There was a space next to me on the train. She saw it first and started to move towards it before seeing me. And then we had the silent foreigner recognition. I finished studying Japanese vocabulary on my phone and glanced over to see that she was alternately doing online shopping and reading the news on her phone. I pulled out my book. I thought I could say something but she seemed "engaged." So I read and I noticed her checking out the English words in front of me.
As the train approached the final stop I broke the ice and asked her, "Do you live in Japan?" "Oh do I live in Japan? I've lived here 25 years!" she responded with an English accent. I congratulated her. "Ha, I suppose it's less 'congratulation' as 'commiseration'," she joked. And we had a short exchange. She was from London and taught English at a university in Kobe. She said she loved it. She asked me a bit about myself. Less than 4 minutes of introductions later we broke off on different trajectories but not without creating a little bubble of English in Japan and breaking out of the norm. "Nice chatting with you."