Annoying Big City Denizens Encroach


Citizens of Nagoya (名古屋) have an annoying habit that came to my doorstep today, but fled quickly.

Nagoya is the largest city in the Chubu (中部) area. Not surprising then, that the Nagoya airport – code NGO – is called Chubu International Airport (中部国際空港). This status apparently goes to their heads. When I ask shopkeepers in Nagoya if they could deliver my purchases to Tsu (津), they give the, “Huh?” response. After repeating it a few times, worrying if my pronunciation is off, sounding more like an English ‘two’ or Japanese ‘su’, I realize they are claiming not to know what this means. I then switch to the longer, but more specific ‘Tsu Shi’ (津市), which is like saying, “Tsu City.” or, “The city of Tsu.”

Granted, the name of my city is short and it might be easy to not realize I was speaking of a place name but, after adding the clarification they still respond with, “huh?” Never with, “I’m sorry I don’t know that place.” or, “Is that near here?” or, “Where might that be located?” For clarification, Nagoya is at a corner of Aichi Prefecture (愛知県), right across the border from my prefecture, Mie (三重県). And, here’s the kicker, Tsu is only an hour down the coast and is the Capitol of Mie.

Finally I find myself needing to just say, “The city of Tsu in Mie Prefecture.”
The response has always been coated with the same dripping condescension, “Ohhh, Mie…” as if all of Mie is just one little, distant, hick, countryside location. So far I have mistaken this for arrogance and self-centered pride, but today that all changed.

My doorbell rang this morning. Using my better judgment, I decided a shirt and boxer briefs was not proper attire for making greetings. I stepped into the sleeping chamber and threw on my jeans before bounding into the genkan to see who called. This hadn’t taken more than ten seconds, I was less than quiet and an observant visitor would have heard me, and there was no second ring; yet, I saw no image through the marbled glass.

Overcoming my fear that it was the Jehovah’s Witnesses playing ding dong ditch ’em again, I jumped into my Keens and trotted around the side of the house to find the culprit already leaving the doorstep of my rear neighbor’s home: clearly an important man with places to be. He was cautious about interacting with me, which doesn’t seem very salesman-like; although, as already stated, I was pursuing him, so we were not in normal sales mode.

He was with KDDI and was trying to sell some kind of long distance package. He wanted to know what kind of phone I use. I have no standard land line, just my cell phone and the IP phone which uses my cable modem. He was having trouble understanding the IP phone, so I explained that it goes through the cable modem. Then he asked who provided my internet and got very lost when I said ZTV and even showed him the logo on my key chain. At this point I was getting frustrated, but guessed that he might be from somewhere outside ZTV’s service area, so I asked if he lived in Tsu. (And he totally wasn’t getting it which, in hindsight, should have told me where he lived.) I switched to Tsu-shi and still nothing. So, in my moderately ticked off voice, I asked him what city he was standing in right now. He couldn’t answer, but I badgered him a bit more. He pulled out a map and said, “Oozono” (大園), which: A) is not a city, but just a neigborhood; and B) was wrong, since we were in Sakurada-cho (桜田町), not Oozono-cho. I told him as much and when he couldn’t answer again, I asked him what prefecture he was in. He answered, “Gifu” (岐阜). Wrong again!

When you don’t know what state you are in, perhaps the people around you should be calling local psych wards to check for missing patients. Still wanting to avoid jumping into super-frustrated mode, I guessed he must be from their main office in Tokyo or something. I could see a New York rep getting confused whether he was in Montana or the Idaho panhandle or Eastern Washington. So, I asked him where he came from… after a long pause with no answer, I just grabbed his ID tag which was dangling from a neck strap and flipped it around so I could see it. No surprise, he was from Nagoya.

I have three possible explanations:

  1. People from Nagoya are so arrogant that all of Gifu and Mie are just one inconsequential, ambiguous little blip on a map as far as they are concerned.
  2. People from Nagoya are horribly ignorant of geography outside their city.
  3. I was overbearing and flustered this poor young salesperson, who probably has no connection to KDDI other than a short-term part time contract to: ring doorbells, ask questions, and tally data.

I’ll go with number two and if any comments suggest number three, I may have to delete them so nobody will think I am overbearing.


6 Responses to “Annoying Big City Denizens Encroach”

  1. Stefanie Says:

    I was going to put my money on number one. I live in the midwest in the US which is considered “fly over country.” In other words, unimportant because it is not one of the coasts, therefore nobody from either coast seems to actually know that there are things besides corn and cows living here!

    You have Jehovah’s Witnesses there too? They get around!

  2. verbivore Says:

    I was also going to go with #1. I remember telling someone in Kyoto that I lived on Kyushu and getting a nice condescending smile followed by, “ahh、田舎です” I don’t even think the name of my prefecture helped much, eyes would just glaze over.

  3. びっくり Says:

    What? You mean there are prefectures on Kyushu? 🙂

    I am actually surprised that when the city Nagasaki is mentioned most Americans glaze over. My feeling is that since only two cities in the world have ever suffered nuclear attack, it isn’t asking much that citizens of the attacking country should remember the names of the places.

    I think you are both being too kind to me. Although, the big city residents are a bit arrogant, I was probably too harsh and direct with the sales rep. After all, I even grabbed his ID tag.

    Stef – yeah, Jehovah’s Witness’ and Mormons are widespread here.

  4. Isaac Says:

    Those damn big-city-types! Especially New Yorkers! Who do they think they are?

    Seriously though, that’s a pretty sad story that he didn’t even know which prefecture he was in . . . When I heard about my placement on JET the first thing that I wondered about was how the hell was I supposed to tell people? Mie is hard enough for Americans, but Tsu? Many people think that’s a tu, su, or just a stutter.

  5. びっくり Says:

    Yeah, I know what you mean. I think my friends still think I live in Sioux City.

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