Way to be a jerk AJ.
Yeah, well... if you act ignorant, you get treated ignorant.
You were a tourist, and you're arguing with people who live/lived in Japan for a long time. Who exactly do you think other readers of this forum should believe?
My bets are that the other teens you met just didn't want to risk offending you.
OK. Let's chill on the flaming. It's not an effective way to make a point. If you want to make a point, back it up. Sorry, PandanoTake, but if you want to make this assertion, that many teenagers don't know the word gaijin, you're going to have to back it up with something other than a blanket statement and "I spent time in Tokyo and Hokkaido." An excellent rebuttal was the title of the TV show. However the insults are juvenile and add nothing to the discussion except contempt.
To address this discussion in particular, I worked in Tokyo for a year, which isn't as long as some of these other fogies:p, but it was still quite long. Considering my job consisted of daily contact with quite a broad spectrum of Japanese, including many teenagers, I feel I have some degree of credibility when I say that your assertion is wrong. Some of my classes, especially those with high level students, involved debates on topics like this, and let me say that there was never anyone who did not know the word 'gaijin'. In fact, my girlfriend refered to me as a gaijin once but then quickly apologized and asked me if I minded.
I do want to express a different opinion on gaijin, though from some of the other statements here. I really don't take offense to the word. Coming from the South the accusation of racism is particularly sensitive here. Note the quick backtracking of the black Congresswoman who recently accused a Capitol Police officer of racism when he confronted her about trying to by-pass the Capitol metal detector. Her decision to accuse the officer of racism has been met here with considerable backlash. It just seems like most people here feel like they're walking around on eggshells trying not to offend anyone and when accusations are thrown out it's a very sensitive issue.
My perspective is it isn't racism if there is no overt claim of racial superiority. Otherwise, race is just an identifying characteristic. I can say she has purple hair, but if I refer to skin tone, it's suddenly racist? In my view, gaijin falls along these lines. Many times people can't tell from sight whether we're Australia-jin, America-jin, or what. Imagine the discomfort of the individual who refers to the Kiwi as an Aussie. Thus we're lumped in as gaijin/gaikokujin. Gaijin is shorter, so it makes sense that it's used more often. I would begin to think there was racism if gaikokujin was the politically incorrect term. Then if more people were using it than the "neutral" shorter version there would be an argument for there being more to it than the length of the word.
So, my view is that the words themselves are words. Sometimes, there might be a gentle ribbing/teasing factor that may be a bit of a grey area, but given the sensitivity of the issue "'round these parts", I think the immediate leap to "it must be racism" is a bit hasty. I don't mind being refered to as gaijin. I call myself gaijin when it comes up in conversation. If I'm being taunted, however, I feel it's not the word itself that is racist, it's the taunt. Thus, I think being "the gaijin teacher" is not NECESSARILY racist while "Die gaijin bastard!" probably is.
Anyway, I just wanted to throw in my two cents. And let's keep it clean, guys. As a closing remark to PandanoTake, if you want to strengthen your assertion, you'll want to give evidence that you know what you're talking about. Most of us here who are okay with Japanese and spent a long time in Japan not only heard gaijin a lot, but have annecdotes about blatantly racist encounters. What the others are probably thinking is "His Japanese wasn't good enough to hear what we've heard" or "He spent a very short time in Japan and his only exposure to Japanese was maybe in a family setting (thus the sheltered comment) where their words would be carefully chosen." Just saying "they told me they don't know the word gaijin" makes us think someone's just pulling the wool over your eyes because they're worried about the sensitivity some have to the word.
Oops, just saw there was a 2nd page to this thread. Nice job with the poll Harisonbon. Now that's an effective way to back up an argument!