I have my final test at school next week, with Friday heralding in the last of the dreaded conversation tests. To this end I somehow managed to rope one of my friends into giving up some of her Sunday morning to help me practice my conversational skills, using the ever-so-helpful role playing book as a template from which to work from. With the patience of a saint she dutifully took up a number of different roles, ranging from a neighbor concerned with my sorting of the combustible rubbish, to the manager of a convenience store who was puzzled by my insistence that I be offered a job. I felt that by playing the one role throughout, that of an incompetent Brit struggling with the basics of a vast and dangerous language, I would lend a degree of consistency to the proceedings, and rather unsurprisingly I managed to nail the ethos of my part every time, if not the grammar.
For some unknown reason there always seem to be quite a lot of rallies going on at the weekend in central Tokyo, and if I understood my friend correctly then the worrying thing is that these are rallies promoting the importance of national identity under a right-wing sensibility. Of course, there is every chance that I misunderstood my friends comments, and that the thousands of people waving Japanese flags and looking very angry were just there to protest against the latest hike in fruit and veg prices, but that wouldn’t explain the look of unparalleled jingoistic contempt that I received as I cut across the font of the group to cross the road. This was definitely one of those times when my incompetence in understanding what was being said to me could be seen as a blessing.