30 September 2011 ~ 34 Comments

The Others: Thoughts on some foreigners living in Japan

I’ve been doing some thinking…a lot of thinking, actually. For the most part I’ve focused my blog on Japanese people, culture, customs and idiosyncrasies, and the highs and lows of living among them, as well as the effect of xenophobia on the soul. What I have ignored to a large degree is the issue of other people living here who also have a significant effect on ones experience here: other foreigners.

I’ve touched on it several times. I’ve discussed why avoiding gaijin is in your best interest but in that post I focused primarily on the haters. The hex that Japan tends to put people under has long since worn off of these folks (assuming they had been enchanted in the first place) and they have become like dope fiends after the dope is all gone, only once it’s gone- this spell- it’s gone. And there’s no methadone to replace it with. Most turn angry. Angry and bitter! Angry at the people still under the spell (high) or in the process of being spellbound, angry at the people they hold responsible for putting the spell on them (the Japanese mostly), and angry at themselves for being weak enough to be taken in by what amounts to an obvious delusion. Some were that way already and just reverted to form.

Yep, I said it before and I’ll say it again: Avoid them!

But there are other types of foreigners here, and sometimes they’re just as relentless as the haters. I won’t try to categorize them because in the end I’ll just look like a fool because no one fits nicely into any category, not even Japanese people. So, for the purpose of this entry, I will focus primarily on why they have given me pause- these others.

Yes, just like on that island on “Lost” we have us some “Others” here, too.

“Lighten up, Loco!” says one of these Others. “We’re all in this together.”

“Stop behaving like a petulant child,” says another Other. “That’s so old hat.”

You are the problem!” says yet another Other. “Japanese fear of you is warranted. You’re creepy!”

Some of the comments were in response to entries like those under “acts of retaliation” or any entry in which I express any negative thoughts about Japan or Japanese people, or, god forbid, retaliate in any way. The responses seem to be designed to make me feel ashamed of myself, like somehow I should know better (I guess due to my long tenure here or the aptitude or potential for good thoughts and deeds I’ve demonstrated in other posts I’ve written, or because I come from another planet where tolerance for impertinence and irreverence and unfair treatment is a virtue), chastising me for behaving and responding as I do to Japanese disrespectful behavior. Some of them are just hate-filled because, well, let’s face it, some people are just fucking hateful.

Some of them seem to be pushing towards my enrollment in the Kneel and Suck it like a Good Gaijin and Stop your Miserable Complaining Already College of New Hat Thinking. Their school motto is: Japanese, regardless of their behavior, are not the problem at all! You, and pissing moaning malcontents like you, are the Problem. My retaliating and, in some cases, my very presence here is the problem and if it weren’t for gaijin like me, gaijin like them would be 10 times better off…so I should join their ranks or, better yet, go home.

The other option is the Whisper Words of Wisdom, let the Japanese be University. Their school motto, which has a similar goal but slightly different tone as the other, is: Passive Aggression and Patient Positivity Produces Incremental Improvements…they maintain that  near total cultural immersion and fluency in the language are key. That these  will reduce misunderstandings and make Japanese more likely to accept your application for acknowledgement as a full and complete human being. These gaijin believe that the main reason foreigners have a tough time here is they don’t accept  life as it comes, and are unable to love Japan as it is regardless. And, like the Kneel and Suck it Posse, they suggest that if you don’t agree you should go back to your den of multiculturalism, or whatever rock you slithered out from under, and leave Japan to much wiser folk who’ve managed to survive here for decades, without going Loco- thank you very much…

I ain’t mad at either of them, really. They both make good, if not, great points, and I value their feedback. I’m serious, I really do. And if you read my responses (and I do try to respond to everyone…I rarely censor unless it’s just noise or nonsense or blatant lies I’ll have no part in distributing) you know that I take my time and try to be as thoughtful and thorough as I feel the comment is due.

But, sometimes…

There are foreigners here (no names…you know who you are) whose comments have lead me to believe that they think of Japan and Japanese as a country, people and culture to be protected, the way parents protect children…like they’re some kind of child race, or mentally challenged people. The benefit of the doubt is extended a little further for them due to their lack of exposure to the outside world (whatever the fuck that means in this day and age). Their inexperience with dealing with westerners entitles them to commit all kinds of indiscretions and transgressions…all excusable under the umbrella of inherent ignorance. An umbrella hoisted and held by some of the foreigners here.

And, if they feel that way, then what does that make me? That parent who spanks or slaps his children in the supermarket? The guy who walks through the streets with his mentally challenged daughter on a leash? The Special Ed teacher who kicks his students in the gut when they get out of hand? Yep…that’s the tone of some of the responses. I should be ashamed of myself. I’m almost criminal.

If my child acts out in the supermarket…you know what? I might pop him upside the head. My moms sure as hell did… And I learned. I won’t spoil my children and I won’t spoil the Japanese, either, by pretending their ignorance is ok because they live on a tiny island cut off from the rest of the world by the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan….because it simply isn’t true. Not anymore. They need to stop trying to convince me that that is a valid excuse for treating me like a creature devoid of feelings.

And the foreigners here who echo that malarkey, who buy that baka banashi (drivel) need to cut that shit out, too.

Trust me…I understand…I live here, too. I know how you feel. Day after day after day, you hear the same shit and pretty soon they wear you down, and you give in to the preponderance of ignorance around you. It’s overwhelming. You start to say shit like ‘They are a homogeneous people’ and ‘they are unaccustomed to foreigners’ and blah blah blah fucking blah and you really start to believe that these are valid excuses for dehumanizing foreigners… simply because 10000 Japanese have told you so.

On my blog I try to illustrate to the best of my ability what it is like for (and in no particular order): 1) a black man in Japan 2) A New Yorker in japan 3) A foreigner in japan.

I think the experience of being a foreigner in Japan is shared by every foreigner here, to some extent. I think being a black foreigner has a significant impact on that experience causing it to be much more, well, let’s just say it’s a different type of intensity than the experience of some other racial designations. And, I think being from New York, that multicultural den of dens, an environment almost antithetical to the one I currently live in, is also significant. These factors are at the heart of most of my entries.

But, not at the heart of the responses.

Firstly, I need to point out some things that may or may not be obvious. If they are please forgive me.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRfjLfyXYlA

While the above has happened to me a number of times in New York, it is a regular occurrence in Japan, both men and women, on streets, in shops, elevators, trains, anywhere and everywhere, repeatedly throughout the day, every day without fail. In fact, if it doesn’t happen I’m shocked and I wonder if nihonjin are sleeping on the job. But, I’ve de-sensitized myself as much as one can to such behavior. If you’ve never experienced it then you have no idea the rage that shoots through you, to be insulted and humiliated in that way… like adrenalin on adrenalin. Nor would you know the effort required to suppress it, to keep yourself from taking the offender by the neck and squeezing until they are quite dead…(mild exaggeration) The fact that I don’t is a testament to my good will toward humankind, even Japanese.

But, make no mistake about it, it is still an ordeal. Every friggin time!

I know some of you are (still) saying / thinking: get over it! or Focus on the good things. Or why don’t you just ignore them? They’re just ignorant. They don’t mean anything by it. Or, why don’t you just go back home if it’s so bad? Well, what would you tell that guy in the video? Would you tell him: Why don’t you stop riding elevators with white people? Why don’t you move to another city where that kind of thing doesn’t go on?

Where would that be? Where is this place where I can live without dealing with this or a related issue? Fantasyland?

No, like that pseudo-PSA, and like Richard Pryor, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and many others, I tend to deal with serious issues utilizing humor. Moreover, as I’ve mentioned in previous post, I’ve decided to draw the proverbial line in the sand, right here in Asia.

However, not to disregard my readers who appreciate my giving them a prospective of Japan that isn’t devoid of the darker side of life here, I’ve decided to lighten up a little…for my own mental maintenance  I will endeavor to write lighter and brighter entries and keep my venom to a minimum.

…but I’ll never kneel and suck it!!

Loco

PS: This is a re-post of a post I did two years ago

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34 Responses to “The Others: Thoughts on some foreigners living in Japan”

  1. Orchid64 30 September 2011 at 12:09 pm Permalink

    I think that the apologist behavior (saying they have limited experience with foreigners, are homogenous, can’t help themselves, etc.) is reaction formation behavior. People who put forth the idea that less is to be expected of the Japanese and make excuses for them actually believe they are capable of less. They seem to view them positively, but they actually are condescending toward them. However, since most Westerners are culturally taught to reject racist ideas, they work through those feelings, which cause them no small amount of stress, by reaction formation.

    (“In psychoanalytic theory, reaction formation is a defensive process (defense mechanism) in which anxiety-producing or unacceptable emotions and impulses are mastered by exaggeration (hypertrophy) of the directly opposing tendency.” – Wikipedia)

    For me, I’ve found what works for me is to neither fight not kneel down. I am myself in Japan, but I don’t go out of my way to push or fight the status quo. The truth is that fighting back aggressively only serves to reinforce their negative opinions of foreigners. You can only teach by example, but that doesn’t have to mean becoming a wage slave in the Japanese conformity factory. It just means being your best self in the face of adversity. I just want to walk away from bad situations knowing I acted in a manner consistent with my personal ethics and desire to move toward self-actualization.

    • Locohama 30 September 2011 at 1:56 pm Permalink

      Orchid, thanks as always…I couldn’t agree with you more. In effect these people are trying to insinuate that Japanese are racists by nature. Of course you, my dear-because you have a mental health background and are generous I think- attribute this to some psychological theory, for that’s your background, and i agree a good number of these people are indeed using reaction formation to cope here. But, there are other westerners here who were not indoctrinated into the school of thought that racism is wrong and thus walk / surf the net with a distinct hardly disguised feeling of racial superiority and espouse not only that Japanese are incapable of accepting others due to their cultural and racial shortcomings, but blacks- like yours truly-who have the audacity to point out the obvious (that it exists and persists) are told some of the remarks from the essay above…which are kinder gentler versions of some of the stuff I hear here. To paraphrase these folks: “Part of the reason I left the US is because i was sick to death of you niggers! Your whining and complaining, even as you sit in the White House and run the friggin country into the ground–and I ain’t about to get run out of Asia by you fucks…at least Japanese treat you bastards the way you were meant to be treated and the way WE were able to back in the good ole days)
      I could be wrong (and God I hope I am) but I’m pretty good at reading between the lines!
      Thanks again Orchid!! you Rock!

      • Jason 30 September 2011 at 8:12 pm Permalink

        The first time I ever heard the “isolated and ignorant” line of excuses was something like 48 hours after I landed here. I commented to the manager (Japanese) of the school where I was working that I had drawn what seemed like an inordinately large number of stares when riding the train from Tokorozawa to Hanno.

        She replied that we were “pretty far from Tokyo” (sorry, 45 minutes from Ikebukuro is NOT far from Tokyo, but I hadn’t gone the full trip by train yet at that point, so I didn’t argue) and “most of them have never seen a foreigner in person before.” … At the time I just kinda accepted it and dropped the subject, but after having lived here for almost five years, I can say without compunction that that was a giant load of crap. Anyone who rides an arterial train in and out of Ikebukuro with any regularity has seen foreigners in the flesh, probably hundreds of times.

        Still, it strikes me as interesting that the natives with sufficient English skills to discuss the subject with me (and my Japanese teacher at my weekly lessons) all parrot the same things that you described above. I have to wonder if they picked up the excuses from other foreigners, or if it’s part of the ‘we’ crap.

        • Locohama 3 October 2011 at 9:15 am Permalink

          Thanks for the shout Jason!
          Damn, 48 hours? lol. No time was wasted indoctrinating you, ne.
          “but after having lived here for almost five years, I can say without compunction that that was a giant load of crap” Couldn’t have put it better.
          I used to wonder that same thing. Is there some mandatory government sponsored and required course in school where people are taught to tout in English the party line.
          There probably is…

  2. Hakusan 30 September 2011 at 1:11 pm Permalink

    An excellent comment from Orchid above.

  3. Chiara 30 September 2011 at 2:24 pm Permalink

    Thanks Loco, I totally understand where you are coming from. It is always strange to encounter that type of Other.

    • Locohama 3 October 2011 at 9:17 am Permalink

      Thanks Chiara. Why do you call it strange? Do you mean “unusual” or that they creep you out a little?

  4. Momotaro 30 September 2011 at 3:00 pm Permalink

    Loco,

    I for one enjoy your venom filled posts as all of the ones I have read so far I thought were quite legitimate in doing so.

    Orchid’s response seems pretty spot on; however I have no idea what I am talking about when it comes to psychology.

    Anyway, you have the brains and even if you try and delude yourself into believing the excuses for racism, I don’t think it will ever do any good for you. It appears to work for some though.

    It’s all bloody too complicated unfortunately and there is no clear-cut solution for it. As you mentioned above, there are a lot of racist westerners still around even though this is not encouraged by law and in certain social environments and institutions, yet it still exists. I can’t get my head around why people like that are so hateful, but then maybe it has to do with the fear post you made last time.

    I am interested to see what the chap was saying in the video, so I will have to listen to that again when I get home. Sometimes when I am pulling up on the left of a line of cars at the lights I can hear the clicking of central locking systems as I ride past. Maybe these people are just scared of anything though.

    I enjoy meeting people I haven’t ridden with before in the morning and getting spoken to like a child as usual and then kicking their arses up a mountain. Suddenly, for some reason I start getting treated normally at the top. 🙂 Maybe it’s because my intestines are shorter that I can ride faster hardy hah hah.

    • Locohama 3 October 2011 at 9:33 am Permalink

      This was actually a re-post of an essay I wrote two years ago, so the venom had already tapered off. But, I realized that I have a lot of new readers who may not have read some of the archived essays. And it still olds true so I did a repeat.
      Still a lot of racist westerners around is an understatement unfortunately. I realized a year ago that I had joined their ranks. I’d gone and become a racist myself. I’d written Japanese off as a race made up mostly of people incapable of achieving that coveted human aspiration of colorblindness and thus were beneath me…as a group. They can look down on me all they like, I came to believe, because my ability to acknowledge our common humanity placed me on the higher ground.
      Well, so much for that…I’d lost all moral superiority the dark day I wrote them off.
      Fortunately, I’ve been able to turn that around somewhat, and replace my racist feelings with something else I haven’t quite been able to put into words. Something that still troubles me: part pity, part cynicism, part tolerance.

      • Momotaro 4 October 2011 at 10:27 am Permalink

        Yeah, I went through and read some of your posts from the past, I still have to get stuck into the 20 part or so series about your time in the department store and your thoughts on racism. I am saving that one for a demotivated rainy day at work.

        The negativity can get the better of me too and sometimes I just hate everyone. I just expect with my heart for them to understand how I am feeling, as much as my head may rationally think the opposite. However, I used to get like that in Australia too from overhearing racist jokes and negative views towards certain immigrants. I have been fortunate enough to meet some great people where I am at the moment who are definitely not like that and am happy to forge some relationships and I hope I can get to know people a bit more in depth as to know how they really feel about things.

        There are always exceptions I guess, so even in a country where racism is rife, there will always be a few who aren’t like that. I try and think of things like that to keep the hate away.

        It is ironic though that the oppressed usually employ the same logic as the oppressor in dealing with oppression. I’m sure there’s some sort of term for that out there somewhere.

        • Locohama 4 October 2011 at 12:50 pm Permalink

          Actually, I don’t think it’s logic. I think my reaction was purely emotional. No calculation necessary. It was probably as much a defense mechanism (to protect the feelings that people were treating insensitively as any deeply held prejudice against the masses here. Moreover “oppression” feels like a strong word for what we face here. I eman, i’m sure it is oppressive (inasmuch as ignorance can be oppressive), but somehow, without clear intentions to do so coming from the so-called opressors, I’ve yet to upgrade what i see and feel to oppression.
          Thanks again for keeping the discussion active and interesting

          • Momotaro 5 October 2011 at 9:27 pm Permalink

            Yeah, I guess the definition of oppression is a tricky one, whether it needs to be intentional or not. At least the person on the receiving end will feel oppressed whether they it was intentional or not most of the time.

            Logical, emotional, I find myself reacting in both ways sometimes, sometimes thinking too much about something logically can make me emotional and of course there is an initial emotional reaction too. Even just thinking about how I have felt in such situations makes me emotional a tiny bit.

            Keep the posts going, I look forward to the next one. You have been on a roll lately.

            Thanks for the thanks!

  5. Chris B 30 September 2011 at 3:15 pm Permalink

    I learned of those enablers and apologists are infact racists by seeing Japanese as fundamentally different during your series and I went blue from lack of oxygen cuz all the blood was going to my fists. I couldn’t believe some of the blatantly displayed ignorance. I have since discovered over at my place that they won’t even..usually engage me until creating a new identity and hiding behind proxy servers.

    Fucking spineless whores who sell their worthless souls for shit they don’t even fully understand….and when they do try it becomes a game of “whack a Moron” with their own stupid quotes. You don’t need counter points because they do that for ya.

  6. Alyse 1 October 2011 at 12:55 am Permalink

    Thanks for another great post 🙂 Sometimes I wondered am I the only one thinking these kinds of things? Am I being oversensitive?? But I’m glad that there are other people out just as confused by the Japanese and their “ignorance” about the world they are surely a part of.

    As many countries as Japan works with business and humanitarian wise, I don’t think they can really use the excuse of ignorance anymore. Also, there’s a little thing called the internet. It’s not perfect, but putting forth the effort is better than just “we we don’t know any better.” Also, it’s probably more accurate than whatever is shown on TV most of the time :/

    As for the people “protecting” the Japanese, I often wonder why they have this guardian sense about the Japanese. Maybe being the special snowflake in Japan has just gone to their head, and they really want to protect that? I’m not sure..

    Anyway, I’m glad there are some people out that really see what’s going on. I know we can’t really change it, but damn if I won’t try a little =/

  7. Kaley 1 October 2011 at 11:26 am Permalink

    I have been feeling this a bit lately. I made my first someone “venting” post on Japan. I tried to keep it light-hearted, joked around a bit. And I constantly got replies of “OH DON’T TAKE IT TOO SERIOUSLY! You’ll only beat yourself up if you let it get to you!”

    Uh. I wasn’t letting it get to me? I thought it would an interesting thing to point out? It just really irked me how people CONSTANTLY told me in the comments of that post to not get upset that a woman moved to a crowded bagging station when I walked up to the one she was using herself. Sorry that it kinda struck me as weird. Hahah

    • Locohama 1 October 2011 at 2:10 pm Permalink

      You should do a test…incrementally worsen the experience you’re venting about…see how long it takes before one of these “don’t take it seriously” people change their tune. Chances are it’ll never change. I’ve found that some of these people can rationalize or pooh pooh ANYTHING! “Oh she ran away from you? Well, it was probably your cologne. Japanese are very sensitive to foreign odors.” “Oh, she said, ‘go home gaijin?’ She probably thought you looked like you missed your family. It’s so easy to misconstrue Japanese for their language is so nuanced.” “Oh she spat in your face? Well, Japanese often spit on one another..it’s a rogation of sort. it means they like you” etc etc etc…Some of these Others are very dedicated people.(-; Thanks for the shout Kaley

      • illahee 1 October 2011 at 10:58 pm Permalink

        i don’t really have anything to add, but i wanted to thank you for the laugh. yeah, some people will do anything to keep from admitting they’re wrong (about japan, about japanese people (or language), about their decision to stay in japan….)

  8. Akage 2 October 2011 at 9:15 am Permalink

    That video you posted immediately brought to mind this part of the movie “Crash”…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mr-vqKH56w8

    One of the most underrated movies out there. Taking this scene for example, it shows the illogical reasoning that is the basis for that fear. But on the flip side, it also shows that a small percentage of the time, that fear is justified and warranted.

    When one group doesn’t understand the reasoning and mentality of another group, and they see 1% of that group acting agressive or threatening, then the sample group can become a representation of the whole. After 9/11 it happened to Muslims. Hell, Sikhs were beaten in New York because one group, non-Muslims, assumed that every person with a cloth wrapped around their head was a member of that “other group” that was responsible for the attacks.

    So my question is, where is the 1% that’s causing people to react to you? I know where my 1% is, and I regularly have to explain to Japanese that I’m not Navy. Just because I’m an American and I live near a base doesn’t mean I’m trying to treat all of Japan like a rape friendly frat house. As soon as I say “Navy ja nai” they smile and talk with me. It’s a very quick way for me to say “I’m a Sikh, not a Muslim!”

    Who are you getting lumped in with? How can you distance yourself from that group? Do you want to distance yourself, or do you want to fight to foster a positive image? If you want to fight, are your goals better served by aiming at the group that’s afraid, or the 1% that perpetuates the negative image?

    • Locohama 2 October 2011 at 10:14 am Permalink

      Huh??? Geez….I guess here I’ll have to say i don’t accept the premise of the question. Of any of the questions…

      • Akage 2 October 2011 at 10:33 am Permalink

        You don’t think that people are thinking of some dangerous scenario when they react to you? They’re actually assessing you personally?

        BTW, if you’re wondering why I keep saying 1%…
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outlaw_motorcycle_club#One_percenter

        • Locohama 2 October 2011 at 11:14 am Permalink

          “One of the most underrated movies out there. ”
          Don’t you mean overrated?
          “So my question is, where is the 1% that’s causing people to react to you?”
          Premise being that people react the way they do to me because of this 1% rule. I think the 1% rule has holes in it.
          “Who are you getting lumped in with?”
          I’m getting lumped in with anyone not Japanese, anyone black, and possibly anyone over 6 feet tall that probably speaks English and…oh this is futile..
          .”How can you distance yourself from that group? Do you want to distance yourself, or do you want to fight to foster a positive image?” I could grow a tail, or hair all over my body…then I’ll look less human. I think there are enough positive images of humans floating around, but I do my part by teaching their kids not to think like their parents, and by being myself, thanks you very much. Maybe you’re talking about eradicating ignorance. At least I hope you are. Because if you’re suggesting that their behavior is rational because of this “1% rule” then we are not seeing the problem from the same perspective. Nor do we agree with the solution.
          I think the solution lies more in the arena of treating people the way you would want to be treated. approaching each new encounter with as close to a clean slate as humanly possible. To respect people, even if 1% of their kind has done things you find disagreeable. I find the plague of Perverts (Chikan) on the trains here disagreeable, as I do the level of gender inequality, but I certainly make every effort not to paint every Japanese Man I see with that brush. (and it does require a concerted effort)
          But maybe I’m a dreamer though

          • Akage 2 October 2011 at 11:56 am Permalink

            No, it’s not rational. The clip that I posted expresses the irrationality of the white couple shying away from two black men in a relatively safe environment.

            The 1% concept is a problem. It’s systemic to all humans. The groups change depending on the race, location, and beliefs. I don’t excuse it. I don’t condone it. But I recognize that people utilize it every day. It’s probably some vestigial survival instinct that we can’t completely shake. However, that doesn’t mean that people should submit to that instinctual paranoia. It’s an impulse, once recognized, that every person should resist.

            I was just trying to identify the details at play in your situation. We can guess what is causing this negative image of you, but right now it’s just a bunch of guesses. To contrast, in my situation it’s apparently easier to identify the stereotype that I’m being grouped in with. It’s also easier to find a quick solution. I’d like to find a similar solution for you, but it seems that you do have to fight up hill not completely knowing what you’re fighting against.

          • Locohama 2 October 2011 at 2:03 pm Permalink

            “I’d like to find a similar solution for you, but it seems that you do have to fight up hill not completely knowing what you’re fighting against.”
            Well, yeah…Not so much that I don’t know what I’m fighting against but that it is multi-pronged And like you pointed out I don’t have the luxury of knowing which prong is aimed at me and any particular time. Moreover, any solution that requires me to do a song and dance I’m going to find at least troublesome and at worst insulting and humiliating. Sure the path of least resistance is to accept the perpetual prevalence of ignorance and privilege, especially as a Minority when the Majority has spun a cynical zeitgeist disguised as a Shrinking World out of it. One heavily influenced by that Majority.
            But maybe that’s just my cynicism.
            I do have an optimistic side.
            Seriously.
            Ask anybody.
            It’s just unfair…but other people have it worst. I should count my blessings.(sorry some times the zeitgeist possesses me and i feel the damnedest things)

  9. galois 2 October 2011 at 4:14 pm Permalink

    I was wondering, do you think there is some correlation to the level an individual knows the language and the level of assimilation one can achieve?

    • Locohama 2 October 2011 at 4:43 pm Permalink

      short answer: Yes and No lol
      Seriously.
      Though individuals will definitely welcome assimilating foreigners, based on my experience,I believe the society as a whole has a long way to go before they swing open the doors to their hearts and minds, as it pertains to openness with foreigners; especially with people they consider undesirables, namely other Asians, developing countries and former military conquest, and I suspect blacks and middle eastern folk as well. As is the case with most countries I suspect. I really have yet to, in 8 years, meet a single foreigner who I felt to be happily assimilated or has told me they’ve assimilated. Not one, regardless of language skills. But maybe they’re out there. if you are, please chime in and help Galois out. And thanks for the shout!

      Edit** Correction, I have met a couple of Chinese people who have been here so long they’ve managed to sublimate their Chinese selves enough to pass for Japanese, and thus have assimilated. At least by Japanese standards. They both hate the Japanese with all their hearts though and would be disgruntled spies for China if they were called to LOL

      • Jason 3 October 2011 at 8:41 am Permalink

        I think it’s just another expression of the ‘a person can be smart but people are idiots’ thing. I’ve met lots of Japanese individuals who are very open minded about foreign people when studying English, hanging out with friends, etc. I’ve also had one of my own students react negatively to the foreigner stepping onto the train (started moving down-car away) until he recognized me. A student who had expressed distaste for that behaviour among his peers during a class discussion on the subject even.

        OBEY THE HERD … Or something?

  10. Jill 3 October 2011 at 6:29 pm Permalink

    I’m one of the pale-skinned people. I’m short, so relatively un-threatening. However, this year I had the amusing experience of meeting a three-year old girl who shrieked, “A GHOST!” and burst into tears. (I teach at kindergartens) Then there was the three-year old boy who has learned that if you wave bye-bye, people go away. Of course, it’s been a few months and they’ve both calmed down quite a bit.

    But I got my head yelled off a while ago by a Japanese woman because a Japanese girl we knew had found out from me that her ex-fiance was trying to date another woman she knew. Never mind that I hadn’t known he was her ex or that we weren’t even sure it was a date. I had the lack of delicacy, the lack of understanding of the Japanese heart, to have let the girl know about it. Well, that wasn’t all she was yelling about, but it was one of those “straw that broke the camel’s back” kind of things.

    • Locohama 3 October 2011 at 6:31 pm Permalink

      Ummm ok. Thanks for sharing.
      That’s funny…

  11. C Ohara 4 October 2011 at 7:58 am Permalink

    One of the biggest mistakes I made when coming over to Japan on JET was that I tried to become Japanese.

    At first it was just, “Wow! I get to use all the stuff I’ve learned about the language and culture in real life!” But it unfortunately lead to me coming over and feeling that I absolutely had to fit in by their terms at all and any cost. I drove myself crazy and I was perpetually upset that I just couldn’t pull it, and that other JETs around me wouldn’t even try. This dumped on top of racism or fear I experienced (toward myself; toward others) carried on for almost a year and I wound up just despising working and living in Japan. Some pretty intense cultural shock, perhaps.

    Fortunately I realized this was a pattern in my life no matter where I went: I was always unhappy at work, and always just trying to fit in instead of being myself… and getting super supper stressed about it. I’ve really been trying to just live by my own standards instead of “Japan’s standards” (however I had lumped Japan’s standards together was also a mistake) and be myself now since then. I think this was one take-away point from your post, right?

    Actually, to be honest – this was a really provocative post to read so there’s a lot swimming in my head right now, and I’m not sure if I’ve hit the mark with trying to sum up our relative perspectives. Coming from Vancouver (also a very culturally diverse city) there has been a lot to process since coming to Japan which appears to be so much less tolerant/accepting/diverse. I think you bring attention to an important issue that we all face coming here, but that few of us expect.

    I may have been inspired to write something myself. If I do, would it be okay to reference and link this post?

    Cheers

  12. dwayne2d3d 4 October 2011 at 9:37 pm Permalink

    sup loco…..
    i have a comment to make about that elevator scene, it’s a conclusion i came to along time ago.

    Nobody reacts for no reason at all. A concern must cause us to react, be it actual or perceived. The lady reacted that way because a)she had her purse snatched by a black person before, b)she saw other people get their purse snatched by a black person before in real life, c)she saw other people get their purse snatched by a black person before on television, d)she heard stories of people getting their purse snatched by a black person before, e)she clutch her purse like that no matter who comes in the elevator “yeah right?..

    My point is, we “black people” are all judged on the actions of other black people. White people and Japanese don’t have to worry about that to a larger extent because the perception of them is different again be it real or perceived. The stigma associated with us is 1/2 our fault!! yes loco i dear say that, the other 1/2 has been shoved on us…….

    I watched that Amanda Knox case in France and i was so, so, so, so shocked to see a black guy pop up out of nowhere and being implicated in that crime. My heart sank.

    Most of us just react, that’s how we are design, most will not stop to think when in a flight or fight situation. It’s like that Chris Rock joke. Who’s the most racist? Old black men. They hate all white people, they don’t got time to label (white,russian,jew) they hate all white people. Can you image how much damage that black guy did to the image of black people in France and around the world, again “actual and perceived”…

    It’s it fair we are judged by the action of others? no
    Should we have to think every minute in a situation, damn how will other blacks be perceived if i do this? no
    But it is what it is, and in hind sight maybe it’s not a bad thing. Cuz i think thats what we lack, an intimate care for each other, and an understanding that others will be judged for our actions “again actual or perceived”
    – one love loco-

    • Locohama 4 October 2011 at 9:47 pm Permalink

      I agree to an extent but I would add (and this might sting a little) was there ever a time when the image of black folks had risen to a level where we weren’t judged the same way we are now? It certainly wasn’t in my lifetime. Maybe in Chris Rock’s old black racist men’s memory there was a time when white people (not all) didn’t look at black people and think, at a minimum, potentially dangerous…but i dunno that time.
      And internationally I’m sure it isn’t much better…So help me with that, would ya?

  13. dwayne2d3d 5 October 2011 at 10:15 pm Permalink

    yeaaaaah you’re right loco….
    there was a time they looked at us and didn’t see danger.
    Instead they saw opportunity, and you know how the rest go from there….

    Anyway i’m just shocked overall of how good your experience with others races where in NY, and i’m particularly shocked they you were acclimated to those sorts of experiences before you left B.K. for YOKO. Cause for me what happens to you in Japan now happened to me over and over and over in NY (specifically Queens and Pittsburgh P.A. as well…

    but as i told yo many moons ago loco, just fight the good fight Sir……
    P.S.
    stay on point with your B.Ball skills cause i still plan on playing you when i make my way to Japan
    -peace-

  14. HSSL-TYO 21 October 2011 at 12:33 am Permalink

    I get so sick of these kinda discussions, I don’t know why I am even reading it. They are predictable as hell, you read the same shit every time. Japan is gonna be Japan, the future is gonna be the future. Amateur sociology, which isn’t an exact science in the first place. Just do you, and we’ll see what’s up in a couple of years.

    • Locohama 21 October 2011 at 12:54 am Permalink

      Huh? What wxactly does “Just do you” mean in this instance? I AM doing me…amateuristic as it may be…thanks for reading


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