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I don't really have a lot to say about the people in general. They seemed nice enough; they liked it when I tried to speak Japanese; and most of the time they kept to themselves, like people in any big city.

In fact, as a tall foreigner, I'd expected to get stared at a bit, but I didn't, much. It wasn't that there were a lot of foreigners around—we were far enough from downtown that we didn't see many others. Partly, I'm sure, it was that people were too polite to stare; and partly, I imagine, it was that everyone sees plenty of foreigners already on TV and in the movies.

One time, though, when I'd been walking around and was sitting on a bench outside some little stores to rest and drink a Coke, a woman rode up on a motor scooter with her son in the front basket, and he was definitely watching me. I'd guess he was about two years old. So, the two of them went into one of the stores for a while. When they came out, he was watching me again, so I waved to say hi … and he ran and hid behind his mom, and peeked out from behind her.

I did run into some other people, and of course worked with several people at NEC, but mostly I like to keep such details private. I will tell one more story, though.

Whenever I was out walking around and saw a sign or something that I thought might provide a missing piece of the language puzzle, I liked to stop and take the time to look closely at it, and perhaps make a note about it as well.

So, one time, I happened to see something that looked promising on a sign next to some garbage bins. I'm not sure they were bins, exactly—more like mini-dumpsters, since they were made out of metal. Anyway, there I was, reading the sign. As I learned later, I also happened to be near a school that taught Japanese to foreign students.

At this point, a young woman who was bicycling past, a university student, guessing that I'd just moved into the area to go to the school and was trying to figure out which bins were which, was kind enough to stop and try to help me out. Even after she understood I was just reading the sign, she stayed to talk for a minute … that was nice too.


  See Also

  Visit to Japan, A

@ October (2001)