Unlike most dorky white guys that show up in Japan I got married to a hot Asian woman BEFORE I came here. What kind of job can two American gaijin (foreigners) get in Japan without knowing much Japanese? Teaching English of course! Although we are both teachers we're the ones learning all sorts of strange and interesting life lessons from Japan.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Not Going Quietly

Last weekend Kim and I met up with a couple of friends in Tokyo that are visiting Japan. Eating at competing gyoza restaurants, getting lost, ending up in some strange/creepy as hell amusement park, getting lost, shopping, karaoke, and getting lost again filled out our day, and now it was time for dinner. Our guests hadn't been to a yakitori restaurant yet so we decided to eat at one. Going inside the waitress promptly seats our party of four and puts cabbage and shoyo on our table. The menu at this place, like many small Japanese restaurants, is on the wall and all in Japanese.

Waitress: "Can you read the menu? Are you all right?"
Me: "Yes. I can read most of it. We're fine."

A minute or so goes by as we discuss what we want to order. The chef/owner of the establishment, a diminutive elderly man, walks up to our table.

Owner: "Can you read the menu?"
Me: "Yes. I can read most of it. My kanji isn't very good though. But…" (cuts me off)
Owner: "You don't know enough Japanese you must leave. Now."

What the hell? He must not understand that I can order food and it's okay because I've ordered at plenty of Japanese restaurants that had a more difficult menu then this one.

Me: "I can read the menu. It's okay."
Owner: "You can't speak Japanese well enough you must leave now."
Me: "Uhhh… we have enough money. It's okay."
Owner: "You must leave now because you cannot read or speak Japanese."
Me: "No no no I CAN read! I don't understand what's wrong."
Owner: "I'm sorry you must leave now. You can't speak well enough."

The waitress picks up the cabbage and shoyo off our table. It's right about now that I understand we are getting kicked out. I tell everyone at our table what is going on and the owner's reason behind it. Obviously not knowing enough Japanese is not the real reason seeing how I am having a whole conversation about how I don't know enough Japanese… in Japanese.

Maybe four gaijin is just way over the quota for such a small place? Maybe three obvious gaijin with one pretty-and-could-pass-for-Japanese woman is too much to handle? Maybe because I'm white or Emanuel is black or Moty is Laotian. Whatever reason he was pissed in that reserved Japanese way where you can tell he is pissed without being so outwardly angry but one false move could lead to a shuriken in your temple.

Being so used to polite and friendly Japanese customer service people I couldn't even fathom that we would go into a restaurant and be kicked out. At first I thought they didn't understand that I really could order and my second thought was maybe they don't think we have enough money. Around the third or fourth time the stubborn old bastard owner told me I couldn't speak or read Japanese (and he sure as hell was sticking to that line) was when I realized we were getting kicked out because we are gaijin.

I'm so dumbfounded by the situation that I can't do anything but make my feeble protest and leave. Me and the other two guys are thinking, "if this guy wants us to leave then f*ck him we'll find somewhere better." Us three big scary foreign looking men stand up and slink out of the restaurant, defeated.

However, Kim, the petite Japanese-looking girl waits until the men start to walk out and holding her head high screams English obscenity after obscenity at the crusty old man to the shock and horror of all in attendance. Looking behind me I see the customers and staff with their heads down out of embarrassment of the situation. Kim exits last and as a final F*CK YOU she slams the door of the restaurant so hard it might have reawakened Godzilla.

I've never been kicked out of anywhere before, especially while sober and at a public restaurant and certainly never because of my ethnicity. The white man finally got to share a moment of intolerance and racism with his black and Asian friends. Hmmmm so this is why minorities can get angry over equality. Yes I see it is all starting to make sense now.

Afterwards we went to an awesome tempura restaurant where the menu was all in Japanese. Problems? None. In fact we got one of the best tables, had great service, and the food was delicious. One small statured small minded old man isn't going to ruin our time in Japan damn it.


Louis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
greg said...

Two wrongs do not make a right. Screaming obscenities that the workers cannot even understand will only make the restaurant owners kick out the foreigners even faster. The restaurant owners only felt justified after you left, I'm sure. Moreover, it only helps perpetuate the stereotype of a gaijin with out-of-control emotions and behavior. Oooh, the scary gaijin!

I've only been to a yakitori place twice. Both times the bills ended up considerably higher than I expected. You're required to drink alcohol and the first time I went to one in Yoyogi (just west of Harajuku), they gave me extra stuff we didn't even order. "Oh, what's this?" As soon as we ate it, our bill was certainly different than I expected. Perhaps gaijin make a big deal about this, and the yakitori restaurant owners are wary of this. You're better off getting yakitori from a street vendor.

Maybe you were having a loud, lively conversation in a quiet restaurant that's meant for reserved salarymen to go after work and load up on chicken and beer and ignore their families as usual?

Peter said...

This guy was a dick plain and simple. Kicking people out of a restaurant after they just walked in and sat down because they happen to be foreign is racist. The guy deserved everything that happened and more. Why should she have just left quietly like the 3 other guys did? That just justifies his behavior even more.

ZenPupDog said...

Hah. Having your wife scream at him is excellent. Perhaps you should encourage random Japanese folks to heap abuse on the racist idiot.

But even better would be to get innocent School Kids to request he put an advert for a non-existent school play titled: "I'm a Nasty Racist!"

No one in the Kumamoto suburb of Ogawa would dare pull nonsense like that on me - as my in-laws are likely their doctors. But heh.