I was walking down the street in Tokyo this morning when a fellow foreigner acknowledged my existence.
This is a far rarer occurrence than you might think in this country with a very low immigration rate, where running into another “Western” foreigner is pretty uncommon outside of tourist areas, and you might expect that it would lead to at least a smile, if not an actual conversation. I’ve had many occasions when Japanese who spoke some English struck up random chats with me, but I’ve noticed that the few foreigners who you run into in Japan will, in general, resolutely avoid meeting your eyes. (Note that I’m talking about foreigners who live here–not tourists.) Why? I can only guess. OK, my guess: foreigners here in Japan struggle so very hard to integrate themselves into the culture that I suspect that they’re loath to, in some sense, admit that they are “others” by sharing in the otherness of some random visitor such as myself.
So, when a clearly foreign guy caught my eye and smiled at me this morning on my way back from a morning visit to the neighborhood shrine, I was so surprised that I don’t think I smiled back. Then I felt like a total jerk. Maybe being someone who lives here–you don’t come out of the very busy Ochanomizu station at that time of the morning unless you’re going to work, so I’m guessing that he does–he’s used to getting that reaction from other foreigners. Still: I felt like even more of an asshole than I usually do.
le sanctuaire shinto: Shinto shrine
to meet someone’s eyes: to look directly into someone’s eyes, acknowledging the contact.
I wonder if you meet my eyes out of kindness sometimes
— ️️ (@qtediovc) December 5, 2016
in the daylight you wouldnt ever meet my eyes
— empty body (@hvisla) November 26, 2016
@lesleyyyc true lol no one will meet my eyes anyway let alone say anything but I just hate the disrespect. Like why bring ur name up?
— P!nt0 B£an (@Laura_Beth17) November 17, 2016
How it was used in the post: I’ve noticed that the few foreigners who you run into will, in general, resolutely avoid meeting your eyes.
to be loath to: to be deeply unwilling to do something. (Definition adapted from Merriam-Webster.)
to loathe: to dislike to the point of disgust.
Keeping track of the difference between these two is actually quite difficult even for native speakers. You can read an article about the history of the problem here on the Merriam-Webster web site. There are two parts to it. One is keeping straight the fact that the verb ends with an e, and the adjective doesn’t. The other is that the verb is pronounced with the th of this and the, while the th of the adjective can be pronounced with the th of this and the, or with the th of thin.
I will NEVER understand why Elena picked Damon, I loathe her
— C🍾 (@Coritzz) January 15, 2017
“This could house 2 birds with one cage.” For someone who debones chickens, Stef is loath to talk about killing birds with stones.#1linewed
— Mary Werner Howard (@Marybird99) January 11, 2017
— Rick Winter (@RNWinter) January 14, 2017
I’m loath to see more Nazi salutes but so excited to watch White Nationalists tear themselves apart. https://t.co/7yDTZNMQWQ
— Jacob Labendz (@Jacob_Labendz) January 3, 2017
This is damning. It is traitorous. Trump is a traitor to democracy & freedom. No wonder he loathes both. This is indefensible. https://t.co/CntCVha0Ai
— Mark Trappist (@ElmsBeech) January 14, 2017
Vulture funds don’t employ ppl in Ireland so why is the gov loath to make them pay tax?They can’t use the Apple argument on this #selloff
— Andrea Murray (@AndreaMurray67) January 9, 2017
How this showed up in the post: foreigners here in Japan struggle so very hard to integrate themselves into the culture that I suspect that they’re loath to, in some sense, admit that they are “others” by sharing in the otherness of some random visitor such as myself.