On the way back from Kumakuma, I went to Beisia for groceries. I usually go to the self-checkout section (English option!), and I always see the same attendant when I go there. That's L.Today I was at the station right in front of her. Usually she doesn't say anything to me when I'm there. I scan and pay for my groceries, she says something akin to "Thanks for coming" like she does to all the customers, and I go on my way. But today, to my surprise, she started talking to me in English.
L: You are from Michigan?
L: I lived in Detroit for 6 months [or was it 6 years?]. 20 years ago. [comes close to me and lowers her voice] My ex-boyfriend was a black guy, so...
Me: Oh. Really?
L: Yes. We also lived in Ann Arbor too but that place is boring. I like Detroit a lot better, because I like soul music and things like that. I miss Detroit.
She started to get really excited talking about these things. She even giggled a little. But then she caught herself, regained her composure and went back into work mode. As I left, L said in Japanese: "Sorry for bothering you. Thanks for coming."
I went to the ATM at the post office, so I made a quick trip to Beisia since it was right across the street. Nearly all the self-checkout stations were open, but I went to the one right in front of L on purpose to see if she'd say anything to me again. She did, and she had plenty to say!
About learning Japanese/learning English:
L:Where did you learn Japanese?
Me: Back in Michigan.
L: That's very smart of you. But it must be difficult to understand Kansai-ben and Kansai slang, right?
Me: It can be hard sometimes.
L: Yeah, my English is not so good. My ex told me that my English sounds like a clown.
Me: What? That's not true at all. Your English is beautiful!
L: A clown is like Pierrot, right? Yeah, that's how he said my English sounds. But I don't care. I'm Japanese, so I don't care.
About black slang:
L: I want to learn black slang. It sounds like music! But it always changes, doesn't it? 20 years ago, my ex and I would say dope. "That's dope." "He's dope." But people don't say that anymore do they?
Me: No, we still say that.
L: Oh, okay! Good.
She preceded to tell me about how much she LOVES Ne-Yo and Joe. When I told her that I don't really care for Ne-Yo, she replied:
Yeah, his face is not so handsome, but actually I think he is very sexy. He comes to Japan a lot and he is very popular. When he smiles, it's good. He seems like a good person.
And about Joe:
I've always loved Joe. One time I went to his concert here and I hugged him!Again, she got excited talking about these things. But she didn't try to hide it as much this time. And she didn't switch back to Japanese as I was leaving, either.
L: Sorry, I've talked too much.
Me: No, it's fine. I really don't mind at all.
L: Okay then. Have a nice day! [moves to pat me on the shoulder but misses]
Me: Thanks, you too!
Wow. Usually when I go out and about, none of the Japanese people I come across say anything to me. Most try to avoid eye contact. So what are the odds that in an average grocery store in the middle of rural Japan, I would meet a woman who is willing to speak openly about herself to a foreigner, likes black men and the way black people talk, and loves soul/R&B music? You really never know what kind of people you'll meet.