group The way I see it I’m not part of the group don’t expect me to fit into the needs of the group. if I heard your kid screaming I’d let you out the nearest exit especially if you were  foreign.

Today’s’ epiphany, Not fitting in has not always been easy, but it has always served me well. May I continue to be an outsider.

Danny Marder

Daniel N. Marder is a Visual Artist, Teacher, Writer, Cook, Consumer, Critic, Primary Care provider of two growing & inquisitive children, and Husband on an enthusiastic pursuit of the brilliant experience of life. Sometimes funny sometimes strange always seems like it should be in someone 's screen play and then they started blogging.

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