It’s no secret that Japan is home to a lot of jaded, bitter expats. Talk to these people for longer than thirty seconds and they will not hesitate to provide you with a laundry list of complaints about Japan as well as reasons why every aspect of life in their home country is a million times better. If you have the misfortune of encountering one of these soulsuckers, the best thing you can do is simply find someone else to talk to. The worst thing you can do is ask, “Well, why don’t you just go home then?” This seemingly fair and innocent question is a Pandora’s box of excuses, insecurity and self-delusion that is best left unopened.
Unfortunately, I became acquainted with one of these lost souls by way of Tinder, a highly respected and sophisticated dating app that connects its users with their true soulmates, provided that both parties a) have their location settings turned on, and b) swiped right. We exchanged playful banter that went something along the lines of this:
Tinderella: wanna meet up for a drink?
Me: yeah sure, I can be there in like 30. Just finishing up some laundry
T: just had my first shot of sake. Hurry up! ;)
Me: On My Way!
Me: *omw lol :)
I hopped aboard my chosen steed, the JR line, and took a fifteen minute subway ride to what I hoped would be a night of alcohol-fueled sex (by “night” I mean 12 – 18 minutes) followed by a lingering sense of shame and regret that would last well into the next day. My train arrived, and I made my way to our agreed meetup location. Now was the time for gallantry.
Now I know that everyone puts their best foot forward when choosing a profile pic for Tinder (mine is a photo of yours truly in a Mario costume), and after using the app for over a year I’d become accustomed to minor letdowns and surprises, but this girl abused the angles in ways I had never thought possible. She had an understanding of visual trickery that would have made M.C. Escher put down his paintbrush. It’s not that she looked different; she looked like a different human being entirely, so much so that I did not recognize her until she called my name.
At this point you are probably thinking, so she didn’t look as good as her picture, why do you have to be such a chauvinistic asshole? You haven’t even gotten to know her yet. And to that I have two responses. Indeed, few people are as impressive in person as their online dating profile would lead you to believe, but if the contrast between your photo and your actual presentation is so great that it makes you unrecognizable, you are being deceptive. For the same reason, I didn’t use a photo of R. Kelly as my main profile pic, even though I really wanted to. And the second response: If I were really a chauvinist, I would have left. Instead, I decided to roll the dice and see what would happen; maybe she’d be really cool, maybe we’d have a fun night out, maybe we’d both get really drunk and end up sleeping together anyway.
None of these things happened (except the really drunk part). In fact, less than two minutes into our date I already knew that I had encountered a jaded gaijin of the worst kind – she was unabashedly racist, hated Japan, hated its people, refused to speak the language (even when ordering food) after living here several years, and seemed to resent other gaijin who genuinely enjoyed their lives here. After sitting down at an izakaya, the first thirty seconds of our conversation went like this:
“Do you really like it here?”
“Yeah sure, it’s fine. Why, you want to check out a different bar?”
“No, I meant…Japan.”
“Oh…yeah I like living here.”
“That’s just because you’re a guy.”
“Well I like my job, and I have good friends, it’s enough to live anywhere I think.”
“No. Ok can I just say something? I hate it here. These people…”
Around this time, the staff came to take our order. Now I have never been one to judge the Japanese ability of other foreigners – it’s a challenging language to learn, and even after four years I have a long way to go – but there is a rare breed of bitter gaijin who flat out refuse to speak the language as an act of defiance, and she was one of them. Even someone with a beginner’s level comprehension can order a basket of French fries: poteto furai hitotsu kudasai. You can even get away with just poteto furai. What she said was, “fries.” Our waiter, a Japanese man who looked to be in his 60’s, gave her a confused look. She repeated her order three times, each with increasing intensity. “Fries…Fries…FRIES.” She pointed aggressively at the menu, and he understood.
I realized immediately that this was not going to be a fun night for either of us. So I did the only thing I could do in this situation, which was get belligerently drunk. I ordered highballs faster than the waiter could bring them to me. To Tinderella’s credit, she kept up with me, but could not hold her liquor like I can. I’m what the Japanese call tsuyoi, but really I know I’m just an alcoholic.
Tinderella became very drunk – and flirty. I did not want to take it there, but I continued the conversation because, well, there was nothing else to do. She said she hated Japan, so I asked her why she didn’t return to her home country of India, which I’ve never been to but I hear has great curry.
“I don’t like it there either. I don’t like Indian people.”
“Well then, where do you want to live?”
“Have you ever been there?”
“No, but…I don’t know. I guess I’m not happy anywhere.”
She decided to phone her neighbor and best friend, a Russian girl, who was just returning home from a party (They both lived around the corner from the izakaya – how convenient), and asked her to come join us. She arrived a few minutes later with an open beer can in her hand and another in her purse, which I thought was pretty cool. She took one look and Tinderella, then at me. “She doesn’t usually get this drunk,” she explained. “I think you make her nervous.” Miss Russia was nice enough, but her mission objective was clear as she spent the remainder of the evening trying to push me onto Tinderella so that I’d take her home.
Finally, it came time to pay the bill, which we split evenly. If I wanted to get home, I would have to take a taxi as the trains would not be running again for another two hours. When I told the girls this, they tried to coax me into staying out for more drinks – specifically the Russian friend, who even offered me the beer in her purse by thrusting it in my face. It was maybe the third time I’ve ever turned down sex in my life, and definitely the first time I’ve ever turned down booze. The awkwardness of the moment was amplified by the fact that it was past 3am in a residential area and we were the only living things in the street. I had to get out fast as my excuses for why I had to get home were wearing thin.
Just then, a taxi came around the corner and I immediately flagged him down. The back door opened automatically (Tokyo taxis are cool like that), I gave a quick “goodbye, have a nice night!” and jumped in back before either of them could try to change my mind. Those would be the last words I ever spoke to Tinderella and the White Russian.
I finally made it home and stumbled my way to my room at about 4am, but woke up three hours later to the sad realization. I never actually remembered to pick up my laundry.