First of all, Im currently living and studying in Osaka, Japan. I'd like to share my experience from today with you. On my way back home from a wine tasting event, it began to rain so I took out the umbrella I had with me and used it. As I approached a pedestrian crossing, there was an old Japanese lady standing with her bicycle waiting for the traffic lights to change. Without hesitation, I walked up beside her and held my umbrella over her. In that instance like the flick of a switch, everybody around began to stare at me; even the people in the vehicles waiting for the traffic lights to change stared at me, I felt strangely naked by their glares. The old lady was equally surprised that she immediately began talking about the weather. I began to get that negative vibe that I must have violated some unseen cultural code of conduct. The traffic lights turned green and she bowed three times saying thank you before getting on her bicycle and quickly paddling off to the other side of the road.
As I continued my walk home, I replayed the people’s glares and stares over and over again in my head trying to make out what wrong I had committed to permit this public display of visual rebuke. Then it occurred to me that it was probably because I was a brown-skin girl; a foreigner who, without invitation, violated the private space of a Japanese lady in a public place. I remember being told several times by friends that Japanese are private people and usually don’t mind other peoples business because they don’t want to trouble others with their problems or don’t want to owe others anything, including favors. My bad.
As I walked further away from the scene of my encounter, I thought to myself, "Eyebrows should never have been raised for what I did, its common sense!”
But then I thought, maybe I wasn’t the one using my common sense. I probably should have just minded my own business. But I'm not Japanese and I can't simply ignore an old lady getting soaked in the rain while I stand comfortable and dry under my umbrella... Oh well...its been done...