A funny thing happened to me the other day. I had booked a seat on a coach to Rusutsu to go snowboarding. The website has an English page and so I had been happy that it had been really easy for me to book. When I got to the pick-up place, I gave my name to the woman organising the passengers, and she directed my friend and I to one of the three coaches that were waiting. I got on board and oh!!!….Wow! I saw something really strange – a coach load of…foreigners!!
You may laugh to think that I thought that this was strange, but to me it was even though I was one of ‘them’. Firstly, even though Sapporo is quite a big city, there are not so many foreigners here, but clearly on that day, they were all going to Rusustu! Secondly, and this is the part I didn’t like, I felt like I had been deliberately segregated because I was not Japanese. The word ‘apartheid’ immediately sprang to my mind, and although that was wrong of me to think that as I was no way put at any disadvantage compared to the Japanese passengers, I just felt that I had been put on the ‘gaijin (foreigner) bus’. Incidentally, my friend was Japanese, and actually there was one Japanese family at the front, but other than that, I heard English, Spanish, Russian, possibly a Scandinavian language and saw a Middle Eastern girl. So, it was definitely a ‘kokusai’ (international) coach! And, to be honest, it was quite interesting to hear people’s conversations, although I had forgotten how annoying some people can be, how loud they talk, and what rubbish they talk about!!!
When we stopped for a toilet break and everyone from all three coaches got off, it was even more clear that all the foreigners had been put on the same coach. But possibly you would think that it was so they could give all announcements in English perhaps. Well, no. Everything was conducted in Japanese (to which many people, knowing they couldn’t understand, quite rudely just continued their conversation).
Anyway, I did have an absolutely brilliant day on the slopes…,
and although, on the way home, all the foreigners were still grouped together on the bus, there was at least a more even balance of Japanese to make me feel like I was actually still in Japan!