Yoshie and I had a fight the other day. She was right. Not in the way that girlfriends/wives are always right, but, in fact, genuinely right.
She was set to play piano at this bar/live house in Kyoto on Tuesday. We get there and walk in together, and she walks inside while I stop at the entrance to pay the cover charge. The guy looks at me, looks at her, then glances at his boss at the bar, and then says something to her that I didn't catch. But I heard the word 外国人 (foreigner; note this is the more polite form of the word). Oh no, I thought. I could feel my blood starting to heat up. This was one of those places? Confused,Yoshie goes over to the bar to ask the manager what the problem is. Meanwhile I ask the guy in front of me "Wait, so I'm a foreigner...and?"
He squirms. 「外国人ですからチャージ取れません。」"I can't charge foreigners."
So they won't accept my money because I'm a foreigner? If I were alone I would have just left with maybe a choice word or two. But Yoshie had a show...I didn't want to ruin her night by going off on the bar staff.
I wait. After a minute, Yoshie and the manager come over. He nods at me and offers a quick すみません (sorry), says something to the guy at the front, and they take my money and give me a drink ticket.
Yoshie said something about how sometimes tourists come in and the staff don't speak any English, but I was too roiled up to understand all of her explanation. What I heard was "These people don't want to deal with foreigners because they don't speak English." Even if that had been the case, it wouldn't have been as bad if they had at least seen if I could speak Japanese before refusing me service. So the rest of the night I tried to calm down for her sake, but wasn't very successful, especially when I saw Yoshie being friendly with the staff. Being the insulted party, I felt kind of betrayed. When our friends came in, I shared the story with them and continued to brood. And in some meaningless protest, I refused to use my drink ticket. Every time Yoshie told me I should have a drink, I told her to use it. Petulant, I know. Not like I was going to hurt the bar by not ordering the drink I already paid for.
So we made it through the show, but I was still moody. On the way back to the station, Yoshie asked me what was wrong and I basically went off on her about how that asshole back there wasn't going to let me in because I'm a foreigner, and my girlfriend should be upset with them instead of chummy. And if it wasn't a big deal, as her behavior implied, they should have talked to me instead of assuming I'm too dumb to speak their language.
Yeah, I shouldn't have went off on her, especially in front of our friends. The next hour and a half of the trip home was quiet and uncomfortable for the most part. Finally we both admitted that we should have handled the situation differently. She agreed that they were rude for not explaining the situation to me and she should have stuck up more for me but didn't know what to do. I conceded that there wasn't much she could do and I shouldn't have yelled at her. And we let it go at that.
Not so bad, right? Well, the next day I was on Gchat telling Dylan about the incident. I went to go take a shower and Yoshie started talking to him. When I got back, Dylan told me that there had been a big misunderstanding. Apparently in my rage I hadn't understood everything that Yoshie had been trying to tell me about the situation. As it turns out, sometimes foreigners go into that live house just to drink at the bar. The staff feel bad because they can't speak much English and many of the tourists who come in can't speak any Japanese, so as a result they often don't charge foreigners the cover fee for the live show if they just come in to sit at the bar. I guess it's easier than trying to communicate the fact that they have to pay a fee because there's a band playing.
So really they weren't being racist at all. As a matter of fact, they were probably trying to be nice. In my defense, I wish they had explained this to me themselves. But ultimately I was the asshole in this story.