My first aggro

Today is somewhat of a special occasion; it has been exactly 5 years, 11 months and 9 days since I’ve moved to Japan and tonight was my very first experience of drunken aggravation. It goes to show what a pleasant and safe country Japan generally is, but tonight’s experience needs retelling, if only for its heartwarming conclusion.

So here I am, pleasantly drunk, yet not debilitated, waiting at a station where I change from the express line to the local to carry me to my final destination. The platform is relatively empty and I am leaning against a wall playing Tetris Red (sticky mode) on my mobile. In the corner of my eye I spot a Japanese guy and his equally Japanese girlfriend take position next to me. The guy has his back to me, but draped over it he is carrying a massive rucksack, and I mean one of biblical proportions stuffed full. Even though there is plenty of space he stands quite close to me and pushes his rucksack into me, possibly by accident. I don’t really push back but offer some resistance. I hear him complain in Japanese but I am so engrossed in my game that I ignore him. He, however, takes no measures to remedy the situation on his end and continues to push his overfull backpack into my rib. I keep offering resistance when suddenly the guy wheels round, throws his backpack to the ground and takes the internationally recognized stance of the drunken man in search of a fight.

I pause my game and look up. “What?” I say in my most British and haughty accent. “’Watto‘?” he cries. “This is Japan, speak Japanese,” he continues in Japanese. It’s at this point I realize the guy is fairly wide and me being a natural coward quickly size up the situation to be wholly against me, physically speaking. The guy, mid-twenties, could easily crush every bone in my body without breaking a sweat. His girlfriend, I notice, is nothing to write home about and is looking somewhat scared. “I speak Japanese,” I reply in my most aggressive Japanese. “Go back to your country,” he continues. “Japan is my country,” I reply dryly. He kicks his backpack, which strikes me as a somewhat self-defeating action. I hope he had something fragile in there. The train stops at the platform, the doors slide open.

We get on the same carriage, his girlfriend carrying his backpack, him shooting off his mouth at me. I had stopped listening at this point, but he was obviously not finished yet. “You wot?” I say in my best vernacular. Learning spoken Japanese from my smoking buddies at work is finally paying off. “You looking at me or chewing a brick?” I continue. The man is clearly more agitated than before. “Go back to your country,” he reiterates. At this point his girlfriend makes a half-hearted attempt to get between us, as if there was the slightest possibility a weakling like me may start throwing punches. “Leave it, Kev, it’s not worth it,” she says, in Japanese equivalent. “Why won’t you die?” he shouts. He is sill posturing. “You drunk?” I say? “Go back to your country before I kill you!” is the reply.

I give him my all-purpose look of quiet apathy, though deep inside me my inner child is praying he won’t get physical with me, as he’d clearly win. “You still looking?” he shouts? There is a short interchange between him and his girlfriend but I pretend to take the high road and ignore him, focusing instead on my game of Tetris. He shouts some more about returning to my country and death and gets off at the next stop, thankfully not the same as mine.
Deeply relieved I sigh as a middle-aged Japanese man sitting in the seats close by suddenly tells me “sorry”. Surprised I tell him, in Japanese, “it‘s okay. He was just drunk.” “No, no,” he says, “he is a bad guy!” “No, it’s okay,” I lie, “he was clearly drunk. It’s okay!” I give him a wan smile. The man still looks uneasy. At the next stop, my stop, another guy from the other end of the carriage stands close-by, ready to disembark, and nods at me with a smile, as if to say “sorry about that twat” I give a polite bow to the first guy and nod back to the second.

Almost 6 years in a country without any drunken, near-violent incident is pretty good going, you have to admit. And the fact it ended with me in tact and innocent bystanders apologizing for the behavior of one drunk, testosterone fuelled mountebank is pretty heartwarming too. Plus it has given me a story to tell my friends at the next outing, so all in all it was a pretty good night!


  1. It amazes me that bystanders will apologize for the misconduct of someone they have nothing to do with.

    Great story mate =)

  2. Cool story!
    After being threatened and had racial gubbins thrown at you, its nice to know that it didnt end in a ruck, and that others gave you sympathy rather than thinking 'good on him'!

  3. It was very surreal. I have no idea if the guy was actually a racist or simply chose to use a racist tract in his obvious quest to find trouble. Thinking back on it he really was aching for a fight of sorts. I kind of feel sorry for his girlfriend.

    In the end it has done me good. I was getting to the point of hating everybody on the train for personally making my commute a misery and this incident really put it in perspective. There are some really nice and considerate people out there, but maybe it takes one loud-mouthed arse for them to come out of their shells.

    And another thing for gaijin in Japan: NEVER get roped into a fight. Even if it's self-defense the moment you lay a hand on anybody you will be in the wrong, in the eyes of Japanese law. If there are fistycuffs and a gaijin is involved it naturally means the gaijin is he agressor.
    Not that there was any danger of that happening - yesterday's guy was way too wide for me.

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  5. Wow I'm glad you're OK. You're right, once in 6 years makes for good stats, especially considering your population density. You mean you've never gotten mugged either?

    Also this is why I stopped drinking years ago. I was a pretty mean/stupid drunk. And it's usually those people who need the bottle most, so it's not pretty.

    Here's a question, how would my Japanese colleagues (I'm a programmer) react to my non-drinking? I managed to get through university hazing without having to swallow a single drop, but I imagine that wouldn't fly in Japan.

  6. Maybe the guy was an Itagaki fan, and read your blog?

    Glad you didn't get face punched though, sir!

  7. He certainly looked like an Itagaki-fan, hideous mouth-breather that he was.

    Jeff, don't worry about being a teetotaller, it's not that uncommon in Japan. On nights out your colleagues may press you a little into drinking but will soon give up and not hold it against you in the slightest. Plenty of people stick to the uloncha over here.

  8. I have to say this is an awesome story and you handled it like an absolute champion.

    Keep on bloggin'