Along the poorly marked streets of rural Japan there lies in wait an insatiable beast that yearns to swallow foreigners alive. We call it the Gaijin Trap. Now, here are a few things that one must understand about a Gaijin trap to truly appreciate its horror: It is always well hidden. It is always deep. It is often shaped just so a tire or runner could slide in perfectly. And, as we found out one weekend, it is often well hidden by overgrown grass. The Japanese people in this area seem to have developed a sixth “Gaijin Trap Avoiding” sense, which steers them to safety time and time again. Foreigners, such as my friends and I, seem to lack this sense. This is the tale of our encounter with the aforementioned Gaijin Trap.
The day was young and we all met in Hitoyoshi by the train station. We were excited and ready for adventure. We were going to a famous waterfall to go swimming. We squeezed together in a car and chatted as we drove to a friend’s house. We reorganized into different cars. Two of my friends and I opted to ride with a fellow new JET, who for the purpose of this story we will call Hawaii.
The drive began peacefully enough. We drove through her town which turned to rice fields which turned to more rice fields. We slowly approached hills and mountains. As we ascended the hills towards the sky, the roads began to narrow. The road eventually became such that the average-obese American would have difficulty navigating it on foot. Yet all the signs pointed to the fact that this still was a two lane road. I’m still looking for the shrink button in my own car. Then, the roads began to wind like that obnoxious game at Chuck-E-Cheese called SideWinder where the goal is to get a marble from point A to B.
We were following more experience JETs and this created a false sense of safety – which was still relative because we all felt that at any moment we might drive off a cliff. This had nothing to do with Hawaii’s driving and everything to do with the size and shape of the road. When we reached a straight way we finally felt save.
As if on cue a large truck flew around the corner. It was hogging the middle of the road. It swerved to the right. We swerved – too far – to the left. We saw the mythical Gaijin Trap only moment before we flew in. The front and back left tired rolled into the Gaijin Trap with a resounding thud. The car was trapped. We sat there in shock. Someone laughed nervously and it spread through us like herpes through a frat house. Our friends ahead of us stopped and reversed. They hopped out of the car and laughed. We laughed more. I contemplated asking Hawaii whether or not I could take a photo and then decided not to be an ass. I consider myself to be a good decision maker.
After a few moments of awkward laughter the guys banded together to lift the left side of the car out of the Gaijin Trap. Hawaii sat inside and steered it to safety. We drove about 10 under the rest of the way.
So should you ever find yourself in rural Japan, remember: Gaijin Traps are there and they are waiting for you. Watch out!