One thing I like about Japan is the way every foreigner who visits is somehow connected to every other foreigner who’s set foot in the country, ever. No matter where you’re from, when you first arrive in Japan you’re faced with a myriad of strange but wonderful things, from the Narita Hot Dog Man who greets you at the airport to bizarre flavors of Japanese Kit Kat on sale in shops to that first magical view of Mt. Fuji you catch from the shinkansen train window. One of the most famous gaijin to visit Japan was none other than Albert Einstein, who spent six weeks here in 1922, giving speeches on Special Relativity and traveling to well-known shrines like Nikko and the floating Japanese torii arch of Miyajima. He fed the deer in Nara Park just like millions of foreigners before and since, and I love the image of him struggling to put his yukata on properly, or wondering how to correctly enter a Japanese-style bath, just like any of us. The other day I happened across a picture of the Dalai Lama in a Japanese Seven-Eleven, marveling at the foods for sale by the cash register while he purchased a bottle of Royal Milk Tea. I just love the expression his face as he takes in all the wonderful things available in the store, no different from any other gaijin enjoying a visit to Japan.
In Japan, you’ll have a lot in common with the Dalai Lama and Albert Einstein.