Run-ins With the Neighbors


Most of my neighbors seem to like me. One neighbor was offering me all kinds of snacks and an occasional beer during the hot summer nights. Another neighbor recently let me enjoy her tonjiru. My next door neighbor with the old house and traditional garden never misses a chance to chat with me if we are both outdoors at the same time. Sounds perfect, no?

When I first came to the neighborhood, I followed the proper procedure of bringing gifts to the adjacent homes. This is a sign of giving something in advance for all the trouble you will cause them later. I think this is an amusing practice. The neighbors insisted that I shouldn’t give them anything, and I properly responded that it was a gift from the heart. Well, apparently I should have given a much nicer gift to one neighbor: based on my interaction with them so far, I think I must be causing them much grief.

Incident number one involved my most prestigious students. They all drive large cars and my parking area is filled to capacity when they are here. Apparently my neighbor can’t properly park her car without first driving into my yard across the street and then backing into hers. I was outside saying farewell to my students and the neighbor, who was trying to park, gave us looks that would make special forces officers flinch. None of us could understand why she would be so upset and the students recommended we have a city hall contact chat with them. My preference is to let things lay, so I passed on that offer.

I have tried greeting her when I see her outside, but almost never get any response. Only mild annoyance comes from this put-offish behavior, so I mostly ignore it; however, it points to other issues.

Fast forward to Monday night. A friend came over for dinner and shuji practice. A little past eleven I went outside to see him off. He fired up his little car and we were doing a little last minute chatting, when my neighbor across the street came home. It was my first time to see the man of the house, and he walked directly toward me from across the street. Thinking it was my first chance to meet him, I greeted him properly and smiled. Without a single word of greeting, he said, “Don’t let your car idle here. It’s late and the engine makes my house reverberate.”

For reverberate he used the verb hibiku (響く). If you don’t know that character, you may have to enlarge it to get a good look at it. My feeling is that he could have found many ways to say it was too loud, but chose to speak over the foreigners’ heads. I apologized and my colleague turned off his car. After a few seconds pause, he continued with, “My family is trying to sleep inside the house and it is late at night. It’s no good for you to be talking outside.” I gave him another polite apology. After a final comment he departed.

His house and cars are the nicest in the neighborhood. His clothes were sharply tailored. His appearance and demeanor were very commanding. Under other circumstances I would describe him as an impressive visage; however, feeling that he was trying to throw his weight around, I was more disappointed.

Pondering possible reasons for this behavior. I suppose they built the house amongst rice fields, feeling like the local feudal lords; yet, half of those fields have become apartment buildings. Sometimes I hear loud conversations in the street at night, often followed by engine revving or honking. It is not a stretch to think my neighbor is frustrated by that and is taking it out on me. Then there’s always the possibility that he just doesn’t like foreigners.

In any case, I am renting and I run a business here, so it didn’t take any effort for me to apologize. Wouldn’t want to jeopardize my situation.

6 Responses to “Run-ins With the Neighbors”

  1. Sylvia Says:

    I must say that I also get seriously bent out of shape by noisy neighbours. I have very good hearing (despite being an early adopter of the Walkman), and sleep lightly, so it’s a problem for me. Even mice in the walls can wake me up. There is something about being woken up that adds a significant level of irritation.

  2. Stefanie Says:

    What an interesting tradition, taking gifts to your neighbors when you move in. In the US it’s the neighbors that are supposed to give welcome gifts to the new arrival in the neighborhood. I am lucky to live in a pretty quiet neighborhood. Though sometimes it can get noisy when someone has a lot of company over, but I can’t get mad at anyone for that. If it was a constant occurence then I’d be annoyed. But you sound like a good neighbor to me!

  3. びっくり Says:

    So, I wrote this late on Wednesday night. About midnight I was studying for my test and I heard an engine softly humming out front and a loud thumping hip-hop bass pulsing away. I turned on the porch light and stepped into the doorway. The car was parked in front of the neighbor’s house across the street. (Right about where their “no parking” sign is posted.)

    The car immediately drove off. If they weren’t visiting my neighbor, the barn next door, or me, I don’t know why they would stop there. So, the big question is did my neighbor:

    1. not notice this at all?
    2. see that I am helping drive away the noise-makers?
    3. awake to see me in my doorway and my noisy friend driving away?

    Perception affects so much.

  4. Sylvia Says:

    #3 LOL!

  5. verbivore Says:

    Neighbors – always fun. I lived next to my vice-principal when I was in Japan so I worked very hard to keep things down. He left on the weekends to his real house and then myself and the other teachers in the complex (japanese and foreign alike) all relaxed a bit.

  6. Gangplank Threat « Neo-新びっくりブログ Says:

    […] My neighbor across the street has been getting more and more aggressive. After the run-in, where the husband made my friend shut off his car and told us to stop talking outside, I was […]

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