December 5 2000 at 7:07 AM

Response to YoungBlackDude

I've hung out with some black dudes in Japan...there is "racism" but it's nothing like U.S. racism. So I have been told.

Let's leave it at this, cos I want to get to bed soon: stick with Tokyo. There are lots of people who really dig the black "thang" (as they see it), hip-hop, afro and dreadlock 'dos, etc. If that's your deal, you will do well.

The farther you get from the city and deeper you go into the hinterlands, the more frightened the locals are likely to be. It's not homestyle racism...more xenophobia. I mean, a 6'1" whiteboy gaijin like me are scary enough for some of these little old men...an honest to goodness kokujinsan might be a little too alien for them. But maybe not. I've been surprised how accepting Japanese really are if they're not too afraid or nervous. And Japan is becoming more and more open with each passing day...

Anyway, stay in Tokyo or Osaka and you should enjoy yourself.

Incidentally, it's amazing how quickly black guys and white guys can bond in Japan, when they're both the minority. I'll never forget the black fellow I met in the tunnels connecting subway stations around Asakusa, off the Keio line from Narita...no gaijin anything anywhere around...a sea of shiny black hair bobbing up and down when suddenly I see this non-Japanese head pop up down the hall. As we approach, the grin on our faces was hilarious, and as we passed, a humorous, semi-exhasperated "Hi man!" attitude came over us...almost as though we were long lost brothers or something. It was so clear that we were both SO out of our element that anything non-Japanese seemed friendly and inviting. Makes all that B.S. about race relations in the U.S. seem like a faraway, obscure joke...gaijin of any stripe have to stick together!

Probably the best part of my travels in Japan was getting to know people I might not otherwise have ever met in the states...getting to be friends without all the artificial social bullshit and phony pressure that can taint race relations at home...


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