15 May 2012 ~ 49 Comments

Why Do Gaijin Clash Over The Issue Of Racism In Japan? pt.2: Trust Issues

Before I begin part 2, if you haven’t already, please check out part 1 here.

We all up to speed? Cool.

OK! Let’s get this out of the way:

Is there racism in Japan? Silly question. You might as well be asking is the sky blue, or is water wet. Yes, Virginia, there is racism in Japan… Of course, there is. And this racism isn’t coming solely from the Japanese, either.

This is not-debatable, at least not here on Loco in Yokohama. Anyone who wants to debate its existence in Japan is barking up the wrong blog.  We’re wayyyyy past that in these parts.

And for you readers who are tempted to skip to the comment area and spew some deep insights like they’re homogenous and were isolated for centuries upon centuries and blah blah blah…or tear me a new one for targeting  Japan, this is for you:

Racism can exist anywhere, and being a denizen of a formerly isolated homogenous island like Japan doesn’t justify it or excuse it. I target Japan because I just happen to live here and I’m focusing for the moment on the issues that directly impact my day to day life. Loco in Yokohama is a blog primarily about the ups and downs of life for a foreigner living HERE!

And if you still feel an irresistible urge to hand Japan its exemption papers from the rules that the best of the rest of us have happily agreed will make the world a better place for future generations, you should have come to Loco in Yokohama a lonnnnnng time ago when we still entertained those kinds of ideas.

Like I’ve said, we’re way past that now.

OK, so, moving right along…because the question over whether racism exist in Japan is NOT the cause for the Gaijin Clash of ideologies introduced in part 1. It seems to me the main point of contention is over how foreigners here should respond to it, if at all.

Like most NJ (Non-Japanese) living here for a number of years, I’ve encountered the attitudes and behaviors described in Debito’s well-written and thoughtful article in the Japan Times, these so-called “microaggressions.” And, they troubled me right from the start. I didn’t initially interpret them as racist or aggressive, however. I simply thought of the people who held and performed them, depending on its degree, as either annoyingly ignorant, dangerously ignorant, or utterly disengaged — almost dutifully so — and thus a challenge for me to respect. This ignorance  often times seemed to be purposeful. Like the people here had undergone some kind of ritualistic indoctrination, taught from childhood that it is a cultural imperative to marginalize, ostracize, criminalize, denigrate, and insult; a standing order to “other-ize.”

But, that’s not the case (I tell myself at least once a day, sometimes even convincingly).

Not to suggest ignorance is unacceptable. If my time in Japan has taught me anything, it has taught me that not only was I, too, the victim of  miseducation, the target of disinformation, and a more receptive receptacle for propaganda than I believed was possible for someone as intelligent, open-minded and well read as I’ve always aspired to be, but that I was also ignorant of  many things. Not least of which is how traumatized I’d been by racial matters prior to coming to Japan.

Yes, Virginia, ignorance is acceptable.

To an extent…

I mean, if you believe that asking me if I meet your stereotypical notions of people who share my racial designation is a fit cultural icebreaker and augurs well for future communication, then you’re more than a little out of touch, by MY standards. And if you make keeping a minimal safe distance from me whenever possible an imperative, when the only threat I represent is a product of your imagination, and expect me to view this behavior as anything but racially motivated, and indeed to accept it as indicative of Japanese “shyness,” then I am, at least, entitled to question your choices and how you’ve come by them.

Cultural ignorance is almost a given, hell, it’s inevitable. It is the rare person who fully understands a culture outside of their own well enough to rise above the level of ignorant. Of course, if you keep your nose to the grindstone, your eyes wide open, and fully dedicate yourself…you know, through cultural immersion or assimilation, you can possibly ascend to the level of fairly knowledgeable. But, for most of us, we’re limited to stereotypes, propaganda, hearsay, and the touts of people claiming to have risen above ignorant. Generally these turn out to be unreliable sources.

Though I’ve been here almost a decade and have immersed myself and assimilated as much as I (and clearly the natives here) are comfortable with, I do not claim to be an authority or the most reliable source on Japanese anything (except maybe ramen, and even that’s arguable…) Everything you read about life in Japan on this blog is, of course, as it is seen through the eyes of a man who is admittedly a little unbalanced. But, at least I’m aware of it and I endeavor to keep my scales weighted properly. The reason my blog is successful, I believe, is that my readers have come to trust me. As is the case, I’m sure, with Hikosaemon, Debito, and some of the other content creators working the Japan blogosphere.


(Just in case you were wondering where I was going with this, this is where I was headed).

Trust is the key word. It is not only an essential ingredient in any relationship but the lack there of is the cause of many foul and contentious relationships.


By my estimation, both of these gentleman possess the prerequisites to be considered “knowledgable” about life in Japan. They both live here (or have lived here) for considerable lengths of time, they’re both consistent creators of quality content, they both are fluent in Japanese…they’ve both a vested interest in the prosperity of this place (families, children, etc…), and, in their own ways, have left blood on the battlefield, so to speak. Clearly both are at least, I believe, worthy of respect…

But trust is whole other thing, isn’t it?

I happen to trust both of them…but that wasn’t always the case. They both had to earn it.

I’d check out Hikosaemon’s vlogs from time to time, and they’re always informative and entertaining, sometimes even thought-provoking and inspirational. I was particularly impressed with his Japanese ability. Though I’ve long since given up the ghost as far as achieving native fluency in Japanese goes, I still admire not so much the people who do achieve this goal but the work ethic and dedication required to do so.  Nevertheless, part of me had initially marginalized him as one of those Happy-Go-Lucky Gaijin running around Japan not so much with blinders on, but with Ray-Ban shades on….only the “Rays” being “banned” weren’t the sun’s rays, it was the rays of racism shining brilliantly everywhere you look.

It’s difficult for me to trust someone like that.

But, then we had a pre-interview chat on SKYPE and I got to know his views a bit more…and if you checked out his interview with me about my book (and you should cause it was great) he basically states that oblivious racism, or unconscious racism, is the kind you’ll run into a lot of in Japan. They’re [Japanese] not maliciously racist. They just inadvertently do things that they don’t realize, and that’s one of the challenges for people coming to live in Japan because we’re used to more blatant or hypocritical racism…

Sounds a lot like that Microagression Debito wrote about in the Japan Times article, doesn’t it?

Sounds a lot like the behavior I covered in my book, as well…

Peep this illuminating video:

Needless to say, trust was established with Hikosaemon that night. I’m not easy, but I try to keep it simple.

With Debito, it was a bit more complicated, though.

As a blogger, new on the scene back in 2008, two names popped up when people described my blog. The first — I guess due to my use of humor from time to time, and the fact that we’re both black — was Gaijin Smash, a blog I admired (and envied) quite a bit and about the funniest blog I’ve ever read about Japan to date. I was flattered to have my newborn blog even mentioned alongside such a well-established and super-popular one.

And the other, I guess due to my occasional rants and discourses on racism and discrimination, was Debito Arudou’s.

Debito, too, was well-established and popular in some circles. But, I’d soon learn that this comparison to Debito was not praise, but damn near a slur. He was despised by many of the bloggers, vloggers and visitors I first encountered when I got into this blogging game. (And still is, as evidenced by his recent vilification.) And, by simply being mentioned in the same sentence as his, my blog became an anathema to many on the Japan blogosphere, even by some who’d never read it. I was quickly labeled just another American Hothead trying to smear his political correctness and racial over-sensitivity over every goddamn thing under the Rising Sun of this lovely land, and in the process defile our albeit complicated, but ultimately complaisant Japanese hosts.

The hate he generated was seething, over the top…and viral.

Now that’s power, I thought! As a writer, a strong reaction, whether positive or negative, usually indicates the writing or writer has a particular quality; one not easily dismissed or ignored.

So, naturally, I visited Debito’s blog and read his work to see what all the hubbub was about and, as a writer, I was impressed. The man is prolific like I’d never been (but always wished I could be). All I could think at first was where the hell does he find the time and energy to do all of this goddamn writing, not to mention the activism! Respect was instantaneous, if for nothing else than the energy and drive involved.

I also understood almost immediately why he was so reviled, and by so many: He brought the noize! He got right in the faces of the Japanese themselves and shouted, “The days of being respected without giving it in return are over! I may not be a native Japanese but you will respect me, goddamn it!” And, he got in the faces of all the Japanophiles and those so-called Authorities on Japanese culture and mindset  and said, “you guys need to wake the fuck up! How the hell are we going to exact change in this country if we kiss their asses, let them walk all over us, and call that shit kawaii? Can’t you fools see that Gaijin is a slur? It’s Japanese for Niggers??? Well, I can!”

Yep, somewhere along the line he discovered his writing’s rudder and the engine that keeps it spinning, and he keeps that sucker oiled and fueled.

But, hell, I had an audience to build and “The Black Debito” label wasn’t what I was after. We were fighting on two different fronts, I thought. Somehow I managed to de-stigmatize myself somewhat (it still lingers though in some circles…you know who you are) by finding an identity and voice and rudder of my own.

Then, back in the summer of 2010 , I learned that Debito was going to be teaching a workshop at a Writer’s Conference in Tokyo. He was the main draw for me. As I mentioned in pt.1, he was giving a presentation on Book Publishing in Japan, providing attendees with some of his horror and success stories as a Publishing Insider. I learned quite a bit in that session. For one, I learned we had similar goals and dreams. I saw him as a man on the same ladder I was climbing, a few rungs ahead of me, and showing me the slippery spots and cracks.

Trust was established with Debito that day.

So, where’s the beef, right?

Hold tight. Part 3 to follow soon!

**Update** Click here for Part 3


Who do you trust?

Check out Part 1 here

PS: In the meantime, if you haven’t already, do yourself a big favor check out my critically-acclaimed book, Hi! MyName is Loco and I am a Racist, available here on Amazon. You’ll be glad you did! Seriously! Ask anyone who’s read it.

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49 Responses to “Why Do Gaijin Clash Over The Issue Of Racism In Japan? pt.2: Trust Issues”

  1. Fernando 16 May 2012 at 12:11 am Permalink

    Excellent and refreshing approach to two sides of an oft-flipped coin. You know what side I’m on in the divide and, at the risk of setting the discussion on an unintended rail, I think what sets you apart from being “The Black Debito” is that you have a much more nuanced perspective and you have a way, like Bruce Lee, of being water and adapting, adjusting and taking in whatever others say. That said, I will say that Debito was one of the first Japan writers I heard about and followed and a lot of it gave me food for thought and provided a valuable frame for approaching Japan (his naturalization story is still informative), albeit one that I have long since turned from.

    Honestly though, I gotta agree that Gaijin Smash is, to date, the best Japan blog I’ve read and I’m disappointed that he doesn’t update it nearly as much anymore since the birth of his kid. I suppose what always brought me to it besides the jokes was how ordinary it was. Given that he started it before blogging became the beast that it was, it always had a certain unpretentiousness about it. He wrote for an audience but rarely pandered to them and it was all presented in a very straight-forward manner. (Also rarely mixed Japanese into his posts. 😉

    I could see why people would compare you to him in that regard, especially after reading the book since it was just far easier to gain the context and let the reader understand the world from your point of view, agreement being beside the point.

    To bring it back a little to the main topic of trust, I suppose I trust whoever presents a balanced perspective or, at least, admits their own biases whilst giving their viewpoint in a compelling manner. To present a deeply flawed analogy, in a world of Michael Moore/Air America(RIP) on one side and Fox News/Bill O’Reilly on the other, I go for the NPR with a side of Dan Savage and Jake Adelstein.

    • Locohama 16 May 2012 at 5:10 pm Permalink

      Thanks Fernando! “like Bruce Lee, of being water and adapting, adjusting and taking in whatever others say.” Big Props. I wouldn’t mind being known as the Black Bruce Lee of blogging (-;

      Gaijin Smash was off the charts great! The Dave Chapelle of Blogging he was.
      Thanks for the shout!
      Toast to maintaining balance in an unbalanced mworld

    • Locohama 16 May 2012 at 5:11 pm Permalink

      Thanks Fernando! “like Bruce Lee, of being water and adapting, adjusting and taking in whatever others say.” Big Props. I wouldn’t mind being known as the Black Bruce Lee of blogging (-;

      Gaijin Smash was off the charts great! The Dave Chappelle of Blogging he was.
      Thanks for the shout!
      Toast to maintaining balance in an unbalanced mworld

  2. boulet 16 May 2012 at 12:47 am Permalink

    Now I’m hanging from the cliff. And my nose is itching. Damn.

    • Locohama 16 May 2012 at 5:12 pm Permalink

      Thanks yo! I’ll get to it soon…b4 the weekend

  3. Ken Y-N 16 May 2012 at 1:06 am Permalink

    Hi Loco,

    Very interesting post!

    One thing I’ll say straight off is that I am white, but (and?) I am not surprised that you and other black people in Japan face racism on a far more overt scale than white people, and any talking I do about racism, microagression and the perception of both is coming from my own experiences, and I do assume that most foreigners posting in English who don’t have a photo attached are also white.

    Hmmm, I’ve got this far and forgotton what I was actually going to talk about! I just found “The Black Debito” a rather amusing turn of phrase, so, err…

    I’ll have to buy and read your book soon!

    • Locohama 16 May 2012 at 5:23 pm Permalink

      Hey Ken, thanks for the shout! I remember you from the Japansoc days! You were one of the few people who used to soc my posts from time to time lol Thanks for that.
      Yes, skin color is directly related to ones experience here in Japan (and in most countries I’d wager) unfortunately. So is gender, and weight, and height, and dozens of other factors that we’d ideally like to be inconsequential but unfortunately are not. Syougannai ne. )-:
      Yeah, peep the book! It’s gotten some pretty good feedback and I think it’s something we should all consider. Namely the ultimate impact of all of these particulars we discuss via social media, blogs, vlogs and what not on our hearts and minds. Food for thought? It’s a Manwich. Please partake! (-;

  4. tom 16 May 2012 at 2:59 am Permalink

    I don’t know man. It seems to me that Debitos style of getting change is holding a gun to somebody’s head and saying “Change or I’ll blow off your head!!” Some of these issues are just going to take some time to change with a little effort from both sides.

    I think you change a persons mind every time you have a student who gets to know you and realize that the stereotype didn’t apply then so they might not next time.

    • Locohama 16 May 2012 at 5:31 pm Permalink

      Revolution is generally not a pretty sight. But, I come from rebellious stock (black people) and if we didn’t demand change then change would never have occurred, so there’s no way you can sell me on the soft sell. I know for a fact that either way can bring results…just depends on each individual’s style. Sure, Ghandi sat and starved himself, but if you think his hunger striking wasn’t a gun to England’s head then you underestimate Ghandi! He knew what he was doing. And it worked. (Not that I’m comparing Debito to Ghandi…I’m just saying LOL, the principles are similar…you know?) MLK used to purposely march where he was warned not to march, with full knowledge that he would be not only hated but assaulted and possibly killed…think that didn’t put a psychological pistol to the head of the US government? The threat of him martyring himsekf on TV? (Again, not suggesting that Debito is MLK-ish, but those principles…Power concedes nothing without a mandate) That’s some REAL talk here! Act like you know!

  5. Orchid64 16 May 2012 at 4:54 am Permalink

    “…a more receptive receptacle for propaganda than I believed was possible for someone as intelligent, open-minded and well read as I’ve always aspired to be..”

    Everyone believes they are immune to the subtle messages of society. They think that intelligence immunizes them from psychological conditioning. Truly self-aware people know that intellect has nothing to do with it. Part of what is so impressive about your book is your growing awareness of your racist thinking and the fact that you don’t go to pains to justify it or rationalize it. You just look it in the face and try to grow as best you can as a humanistic individual. All of the deniers, denying racism in themselves or others, are stagnant. They don’t grow. They just stew in their happy little pot of self-satisfaction.

    You raise many good points and Debito does as well about people being ignorant of their racism. America used to be like that, too. They used to talk about the “coloreds” and think that it was actually in their best interest to be segregated. They had a benevolent paternalism toward their slaves, believing that keeping them was actually doing them a favor because they wouldn’t have to make their own way in the world or shoulder any of the burdens that came with freedom. The thing that cured America of this ignorant racism was war, anger, and activism.

    If the apologists have their way, the Japanese will continue to apply their oblivious racism because it’s unfair to make them wake up and smell the racism and the destructive nature of it. It’s so easy to forgive them when they forgive you for your faults. You can’t speak Japanese? It is okay. Japanese is hard for foreigners. You don’t know how to follow Japanese table manners? It’s okay. Japanese culture is complicated. The problem is that this forgiveness is not the product of tolerance, but a sense that you can’t accomplish something. It’s because you are seen as pitiably incapable, not because they are open-minded of differences. It is little different than the way slave owners didn’t expect slaves to read or write. They didn’t expect them to learn, because they believed they were fundamentally inferior.

    One of the reasons I support Debito is because the movement to deal with insidious, yet seemingly kind and gentle racism, has to start with a loud and irritating voice. The people who hate him have their reasons, but most of those reasons are because they want to protect their status as special people in Japanese society who are given more than their due and have lower expectations applied to them. This works for the white people, especially the males, but doesn’t work for others, especially Asians. The racism hurts them most of all.

    The big question of whether not Japan gets to sit in a corner and keep its culture intact is a stupid one. Japan is not an isolated country, not an uncivilized or undeveloped one with an unstable government. It does business internationally. Its people travel and live abroad and allow others to come and live in their country. Japan, more than almost any other country, benefits enormously economically from exports and would be nothing without other markets. It can’t have it both ways. You can shut your doors to the world and live in your own preserved fashion or you can open them to the world and accept that it requires you to grow beyond your notions of what people are like. Japan has a responsibility to get beyond its racism so long as it benefits from interactions with other countries, and it is impossible to argue that it does not just benefit, but manage to prosper above and beyond a capacity to do without the rest of the world.

    • Locohama 16 May 2012 at 7:23 pm Permalink

      Blown away as always Orchid! You rock my world! You’ve given the consummate argument for Japan to do whatever it needs to do to get on board. The time for hackneyed excuses is done. I sympathize because having lived here so long, and having lived through America’s slow, ugly and bloody transition from the dark ages of the pre-1960s to today. Fifty years of revolution, and its still underway, but it is doing it one step at a time thanks to the people who sacrificed themselves, big and small, aggressive and passive, loud and silent. I know how difficult it’s going to be for Japan to do so…Hell, white folks are still struggling with the idea of parting with privileges and ill-gotten gains…but, by any means necessary, they must step out of the dark corner they’re in. I got their back if they do…I’ve managed to keep my mind and heart just a little bit open still.

    • Amanda 19 May 2012 at 9:22 am Permalink

      Just want to say I whole-heartedly second Orchid’s comment. In fact what you said came to mind when I was at Shibuya station the other day. On any given day you can go there and there is a van set up with some crazy people on a megaphone bitching about foreigners(mostly Chinese)ruining Japan and Japanese superiority. This is in Shibuya…the heart of Tokyo, theoretically the most multicultural area in Japan. In Toronto they would be either arrested or people would be throwing rocks and cans and shit at them as soon as they started ranting. Here it’s a part of life. It baffles me how the Japanese gov’t can show such blatant disrespect for it’s foreign citizens (by not addressing situations such as these) yet strive to be a major player on the world stage. It’s arrogant.

  6. beneaththewheel 16 May 2012 at 9:02 am Permalink

    I am enjoying this series. I appreciate dissecting this phenomena as a social sickness more than taking a side.

    I think the Internet is interesting with situations like this. Here we have people who want to make a difference, and other people who think they’re going about it the wrong way, or doing more harm than good. How do these two sides interact in a non-destructive way? It seems that it leads to talking about people behind their back (if that’s possible on the Internet), calling people out dramatically and a lot of baggage being created and perpetuated, where people are more aligned with the side they decide to stand on than anything else.

    All I see really is a bunch of guys older than me bickering with each other on the Internet. It’s not flattering, and it reinforces my idea that young Westerners in Japan have few role models as to what they can strive for.

    That’s all I wanted to say, I look forward to whatever else you have to write.

    • Locohama 16 May 2012 at 7:34 pm Permalink

      Yeah, this isn’t a good look, is it? I really don’t fully get it myself. I mean, I’m trying to and I’m theorizing on the causes based on my observations and conversations with various members of either side, but honestly it just has that feeling of irrationality behind it to me. Like people who supported Sarah Palin. Maybe I’ll never get that!
      Bickering? nah it’s more than that…it’s heavier, and deadlier I think. And it needs to find resolution before it gets further outta hand, I mean, when I hear such venom in the voices of otherwise rational and friendly guys and gals, I know where this is headed, even if they don’t.
      And it ain’t pretty…
      more to follow in pt 3

  7. Momotaro 16 May 2012 at 9:41 am Permalink

    The book on microagression looks really interesting and it’s great that this type of behaviour has had a term applied to it.

    The racism thing is really tricky. The dilemma that comes to mind for me coming from Australia is the Aboriginies. Statistically, aboriginies commit a lot more crime per head of population comparitively, yet of course it has nothing to do with their genetic makeup or whatever, rather the fact that they have been marginalised as a group in society, especially in the past. Subjectively, it can be said that they are more likely to commit crime, yet there is a very fine line between this fact and blatant racism. It is all a self-perpetuating cycle, as I imagine they experience a lot of similar aggressions to what the black man in the video experienced in the elevator. Because it is seen as racist, a lot of people just avoid the topic anyway and I guess this results in their feelings being bottled up and manifesting instead in microaggressions. All of these microagressions marginalise the group even further and deny them opportunities possibly, making them more likely to fall into crime. Basically they definitely are more likely to commit crime as an Aboriginie, not because of their race, but rather due to some sort of societal hegemony applied from majority groups in society which results in a self-perpetuating cycle. I have no idea how to solve something like that other than tens or hundreds of years of steady progress. I believe that I have had microaggressions towards them in the past, particularly the male youths, as quite a few times I have had run-ins with groups of 5-10 young aboriginal males walking home late at night after a few drinks, making me become on edge when I see anyone of a similar appearance including those baggy sport clothes. However a white or whatever guy in similar clothes and talking in a similar manner I would be equally as intimidated by.

    Orchid64 is spot on the mark with the tolerance comment. It used to make me really mad as I felt like a lost puppy dog that everyone felt sorry for, but it was good in a way that it motivated me to study or do whatever I needed to do to achieve the opposite of what their comments were implying.

    Like you said, Debito has a very think skin and incredible energy, which I respect him for entirely. I support his efforts, but going to his site too often wears me down and I can’t do it all of the time. Reading stuff like that just makes me depressed if I do it too much.

    • Locohama 16 May 2012 at 7:44 pm Permalink

      Hey Momo, thanks for the shout!
      Yeah, the results of centuries of being the target of hate and abuse can have a pretty horrible effect on a people. Trust me I know. And, unfortunately, the perpetrators of these great crimes against humanity that purposely placed the oppressed in their current state are the ones judging them and telling them to now pull yourself up by your bootstraps and stop whining and complaining and drinking and hurting innocent people…it’s enough to make you wanna torch the whole fucking country. Talk about anger, you don’t even know the half. Keep your head up, baby! Like Bob Marley sang, “everything gonna be all right…”

  8. Billy 16 May 2012 at 11:26 am Permalink

    Wow, having followed your blog from the start, I never thought of you at any point as another Debito… Your mission, first and foremost, has always been to tell it from the heart; that’s what’s made your blog so readable.

    Anyway, cheers and keep up the good fight.

    • Locohama 16 May 2012 at 3:15 pm Permalink

      Thanks billy! And thanks for hanging on there with me for these past four years. I remember you were one of my earliest commenters (-:
      Don’t you think debito writes from the heart as well?

      • Billy 16 May 2012 at 10:45 pm Permalink

        I believe his heart’s in what he does…

  9. Gaijin wife 16 May 2012 at 1:21 pm Permalink

    Hi there. As a ‘gaijin’ wife, I have a lot of my future invested in Japan, so this is something I care about very deeply. My wonderful husband is Japanese, but we met in the UK, and he has lived in the UK and the States for a number of years, so he is relatively enlightened on the other culture front (although he does make sweeping statements like ‘Americans are like….’, and ‘Koreans do ….’, which frustrates me a bit because people are different. I’m British and it frustrates the hell out of me when people cut in front of me in a queue, or when people don’t say please and thank you. I know many other British too who also feel the same way.. But I also know many who aren’t as anal as me and couldn’t give a shit!). Luckily his parents were very tolerant of foreigners and his father is very polite and respectful to me (unfortunately his mother died before we met).
    What I’m worried about is when we have our own kids. As a ‘gaijin’ I’m sure I have very different views as to how to bring up my future children, which will undoubtedly be challenging. But I’m worried about their ability to stay Japanese when they become adults. I think it’s unfair that mixed race children should have to give up their citizenship, if they choose to keep the ‘gaijin’ one. Why should you be forced to give up half of your identity? I think this is an area that we should be pushing for- dual citizenship. For one, I read somewhere that one-in-five marriages in Japan every year are with a foreigner. Just think how many babies we are talking about?! And in a shrinking population with a declining economy, I don’t think it makes sense to be potentially sending away those who have been brought up here, but because they don’t want to renounce the citizenship of one of their parents (which is a birthright!), the whole country suffers as there are less poeople contributing to society. So I think we should fight for the rights of those mixed race kids, who are after all half Japanese anyway.
    Take it easy x

    • Locohama 16 May 2012 at 7:55 pm Permalink

      Actually love, from what I’ve seen here, there is no such things as half-Japanese. You are either in or out. A “half” Japanese that can pass for a “full” Japanese might be able to crossover or pass as one of them but if the child doesn’t look the role then they’ll always be gaijin…sorry. That’s the Japan I’ve seen anyway. Anyone seen a different Japan please shine some good news this way.
      I teach in junior high schools and I see and hear things that would bend your ears back and make you wanna pack and make for the nearest civilized country. But, at the same, I’ve also seen courage. Great courage on the part of some of these half-Japanese kids. They are trying to break down the walls in their own way, and it’s beautiful to see. The kids may figure out a way to do the things us adults would avoid doing for fear of change, and that’s the promise I see in the courage of these children of mine! God, give them strength!
      But it’s gonna be what it’s gonna be. Just love it to death and teach it to be courageous in the face of adversity.
      Good luck!

      • Fernando Ramos 18 May 2012 at 3:51 pm Permalink

        Agree with you partway and disagree at the same time. I live in Saitama, which proudly boasts having the second largest international population in all of Japan second only to Tokyo, so it could be different here. However, I’ve worked with half-Japanese and Zainichi Korean kids who get along very well and make no effort to hide their roots.

        * Half-Caucasian (Canadian) boys who are well integrated in their school life and, besides a few looks for guidance in English class, they seem to fit just in with their school friends.

        * Zainichi Korean girl who, despite a Japanese name, makes no effort to hide her roots, speaks fluent English and Korean and apparently does rock music on the side.

        * A pair of Indian girls who went through Japanese public school (their family immigrated sometime ago) and, after some troubles, have graduated.

        * A half-Colombian gal who grew up born and raised in Japan, but speaks fluent Spanish, is now happily married to a Japanese man and works in a regular Japanese office gig.

        * A guy who I teach private lessons to, full-blooded Japanese, is in full support of Japanese reforming immigration to allow more foreign people into the country.

        Not to say that they don’t have their ugly stories to tell – the half-Colombian in particular, has said of times when she asks directions and gets turned away from because she looks “gaijin” which lends credence to your theory. Hell, I actually met her because I was lost, and, long-story short, she was reluctant thinking I was some drunken drug-addicted foreigner on the street. Irony. Either way it ISN’T all peaches and gravy, as it was when I saw a half-French(Swiss) girl and when I asked her if she was Japanese, some brat next to was all “NOO SHE’S FRENCH.” Needless to say, I got into Stern Lecture Mode real quick.

        However, you asked for some good news and that is the chunks and bits of good I see. It is a tall order to ask for perfection but every day, I see Japan becoming gradually more internationalized and I feel proud to play a small part of it.

        • Nictos 18 May 2012 at 5:19 pm Permalink

          Fernando must live/work near my neighborhood in Saitama – what he describes is the reality of Uetake 1-Chome (Kita-ku, Saitama-shi). Here’s the deal: I was worried about my daughter being teased/bullied by the Japanese kids at her elementary school; my son takes after his mother (looks Japanese) but Niina takes after me (yeah, I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right – she got my big gaijin nose), so I asked her straight up, “Do the kids call you half?”She replied, “They can’t – at least one-third of the kids at school are half – half-Canadian, -Korean, -Chinese, -American. Nobody gives us any crap because we’ve got numbers.”

          • Locohama 18 May 2012 at 5:36 pm Permalink

            “….we got numbers!” LOL! That’s great man. Love to hear good news!

        • Locohama 18 May 2012 at 5:36 pm Permalink

          Good news, indeed! Thanks for sharing, yo!

  10. Turner 16 May 2012 at 1:25 pm Permalink

    I admit, trust is indeed what most people use when identifying their sources of information. The advantage you had was being able to speak one on one with your sources. However, this doesn’t really address the value of the information in question, just that some people are more likely to consider it fact if they trust the source. I read Gaijin Smash before coming over, trusted the guy (there were few blogs on Japan at the time it was written), and found myself working to undo all the misconceptions I had picked up after reading the series.

    Debito may be prolific, but do you really want to emulate his approach? He goes out looking for trouble, whereas I believe (I trust) you keep things in perspective.

    • Locohama 16 May 2012 at 2:01 pm Permalink

      Huh?? Do I want to emulate debito?? No but at least he takes action. You might not approve of the way he takes action but is it not better than sitting at a computer screen writing a wish list and calling it a blog? He isnt the first to take the fight to the aggressors and perpetrators and he won’t be the last. Nor will he he be the last to be hated for it. Come on man use your head. Change is rarely pretty or polite. But, to answer your question, no I do not want to emulate him geezus! Loco is Loco and I’m a writer not an activist. If I were an activist though I might indeed get in peoples faces to raise awareness of an issue in a forceful way. Look at the occupy movement for example. They are taking the fight right to the doorstep of these companies and corporations screwing Americans left and right. If I were in the states I’d be right there with them

  11. Mandi Harris 16 May 2012 at 7:50 pm Permalink

    Hi Loco!

    Another amazing post, as always. Sometimes it’s hard to sift through the nonsense and wordplay to get to the heart of the matter. Some people in this world rub others the wrong way and those reading their words turn a blind eye to the message. You definitely need to be able to trust the messenger I say. Many people I’ve met in Japan are content never to rock the boat. Change isn’t easy or pretty. Heck, I had a kid today telling me to “go home” to America. My eikaiwa group kept asking me about the chopsticks and if I could eat rice. Of course I can eat it! Japan needs people writing and exposing issues to improve change. Of course, so does any country with problems. I look forward to the next post.

  12. Carly 16 May 2012 at 8:26 pm Permalink

    A part 3??? Oh, you tease. I didn’t want to comment on the last one because I wanted to read part 2, but I can’t wait til part 3.

    The whole “Japan is a lonely little isolated island and they just do things differently here” is a weak excuse, especially for the people of my generation and maybe a bit older. It’s not like they are completely unaware of other cultures or people. It’s not like every Japanese person doesn’t have a device that is able to access the internet and all of its information on their person most of the time. As much as I think many Japanese people genuinely don’t intend to offend non-Japanese, that doesn’t make my feelings any less valid when I encounter microaggression and doesn’t take away their responsibility to learn from it and do better in the future.

    That said, I think I’m leaning more toward Debito’s views. The Japanese vs. everyone else in the world attitude is tiresome and it’s going to cost this nation and its people a lot in the coming years.

  13. Tony Dolan 17 May 2012 at 12:48 am Permalink

    The microagression idea is interesting, but there’s also plenty of good ol’ fashioned malicious racism in Japan. For example, almost every foreigner you meet in Japan has experienced discrimination in trying to secure housing. Also, there’s widespread discrimination at work related to promotion, perma-temp contracts, and pensions/medical insurance.

  14. Dave 17 May 2012 at 5:38 am Permalink

    Hi, I’m new here although a I’ve been lurking for a while ;^_^

    After reading many of your posts, I know a lot more about racism in Japan and I cannot say I feel comfortable about it. As you say, racism cannot be justified in any way. Sadly, most Japanese are quite immature in dealing with “what’s different”, and if you make a maturity chart they would rank pretty low.
    However, I’m sure you agree that we cannot talk about the entire population (as in 100%), and yet I witnessed myself what you might call “behavior incompatibilities” between different cultures and even between same culture and race, but different social class and levels of education.
    These are just examples, the reasons disapproval might come, can be a lot more varied.

    Still it might be beneficial to mention a case that I happened to witness, where some people from latin America, had trouble dealing with 2nd generation latinos who were educated differently. They basically demanded to reap benefits out of their outgoing personalities, and couldn’t cope well with their “cousins” which in time, became, well, how should I put it? A little stiff? ^_^
    Those guys, in Japan, would have got even more trouble as trust is gained among japanese natives, after many years (if ever, some say) and demanding istant (or even mid-term) confidentiality and trust, out of their usual outgoing personality, would be certainly out of the question (Japanese don’t do that among themselves, go figure with foreigners).

    Another example (this is a fantasy one) would be a group of black people that grew on the street (cliché I know, but bear with me) , visiting a family of Black people of higher class (Ex: lawyers, attorneys, those that become Senators and then Presidents etc. ^_^), now wouldn’t there be behavioral discrepancies that have nothing to do with race?

    These are just examples, and I’m not saying they abbly in anyway to you or what you experienced, but it would be interesting to expand the discussion on racism, also to include behavioral incompatibilities, which while present in any country and even among the same race/group, might be even magnified, in a country like Japan (even when dealing with japanese of the non-racist kind).

    My 2c anyway, keep up the great work!

    Best Regards


  15. Will 17 May 2012 at 11:02 am Permalink

    “If there is no struggle there is no progress…” -time has not lessened the value of those words, they are withstanding the test of time as would a truth revealed. Maybe this is just the ‘agitation’ phase. There is still ground that has yet be be plowed. The thunder and lightening… oh yes! Especially during that rainy season. The roaring ocean? Typhoons bring on the best swells. Not for everyone though. Still, some of the best moments can be experienced in those most beautiful moments after the storm has spent itself. That power is not conceded without demands… those who cling to that little power which has been allotted them perhaps do so with a feeling of being entitled to the privileges of that role which they have assumed-ly earned.

    I can actually respect a system that honestly states what it wants despite inequities; I cannot simply trust those who demand that I respect a system that does not.


  16. sensevisual 18 May 2012 at 1:48 am Permalink

    Stereotypes about “foreigners and Japan” also abound outside Japan and the japanese.

    “You’re studying Japanese?! You must love anime!/be an otaku!/etc.!”

  17. Christopher Johnson 18 May 2012 at 2:57 pm Permalink

    Hey Yoko no Loco, more power to you. I hope you keep expressing your insights and observations. I look forward to reading more of your work.

    • Locohama 18 May 2012 at 5:37 pm Permalink

      This Chris! I’ll do my best! have you read the book, btw?

  18. Christopher Johnson 18 May 2012 at 3:18 pm Permalink

    Thanks Loco. I think many folks disagree on the means but we generally agree on the ends: we want Japan to be a better place for us to live — all of us. That’s common ground for all of us to build a foundation, even if we agree to disagree on the details. Good luck on your book and your blog!

  19. Nictos 18 May 2012 at 5:55 pm Permalink

    I can’t say one way of looking at it is better than another. I have my way, which is to own my pathology (look at and try to understand my bag of shit) to the best of my ability today, and try not to interfere with anyone else’s life in the process. Ultimately, the only behavior I can change is my own.

    I got a seat on the train this morning, taking one right next to this little kid (4 years old). He shrank away and clung to his mother while giving me the once over – so I smiled at the kid and flashed him the peace sign. He didn’t react, but just kept looking me over every couple of minutes. (I am white, 6-foot, shaved head, van dyke, glasses) He de-trained with his mom at Akabane and went on with his day. What does he think of our brief interaction? Will it have a lasting impact or be forgotten with the day’s lunch.

    Couple weeks ago two high school kids were walking up the station staircase while I was on my way down. I was in a shitty mood – tired, sweaty, reeling from the stink of a Friday night on the Keihin Tohoku. I could see they were eyeballing me. As we passed one kid said, “Hey, wassup?” I ignored them. Upon reflection, I regret not being cool about it and greeting him back. This kid was predisposed to communication – maybe just to be or look cool, but maybe because he was genuinely friendly. Has my behavior changed his opinion of foreigners? Maybe he just brushed it off – who knows.

    I hate being coerced into submitting to micro-aggression, if that’s what it is, but I am too easily sidetracked into paranoia and revenge. I’ve gotten into fights over elbows on crowded trains. Having been bullied in my childhood, it is not easy for me to stand down. But I made a conscious decision a few years back to keep the focus on myself, straighten out my behavior, keep my side of the street clean, and turn over the rest of it. If that means putting up with micro-aggressions, I will – not because I am claiming a moral high ground, but because my serenity depends on it.

    Each of us does what we have to do to get by.

    I like to think that this is not a zero-sum game – Davido does his thing, Loco you do your thing, and I do mine – each of us contributing a unique piece to the mosaic that is Japan.

    • Orchid64 19 May 2012 at 12:34 am Permalink

      The interesting thing about what you say is that the racism underlying such situations is influencing you so strongly. Because you know you are being judged by your appearance, you feel that you have to react as a paragon. You feel you cannot be human as the Japanese are. Do you think that other people don’t get mad at being jabbed by elbows? Do you think others react favorably to random strangers shouting out to them? You are holding yourself to an unfair standard by which you aren’t allowed to have a bad day or ignore someone because you are constantly being judged in a racist society.

      Yes, it would be nice to be the best person you can be under all circumstances, but not because you want to make people like or respond more positively to foreigners. It would be good because we all should strive to be more humanistic, kind, and positive toward others as humans together in this reality. However, we are human and we have bad days and flaws and it is hard when people treat us poorly to react positively. I’ve seen Japanese people get into fistfights over a stumble off of a crowded train and I KNOW most Japanese people will not respond to random comments from strangers (at least in Tokyo where strangers rarely interact with one another). Why must you pressure yourself to be different than the Japanese? The only reason you seem to feel you’re not entitled to your bad days is the racism around you. If you just want to be a good person who turns the other cheek, then that’s all well and good, but you’re worried about the impression you leave because you know you’re being judged.

      • Peter 18 June 2012 at 1:15 am Permalink

        Nicely put, to both of you.

  20. JN 28 May 2012 at 1:18 am Permalink

    Upfront: I’m not saying that racist micro-aggressions don’t happen. They do. This is a tangent based on the micro-aggression video:

    I’m female and in the US, and when I see a guy I don’t know on an elevator late at night, yes, I take the steps. (I don’t grab my purse and jewelry.) I feel really bad when the guy is anything but white because my reaction isn’t due to race at all — it’s because he’s a guy. So, is that a sexist micro-aggression? Am I wrong to do that?

    I know that 99 times out of 100, the guy is harmless. I just don’t want to be the 1% in this case. And I guess I’m willing to offend 99 harmless guys in order to be safe.

    But I don’t want them to think I’m offending them for any other reason. Does that make sense?

    • Locohama 28 May 2012 at 1:25 am Permalink

      Key phrase: Late at night.
      I think any woman in her right mind would be cautious in that scenario and if i were the man in the elevator i wouldn’t be troubled by that. Is your cautiousness time specific? Does race impact it or merely gender? these are better questions.

      • JN 28 May 2012 at 5:51 am Permalink

        It’s absolutely gender specific. But not so much time specific as much as how likely it is that someone else is around. If it’s at a crowded PAC in the evening, I’m fine with the elevator because it’s likely that someone else will call the elevator while I’m on it. If it’s 5 am at work, not so much.

        The only way that race might enter into it is that a Hmong guy is more likely to be smaller built than me, and therefore less of the threat than a white guy who is twice my size. And a black guy who I know is no problem compared to a white guy I’ve never met.

        The trick is, how do I convey to the big black guy who I don’t know, in the elevator at 11 pm, “I’m taking precautions in your presence because you’re a big male stranger, not because you’re not white”? I know the treatment I’m giving them is the same, but does the reason even matter?

        Yes, race has crossed my mind because I assume he’ll think I’m being racist.

        Which I guess is racist in a way.

        Now my head hurts.

        • Locohama 28 May 2012 at 7:13 am Permalink

          If it were 11pm I would expect some kind of of caution from a woman on an elevator, particularly in NY, and wouldn’t assume it was race-related but I can’t speak for all of course. It’s the extenuating circumstances giving you a headache…keep it simple. Are you cautious at night or not?

  21. Hora 5 November 2012 at 6:48 am Permalink

    “The Japanese vs. everyone else in the world attitude is tiresome and it’s going to cost this nation and its people a lot in the coming years.”

    You wish… anyway it’s always better to have a small economic dowturn than be clogged with a multiracial society.

    There are plenty of multiracial shitholes in this world, but no, you guys
    come to one of the last real cultures of this earth and start this usual “entitled foreigner-that-can-become-just-as-local-as-a-local-if-he-speaks-the-language” bullshit. Multiculturalist Westerners in Asia simply act like the niggers of Asia.

    If Japan was really racist, it would have you beaten and deported, just for your insolent blog posts(that is what would happen in the Middle East for your behaviour)… So the little tolerance you get of being allowed to work and live here for a while, you abuse it by starting activism in favor of multiracialism.

    I think many of you multiracialists are actually jealous of how Japan’s functions and of its homogeneity. Therefore you secretely want to destroy it and make the Japanese just as ethnically and culturally destitute as yourselves. This society doesn’t want you, deal with it, instead of trying to crack the door open like some rejects trying to enter a high-class nightclub lol.

    The most interesting is that all of you feel entitled to judge the Japanese and their culture but none of you would ever dare doing this in a Middle East country (espacially Gulf countries) where racism and discimination are absolute and where you have absolutely no rights as a foreigner.

    In the Middle East, foreigners stay just the time needed for their job then get out as soon as possible, without stirring any fuss. But in Japan, you guys feel that you can take advantage of the Japanese’s politeness and of your own aggressivity and lack of manners. Just like the coloreds do in the West. This is not going to end well.

    • Locohama 5 November 2012 at 9:11 am Permalink

      If you want to be the devils advocate and you’re looking for a role model, see above.
      Thanks for the clear example Hora Sensei, and Allah u akbar!

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