Something Really Weird Just Happened to Me…

So I just got back from my nightly midnight snack run to the 7-11 across the street…and you won’t believe who was working behind the counter.

A tall, gangly, pony-tail- wearing, white dude. Yeah, seriously. A live, breathing foreigner working at my convenience store!

This is totally bizarro for a couple of reasons.

1. I live in the Brooklyn of Tokyo, meaning that my neighborhood is separated by a river and about a million miles from anything of interest. It’s not a ‘gaijin neighborhood’ by any stretch of the term and is sorta ghetto. The only foreigners within a 15 mile radius are the Chinese family who run the restaurant down the block.

2. You can often find foreigners in Tokyo working in retail, restaurant and bars…but a convenience store? The fact that he’s white and bilingual could definitely get him work at any number of cushy service-industry jobs in Roppongi (a touristy nightclub neighborhood), which would probably pay a whole lot better. So why in the world would he chose to work at 7-11?

When I saw him I about fell over onto the comic book stand. Stranger still was the fact that I don’t think he realized he was a foreigner.

While he was ringing up my plate of noodles, he spoke to me in Japanese, in this mildly friendly yet bored tone of voice. As if this was a completely normal exchange.

Do you want this heated up?

Do you want chopsticks?

I answered, in Japanese, in shock, wondering if I’d gone insane. I know that some foreigners here don’t speak any English…but that’s rare. Why wouldn’t he at least say “hello”? Maybe he didn’t notice the “State University of New York” hoodie I was wearing and wasn’t sure if I spoke English?

I’m going to go back there in the morning and try to talk to him in English and see what happens.

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Comments ( 15 )

  1. Yuki

    can't wait for your next post! lol he must just have been a half japanese never being raised outside of this country...

  2. Sarah

    Wow..that is weird. When I lived in Japan I never saw any westerner that didn't work as an English teacher or in a bar. Do you think maybe he's half Japanese half caucasian and was born and raised in Japan?

  3. SomeBS

    That is truly bizzare and funny, its happen to be before but it, was Spanish not Japanese.

  4. Reannon

    Hey Yuki...haha. I almost called you but I wasn't sure if you were awake. Yeah, it was funny. Kinda makes me wonder if the job market is so bad that working at 7-11 is the only option for English teachers right now.

    Hi Sarah and SomeBS(?) - He didn't look half-Japanese! I think maybe he was just looking to get an authentic "japan job experience" and working at a convenience store seemed like a good idea? Maybe he thought he could practice his Japanese that way?

    Who knows...

  5. nearlyasian

    I know a few Halfs, like myself who nobody* in a million years would guess to be Japanese, but low and behold, they were born and raised solely in Japan. Don't speak a lick of English the poor bastards. Sure, it's freaky, but it's also fashionable to date a Half dontcha know?

    Ask him on a date in English and see what he says.

    *I was picked off by another Half once, lucky guess.

  6. Elle

    Can I just say that you've won yourself a loyal reader? I find your posts super interseting! Can't wait for the next post!

  7. Reannon

    nearlyasian...did I talk to you in a 7-11 last night? you would tell me if I did, right?

    Hahaha...just kidding. Sorta. : )

    So you think I should ask him out, huh? Is that a dare? Cause I'll do it you know...that would be too funny. Should I just ask it straight out? Or try to start a convo about, I don't know, how much I love the hot dogs on a stick or something like that? Work it in casually?

    One of my friends in high school in Hawaii was half-japanese and no one could tell...she had red hair and green eyes. A few of my students are too...So I guess it's a real possibility.

    But I was talking to a co-worker today...a fully caucasion American...and he told me all about how he used to clean apartment buildings for a living in Chiba, before he got a job teaching. SO the guy could just be someone in need of some cash.

  8. Reannon

    What a nice thing to say, Elle! I'm glad you read my blog...and like it! Thanks for posting too, by the way.

  9. Reannon

    nearly asian...I wanted to comment on your blog...but I couldn't figure out how! What button do I have to click?

  10. nearlyasian

    7-11, as if, I work at LAWSON!

    Oh, and my statement wasn't a dare, more of a direct order. Click your heels, salute and get to it! Don't forget your Sunday best gothic lolita rococo dress, ten inch heels, bloomers, iridescent make-up and your hair in Shirley Temple curls!

    As for conversation, keep it to the minimum, or better, don't speak, but if you must, keep it really simple, something along the lines of ちょっと。in addition to a forceful come with me gesture with your index finger. Repeat as necessary.

    If he follows, you'll know he's one of your sheep, if not, that's okay too. Sheep aren't that smart and need a little nipping at the hoof now and again. In that case, return dressed in a wolf carcass and see how that plays out. Instructions to follow.

    On a related note, I appreciate your wild-abandon, the willingness, if not for the mere insanity of it all. Really, you are refreshing, like my buddy who asks me in the middle of Shinjuku one warm evening, "Mind if I take my shirt off?" My response, "Go for it!"

  11. Reannon

    nearlyasian...do you really work at Lawson? For real?

    I'll do it...but it might have to wait since I'm leaving Japan for a few weeks starting Fri. and I haven't seen him the last two days...

  12. Rhi

    I can't wait to read your next post. Did you ever end up talking to him... ever ask him out? ;)

  13. Reannon

    Rhi...No! I haven't seen him. I gotta do it today though cause I'm leaving Japan for a few weeks starting tomorrow. : ) Wish me luck.

  14. jo

    i came across your blog somewhere along the line and have been reading for a couple weeks (maybe?) but thought i'd pipe up on this one:

    this past summer, i worked on the top of mt. fuji at one of the mountain huts. of course most of the customers were japanese, but there were also a lot of foreigners (white and otherwise) who climbed to the top for some overpriced ramen and canned coffee.

    anyway, in general, i worked in japanese, regardless of whether the customer was (or looked) japanese or not. if they looked like they didn't understand what i said in japanese, i tried english (sometimes they spoke neither!). usually english speakers saw me, looked relieved and initiated conversation though, so i didn't have to decide. but, in general, i am a "this is japan, let's speak japanese" believer, so i can understand why he spoke to you in japanese.

    it actually irks me a bit when store workers say stuff to me in english. i know i'm just being over sensitive, but just because i look a certain way, they greet/talk to/whatever me differently and i'm not a fan.

    don't get me wrong though, among english speaking friends, i'm all for english! haha.

  15. Reannon

    Jo!

    Sorry it's taken me so long to respond! I wasn't ignoring you, I actually clearly remember writing something but I must have accidentally deleted (?)

    Anyways, I really think you're right. Thanks for bringing that point up. I also believe in the whole "it's Japan, so speak Japanese" thing. I take the philosphy wherever I go and make a point of studying the language of whatever country I happen to visit. I think it's important to at least know a few basic phrases, even if it's only "please", "thank you", "excuse me" and "Where's the...?"

    I've never worked in a customer service position in Japan, so I'm not sure what I'd do if I encountered 'non-Japanese-looking people'.

    I bartended when I lived in Germany, and so of course, spoke German with everyone. But it wasn't like I could automatically spot a non-German...so the question of whether or not to speak English, never became an issue.

    Anyways, I'm hoping to get a part-time job waitressing or something (to practice my Japanese), when I get back to Japan in January. I'll let you know how that goes...

    PS That's awesome you worked on Mt. Fuji. That must have been an interesting experience. What was it like? Were the tourists demanding and obnoxious?

    I climbed it back in August...Maybe I saw you?