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
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.