Say Sayonara To The Screamers

, , , , , , , | Right | December 25, 2020

My family has just enjoyed a fun Christmas trip to Japan, the final leg of which was in the northern part of the country, Sapporo. The original plan was to fly from Sapporo to Haneda and then catch a connecting flight there back home.

However, this goes a little awry; during our stay, Sapporo gets hit with a historic amount of snow, which has impeded travel. Our flight does eventually get off the ground, but with a delay of two hours, we’re not confident we’re going to make our connecting flight.

Despite our best efforts, we do miss the cutoff for boarding. Another couple who were trying to make the same flight are there, as well, and we’re all understandably disappointed and frustrated with the circumstances.

We all trudge back to ticketing to see what can be done, and here’s where things go really sideways. The young woman of the other couple immediately raises her voice at the ticket agents, saying how unacceptable this is and that they need to be on that flight, and what are they going to do about it?

Of course, we’re in Tokyo still, and these poor gate agents don’t speak perfect English, which is only frustrating the young woman further. Soon, she’s yelling for a manager. She looks to us as though we’re going to back her up, but my brother simply says it’s frankly more likely that their manager speaks even less English than the gate agents, and it doesn’t change that we missed the flight, which was honestly no one’s fault. She huffs and then proceeds to ignore us and continue her tirade.

At this point, another gate agent opens, and we go to speak with her. We explain the situation and ask if there are any other possible flights or routes that might get us home within roughly the same time frame, and if there aren’t, it’s not a huge deal; we can spend the night if need be. The agent is incredibly apologetic, which we gently brush off; it really wasn’t their fault! Even though we aren’t communicating perfectly, we are able to figure out a new route with her that will have us make one more stop but get us home only a few hours later than expected.

We thank her profusely and start to head out with our new tickets, but she calls us back. The other couple is still fighting with the other agents and their manager — who, as expected, doesn’t speak as much English as the customer-facing gate agents — and our agent quietly thanks us for being so calm. She sends us along with passes for one of the nicer lounges where we can grab a shower, free drinks, and a bite to eat while we wait.

We joke around now that the couple is probably still there, uncomfortable and yelling. Truly, just being understanding and kind where you can greases a lot of wheels!

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Well, First, I Plug In My PlayStation…

, , , , , , | Learning | July 12, 2020

I’m an American who lives in Tokyo teaching English. I’m just finishing up a forty-minute lesson with two intermediate-level students: a middle-aged man and a young woman. I always use the last minutes to ask if the students have any questions about anything since this is usually their only time to interact with a non-Japanese person.

Me: “Okay, guys, before we finish, do you have any questions about anything? About the lesson? About America? About me?”

Male Student: “Do you like Japanese girls?”

This is a really common question asked by male students to male teachers.

Me: “Um, no. Actually, I like Japanese guys. I’m gay.”

Male Student: “Oh.”

The conversation goes silent. I’m pretty open about that fact and students are always very nice about it, but it usually is a conversation stopper.

Me: “Okay, so, no more questions?”

Male Student: “How do you, um…”

The student pauses for a moment, obviously struggling to find the right words.

Male Student: “How do you, um… play in the nighttime?”

I’m completely taken aback by his question and try to think of something to say, but before I can, the female student speaks up.

Female Student: “Hey, hey, I don’t want to hear this. Please ask him after the lesson!”

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Giajin-People Problems

, , , , , | Friendly | May 5, 2019

I had the opportunity to study abroad in Japan while I was in college. During our orientation week, one of the staff volunteers mentioned that those of us who were taller might get some extra attention, but not to worry about it. I didn’t think much about it, because I’m average height by Japanese standards, until random events like the ones below started happening to the taller students in the group:

1) While visiting a Japanese onsen — public bathhouse — my friend, who was at least 5’10”, had just removed her robe and was about to step into the water — we’re both women, so we were on the women’s side of the onsen — when a tiny, elderly Japanese lady popped out of the water and hustled over to us, completely naked. I thought, at first, that maybe we had forgotten to do one of the pre-bathing steps and she was warning us, but when she reached us she stretched up as far as she could and patted the air somewhere around my friend’s shoulder.

“Takai!” she said, which means “big/tall.” She giggled, and then quickly hopped back into the onsen where her friends were all cracking up.

2) Another friend of mine in the group, a man, was over six feet tall, and had long hair down to his shoulders. One day, we were waiting for a crosswalk sign to change when a group of Japanese middle-school-aged girls ran up to me, asking if they could take a picture with him. I said they’d have to ask him, and he was usually a good sport about that kind of thing, so I ended up with five phones and cameras shoved into my hands to take pictures of them with my friend. I don’t know if they thought he was a celebrity or were just excited to take a picture with a tall foreigner, but they were so happy.

3) When the same male friend was going through the airport on a flight from Japan to Korea, he got pulled over to the bag inspection table, but when the customs agents pulled out a pair of his shoes they forgot about the check and instead spent a few minutes talking about how big his shoes were! That was it; they didn’t pull anything else out of the bag.

Overall, there were never any negative encounters for my taller friends, except for maybe not fitting comfortably in some spaces, and house slippers never fitting.


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Need A Worst Customer Of The Day? Hold My Beer

, , , , | Right | February 22, 2019

(It is fifteen minutes before I clock out and a few tables have just emptied, so I am cleaning up as much as possible before I leave the bar understaffed to catch the last train home. Three men are ready to order, so I drop everything to take their order of two whiskeys and a beer. They don’t ask for anything with their whiskey so I bring it to them neat and go back to cleaning up. The guy drinking beer calls me over and starts in on me angrily.)

Beer Drinker: “Is this how you serve in this place?”

Me: “Yes?”

(I don’t know what he wants but he is gesturing at the whiskey, so I assume ice.)

Beer Drinker: “This is horrible service! This is not how you serve customers! Where is the ice?”

Me: “You didn’t ask for ice, so I assumed you wanted it neat.”

Beer Drinker: “This is not how you should treat a customer! Where is the owner?! How dare you treat me like this! You are a horrible waitress! How long have you been here? You’re new. aren’t you?! You won’t be here for long…”

(He just continues on his tirade while I continue cleaning tables nearby. His friends who are actually going to drink the whiskey try to stop him but he isn’t stopping.)

Me: “If you have a problem with the service here, you are welcome to leave. I am not obligated to serve rude customers with a smile. You did not say, ‘please,’ or, ‘thank you.’ I gave you what you asked for, so if that’s still not good enough for you, then there’s the door.”

(The beer drinker at this point starts swearing at me, and his friends start to drag him away. At the door, he yells, “F*** off!” at me. Since they haven’t touched their drinks I yell back.)

Me: “Bye! Thanks for the drinks!”

(Staff got free whiskey and beer out of it.)

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An Ugly Opinion On A Beautiful Process

, , , , | Friendly | July 24, 2018

(I moved to Japan and met the love of my life. We soon got married and settled down, and now we are trying for a baby. This story takes place in a grocery store as I’m shopping for food to make dinner. I spot a female friend of mine — also a foreigner — and her husband at the same store, and I start chatting with my friend. She gets excited about the baby and asks what gender it is, and I tell her we don’t know because we want it to be a surprise. That’s when her husband pipes up.)

Friend’s Husband: “It’s going to be a girl.”

Me: *laughs* “I hope so. But I’ll be okay if the baby’s a girl.”

Friend’s Husband: “No, it’s a girl. I can tell; girls steal your beauty.”

(At this, he looks pleased by what he says. Meanwhile, my friend looks horrified and I glare at him.)

Friend’s Husband: “What? What did I say?”

Friend: “At what point during you thinking that and then saying it did you decide it was the right thing to say?”

Friend’s Husband: “But it’s true! Just look at her!”

Me: “Yeah, carrying the next generation of your family really does a number on you.”

Friend’s Husband: “It’s not that hard being pregnant, you fat pig!”

(Everyone in the aisle turned and stared, a few glaring women included. He stomped off, red in the face, as my friend hurried and apologized to me. She later divorced him, as it turns out he was a Gaijin Hunter, just using her for arm candy and for an excuse to say some downright racist things about Americans and Europeans. Joke’s on him, though; it turns out the baby was actually BABIES. Twins! A boy and a girl.)


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