This Tokyo trip is the first time I’ve visited a foreign country that doesn’t give a crap about tourists. Besides numbers, logos, and signs in the train station, nothing is in English. I’m sitting in a café called Misty Jazz Café that’s decorated floor to ceiling in Americana, and yet…I guess I’ve gotten really, really used to living in Cambodia. In doing so, I’ve forgotten that first-world economies are driven by the people who live in the country. The “citizens,” if you will.
In Cambodia, the economy is driven by tourism and there’s a very clear separation between “Khmer” and “Western.” There are different wage levels, standards of living, and businesses that cater to each population. When a new business is hiring, the first question the community asks is, “Khmer or Western?” If someone dies, someone asks, “Khmer or Western?” If someone gets married: “to a Khmer or Western?” Very few westerners even try learning the language (which I find annoying and lazy) because everything is in English. If it’s not in English, then it’s not meant for you.
Japan’s population is so homogenous that economical distinction is irrelevant. In fact, locals probably make more money than tourists. If I walk into a store, I’m not doted upon in hopes that I’ll spend more money because, let’s face it, Tokyo is the most expensive city in the world. The chances of me making more money than the people living here are slim. Even if I spent a month’s salary during my week here (which I’m doing…and then some), it would be like putting one drop of red food coloring into the Pacific Ocean. Who gives a sh*t?