I was just thinking the other day that it had been a while since someone had struck up a conversation with me on the train or in a restaurant. I wondered if maybe I had been here long enough that the “new gaijin smell” had worn off me or something. As if the world had been waiting for me to notice, strangers started talking to me again this week.
The first was Monday. I was on my way home from work on the train when I felt something fall into my shirt. I looked and searched, but had no idea what it was. Still, it startled me enough for the lady to my right to notice. I briefly told her something fell on me, and she asked if it was a bug. That started a conversation — with the usual questions, like “where are you from” and “how long have you lived in Japan” — that only ended because we reached my stop.
The next was last night, again after work. I was hungry and had been eyeing a little standing-only pub nearby the station called Yamatoya for a couple weeks, so I decided to stop in for a beer and a bite. I ordered a draft and a small dish of curry macaroni and cheese salad (which was good) and discovered that it was a pay-as-you-go establishment. After a few minutes, the young businessman next to me asked me (in Japanese), “Hey, man, is this your first time here?” I told him it was, and we spent the next half hour or so talking. His name was Ryousuke, and he said he’d spent a year in New York City. (When I told him I’d never been, he said I wasn’t missing much.) We had some kushi and talked until I felt it was about time I got back, especially since the restaurant wasn’t exactly cheap and I had to get up early today (since it’s Showa Day and we started early). We exchanged LINE IDs, he promised to introduce me to some Japanese girls sometime, and I headed home. That conversation also reinforced something I’ve suspected for a while: much as I hate to admit it, my Japanese flows more naturally and requires less thought after I’ve had a beer or two.
Regardless of the reason, I’m glad the lull is over. Random conversations always boost my ego, and I occasionally make new friends in the process.