19 May 2012 ~ 70 Comments

Why Do Gaijin Clash…? pt.3: The Dark Side Of “When In Rome…”

If you haven’t done so already, check out part 1 here & part 2 here, before continuing. You WILL need the context!

OK! Let’s keep this moving…

So, you’re thinking about moving to Japan, are you? You’ve heard rumors that the Japanese are racist and/or xenophobic and you want to hear from reliable, conscientious, thoughtful sources on the ground here whether these claims are on the level or not, and what you can expect to encounter as far as these phenomenons are concerned. Or, you’ve arrived fairly recently, have encountered some questionable behavior, not particularly comfortable with the conclusions you’ve come to on your own, or curious about whether or not others are having similar experiences and what’s their spin on it…particularly those who are knowledgeable or have been in these parts for a while and are presumably in possession of some inside dope.

So, you cruise the net, using keywords like: Japanese people, Japanese culture, racism / discrimination / xenophobia in Japan, etc… I know this because these are some of the top keywords that bring googlers and Yahoos my way. (Those as well as chikan –Japanese subway perverts–  easy Japanese girls and blacks in Japan are my consistent winners, for some reason,).

And, much to the chagrin of many, you might find yourself at a site like www.Debito.org , where you are informed unequivocally that the rumors are not only true but that the racism here, both the aggressive and micro-aggressive type, will impact the quality of your life significantly, and is at a level where an aggressive amount of activism is called for to address it.

Or, you may land on a Youtube channel like this one:

…with some persuasive, fairly well-spoken, passionately forthright and seemingly sound thinking individual (typically white) informing and possibly even reassuring you that your concerns are completely unfounded. The video’s very limited scope of what racism really is will, if you allow it, alleviate your concerns:

“Phew!  I don’t have to worry about a Japanese lynch mob burning a statue of the Buddha on my front lawn or pelting me with Japanese plums when I walk down the street! That’s a load off! I’ll only encounter, at worst, petty little ignorable ignorance,  and even those will be rare if I avoid the countryside. That’s all I needed to hear. All I have to do is travel light and keep it simple, check that cumbersome duffel bag filled with dreamy, complicated  MLKisms (i.e. judging people by their character not their race, nationality or skin color) and  various other westernized ideals at the door, keep my skin thick and my mind open, and I will be able to enjoy the wonders that Japan has to offer the foreign visitor.…sounds simple enough.”

The dangerous part of videos and commentary like the one above is they are chock-full of truthiness and truisms. So much so that it’s difficult for the average westerner to weed through the rhetoric. It informs you, in no uncertain terms, that only the ignorant, the weak-minded, the over-sensitive, the hate-seekers, and those victim-prone complainers out there will find life in Japan difficult to tolerate. But if you MAN-UP to the challenge, “if you’re even half as tough as a cutesy little Canadian girl-next-door like me,” keep your pride and wits about you, your sense of humor engaged, and embrace your Eurocentric entitlements (whether you’re racially of European descent or not cuz, let’s face it, everyone that matters from the west is of European descent in one way or another), can manage a little humility and cut the natives some slack (cuz, let’s face it, they are perpetually off the western grid) …if you can manage to do these very simple things, Japan will show you the honey!!

Truer words have rarely been spoken about Japan. She was absolutely on the money.

But that’s a lot of sacrifices to ask of someone disinclined to sacrifice such notions…costly fucking sacrifices, if you ask me. Sacrifices that may, if undertaken over a prolonged period of time, have the unintended side effect of making you unfit to rejoin the outside world.

Making such sacrifices would be the dark side of “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

I’ve seen this phenomenon up closer and more personally than I felt comfortable with. Yes, friends, it has happened to me.

When people usually use that saying about making your way in Rome, it’s used in a manner to suggest that the action undertaken is by choice. That one chooses to do like the Romans. But, that has not entirely been my experience with it. Sure, sometimes it’s a conscious choice. Removing shoes in the entrance way to a house or school, pre-bathing before entering a public bath or hot springs, or standing to the left side of an escalator (or on the right side in Kansai) are ways it manifests itself here in Japan. In Brooklyn, it might be the nephew of the Yemeni gentleman who owns the grocery store on the corner, who last year arrived in the US and couldn’t speak a lick of English, welcoming you to the store with a “Yo, what’s up, Son? What can I do you for?”  and a wink, before making you a ham and cheese hero, when back home in his Islamic country he wouldn’t have ever considered serving the swine of the earth to paying customers.

There are also cases when it is a trait acquired in an unconscious or semi-conscious effort not to stand out in a society where it’s virtually impossible not to. Here in Japan, you might find yourself unwittingly shoving overused Japanese expressions and pauses into English sentences in conversations with English speakers (or, in my case, writing), or waiting for green lights before crossing even when there’s no traffic, or even bowing at weird times like when you meet non-Japanese people for the first time and kinda give them a bow, or a bowing handshake, or even bowing while talking on the phone.

And that’s just the light side.

Which brings us back to the Gaijin Clash. I feel this is a major contributor to all of this infighting.

That microaggression towards foreigners, practiced almost religiously by the natives, is also something I believe the foreigners here pick up on and in some cases emulate or simply accept due to this “When in Rome…” platitude. Sure, sometimes it’s done consciously by those who have condoned the popular  insinuations that foreigners are the reason Japanese have adapted their more blatant forms of racism (which the girl in the video above described briefly), but often I think it is done unconsciously.

I mean, when I first encountered foreigners here who rationalized and championed the “microagressive” Japanese behavior I’d describe in my posts, I’d consequently lose my cool. In hindsight, I would conclude that they must’ve been playing devil’s advocate and just trying to get a rise out of me, successfully in a number of cases.

Time passed, and my position evolved a bit.

I’d basically write-off anyone who defended what I thought to be Japan’s atrocities, particularly against black humanity, as racist themselves. After all, only a racist asshole would speak favorably on behalf of these racist assholes, I fumed. Yep. I told myself that these mostly white people had come here from mostly racist countries that were at least paying lip service or in some cases taking steps towards making amends for crimes against black, aboriginal and native humanity… crimes committed by their ancestors but for which they are being held  to account, unfairly many believe; countries like the US, Canada, the UK and (OMG) Australia. They’ve found themselves, here in Japan, a haven for backward thinking, a utopia where the totem pole of racial divisions still shamefully stands tall and proudly flaunts a white face atop it; where time has stood still to the point that most people are conveniently clueless to what has transpired beyond their rocky shores. A place where white people aren’t socially obliged to be politically correct and tiptoe around minority sensitivity and insecurities (because, for damn sure, the natives don’t). A place where they’re lauded and rewarded for simply being white, and feel free to don their social dunce caps and be as racist as they wanna be, all under the umbrella of “When in Rome…”

And for the few black people who’d come out their faces and echo these defenses and other assorted malarkey of entitlement, I’d write them off as well, label them “Oreos”: chocolate on the outside, creamy in the middle, and held firmly in the throes of J-topia.

This idea possessed me for a long time. Early readers of Loco in Yokohama could probably sense that, even though I didn’t consistently call them out directly, that this idea was at the heart of my insinuations about people who spent their energy defending the indefensible here in Japan.

Later, though, as I began to study more carefully the consistencies in the way these commenters would go about their defense, and see patterns in their retorts to my responses, I came to a new conclusion.

The short timers, quick to the apology, I would dismiss as ignorant beyond all recognition , a product of a delusion sweeping the world that we are post-race, or even approaching it, or they’re still under the spell Japan tends to place on foreigners upon arrival. Blogging Under the Influence, as it were…

But, a good number of  the people I’d previously written off were, for the most part, here in Japan for the long haul.  Many were heavily vested in Japan: families, mortgages, car notes, real jobs/careers, etc… This place was not an extended holiday in utopia for them, not a pit stop on their path to glory in their respective fields. This was home, be it ever-so humble and issue plagued. Such thoughts made me tap the brakes on my high-speed rhetoric, as I considered the ramifications of what I was suggesting. I saw, in cyber-relief, the vileness I must have represented to them.

Of course they experienced the same problems, and suffered at least some of the inequities and indignities I did. Certainly not as negatively as I did, thanks to the great PR white folks have internationally, but still, in many ways, they’re reduced to products and amalgamations of stereotypes, as well. And that had to have a detrimental effect on a human, no matter how beneficial it appears at times.

And, furthermore,, having dropped no major anchors here myself, I could pack up at any moment and make for greener pastures, while many of these guys and gals could not. They were trapped! And here I was describing as vividly as my meager talents afforded, the ugliness of their nasty little trap; Sometimes clearly enough for even those who hadn’t been aware of its existence to finally see it for what it was…informing them, and the world (or rather my handful of readers), that they had made a veeeeery poor investment. Kicking them while they were down, as it were; utterly unhelpful.

And, naturally, some defended their decisions, and in doing so, defended Japanese racism and “microaggressions.” Some even made concerted efforts to shut me down, doing so by way of marginalization and stigmatization…branding my blog the unhinged complaint-ridden rantings of an angry black man, full of misrepresentations and your usual “woe is me, pity me, I’m a downtrodden black man” foolishness.

I couldn’t blame them for trying …I’d probably do the same if our roles were reversed.

It almost worked, too.

For, like the assertions in that video above, these aspersions too are laced with truthiness and truisms. Hell, I am angry. And, I am black. I have written regrettable foolishness some times, posts I’m not particularly proud of, as well as posts where the appeal may have been to the reader’s sympathy for my plight. What can I tell you, I’m human, with all the frailties the human condition often entails.

Including racism.

No one wants to look at the ugly little racist inside of them. I sure as hell didn’t. And, there was a time when I’d clash with ANYONE who suggested I was a racist, as much shit as I’ve been through to lock my little demons away for good. But, “When in Rome…” had gotten the best of me, as well. It had gone and unleashed those little suckers from their pen. I was raised in an environment where racism was used as a defense against racism, as a way to maintain self-esteem and dignity. And I reverted to type.

And, being a blogger, mine found its way to my blog…

(And eventually to Amazon in the form of a critically-acclaimed book…)

So, the current Clash of Gaijin, I hypothesize, is basically yet another battle in the ongoing civil war with our own racist attitudes, mostly, and unconsciously in some cases, in response to the racism we accept, ignore, deny, and / or embrace that surrounds us constantly, fueled by the guilt and shame at the racism that dwells within many of us.

And, to top it all off, the battlefield is on an island where racism is unfortunately condoned.

I gotta tell you…it’s not a good look, people!  It’s not a good feeling, either.

All this bickering, finger-pointing, infighting, marginalizing…and nothing gets resolved. On the contrary, I feel like tensions are escalating. Like we’re living on the island of Youtube, or maybe planet Youtube….

I feel a growing intolerance…

Something’s got to give!

Click here for part 4: i can’t make this shit up 



PS: Pick up my book, Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist, (on Amazon here) and learn why I’m speaking from experience when I speak of escalating tensions…coming from a time in Brooklyn, NY where racism was similarly condoned, spurring an intolerance that exploded and nearly destroyed a city!

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70 Responses to “Why Do Gaijin Clash…? pt.3: The Dark Side Of “When In Rome…””

  1. Jay Dee 19 May 2012 at 11:50 pm Permalink

    The whole intolerance and bickering thing is what keeps me from the Gaijinpot forums. I used to go on there, only to find a bunch of expats wallowing in their own pity and being nothing but unhelpful to those who have legitimate questions and pleas for help. I have a family here in Japan, a wife and a young daughter, and my wife’s family is here in Japan. But we’re certainly not necessarily here for the long haul. We may pack up and leave when our daughter is 5 years old and head for Canada so that she can get an education that encourages critical thinking.

    I remember being new to Japan. I didn’t see the racism at the time, because I acted completely like a tourist wherever I went. Now, I’ve got my eye out for all these blatantly obvious stares and microaggressions. About all I can do is try to educate my students about this. After all, I’m not just teaching English, but also cultural aspects.

    • Locohama 20 May 2012 at 9:36 am Permalink

      Jay Dee,thanks for the shout man! Yeah, the intolerance I see everywhere I look around the Japanosphere is very troubling. Not to mention outside of it…It’s enough to make you want to throw in the towel. But, if we do, then like Bush said…LOL Just joking…
      Yeah, the children are the future and it is soul refreshing to work with them…usually.

      • Jay Dee 20 May 2012 at 7:34 pm Permalink

        When I say my students, I mean mostly adults. At least many of the more international students tend to understand, especially high level ones.

    • Locohama 21 May 2012 at 9:41 pm Permalink

      Yeah, it gets to be a little overwhelming…
      Yeah, I take our “ambassadorship” as the most sacred of my tasks here…high potential for impact!

  2. Billy 20 May 2012 at 12:27 am Permalink

    ” Here in Japan, you might find yourself unwittingly shoving overused Japanese expressions and pauses into English sentences in conversations with English speakers (or, in my case, writing), or waiting for green lights before crossing even when there’s no traffic, or even bowing at weird times like when you meet non-Japanese people”

    A few weeks ago, my girlfriend flew out to Vegas to visit me from Tokyo. Since we only speak her language, the first time we got in some Euro tourist’s way, we both bowed slightly and said ‘sumimasen’… I felt like such a dick and told her if I did it again to kick me in the balls.

    I haven’t been everywhere in the world, but of all the countries I’ve been to, it seems like Japan tends to have more socially retarded foreigners. Hang out in Hong Kong for awhile to see for yourself. A lot of the foreigners that fit in well here are people with little backbone and no real code to live by. I mean, we’re being honest about it. Japanese people often say to a foreigner (Jack, for instance) who protest a little too much for their liking, “Why can’t you be like Bob-San? He always does what he’s asked to do and has a positive attitude.” Who knows, maybe 8 times out of 10 Jack is a whiny little bastard, but that means 2 times out of ten, Bob is a backless ass-kissing prick and Jack has a legitimate gripe. But, as long as Bob-san is always making the Japanese around him happy, Jack will always be marginalized.
    Always. No matter what.
    Unfortunately, most people who can’t get past the racism (unintended or not) and ignorance just end up leaving at some point.

    The really dumb ones, like me, keep coming back…

    • Locohama 20 May 2012 at 2:57 pm Permalink

      …Or they hang around trying to learn something about themselves and about the world and its people from it, and try to write interesting books about it. (-;
      Thanks for the billy! Man if I ever get to Vegas again I’m definitely gonna buy you a drink at a casino lol

      • Billy 20 May 2012 at 4:32 pm Permalink

        You think that’s funny, but I know casinos where the shit isn’t free 😉

        • Locohama 21 May 2012 at 9:10 pm Permalink

          Then I’ll come outta pocket. No problem. Maybe you can show me how to leave the joint in a better predicament than I arrived (-;

    • Locohama 21 May 2012 at 9:39 pm Permalink

      Yeah, I know that feeling…it comes and goes (-;

  3. Orchid64 20 May 2012 at 1:24 am Permalink

    In all of the discussion over Debito’s activism, one thing is constantly lost in the rush to judge or defend and that is the real reason he became an activist. A lot of people use the thumbnail of “he got turned away at an onsen” as the explanation of the catalyst. I don’t know if they do this to make it sound like he had one bad experience and lost his nut or if people are just too lazy to relate the whole story, but that’s a monumentally incomplete way of telling the story. The story was that he took his family, wife and two daughters, to an onsen and they said his wife and one daughter could go in but he and the other daughter could not. And the reason is very important and it frustrates me that all of the people with families who dislike Debito don’t get it. The second daughter could not go in because she didn’t look Japanese enough and the other one could go in because she did.

    Imagine what sort of impact that had on Debito as a parent! He was looking at his children’s future in Japan as a racist country with no legal checks on racist actions. He was looking at one child being treated one way and the other dramatically differently based on their appearance. The doors would open for one, and close for the other. He has a vested interest just like all of the other parents who are stuck here. The only difference is he had a profound experience that said the best way to protect his family was to do something about this. Others think the best way to protect their families is to be an ostrich and put their heads in the sand because they haven’t had such a deeply painful experience with their children.

    That being said, and I absolutely agree that those with vested interests in Japan are more likely to become apologists, I’ve known plenty who are as capable logistically of leaving as you or me who also are deniers. I’ve also known people who are married with kids who are very likely to call people out on their crap and see it like it is (though fewer of them than the others). I think that the roots of the tree are deep and complex, and certainly those who have families will want to make their peace with something they believe they can’t change in their lifetime. I think most of them haven’t suffered a sufficiently difficult experience to make them take action. The irony is that, thanks in part to cultural diffusion, the greater amount of travel Japanese do abroad, and, yes, activists like Debito, their children may not face what Debito’s did at that onsen.

    I wonder, and I hadn’t thought much about this point until today so it is not a well-developed thought (that’s my way of saying, “I could very well be wrong and am open to thoughtful counterarguments”), if there is more to it than protecting ones interests. Most of the apologists are white and the resounding message society tells white people is that they cannot experience racism. Anyone can say anything about Caucasians and it is acceptable, no matter how ugly or judgmental white people believe it is. The power that minorities have to say that something is offensive because it offends them whether it is meant as an offense is a privilege that is not granted to white folks. We just have to take it all regardless of how it makes us feel because we have all of the power in this world. I was told as a result of an article I wrote entitled, “Is Racism Against White People Impossible?” that empowered groups cannot experience prejudice. I don’t accept that, of course, but there is a pervasive message which says whites are always oppressors and never the oppressed.

    The bottom line is that we are told both overtly and subtly that racism doesn’t happen to us. This sort of conditioning must be pretty powerful. There could even be ego in play where people think that it’s something that only happens to oppressed minorities, not to middle class white folks. If you want to comply with society’s message that you cannot be treated with racism, one to rationalize it is to say what you are experiencing is not racism, but cultural idiosyncrasy. I wondered after thinking this over if this may be a part of this picture as well.

    • kamo 20 May 2012 at 11:16 am Permalink

      As so often, Orchid’s on the money here. I remember the first time I experienced undeniable, outright racist discrimination in Japan. A group of us were going to nomihodai, and despite there being a ton of tables free, the kept us waiting because they were all ‘reserved’.

      It was only after the fourth group of Japanese people turned up clearly without a reservation and got seated straight away the I realised what was happening. And even then it needed to be explicitly pointed out by one of my friends (who’s black, natch).

      As a white european you get so used to having the upper hand in situations like this that it can be hard to realise that you don’t any more. You see this in the way so many apologists twist stuff to excuse things. It’s Orientalism in its most direct form, but often it pushes past even that into ‘Noble Savage’ territory. And then all is right in the world as whitey’s got the moral high-ground again over these simple but proud people who just don’t know any better…

      • Locohama 21 May 2012 at 9:23 pm Permalink

        Gotta love Orchid! We are so blessed here at LIY!
        Thanks for the shout Kamo!

    • David H 29 May 2012 at 4:38 pm Permalink

      I believe there is also “white guilt” in which white folk believe that even if they do suffer a little racial discrimination, it is ok, understandable, or even deserved because of past and present white racism. Sort of a smug satisfaction with seeing the victims of white racism stepping up and giving a little back. I think they subconsciously assume they’ll continue to keep their privileged status, so a little anti-white racism is not really a threat.

      My thoughts on this aren’t fully formed or thought out either, but I never let that sort of thing stop me.

  4. beneaththewheel 20 May 2012 at 9:11 am Permalink

    A few things, some tangents, some more related:

    Racism in Canada (where I’m from) is a huge issue. To call someone a racist is probably one of the most serious accusations that you can do. While in some ways this leads to a very tolerant culture, it also leads to people being fake (consider it Canadian tatemae), to my mom feeling guilty for feeling weird when there’s not a single white person at the supermarket, to white guys getting drunk and feeling able to let out their aggression toward Indo-Canadians, to straight up racism by many different races. My point is that in the West we give great respect to denouncing an idea, regardless of the current situation, and in Japan that’s not the case. I get the feeling that if Japan didn’t change at all, except for Japanese people saying “yeah, X is racist isn’t it, that’s bad”, then many foreigners would not have many complaints, regardless of the fact that violent racism (at least for white people) is nil, and that’s not the case in multi-cultural Canada.

    I stand by there’s a lot of shits out there (against maybe mostly white) who could use a year of being a minority. I’m not sure how controversial that is, but I remember my first year complaining to friends back home (Fijian and Asian guys), they just laughed and told me to shut up about it. These short-termers would do great to come back to their own country and be able to see how minorities in their country are being treated. If that would lead to them being active against racism in their home country like they wouldn’t have been before, great. Sometimes I get the feeling that these sorts of people are not against racism, but against racism geared towards them. I hope I’m wrong and just building a strawman argument.

    These short-termers are also perpetuating these “microaggressions”. Who do you think can’t eat raw fish/use chopsticks/has no intention of staying in Japan? My guess is a significant amount of ALT/eikaiwa teachers in Japan. Its the long-terms job to (somewhat futilely) tactfully fight against this, and better yet explain the differences and the diversity. Diversity and complexity is hard to explain though, to anyone of any culture.

    My big beef against anger is that I feel it accomplishes very little. All it’s doing is creating a rift, when that’s not productive. If it is a (justified?) natural reaction to being in a shit situation, then fair enough, but I’d rather that feeling doesn’t get mixed up in any attempt to try to change society for the better. Direct confrontation does not have to be with anger or aggression. In fact, I think it’s more scary without anger or aggression, as your actions cannot be brushed off. We’re lucky in Japan in that the people being racist to us very very rarely pose threats to our physical health, and we have the ability to confront people on their actions. I think this confrontation leads to people feeling less alienated from society, and more about of solving things with people than trying to change the way those racist Japanese feel.

    I feel that some societies value anger more than others. I have Latin friends (from Spain, etc.) who seem to constantly get angry, as if it is the most normal way to express any negative emotion. Perhaps my middle class upbringing has led me to think anger is more unacceptable. Perhaps in Canada that is so, and if I moved to Spain, then I would become a lot more expressive with my anger. Here the important thing I think is how they do things in Japan. This is not a “when in Rome” idea, this is an idea of translating more than just words. The question is “how do I properly show that I am angry?” Is spitting on the floor okay? How about raising my voice? In what way will my anger though displeasure and make the other person realize they’ve done something bad? I think these types of questions are good, and people thinking its their right to be angry is counter-productive.

    This is where not perhaps Debito himself, but a few very extreme commenters on his site (they’re easy to spot) are being extremely counter-productive. It seems like it’s a battle against the man who is oppressing them, as if we’re under the apartheid system. Japan is othering us, so we will other them. They’re racist to us, so we will also describe their actions with grandiose statements. This is what people (like me) think is doing more harm than good, and this is where people like me have a dilemma of respecting their cause, or not wanting to be lumped into their cause. I believe this leads to direct opposition such as Tepido or topics at other “communities”, and passive aggressive opposition seen on message boards or in tweets (i.e. “Japanese person smiled at me #microaggressions”)

    As a final tangent, when I worked as a high school teacher, my colleague assigned a project to his class to find out about other countries. One student looked at America, and ONLY used Japanese-language blogs of Japanese exchange students in America, and it gave a very distorted, negative (the real scoop!) view of America. My colleague immediately said that it wasn’t acceptable, and I think most would agree with that. I think there are parallels with what most of us (including me) do in Japan.

    • Locohama 21 May 2012 at 9:38 pm Permalink

      Cool! Thanks for your insights yo!

      • Dochimichi 24 May 2012 at 4:21 am Permalink

        It’s always interesting to read your stuff, Loco. It gives a whole new dimension to Japan for me, something I couldn’t get anywhere else. I’m out of the situation, so I can’t really share a valuable experience, or, quite often, can’t really put out an opinion, since it’s not me experiencing it first hand, so I can’t really talk! Beneaththewheel’s comment touched few things that I could relate to, but felt I had no right to say. Like, the part about “othering” each other, for example…
        (- -)V

  5. Will 20 May 2012 at 10:51 am Permalink

    ‘Gaijin Clash’ sticks much better than micro-whatever it was.
    In Rome, on the condition that you were a citizen, things could be alright enough in a Caligula sort of way. But Rome is Rome and Greece is Greece (I forget which one of those mother-fuckers razed Carthage). Romans… Greeks…one was for the Ceasers and the other was a democracy (well, sort of, for the citizens at least).

    Post-race? Although the whole world may never get there, there is are parts, bits and pieces of this world that is already there. Only thing is, that is a place somewhere that can’t be seen. Only understood. And even for those who are beyond it all (the true-as-it-gets post-racists, post-racist wannabes, post-racist posers, etc.), when the post-racists close their eyes, they can still feel the real pain of the lashes coming from the hard-dying, shit-kicking racists, flailing and wailing against the truth-speakers who are tied the post.

    You represent nothing vile (to me). In fact, truth be told, to me, you appear to be inspired by Calliopea. You are a poet through which at least one of the muses speaks (or maybe you’re a…hmmm?). At least I imagine it that way, that you can’t not do what you do. Which is something I admire.

    Trapped? Anyone who thinks they are trapped is in denial. Denial that they have no choice. We make decisions every morning. And we pay the price for those decisions, a price that may include some extra costs clearly written in the small print, that which few people ever slow down enough to read and even fewer actually understand. Trapped? “Free your mind and the rest will follow.” Yeah. Sometimes we need some rest. And other times, we gotta wake up.

    Something’s got to give?
    A lot of people give. A few even do that chest-thump for the rest to step up to the challenge. Can’t help but admire that.

    Something’s got to give?
    I see the swell coming. I’m going to paddle hard and try to ride this one as it breaks. Been waiting for this.

    Going to continue to follow the dialogue…now that God Unique might be on his way back. (Not that he ever really left?)

    • Locohama 21 May 2012 at 9:32 pm Permalink

      Peace Will!
      The God, Unique in the house!
      Had to look up Calliopea: the Muse of heroic poetry.
      You know, I never really thought of myself or my writing as heroic in any sense…I learn more about myself through writing than anything else I do. It’s one of the things that keeps me at it!
      Loco heroic? The funny thing is, like most people, I am very moved by the heroic…to tears most often.
      There’s a PBS series and book called “The Power of myth” and when I watched (and later read) it the conversation between Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell moved me to the core and I learned why the heroic gets me every time.
      Here’s a clip if you’ve never heard of it:

      thanks for the shout as always yo

      • Will 22 May 2012 at 2:04 pm Permalink


        Thank you for the Moyers, Campbell video (with a Jedi, no less).

        For me, you read like a poet. And poets often tell stories. And the good ones are able to connect, which is kind of rare (if you ask me). You are as the name declares, Unique. And you have an audience still. So…

        ‘Where do we go from here?’

        That seems to be the big question on everyone’s mind. When all of these heroic stories that have been told generation after generation have to compete for the audience’s imagination of which direction we think we need to be headed in…well it get’s a little confusing. Because those stories of how it was supposed to have happened long, long, ago and way-back-when are what people tend to fall back on for dealing with the craziness of the here-and-now.

        This is where something Stewart Brand wrote, once upon a time, comes to mind:

        “The genesis and employment of heroes might be feasible. Damn near everyone, in this society anyhow, wants purpose, plot, and at least the possibility of an audience. People will go along with almost anything that provides these for them, and eventually scuttle any scheme that denies them their own personal dramatic story.”

        Japan’s once upon a time was only recently rewritten, with a supernatural hero on top. Even if those down below were tired with pains in their backs and shoulders and knees, they could take great pride in their place on the stack…that was until their shells kind of cracked.

        The stars seem like one of the only places to shoot for, if we must shoot. Beats shooting at each other. But the ‘how’ of it all is not so clear.

        I dunno…

        Publishing books, throwing epic parties, making a difference… either way, I have to respect the folks who are actually doing something. Taking action and moving instead of just going through the motions.

        Thank you.

  6. Rhyming 20 May 2012 at 1:02 pm Permalink

    Whats up Loco

    The other day I ran into a Japanese lady who was telling people that Japan is hiding information about the amount of energy that is required , and we don’t need to rely on nuclear power .

    If it true then there must be other things that they cover up for thier own purposes , as any country does. So where are the paid unbiased investigations trying to get to the truth ? Must of what I read about racism in Japan is from someone personal expirence fueled by thier wants and desires. Men lie , Women lie, numbers don’t


    • Locohama 21 May 2012 at 9:22 pm Permalink

      I agree there are other issues that need attention in Japan…I assume you’re giving this one its due on your vlog (-; Haven’t checked it in a minute, but i will. What kind of feedback are you getting from viewers?
      BTW, Numbers might not lie (and that’s a big ass might), but they can be misleading as all get out.

  7. reesan 20 May 2012 at 2:51 pm Permalink

    Loco-sama, I resent your statement that Aussies are racist. I am not a racist. I hate all races equally! lol

    • Locohama 21 May 2012 at 9:17 pm Permalink

      LOL! You should try just hating one at a time…

  8. David @ Ogijima 20 May 2012 at 3:51 pm Permalink

    I don’t really have an opinion about the whole “racism in Japan” issue (ok, I kinda do, but having lived here only 6 months, I feel that I need to wait just a little more to have an educated one), however, the issue that strikes me right now, is that this hot topic seems to be a very anglophone thing.
    I’m French, and French speakers in Japan (or talking about Japan) don’t seem as obsessed by the question of racism in Japan (and whether there is some or not, etc) as English speakers are.

    So, I’m starting to wonder if it’s not an “eye of the beholder” kinda thing?

    I don’t have an answer, just a few hunches.

    • Locohama 21 May 2012 at 9:16 pm Permalink

      I lived in NY most of my life and, as far as i know, I’ve never personally seen a KKK or a Skinhead…or even talked about them much, now that I think about it…
      But. you might be right, ones language might be the key to ones ability to acknowledge the existence of racism when it isn’t throwing a rope around ones neck.
      There needs to do a study done…
      Thanks for the shout (-;

  9. chris 20 May 2012 at 5:51 pm Permalink

    #1 I want what that baby is having!
    #2 I have mellowed quite a bit and watching America from afar….we have so far to go still…but I live here now and my irate posts about culture are gonna be about Japan and it’s gonna be offensive to some. I think if we could turn down the “noise” a little about Debito it would be easier to identify and articulate specific points of factual error. Then he can man up or not which if he did not would just discredit the good things he has done.Those who just attack him seem to discredit themselves by not allowing that he has made a difference.

    Debate facts or we are just hurling opinions and vitriol.

    In my opinion which contains no cuss words I may add…let it be noted and let the record state such 😉

    • Locohama 21 May 2012 at 9:08 pm Permalink

      And it shall…wow…thanks for the shout, yo!
      I’m with you on this. All this vitriol I’m running across lately has seriously made me re-think things.
      I feel it’s about that time now to emerge from this keyboard and from my classrooms and get really active. As you know, I used to feel like just teaching these kids that this world is theirs and they shouldn’t allow themselves to be limited was enough. But, now I’m an author, which kinda feels like being a parent, and I got this child out in the world. So, I’m really feeling like I need to do more to make it a better place. I’m feeling inclined to do so inspired by people like Debito and even yourself.
      Thanks for showing the love in your own unique way…you’re the effing man!

  10. MarkS 21 May 2012 at 2:12 am Permalink

    I don’t really feel that the video is “dangerous” since I can believe what
    she is saying truly reflects her experience in Japan. I can certainly see that
    a young cute white woman’s experience could be much different than the experience of anyone who is, well, not a young cute white woman.
    The dangerous part is that some people will form a view on the issue solely
    based on one voice and can’t be bothered to seek out an array of opinions.

    It’s like getting all your news from Fox News or CurrentTV; you’re just not
    getting the full picture.

    I do suspect your view is closer to the truth but I like hearing a spectrum of views.

    • Locohama 21 May 2012 at 8:53 pm Permalink

      Hey Mark,
      I’s dangerous because she’s not talking merely about her whole 6 months of experience. She’s drawing conclusions, almost convincingly, that the people who don’t agree with her are basically your run of the mill over sensitive ignorant idiot types…who just don’t get it…
      If she had simply said, “I haven’t experience any extraordinary racism, but your mileage may vary” I could live with that, and I would agree with you that the video is harmless.

      • MarkS 22 May 2012 at 1:47 am Permalink

        No idea why I’m keeping this going. Slow day I guess.
        I honestly have no disagreement with your statements about
        treatment of foreigners in Japan. I guess the word “dangerous” in
        connection with that video triggered something.
        I’ve read/heard many opinion pieces, editorials, movie reviews, etc.
        and I have a hard time thinking of any of them that added at the
        end “your mileage may vary.” To me that is tacitly assumed.

        I just saw the video as one person’s opinion and moved on and I think
        that’s what most people would do. Of course, I could be wrong.

        (Okay, I do think some politicians’ opinions are dangerous.)

        • Locohama 22 May 2012 at 7:37 am Permalink

          Tacitly assumed? Well…maybe you’re right. But, she spent a lot of CO2 stressing that your mileage will differ only if you’re driving the emotional equivalent of a Gas-guzzling lemon LOL!Just kidding…kinda. The Justin Biebers of the Japanosphere just irk me sometimes, but seriously, you might be right. Thanks for the shout Mark

  11. ril 21 May 2012 at 5:57 am Permalink

    I can’t helping thinking you are in danger of overestimating the scale and impact of the “clash”.

    Debates get heated when there are people on [multiple] different sides of the issue. It’s natural — if there’s no passion, what’s the point of arguing about it at all.

    Trouble is, the normal controls aren’t present online. There’s no eye contact. There’s no body language. There are none of the instant checks and balances that you might use in real life to keep the debate rational, and none of the subtle signals that help clue people in to what you mean as well as what you say.

    Get the same people in a room together to discuss the same [often subjective] issue and — if there’s passion — there’ll still be heat. But on the whole, I’d expect there to be much less vitriol because the social interaction becomes multi-dimensional.

    Online, you’re not just disagreeing with me, you’re telling the whole fucking world that I’m wrong. Well, hey, I can give as good as I get, so here’s where your head is all screwed on wrong. Yeah, people get more offensive and more defensive online. And it’s not just some different set of principles peculiar to “Japan-side expat bloggers” — it’s the nature of any online debate that has any kind of passion to it.

    Online, it’s a different forum, a different Rome. You don’t have to do as they do, but you’re going to struggle if you don’t understand what they do and why.

    • Locohama 21 May 2012 at 8:45 pm Permalink

      You might be right… It sure as hell feels different though, and I’ve been at this for a minute now. Thanks for the shout yo!

  12. Dave 21 May 2012 at 8:10 pm Permalink

    Loco, you should also consider the fact that not everybody is experiencing what you are experiencing, and that no, it’s not because they don’t notice it until they read one of your (or Debito’s) articles, it’s just that they are not.

    Point in case the girl in the video you posted, now, let’s face it, do you think that a loud, ugly and very badly educated caucasian male, would be treated equally to a japanese speaking, well educated young pretty girl with blu eyes?
    What would that be, sex/prettiness/educational discrimination?

    Clearly the existence of double standards in Japan isn’t something that can be ignored as it is as present as it gets, but then again it’s certainly not exclusive to Land of the rising Sun.
    You should also accept the fact that there are individuals that due to their particular behavioral “features” tend to fit better in such a restrictive society, they wouldn’t want it differently as they enjoy the advantages while at the same time they would be incapable of taking advantage of more freedom (they are basically protected from more “audacious” individuals this way) and that also due to their physical features are more welcomed (like the girl above) a super bad thing I know, but a real one nonetheless.

    These double standards (which are ultra wrong if you ask me), are not all cut and dry either, and depending on a plethora of factors go from “barely accepted” (or worse) to “utterly admired” and everything in-between.

    Experience with this issue in Japan is all over the place, even among groups of long timers, so trying to homogenize the whole thing into an “indisputable truth that applies to everyone” isn’t sustainable in anyway.

    You said it too in an interview for your book (toward the end if I recall):don’t expect your experience to be the same as another person, and that’s the best possible advice you could give IMHO.

    My advice to those who want to come to Japan is along the same lines: if you have thing for Japan, come here, do your absolute best and see how it goes for “you” in particular (who knows, your “being” might be compatible with the place afterall), and if it goes badly you can say to yourself you gave it your best shot.

    If you don’t have thing for Japan then why come in the first place? Salaries and weather are better in California anyway… 😉

    • Locohama 21 May 2012 at 8:42 pm Permalink

      So why do you feel the need to say these things if I’ve already said them???
      You lost me…

      • Dave 21 May 2012 at 10:08 pm Permalink

        If you refer to the last part, well, I just seems I love to repeat that kind of advice anytime I have the chance (sorry if it seemed redundant).
        As for the rest of my post, I was (maybe mistakenly?) under the impression that while you initially thought all gaijins defending Japan were racist themselves in a place where they could enjoy racism freely, you then discerned 2 particular groups the “delusional” which react badly when someone tries to open their eyes, or the “trapped in Japan” group, which is so entangled with wives and kids, they just want to convince themselves other wise (and once again, they don’t want anyone to open their eyes to something that has been under their nose all along).
        Don ‘t get me wrong, I’m pretty sure there is a lot of people like that, I just pointed out another unmentioned group (unmentioned in this article if I didn’t miss it someway, somehow) which for peculiar reasons, is really having a different experience.

        Of course I can clearly see that in the eyes of the girl above, it must be very difficult to consider the people she likes, as something as socially unacceptable as “racists”, so, out of her own psychological needs, she naively extends her own experience (and the experience of other accepted people probably coming from a group with similar “features”, I suspect) to everyone.
        And this is where what you do really helps a lot IMHO, because even though it might not apply to me (not Me, just speaking in general) it doesn’t mean we should not acknowledge the problem altogether.

        A tough job considering all the variables involved (which might lead to not being accepted regardless of race), but alas a worthy cause if there’s ever been one!

        • Locohama 21 May 2012 at 10:25 pm Permalink

          OK, well you answered my question…and you’ve said a mouthful yo
          I’m feeling kind of fried right now but I’ll just say this: I’ve considered a lot of things over the past 8 years here. A LOT of things.
          And I’ll be considering others I’m sure as time goes on and I learn more about my hosts and about myself and about my co-NJs. These are merely my thoughts for the day. Who knows what tomorrow holds. I do feel blessed that I have readers like yourself that are willing to take out the time to share their ideas and assist my thinking along this journey. Thank you so much for your thoughtful response!!
          PS California is sounding awfully appealing right now (-;

          • chris 22 May 2012 at 12:30 pm Permalink

            “Loco, you should also consider the fact that not everybody is experiencing what you are experiencing,”

            You don’t see how that can be taken as an insult? You felt the need to type it so apparently not. Perception is reality and we perceive things differently. He’s got that,I’ve got that and now you need to get that so your comments read more like an adult with social experience than a child making untested social hypothesis.

            “under the impression that while you initially thought all gaijins defending Japan were racist themselves”

            Another insult…I see a pattern Dave.

            “ALL” members of “ANY” group will have differing views since we are in the end individuals shaped by individual experiences. We may align and identify with some things but implying Loco sees “all” foreigners in ANY one way is insulting.

            “My advice to those who want to come to Japan is along the same lines: if you have thing for Japan, come here, do your absolute best and see how it goes for “you” in particular”

            I know what you were trying to say Dave but you didn’t seem to be able to do it without being insulting and I wonder if you should be giving anyone advice about this topic?


            “What have you “do your best”…and outstanding acheivments towards building a cultural bridge and meeting the locals halfway?……seriously…anything besides words? I’m genuinely curious.

  13. Dave 21 May 2012 at 10:57 pm Permalink

    You are the one that should be thanked of course, Japan might not know it right now, but probably they are the ultimate beneficiaries of what you do (and I truly mean it).

    • Dave 22 May 2012 at 8:06 pm Permalink

      @Chris (sorry to reply here but it seems there ain’t a reply button above)

      My intention of course wasn’t to insult anyone. But it seems I did (you never cease to learn how people get offended and I learned another lesson here) so my apologies for that.

      The idea that Loco initially thought one thing (the “racist in racist paradise” anecdote) and then switched to the 2 aforementioned groups (“Delusional” and “too Entagled”) came from this article and my lack of knowledge about Loco’s complete literature (including his book and the whole plethora of articles here) a limited vision of the whole picture if you might.
      It seemed to me he just saw those two groups as the “only” possible realities (so my question was, “is it possible that he believes those to be the only two options?” and thus made an example) probably if you know Loco’s thoughts and philosophy deeper (compared to this newcomer), you might get a different impression and in the end he can’t certainly specify all the points he made in the past in every article (at the same time you cannot ask a newcomer in search for further clarifications to “go read every article and then come back”).
      Thus, I sometimes try to entice further explanations in the form of somewhat provocative posts (or at least that’s the underlying intention), knowing that at the end of the day, seeing things from different sides can only broaden the views of both (or maybe it’s just me getting it wrong, I have no trouble with that, and hope to learn new things all the time).

      As for your last question, I’m a caucasian accustomed to be a minority so this subject attracts me quite a lot. I’ve been away from home for quite a bit now (more than 12 years) and I spent these years not only in Japan but also in a Caribbean island where the population is comprised almost completely of Black people.

      The “When in Rome…” advice, is always a valid “first step”, and in Japan you must start from avoiding the behaviors that are generally not accepted by the locals even when the “natives” enact them (no matter how normal they might be at home).
      Meeting “half way” is ideal, many times you actually manage just that, but it is more on a person by person basis than a global thing.
      Basically on a broader and more superficial level, your best bet is to act as “Tatemae” as possible, while meeting half-way should be reserved to close relationships. The only way you can improve the vision the host country has of foreigners is on a word of mouth basis, and that is because when people that doesn’t know you (no matter if it’s Japan or the Caribbean) see you on the streets, all they see it’s just a walking stereotype (this cannot be changed completely, it’s just the way it is everywhere) and the best you can do in those moments is to avoid sticking out “as much as possible”.
      Friends you made locally are your best bet for good publicity with your neighbors, and if you extend this to all foreigners living in Japan, their knowledge about us will greatly improve over time.

      Of course I’ve seen groups of young caucasian “boys” being very loud on the streets, with no intention whatsoever to build mutual trust with the locals, and that’s both sad and hindering to our cause.

      Japanese at first don’t like to act in a familiar manner among themselves (go figure with foreigners) and it takes time for them to build trust among themselves, we cannot demand to change this.
      Building relationships in Japan is painstakingly slow, and when you see people not sitting near you on a train (yes, it happened to me too) you might be tempted to just throw the towel.

      I asked many locals why there is this (albeit slightly fading) habit, but the phenomenon is quite complex. Reasons have changed over time, and today is more of an acquired custom than a racist act (for most at least). Japan is a place where people check sale charts just to see what’s popular and then buy it (if everyone is doing it, I’ll do it too!) so even people that desire contact with foreigners might not sit beside you on a train because they don’t want to stick out with other nationals (they are afraid of changing what everybody feel it’s the normal behavior in these situations, without questioning how it started).
      However when they do sit beside me, and the seats in front of us do clear, seeing people moving there all of a sudden is quite common among all japanese passengers too.

      Again, the compromise a well performed japanese tatemae entail, might be impossible to cope with for some, and totally natural for others (here we fall into the “compatibility” territory), and the patience needed to win japanese trust is a rare trait (not to mention the patience you need to stand their social quirks) but then again, it’s their country so the question would more be on the lines of: do they offer me enough for all this effort? is it worth it for me? Am I compatible with this complexity or I might live way better elsewhere?

      Thus, also the statement “this complex society isn’t exactly suited for anyone”, should not be perceived as an offense, but as something completely normal (and before these two lines get misinterpreted, I don’t think that those comfortable here are better than those that are not).

      Anyway I’m getting carried away, but to make a long story short, sometimes unacceptance might come from failing in the many hurdles this complex society enforces to its inhabitants, and finding happiness, friends and acceptance here might be more difficult than anywhere else (regardless of race) Whether or not it’s worth trying is a big subject onto itself.

      Finally let me say that I treasure your opinion, Locos’s and other’s here very much.
      I might be wrong on a lot things (or on everything for that matter), and I look forward to learn from all of you.

      At the same time I hope to add a different angle to other’s point of views, every once in a while.

      • chris 22 May 2012 at 9:59 pm Permalink

        It’s hard to get riled up with you being so fucking nice.

        I don’t speak Japanese, I do not even try to walk on the bridge and meet them half way. My School is full and my schedule packed….because I am unique and the things I show them are as well. I get to be me and throw parties like back home in Hawaii, I make children cry at Halloween and I love it. I make the kids smile at Christmas and I love it. I love being an ambassador. Sure, I’m an asshole but a strict hardworking one and I’m just like that back home in Hawaii so I’m essentially making a lot of money having a lot of fun just being me.

        Most of the expats walk half way or all the way across the bridge of cultural understanding and it is their undoing. The Japanese know how to be Japanese but if my School and life are any indication they simply don’t have enough chances to experience other cultures fully or as much as they would like.

        I treat my school like a boot camp for life and English…it’s become a kinda phenomenon. Hard to understand unless you see it. I’d get fired from any private company or public school but I am in demand. Why? Because I get results and I don’t engage in tatemae. The local competition thought my total resistance to the local culture would be my downfall.

        Wearing a tie or making small talk with the parents in Japanese means jack shit to them. They want good test scores…the best and they want their kids to be confident.

        And the competition? There is none.

        There students are my students now.
        They get the students who couldn’t gain entry into my school, they have become the default “B” option.

        I don’t prescribe to the go along to get along theory because my daily life is the counter argument to that.

        • Dave 23 May 2012 at 12:11 am Permalink

          A results driven approach I see, and as a matter of fact anyone superlative in his trade will have his share of acceptance here. I know of a few engineers which without speaking a word of Japanese make quite a living (heck the company even gave them personal translators that follow them around all the time).
          There’s also sports celebrities which come coaching here with fair amount of success, yet eventually this people moves back to their home countries, enriched by the experience I’m sure (and in their bank account in some cases) yet without leaving a dramatic impact in the japan VS rest of the world relationship issue.

          I myself have (genuinely) no problem with many japanese social quirks so what might constitute as an incommensurable compromise for some, comes quite natural for me (half of my tatemae is also my honne), so I didn’t encounter bit problems myself though I’m not comfortable with racism and real cases of it must be called out I believe.

          What Loco is doing can really help, my advise to him (already said but alas) is that in order to do it right, one must make sure, in cases where there seems to be a lack of acceptance, whether or not it is coming from something the japanese allow within their circle, and if they do, at what conditions: age? social status? among relatives? old friends? colleagues? (the list goes on and on).

          Discrimination takes place when even though you perfectly match all the known customs and rules (those that would make a japanese native perfectly accepted), you’re still unaccepted. In that case, such behavior must be called out at all costs (leaving the train issue aside which seems to be more complex than it seems).

          But if it comes where even a native would be met with unacceptance, due to stuff they socially believe is wrong, then all you can do, in case you can’t refrain (maybe because it would be too limitative to your inner being, and you would feel repressed) is close an eye or two about such unacceptance. In the end, it’s their country, if they don’t allow the natives to behave like that, pretending acceptance out of that would be rather bizarre wouldn’t you agree?

  14. Neil 22 May 2012 at 11:59 am Permalink

    I was born in Korea and lived there till I was 6 years old. My family then moved to New york city for business. I lived there for 5 years and went to school there. I can, from the deepest part of my heart say it was the worst time of my life.

    I have never met so much hateful things said to a human. For no reason other than I wasn’t born there, I wasn’t the same colour of their skin. My eyes were different. Even at times my teachers turned blind eyes at the abuse that went on in my classroom and halls. All the asian kids would be forced to hang out with each other. There was so much abuse and we were just kids.

    5 years later my dad had to move again. This time he moved to Tokyo, Saitama area.

    I went to a international school for 1.5 years, after that I went to a regular Japanese school. I was surprised that no one was mean to me. No racism against me. Americans were so rude to me as just a child. In Japan was a different story.

    I have been living in Japan for 13 years now. We moved a few times, I went to high school in Nagoya and now I go to university in Tokyo.

    In my entire 13 years I have not even once experienced any form of racism. The only thing I hear as a adult, is that gaijin break rules, gaijin don’t understand Japanese customs.

    I have seen many gaijin come and go, and a lot of them are only here to come and go. They don’t think of Japan as their home, thats why they don’t take the time to even for a second let go of their western ways.

    In school the students were excited that I was born in korea. I can’t understand why people think Japan is racist against koreans. I think foreigners are OUT OF DATE.

    The information outsiders know about japan is years behind. People think Japanese love eating whale meat, housewife wears kimono and everyone practices tea ceremony and everyone does everything traditional.

    Theres some Japanese people who haven’t even a clue how to put on a kimono.

    Perhaps there was racism years ago against my people. But now its so low. The only thing I know is that America is far more racist than Japan. So what Kanadajin says about Japan is true.

    I have nothing negative to say, not because I am hiding it. But because I have never experienced anything negative at all. I have not seen any gaijin not allowed signs. Though I don’t deny they exist. They exist everywhere and thats true.

    Some people experience it, and some people wont. If your a tourist, don’t speak Japanese, are rude, are loud. YOU WILL experience it. If you are respective to Japanese way and culture. You won’t experience it.

    BTW. Kanadajin did a follow up video on Davids microagressions. Its not rocket science to know his article is utter bullfking sht. As someone who has lived and grew up in Japan I know what shes saying is 100% true. Its Japanese culture to say your Japanese is good, any language. People say it all the time about my English. They don’t say it about my Japanese now because I am fluent and they can’t tell I am not born here.

    And David also complains about the stupid questions Japanese ask him. He needs to get his head out of the ground. Just because hes American doesn’t mean he is the only race of people who has the right to ask stupid fking questions and get away with it. When I lived in the US, the teacher told my mother not to cook fking dog for lunch because it will upset the other children, then my mother said we don’t eat dog and she proceeded to say ‘don’t cook anything strange that you people eat’. It goes both ways. David complains about things just to start propaganda. Enough said.

    • Locohama 22 May 2012 at 5:02 pm Permalink

      Thanks for illustrating so brilliantly the problem…

    • chris 23 May 2012 at 2:16 pm Permalink

      Dear Neil,

      with love and kisses,


      • Locohama 23 May 2012 at 4:45 pm Permalink

        Hi! I’m Loco and FULLY endorse the message in the link above reply to Neil from The Badboy!

        • chris 23 May 2012 at 9:31 pm Permalink

          Thanks bro! You have brought me to a conclusion about this topic. An “Epiphany” I had it right here reading this post. Me (in my own ways a racist) reading a blog written by a racist(of sorts) and reading a comment written by a racist about racists.

          Who….who among us is without the sin of racism in our heart in some way or fashion? I submit there is none….not a one.

          • Neil 24 May 2012 at 9:32 pm Permalink

            Wow your responce sickens me. Are you some anti Japan hater or something. I haven’t recived racism ever in Japan. Thats not hard to belive, theres plenty of people who have never recived racism here.

            My Japanese is native level. If I don’t give my name, noone knows I am korean. Even after I give my name, noone says anything. I had no problem finding small jobs, nobody has ever even asked me ‘how fluent I am’ etc, because they hear my voice and know I am fluent. Theres no gaijin accent at all.

            I grew up here, many people concider me Japanese. Often, even though I am korean born, I am refered to as nihonjin. People don’t think of the difference because I look Japanese, I am fluent, I grew up here. I am one with the same as everyone around me.

            So you sir and the most ignorant person I have ever read. Its sad that because perhapse you experience racism (your negative ways, probably are not so emersed in Japanese society) attracts it. Just because you experience, doesnt mean when others don’t you have any right to call them names. How does that make you a better person at all…..

            which means your someone who is trying to sickeningly pressure people into hating Japan and beliving your ideas, similar to debito.

    • Jim 29 May 2012 at 1:40 pm Permalink

      Have you visited 2ch.net? It is the premier internet forum for native Japanese speakers, and its denizens have been known to express their views as to long-term ethnic Korean residents of Japan from time to time.
      Also, many of my Japanese friends have made choice remarks unsolicited on the subject of such individuals. Of course, they’d never make such remarks in your presence knowingly.
      I am totally on the same page with you that Japan is the best place to live, it’s awesome, etc., but to deny the social reality is unsustainable in the long-term. You don’t look different so the cops don’t stop you to check your bike isn’t stolen, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get the same promotion opportunities in your job as Mr. Yamamoto. You’ll have to work harder and be better to get the same opportunities.

  15. Alyse 23 May 2012 at 2:27 am Permalink

    Hi Loco!
    I’ve been reading your series on this Gaijin Clash, and though I haven’t commented before (I’m really not so eloquent when it comes to typing out my opinions, but I do love a good conversation on the topic), I really wanted to share this video that I found on the subject of racism. It’s from Great Britain (not sure if it’s BBC though), and it’s an exercise to bring out the racism in a group of people who probably would not consider themselves racist. And I think it really relates to what you were writing about in the post where people can, or refuse, to see the micro-aggression or racism in Japan and in other countries (on a side note: it really annoys me when people go on that tyrant that Japan is soo much less racist than the West, it’s a grossly inaccurate idea to perpetuate, especially in the way that it belittles Western countries that have been taking steps to move beyond racism. I don’t see Japan with any non-Japanese city leaders :/).

    Anyway, if you have time, check it out and let me know your thoughts:

    Take Care 🙂

    • Neil 23 May 2012 at 2:08 pm Permalink

      I don’t see a lot of countries with non-country born leader. Thats not racism. How many have applied?

      America is one of the most racist places on earth. Typical white people love defending their own country, but when they come to Asian country they get a small amount of discrimination and blow it up as if they are so innocent and know eveyrthing.

      • Alyse 24 May 2012 at 2:04 am Permalink

        Hi Neil,

        Seems to me like you’re getting a tad emotional, and I’m sure you have your reasons, but before you go off making assumptions, just try a little research?

        I am not white, I’m actually African American, so I get to be a minority no matter where I go (I don’t even think I’d be welcome in Africa, even if I knew where my genes were from). You, on the other hand, got a little taste of being a minority (the bullying and ostracization), then moved on to blending in with the majority, and now get to tone police other minorities for the ostracization they feel. Being in the majority must be a real mind trip.

        I don’t think what happened to you is justifiable or right in anyway obviously, and I’m definitely not going to be the one to say to you ‘you’re wrong for feeling the way you do about America because I don’t agree with you.’ Fortunately, that’s not how objectivity works. I realize American AND Japan have problems with racism, but at least in America, it is out in the open and there is forum for discussion in a myriad of places as well as steps to fight against it. In Japan, it’s subversive and leaves people feeling utterly ignored and helpless (and not just non-Japanese minorities, women also face discrimination and a sickeningly high level of objectification), just the way you felt in your school days I’m sure.

        And before you go on the American pride thing, I’ve never felt a need to defend America until I moved here. These attacks on what America has not achieved compared to Japan, really shows how little people know about American history and how much WORSE it used to be.

        America ain’t perfect, but it’s getting better, while Japan isn’t perfect, but has created a facade where it can be implied that they are. :/

        Also, before you go to the ‘you don’t know any real Japanese people or you don’t speak Japanese so you haven’t tried,’ my husband is Japanese, I have an advanced level of Japanese (without any schooling) and most of my friends are Japanese. And unsurprisingly, they agree with me.

        Take care.

        • Dave 24 May 2012 at 7:05 pm Permalink

          I agree, and besides, Neil’s argument ” that a country is good, because another is doing even worse” is pretty poor to start with.
          But it’s easy to see where it comes from, and why he “fights” to deny what exist in reality. He was probably shocked by the events of his childhood and since he found peace here, he doesn’t want to dig any deeper and reacts very emotionally (like the Canadian girl in the video, which is of course in denial herself) to those who do.

          The fact is that even putting aside ancient connections (like Koreans moving to this archipelago during glaciation or some notable marriages even in the imperial family’s history) in the last few decades mixed couples formed by Japanese Males and Korean Womens have sprouted a big amount of “mixed” children which have a Japanese family names, given names and Fathers, and thus are considered 100% native Japanese by anyone unaware of how the original family was formed.
          Yes among those that “know”, there could be the eventual racist which would still consider such children as not 100% japanese, but their luck stands in that not everybody knows, and they are generally treated as Japanese.
          Now, I’m sure that Neil’s close friends are not racists (we all know not all Japanese are luckily enough), and even if there would be people “making comments” behind his back, they certainly won’t do so in front of him (being polite and all), but outside of his “circle” I bet he can often benefit from such “blend in” factor, in a similar fashion as mixed Japanese-Korean kids enjoy.
          A Kankokujin with the right physical traits and perfect japanese (many Korean immigrants tend to have no accent whatsoever, ahh the envy! ;^_^) which dresses and acts like them, can be easily mistaken for a Japanese.
          Now I bet (correct me if I’m wrong) that when scouting japan alone, our friend Neil doesn’t wear a shirt with a Korean flag on it saying “僕は韓国人です!!”, and tries to blend in as much as possible instead.

          It would be great for those that are somewhat “excluded” from racist behaviors (such as young blu eyed princess and people that can “blend perfectly in” and pass “unnoticed”) to at least acknowledge that those that are sometimes victims of racism in Japan, aren’t all drunken caucasians or drug smuggling Black people (or caucasians of course) but pretty decent persons which cannot blend in and disappear in any way.

          For those sometimes victims of unacceptance episodes though, it would be great to distinguish where our behavior has been in violation of local rules/customs/common sense (which might differ largely from ours) and thus we get “the eye” (or worse) the same way a local would’ve got (even acting in a too familiar manner too soon is considered unacceptable here).
          Sometimes it isn’t even a question of “race” but “being foreigners” instead. They in fact reserve the same treatment to children of japanaese immigrants, who grew up elsewhere and don’t speak nor act japanese (even though born from a 100% japanese couple, I knew a guy from Canada that exactly matched this profile).
          Anyway we should try to expose only what’s truly wrong and has nothing to do with cultural differences (or at least not call the latter “racism” since “race” is not the determinant there).

          This brings credibility, and takes away “arguments” to the people who not only is excluded from racists behaviors, but don’t even wanna acknowledge the problem exist for others, as such an idea would disrupt their “never never land” image of the island.

          It would also help to better determine the “size” of (true) racism in Japan. Again a difficult task in a country with a godzillion quirks, rules and customs, but a worthy one indeed…

        • Neil 24 May 2012 at 9:43 pm Permalink

          American people confuse so many things as racism.

          Racism is full hate because your skin colour.

          Theres too many things people complain about in the gaijin community, and it really really sickens me. Usually its the white people who come here for a short time, try to apply their american views here, but it doesnt work out, so they get shut out of society.

          The following is not racism.

          kicking someone out for not speaking same language

          someone not being able to get insurance because not a citizen.

          someone not being able to beocme presedent because not born here. I think gaijin love to mention this one, ‘how many white people are in goverment’. I am sure none, you have to be born in Japan to do that. Why complaining. I love how people who have NOTHING to do with politics complain about non-Japanese not being in the goverment system. When they have no idea about anything in that feild. I am sure these people don’t even know what is even require to become a presedent even in their own country.

          Being asked strange questions isn’t racism either, thats being minority. And people all over the globe do it. Gaijin who come to Japan do it all the time. Thats ignorance. Not racism.

          I am emotional because gaijin keep on saying theres racism, but they never give examples of the racism, the full situation, or what they did about it.

          People also LOVE to whipe out that race card, and only a small percent of the time, its actually supposed to come out. Most of the time, its a westerner wondering why their western power doesn’t apply here.

          Such as western guys being kicked out of bars, if they can’t speak Japanese, its unwanted. Thats not raicsm, thats language discrimination. Thats Japan, not america. We speak Japanese here, so its expected to speak Japanese. But if someones kicked out of somewhere, speaks fluent Japanese, nothing wrong, then thats raicsm. If that happens to someone, they should go about complaining.

          • Locohama 24 May 2012 at 11:14 pm Permalink

            I consider myself very tolerant of people who’s experience, education and language deficiency puts them at a distinct disadvantage in an intelligent conversation, but you take the effing cake….you’re an idiot, Your next comment like this will be your last on this blog.

          • Alyse 25 May 2012 at 1:34 am Permalink

            Since you seem incapable of research and want to hang on to semantics, here’s the definition for racism:

            a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
            a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
            hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

            Or if dictionary definitions aren’t to your liking, Wikipedia can take you a little deeper: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racism

            Racism is not always easy to recognize, and while the term is often abused, that doesn’t we should treat all claims as bullshit. You would think someone with your experience with discrimination would have a better understand. You would definitely not be helping any other children suffering from mistreat in school (American or Japanese, a few years ago a half-Japanese half-Filipino girl, either elementary school or middle, hung herself because of bullying at school).

            But you’re probably too deep in your own bullshit to smell your way out. I feel sorry for you 🙁

          • kamo 25 May 2012 at 12:18 pm Permalink

            Dear Neil,

            I gave an example. Your thoughts please.

            Love n’ kisses,

            P.S. Have some more rope.

          • Neil 27 May 2012 at 2:29 pm Permalink

            Again, I am not saying that it doesn’t exist. But its never happened to me at all. I can’t help it if something has not happened to me yet here.

            Its annoying, theres foringers who complain that they get racism all the time, and those that don’t at all.

            I can’t figure out the reason. The gaijin who don’t get racism all say the same thing, they belive the other gaijin are being rude, or not fluent in Japanese.

            Sorry if you can’t speak the language then it will be an issue, you will be removed from places. We can’t do buisness with no language skills in English.

            But if your polite, speak the language, nothing wrong, and someone comes up to you and says something hateful because of the colour of your skin, thats raicsm.

            _That should be dealt with.

          • Arturo 7 June 2012 at 5:45 am Permalink

            I’m sorry to disagree here, but “kicking someone out for not speaking same language” (I assume this refers to a customer politely asked to leave a public establishment because he cannot speak Japanese) and “someone not being able to get insurance because not a citizen” are not only blatant examples of discriminating behaviour, which in most countries would bring hefty penalties for the publican or the insurer involved (up to the loss of their license), but also bad business practices.

            If you own a public place, be it a “bar”, a “snakku” an “izakaya” or some other kind of place that serves food and/or drinks to customers, you wouldn’t want to chase customers away, particularly in the current business climate. Any shop owner who doesn’t realize that trimming his customer base is a sure way to ward off potential “trouble” doesn’t know what “trouble” means. Sure, one or two hapless foreign would-be customers, when faced with the familiar arms-up-crossed gesture, could shrug their shoulders and take their money elsewhere, but what if there are a lot of them around, and they are the ones with money to spend, while the locals can’t go out drinking as often as they used to because they were “restructured” or simply laid off by their employers?

            Insurers are struggling too, and refusing to even consider an application from somebody who, despite having a steady job and a family, happens to hold the “wrong” passport, could be seen as suicidal in these times.

            So if you thing they’re doing nothing wrong, think again. They’re digging themselves into a big hole, and so do you until you’ll start peeling the thick layers of denial your mind seems to be wrapped into.

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

    Wow…so much anger.

    I wonder, though, if there is any room for objectivity in this debate based on how quickly people get angry over the subject matter? Should there even be room for objectivity since the issue strikes so close to one’s personal experiences?

    While I may not agree with some of your opinions or even your reactions, Baye, I have to say, I admire the fact that you’re genuinely wrestling with this question and aren’t afraid to continually reshape your thoughts on the subject.

    • Locohama 25 May 2012 at 2:39 pm Permalink

      Thanks Mew…objectivity about what? Not sure what you mean… And who’s anger are you referring to? Everyone’s? Anyone in particular? Which opinions do / don’t you agree with, and why? Get into it, Mew…don’t sit on the sidelines in silent admiration. Any intelligent objective or even subjective opinions are welcomed, and seem pretty level headed. So add on to the cipher

      • Mew 26 May 2012 at 3:36 am Permalink

        An objective stance as in stepping away from one’s own experience with racism and instead focusing on making conclusions based far more on others’ experiences. Somewhat like a scientist observing the behavior of say horned toads in the Mojave desert (although yes, that is an extreme example).

        Regarding anger, oy where to start with the examples. At least three comments above have brought up the subject of anger and emotion when talking about discussing the subject of racism. Interactions between rile, chris, dave and neil…and most notably, the sentence “something’s got to give” within the blog post are the examples that leapt out to me immediately as indicating a good amount of tension (yes, with some diffusing).

        But that I say people are angry isn’t a criticism as it is an observation. And as I’ve observed it, I naturally have to ask why it’s like that by bringing up the alternative. There are enough opinions floating around, so I’m bringing in a question 🙂

        I’ve been discussing this subject in so many different kinds of forums (both irl and online) for years and it just occurred to me that 1) there are definite patterns to the way the discussions go and 2) there aren’t too many subjects that can fuel so much passion and expose diversity in thinking/logic. I figured you, Baye, have also been digging deeply into this issue for years, so I would ask your thoughts (and welcome others’) on just how objective one can be in these discussions.

        PS Considering all the attention you seem to get, I also wasn’t expecting a reply so I kept it short.

        • Locohama 26 May 2012 at 10:13 am Permalink

          Ohhhhh that anger lol. Thanks for the response. And if you give a thoughtful reply that warrants a reply you can rest assured I’ll get to it sooner than later. Positively Provocative and it’ll probably be sooner.
          As for your question, I don’t do objective well. I’m living this ish. So are many people. Total objectivity is probably impossible. Dont thinkive read anything written by someone who has dealt with anything personally that was 100% objective perhaps Half assed objectivity can be achieved but why do anything halfassed lol.
          I think YIU can be subjective and constructive at the same time if you can manage to back up from it a little or keep some perspective. I endeavor to but fail at times. Loco in Yokohama is basically a catalogue of both the failures and successes.

  17. Tony Dolan 29 May 2012 at 9:30 pm Permalink

    The “magical unicorn” video was one of the most idiotic things I’ve seen on the Internet.

  18. Hiko 1 June 2012 at 1:02 am Permalink

    Hey man, I’m overdue a comment here, so let’s go!

    Right, first up, sacrifices and white Canadian girls. Am I a lot like the white Canadian girl on the video. Yes. Only I have less hair. And have I made some sacrifices/compromises to have a life here? Yes. Am I unfit to rejoin the outside world? Quite possibly. I don’t think you need to set this up as a Japanese vs Gaijin thing either – Japanese society is a pressure cooker society that relies on compromise and sacrifice for its own members to fit in. There are just as many if not more Japanese who throw up their hands and board planes screaming while fleeing to other countries as there are foreigners with broken dreams and stunted unwatered bonsai trees left behind.

    Whether or not those who make the sacrifices are “man enough” to do it, or “delusional sell outs” is totally up to the subjective interpretation of the individual. While in the exhausting psychological process of adaptation in my first couple of years here, I’ll admit, my mantra was “go hard or go home” – and I applied that to how I looked at and judged others. And in doing so, I got the opposite view back. I’ve mellowed out a lot since then, but when you are going through intense stress, depression, exhileration at times, and riding that roller coaster of trying to figure this country at, the mindset you apply has a lot to do with the outcome you get. And again, this goes for nihonjins as well as gaijins. In the end of the day, I think I end up looking at Japan as a woman. She’s got a whole lot of flaws, and is demanding that you sacrifice to stay married to her. Some people accept the price and find contentment in their relationship with Japan. Others can’t see past her many ugly flaws and leave. Some people manage to fit, others don’t. I don’t think being one way or the other is a reflection on the character or quality of the person any more, although in my early years I’ll admit that is certainly how I looked at things.

    What I’ve learned and become willing to accept is that people can experience the same things differently. And this is influenced by our race, but just as much by other factors such as our personality, our upbringing, and our collective life experience.

    One other random thought that you raised yourself in our first conversation that stuck with me as valid. When I mentioned my admiration for Japan as a country that had achieved some level of success in comparison to western powers while successfully resisting being colonized, you made a great counterpoint – “Yes, but it’s also disappointing that in spite of that, many in Japan still buy into the same world view of the colonial powers that they resisted”. And that’s true, most embarrassingly and self consciously for me, in the positive discrimination that whites often benefit from in Japan. I don’t think cases of positive discrimination are exclusive to whites, I’m sure you’ve experienced it yourself on occasion – but I know that I had Taiwanese, Iranian and Korean classmates who were as qualified or better qualified than me at Japanese and other professional skills who came to Japan, and I had doors open that they didn’t get. I’ve seen people who I consider my academic and intellectual peers take jobs working in kitchens in Japan when I was putting on a suit (although frankly, in the beginning, still not getting paid much more than them….) It made me feel guilty about taking advantage of favoritism, but not for long. If I stand on principle and reject the opportunities that open up to me, that I also worked hard for, someone else will take them. Part of the reason I tolerate BS here is perhaps out of a self consciousness of how unfairly good I also can have it here at the same time.

    Japan’s not perfect, but it has been good to me, and that colours my perception in these debates. On to the next chapter!

    • Locohama 1 June 2012 at 3:02 pm Permalink

      Hey Hiko! Thanks for chiming in yo.
      Yeah…yesterday when I was responding to a comment I wrote this long ass reply using a woman as a metaphor for japan. My woman was a bit more complex that yours though. Lol but the more I wrote the more she became the kind of woman no one would believe I got involved with in the first place. I think I described her as very attractive like a model with the makeup on, Laughed at my jokes, loved to cook and clean and did so with zest, was was adequate in bed. Her drawback was she feared and mistrusted men. Nothing personal, I just happened to be a man and thus was on her shit list. Seems her great great grand mother was gang raped by a posse and came to fear men as a species, and passed that along to her descendants. And to make it worse she wasnt even aware of this affliction so when I would point out that she was being irrational when she demanded that i limit my guys night out to once a decade instead of once a year, she would go into a tirade about how i dont understand her and don’t respect her feelings….
      She what I mean…it started getting unwieldy lol
      That’s to say I feel you on sacrifices and compromises being necessary…especially in matters of the heart.
      I too have made quite a few concessions for japan.
      My point was, while sacrifices and compromises are needed fo certain things (ideally) shouldn’t be on the table. Should non-negotiable. I’m not going to let this woman tell me I can’t see my friends but every 10 years. Who the fuck does she think she is. Cuz she has some trauma dating back a hundred years that she didn’t even suffer personally I gotta stay under lock and key?? Unacceptable!
      Sorry I’m at work…I’ll get back to this response. Or maybe I’ll append the rest to second comment on the following post, part 4

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