In an incredibly surprising turn of events, I was actually hit on by a Japanese guy last week.
It took 5 months, but honestly I was pretty sure such a thing might never happen. I have been warned that not only are Japanese people reserved and reluctant to strike up conversations with strangers, but also that Japanese guys are not quite so forward as their Western counterparts may tend to be when it comes to approaching members of the opposite sex. I have, on a few occasions, been flirted with – which is always nice. It is a relief to find that there are some things that can be expected to happen among people regardless of place or culture. I’ve also had one or two retirees strike up harmless conversations to practice their English. And then, I had also been approached at times by the creepy old guy, or the drunk guy, or on occasion, the old creepy drunk guy all in one. But alas, no one near my age had made any actual romantic attempts until this past Thursday.
I was walking outside about a block from my building, waiting to cross the street on my way to buy some lunch, when suddenly a young Japanese guy walked up to me and began rattling off a whirlwind of Japanese that I did not understand. I managed to eke out “nihongo…ga…sukoshi..”, which more or less gets across the fact that I can’t really speak Japanese — either because that’s what I actually said, or because of the horrible broken speech with which I said it. Turns out he spoke reasonably decent English. “You are so beautiful! Will you tea with me?” he said to me wide-eyed and enthusiastic. I said thank you, of course, but was completely floored. A Japanese person has come up and spoken to me out of the blue, and not only that, but he is hitting on me! And, he’s not a strange creepy old dude, nor does he appear to be drunk!
Finally I deciphered that he was inviting me to HAVE tea with him (and of course I said to him “you mean HAVE tea???” because I cannot turn of English teacher mode once activated). I don’t think he was especially tall, nor was he drop-dead gorgeous, but since I was just completely caught off guard by the whole exchange and generally not perceiving any crazy vibes, I went ahead and said yes. Why not? All this time I’ve been talking about the challenges of making friends with the local Tokyoites, and hankering for someone to help me practice my Japanese, and here someone has practically jumped up and bitten me. Why say no?
Since I was on a rather short lunch break, I took his information down in order to make arrangements later. I was swamped at work for a couple of days, but then emailed him on Sunday to make plans. I got an email back from him on Monday. In it, he said that he wanted to delay our “tea date” as he did not feel his English skills were up to par, and he had needed a dictionary to compose the email. He suggested we exchange some emails for a bit first, and proceeded to write a message of introduction. It was in this introductory portion where he mentioned his birthdate, and suddenly….facepalm.
The boy is 22. Sigh. I am Thirteeeee Fiiiiiiiive.
1989 he was born. That’s just crazy. Now, I do know already that I have trouble judging the ages of Japanese people. Most people here look a good 10 years younger to me than they actually are. Then, the language barrier makes it difficult to glean the usual details about a person’s maturity level. When not speaking one’s native language, intonation is lost, vocabulary is different from what it might ordinarily be, and facial expressions and mannerisms are replaced by the dazed “I can’t think of the word” look and attempts to relay information by drawing it in the air. Additionally, I was just plain so floored by the fact I was being hit on on a street corner in Hachioji, that I wasn’t even thinking about logical concerns like “hmm, how old is this guy?”
Clearly this age-judging problem goes both ways. I’ve been told that I appear younger than I am…perhaps as much as 5 to 8 years younger depending on how flattering the person judging wants to be, but even at 8 years younger, I should theoretically look 27, which is still a little steep for a 22 year old to make a move on.
I have yet to write him back, but of course I will have to tell him how old I am. I’m not looking forward to it. As nice as it may be to have people think I am younger than my actual age, there is a huge downside in that nothing feels worse than having people be shocked and disappointed by finding out how OLD you are.