The Six Degrees of a Tokyo Gaijin

Chances are that if you’re a foreigner and you live in Tokyo, I either know you or I know someone who does. At least, that’s the way it seems sometimes. There are 350,000 foreigners living in Tokyo but somehow I still manage to randomly and repeatedly run into the same people.

Even if you don’t purposely make a point of running with a foreigner crowd, the fact that you look different means that you stand out and are tough to forget. Sometimes this city feels like that Cheers song and that ‘everybody knows your name’.

Last night I went to Brazilian club in Kichijoji with a group of Italians and was surprised to hear someone call out in English, “Hey, you look familiar. Do I know you from somewhere?”

The classic pick-up line. Only it was coming from a tall blond chick and as it turns out, she did know me from somewhere. I met her on top of Mt. Fuji last August.

A couple of months ago, I got to talking to the woman behind the counter at a McDonalds in Chiba. Turns out that not only did I teach at her son’s kindergarten but that I also knew her son’s English tutor…some random guy I once met on a train.

It really is a small world after all.

It’s funny because the tall blond girl and I got to talking last night and somehow my group and her group all ended up going to a friend of a friend’s bar to eat dinner. We never got much beyond “So you’ll have to Facebook friend me” before I ended up having to run to catch the last train home. In all the rush to leave, I forgot to say goodbye and now I can’t remember her name.

But I’m sure that I’ll run into her someplace somewhere down the line and we’ll look at each other quizically and go through that “now where do I know you from…?” conversation all over again.

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