*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Monday, 26 December 2011

No, I will not meet your friend visiting Tokyo...

... unless they are Japanese.

No, my story's not as interesting as the one in the picture, which would at least give me something to 'dine out on' for the decades I've got left.  I wouldn't even tell the story if it was not so common: Gaijin wastes my time.

A mutual friend of twenty years asks me to meet up with this compatriot when he visits here.  As a favour to her, of course, but it's not like most people are interesting, so I do not especially anticipate it.  However, he asks for some advice travelling here and there, by email, and I am glad to spend some time giving him what information and opinions I have so he can make the best of it.

This morning, Boxing Day, we were meant to meet in Shimokitazawa just before lunch, which is a fifty minute ride from where I live.  I get there; he's not.  I text him, because it's not hard for a noob to get lost in a Japanese train station, and I get a response that he's slept in, and an apology.  I have no time for apologies, giving them or receiving them.  They are something both Japanese and Canadians do more often than brush their teeth.  And as a 'lapsed Catholic', I don't believe in forgiveness... but I still believe in penance: 'Rem non spem querit amicus'*.  If I'd done it to him, I'd be telling him dinner was on my tab.  If not for his sake, but for the value of the friendship with our mutual friend.

So I can tell him all of that.  I can tell him that a Japanese person would have made the appointment hung-over or not, which he likely was.  I could point out that Japanese do not forget appointments, which is another possibility for him, and this largely endears their other compulsive behaviours.  Except, I'm never going to see this guy again, and westerners will never listen to anything that attacks the myth of their own self-importance.  He asked if we can meet later, at the end of his rambling apology.  My answer: 'no'.

I'm a married guy with a kid, been sick for two days, and not in a mood to be dicked around.  I don't know if he got the laconic answer because I couldn't be bothered (except I am writing all this...), I want to keep the mutual friend, or I'm just too tired, but better he got the short than the long answer.

*Deeds, not promises, make friendship. - Seneca
That is the full value of a year of university Latin.


  1. I feel your pain. I hate having to do tedious favors for people who just don't get it. "No I don't want to go to the ward office with you as an interpreter..." I see a lot of Japanese get taken advantage of by foreigners in these situations.

    By the way, I love Seneca. Letters from a Stoic should be mandatory reading—for everyone.

  2. "and I get a response that he's slept in, and an apology"

    I stopped right here. I have read no further. I will after I comment
    (that seems odd or backwards...right?)

    I am very very violent...verbally or otherwise to people who treat my time with less value than theirs. Man.....I fucking HATE of fuckers who mess with me in that way. I got a post coming related to a Facebook fiasco (that's the only shit I get from that place) regarding a non response to a party invite...then late then cancel...then...coming...

    I told him I am seriously considering pounding his face into the pavement the next time I see him if he even smirks.

    I take my time and people fucking wiith it THAT serious.

    I consider respecting another persons time automatic. Too many folks apparently do not.

    I will now return to reading the entire post.

  3. Derek, I only know bits of Seneca, but if I had to choose an ancient philosophy to live by (how would that ever happen...?) it'd be Stoic or Cynic. And Japanese do get taken advantage of, as you say. Now I have been that guy, and more rarely still am, but I always get them some kind of gift to show them I know their time is as valuable as mine.

    Chris, this leads into your comment. I hardly host anymore, because I've been burned too many times. Hell, getting burned by new 'friends' is almost normal, but getting burned by people you thought you knew... You know the best reason not to pound the guy is simple: he's not nearly worth the trouble it could cause to you. Facebook? I got sucked in, but now I use it but more carefully: ditched a bunch of people, and post and share most things with only a half a dozen real friends.

  4. That's so shit. Especially nowadays when it's nothing to send an email BEFORE you go to the trouble of travelling somewhere. Urrggh.

    I got shitty enough with people emailing me a heap of questions for their visit to Japan and, when I'd reply, not even bothering to send off a thanks. It's really not that hard.

  5. Thank for your commiseration, Derek, Chris and kathrynoh.

    I have got around dealing with the heap of questions about Japan. I just find the email I sent someone else and copy/paste. Saves a half hour each time. I also don't bother getting descriptive about places like Kyoto; I give them a few good links.

  6. There's something about visiting here that really seems to screw with the heads of otherwise intelligent, capable adults to the point where they act like children, wholly dependent on others/you for even the simplest acts.

    Being charitable, it may be because everything is so different, superficially at least. And it is superficial. You just want to shake them and tell them to stop and think. And if they do they they might actually notice all the English signage and other stuff. Water still flows downhill and night still follows day.

    None of which excuses not turning up or saying thanks. That's just being a dick.

  7. Thank you, kamo.

    To deal with the humans some people meditate, some turn for inspiration to the Gospels, a nobler soul than mine would turn to the Stoics; I mutter my version of 'Sturgeon's Law': "ninety percent of every[body] is crap".

  8. You know what I hate even more? When someone visits Japan and then you try and take them to a cool local spot that is NOT in the guidebooks, that's NOT in Metropolis, that they would NEVER see without your assistance and they say, "Oh, I thought I was going to see Harajuku girls!" I get tired of people who are only interested in the stereotype.

    On another note, I don't agree with your blanket statement that, " I can tell him that a Japanese person would have made the appointment hung-over or not, which he likely was. I could point out that Japanese do not forget appointments, which is another possibility for him, and this largely endears their other compulsive behaviours."

    I think that's going a bit too far. I know quite a few Japanese people who always tend to "get sick" on the day of an event. I even get emails from women telling me that they started their period and they can't make it. So I would be hesitant to say that Japanese people do anything.

    I would be more inclined to say that people who value your friendship don't cancel on you or waste your time. It doesn't matter if they are Japanese or not.

  9. Of course I'm 'going a bit too far': that's what I do on this blog! However, I appreciate your comments.

    The period thing is interesting. I have certainly had platonic friendships with Japanese women, and some of the other, but the platonic friends would never have shared that information with me. I am not qualified to argue with your point there.

  10. Of course Japanese people wouldn't use the feeling sick excuse. If they are Japanese, the excuse has to be work!

  11. I need a 'like' button for comments like yours, 'kathryn'.