Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I'd invite you in, but...

you're already in.

There's this quirky thing with Japanese houses. The entryway - always a step lower so that you remember to take off your shoes - is considered public space. Here's what ours looks like (except now we have a rug there and the red kerosene container is gone):

So, oftentimes if we hear the doorbell ring and start running downstairs, by the time we're at the bottom of the steps there is already some one standing in the entryway. This has happened with delivery people, neighborhood organizers and the like. It's a good reminder to be fully dressed when you come down those stairs.

Sunday night at 8:30pm we were visited by whom (after a struggle) we realized was a census taker. The conversation went something like this (to us). The words we recognize were in Japanese but are transcribed here in English. Wa WA Wa Wa WA wa (you know, like Charlie Brown's parents) I don't understand Japanese, wa wa wa wa wa wa, wa English wa, Yes-English! Wa WA wa WA wa wa now wa wa wa wa 2 people wa wa wa wa place wa wa wa wa, hand gestures indicating he would return. Oh boy. Sometimes we wonder why we answer the door at all. Oftentimes we whip the poor person into enough of an embarrassed fluster where they just run along. This guy, however, seemed like he had something serious to convey. We knew he'd be back.

A few minutes later there was the slightest ding of our bell and BAM - he was back in our entryway. He handed us a document in many languages. The English bit explained that this was the census and we'd need to participate. Then he gave us an envelope with the actual form (completely in Japanese, just riddled with kanji characters). We got the gist that we needed to drop it in the mail. Pretty sure he'd be back if we didn't.

So, I had a teacher help me fill it out. Ok, a teacher filled it out for me. Apparently they do the census every 5 years in Japan. The questions included; our names, occupations, birthdays, how long we've lived there, where we worked, how we got to work, how big our house was, who owns it, etc. Nothing about race or ethnicity. The Japanese government? Just not interested. I mean, it'll be pretty obvious from our names and occupations, but still. There was even a question about where you lived 5 years ago. That was Argentina for me but if it was a foreign country they weren't interested in the specifics. There are Chinese, Brazilian, Filipino and other immigrants here--lots of them. Wouldn't you want to collect data on that? It might tell you, for instance, that you need to offer the census form in something other than Japanese. Just saying.

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