November 4, 2010
So there I am, walking to the Kintetsu area of Osaka’s Namba Station. It’s a holiday meaning the lanes leading to where I must catch my train are especially packed for a Wednesday afternoon. I’m zoned out, listening to a Japanese dance CD I’m determined to review in the near future. Suddenly, I feel a poke on my shoulder. I tilt my head to the right and see a Japanese man, wearing a water-resistant hoodie with the hood up, smiling at me. I pause the music.
“Hello, do you speak English?”
I instantly figured he was someone who had studied or was in the process of learning English, and he wanted to talk to a real-live foreigner. This happens a lot, ages ranging from four-year-old kids to grandmas testing out their new hobby. Considering how rare crime is in Japan, I’ve come to embrace this “celebrity around town” status and talk to anyone who tries English out on me. So I engaged him in small talk.
He seemed to be going along with it fine at first. He wanted to know what I did…”college student?”…and now long I’d been in Japan. I fed him the info and, so excited to talk to a new face, volunteered facts he probably could give less a damn about. Being a considerate individual, I then asked him what he did. He paused for a moment. An awkward silence of two seconds late, he looked at me and said “I’m looking for customers.”
Most people at this point probably would have gotten suspicious as to this guy’s intentions. I’m not one of those people, blissfully naive to the point where I just gave him a confused look and asked “customers for what?” Silence, as a Cheshire-Cat grin overtook his face. He didn’t say anything for about five seconds, but kept looking at me with that damn smirk on his face. He repeated the “looking for customers” line and even a rube like me could tell he didn’t do something orthodox. I gave him a bewildered look, at this point believing he was either a.) some sort of arms dealer or b.) a prostitute.
“Do you like to…” he said, his voice growing quiet. “Do you like to…do you like to smoke?”
I’ll spare you the details, but drug laws in Japan make California look like the set of H.R. Puffenstuff. That and it’s not my scene at all. I told him I wasn’t into it and said goodbye as he walked the opposite way, hands buried in pockets. And that was the highlight of my holiday by a mile!
(Japanese Fun Fact #86: School kids love Disney characters and Spongebob and Snoopy…but they also have an odd like-ing for 90’s Cartoon Network creations. I see drawings of the Powerpuff Girls all over the place and, even stranger by a bazillion times, one class I teach made their class flag a picture of Courage The Cowardly Dog. The text underneath it declared “A Victorious Buttle,” which I’m pretty sure shows I should teach them how to spell “battle.”)