In the 3 years that I have spent in Japan, I have had all sorts of random people ringing on my doorbell: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Door-to-Door Salesmen, the old lady from the neighborhood association hitting me up for money, and today a first: a campaigning politician.
I had just gotten home from school when I heard a ring on my door. It was this Japanese guy wearing a jet black suit and tie. He started by presenting me his business card – standard Japanese greeting protocol – and began to launch into his schpiel. I quickly figured out that he was a politician and told him in Japanese, “but I’m not a Japanese citizen, I’m from America.” Then I explained that I taught English at various schools in Nakatsu. He asked for my business card, but I don’t have any, and then he thanked me for being a teacher and left.
The most frequent random visitors I get are the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are usually like to drop by during the late afternoons, right after I get home from school or very early on Saturday mornings. They are always a bit spooky – too nice – too chummy – too curious. Anyway, I used to try to make them go away by pretending not to be able to read the Japanese religious tracts they brought me. But then they started bringing me copies of the Watchtower in English and Chinese. One lady, who found out that I lived alone* (see footnote below), even brought me food for awhile. Nowadays, I just practice my Japanese conversation with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Sometimes it takes them quite a while to guess I’m not Japanese, then I just have to tell them. Then I thank them for their religious tracts, and send them on their way. One time, I even found some ex-JW site in Japanese on the internet and printed out some copies of why their church is a cult, but they haven’t visited in a while, so I haven’t had the chance to give them counter-propaganda.
* I don’t know why I tell strangers who knock on my door that I live alone now, but I think living in Japan has taken away all my street smarts. Just last night, I forgot to close my cardoor in my drive way. I must have unloaded my groceries and forgotten to go back and close the car door. But sure enough, my iPod and my designer sunglasses were still there on the dashboard the next morning. Nakatsu is a safe little town indeed.
Oh yeah, one more funny thing about the door-to-door salesmen. We always have the same kind of set conversation. I answer the door, and they always ask if my mother or my parents are home. Then, naively enough, I say “no” and they seem surprised. Then we get into this whole conversation about how I’m an English teacher from America, and the whole schpiel. I don’t know why, but I still need to justify my “foreignness” in Japan. I just don’t register as foreign at all to most Japanese people now. Especially now that I’m conversant in most day-to-day conversations in Japanese. I really need to get a T-shirt that says: “僕は日本人じゃないよ！” (I’m not Japanese!)
I guess I have a kind of universal look though. I have been mistaken for Japanese by people in Japan, mistaken for Korean by Korean people, and even mistaken for Thai by Thai people. (BTW, that’s Thai as in Thailand and Pad Thai – not as in my homeland, Taiwan, as in Made in Taiwan – common mistake I get all the time as well) Hell, even in Taipei, Sophia and I were mistaken for Japanese tourists!