Japanese Tourists & My Daughter’s Blonde Hair

Ask anyone what they remember about Niagara Falls — about the faces in the crowd — and you’re bound to hear something like “Lots of Japanese tourists with cameras”.  And it sure seems to be true… whenever you see large groups with tour guides at the Table Rock area of the falls, they always seem to be Japanese.  I’ve never done any formal fact checking, but my impression is that Niagara Falls must be very highly regarded in Japan as a tourist destination. 

I enjoy this aspect of Niagara Falls a great deal!  The people of Japan can almost never speak my language of English, yet that doesn’t stop our encounters from being warm and friendly when we meet on the sidewalks.  I’m amazed they’ve traveled so far to see Niagara, and when I see them I can tell by their smiles that they are having the best times of their lives.   

Often they tap you on the shoulder and hold out their cameras, which naturally means they want you to take their picture while they pose with their traveling companions… and I’m only too happy to oblige.  I usually snap two or three photos when asked, and when I hand the camera back I receive a series of quick bows of thanks and sometimes a friendly pat on the shoulder.

On one particular occasion however, I was there with my one daughter who was only about 5 years old at the time.  She was very eye-catching with her wavy blonde hair flowing all the way down her back, and when a Japanese tour group passed her by, they immediately started clicking their cameras at her.  She was wide-eyed and had a polite but nervous smile on her face as she looked at me for reassurance.  I just grinned proudly and said, “They’re Japanese People… from another country called Japan!  They speak a language we can’t understand but they’re nice people!” 

When I said this, one of the tourists, an elderly woman gestured toward my daughter’s hair with her hand, speaking only in Japanese.  I had no idea what she was asking, but I assumed it was nothing harmful so I nodded my head as a way to say yes. The lady took a lock of my daughter’s hair and started to examine it as if she were looking at a fine silk scarf.  Almost instantly about six other hands reached out, men’s as well as women’s, and they started to feel and stroke her blond hair…. they were all laughing and all saying probably the only english word they knew.. “Beeuuuutiful!”  and giving her one-armed hugs for the cameras.  I was grinning from ear to ear in fatherly pride!  My daughter just went along for the ride so to speak, maintaining her polite but nervous smile and very wide eyes.  They all took turns with her hair and posing for photographs, then the tour group walked off in the other direction, waving and laughing as they went. 

It was a very happy and unplanned encounter with folks who are not usually accustomed to natural blonde hair in their society, and I will never forget it.    My daughter today still remembers, and I always tell her that somewhere in Japan, you are in at least a dozen photo albums and are a very special memory to a lot of nice people who were on their trip of a lifetime to Niagara Falls. 

This happened long before by Niagara Blog-Writing days and I’m sorry to say I did not have a camera around to record it… what a shame, as it was pure magic!


~ by Greg Nold on October 22, 2010.

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