through foreigners' eyes

Sunday, March 13, 2011 | |


Harajuku, March 11, 2010.

I was in Tokyo one year ago.

As I walked out into the square outside the Harajuku stop on the Yamanote line, I saw a TV crew talking to some Westerners. I went for a walk down the path into the adjacent forest, and when I came back a little bit later, they seemed to be looking around for someone to talk to. I wandered up to them under the pretense of asking them where I was. When they heard me speaking English, they smiled; the one on the right introduced them as producers for Fuji TV. They were working on a segment about what visitors found unique about Japan. "You see your own country fresh through foreigners' eyes," he said. He asked if I had taken any pictures, so I pulled out my Nikon and started going through my shots.

He was particularly interested in a picture of a pay phone I had taken. Why was that interesting? he asked enthusiastically, as if I were about to reveal a stunning insight into the cultural divide between our countries. "Well," I stammered, "the phones here are green... Back home, they're blue."

"Ahhhh!" If he was disappointed in my answer, he did a good job of hiding it.

That night, I emailed him the photo of the phone, as well as a time lapse I had taken at Shibuya the day before. I also sent him this picture of him and his partner. I had read that trading pictures is a polite thing to do in Japan after meeting someone for the first time.

In the aftermath of the Sendai earthquake and tsunami, my thoughts have been with all of the people that I met. I wonder what they're up to, and I hope that they're ok.