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i was ushered to leave from a shop 2010/6/17 13:15
I was confused about this experience, so I thought I might ask you if you may know what's going on.
I was in Takayama in December. It was about 4:30pm in the afternoon. I was shopping for sarubobo dolls. I went to a gift shop, and began looking at the gift stands outside the shop. Then I decided to go into the shop to look around some more. The automatic door opened, and I went inside. The shopkeeper was inside reading a newspaper, looked at me, and said something in Japanese. I didn't know what he said (it wasn't irrashaimase for sure), so I continued my browsing. Then he said the same thing again, while crossing his arms like an X in front of his chest. He said something like ''omote'', but that was just my hearing, I wasn't sure at all, so don't quote me on that. Finally he approached the door, and with his hand, waving me to leave the store. So I did. Once outside, I saw him through the glass door that he went back to reading newspaper. I didn't think he even locked the door. So what's the situation here? Was the store closed so he didn't want to serve anymore? Why was the door still open? It bothered me a bit, that I thought I did something wrong. On the other hand, I was a bit surprised because the shopkeeper seemed a bit impolite, or maybe I was reading too much into it. Thanks for reading so long of a description.
by ben (guest)  

strange... 2010/6/17 18:04
you're right, that is weird.

The only things I can imagine:
1) He said, "(Time) o motte, owatteimasu" which would say, "We're closed as of (Time)."
2) Or he said, "Mada yatteinainode, omote de omachi kudasai", which means "We're not open yet, please wait out front".

I just imagined a similar situation I was in (at a bar in Okinawa) and filled in the blanks to apply to what you experienced, but he could have said a million other things before or after "o motte" or "omote" so please don't take my word for it.
by jmarkley rate this post as useful

.. 2010/6/17 18:56
Well were other customers inside?

He wouldn't deny you entrance for no reason. So maybe they weren't open yet. Since you say he went back to the newspaper. If they were closing, I'd imagine that he'd be doing something to prepare the closing.

by Reina Jess rate this post as useful

shop owner 2010/6/17 23:48
I had a similar experience some years ago. It was a JR employee in Nara station who did the same thing you describe - holding his arms crossed in front of him and saying something I didn't understand emphatically. I had asked if I could get seat reservations for some future rail trips (in my fledging Japanese). I knew I was at the right counter for seat reservations but his reticence made me uncomfortable. I bowed and backed off. My initial thought was that I was not clear in what I was saying and that the employee could not speak English. The shop owner may have not wanted to deal with you because of a language barrier.
by stevenjv (guest) rate this post as useful

... 2010/6/18 00:58
I really dont think that was the case. I go to random country side places and have no problem getting service.

And he was just browsing, minding his own business. I dont think the shop owner would take it that far to show him the door just because he didnt want to "deal with him"

And to buy something isn't hard, they just point to the numbers on the screen.

If you're making complicated transactions like trying to explain something that requires a lot of spoken language, then yeah, that'd be reason to not want to deal with somebody who doesn't understand.
by Reina Jess rate this post as useful

Oddballs 2010/6/18 03:36
All I could say is: there are always going to be some oddballs in any population. Perhaps, the guy was just having a bad day or really has something against serving foreign customers. In any case, it's something you shouldn't be too worried about, that's just one of the experiences of traveling in a foreign country!
by Bean (guest) rate this post as useful

My guess... 2010/6/18 03:47

I don't believe 16:30 would be an opening time or closing time. Maybe, the man said, "Omote de omachi kudasai (Please wait outside)." He could have been simply minding the shop, while it's owner was away for 10, 20 minutes. Perhaps, the owner locked the till and didn't ask the man to sell or deal with customers.


What sort of train did you want to book? Maybe he didn't think you'd understand his Japanese, and just gestured to mean that your train wasn't for booking. They must sometimes come across and so are not totally unfamiliar with non-Japanese passengers. Therefore, they shouldn't just turn away a passenger, just because of language barriar.
by kd (guest) rate this post as useful

. 2010/6/18 04:37
Without knowing all the facts we can only conclude that there could be a million different reasons.

Were there any other customers in the shop? It could of been the shop was closed while something was being done and the guy was just watching the store while the owner or other employees had stepped out. That is just speculation of course. Racism or language barrier is at the bottom of my list at the moment, though some might be fast to conclude that.
by ExpressTrain (guest) rate this post as useful

strange owner 2010/6/18 06:11
It could well be that the guy at the cash was not the owner...when I was in my teens the husband of a lady that owned a grocery across the street from our home would relieve her once a while..
If he didn't know you he would scream "not now, come back later"...
if he knew you he would let you pick up stuff, weight it yourself and write down on a scrap of paper: Monday XX Mr. Y bought 1 pound of .. and 2 cans of..and you would pay whenever she was in the store..even if she was only back days later.
The lady owner would often find some special stuff (food, clothes) and refuse to sell it to anyone but my mom..

There is a clothing shop in my home town that is famous for its unusual lady (???) owner. She either let customers come in and browse or jump out like a madwoman and kick them out, making insulting comments about their looks. Some people have said that she had let them in once, kicked them out another time, let them in still another time..
I am not masochist enough to even bother with that shop..
by Red frog (guest) rate this post as useful

thanks a lot for all your answers 2010/6/18 14:12
Everyone, thanks a lot for your answers. There was a question about whether there was other customers inside; no, there wasn't any other customers.
Once again, thank you for taking the time with my question.
by ben (guest) rate this post as useful

4 facts and some guesses 2010/6/19 06:23

I'm really sorry for what you went through. Whatever it was, I'm sure it wasn't a comfortable situation.

There are 4 things that are clear here. (1) The crossing arms gesture is a common Japanese way to express "no." (2) "Omote" means "outside" in Japanese. (3) Regardless of nationality or culture, there are people, especially older men, who never smiles. (4) Doors are often unlocked as long as someone from the shop is there, even if it's during their break.

Now, the rest are all guesses. "Omote" could've meant anything. My guess is that he may thought that it was the most simple way to say you should go outside. The cross gesture could have meant any "no," but since you were led outside, it's natural to assume that he was trying to say, "No, I cannot serve you" whatever the reason was. A lot of shopkeepers aren't friendly, but that doesn't necessarily mean they don't like you.

For future advise, try to look and see if there are any signs outside. If they can't or doesn't want to serve customers for one reason or another, it usually says so on the door. Especially if they are not serving non-Japanese people, they will write a sign that says so in English and perhaps some other languages. Maybe he said "omote ni sign ga aru (there is a sign outside" and that sign could have simply been something that tells you they're taking a break.

Or maybe he was just sitting there for someone else for a short while, just to avoid burglers, and was not responsible for serving anybody.

Or maybe he didn't feel like communicating with people who don't know the language. This happens to me (I'm Japanese) all the time when I travel overseas. Some would just disappear to the back of the shop, but when I come back saying a greeting in the local language and pointing at a phrase in my phrase book, they'd be nice enough to take a look and shake their heads.

So my guess is that, unless there was a sign outside it is natural to assume that he was either sitting there for someone else or didn't want to bother to speak anything but Japanese, and you did nothing wrong.
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

He said "owata" 2010/7/20 02:00
I'm pretty sure he said "owata" - which means the store had closed for the day. The word is always accompanied with the crossed arm or finger gesture and used pretty much everytime you walk into a place which is closed or litterally means "finished"
by JoeyRamone rate this post as useful

. 2010/7/20 04:22
I agree with Uco-san on this issue.

4:30 is a little early for the shop to be closed, and the area is a big tourist attraction.

The man must have either been watching the shop for someone else, or most likely, didn't want to deal with foreigners and another language. And yes, you did nothing wrong.

This kind of issue probably happens less in the past. I've heard that it happened in Tokyo even in big department stores in the 70s and early to mid 80s-- the clerks would be embarassed and just leave the foreign customer standing there while they hid somewhere. In major cities, it is less likely to happen, but Takayama is not a major city.

I'm sorry this happened to you. I hope you were able to find what you were looking for at another store with a more accommodating clerk.
by Kazuyuki78 rate this post as useful

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