“Hi, I’m a foreigner.”
Over twenty years ago, while shopping at a store in Japan I came across a party novelty “foreigner” (gaijin) costume set–for dressing as a foreigner at parties. In this case it meant a specific kind of foreigner. The set came complete with a large white nose and two tape-on blue eyes. I immediately bought the kit figuring that I would use it in a future anthropology class. Unfortunately the costume got lost in some move or another and disappeared. Many times over the last decade I have thought about it and wished I could find another.
Today, while shopping in a local department store I was stunned to find the exact same kit for sale! Made by a company called JIG, the fact that the design of the packaging or the object itself hasn’t changed at all in over two decades must say something about this particular version of “the foreigner.”
Anyway, I haven’t even been here for a full day and I already have a new mystery object to share.
**UPDATE! June 8, 2014.
A few days after I posted this I did a search for this item and came across a post by Dave Aldwinckle on his site debito.org which observes that this costume has changed from the original working that I remember—gaijin (with associations of being an “outsider”) to the word more commonly used to describe foreign nationals gaikokokujin. I didn’t notice until I read his post, that the costume I bought was the updated one. Darn.
Then, on the day before I left Japan I was at Tokyu Hands in Shibuya when I found another version of this costume that has been updated even more recently. The new version of the costume—which has exactly the same contents—no longer makes any direct reference to foreign/outsider-ness. Instead says it has a It says:
“Hi, I’m Michael!”