We’ve all seen it before; a Japanese person responding in disbelief upon seeing a clearly non-Japanese person, even when the foreigner lives in the area and walks down the same road 300 times a year. The encounter can be frightening for a Japanese person, and annoying for a blow-in. That’s why the government has got around to introducing a map that can serve as a guide for areas where it’s quite entirely possible that a foreigner may be present at some time.
A spokeswoman for the government, Mirei Tokimeki, was only too happy to explain the initiative. “We like rules in Japan, so it’s only natural that we have rules for dealing with non-Japanese.
“We can see from this map that in some areas it’s completely reasonable to expect to see a foreigner. Here we’re talking about central train stations, tourist areas, and neighborhoods with down-market drinking establishments. In these areas we would like to encourage everyone to just go about their daily business as if foreigners are normal, regular people.
“In other areas, just the thought of seeing a foreigner may be incredibly weird and barely comprehensible. This is where an over-the-top reaction would be appropriate, be it an overt coughing fit, indirect questions as to why they are there, an observation that there have been a lot of foreigners around lately, or simply an assertion that you are most definitely surprised.
“As with the introduction of any rules, however, there may be some confusion. So, we’d like everyone to remember that they also have the choice of relying on the traditional default setting of stopping whatever it is that they are doing and staring blankly. This can always be considered an appropriate reaction.”