So today I went to a bonsai exhibition at the Yokosuka Cultural Center. It was pretty cool. If you want to see some pictures click on the Bonsai link above.
This exhibition was a perfect example of a difference between the American culture and the Japanese culture. I was the only non-Japanese person at the exhibit. Most of the people knew maybe a word or two of English but they would still come up to me and see if I had any questions. Then this elderly gentleman came up and he knew some English but again not much and he started making conversation and took me around and explained stuff about bonsai to me. All he had to give me the English words for plant things like buds, shoots,branches, flowers and the names of trees was a sheet of paper that had the Kanji, Katakana, Romanji and English spelling of some of the bonsai terminology. But he still explained stuff to me and made sure I understood what he was trying to say. He asked about the US where I was from asked if I had ever been to Ohio (its the only state he has been to) and just made conversation and made me feel like I fit in a little bit more. I even made a joke without realizing it until he chuckled.
He asked if bonsai was popular in America and I my answer was its starting to get more popular and he didn't quite understand the context of the word start so I re-worded it. I said bonsai in America is still pretty small but its growing slowly. Just a little inadvertent pun but puns are a big part of Japanese humor.
Well after showing me all the trees he offered me some Japanese green tea and someone else offered me a snack they had brought with them. The snack was interesting it wasn't bad but it wasn't good. It was interesting. For anyone who has been to any type of exhibit in the states I think you all know that I was treated much better than you would expect to be treated at pretty much any exhibition. I mean I stood out like a sore thumb and they went out of their way to help me and make me feel more comfortable and to expose me to more of their culture. That is another thing I have learned here. If you just basically walk down the street like you don't give two shits about them they will straight up ignore you but if you show a little bit of interest in their culture they will go out of their way to help you and expose you to even more of it. What can I say it's part of their culture?
The only thing that was remotely upsetting was that the guy was surprised when I told him I was from the US. I asked him why he was surprised and he said because I was nice and showed an interest in the culture. That is saying something about Americans in general. I am in a country where 98% of the people here are Japanese and 1% is American military forces and the rest is other. On top of that I am in a town where 99.9% of the white people are either in the Navy or work for the Navy and are US citizens and he was surprised that I was American. America we should try to work on the way we are viewed with our allies.