Posted: September 14th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Japan | Comments Off on Xenophobia

The other day, while we were on the second floor of the gym, an older woman started talking to us.

We were cooling off on one of the jiggle machines (pictured below), which are admittedly fun, and often quite hilarious.

Butt Jiggle Machine

The following conversation took place in Japanese.

Woman: [rattled mumblings, as the jiggle machine rendered her nigh unintelligible]

Me: I’m sorry, what was that?

Woman: [slows her machine down] Good afternoon, you must be tired.

Me: Ah, Good Afternoon! You must be be tired.

(You must be tired is a polite way to acknowledge that someone has been working hard)

Woman: [gesturing at the two of us] Where are you from?

Me: Oh, we’re from America.

Woman: When are you going back?

Me: [gesturing to my friend] Uhh…well, he’s going back in October.

Woman: He is going back to stay in America?

Me: Er…no, he’ll be back after a few days.

Woman: [looking at my friend] Don’t bring the influenza back.

Me: Oh, well, I’m sure he will be very careful…

Woman: Good, we don’t need influenza here, its bad! Take care!

Me: Thanks…you take care too!

This conversation, while amusing, is a good example of the slight xenophobia, and sometimes irrational behavior, of older Japanese folks. But really, tell me that some of us couldn’t have the same conversation with our grandmothers about something similar.

Not America, we love immigrants, right?

Incidentally, influenza, specifically H1N1, has been in the city for weeks now. So, there isn’t anything for us to bring back that isn’t already here. But if there is a breakout, we had better keep an eye on the foreign population, because Japanese people never travel overseas.

Except my boss, and colleagues….and thousands upon thousands of other Japanese people.

And this is the first thing you get when you google image search xenophobia.


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