'You lookin' at me?' Fake book soothes race relations

'You lookin' at me?' Fake book soothes race relations

Tokyo expat comes up with a novel solution to being scrutinized on trains
Why do Japanese People Stare at Foreigners?
We think this is Kristjansson on his daily commute, but really didn't want to stare.

Anyone who's spent time in a foreign country where most locals are ethnically different knows the feeling of sticking out like a sore thumb -- the whispers, the stares, the simply “being other.”

Although Tokyo is a cosmopolitan city, it still happens surprisingly often -- just ask anyone who’s spent time here, particularly outside the city center.

Most expats handle the situation by developing a thick skin and ignoring it. Very few actually come up with a constructive way of dealing with it -- let alone a funny one.

Wraparound solution

Why do Japanese People Stare at Foreigners?The wraparound cover looks for all the world like a typically introspective Japanese social commentary text.

Enter 29-year-old DJ and musician Arni Kristjansson, an Iceland native who has whipped up a book cover emblazoned with the title "Why do Japanese People Stare at Foreigners?" in bold type -- in Japanese.

His trick is to wrap whatever book he's reading in the faux cover and position it between himself and those with a staring problem.

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"Some people stare back or even take photos of other people staring at the book," explains Kristjansson. "I thought I'd make something that uses less confrontational means to send the message that so much staring is inappropriate."

Breaking barriers

So what's the reaction been like so far?

"For the most part, laughter," he says. "When I explain the idea ... they realize that a 300-page book on why Japanese people stare at foreigners is pretty ridiculous."

Kristjansson doesn't have any plans to mass-produce his cover, but expats everywhere can -- forgive us -- take a page from his book: When confronted by stares, laughs tend to work better than glares.