Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ugly Americans

On Saturday night after visiting some architect friends in Denenchofu, Eve and I had a strange encounter on the subway ride home. Even if I had been quick enough to capture the moment on film, I am not sure that would have been a good idea since it might have called unwanted attention to us. But no matter since the scene I am about to describe is seared on our memories.

Shortly after we switched to the Hibiya Line in Nakameguro, a rowdy foursome boarded the train. Guys with short, short hair and loud, loud voices. No doubt US jar heads but, judging from the behavior that followed, not necessarily America's finest. Upon entering the car, one immediately stood between the seats, grabbed the hanging straps on either side and started doing pull ups while boisterously challenging his companions to top his score. I do not care to recount the string of accompanying expletives but I am sure you can use your imagination. At the risk of sounding schoolmarmish, this performance broke just about every Japanese etiquette rule in the book. And because of that gross transgression it was hard to interpret their actions as all in jest. But wait. The story gets worse.

Rising to the bait, his buddy then assumed the pose and began hoisting himself up. When his jacket got in the way, he yanked it off. Still constricted, he ripped off his shirt too! Obviously he spends a lot of time pumping iron and was eager to show off his physique. But the dude was half naked! In the middle of a crowded subway car! And his raucous banter was even more sharply punctuated with profanities. We didn't really want to look but couldn't keep our eyes off of the spectacle. What could possibly happen next?

Like us, many of our fellow passengers couldn't quite believe what they were seeing. Perhaps they were enjoying the entertainment. Maybe they were simply appalled by these ugly Americans or maybe some wished they had the balls to behave like that in public. One young woman sat there laughing like a hyena. A few glanced over at us to check our reactions since we were the only other foreigners in sight. As the train pulled into Roppongi Station, the boys put themselves back together and disembarked along with throngs of other passengers, including us. Fortunately we went to the left and they went to the right. And we wonder why they want us out of Okinawa.

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