Wanna Feel Like A Rockstar??
Come to Japan.
Having made that statement, I must add a few addendums on to it.
1. You must be white, preferably American.
2. You must be male. Females get special treatment too but from my observations, you get less of the rockstar treatment and more of the "haha, a white woman" treatment. The men will look at you like a piece of meat and the women will look at you with contempt because their men are looking at you and not them. Multiply this by two if you are a blonde woman. Multiply by ten if you are a natural redhead.
Now that that is out of the way, I will elaborate. First off, I am not Brad Pitt. I am your typical white guy. No butt, a tad of a gut, 5'10", and brown hair. In the States, I was pretty well liked and had no problems finding people to talk to in social situations and whatnot. I am pretty extroverted and like to talk. I am also kind of a clown. When I arrived in Japan almost six months ago, I was somewhat prepared for the difference in cultures and I figured I wouldn't have too hard of a time making friends. What I didn't expect was how many friends I would make here.
While in training for my job, I was befriended by a handful of people and I considered that good enough. What I was not prepared for was how friendly Japanese people are. In Japan, you have basically to views of foreigners, Americans especially. You either have the people that would prefer not to be around you, for me, this has been old men. Or you have the people that want nothing more than to talk to you. In the bigger cities, where people are more akin to seeing the occassional goofy looking gaijin meandering through the tight streets, the gawking is not as common. When you go out into the countryside, you become a god.
A few weeks ago, I was on a train and was sitting across from some high school girls, sailor uniforms and all. The girl directly across from me was studying English and I was trying to look at her book to see how it was set up. Her friend noticed this and whispered in the girl's ear and both of them started cracking up. Most people in Japan, have no problem talking about you even if you are right in front of them. What they do not expect is for the white guy they are talking about to start talking to them in Japanese. This is quite fun to do for two reasons: 1) They are automatically embarrassed because they assume if you can speak some Japanese you just understood what they were saying about you. 2) They get very excited because a white guy is making the effort to learn Japanese. The Japanese love it when people make the effort to speak to them in their language. If you come to Japan and need help, try asking for it in Japanese, even if you know you are butchering it. The person you are talking to will be much more willing to help you.
Either way, these girls are now all excited that there is a white guy chilling across from them and on top of that, he is talking to them. When I told them that I was just interested in her English book because I am an English teacher they started trying to say all sorts of stuff to me in English just to get a response out of me in English to see if it was the one they were taught. It was kind of fun.
The trains are the places that I usually get into the most random interactions with people. I have had high school guys sing to me because I was drinking a popular soft drink and they thought I should know the theme song to it. I have had guys oogling my tattoos after I went to itch my arm and they caught a glimpse of Evil Homer dancing on my bicep. I have had girls getting ready to board one train car until they saw me and then they come and sit down next to me. And also, I did meet my "auntie" Mariko on a train. High school girls are usually the most common of my fellow travellers to talk to me. All I have to do is say hello to them in English and I am automatically popular.
Once, I was sitting in a train station and these two high school girls were sitting across from me, talking about me, and when I talked to them, they started feeding me candy. They would give me a cookie, I would eat it, and they would give me another. I was like a chubby white squirrel they had to constantly feed. I am not complaining because it was from this encounter that I found one of my favorite snacks here but, it was just kind of funny.
Aside from train stations, walking in public can also cause a disturbance. Once, I was trodding along and this guy starts honking and waving at me, holding up traffic. I said hello to him and this apparently pleased him and he drove away. There was a day in which I went to the arcade and had a couple of girls say hello to me. No big deal, I said hello back, they giggled, I then proceeded to play an hour's worth of Tekken 5. It was when I came out of the building that I noticed they were waiting there for me. Odd. I passed them, they said hello to me yet again, I replied once more, they giggled, and I walked on.
From the sidewalk, I will now move into the bars. Japanese people, like everyone else, can pick out an American, Australian, English, and Canadian accent. Now, maybe it is just my magnetic personality and boy-ish charm, but I swear, once they here my accent and realize I am American, they all start talking to me. Then they call me a cowboy because I have a slight drawl. The thing I love about accents is that I can't tell I have one. Now that I have been around people with various Anglo accents, I am starting to be able to hear the difference, its weird. Either way, the people around here like to listen to me talk. I can't blame them, I like to listen to me talk as well. Being American has scored me free booze, discounted booze, free kareoke, free food, rides to places, you name it. It very odd because the feeling I get from the other crackers that I interact with is that the States are basically the laughing stock of the Western world. Some of their reasoning I agree with, some I don't but either way, at least the majority of the Japanese dig me.
Lastly, why Japanese teenagers really like me. Simply put, I like video games and have the money to possess a PSP, DS, and GP2X. If you want to bond with Japanese teenagers, show them your English video games. Right now, Animal Crossing DS is huge here, as is all things Mario. If you want to make a friend, let them play your copy of Super Mario Advance 3, thanks again Tony. When the kids find out that I know all about the XBox, PS2, and the upcoming, Nintendo Wii, they really start talking. In one of my classes, we spent almost the entire period discussing the pros and cons of the PS3 and the Wii. Since it was done mostly in English, I considered it justified. Speaking of the Wii, when it comes out here in October, I will let you know all about it, I am preordering one. :)
Anywho, when I do eventually return to the States, that will be one thing I think I will miss about this place. Back home, I was just another guy. Here, I am something a tad more. There are times when it annoys me and I feel more like a freakshow than a person, but usually it is pretty amusing. And sometimes, I am kind of a freakshow.