Fitting and Not Fitting - Being Tall in Tokyo

PC: Starr Sandoval

PC: Starr Sandoval

Being tall is a part of my life, but generally not a problem for my everyday existence. In the U.K. I can manage my way around low doorways and the occasional short bed. And before you ask, no, I don’t play basketball.

But Japan is a place not exactly ideal for someone like me, towering over the average person. I always feel so cumbersome on the train or walking along a busy street with my long spaghetti arms flailing about, getting in ordinary peoples’ way. By the time I leave Japan, my head will probably be a different shape due to the number of times I’ve hit it on door frames. In times like those I can’t help but feel that I don’t fit here.

My feet hang off the end of my futon, the shower requires some creativity to be able to actually wash with. Even the slippers in my sharehouse are being worn down by my large feet. I don’t look like I speak Japanese, but I can understand almost perfectly every comment, joke or judgement someone makes as I walk past. I am so obviously so foreign here, and this only serves to increase my feelings that I don’t fit.

But I can’t help but feel like, somehow, I do fit here. I appreciate the quiet on trains, and the ordered way that people stand on the escalator. I actually quite like the complicated trash system, feeling like I’m disposing of waste responsibly for once in my life. I can laugh at ridiculous TV shows with my housemates, even in Japanese. Finally, I love getting to know my students. I can talk with them about soccer, their favourite music, and their future dreams. The fact that my legs don’t quite fit in the classroom chairs doesn’t matter when we’re speaking together.

So maybe Japan wasn’t made to fit someone as tall as me, with my ungainly limbs and constant ducking. But the people here, from my housemates to my students to my local 7-11 cashier, make me feel like there’s still room for me here.