Friday, March 26, 2010

How to Confuse and Disturb Old People

After recovering from the mountain climb I needed something easy. I signed up for a bus tour of the island.

Show me a bus tour in Japan and I'll show you 50 senior citizens with really expensive cameras talking about the weather. (The people, not the cameras). Light danced across the surface of the sea, attracting tourist eyeballs and Nikon lenses alike.


A few of the old people stopped talking about the weather and turned their attention to me.

“You’re from Canada? Canada has delicious salmon, right?” asked one woman.

“And great mountains for skiing,” chimed in another.

“And you have the beautiful Aurora!” said a third.

It seems that, in Japan, these are three of the things for which Canada is especially famous; I was asked about them everywhere.

Unfortunately, while I’m sure they’re true, I'm unable to enthusiastically reinforce any of these notions. To me, salmon tastes the same everywhere. The only place I've skied in Canada is Ontario's Blue Mountain, which is a mere hill compared to Whistler or the mountains in Japan. And, well, technically I've seen the northern lights, but I saw them in southern Ontario. They were nice, but not magnificent like you can see from up north.

Not having seen much of Canada yet, I'm really not the ideal ambassador but I do enjoy telling people about the power of Niagara Falls, our talented hockey players, and that my parents make maple syrup.

An older woman interrupted our conversation about Canada. She was concerned for my safety while hitchhiking and startled me with the following question:

“Aren’t you scared of being attacked by homosexuals?”

I shouldn’t even have tried to answer. It didn’t help that my Japanese wasn’t good enough to explain my thinking. My response included violent gestures and went something like this:

“I’m not scared. If my car hit different car is bigger problem. Homosexual bad people not common I think. If hitchhiking death, is probably because car hits other car.”

My status as an ambassador had gone from bad to worse. The women were shocked and confused. Without another word, they turned back to the scenery and began to talk about tomorrow’s weather.


  1. Understood. To most people I met while traveling, Canada is basically British Columbia and only British Columbia. Everyone assumed I must be an amazing skier, when of course, I'm terrible at it :)

  2. That happens to me a lot when talking to foreigners about my own country, even sometimes I've found some who know more about my country than myself. Okay, that question made me laugh so much! It was so random! What an uncomfortable situation. :P