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Experience in Japan:
Goodwill, rich history, and a surprising night out. Age 40

Recently retired from the California Department of Education, Andrew Laufer is writing a book about his life including periods as a butcher's helper, food service worker, construction laborer, animal research assistant, seasonal fire fighter, and janitor. In his youth, he hitch-hiked up and down the coast and out to Colorado numerous times providing context for hundreds of short stories.
Papa Laufer’s Stories: Positive Reflections of Life in America is now available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0943ZWT3Z?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860

As an officer in the United States Army Reserves, I had the opportunity to go to Japan for a couple of weeks of training. My job as a Registered Dietitian allowed me plenty of time to explore the area. My first adventure took me into the adjacent neighborhoods.

It was early evening, and the pungent smell of fish broth was everywhere as the locals were preparing their dinner. Walking deeper into the neighborhood I found that the streets weren't organized in standard blocks. Streets went in all directions, and I soon became hopelessly lost.

An old man on a bicycle was riding by and I waved to him in pleading fashion. He stopped and said the name of the base. (He must have rescued other lost soldiers.) I nodded my head yes and he pointed me in the right direction. I had wandered a mile off course but with his directions, given to me by gestures since we couldn't communicate orally, I made it back.

I also had the opportunity to take a couple of tours. One into the city where I visited various landmarks and temples, and another to Mount Fuji where I visited an ancient Samurai camp. The scenery was beautiful, and the camp was rustic but very well organized and functional. It was easy to imagine Samurai soldiers marching along the paths through the forests toward their camp after an adventure.

My supervisor, a Major, and his boss, a Colonel, treated me to a night out. They took me to a family restaurant where I had the opportunity to try Asahi beer from the tap. To my knowledge, it is only available in the United States in a can.

It was fresh, and the head was as smooth as butter. I don't remember enjoying a beer as much since that night. I suppose it could have been the good company.

After dinner, we were walking on the city streets sightseeing and noted that for the first time in my life, I was truly a minority. My comrades understood how I was feeling and suggested an activity where I would experience discrimination. I agreed, with some trepidation, and we walked into the foyer of a bath house.

We were immediately confronted by a bouncer who blocked our entrance. He did not speak but lifted his forearms and made an X. The only English he spoke were the words, "Only Japanese," which he repeated multiple times.

The rejection, based solely on my race, made me feel dirty even though I was as clean as the next guy. I didn't expect the emotions of shame and humiliation would be so forceful. At that moment, I understood a little better the emotional toll discrimination takes on people.

I'm not sure that was the intent of my comrades when they decided to treat me to a night out in Japan, but I believe I am a better man because of that experience. It created an awareness in me that I have been able to pass on to my children and the world is a better place because if it.

I recommend Japan to anyone. You'll find a lot of goodwill, rich historical features, and perhaps a surprising nightlife.

~ Andrew Laufer




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