Angry People

Today is a big day in my day-to-day as I have at long last earned the privilege of a permanent visa here in Japan. With this visa I will now have the ability to enter into a life-stunting 35-year mortgage and a mountain of debt like (almost) every other adult in this country. As a resident of Japan with permanent residency, I am now two rungs shy of being a full-fledged Japanese citizen!

Tedious governmental procedures aside, it seems that the warm weather has brought the unemployable and psychologically ... different ... people out in droves. Every visit to the regional immigration centre usually involves some sort of oddity, and today's journey was no different. While sitting on the train, I had the pleasure of being screamed at by a short man in his 60s who was furious that I, an able-bodied man of non-Japanese decent, was sitting.

"Have you no sense of decency!" he shouted in as strong a Nagoya dialect he could muster. "Get up! Stand between the cars and let Japanese people sit, you damned foreign {something}1. We Japanese work very hard every day. What do you do? Kill people? Get our women pregnant and then leave them? You make me sick!"

The bile spewing forth from this man's mouth was so vitriolic I might have confused it for something from a history book. Being subjected to verbal abuse for being Caucasian is nothing new, as this happens everywhere and racist people are very good at procreating, but this guy was begging to be put in his place.

There were plenty of places to sit on the train. I was sitting dead centre in the anyone's ass is okay section. Nobody was sitting in the courtesy seats. All in all there were maybe 30 people in the same car, watching, and waiting to see how I would respond. Some people had their cell phones open ready to record any sort of violence or call the cops to report the incident.

I saw only three viable solutions to the problem. I could feign ignorance of the language and shrug, which is usually the most logical thing to do. I could launch his 30kg torso through the nearest window, which would eliminate any chance of obtaining a permanent residency visa2. Or I could use genetics to my advantage, and speak to the man like an adult to prove that not every Caucasian is worthy of such verbage.

Stupid me, I chose the latter.

Standing to my full height, I looked down at him. He was perhaps 30cm shorter, and he glared at me as though I had knocked up his daughter and left her at some raunchy hotel with a now-occupied womb. We stood less than a meter apart. Everybody was staring.

"If you would like my seat, you can have it. I've warmed it up for you. I will just sit over there," I said in the smoothest, most proper Japanese I could assemble. "There's really no need for name calling."

Usually speaking in Japanese, even incomplete Japanese, is usually enough to diffuse this sort of situation. It lets the other side know that they don't have any power over me and that I am willing to communicate with them. Most racists don't want to communicate; they want to fight.

He spat on my shoes before continuing his verbal assault. "You {something even more indistinguishable from the first volley}! How dare you talk back to me! Do you know who I am?"

"No, I only remember important people."

"Get over there and close the doors! Your stink is unbearable!"

"I'm sorry that you don't find my odour pleasant. Perhaps you would like to move to the next car?"

"I'm not going anywhere you demon. Get over there before I throw you over there!"

At this point a train attendant had come along and started to move the angry man. The train was at a station, and apparently this old guy has a history of screaming at white guys3. After two minutes the guy was escorted from the train and the JR staff apologised for the ruckus. We continued on our merry way to the next station.

"That was scary, wasn't it?" another passenger asked a minute later.

"It's scary that people like him are allowed outside, yes."

"Your Japanese is very good."

"Thank you. I still have a lot to learn."4