沖縄県 Part II

While sitting at the bar at Chocolate Milk in Okinawa two gentlemen walked in. They were decked out in tailored suits that put my casual pants and t-shirt to shame. After greeting Hiro, the proprietor, they peered down the bar at me. I was sitting alone. These men must have noticed my dark as a sign that I was not Japanese. I too was keen to their complexion as well. Could this be? Was this? Something told me that these weren’t tanned Japanese men! As they made their way around the bar I saw that these were Black men. Sure, I didn’t know them and they had never met me, but we shook hands and greeted each other warmly. These men were my seniors by thirty years as I would learn. Close to my father’s age, I deferred to them out of respect. I was thousands of miles from my home, but this bar felt very welcoming and comfortable for the darker hued like us. Their presence made that even clearer. As I was to also later learn I was in the presence of Mr. Jessie Burns, businessman and entrepreneur who has lived on the island for nearly thirty years. His brother, Jeremiah Burns, who happened to be visiting the island after a long time since his initial visit is also a businessman and entrepreneur. Jeremiah sells Bar-B-Que sauce! Talking with these gentlemen made the start of my evening delightful. After receiving their business cards I did as I had learned to do with business cards in Japan — do not put them into my wallet in front of them. The custom is to wait until the person cannot see. Leaving the business card visible is a sign of respect. The Japanese have this thing about business cards. Although these men were not Japanese, I knew that I should not ignore the customs of the country we were in at that time simply because we are ‘Soul’ brothas in a Soul bar. Like these men I found that Japan appreciates Black American culture. From Tokyo to Okinawa Soul bars litter the country. I love Japan for this fact.

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