Thursday, January 22, 2009

Those badly-behaved foreign tourists again

There's been a minor kerfuffle in Japan (eg here and here) recently concerning the bad behaviour of foreign tourists at the Tsukiji fish market. Because of the trouble they have supposedly caused, the market was closed to the public for a month or two recently. This news was accompanied by TV crews doing their best to find people who were prepared to play up to the cameras, unconcerned by the negative effects this might have on the attitudes of Japanese to us foreigner horde in their midst. (The market has just reopened to visitors, apparently without problems.)

But the hairy barbarians aren't just fooling around at the fish market. I went to say hello to the Daibutsu recently (a magnificent 750 year old 35ft high cast bronze statue that has outlasted the building within which it was originally housed), and what should I see but a handful of Brits climbing all over him, complete with handlebar moustaches and umbrellas!

Sorry for the picture quality, which is rather poor, but the lighting was rather bad and my camera was set to B&W by mistake. However I guarantee it is a genuine picture, not a photoshop job (much better pictures of the Daibutsu can be found here, but there are no people climbing on him there). I was so gobsmacked that I didn't tell them off but simply sat down and recited a poem:

The Buddha at Kamakura

"And there is a Japanese idol at Kamakura"

O ye who tread the Narrow Way
By Tophet-flare to Judgment Day,
Be gentle when the 'heathen' pray
To Buddha at Kamakura!

To him the Way, the Law, apart,
Whom Maya held beneath her heart,
Ananda's Lord, the Bodhisat,
The Buddha of Kamakura.

For though he neither burns nor sees,
Nor hears ye thank your Deities,
Ye have not sinned with such as these,
His children at Kamakura.

Yet spare us still the Western joke
When joss-sticks turn to scented smoke
The little sins of little folk
That worship at Kamakura --

The grey-robed, gay-sashed butterflies
That flit beneath the Master's eyes.
He is beyond the Mysteries
But loves them at Kamakura.

And whoso will, from Pride released,
Contemning neither creed nor priest,
May feel the Soul of all the East
About him at Kamakura.

Yea, every tale Ananda heard,
Of birth as fish or beast or bird,
While yet in lives the Master stirred,
The warm wind brings Kamakura.

Till drowsy eyelids seem to see
A-flower 'neath her golden htee
The Shwe-Dagon flare easterly
From Burmah to Kamakura,

And down the loaded air there comes
The thunder of Thibetan drums,
And droned -- "Om mane padme hums" --
A world's-width from Kamakura.

Yet Brahmans rule Benares still,
Buddh-Gaya's ruins pit the hill,
And beef-fed zealots threaten ill
To Buddha and Kamakura.

A tourist-show, a legend told,
A rusting bulk of bronze and gold,
So much, and scarce so much, ye hold
The meaning of Kamakura?

But when the morning prayer is prayed,
Think, ere ye pass to strife and trade,
Is God in human image made
No nearer than Kamakura?
Is nothing sacred?


Ari said...


I was a resident of Tokyo, Tsukuba, and Karatsu (Saga-ken) for some time. It always frustrated me to see the gaikokujin behaving like dweebs, but what bugged me even more was the fact that despite the fact that 99% of us behaved like normal, polite people, I got to read all sorts of stories about those naughty bakana gaijin doing stupid things... like eating ramen without slurping! I mean, THE HORROR!


If I had a penny for every time I got asked that damn "Can you eat Japanese food?" question when I was stuffing my face with... Japanese food, well, I'd have myself a couple plates of kaitenzushi!

And yet... I still miss Japan. Strange how that works.

James Annan said...

I don't think I sniff loudly enough on the trains either, but I'm working on it :-)

P. Lewis said...

Many of the same sub-species can be seen frequenting the night-time doorway pissoirs on a weekend in many UK towns and cities, exhibiting their drunken, boorish behaviour, their bums and their boobs.

Civilization is a wondrous ideal we may one day achieve.

crandles said...

>"Civilization is a wondrous ideal we may one day achieve."

Sounds a bit like the more specific

What do I think of Western civilization? I think it would be a very good idea. - Gandhi.

P. Lewis said...

How is Ghandi's epithet more specific?

I was talking about the activities of UK citizens.

I don't include the Swedes, the Danes, the French, the Germans, ... Though they undoubtedly will have minority elements who partake in such boorish behaviour, they pale in comparison with the world-class boorish activities of Brits in this regard. These others are not fit to be in the same high-street doorway pissoir as your uncouth Brit.