24 October 2011 ~ 8 Comments

Be The Change You Want To See In Japan!

I’ve gone through several phases over the past eight years spent here in Japan…

The first phase could be called my Black Anjin-San phase.

I’d be that black guy inserting my two-yen into a Japan bashing session at a Gaijin bar, saying shit like: “Man, how can you say that about these wonderful people?” or “You know what your problem is? You think your culture is superior to their culture. You have a superiority complex. You’re the reason you feel unwelcome here. Not them.” 

I took great pleasure in interjecting platitudes and cliches like, “Be part of the solution not part of the problem,” and “be the change you want to see here!” Yep, that was me. That guy whose head you wanted to crack open with a bottle of Asahi Super Dry!

My roommates didn’t know what to make of me. They must have thought I had gone loco already. I lived with two white guys, a Kiwi and an Aussie. Both were music lovers. One, a serious guitarists, and the other a guitar enthusiast. They were two of the coolest guys you ever want to meet. However, both were heavy drinkers and a little on the “fuck that, I pay rent just like they do” tip. And here I was, a Black guy, from Brooklyn New York, no less, scolding them for being disrespectful to our neighbors and of our host nation.

I came to the defense of the Japanese in almost any situation. Although on the ground in  Japan, I didn’t see much of anything worth defending, the Japan in my head was worth dying for. It was chock-full of James Clavell and a wildly romantic image of a Japan that could be penetrated by a foreigner of some intelligence, skill, and with the right mindset; someone like, well, like me.

I felt I was in possession of the prerequisite disposition to tear through the silk kimono and say, “Heeerrre’s Loco!”

Hell, I wanted to be a Kokujin (black) Anjin-san.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t entirely delusional. I mean, I read Crichton’s Rising Sun, as well as Clancy’s Debt of Honor. Clancy and Crichton (may he rest in peace) were two of my favorite authors, but both I thought did a bit of Japan bashing.

And I too wasted two hours and  ten bucks on Lost in Translation. Personally I thought it was a boring, pointless movie full of the type of people who could never be Anjin-sans. They were just a couple of xenophobes abroad. No wonder they were lost.

They were the kind of foreigners I didn’t want any parts of, which is why I detested Gaijin Bars.

I felt about these bars the way Clavell’s Anjin-san felt about the place where his shipmates were being held, in the district where the “Untouchables”or “Burakumin”  lived. After he’d left from reuniting with, Anjin San shed his kimono and demanded a bath. This is how I felt about Roppongi, as well. It was the modern day version of that area, a place where Japanese allow foreigners to carry on like the barbarians they are thought to be. And where low-life skanky Japanese go to consort with and handle the contaminated flesh of Gaijin.

I felt about my co-workers the way Anjin-san felt about his crew: ignoramuses, mostly, with a crude idea of the superiority of their respective societies, whether it be America, Canada, Australia, England, France or Germany. European values, Christian morals, rigid, self-righteous, close-minded hypocrites, the majority.

I couldn’t even spend too much time with other black people.

Most were military types who held most Japanese in contempt and thus were on a mission to be as Gaijin as possible, especially those who’d been here for a while. We call it “showing your ass” back in NY, and these guys loved to show their asses.

Downright embarrassing, that Japanese would associate me, the black Anjin-san, with those malcontents!


Most conversations I’d have with these guys would inevitably lead to a shitload of bad experiences being spewed at me. They took great delight in what they considered an imparting of the wisdom they’d acquired. Most of these guys regarded the Japanese as unblushing racist as well as proudly, inexplicably and, in most cases, intolerably ignorant of the world surrounding their tiny island.

I could understand their rage, somewhat. Here they are, told by their commanders that they are the only thing standing

between Japan and a Kim jong-il invasion, or Chinese vengeance for atrocities committed against their citizens during WWII, and as soon as they step off post they get treated by their protectorate like a disease. Any day now, that crazy Korean maverick could launch an attack, and these soldiers would be forced to risk and in some cases sacrifice their lives for people who have the audacity to refuse to serve them at Soaplands and “Fashion Health” parlors all over Tokyo and Yokohama.

But, at the time, I was all about making the most of this experience. I wasn’t about to let some disgruntled black guys rain on my parade.


Don’t Rain On My Parade

I wasn’t really a Japanophile, though. I was just being the Devil’s Advocate. Something I do to keep my mind open to the possibilities. Walking in the next guy’s shoes is a good way to do that, so to speak. It’s something I’ve found to be very useful in gaining some objectivity. Part of my motivation for coming here in the first place was to learn for myself about Japanese people and culture. Not to have it dictated to me by a bunch of disgruntled expats and haters.

But, I learned that one cannot play the Devil’s advocate for long without the Devil himself showing up.

And it wasn’t long before Japanese beat the shit out of any fantasies I may have entertained about being anything but a gaijin here.


Who is this guy, Loco, anyway? Click here!

PS: This is a re-post, kinda!

PPS: Wanna chance to win a brand new Kindle Wifi from Loco? I bet you do! Well, just follow the new Twitter acct: Hi_MyNameIsLoco

You can peep the rules for the contest here: How To Leave This World Better Than You Inherited It

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8 Responses to “Be The Change You Want To See In Japan!”

  1. Momotaro 24 October 2011 at 3:38 pm Permalink

    Hey Loco,

    Might want to put up a little disclaimer about things like the soapland picture for those at work. I’m glad no one was behind me just then!

    • Locohama 24 October 2011 at 4:38 pm Permalink

      Thanks..did one better. Changed it I’m glad no one was behind you too. Sorry!

      • Momotaro 25 October 2011 at 10:41 am Permalink

        Haha it’s ok, still in my 20’s so not old enough to be a socially accepted hentai yet!


  2. reesan 24 October 2011 at 7:29 pm Permalink

    I hope you weren’t like a true Anjin-san and on arrival proclaimed “I piss on you and your country” and then subsequently were urinated upon by a Japanese nobleman as a symbol of subservience. 🙂

    Here’s an interesting mashup, an ode to John Blackthorne (“Blackthorne says he pees in your face” and something about a “mighty gaijin dick”? lol):

    • Locohama 24 October 2011 at 7:43 pm Permalink

      LOL! Nah. you would have known. If a Japnese man ever pissed on me it would’ve make the news even in Australia! Headline: OMG! Getting Medieval Redefined. One man sets race relations back to the dark ages! LOL! Thanks for the shout yo! (-;

  3. Korin 25 October 2011 at 2:05 am Permalink

    I love you for this:
    “Personally I thought it was a boring, pointless movie full of the type of people who could never be Anjin-sans. They were just a couple of xenophobes abroad. No wonder they were lost.”

    I thought the same thing. But I didn’t have to pay for it- we watching it in my anthropology class. (Well kinda, I may or may not have fallen asleep.)

    But I also just really appreciate this post. While I was only in Japan for one year, I was with a bunch of study abroad students. As second semester rolled around, I thought that maybe the new wave of kids that were coming wouldn’t be as bad as one of the girls in my program… I was totally wrong! All those people saw about Japan were totally negative things, they had probably decided to study there for a semester on a whim or “because I like anime. And only anime” kind of thing.

    Oh well. It’s over- next time I am in Japan maybe I’ll be with a bunch of Japanophiles or something. Who knows. 😛

  4. The Envoy 25 October 2011 at 10:03 am Permalink

    I think this (your black anjin phase) is true for most experiences of moving to a new country for long term (willingly, anyways). I take a different view towards the Lost in Translation movie though – I think the real message Sofia Coppola wanted to convey behind the movie is not a couple of gaijins trying to adjust to life in Japan, but life crises where people just go do something radical (move to the other end of the planet for example) or just follow the flow, but still feel the aimlessness of life (specifically the quarter and mid-life crises). So, the point of the movie is pointlessness.

    Movie rant aside, I do agree that xenophobia tends to be higher in monocultural societies for obvious reasons, and a large part of the interest in Japan is anime-based.

    • Locohama 25 October 2011 at 11:36 am Permalink

      Really? Is that what that movie was about?? Is that what you got from that two hours of your life? That not the movie but that life tends to be pointless? Ok. Well, that went right over my head…but I agree it wasn’t about adjusting to a different culture as much as it spent too much time poking fun at the differences (height in the elevator, mispronunciations and quirkiness on the commercial set, and everywhere else practically) thus I labled it xenophobic. But, going over my head isn’t saying much. My favorite movies last year were Zombieland and Kick Ass LOL The former should’ve been nominated for best screenplay and the latter for brilliant direction!! Thanks for the shout Envoy! Hisashiburi da ne!

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