Interpreting Experience: The Gaijin in Rural Japan

Although any foreigner who has spent even half a day someplace tranquil and quiet and rural, a few hours out of a Tokyo or an Osaka (and shorter still for Sapporo or Fukuoka or Kanazawa), is familiar with the whiplash contradictions one's mere presence there invariably occasions:   warm and fuzzy glow from the gracious hospitality and "insider" access that dissolves instantly under the look of unadulterated terror in the eyes of a chance child in the grocery store.

Briton Chris Broad writes particularly well in this piece in Medium (a great source of thoughtful writing, if you can block out the Silicon Valley #StartUpLand puff pieces).  You can tell it's a first rate sketch from details like

  • the precision he brings to allocating the joy to the annoyance (92% v. 8%)
  • the elderly female driver who crashes her car staring at him and not the road
  • the way he begs forgiveness for the anecdote about the junior high English class lecture about artist Dick Bruna, and the predictable titillation engendered among the boys AND
  • the way he captures the horror of being cornered in a McDonalds by the neighborhood eager cad

All this he can do now, even if some of the anecdotes date from before his proficiency in Japanese, because he can use today's understanding of language to effectively interpret his experiences both for himself and for us.