Dropping eaves

Speaking and understanding Japanese not only makes every-day life in Japan do-able, it also allows you to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations, presumably to both pick up some more of the language and to satisfy your inner nosey parker.
It’ll take a while of studying and acclimatizing to the spoken word before you can easily pick up what other people are saying but once you’re there a new world opens up to you; a very narrow and boring new world.

Whenever I try to cock an ear in the direction of chatting Tokyoites more often than not their conversation seems to revolve around the English language, their desire to be able to speak it and their wish to visit America some day.
Now I’m no Herbert Einstein but it seems to me to be highly unlikely that general Englishness is a topic of conversation for most people at any given time of day, or that I just have been very unlucky, or lucky, to coincidentally overhear only those conversations. Nor am I so arrogant as to presume I am the center of attention wherever I go, but it’s pretty obvious that the presence of such a white-skinned round-eye like myself sparks within the Japanese a wellspring of hidden desires and ambitions when it comes to internationalism.

I shall skim over the annoyance that people automatically assume I am American. Other foreigners are usually more understanding and ask you if you speak English before troubling you for assistance. And strangely you don’t meet many Americans in Tokyo but a Hell of a lot of Canadians, or should that be “Canadians”?
Either way I use every opportunity available to clear up the matter of my heritage save for accosting strangers in conversation. So I am left listening to the usual gossip.

“I wish I could speak English. I want to go to English school. No, I’ve never been to America, but I‘d really like to go. Don’t you speak English? English is so cool.”

This topic sprung to mind as I was trying to think of new ways to pad this blog, and The Man Who Fell Asleep’s excellent Tube Gossip columns seemed an appropriate appropriation. However, thinking of it some more it became obvious very quickly that page after page of chat about English would become extremely tedious.
Besides that people usually don’t talk on the trains. Apart from the death-throws and gurgles of crushed commuters, loud foreigners making threats and the occasional TV drama discussions by loud schoolgirls nothing much is said If you wondered how people manage to sleep on trains with such ease it is probably because it’s so quiet.

Apart from the occasional discussion about holidays in America, obviously.


  1. why would I be a "Canadian" and not a Canadian? aaaaaaaaaaaaah ok. yeah I suppose impersonating us abroad is the right thing to do.

    But there are strong Japan-Canada relationships such as a direct student exchange program that isn't available to Americans. Closer to home, we have the Quebec-Japan business alliance as well. Not to mention they go nuts over our blueberries. However, there were less than 3,000 Japanese people living in Montreal in 2001, versus hundreds of thousands of Chinese. But things are probably different in Vancouver, Asian capital of Canada.

  2. Indeed, most Americans still go around pretending they're Canadian so they don't have to apologise. The only people openly professing they are American are the Nigerians who all pretend to be from Harlem.

  3. Well, I'm in America right now, and all the girls think I'm James Bond or something.

    Too bad I'm trapped in a basement working on the game, or I'd let them feel the exquisit disappointment of having a prolonged conversation with me.

    Tommy is playing the benny hill music... better get back to work.