I ran into a friend of mine last night. He's a Japanese guy, about my age, with a very cool job - he's a street calligrapher. I haven't yet seen him in action, but as he described it to me, he talks to people for three or four minutes, then, using elaborate Japanese script and high-quality ink and paper, produces works that attempt to capture the essence of the person. So, he's something like a mix of palm reader and poetic caricature artist
I'll be posting more about him and his interesting job soon. Last night, he was set up to do a few hours of work on Nakano Broadway, the shoutengai [shopping arcade] that I walk through on my way home from the station. I was headed home from school and feeling a little sick, so we didn't talk for long, but apropos of almost nothing, he told me that "talking to you is like talking to a Japanese person." He wasn't referring to my language skills - our conversations are usually a mix of English and Japanese. He said it was more about my character or nature.
Such a strange thing to say to a person. He's traveled abroad extensively, and I met him because he used to work at a guest house with a large foreign clientele, so he has pretty good grounds for comparison. I didn't press him on the issue, but just from what I feel about myself, I would hope he was referring to my somewhat reserved nature, my reflectiveness. Of course, these are more ideals of Japanese identity than realities - practically speaking, he could equally well have meant that I was a falling-down drunk who hated his life, or that I was shallow Jersey Shore-esque Egg Man. Both of these are pretty uniquely Japanese, or at least could be seen as such.