Densha Ojisan

By: Roz

I take the Chuo Line train from Yoyogi to home after work. The train is always very packed because it is one station before a major stop, Shinjuku. I know at Shinjuku most people will leave the train and I will have only a couple seconds to get a seat before more people get on. The train arrived at Shinjuku when I saw a seat open up and an Ojisan(old man) saw it too. We both ran towards it avoiding eye contact with each other. This is an unwritten custom of traveling by train or subway in Tokyo. Just as we both reached the seat, a man next to the open seat stood up and got off the train opening another seat. The Ojisan and I both gesture to each other to take a seat attempting to ignore the battle prior. We both sat down. I was exhausted and tried to take a nap when the Ojisan started talking to me. I’m a friendly person and I enjoy talking but I really wasn’t interested, I felt too tired to talk so I lied when he asked in Japanese if I spoke Japanese. I said “only a little”. But that did not get me out of the conversation. He spoke English.

The Ojisan was a normal old man wearing a short sleeve button up shirt and khaki pants. He wasn’t a drunk or acting creepy. He looked like he only wanted to chat with a foreigner, so I gave in. He asked me where I was from and I told him America and Detroit. We talked a little bit about where Detroit was located in America but then he jumped straight to a big question. “So, who you vote?” He pressed.
“Excuse me?” I responded. I was shocked by his abruptness.
“Who you vote? Trump, Clinton, Trump, Clinton, Trump?” he pressured me more. I couldn’t respond. “Trump! Clinton! Trump! Clinton!” He yelled at me.
“Clinton.” I gasped.
“Good, Trump is not good. Japanese don’t like Trump. Clinton is better for the world.” He said with a smile on his face. In my effort to change the topic I moved the conversation to the Tokyo election that was coming up at the time. He told me about his views of the different candidates and who he would vote for. Then he changed the subject suddenly. “You like Japanese hood?” He asked.
“I’m sorry what?” I asked, not quite sure what he had said.
“Do you like Japanese HOOD?” He said again. I thought about the question and realized he said Japanese food.
“Yes I do! I’m married to a Japanese so I often get to eat Japanese food.” I replied happily.
“Wow your husband is Japanese and cooks for you, that’s rare!” He said excitedly.
“Well actually my wife is Japanese.” I corrected him emphasizing the word wife.
“What… I don’t understand.” He mumbled and his face crinkled up like a prune.
“Dousei Kekkon.” I hinted. It means same-sex marriage in Japanese.
“Oh.” He said without moving a muscle. I’m sure I shocked him quite a bit. He finally stopped asking questions but I didn’t want to leave it there because I felt uncomfortable.
“So does your wife make dinner for you, too?” I blurted out suddenly breaking the silence. After I said it I thought about how awkward the question was.
“Yes, everyday.” He said.
“What will you have today?”, I blurted out again and yet it was another uncomfortable question.
“I don’t know… but probably miso soup.” He mumbled again.
“Yeah that’s what I’m having.” I replied as I looked at my feet. It became very quiet. A few very long seconds passed by then his stop came.
“This is me, take care.” He said.
“Take care.” I said with a smile.

I’m sure that man was thrilled to tell his wife and friends he talked to a foreigner on the train. When he heard I was married to a Japanese, I’m sure he got even more pumped about his story. But when he found out I am a lesbian married to a Japanese woman, his mind blew up from the overwhelming excitement to tell his friends and wife about me that he couldn’t speak a single word. It was a short moment, chatting with a stranger, but I could introduce to him the LGBTQ world. He also left me with an interesting story. The first thing I did when the man left the train was tell my wife about it on LINE. We laughed about the queerness of it all.