Friday, December 11, 2009

Part of your world, Vol 2.0

As I chronicled last year , cutting all my hair off wasn't enough to shock them, so I decided to go undercover. Camouflage in the Kaisha jungle if you will.

After spending my life as a Marilyn, I've wandered over to the dark side and am now experiencing life as a Jackie (or we could use the Serena/Blair dichotomy if you prefer something more contemporary). Yes, I'm now a brunette gentle readers, but still no closer to being accepted by my dark-haired peers. Acceptance among them wasn't exactly my aim, but this didn't stop me from obnoxiously pulling at the corners of my eyes and asking the beau if I could pass as Japanese now. Only from the back it seems, and even that would be a stretch with the junk up in my trunk.

It's funny slash heart-breaking to read the entry from last year, because so little has changed. I got reactions from the obvious people, those who smile at me in the hall and who actually partake in verbal communication with me on a semi-regular basis. Most surprisingly however, was the blank look I received from the two Secretaries who (still) sit in my quad. Our daily interactions continue to be limited to good morning and goodbye but they didn't even flinch this past Monday when I walked into the office. I went from curly blond to straight dark brown with bangs a la the singer in the Pretenders. I thought at least they'd ask if I wanted to have a hair-braiding party.

Why am I even surprised any more? One of the two asked me to help her with something last week, which I thought meant we were making progress, but then yesterday she did the same but by e-mail. We are definitely heading in the direction far and away from progress. Digression I believe they call it? I try to smile as widely as my cheek muscles will allow during our brief encounters to discourage this kind of behaviour - the woman sits in spitting distance and we could easily high five over the quad barrier without moving an inch. WHAT IS THE WAY TO THE HEARTS OF THESE PEOPLE?!

Don't turn the dial yet, I could be rocking brown-coloured contacts in the New Year.


Anonymous said...

I feel your pain but dont expect them to change. Its in their DNA. Weird thing is all of us gaijin have the exact same experience. We are all outsiders so this is how they see us. I personnally dont want to work for/with Japanese and will avoid it all at cost. This unfortuanetly is the side of Japan most dont know about or wont tell you. Thanks for keeping us informed.

Sarahf said...

I have honestly found a few people here who I feel accept me. They are my real friends who keep me sane. The rest of the time, I try hard to see it from the other side. I smile as much as I can and, if that fails, buy cakes. And, frankly, if you can't be bought by cakes then I'm not interested anyway! ;P

Katrina said...

I've had a similar experience, changing my hair colour from blonde to light brunette (not exactly drastic, but noticeable) a few months ago. At first I received no reaction from my Japanese colleagues until finally a day or two later, one lady looked at me sideways and asked if something was different...the others soon followed suit and joined in with the unenthusiastic chorus of 'kawaii', politely indicating that they didn't like it!! There's just no pleasing some people!! Most importantly, I liked it, less importantly my boyfriend liked it also. So hope the same is true for you and your hair...
I actually went a shade darker today, so I'm wondering what the reaction will be from them next week...?!!?

Tokyo Moe said...

can't wait to see your new do!

i'll be in wig envy to keep up with you and the Project Host gyaruo.

i am sure you're looking good in any hair color, and mostly the ladies are jealous of your style & independence.

Sandra said...

I feel you. That sucks. Maybe it's one of those happiness-is-like-a-butterfly things where you have to just peacefully do your thing and let them find their own way over to you? I don't know. That's not meant to be advice, just musing.

Anonymous said...

Most of the world knows how Japan is through expat blogs, travel reviews, U.S. base goofs experiences or other "not in the know" types. This is unfortunate because this isnt the real Japan. The world needs to know what Japan is really all about.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Anon 1 - I wouldn't go so far as to say its in their DNA and as for living in Japan and avoiding work for/with Japanese people, I'm not sure how one would manage such a feat!

Sarahf - Liking the cake idea!! I have tried the omiyage thing but it never reaches the level of success I hope it will.

Katrina - I think some people here can't understand why I would want to be a brunette when I can carry off blond, a colour most Japanese people don't suit. I do like my new colour and the beau likes it both ways. I never intended to do this permanently and will probably go blond again in a few months.

Tokyo Moe - You're too kind! No matter how much I change my hair, I will never be able to keep up with the hosts and their flossy dos!

Sandra - I completely agree! I'm not as heartbroken as I perhaps sound, I have learned to live with it. Things are not going to change much so all I can really do is change my attitude and do things that make me happy :)

Anon 2 - I'm not sure I know what the "real Japan" is. I think, and without being trite, that every foreigner here has their own real Japan, which is just a huge collection of their experiences and impressions that occur along the way. While we may share similar experiences, I wouldn't say mine are indicative of others' and I'd be careful to point out that a lot of my Japan is positive but I don't feel the need to wax on about it.

kathrynoh said...

Looks like you are getting a few anon commenters with issues! Is it a Japanese thing? I think I've mentioned before, I work as an IT contractor and I get a lot of people who don't bother being friendly because they think I'm not going to stick around.

As for the hair colour thing, when I was on hols in Japan earlier this year, I had black hair. I was standing at the traffic lights and some old man started talking to me in Japanese. I turned around and he saw me and screamed "Gaijin, gaijin!".

It was pretty funny and seriously, even with black hair I don't think I could ever be mistaken for a Japanese girl from behind!

Lisa said...

Brown hair is the best! I'm sure you look fantastic.

No one in my life notices when I make drastic changes to my appearance, so I feel your pain.

Anonymous said...

"and as for living in Japan and avoiding work for/with Japanese people, I'm not sure how one would manage such a feat!"

Embassies, bases, Data Centers, English Teachers. Not allot, but there are places where you can have min. contact with J coworkers. Seek and you will find. Your health deserves it.

Manfromnewford said...

Sorry to hear about your trials at work. While I admire the lengths that you go to try to get an in with your co-workers, maybe you're trying a little too hard?

I mean, are these OLs even friends with each other? Or do they feel threatened by even the person in the next cubicle.

Anonymous said...

manfromnewford seems uninformed about Japan. This same situation has happened to me and everybody I know. You will never be accepted here because the facist are working overtime to regain control of the post war government that McArthur and likeminded Japanese created. Mindcontrol and media infiltration is everwhere. The gaijin word is here to stay. I actually feel my best when I take no shit and be direct. It gets me respect as well. These people are lost sheep, waiting to be herded by the men who pull the strings. Its not a deep thing to comprehend. Cultural sensitivity and PC dont work here, thats something invented in America for America.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

kathrynoh: I have sometimes thought it's just that - they don't think I am going to stick around, but I also think it goes deeper than that, I am an outsider in more ways than one. On the other hand, I have never had any one yell 'gaijin, gaijin' at me, but fingers crossed it happens one of these days!! Did you laugh when it happened?

Lisa: It's a bizarre feeling to not even get a rise out of them when I completely change my look. I have to content myself believing they are discussing it secretly :)

Anon: I can see how that kind of environment would feel like a breath of fresh air, but since I feel like the Kaisha atmosphere is simply a smaller model of the larger societal one, I don't know why someone who has an aversion to working with Japanese people would live in Japan...unless it's simply a financial thing or they are otherwise detained here for some reason. Can you offer some insight into this?

Manfromnewford: Thanks for stopping by! I'm really not going to such ridiculous lengths, the hair comment was only about 4.7% true. As for the relationship between the OLs, they are all pretty tight. As with schools here, when people enter companies together there are a lot of activities and strategies that encourage bonding between people of the same "year". Not everyone is bosom buddies but there is a strong feeling of cohesion among the OLs, particularly with those who started in the same year.

Anon: While I don't agree with everything you've said, but I found the comment about cultural sensitivity and PC interesting. There is definitely no foundation for PC here, part of which I think has to do with the homogeneity (faked in some ways it seems to me)