November 11, 2012

The Language Mask

I wrote something two posts ago that was, in part, intended as a joke.
The language barrier did give me a great chance to lie though! I had Kurumi tell her friends that, although I only spoke a little Japanese, I was fluent in Spanish, French and German because, fuck, what do they know?! And am I an actor? YOU BET! A model? Only sometimes. There is a great confidence that comes with not being able to speak with people.
Since then, that final thought has been stuck in my head; unbeknownst to me I was revealing a new discovery: The inability to communicate with most people has lead me to a new kind of confidence. It is freeing to wear a mask:


No, not that mask, the mask of being unable to speak. Because with the inability to speak comes the inability to understand. Often what keeps people from doing things is the fear of embarrassment, or of being told off or insulted. Words are the most powerful weapons people can yield, so when you take remove these (or at least the ability to comprehend them) you take away someone's ability to embarrass you. It also helps that the Japanese are so polite, especially to foreigners, and that I can always use the excuse "I'm new here!", but I have never once worried what someone might say because, hell, I won't know!

Despite rising a foot among most people here, I feel invisible. I can stop to take a photo of something trivial, like a funny sign or odd packaging, and not worry that someone is going to ask what I'm doing, or that I may overhear someone saying something about the weird guy taking photos. I can wave and smile at complete strangers because I do not have the fear that they may say something to me that makes me regret my actions. And if they do shy away, I'll just assume it's because of the language barrier. 

In some ways, it's like I'm being left alone. People assume (correctly) that they can't really communicate with the tall white guy, so unless there's something that has to be conveyed, they leave me alone. It's very freeing and something that is hard to achieve in America, or any other country where the average pedestrian does not have a firm grasp on English.

It's also a bit of ignorance is bliss, which is certainly a slippery slope, but with regards to caring what people have to say, I think it can be generally agreed upon that people's responses should never prevent you from doing what you feel like, and that has been my experience here in Japan.

1 comment:

Richard Kraft said...

Deep, man.