Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Expat Column 14
BY Daniel Björnström, Kochi City CIR

In the movie Blade, Wesley Snipes plays a half human half vampire hybrid. He isn’t bound by the limitations of either identity. He can walk around in daytime like a human but live forever like a vampire. People call him the Daywalker.

I too am a “daywalker.” As an American with a Japanese mother, I look and speak Japanese, and for many people, am indistinguishable from Japanese. But I’m a foreigner. This dual identity allows me to walk freely among both the Japanese and foreign communities.

When I first meet Japanese people, they often don’t realize that I’m a foreigner. It’s been interesting for me to hear their reactions when they figure it out. Usually it’s just an “Oh! I had no idea,” but sometimes they say, “Wow, I didn’t feel uncomfortable around you at all!”

This begs the questions, “If you had known I was a foreigner, would you have felt uncomfortable? Why?” Perhaps they’re nervous about using English to communicate. Perhaps they’re afraid of offending someone because of cultural misunderstandings. Or perhaps they just don’t know what common ground to find for a conversation. Japan still has a relatively small foreign population (about 2%), and Kochi Prefecture’s is even smaller (about 0.5%). Most people probably don’t interact with foreigners on a daily basis. I’m sure talking directly to a foreigner is uncharted territory for many, and maybe that’s a bit intimidating.

Whatever the reason, I hope that, after meeting me, people will realize that talking to a foreigner isn’t so scary. I hope that they will be encouraged not to shy away from befriending their new neighbors from Indonesia, Slovakia or Australia.

So perhaps I’m less a “daywalker” like Blade, and more like a pair of Huggies training pants.

Taken from vol.27 (December, 2008 & January, 2009. Transportation in Kochi)

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