A Strange Old Man

After dropping some movies off at Tsutaya, I find myself at a street crossing. While sitting on my bike waiting for the light to change, a most peculiar thing happens–a Japanese person asks me for directions. He’s an old man–diminutive build, long wiry gray hair, and dressed in sports wear with a red backpack.

“Where’s the station?” he asks.

“It’s straight ahead,” I say in my horribly accented and nervous Japanese.

He takes a look at me.

“Are you Japanese?”

“…no. I’m American.”

“Ah! American!” he switches to English, “You speak English?”


“You seem Japanese!”

Let’s back up a bit.

“You seem Japanese!”

The only thing “Japanese” about me is that I have black hair. Note: Not straight black hair–simply black hair. Everything else about me screams “FOREIGNER.” That said, he is old, which means one of two things: Either his vision is completely gone, or he’s losing his mind. As much as I’d like to go with the latter, it’s probably the former–it was pretty dark outside.

“I am actually going to America! My son, he went to work there. He works at Caterpillar company. Do you know? He’s working at Caterpillar company in Illinois state. Do you know Illinois state?”

“Yes, I know it.”

“Where are you from?”

“I’m from Washington DC.”

“Oh… Washington DC… big town! Big business! Big politics! You must be one of those people!”

“Sadly not!”

I would have loved to stay and chat, but I was kind of in a rush to get some food into my stomach, so I bid the old man farewell and zoomed off on my bike.

This is also around the same area where I met a convenience store employee who spoke perfect English. Pretty weird.


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