25 October 2005
Hopefully, this time next year I’ll be aboard the Rossiya, on the Trans-Siberian Railway, having new (vodka-related) adventures and meeting the locals whose friendliness and hospitality is well documented. My Scottish friend, Tumbleweed, will be accompanying me on the journey and I can imagine her horror when I mail her to tell her I have upped the ante and now want to do the Vladivostok to St Petersburg, then return from St Petersburg via the Trans-Mongolian Railway to Beijing.
I was reading my Trans-Siberian Railway guidebook last night and was struck by how foreign and exotic it all sounded. I felt my heart give that familiar leap of excitement at the thought of new exploits in a strange and bizarre (to me) land.
But then I thought, ‘Hang on a minute. I’m in TOKYO! How much more strange and bizarre can you get? This is the most insane place I have ever been.’
But I’m in No-Man’s Land. I’m not a tourist and I’m not a local. No matter how hard I try to fit in, to integrate myself into my new society, I will always be different, a foreigner, an alien. Even if I spoke Japanese fluently, I wouldn’t be accepted as ‘one of them’.
Children stare at me wide-eyed on the tram; teenagers hanging around in groups stop talking as I walk by, blatantly staring. I’ve always been a highly self-conscious person (too tall too young yada, yada, yada…) so I return their gaze with an awkward smile and they quickly look away; tiny, old folk hunched over from bone deformities created by shocking post World War II diets, manage to twist their necks around to stare up at me, eyes blank and faces impassive.
I feel like a walking, non-Japanese talking, freak show.