The four-year olds took a field trip to the big park downtown a few months ago, and I accompanied. I was wiping a bloody nose beside the fountain, when one of the teachers came running to me in a panic. She didn't even bother trying to explain her rush, but instead grabbed the tissue and the child from my arms, and pushed me toward the other side of the park. A middle-aged European couple was standing under a tree watching our group, and they had tried to ask the teacher in English what was going on. They were travelling through Japan for a few weeks and had stopped in our town to see the ukai fishing, and they wanted to know what was up with the 150 tiny children in matching uniforms bouncing through the park.
As I talked to the couple about my school and what I was doing in Japan and what else might be good to do in town, the entire staff of my kindergarten gawked from a distance. They had never seen me talking to other foreigners, and three gaijin in the park together, what a sight!
Yesterday, one of the bus drivers brought me a photograph he had taken at the park. It was the first time in a year and a half he had ever tried to talk to me or look at me directly, and I was surprised. Apparently, he had snuck up behind me while I was talking to the European couple that day, and captured the unbelievable moment on film. No one on the whole shutterbug staff photographed me with the children, no one asked me to stand with the class during group photos, but the moment with the tourists was too much to miss. "Gaijin and gaijin!" he pointed excitedly at the photo. "Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!"