As ever all my best Japan stories start with me in my favourite place. I was in my bathroom which has a glazed window to prevent the outside world from spying the exact details of what I get up to in my sanctum but still able tell that that’s exactly where I am. It was about 7pm and my lights were on since it has recently started getting dark about that time. My apartment is in a group of apartments where there are no street lights, not that Japan has a glut of those; “We [Japanese] want to be able to view the stars,” is the rehearsed response you’ll get if you question the lack of lighting. Kawaii ne?

Stupid fuckers. Any how, while I was there I got a knock at the door, which was strange because I rarely get callers. I ignore them and try not to breathe as my bathroom is right next to the front door. If the caller decided to open the door and take a step in there’d be a good chance that they’d see me attending to important business.

Three knocks later and the speaker calls on me by name and I remember who and why they are here. It’s the old lady taking censuses here to collect my Japanese census form.

The population census only happens once every five years (I think?) and as a result we can expect a very pleasant yet condescending old person with a file and a folder wrapping on our doors to ask us to fill out a census form and remind us just how alien and unable to comprehend Japanese customs are. This old lady was no different when I first met her.

“Hello, I’m taking a census. I hope you don’t mind if I talk in Japanese.”

“Sure, I’ll do my best but my Japanese is basic.”

“(fast-paced gibberish)”


“(more fast-paced gibberish).”


“(a final torrent of shite).”


“Is that ok?”


And then she hands me a census form in Japanese.

“Excuse me, do you have an English paper?”

“No I’m so sorry. Is that ok?”

“I have a friend who can speak Japanese but…”

“Thank you very much. I’ll call again soon.”

So that was that and I took the form to my boss at work. He was really helpful and offered to help me out but as soon as we realised that it would take longer than I had (despite it being my least busy day) I asked him the key questions

“Is there a punishment for not doing it?”

Eto… no.”

“Is there a reward for doing it?”

Eto… … no.”

“There’s no way I’m wasting time on this then. If she comes back with an English form I’ll do it myself when I have some time.”

Eto ne… … …”

But he lied. There was a punishment. It was this swarmy bint stealing my privacy for the next 5, perhaps 10 minutes (time distorts itself when you’re hiding) hammering on my door and shouting for me whilst I held my breath for her to just go away. In the toilet of course.

I thought I was safe at one point and was sure she had went away until she tries to open the door! At which point I jumped up screaming, “HORA! What are you doing? This is a bad time!” in my clipped Japanese.

“Oh, this is a bad time isn’t it? I’ll come back later.”

And she did. I was tense and angry and tried to explain to her that she should go away and that she shouldn’t open other people’s doors and that she shouldn’t come back any more…


“You didn’t do the census did you?”

“GO AWAY YOU STUPID OLD GRANDMA!” At this point I am closing the door on her face and she goes to hold the door open until I look at her hand like I was going to chew it off. She backed off but kept speaking.

“As expected you don’t speak Japanese. (More gibberish)…”

I slam the door and started filling up a bucket of water in case she came back again. Thankfully she didn’t. However she did go to my landlord who came up a few days later.
The story turns for the better here as he offered to help me out too. This time I wisely accepted and spent about 4 hours just chatting after a Saturday night at work that kept me from seeing a gig. This is the first time I’ve been able to properly get to know him because he was afraid of me ever since he heard I was part Iranian.

More ridiculousness to come as it happens.