Monday, October 11, 2010

Bitch, please

I think it could be a sign that you've really made it in Japan when you can verbally assault passersby in Japanese at the drop of a hat. If you'll humor me this hypothesis, then I can tell you that as of today, I have officially arrived.

The beau and I were prancing through Ginza this afternoon on one of the back streets when he stopped to look at a menu in front of a restaurant. There was a woman coming towards us on my side but I stopped and moved in towards the beau. I kind of actually hate when people randomly stop in the street to look at stuff but the beau had pulled over so what could I do. Stroller Bitch must have thought I should have waited for her to pass, because when she went around us (and P.S. there was plenty of room because it wasn't a street with raised sidewalks), she clucked her tongue and snarled "jama da yo" to me, which basically means "you're in the way" and not something you say to people in the street. Without missing a beat, I immediately shot back "omae ga jama da yo." I've discussed the use of "omae" before ("you") - I've seen it used to show familiarity among the beau and his family, and I've also gotten pissed at him for using it with me when we argue when it's used in a derogatory way. I was definitely not being familiar with Stroller Bitch when I spat it out at her.

Nothing more happened, she kept going and I turned back to the beau who was studying the menu with the concentration of a pro. Or that of one with a cray cray girlfriend prone to amuse and offend.

Immediately after the exchange I felt like crying like a little bitch. I think this was partly due to the fact that I was hungry and tired but I definitely felt uneasy about the whole thing. I've gotten into physical passive-aggressive shoving with people during my commute, which is well-documented, but I've never had such an exchange with someone on the street, no matter how many times I've wanted to. Which may account for my immediate and perfect response ("you're the one in the fucking way"). As with most humans, my response time is slow and I can only think of clever comebacks hours after the fact but today my delivery was pitch perfect. The practicing in my head has obviously and at long last paid off.

I feel pretty bad at the moment about the whole thing, although I really wouldn't have done it much differently to be honest: I don't know whether she would have said that to me if I was Japanese, I can only speculate, but I did want to make it very clear to her that I knew exactly what she was saying. I may have done a bad thing for foreigners everywhere just trying to make it here in Japan, and for that I am sorrry, but I refuse to take shit for something so trivial as not kowtowing to a woman who has decided to take her demon spawn out for a walk.


blukats said...

You wouldn't be human if you didn't feel a bit bothered by the woman.

As for it being a negative thing, actually if it became more common for non-Japanese folks to understand and speak Japanese while in Japan, it might make the random Japanese insult less common out of fear that it could be understood.

At least there the odds of something more happening are pretty low. Where I am at, people can blow up over absolutely nothing. Good ol' America.

kathrynoh said...

Good on you for saying something.

Anonymous said...

those Japanese who would say some such thing to a foreigner as they did in your case may be all the more emboldened because Ginza is Tourist-Central these days, and Chuo-ku people are and always were a bit stuck-up to begin with. So don't feel too bad.

Orchid64 said...

I think the fact that this is relatively rare in Japan (among the Japanese themselves) makes it feel that much more personal (and likely based in anti-gaijin sentiment) than if it happened elsewhere. Rather than the relative rarity making it sting less, it actually makes it sting more. You are aware that you are being singled out for what would be unusually rude treatment. Your response was very understandable.

Loco said...

Hey Green Eyes, I know EXACTLY how you feel, minus the pangs of regret. I have definitely amped it up of late and it has not so much made me feel remorseful as it has made me consider the state of my soul and the impact living here among people who do "things" I wouldn't accept back home but have come to accept as the cost of living here has had on it. It is what prompted my launching the current series I've been hammering away at; the "Hi! My name is Loco...etc" series. Anyway, ganbarimasyou ne

Erin said...

Is it wrong that I've totally memorized this phrase now for my next trip over there? At Tokyo Disneyland (so help me), I'd be spitting this every five seconds. I curse their lack of peripheral vision on a daily basis.

Sarah said...

Green Eyed Geisha 1
Nameless Ginza Bitch O

Yay for snappy comebacks! I'd say that instead of endangering the treatment of other foreigners you've done the opposite - that woman is less likely to speak without thinking again next time. While it may be a long shot to hope that you made her realize foreigners are people too, you did at least make her realize that some can speak Japanese so she should watch her tongue!

Good on you!!

Sarahf said...

I think some Japanese women have a bitchiness they keep for foreigners, thinking we're too dumb to notice. Good for you for calling her on it, and for having the language ability to do it.

ELSN said...

Ooooh, like everyone else I have nothing but admiration. Especially in being able to spit out the Japanese so fast.

Like Anon said, if she's walking her kid in Ginza she's probably stuck-up anyways, and definitely breaking any politeness rule with that rude speech.

In related news, an old guy on the Marunouchi Line this morning found something so interesting about my face that he couldn't pull his eyes away. I then failed at concentrating on my book so I muttered an aggressive "Jesus Christ!" and made a big show of moving to the other side of the row of seats. And then I felt bad. You can't win.

Corinne said...

Good on you, I always come up with a snappy one liner about two hours too late when I'm still fuming. Although I told a parking attendant to get bent the other day, maybe I'm levelling up a bit!

I hate the stroller bitches who think they are so superior because they choose to breed parasites that will be just as snooty as them. I bet she's one of the bitchy yochien mums that I loathe.

Generic Jen B said...

Good job; I can only ever manage a "nani?!?!?" which I can't follow up. I can relate to a lot of the comments here too; the scowling, the upsetting nature of these little episodes despite the fact that in France I got spat on, insulted randomly and pushed of sidewalks most weekends and I didn't care much...

I prefer a chilled, Shimoda-dwelling type of mother also.

Rose said...

Oooh girl! *snaps in a "Z" formation* Bitch got TOLD!

I love it.

I'm allergic to children (apologies to all you cool gaijin mommies) and it sounds like she thought her precious little snowflake deserved sidewalk access more than you did, simply by dint of her being Japanese. Good on you for your totally awesome retort.

In the future, if you want to make it sound extra nasty, pronounce "omae" as "omee" which makes it just one step nicer than "temee." :)

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Wow thanks for all the supportive comments.

blukats: I agree, and I hope it surprised her that I talked back! After being here, I actually find I crave the out-and-out craziness in other places (re: the States).

Anonymous: That's an interesting take, I hadn't considered that. I guess I didn't think she was very snobby, just a biatch. I pay resident taxes in Chuo-ku so if what you say is true than I am not liking being dissed on my home turf!

Orchid64: The rarity of it definitely makes it worse. As I said though, I will never know whether the comment came from that fact that she didn't think I would understand. Foreigner or no foreigner, she was out of line.

Loco: I agree that just because we are living in "someone else's" country does not excuse treatment that is below the basic level that everyone deserves. It's difficult to react to it when that reaction will be judged differently depending on how foreign you appear. I have been following your series - it's a really interesting read. I have held off commenting as some of the comments struck me as anti-semitic (not yours) among other things and I am at a bit of a loss as to what to contribute, to tell you the truth!

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Erin: "curse their lack of peripheral vision" sums it up perfectly! I am on constant alert all day every day.

ELSN: Good move, literally. I know it feels overblown sometimes but it totally isn't when there is constant looking looking looking

Corinne: Good on you! I don't know how you deal with the ins and outs of yochien protocol, it sounds exhausting! I didn't so much mind her choice to breed, as the fact that she expected me to fall down on my knees in deference to her passing.

Jen B: why is that?! I never take it personally overseas either. The accumulative effect of all the little stuff can be crushing here.

Rose: :) She sure did! Love your suggestion - I have a sweet-looking half gf here who talks like a total male yanki whenever guys roll past her and try to nanpa and/or bother her. It totally freaks them out!

Anonymous said...

I suppose things like this happens when people are well to do. In my day, 1953 - 1956, the stuck-ups were hungry and would trade anything for a bar of soap or a tube of toothpaste. And a pound of coffee would pay the rent for a month.

Apryl in Wonderland said...

Ah, GEG! It may be your gentle and polite Canadian upbringing that makes you so mellow and forgiving of most transgressions - until now!

As an American, I have to squelch down the urge to constantly start sumthin' with the folks who push in front of the train line, or otherwise exhibit bad behavior.

Actually not...I'm very very low conflict and laid-back, HOWEVER...

At long last I decided to join a gym here. Friends went with me to help me fill in the paperwork, but then they left me alone with the tourguide - figuring I could visually "grasp" what his instructions were.

So, I am trekking through the weight machine area, and this older (50ish?) guy starts staring at me! Then he gets up from his bench and starts walking around me while staring! Now, certainly, I am not a thin and dainty Asian flower...but since I CAN actually buy clothes in the stores here; albeit the "model" AKA "big girl" section, I frickin know he has seen chicks my size before!

Now, I can not speak Japanese (BAD me!) but after a prolonged time of his circling and staring, I just glared and said "dai jobu?" in an angry tone. My concept was to be saying "everything okay asshole?"

The guy jerked and ran off...then the poor tour guide asks "nihon-go?" expectantly.

Nope, nope....sorry!

Julie said...

Good on you for saying something!

I have a lot of similar experiences here in Thailand. I think I first posted some of them here, when I first discovered your blog:

including people in restaurants serving all the Thai customers first, people saying "I don't speak FOREIGNER" when I've just spoken to them in Thai, and being called a prostitute by the doorwoman of my building -- oh the irony -- most of these are by really trashy, poor, uneducated Thai people, but since they make up the entirety of the service people here (ok many of them are uneducated and poor but not trashy), you pretty much always dealing with them.

I don't think because we are foreigners in these countries that means that we should just accept being treated badly, apologizing for taking up precious space -- after all, the governments of these countries spend how much money recruiting foreign workers and advertising to tourists to come visit there.

But I understand your feelings so much -- frustration and kind of rage -- like what have I done to be treated like this, except just being a foreigner? It's so ridiculous.

This posts seems to have struck a nerve with many commenters, me included, having now written this super long comment!

But anyways, I think it's good you said something.

Lisa said...

Good for you!

Anonymous said...

GEG, I myself am out and about around Chuo-ku on a daily basis and can appreciate its good as well as bad points (and prefer to focus on the good, as I think the Ginza-Tsukiji-Shintomicho area is quite a nice part of town). I generalized but by no means intended to diss your stomping grounds. It's just that the ku is known for being among the relatively wealthier, snootier areas on Tokyo's east side, and that combination can occasionally result in the annoyance you experienced.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Apryl: gentle and polite I am not, but I've just never had a verbal confrontation before (despite having them in my head on an almost daily basis). I guess I am lucky a lot of sweaty foreigners go to my gym otherwise I would be afraid of scaring the locals when I am red-faced and drenched!

Julie: As always I am interested in what your experiences have been across the sea. I guess it makes things uncomfortable in either case, but I almost wish people were more out there with their frustrations here. Sometimes I feel like the passive agressive and unsaidness of situations here are unbearable!

Anon: It's totally snooty and no need to explain! When I said "diss" I was referring to the woman I encountered, not your comment :)

Chris said...

Oh you go bitch!!
And fuck the other bitch too ;)

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

There's a whole lotta bitches getting thrown around on this blog as of late!

Chris said...

I didn't physically throw any of them around. If any of them claim otherwise there lyin' ;)