February 26, 2011

Homeless Japanese Dudes Really Like Me

Well, I suspect they just like Western-looking people in general. The reason being somehow they caught on to the fact that Western culture has a strong tradition of charity. Japan, on the other hand, has a culture of 恩返し (ongaeshi,gratitude+return). Someone gives you a gift and then you try to return it or pay it forward to someone lower on the pecking order.
Odd image via Nippon Cinema

When NOVA went under, we started to hear stories of out of work English teachers getting food from their former students. But a lot of those students then sat themselves or their child down for a free English lesson. Expecting something in return is not charity, so if you want charity a foreigner is a good person to go to.

Often I am accosted by gentlemen of the homeless persuasion at larger train stations around here. They always address me in English to ask for money. I, having mixed feelings about what they will spend their money on, often counter with, "おにぎりは?" (How about a riceball?). They always walk away, though I genuinely am offering.

Tonight I walked into my local Dokihotei to buy some weights. A rather unwashed-looking gentleman followed me in, said "HELLO!" and thrust out a left hand, bedecked in fungusy nails, for me to reluctantly shake. I tried to wave bye-bye, but he followed me throughout the store, cornering me near my quarry, a set of adjustable dumbbells. After a weird show of strength with forearm exercise pincers, he started to ask me in Japanese for money. I gave my usual onigiri counter offer, and he raised for bread. Deal. He wanted to carry my heavy purchase for me, but as I am not from an ongaeshi culture, I couldn't let him. Maybe that was insensitive of me; I don't know the rules that well. Anyways, he got the bread, and I got to to thinking, so the end result is a blog post.
Virtue is its own reward.

Japanese Study Links

Sign/Ad J | J Slang | J News w/Pics | J Vids
Karaoke | J Commercials | Let's Yoji! | Kanji