In another life, I sometimes saw babies while standing in line at the supermarket check-out, or maybe in a restaurant or a bank. I smiled at these babies, and the babies smiled back.
Then, I came to Japan. For the first time ever, the babies did not smile back. Instead, they were more apt to crumple their faces in horror or to cry. I’m pretty much used to it by now, after twenty years in Japan. There are two babies at my daughter’s school – siblings of students. At the last post-open class parent-teacher meeting, a mother and baby were sitting next to me. All I did was look at the baby, and the baby started crying. I wasn’t even trying to engage the baby in any way. Typical.
My own children have been exposed to a variety of faces since birth – white, Asian, and occasionally black. Never once did they burst into tears upon seeing a foreigner. Multiculturalism, it seems, begins at birth.