The Tarzan of Tokyo
Walking through a supermarket recently, I accidentally
bumped into an older woman.
Unfortunately, I was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
I looked up to a see a tall American woman staring back at me, with confusion written all over her face. She backed up slowly, keeping her eyes on me, until she made her escape around the corner.
As a frequent traveler, I've become accustomed to making
|Caucasians who meet me in Japan must get the
same feeling as the explorers who discovered that fictional ape-man,
Tarzan, "Hmm, he looks like one of us, but his behavior is very
They do a double take at my pale skin and blonde hair, then ask, "Where are you from?"
"A-me-ri-ka", I reply, in my best Japanese-English.
They study me, and - speaking very slowly - ask, "Which part of 'A-me-ri-ka' are you from?"
It used to be obvious. Everyone who met me could tell
that I was from the East Coast of the United States. Most Americans could
even tell that I was from New York State.
As a New Yorker, I was raised to speak fast (to get my
opinions in), be wordy (so no one else could get their opinions in), and
stay cynical (because it's New York, damn it!).
I had to slow down my rate of speech to a Texas pace.
All I needed was a banana and a wife named Jane.
Even then, communications were only partially
Now the Japanese can understand my English. Sometimes,
they're the only ones who can.
With the acquisition of Japanese words and phrases, my
cultural corruption is complete.
Now, Japanese people can’t understand my Japanese.
All I can say is, "sumimasen".