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Does Japan hate me?

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RE: Does Japan hate me?

Postby I-samu » Sat 02.25.2006 5:50 pm

I wouldn't really know. I look really Japanese even though I'm half.
When I went there, I just kept my mouth shut except at my relative's house, so I just was treated normally.
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RE: Does Japan hate me?

Postby Mukade » Sat 02.25.2006 7:25 pm

I think a lot of people here are equating racism with acts of hatred or violence/threats. But anytime someone passes instant judgement on you based on the color of your skin is an act of racism. I have had a death threat by a random person on the street, but these sorts of thing seems pretty rare. More common is when people are refused service at restaurants and shops (both of which I have experienced). There has been a scandal in the newspapers recently about an African-American who was refused service at an eyeglass shop because he was black (the shop owner admitted this in court!), but the case was thrown out because the plaintiff "couldn't understand Japanese." Huh?

But probably the most rampant form of racism is predetermined judgement in Japanese minds concerning foreigners. I think the general impression amongst Japanese is that foreigners are simply incapable of doing the same things Japanese people do. There were tons of essays that came out, especially in the post-war period, concerning the genetic differences between the Japanese brain and that of all other people (don't believe me? just do a search for 日本人論).

Because of these essays (which still get published from time to time), the Japanese seem to believe that foreigners cannot learn Japanese fluently. Because of this, there's an interesting "see-non-japanese-face, hear-Japanese, does-not-compute" sort of phenomena that often occurs. I have literally had conversations with Japanese people and, after fifteen or twenty minutes of talking in Japanese, they've asked me "do you understand Japanese?" At other times I'll be with my Japanese wife, and even though I'm speaking in clear, eloquent Japanese, the other party insists on asking me questions through my wife, as if she needs to translate into English for me. This sort of thing still happens with teachers whom I've worked with for two years now! I've conducted parent-teacher conferences in Japanese, given speeches in front of the student and teacher body in Japanese and discussed topics at teacher meetings in Japanese, and yet they still think I can't understand their language.

It's this same sensibility that cause Japanese to be surprised when they see you using chopsticks, eating sushi or doing any other culturally Japanese thing with apparent ease. One day at school when I was eating lunch, I left about half of my rice sitting on my plate. One of the teachers remarked on the fact, and I said, "yeah, I'm just too full. these daily lunches are really big." To which her response was, "oh yeah, foreigners can't digest rice, can they?" Huh?

To sum up, is there racism in Japan? Yes. I think the Japanese can be very xenophobic. Is all racism the cross-burning, lynching type? No. In fact, this sort of racism seems quite uncommon. But the racism you will encounter, the "since your foreign there's a lot of things you don't understand" type of racism, you will probably encounter quite often. If you encounter it once or twice while visiting Japan, it may seem inoccuous. But this sort of condescesion can wear really thin after you've been here a few years.
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RE: Does Japan hate me?

Postby Txkun » Sat 02.25.2006 7:53 pm

Mukade wrote:
It's this same sensibility that cause Japanese to be surprised when they see you using chopsticks, eating sushi or doing any other culturally Japanese thing with apparent ease. One day at school when I was eating lunch, I left about half of my rice sitting on my plate. One of the teachers remarked on the fact, and I said, "yeah, I'm just too full. these daily lunches are really big." To which her response was, "oh yeah, foreigners can't digest rice, can they?" Huh?

To sum up, is there racism in Japan? Yes. I think the Japanese can be very xenophobic. Is all racism the cross-burning, lynching type? No. In fact, this sort of racism seems quite uncommon. But the racism you will encounter, the "since your foreign there's a lot of things you don't understand" type of racism, you will probably encounter quite often. If you encounter it once or twice while visiting Japan, it may seem inoccuous. But this sort of condescesion can wear really thin after you've been here a few years.


I'm sad to hear that you confirm exactly what I have heard from various sources.
When I was in Japan for a little last year I couldn't speak much to people I didn't know before. I remember asking a direction in japanese and getting the response in english and japanese. ;) "kyoto no eki doko desu ka". "motto motto massugu" :D In my case english was great!
Anyway, Mukade, do you think that, thanks to inflence of good gaijin, Japanese will get used to us? Do you think young generations will react the same? Is there any 'formal education' that states that gaijin can't use hashi, or eat sushi (yumm) or something like that or it's all in common sense?
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RE: Does Japan hate me?

Postby Sachi » Sat 02.25.2006 9:51 pm

Very interesting posts... I think I've learned a big chunk about Japanese culture that I was missing.

Racism in Japan? Of course! It's everywhere. I myself have never been to Japan, but I've heard stories from both sides, and already know this statement for a fact.

My friend in California told me that one of her best friends went to Japan once, and everyone remarked about her blonde, curly hair. I found this hard to beleive, but after what y'all have said, it seems a little easier to see now.

For the moment, though, wish me luck in my learning and travels, and thanks for the information :)
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RE: Does Japan hate me?

Postby keatonatron » Sun 02.26.2006 12:09 am

Good explanation Mukade, that's what I was trying to convey!

On top of the "foreigner's can't learn Japanese" feelings, I've come accross a lot of people who see it as "foreigner's have no interest in learning Japanese". I'm guessing this also stems from an inferiority complex (Since America is so great, why would any American look towards Japan and not towards America, like the rest of the world??)

I'm sorry I don't remember any of the specific situations... But often when people start talking to my about my skills (chopsticks, language) they always follow it up with a "but WHY do you like Japan??" and, as I said before, a lot of people have told me they expect foreigner's to simply not be interested in adapting to anything Japanese.

It's kinda like when you go out with a super hot girl/guy...:p "Wow, you're so great, I love everything about you! But what interest do you have in me? Surely your interest in me is just a formality... it's really you that's the great one here!"

Has... anyone else had those feelings or only me? :D
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RE: Does Japan hate me?

Postby Harisenbon » Sun 02.26.2006 12:53 am

At other times I'll be with my Japanese wife, and even though I'm speaking in clear, eloquent Japanese, the other party insists on asking me questions through my wife, as if she needs to translate into English for me


This drives me absolutely bonkers. I went out for christmas eve with my wife, and I had made reservations at a nice posh restaurant and go out to dinner that night. My wife stands behind me reading a magazine at the front of the restaurant while I talk to the head guy. Every time I say something he CRANES HIS HEAD OVER MY SHOULDER to respond to my wife, who is not even looking at him.

That was the worst experience I'd ever had with that, though. Usually things are pretty good. Either that, or I just make my wife wait in the car. ;)
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RE: Does Japan hate me?

Postby keatonatron » Sun 02.26.2006 2:05 am

I though it was funny when my father came to visit... He doesn't speak a word of Japanese, but whenever we would go into a restaraunt the employees would always direct the questions at him.

I guess that's just a respect/seniority thing, but when I started talking to them in Japanese and they still responded to him (and he had no idea what they were saying) it was a little wierd.
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RE: Does Japan hate me?

Postby Mukade » Sun 02.26.2006 9:54 pm

Txkun wrote:
Anyway, Mukade, do you think that, thanks to inflence of good gaijin, Japanese will get used to us? Do you think young generations will react the same? Is there any 'formal education' that states that gaijin can't use hashi, or eat sushi (yumm) or something like that or it's all in common sense?


Good gaijin? Where?

Actually, I think some of the prejudice we run into is often caused by the antics of the 'evil gaijin' who come over here to party, never learn the language, deride Japanese culture and then go home leaving trashed apartments and jilted lovers in their wake.

I often will overhear some people on the train or bus talking about me. One will say "hey don't talk so loud, he might hear." Then the other says, "no way can he understand - my English conversation teacher has been here X years (where X= a ludicrous number) and can't even say his name in Japanese..."

A lot of the prejudice also comes from this inferiority complex that keatonatron mentioned. This is actually a commonly held view concerning Japan's current national psychology. I can't count how many essays, studies and books I had to read in graduate school that dealt with the topic. The general idea is that since Japan 1) holds the west (especially America) in such high regard and 2) they were defeated in WWII, they tend to idolize Western things and mannerisms while rejecting Japanese tradition. Of course, this creates an interestingly paradoxical situation where, in order to make up for this feeling of inferiority, the Japanese will often try very hard to define themselves in terms that do not apply to anyone else.

So, "yeah, the West rocks, but we Japanese are unique..."

Anytime you threaten that uniqueness (by readily learning or understanding uniquely Japanese things) you threaten to undermine the one thing that makes Japanese people feel good about themselves.

Or so the theory goes.

You don't really see any of this formally taught in Japanese schools, but that sense of "Japan, especially our language, is very unique and inpenetrable by outsiders" is touted quite often by individuals and the media. I mean, just the other day I say a review for an album on the Japanese iTunes where one reviewer referred to a Japanese album as "only understandable by Japanese people."

I don't know if this sensibility is changing or not, but the younger generation certainly seems more open to meeting, mingling and talking with foreigners normally than the older generations.

Of course, as with all countries in regards to racism/prejudice, it all comes down to an individual level. You can talk generalities until you're blue in the face, but each person is going to be different, and you have to judge each person based on their own actions and words.

And in that respect, I've met plenty of people here who are open-minded and have never condescended me.
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RE: Does Japan hate me?

Postby keatonatron » Mon 02.27.2006 7:54 am

This kinda links to the "how do you know you want to live in Japan" thread. Now that I understand a lot more Japanese, I've become much more paranoid. When I'm out and about I always catch little bits of conversations (like the words "American," "English," and sentences like "I can't tell the difference between American and British (accents, people)" and "I can't speak English!") and I always wonder if I'm the cause of those conversations. Unfortunately I'm never near the people long enough to catch enough of the conversation to know what they're talking about.
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RE: Does Japan hate me?

Postby Txkun » Mon 02.27.2006 12:13 pm

Mukade, thank you for your post.
It's very interesting.

Good gaijin? Where?

Actually, I think some of the prejudice we run into is often caused by the antics of the 'evil gaijin' who come over here to party, never learn the language, deride Japanese culture and then go home leaving trashed apartments and jilted lovers in their wake.

exactly what I meant :D
By good gaijin I meant people that respect people and a culture when they are abroad.

And in that respect, I've met plenty of people here who are open-minded and have never condescended me.

Yep me too! And I hope that thanks to people like that Japan will slowly go over all prejudices about West and itself.
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RE: Does Japan hate me?

Postby Mukade » Tue 02.28.2006 12:45 am

keatonatron wrote:
When I'm out and about I always catch little bits of conversations (like the words "American," "English," and sentences like "I can't tell the difference between American and British (accents, people)" and "I can't speak English!") and I always wonder if I'm the cause of those conversations. Unfortunately I'm never near the people long enough to catch enough of the conversation to know what they're talking about.


I've noticed that, although I may not be the subject of their conversation, people around me certainly have an uncanny penchant for speaking about English and foreign countries (especially the US) when I'm around.

I'm sure that seeing a blonde-haired, blue-eyed (in my case, green-eyed) foreigner often sparks conversation about such things. I mean, it's not that often that a Japanese rides the train or sits in a restaurant next to a foreigner (well, outside of the touristy places in Tokyo and Kyoto, that is).

I've even caught myself lately staring at other foreigners like they have a banana coming out of one ear. I almost want to point and say "Look Mom! Gaijiin!" before I catch hold of my wits again.
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RE: Does Japan hate me?

Postby Takeo Saeki » Tue 02.28.2006 2:33 am

Yes, this is one part of going to Japan that I certainly do not look forward to. Being thought of as and treated like a foreigner who is incapable of understanding the local language. Being looked down on because of my skin and hair color. I always make sure never to act like that to foreign people in my area. I mean, when I meet a Brazillian or Indian or Japanese or Iranian or Russian person (just to name a few), I always treat them as a normal person, because that is what they are. I dislike people who instantly judge and form an opinion of a person just because of their skin color or accent.
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RE: Does Japan hate me?

Postby keatonatron » Tue 02.28.2006 2:52 am

Mukade wrote:
I've even caught myself lately staring at other foreigners like they have a banana coming out of one ear. I almost want to point and say "Look Mom! Gaijiin!" before I catch hold of my wits again.


Yeah, I do this. :D Unfortunately, I don't stop myself.

It's probably starting to drive my girlfriend crazy. I always point out the wierd lookin' foreigners I see. "ウ、ウ、外人!見てて!怖いね・・・" However, she usually agrees that they're scary, so maybe it's okay.

The ones that aren't scary, I still stare at but I don't make a fuss over it ;)
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RE: Does Japan hate me?

Postby Corybobory » Fri 04.07.2006 9:32 pm

What an interesting thread! Everyone's opinions have given me lots to think about :)

Mukade wrote:
Of course, as with all countries in regards to racism/prejudice, it all comes down to an individual level. You can talk generalities until you're blue in the face, but each person is going to be different, and you have to judge each person based on their own actions and words.


Very well said!! I entirely agree :)
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RE: Does Japan hate me?

Postby Naikou » Mon 04.10.2006 1:14 pm

The japanese view of foreigners is changing, however slow. Just look at the vast amount of Japanese teachers coming to Europe or America, not knowing any other language then Japanese, and willing to learn another one to be able to teach us, the 'inferior' races, Japanese. I've visited a JApanese only school in Brussels with my class, and they were extremely nice, friendly, and didn't even bother to make simple sentences for us, because they assumed we could talk Japanese. That illustrates it best I think, that it's rather secluded situations where Japanese treat us as complete and utter incompetent mongrels.

And can you blame them? Since 1880, they have had nationalism spooned into their faces at school, on the street, at home, by every government official. Up to the Second World War, and it's horrific conclusion, the Japanese knew they were the most superior race on earth. They believed that without a doubt. Of course, this is exagerated, but when you get showered with information, obligations, threats, and so on, about Japan being the land of the Gods, and are thus the most priviliged and superior race around, you tend to believe it after a while. Having been bombed with 2 Atomic Bombs did not help them to suddenly change their views about themselves and others. Oh, I'm sure it changed alot, they became alot more humble (if that's the right word), and tolerant towards other races, but come on: wouldn't you have a grudge against those that actually bombed your country with nuclear weapons? I would.
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