lifestyle

5 reasons foreigners find it hard to become friends with Japanese people

194 Comments
By Mike

With all the controversy surrounding a recent “racist” All Nippon Airlines ad, the Japanese and Western media have both been abuzz with the question of whether foreign people can ever truly become respected Japanese citizens – accepted by their community and deemed worthy of the right to not be the recipient of extraordinary treatment.

But this conversation has been going on a long, long time in the expat community in Japan, with a lot of otherwise Japanophile foreigners finding it hard to befriend the Japanese on a higher-than-acquaintance level. Why? Well, frequent source of opinion and cultural commentary Madame Riri has compiled a few of the reasons:

The “Gaijin Card”

The so-called “Gaijin Card” is a much-talked about wildcard that foreigners can use to gain instant forgiveness for cultural transgressions in Japan. The famously confrontation-averse Japanese will go to great lengths to avoid having a lengthy or complicated conversation with people in English, which means feigning ignorance of the Japanese language or Japanese etiquette can net you all kinds of bonuses in social situations that a regular Japanese person wouldn’t get.

But the Gaijin Card is a two-way street: No matter how hard you try to assimilate into Japanese culture, you will forever be a perpetual “other.” The word gaijin, in fact, is a slightly derogatory but universally accepted label for foreigners in Japan that essentially means “outsiders”, and the Japanese will never stop calling you one no matter how close your relationship or how long you’ve been a resident. There is a whole category of Japanese people that foreign exchange students and long-term expats refer to as “Gaijin Hunters;” Japanese that go out of their way to befriend foreigners, typically for self-serving purposes like free English lessons, street cred, or Hollywood movie-style romance, whether that’s a fair label or not.

Comparatively rare, however, is the Japanese person who will treat you like just another human being. Foreigners must constantly endure having their “outside-ness” “discussed openly in conversation, and I’ve had more than one friendship crumble upon learning a Japanese “friend” had actually been keeping me around for the free English lessons.

The constant praise

On the surface, this seems like something everybody would want. It feels great when people earnestly praise your language skills, your exotic looks, and your unique skill set. It’s another thing entirely when people constantly compliment your most rudimentary skills like using chopsticks and saying “thank you” in Japanese.

These little backhanded compliments are referred to in sociology by the relatively new term of “Microaggressions.” Essentially, when a Japanese person compliments your basic chopstick use or your above-average pronunciation of rudimentary Japanese phrases, asks, “When will you go back to your home country?” or, “Do you like Japanese women?,” these people are essentially re-affirming your “otherness;” Confirming their own stereotypes about foreigners while at the same time presenting it in a complimentary fashion that feels difficult to refute or take offense to.

The mystery

While you feel conflicted about stereotyping the Japanese right after several paragraphs of complaining about the Japanese stereotyping other people, it really does feel like the Japanese tend to mince words. It’s difficult being friends with a person who never truly tells directly how they feel or what they think. The Japanese language, in fact, lends itself perfectly to dodging around giving your true opinion on something, with phrases such as, “sore ha chotto…” (“Well, that’s a little…”) being readily accepted in the lexicon as a legitimate rejection of an offer. No reason ever need be given to reject or accept an invitation or opinion, often leaving foreigners scratching their heads about their Japanese friends’ true intentions and feelings.

The constant planning

Again, to step into stereotype territory, the Japanese seem to be “planners.” That is, you often must go through lengthy e-mail and phone exchanges to settle on an exact time and place to meet your Japanese friend, and sometimes the ultimate meeting time can be months on the horizon. On the other hand, I’ve been the recipient of a fair amount of Japanese frustration because, as a Midwestern American, I tend to plan things off the cuff; sometimes at the very last minute or at the spur of the moment. That’s just how I roll. But I find this often clashes with the methodical nature of planning social gatherings in Japan.

Is either way right or wrong? No. But are the two styles compatible? Uh… Not really, and many foreigners find this lack of flexibility hard to stomach.

It takes time

When I was in college, I found it incredibly easy to strike up a conversation with another student in line at the food court or sitting next to each other in class. After a few short exchanges, a friendship seemed to instantly sprout up out of the ether. Soon enough, I’d be seeing the same people at parties and hosting them in my disgusting college-boy “apartment” (probably classified by normal people as a “disaster area”).

In Japan, striking up a conversation is easy enough, but it takes months or even years for that first contact to bloom into a substantial relationship. This goes back to the deeply-ingrained Japanese philosophy of “uchi” and “soto;” Essentially, close co-workers, family members and long-term friends are “uchi” (“inside”) and everyone else is “soto” (“outside”). Working your way up from soto to uchi thus takes a very long time and a lot of favor giving-and-taking.

This all isn’t to say that meaningful relationships with Japanese people is impossible. On the contrary, I’ve had Japanese friends run to my aid in times of need when other Western friends seemed mysteriously absent. On the one hand, close friendships with Japanese people are extremely rewarding and almost always last a lifetime, but on the other hand, getting to that point can quite frankly be a pain in the ass.

Source: Madame Riri

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Are Japan’s efforts at internationalization succeeding or not? -- 7 odd and uniquely Japanese restaurant experiences -- Why Foreign Guys in Japan Get So Many Girls

© RocketNews24

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

194 Comments
Login to comment

I’ve had more than one friendship crumble upon learning a Japanese “friend” had actually been keeping me around for the free English lessons.

Then why don't you speak Japanese with them? Ever thought that you are keeping them around because it's easier to speak in English to them?

Is either way right or wrong? No. But are the two styles compatible? Uh… Not really, and many foreigners find this lack of flexibility hard to stomach.

Hahahahaha! Which "lack of flexibility" the Japanese or their own??? Anyone else think this is the dumbest, most hypocritical thing you've read for a while?

On the one hand, close friendships with Japanese people are extremely rewarding and almost always last a lifetime, but on the other hand, getting to that point can quite frankly be a pain in the ass.

I would say that is more a reflection on you than anyone else. Despite what most people on here might think, I have no problem making friends, Japanese or foreign.

Whoever wrote this garbage has issues far greater than the us versus them scenario running through their head.

-6 ( +25 / -31 )

This article is pretty accurate for the most part. I'd add a couple of more points:

  • Different interests

We are generally interested in different things. The type of English-speaking foreigner to uproot and come to a country like Japan is not your typical conformist, while the typical Japanese is a conformist. And having grown up in different cultures, we often have different priorities and interests. So even when we can break through the various barriers to be in a position to be friends, often the person isn't necessarily someone we would choose to be friends with. This isn't a negative thing - everyone has the right to be interested whatever they like. But it's a definite barrier to making close friendships.

  • Small homes

In many western countries, it's common to invite someone over to your home to become better friends. It may be for a dinner party, or just to have a few drinks, or watch tv. But Japan does not have this custom of having people over to one's home, at least not nearly to the degree to which it is done in the west. So when going out with others, it always involves having to get ready and go out somewhere, and is not casual hanging out around the house. This also means that you can't just ring someone up and say 'hey, I'm in the neighborhood, mind if I drop by for a bit?'. This ties in with the 'planning' item mentioned in the article.


The point this article misses is that this isn't an exclusively foreign/Japanese thing. The Japanese also have difficulties making friendships with each other, which is why most people's friends are still those who they met in their school days. I've seen articles in Japanese of a similar vein.

36 ( +40 / -4 )

From a woman's point of view, I find it difficult to form and maintain friendships with Japanese women because their interests and world views are incredibly narrow, and they actively avoid discussing social issues or politics, or in fact just about any topic that doesn't revolve around shopping and travel. Later on, when they become mothers, they become totally absorbed with childrearing and domestic matters to the exclusion of all else, but actually that happens with my non-Japanese friends, too.

The few good Japanese friends I have are regarded as oddballs by their peers (which probably says a lot about me!).

34 ( +44 / -10 )

Honestly I think this is a Tokyo thing. The Osaka people I meet are much more open. Tokyo has a deep-seated sickness in how work-addicted culture here has become. People say foreigners need to respect it, but honestly screw that. Tokyo is the most screwed up place on Earth.

29 ( +40 / -11 )

I always know where I stand here. It's pretty clear that I am a foreign "friend" to all of the Japanese people I know. They never invite me anywhere, never set up anything for us to go out and do and I never see their Japanese friends or family. They see nothing wrong with it and use every excuse as to why the problem is not with them but with you or just plainly ignore it. You can defend them if you like but I know Japan is mostly a covertly racist and biased country where most people don't care about anything that happens to others outside their country. When the devastating earthquakes in New Zealand and Haiti happened, there was barely a peep written or spoken about them, except in the case of some Japanese dying during the New Zealand one. In my opinion, they generally don't care what happens to non-Japanese. People outside of Japan see them as such "nice" people because of the low crime rate (understandably), "shyness" and all that superficial bowing that goes on, etc but my eyes have been wide open since day one. I have gotten ten times better hospitality and made better, quicker friendships in so-called Third World countries than here. They are easily the most predictable people I have ever come across and when I walk out of my house I could narrate what's going to happen on any given day at work or on the bus, train, etc with uncanny accuracy. Like it or not, I am actually happy to see China getting stronger and standing up for themselves against Japan. I hate their government but I have been treated way better by my Chinese friends than by the people here, including my "in-laws". I wanted to be accepted and liked and I really wanted to like this place but many people here go out of their way to remind you you are a foreigner and don't belong and will never truly be accepted every day of the week. You can call me a basher if you want but what you should say is he calls it like he sees it.

22 ( +33 / -11 )

It's another thing entirely when people constantly compliment your most rudimentary skills like using chopsticks

I don't get upset at this, for a couple of reasons. One is chopsticks are not used as cutlery generally in many countries, thus the surprise at the ease with which they are being used. Having said that I hold my chopsticks slightly "wrong". It doesn't stop me from eating too much. Another is said surprise is often a result of the speaker's limited interaction to date with foreigners. It is an honest observation and not intended to be a blow to the foreigner's sense of I've been here for blah blah and oh this is so rudimentary.

I've had more than one friendship crumble upon learning a Japanese "friend" had actually been keeping me around for the free English lessons

The penny drops. Six years of compulsory English education develops a large number of English bandits, many who would rather not pay for it. My advice is to be friends with those who at least mix the two languages in their communcation with you, or who can't be bothered with English but can be with you. This however is dependent on the foreigner actually wanting to speak Japanese, you know, living in Japan and all. I have a couple of foreign friends who have been here for more years than words they can put together in Japanese. Each to their own perhaps, they're having fun.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Cant agree more

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

I wanted to be accepted and liked and I really wanted to like this place but many people here go out of their way to remind you you are a foreigner and don't belong and will never truly be accepted every day of the week.

I hear ya.

6 ( +18 / -12 )

I don't think I'd mind being used for free English lessons. I should imagine it would probably help me to learn Japanese as well, something I'm struggling with at present (due to being the only person I know who speaks any level of Japanese whatsoever). I've typically had difficulty making friends for my whole life, so this would be nothing new to me really. Still, it's worth knowing these points. I might be able to use what I've learned here to help me make Japanese friends a little quicker, even if that means taking five years instead of six.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

I agree with Probie. It's a two-way street.

4 ( +10 / -6 )

Yes, we (foreigners) are always a "gaijin"! I just came back from backpacking in Myanmar for five weeks. Once I got back to Japan. I felt this enormous pressure of once more being treated as a gaijin. I know that this is not openly racist but what's the problem? In Myanmar no one looked at me as a gaijin...I could sit at the same table and no would even flinch. Of course there were a few small kids way out in the villages, even so most of them said "Hello" "Mingalaba" and most of them said it in English too! As soon as I walked up my street back in Japan (I do know many people in this town) but still got those looks or people crossing the street to avoid walking by me. After five weeks of being treated like a person, it really jerked my nerves to be back again!

13 ( +20 / -7 )

Great article. And great feedback by Strangeland .

11 ( +13 / -2 )

Japanese tend to be very nationalistic and foreigners are generally seen as lesser humans. That's the reality. Can you deal with it?? If you are the typical backpacking english teacher, you probably don't care as you are only in Japan for a year or too. But would you want to stay in Japan long term?? I did but then I have never been particularly worried about making friends anyway.

1 ( +14 / -13 )

don't think you are qualified to say anything if you didn't "worry about making friends anyway"

-5 ( +9 / -14 )

interesting article. i live in rural Akita where people think wearing wellingtons is normal behavior. i have tried so hard for 13 years until recently to get on well with my wife's family round the corner but they are usually just polite (sometimes they forget to be polite even, really annoying). i think Japan is the most anal country on the planet and i find it a pain in the ass to live here, but there are good things too of course, same as anywhere. i think most non western countries are fairly xenophobic and racist in their own ways, with maybe a few odd exceptions like Singapore. now i just take the piss out of people and situations that piss me off, just my way of dealing with it. i've never been good at making friends but usually had one or two good mates, but here it's impossible and now i can't be bothered to make an effort an more. even small talk in shops and cafes is too much to ask for. i suspect somewhere like Osaka, where people are reputed to be more lively plus being a big city, might be easier that the peasants here

15 ( +23 / -8 )

Perhaps it is my age, but it seems the author and most who comment are all rather inflexible. I first met students from Japan at my uni in 1977, also studied in Japan that same year knowing NO Japanese, but having a wonderful homestay. Since them i fell in love a couple of times, married, gave birth in Tokyo, gave birth 2 more times in the States, taught English in Tokyo (5 years) and Japanese in Oregon (almost 30 years) at the college and high school levels. I've gone back nearly 20 times, usually escorting students. My husband seems very Japanese; from Wakayama, he even has practiced and taught Shorinji Kempo over 30 years. Still, when asked "what is it like to be married to a gaijin?" He answers "I don't think of her that way. She is a woman, the woman i love." Honestly, people are different of course..... yet whether family in Wakayama or Dublin, friends in Tokyo, Boston, Portland, Kawagoe, or Kyoto, i see them all as people. I make allowances and bend, as does he bamboo, without breaking. They do the same for me. Try it.

22 ( +28 / -6 )

I have a lot of Japanese friends here, but the amount of time I spend with them compared to my non-Japanese friends is far lower.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

In Japan, striking up a conversation is easy enough, but it takes months or even years for that first contact to bloom into a substantial relationship

Completely disagree. In Japan, it is very difficult to get from "stranger" to "friend," but getting from "friend" to "good friend" is much easier than in America. If you speak to a stranger in Japan, they will look at you funny. Heck, even I avoid people who talk to me in Tokyo. However, once you find something in common and have a friendly conversation, there is a certain level of trust. I grew up as a TCK and went back to the US for university. Therefore, I had to start with zero friends. It was really easy to start talking to people. Strangers smile and say hi. I quickly made a lot of "friends," but I discovered they were fairly shallow relationships. I was living in a dorm with 6 guys to a room. We all got along well and after living with them for 2 years, I confided in a roommate that I trusted about a personal problem I was having. I'll never forget his face. Basically, his reaction was "why the heck are you telling me something private?" I realized that the closest friends that people have are usually from high school. It's difficult to reach that level if you're new to the area.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

I once told my Japanese friend that a girl was hot!! He went up and told the girl what I said. We western men have certain codes. A western friend would never tell the girl what I said. It's understood!! My Japanese neighbor, who I drank with, reported me to the landlord because my TV was too loud. Why didn't he tell me directly? I can never be close to Japanese guys. The culture is too different.

11 ( +17 / -6 )

what about the "Kanji Character" writing system, seems alien from other planet, easily distinguishable from Japanese. JP peoples think it is foreigners duty to learn JP language as they are in Japan.

-23 ( +3 / -26 )

Is there something wrong with being identified as a gaijin? I think there are too many white people who are used to having a position at the top of the world (in their own minds) and just can't handle the fact that they will never achieve that in Japan.

I have plenty of Japanese friends and some of them have gone right to the wall to support me. I'd easily trust them with anything. I accept the fact that I'll always be a gaijin and it doesn't bother me a bit.

12 ( +20 / -8 )

Every week, I play a certain sport with a group of local guys. The other week, I got an e-mail from the organizer that said "three foreigners will be coming to tonight's practice".

It was stated very neutrally, but looked a little like an advance warning. Still, I did not take offense, and figured they just wanted people to know. As I have known these guys about 5 years, I could have e-mailed to ask who the guests were, but I decided I would wait and see. I arrived at the gym excited to meet the newcomers. There were only two of them.

That is all you need to know about forming friendships in Japan.

18 ( +23 / -5 )

I arrived at the gym excited to meet the newcomers. There were only two of them.

Ugh. Dude. I've had a few of these punched-in-the-guts moments myself, enough to no longer really bother going out of my way to form friendships with Japanese people. On the other hand, seeing the way they treat each other sometimes makes me glad to be out of the loop.

7 ( +18 / -11 )

I am curious as to the reason for the downvotes. In your country, is it normal to lump people you have known for years with people you have never met before on the basis of their nationality?

3 ( +11 / -8 )

I'm from Okinawa so perhaps my way of making friends is quite different from a Westerner but from my experience I'm often the type of person who this article speaks of. There are many people I meet-- Okinawans, Japanese and other people-- who want to pursue friendships but I am often the one who is more hesitant to open up to people and most of my close friends are those from my high school, and for the aforementioned people who want to hang out I must plan it in advance or else it is too troublesome to bother. While I don't try to divide my friendships by treating them like gaijin or soto, when people don't understand why sometimes my mind is radically different I just say it's a cultural thing and leave it at that. But maybe the biggest reason I am the way I am is because I'm naturally introverted and don't try to make myself stand out in any way.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

I think I would have preferred the title to this article to go this way, how come Japanese find it hard to make friends with foreigners. Foreigners are very accommodating, they can easily adopt, broad minded, true to it's feelings and open hearted...it's easy for us to make freinds, only thing we are not welcomed to do so because of a barrier they create once they face someone not from their own. The problem is within them. They have to learn how to interact and be more open. When they travel abroad or work abroad, they have to make the effort to make freinds with the people of the country, not only of their own kind. I have two awesome best freinds and luckily they're Japanese..they've treated me and their parents like I was their relatives, I'm blessed with that. But then again, let me mention that I befriended them since my kids were in kindergarten..since then I've had no one as close anymore..it stopped from there.

2 ( +11 / -9 )

In your country, is it normal to lump people you have known for years with people you have never met before on the basis of their nationality?

Yeah, sometimes. We'll have three French guys at tonight's practice. Yeah, could see myself saying that even if it included a good French guy I've known for years, depends on the context.

So, you class this as a bad thing that happened to you? Basically I adopt the same attitude described by hidingout.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

Yeah, could see myself saying that even if it included a good French guy I've known for years, depends on the context.

I could possible imagine mentioning three French guys at (say) tonight's wine tasting session, or three New Zealand guys at (say) tomorrow's rugby match. But three foreigners? Seriously, you say that? Nope. Wouldn't fly, not where I come from.

6 ( +13 / -7 )

The Japanese people I know and am friends with I have known for years. I don't care about the praise over using chopsticks, or how I pronounce things... I often turn it back on them and we laugh. I don't have a chip on my shoulder as a foreigner in Japan... I know I am different from 99% of the people I see when I am there. Fat, bald British people are probably a rarity in Tokyo I imagine, lol

Back to the point, and no, I don't find it hard to make friends with Japanese people. We have some of the same interests in common, such as music, some hobbies... stuff like that. All it takes is finding common ground and a great friendship can grow. It's articles like this that keep pushing the "Japanese are different" angle...

13 ( +15 / -2 )

Well..I make a few jp friends during the 2 years here, invited them over my place for lunch. Not too close but yet could go down a bit personal.. I agreed that it's not easy and need a lot of effort and you need to take the first step.. 2nd...3rd......at times I just lost interest. Most of them whom I know are mothers and they don't show much interest in getting to know you better. To be frank I find them rather boring...their conversation is so narrow though I could only understand and speak simple jp. They don't even try to speak a word of English...hopefully..hopefully I'll able to see some changes in the future......

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

@tessa

True. But that's a cultural difference. "Foreigners" is a convenient grouping, i.e. people you'd expect to speak English. That's just the way people here see it. No worse than the way some Brits use "Europe" to refer to all of Europe except the British Isles.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

Foreigners are very accommodating...The problem is within them. They have to learn how to interact .... they have to make the effort

I'm so glad you didn't sink to facile stereotypes.

-1 ( +10 / -11 )

'In Japan, striking up a conversation is easy enough, but it takes months or even years for that first contact to bloom into a substantial relationship. This goes back to the deeply-ingrained Japanese philosophy of “uchi” and “soto;” Essentially, close co-workers, family members and long-term friends are “uchi” (“inside”) and everyone else is “soto” (“outside”). Working your way up from soto to uchi thus takes a very long time and a lot of favor giving-and-taking.'

My closest friendship at work is with a female Japanese translator who often tells we bleating gaijin to remember that she by virtue of her gender and job is also 'outside' the male-dominated Japanese inner circle at work. She reminds us of park mums and suicidal children bullied at school when someone decides to have a moan about how he/she feels excluded. She has a point.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

I'll probably make some enemies here with this but here goes.

Some people find it hard to make friends because of the language barrier. I often meet people who think they are great at Japanese, but really aren't. A few months ago I met a guy complaining about how hard it was to get on with Japanese even though he was great at the language, but really the way he talked, his word usage etc was just so different that it would be hard for Japanese to feel comfortable with him. So it would be difficult to really be not seen as a foreigner and be on the same relationship level as another Japanese.

But let's face it, I know literally dozens of Japanese and other Asians who went to study and live in western countries and it wasn't like they had loads of friends.

But how many really intimate friends do people have anyway. Most people have acquaintances.

Having said that, if you have things in common it gets easier. Kids going to the same school, the same routine and goals at a gym.

And I think some of you are expecting a little too much. I often catch myself looking at my reflection when I'm in a department store and scare myself with how "gaijin" or different I look. I think I'll always be different. But even my wife will always think of me as a foreigner. That's understandable. I am!

If I see foreigners they stand out to me, and often if I see someone from behind I know they aren't Japanese just by the way they walk.

iow, most of us ARE different. And if it's any consolation, lots of Japanese people never fit in if they go and live in a completely different part of Japan either. But again, there are people who have been in Australia for decades who will still be seen as Kiwis or Pommies. And even if Piers Morgan got citizenship in twenty years people will still always see him as different.

japanese are great. They think a little differently, but .....that's because they're Japanese. Funny eh?

oh, and I have plenty of Japanese people I get on with so well, including ones who stay over way too long into the morning.

PS drinking with japanese is always a good way to get talking.

11 ( +16 / -5 )

It's a two-way street indeed, as the article itself points out at least once, but alas it is about foreigners making friends with Japanese, so the focus is more on one side than the other.

I have no problem making friends, and have no problem with most of five ways mentioned above, but the microaggressions to get me from time to time. I realize that it is an easy 'in' for strangers to strike up a conversation, but ultimately it is intended, if not subliminally, to confirm in the minds of the speaker that YOU are an outsider while they are not. I used chopsticks for YEARS in Canada before coming here, and in fact I know the proper placement and position (many hold them like a kid holding a pencil on the fourth finger might) you should hold them in where most people I encounter in Japan do not. Do I get upset when it's pointed out, "Oh, Jouzu!! You can use chopsticks!"? no, but I do wish they would get new material sometimes. More than that, though, I DO once in a while get upset about the 'Gaijin' thing. Not the term itself -- I really don't care at all what people call me -- but it bothers me when Japanese people recount their overseas travel and talk about all the 'gaijin' in the country they went to. I usually come back at them with a, "Over there, YOU were the gaijin, just so you know" or something like that as a point of order.

These days I also usually refuse, or politely say, "Yeah, sounds good. Some time let's do that" or even, "Sore ha chotto...", when asked to attend dinners or parties with people I hardly know. Not because of the inevitable "You can use chopsticks!" that will come out, but because these things often tend to be arranged in what ends up being a Q&A session where people ask you questions one by one that they would not ask themselves in a public setting or even in front of each other like that.

So again, yes, it's a two-way street, but it would be nice if the other side of the street didn't ride over into the other lane assuming the road is all theirs, be it the 'gaijin' or the Japanese.

4 ( +10 / -6 )

See I don't get the big deal about chopsticks. I understand it seems funny if you get complimented on it, but nobody knows that you used them for years.

"

but I do wish they would get new material sometime

see it's not THEY! It's different Japanese who meet you. And the next time they meet a foreigner they might meet one who doesn't like chopsticks or can't use them very well.

I think we are all just a little too sensitive. Most times Japanese are just trying to come up with something to say that's nice. Being complimented on chopsticks is better than having to put up with "Oh yeah Australian English. It's a good day to die hahaha".

If Japanese could all read this page of comments they'd probably give up trying to be friendly as they'd be too scared of saying something that offends someone.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

If Japanese could all read this page of comments they'd probably give up trying to be friendly as they'd be too scared of saying something that offends someone.

Hah! If Japanese could read (and comprehend) this page of comments, it wouldn't have become an issue in the first place.

-3 ( +11 / -14 )

@dave trousers "Yeah, sometimes. We'll have three French guys at tonight's practice. Yeah, could see myself saying that even if it included a good French guy I've known for years, depends on the context."

Fair enough in 'in certain contexts'. If Raul always turned up for soccer every week for years, I guess you could say "John is bring a couple of Spanish friends tonight, so they'll be three Spaniards at practice", and it is not at all offensive, although in English, I don't think anyone talks like this.

But, in this situation, the context is sending an e-mail out to all the members of the team saying, without any further elaboration, "Three Spanish people will be coming to night". At least where I come from, that is very strange and likely to be interpreted as meaning 3 new guys are turning up. It's a question of politeness, since you would never refer to a friend in this way. It's also a question of logic - why do the members need to be informed that the guy they see every week is going to play?

In any case, it attitude shown in the e-mail is borne out by actual behavior. When hanging out with a group of locals and new overseas people arrive, I find the locals expect me to form a clique with the new arrivals and away from themselves. The naturally assumed dynamic is a division on the basis on nationality, irrespective of who has known whom for how long.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

The instant way to become friends with any Japanese person: オヤジギャグ

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Japan has its fair share of racism like any country in the world but I think its fair to say, especially due to nihonjinron (discourse on Japanese-ness) philosophy, Japan is a little more ethnocentric at times. That said, these kind of stereotypes are just as bad as those some Japanese hold.

I think the key to any relationship is communication and compromise. Obviously language is the biggest hurdle initially but accepting and respecting cultural differences is just as important if not more. I think not being able to strike a balance culturally can be one the main reasons friendship can end up stagnating.

As mentioned many people feel and or experience not being fully accepted into society but this article fails to really expand on that. To understands this I think it is best to look at the law. Firstly, birth certificates, currently there is no other option other than Japanese or Non-Japanese. There is such thing as dual-nationality (when you reach a certain age must decide which nationality to take on) or state recognition for Japans minorities which plays into the nihonjinron mentality. In addition to this, naming your child a completely Non-Japanese name will bar them for Japanese citizenship. Secondly, naturalization, if you choose to naturalize you wont have to get a visa again and you can give yourself some kanji for your name if you like (a bit weird that one but each to their own) but one thing you would be able in others countries upon doing so is vote, which sadly you will never be able to do. I respect that with a written constitution change is difficult to bring about but I feel anyone who contributes to society, in turn, should also be able to contribute democratic decision. I feel the unbending nature of the current law impose a very them and us image whether or not this influences the greater proportion of society or not, its certainly doesn`t foster multiculturalism.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

naming your child a completely Non-Japanese name will bar them for Japanese citizenship.

They are not barred, they just have to choose a name written in Japanese when they choose Japanese citizenship.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

You can choose any name you want, it just needs to be able to be written in Japanese. Big difference there...

1 ( +4 / -3 )

first of all, when you say "foreigner", who are you guys talking about? to put "foreigners" in one category, to me, is silly.. at the same time, to put "Japanese" people in one category is also very silly.

when "foreigners" say Japanese people are not interesting to talk to, they have narrow view, have you thought that it might be because you don't speak Japanese and they don't speak your language well enough so that they simply cannot express what they want to say? Not being able to express is totally different from not thinking/interested. when Japanese people ask those "standard questions", it's not because they don't have anything else to talk about but it's that they are still making the effort to talk to you but they just don't have the language ability to ask whatever they really want to ask..

when you have this attitude of "can't make friends with Japanese", people can actually feel that and you are automatically creating a wall between you and your potential friends.

also, when foreigners complain about being gaijin and always gaijin.. I don't think it's just a Japanese thing.. when I lived in Australia, I was always a "gaijin"... It didn't mean I wasn't welcomed, I had fun and enjoyed my time there, but the fact I was not Australian wasn't to change. People always said my accent was "cute" (rolling eyes) and they always said WOW you speak good English after several sentences I spoke LOL just like you say a few words in Japanese and get a compliment in Japan.. same thing.

in my daughter's school, there was this American mom who enjoyed talking and laughing with all other moms (Japanese moms) and she was very popular.. yes, she spoke good Japanese, but more than anything, everyone knew she liked Japan - she and the family left Japan several years, but many of those moms still keep in touch with her and we send her Japanese goodies from time to time (new years, birthday, etc etc) .. yes she is/was a gaijin mom but she had no problem being a gaijin (like I had no problem being a gaijin in Australia and in the U.S... I lived in both countries... and even in Japan, though I grew up in Japan, because I am 1/2 French, I look gaijin.. but I have no problem when people see me as a gaijin because I am part gaijin anyways!).

oh, and

three foreigners will be coming to tonight's practice".

as much as you might think this is negative, this, I think, was meant to be very positive. i think they mentioned "foreigners" so more people would be interested in coming to the practice... Japanese people love to be friends with foreigners believe it or not...

their ability to communicate is a whole different story, though.

good luck everyone :)

1 ( +8 / -7 )

There is another angle to this. Maybe you're hanging out with the wrong people. If you have something in common that is meaningful it helps a lot. Like:

  1. Hobbies. Put a bunch for model train collectors from a dozen different-tongued nations together and watch what happen.

  2. Same political aims. Which can work opposite ways.

  3. Work. People bond at work. That is how things get done and also how unions are made.

  4. Love. Which always works in mysterious ways.

  5. Sex. Which does not work in mysterious way. (I had to toss that in.)

This is just lateral thinking. The article makes many valid points.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Tessa-

Hah! If Japanese could read (and comprehend) this page of comments, it wouldn't have become an issue in the first place.

if you understood enough Japanese to really understand Japanese people, this wouldn't have been an issue for you in the first place. i wouldn't want to be friends with someone with that attitude and wouldn't waste my time talking about anything more than hello how are you, get off your high horse and stop looking down on people who don't fit in your criteria.

Sharon Arai-

o be frank I find them rather boring...their conversation is so narrow though I could only understand and speak simple jp. They don't even try to speak a word of English...hopefully..hopefully I'll able to see some changes in the future......

I bet they find YOU boring as well - but that is not because you are actually boring but because of the language issue, they don't understand you and you don't understand them. They don't even try to speak a word of English??? well, how about YOU try to speak their language? Nobody tried to speak to me in French nor Japanese while I was living in Australia/United States. They always expected me to speak their language and I bet I would have been isolated if I didn't speak their language.

10 ( +15 / -5 )

I have made some really good friends in Japan and in each relationship, both I and the other person know that we are different. I am not Japanese, he/she is not a westerner. But this awareness has never been a problem. If anything, it has helped preserve the relationship. Understanding and tolerance from both sides have made the relationships last and get stronger.

What I think we westerners do not have is humility. We come to Japan (or any non-western country for that matter) and expect people to speak English so that we can communicate with them. We do not often realize that the cultures (ours and theirs) are very different but the difference does not make either of them better than the other. I have often heard people from different cultures try to establish an imaginary superiority by saying how "the others" are strange, do not have common sense, etc. Instead, why not be more open and less judgemental? It will make life easier, more interesting and certainly more enjoyable.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Omg it depends. I living in The Netherlands. For example when i go vacation Japan which was 3 times already and again this year. Is that i make so easy new friends :D

For example in Osaka i went a Dancing club and then say to a group Japanese which they were celebrating bday of two people. I said in Japanese that I LOVE So so much Japan!! I love Japanese language and i would like to practise more my Japanese and all were suprised i speak Japanese they said woowoowow join us my new friend i was like wowowwww awesome I LLOVE Japan more and more :D not only Osaka but everywhere in Japan!

So if you really mean it to be friends with Japanese going get your lazy as up and learn JAPANESE!! so amazing omega beautiful langauge :)))

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Here we go again...

Anyways, for guys, it is rather simple: Japanese men tend to not make friends with people after their college years. Working class guys are a bit more plastic.

So, that leaves the college educated foreigner in a difficult spot if that college educated foreigner exhibits the kind of classcism that many college educated have.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

@Strangerland Sorry thats what I meant to say. For example a zainichi Korean wanting their name in Korean as well as Japanese.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's funny I always found it easier to speak Japanese myself, however slow than wait till I get an even slower reply in Katakana English, so instead of giving free English lessons (not my mother tongue in any case) I ended up learning Japanese faster. However, most Japanese will laugh at your mistakes openly and then refuse to tell you what exactly you said wrong. It bothered me in the beginning but after awhile I learned that if I tell them that I need to know to speak better! they would finally reply.

Also when once asked by my Japanese classmates (I was the only foreigner in a 300 people class) why I date other gaijin and not Japanese, I replied that Japanese are also gaijin in my viewpoint, which it seems they never thought about :) They are all sorts of people in any country, different generations, people from different areas, you just have to find your own.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Wow, an honest and frank assessment. Well done.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Ms. Tanabe - (12:22 PM JST) That has got to be THE BEST post I have ever seen on JT. Thank you for your insight !

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Lots of foreigners I've met seem to have come to Japan because they were socially incompetent where they lived, and came here as an escape. Only to find that they are even less socially compenent here. My successful non-Japanese friends all speak great Japanese and are well adjusted socially. They are confident and happy, and can draw people to them, whether the people are Japanese or not. Some people have it and some people don't. I grant that there are some racist Japanese like there are racists everywhere. But the pervasive nebulous racism and xenophobis people talk about is a projection of social incompetence onto their other (i.e., the Japanese).

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Hmm... not sure I agree with everything in this article. I would discuss or add perhaps the following:

I am married to a Japanese woman. I am expecting my first child with her in May. When we first met many years ago, her family treated me like I had always been part of their family and never once blinked at eye at me otherwise. My experience has been overly positive in this regard with Japanese people. And not just my wife either, who obviously loves me as a human being. I have MANY Japanese friends who treat me like a close friend, even after only knowing them for a short time, and have gone WAY out of their way for me. They truly have made me feel a lot of love in my life.

On the flip side, I've had many Japanese friends who treated me as ONLY a part of their life plan. For example, if I was teaching them English, that was it for them. When we were done with our lessons, we were done ever knowing each other. But at the same time, I used them for their Japanese language skills so I could improve mine. I find that some Japanese I've met are so organized in terms of their lives that they fit you in where you need to fit in and when you don't fit anymore in that spot, SAYONARA!

I also think it's easy to empathize with Japanese people treating gaijin like... well,... gaijin lol. Maybe because we ARE! I mean, how many gaijin come to Japan and can barely speak the language? Why is the burden on Japanese people to learn English or any other language? Isn't Japan THEIR COUNTRY? So when we come to Japan and we don't instantly become best friends with the Japanese people we meet, think about it from their perspective: They don't understand a word we are saying in most cases. Or worse, they don't understand the Japanglish we try to spit at them... I mean, how could this NOT create distance between you and a Japanese person? And if I wanted to be friends with a Japanese person, I can always be proactive and offer to teach them English. I've done this several times and have lifelong friends as a result. So not having a language barrier is a must when speaking to anyone of ANY country, but I would say especially in Japan. Language is a delicate thing in the land of the rising sun.

Perhaps the most important point is the usage of compliments... I've never felt like my "outsiderness" was being enforced because a Japanese person screeched at me "Nihongo ga jouzu desu ne!" anytime I managed to fumble enough Japanese together to sound halfway coherent. In fact, I think it's a great encouragement to me, and it makes me want to learn more to talk with them (And no, I don't have self-esteem issues). What I mean by this though is that I would gladly welcome any country whose citizens would rather compliment me than look at me and call me a piece of garbage for attempting to speak their language, or worse, look down on me for trying. And even if they do look down on me for ANY reason and decide though to keep it to themselves, that's awesome! I think the rest of the world can learn to mind their business like the Japanese do. I wonder what the world would be like if others did like them? Just saying.

Sorry this is so long...I just really appreciate my Japanese friends and family, who after I forwarded them this article, laughed their butts off at how it's just SOOO written from a gaijin perspective that it can't possibly be more accurate with its title. The very things brought up in the article are exactly the reasons why people have such preconceived negative notions of Japanese people in the first place. Namely, it's because Gaijin always think that it's a "problem" to be friends with a Japanese person when that Japanese person doesn't come up to them, speak their language perfectly and understands what every sentence implies that they've said, then hug them and offer them to come over to their house where they will then proceed to cook them a ten course sushi meal and teach them the history of Japan while playing Sony Playstation with them and singing Enka, all at once. Now THAT'S SOME UCHI FOR YA!

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

100% agree with this article

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

There have been a lot of comments in this thread that seem to think the issues raised in the article are due to a lack of language ability. But I have no difficulties with the language (I have N1, have done a lot of translation and interpretation, and do business meetings in Japanese 3-4 times a week with clients), and I still agree with the points in the article. I agree that foreigners who move to another country should learn the language of the land, but that's a separate issue.

My point being that for the most part I find the article accurate, whether you know the language or not.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I've been living in Japan for twelve years. In all that time I can't recall ONE instance where a Japanese person said something that truly rocked my world and left me feeling more enlightened or educated. Cultural differences, I guess.

Don't get me wrong, I like Japanese people - in fact I'm very fond of them, their kindness and essential niceness - and you can be friends, but you generally have too keep it 'light.' It's generally quite hard to have meaningful conversations with Japanese because they are not encouraged to open up about themselves and express opinions. I hate to say it but they are extremely boring down the pub, so there's really not much incentive to want to get to know them that deeply.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

i wouldn't want to be friends with someone with that attitude and wouldn't waste my time talking about anything more than hello how are you, get off your high horse and stop looking down on people who don't fit in your criteria.

Oh no, I'm devastated. My lifelong dream of befriending a braindead housewife has been shattered!

-6 ( +8 / -14 )

This article is about making friends and the friends you choose to make is the issue. I don't want to be friends with the 'You use chopsticks well', Where are you from?', 'Can you eat natto/sit on tatami?' types and they don't bother me. I don't particularly care if these are 'microaggressions' or just ways to make conversation either. I'm sure they are very nice people but they are not for me. There are times when you're obliged to keep company with people you'd rather avoid but that's true no matter where you live. I know some foreigners who love being in this kind of company and I'm happy for them. The Japanese friends I have are generally unlike those mentioned in the article. That's my choice.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

My lifelong dream of befriending a braindead housewife has been shattered!

Careful, tess. I think some people would take offense to that.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

I have no difficulties with the language (I have N1, have done a lot of translation and interpretation, and do business meetings in Japanese 3-4 times a week with clients) Strangerland, there's your "problem" right there.... you are fitting a role more than likely as a business associate to Japanese people... so in your case, it's not language that is a barrier, but that you are only PART of a Japanese person's life plan, i.e., person I work with. Even if you go drinking at the izakaya with some of these individuals, you will probably NEVER have that chance to really know them because you are only seen as somebody they got to deal with in a work environment. And language IS a huge issue. I don't see how it couldn't be when you travel to a foreign country and expect the people there to KNOW your language and more importantly, what is IMPLIED in the words you speak. In Japan, and you should know this more than most, even a simple word and the intonation you put on it can mean a million different things to a Japanese person. And most foreigners I think never fully understand this concept or act like they do but really don't. After having lived with a Japanese woman for the past five years, I can tell you every inch of what I say is scrutinized and carefully studied by her... and sometimes what I say can mean the difference between me sleeping on the futon in the living room or in the bed with her lol. Language is important in any culture, and perhaps the most in Japan.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Strangerland, there's your "problem" right there.... you are fitting a role more than likely as a business associate to Japanese people... so in your case, it's not language that is a barrier, but that you are only PART of a Japanese person's life plan, i.e., person I work with. Even if you go drinking at the izakaya with some of these individuals, you will probably NEVER have that chance to really know them because you are only seen as somebody they got to deal with in a work environment.

First, I never said there was a problem. As I said in my first post in this thread, for the most part we have different interests. I've been here 16 years now, and I've met very few Japanese people who have the same interests as I do. Which is fine, I'm not complaining about it.

But other than that I agree with what the above quote. I don't try to make friends with my clients, I have a very distinct line between business and personal life, as Japanese people usually also do. We have good working relationships, but I've never gotten the impression that they want more than that, and I'm not interested in more than that myself.

The Japanese friends I do have are people I've met outside of work (plus a few former co-workers), and have nothing to do with my business.

I still stand by my comment that the points brought up in the article are not the result of a language barrier. The language barrier is its own issue, and could have been an additional point to the article.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Strangerland, I was referring to the original author's idea that it's somehow a "problem" to befriend Japanese people. I think it's safe to say you are kind of saying that you agree with this by saying you agree with the article's points, are you not?

I completely disagree with you about the language issue.... that barrier doesn't exist for you and sounds like it hasn't for years so of course you can't possibly take a step back and see how it would affect the gaijin who is in Japan for the first time and wants to go up and say hi to a Japanese person and maybe even get to know him/her, but can't even say more than hi how are you? Or whatever.... I mean, you can say that and a lot more, but sounds like you opt not to do so. But for the average gaijin who speaks at best Japanglish, yeah, it's a HUGE reason why Japanese people don't want to be friends with gaijin. And this is coming straight from the mouths of my Japanese friends who have read this article and talked about it with me tonight.

Also, one thing to note that I'm not sure if anyone has or not.... Japanese people that live in the big cities are often EXTREMELY busy. They work enormously long hours and don't have time for casual friendships or even huge friendships with lasting importance. This is where the whole filling the role in a Japanese person's life comes into play. My one friend Yoshikun works from 8 am in the morning and doesn't get home until 10:30 PM at night. This is six days a week. Sometimes seven. He had to practically schedule a day off three months in advance just to hang out with me when I visited Japan a little while back. It was a huge deal... and he is one of my closest friends in Japan. So you have to also take into account that for people like Yoshikun, who lives and works in Tokyo, one of the most expensive cities in the world to inhabit, it's a matter of balance priorities with time in the day. Anyone in his situation might ask themselves: How can this person I know benefit me? I mean, it's a valid point I think to consider when you have no time for yourself in the day, let alone for other people.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Strangerland, I was referring to the original author's idea that it's somehow a "problem" to befriend Japanese people.

I didn't get that from the article at all. The article was talking about why it's difficult to make friends with Japanese people, not that there was a problem being friends with Japanese people. On top of that, the article was taken from a Japanese article on madamriri.com (http://www.madameriri.com/), which is a Japanese site about how foreign lands are interesting and how Japan is strange.

I think it's safe to say you are kind of saying that you agree with this by saying you agree with the article's points, are you not?

I agree with the points in the article, but as I don't agree the article is saying there is a problem being friends with Japanese people, your premise that I agree with that point is incorrect.

that barrier doesn't exist for you and sounds like it hasn't for years so of course you can't possibly take a step back and see how it would affect the gaijin who is in Japan for the first time and wants to go up and say hi to a Japanese person and maybe even get to know him/her, but can't even say more than hi how are you?

I didn't speak a lick of Japanese when I moved here. So I definitely can take a step back and see how it was. I quite vividly remember my first years here, and how it was to not be able to communicate. And I often travel to countries where I don't speak the language. The language barrier is a huge barrier to making friends, but as I mentioned a post or two back, I believe this is independent of the points brought up in the article. Basically the points brought up in the article are mostly relevant to people who are able to communicate in the language, or are dealing with people who speak their language.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Most foreigners in foreign countries don't go out of their way to make close friendships with locals. They like to congregate and hang among people like themselves. Hence you have 'foreign' enclaves throughout Japan. Same as it is in plenty of other countries where foreigners and expats hang among their 'own' kind. Hardly unique to Japan.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Here's the original article in Japanese for anyone who is interested http://www.madameriri.com/2014/02/28/%E6%97%A5%E6%9C%AC%E5%A5%BD%E3%81%8D%E5%A4%96%E5%9B%BD%E4%BA%BA%E3%81%8C%E3%80%8C%E6%97%A5%E6%9C%AC%E4%BA%BA%E3%81%A8%E3%81%AF%E5%8F%8B%E9%81%94%E3%81%AB%E3%81%AA%E3%82%8C%E3%81%AA%E3%81%84%E3%80%8D/

The article here on Japan Today is mostly the same, it's just been re-written to be relevant to foreigners, rather than from the perspective of Japanese people reading about foreigners. This one has also has some additional information added in the header and summary.

The summary of that article was actually quite good. Here is a rough translation:

まずは、相手が「外国人」であることを意識しすぎるのを止めることからスタートすべきであると思う。そして、思っていることを正直に言葉にする練習をしてみたらどうだろうか。はっきりと意見するのが苦手な人は、自分はそういう人だと相手に教えてあげるといい。とにかく、言葉にすること。これが、母国語の違う相手とのコミュニケーションで心がけるべきことだと私は思う。

"First, you should probably stop thinking so much about how the person is a foreigner. Next, how about trying to be a little more direct with what you are thinking. If you're the type of person who isn't good at being direct, then it may be good to tell the person that. Anyways, it's all about the language [or maybe 'your words']. I think it's about putting your heart into communication with someone who speaks a different mother tongue to you."

(Does anyone have a better translation for that last sentece?)

5 ( +6 / -1 )

All of my close Japanese friends speak good English and we communicate in Japanese and English. In my experience I've found that those with an interest in in other cultures and languages tend to be those who are able to hold more 'normal' conversations with foreigners and be more accepting, particularly on first meetings. Perhaps I've been here too long and frankly don't have the energy to get past the difficulties of so-called barriers despite the fact I speak good Japanese. These days I prefer to have natural, normal conversations with people who don't have cultural differences at the front of their minds. Not too much to ask, is it?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I think no.1 & 2 are the same thing. Numbers 3 to 5 are just a lack of acceptance of a different culture.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

In all that time I can't recall ONE instance where a Japanese person said something that truly rocked my world and left me feeling more enlightened or educated. Cultural differences, I guess.

Excellent post, Leikireiki, and describes how I so often feel when conversing with Japanese people. In fact I often get the feeling that I'm having exactly the same, safe conversation with only tiny variations. The range of topics that you can discuss openly are very, very narrow and circumscribed. And then there are the myriad conversational minefields, that you have to step over very delicately, if you don't want people to hate you. (You know what I mean, right?) Sometimes Japanese are so swift to take offence, it's as if they have a huge complex or something, which is really not fitting for a supposedly modern and progressive society.

Dealing with it becomes such a headache after a while, that you just cannot bother anymore.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

I don't get the need to have the other person say something profound when talking to them. Very few non-Japanese I know manage to do this. I also am surprised to read these comments about Japanese people taking offense quickly to the things you are saying - what are you saying to which they are taking offense?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I don't get the need to have the other person say something profound when talking to them.

I don't have a need for this, but it's nice to know that I'm going to be pleasantly surprised from time to time. I don't think I've ever heard anything from a Japanese person that wasn't following the official party line (state or media sanctioned). On the other hand, to my great personal astonishment, I've been told many times that my utterances are profound and even life-changing. Let me give you a small example: one day, in conversation, I casually mentioned to a group of Japanese friends that "there are many paths to happiness, you know?" They almost keeled over in shock. They'd never thought of Life that way before, ever!

To me, I was merely stating the obvious. To them, I was suddenly a font of all wisdom.

Just one example of many.

-8 ( +3 / -11 )

the Japanese seem to be “planners.”

Confirmed! This is admittedly one of the few things I find bothering about Japanese. I miss the "instant call and let's just meet on a Friday evening" atmosphere.

I tend to plan things off the cuff; sometimes at the very last minute or at the spur of the moment.

Sounds like me! I figured out that constant planning just destroys the fun of surprise and will lead to disappointment. Japanese really need a few slices of this!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I hear crap like that from Japanese people all the time. It's one of the differences I find that makes it hard for me to be friends with them (I don't feel a need to talk about stuff like this - same reason that I don't like all those inspirational quotes people feel the need to post on Facebook).

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Japanese are so swift to take offence

Guess what, Tessa, every country is the same. People don't like hearing any criticism about their own country from a "foreigner." I've learned the hard way never to criticize British food in front of a Brit, and so on. Japanese are the same.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

People don't like hearing any criticism about their own country from a "foreigner."

Well, here's how I learned the hard way: I confided to a group of Japanese female "friends" that I was being badly sexually harassed at work. They dropped me like a ton a bricks. My sin? Pointing out that one of their compatriots was behaving in a less than gentlemanly fashion. Can you imagine something like that happening in your own land?

And yes, Japanese people quite freely and happily criticise British food, even the ones who've never even eaten it before!

-4 ( +6 / -10 )

@jimizo "All of my close Japanese friends speak good English and we communicate in Japanese and English. In my experience I've found that those with an interest in in other cultures and languages tend to be those who are able to hold more 'normal' conversations with foreigners and be more accepting, particularly on first meetings".

This is extremely true. My son plays on a sports team and when I go to watch most of the other parents are Mums. I have no problem speaking Japanese (I am a simultaneous interpreter), but most of the women avoid extended conversation and have nothing really to say to me. There was just one older lady who I found I could just have a regular conversation with. She seems to enjoy chatting, and never looks awkward if it happens that it is just the two of us. We were speaking in Japanese, but it turned out she had lived in the US and spoke fluent English. I don't think this is a coincidence. It's not the language barrier that makes conversation difficult.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

A very interesting post. Makes my wonder why I still choose to live here. Oh, that's right I have a great job. In my research I've looked at the issues of language proficiency and more friends. In most countries the better you speak the language the more local friends you have. This isn't necessarily the case for Japan. More important is intimacy, Most Japanese will not let strangers in, and as gaijin, we are lots stranger than the average Japanese. Most Japanese do not disclosure much personal information, which is practically a requirement for friendships and becoming closer to other people. The bottom line is that Japanese have a hard time developing new friendships with even other Japanese, let alone someone coming from a different country and culture.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Personally, I think it's MUCH more a question of "personality" NOT "nationality"... Some people just have friendly personalities, others don't (as some have even cited in their remarks here above). I have made friends in just about every country I've visited/lived in, which covers practically a country for every letter of the alphabet, except for "X" (Xenophobia).

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I'm with hiding out on this one. My life in Japan is/was nothing like anything I read from the whingers here. I'm a big dude also and always had people sitting next to me on the train and no one in my towns avoided me. it was the other way around. I was invited places and did last minute stuff. No planning. Japanese say some things that wouldn't fly in western countries. DUH! It's called cultural differences. When you sit down and explain that to Japanese people who matter in your life most will understand, but it may take some getting used to. Hmmmm...sounds the same when I tell folks of a certain color in the states the things that bother others and they reject it as PC. Give the crying a rest. It is their culture for moms to be narrow minded? Only in Japan? Really?

maybe because so many Japanese we hang out with are music folks like many of my western Tokyo friends things are different but I had many through teaching that are always open to many non planned things. This article has its merits but I can't agree more than say....30-40 percent. I find many of my friends of a certain ethnic hue to have more adaptation issues in Asia. especially the females. But that is my own experience. YMMV.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Even after being in Japan for years there are very few 'tomodachi' I would be able to refer to as more than 'acquaintance' in English. It's just different.

I've often been given cause to wonder about the 'Ingrish' thing as well. It's inevitable that, at some point, something to do with your English skills will enter into the relationship, whether it was initially intentioned or not. For instance, the son or daughter learning English.

On another note, have you noticed how the 'sore wa chotto' and 'unnnn' and not answering evasion techniques only work if you are a Japanese using them to another Japanese? Many will keep pressing a foreigner for information even when they have used the Japanese indicators that they don't want to talk about it. Why?

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

And then there are the myriad conversational minefields, that you have to step over very delicately, if you don't want people to hate you.

I think this must be because people can sense that you think you are a superior being. Why would anyone open up to someone who says things like "braindead housewife"?

I find that being a gaijin actually enables me to have conversations with my Japanese friends about things that they are not comfortable speaking about with their other Japanese friends. I have on many occasions had very heartfelt talks with Japanese friends concerning things like bullying, divorce, domestic violence, adultery etc going on in their lives because they know that a) I'm not going to judge them, and b) that I'm going to try to give an honest response instead of just trotting out some platitude.

Friendships are what you make them. If you think you are better than the Japanese because you can speak English, or because you have a good job, or because your education is top notch ... then yeah, you are going to end up with a lot of superficial meaningless "friendships". Try a little humility maybe?

4 ( +6 / -2 )

In your country, is it normal to lump people you have known for years with people you have never met before on the basis of their nationality?

Yeah, sometimes. We'll have three French guys at tonight's practice. Yeah, could see myself saying that even if it included a good French guy I've known for years, depends on the context.

So, you class this as a bad thing that happened to you? Basically I adopt the same attitude described by hidingout.

I see most of the comments agree, in principle, with the author, but a few Japanese apologists remain steadfast. It is curious. Maybe their personal experience is atypical and they are ignorant to how their peers' relationships with Japanese are.

In the US, at least from my perspective, I would never express their differences, unless it was completely relevant to the issue being discussed. For example, if we were playing soccer and I had invited 3 Brazilian guys who I deemed superior players, then I might mention it within the context of "you better bring your A game", but I would never point out their "foreignness". It's just not relevant to people who see others as equals and who have a world view.

On the other hand, I can imagine someone from a small rural town saying something like,"We've got 3 Japanese guys coming to our game tonight," with this comment coming from the context of a small world view. They would rarely expect visitors from another state, much less a foreign country, but if they had had a Japanese guy living in their town for years and he had been playing with them for some time and two other Japanese guys joined them, he would be considered part of their inner circle and not lumped together with the other two coming in.

The homogeneous nature of Japanese society certainly is the primary culprit. As(if?) more foreigners settle here and the blood becomes less pure this ideal will fade away.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I would never express their differences, unless it was completely relevant to the issue being discussed. For example, if we were playing soccer and I had invited 3 Brazilian guys who I deemed superior players, then I might mention it within the context of "you better bring your A game".

I just wonder how you know that wasn't the context in which the "foreignness" was mentioned. Let me give you an example from my experience. I played some ice hockey at the club level for the first five or six years I lived in Japan. The number of "foreigners" who were dressing for each opponent we played was a great topic of conversation among my teammates before the games. They couldn't have cared less about whether the foreigners on the other team were good at using chopsticks or speaking Japanese, they just assumed that any foreigners playing ice hockey in Japan were bound to be way better players than the Japanese. And they were usually right.

Now if your point is that my teammates should have said "there are two Canadians and a Swede on ABC team tonight" instead of "there are three gaijin on ABC team tonight", then I guess I would agree that that way of speaking is different from what we would be used to in the USA.

I see most of the comments agree, in principle, with the author, but a few Japanese apologists remain steadfast. It is curious. Maybe their personal experience is atypical and they are ignorant to how their peers' relationships with Japanese are.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I casually mentioned to a group of Japanese friends that "there are many paths to happiness, you know?" They almost keeled over in shock. They'd never thought of Life that way before, ever!

I am curious to know what the actual words you used to say "many paths to happiness" - I'm guessing that your Japanese "friends" didn't take the words you said the way you wanted them to take... more than often, my American husband says something in Japanese and it's totally lost in translation...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I see most of the comments agree, in principle, with the author, but a few Japanese apologists remain steadfast. It is curious. Maybe their personal experience is atypical and they are ignorant to how their peers' relationships with Japanese are.

Sorry badman, I botched the quote in my post above. Obviously the last paragraph is your words and should have been a quote. What I meant to say about that was that my teammates were using the word "gaijin" as shorthand for "somebody who might have scary good abilities with the puck". The actual nationality was irrelevant to them in that context.

I wonder how the fact that such shorthand bothers you, but doesn't bother me, makes me a "Japanese apologist". I think it just makes me someone who has been here long enough that I've grown used to the way Japanese people speak. And truth be told, I don't feel comfortable being labelled "a peer" to someone who gets bent out of shape because somebody used the word gaijin. Such a person is no peer of mine.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

That was obviously a very "unfriendly" person who thumbed me down !

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Well, I just found this sentence in the Madame Riri article this JT article is based on. 子どものころから違う国の人と接する機会の多い国の人とは違い、外国人を「外国人というキャラクター」でしか見ることができない人が多いのも否めません。

"Unlike people who grow up in an environment where they can often meet people from other countries, one cannot deny that in Japan there are many people who, when they meet someone from abroad cannot see them as anything other than a "foreigner caricature".

Well there you are. From the horse's mouth. I am not sure why so many people deny this is the case.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I see most of the comments agree, in principle, with the author, but a few Japanese apologists remain steadfast. It is curious. Maybe their personal experience is atypical and they are ignorant to how their peers' relationships with Japanese are.

Or maybe they are in serious denial and need to attack those who speak the truth because they (i.e. the apologists) have chosen to stay in Japan for life, or, more likely, are stuck in Japan due to a Japanese spouse and kids who refuse to live anywhere but Japan, and they don't really want to be there either! The worrying thing is, that could have been me!

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Hindingout- Thou doth protest too much, methinks.

Your story was a reasonable explanation of a story that could have been repeated in any country, so that would not qualify as a Japanese apologist. A Japanese apologist is someone who defends even the most indefensible actions and often adds that the foreigner who happens to be complaining should feel free to leave if they can't accept said negative behavior. Clearly the story you describe is not what we are talking about and I doubt there are too many gajin here complaining about being burdened with overly positive stereotypes, though I must admit I was getting tired of complete strangers at the karaoke bar I used to frequent in Shinjuku asking me if my junk was as big as the microphone.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I enjoyed reading the article, but I am troubled by the few hostile responses. The author shared their own feelings and experiences in an honest and sincere manner, others may have different relationships and that's fine but to be uncivil and confrontational, why? I have never been to Japan but its a long time wish to spend a month or so visiting the areas I have heard so much about. Before I leave I'll try to get up to speed on the best ways to avoid social goofs while keeping my comments to strangers very limited. To come from the west US where everyone is open about starting conversations and quite friendly, I realize Japan will be much different. When you visit a different country, you play by their rules. I appreciate the information and the additional comments.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The author shared their own feelings and experiences in an honest and sincere manner

The original author was Japanese, and was writing about discussions with foreigners. This article is an English summary of the article that was originally written in Japanese.

When you visit a different country, you play by their rules.

Many of us are not visitors, but residents. People that the government have given permission to live in the country, for some of us, indefinitely. Some people take it as an insult when others say we should be permanently considered to be visitors - even though we pay taxes, raise Japanese families, and participate in society as contributing members.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Well I can easily imagine the 'language exploitation' thing in reverse - a Japanese person goes to, say, London, and comes across someone who used to work in Japan. Nothing much in common except for that link, but it's a good chance for the English person to speak a little Japanese. I can think of more egregious examples of exploitation than this, and I think the idea of friend can sometimes get confused with close acquaintance. People usually have more close acquaintances than friends.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Wow, 5 more difficult challenges awaits me in Japan. I shall never give up on learning about their language and culture.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Nihongo no Gakusei 1984 -

Wow, 5 more difficult challenges awaits me in Japan. I shall never give up on learning about their language and culture.

Hey, while there are foreigners who have a hard time making friends in Japan, there are plenty of foreigners who make life-long friends with Japanese people, and with your great attitude to learn the language and culture, I am very positive that you will be liked and will make friends with Japanese people. good luck!!

fish :)

6 ( +6 / -0 )

In my experience as a Mexican, as stereotypes, nationalism and racism goes, Japan is heven compared with places like Tecas or Arizona. I don't get it why some Americans (note "some", I don't stereotype) make so much fuss about japanese while there is a lot of similar things to polish at home.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

@fishy

Hey, while there are foreigners who have a hard time making friends in Japan, there are plenty of foreigners who make life-long friends with Japanese people, and with your great attitude to learn the language and culture, I am very positive that you will be liked and will make friends with Japanese people. good luck!!

That's more or less the point I was trying to make - but I got "-1" (of course I thumbed you up !)

2 ( +3 / -1 )

FightingViking -

That's more or less the point I was trying to make - but I got "-1" (of course I thumbed you up !)

thanks for the thumb up :) and don't worry about the thumb down you got, because it is simply true that some of us are making wonderful friends here in Japan while some have had a hard time making friends here. whatever the number of thum up/down, truth remain true :)

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@ fishy

Thank you for your kind comment and encouragement. I'm still in USA learning about Japan at a slow rate until I get into college (that's when the real learning begins). Gave you a thumbs up too.

Gakusei :)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Thank you fishy ! I see someone took off the minus now ! Was that you ? (Je crois vraiment que c'est une question de "personnalité"...)

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@hidingout

I think you and others have made some good points in this thread. I agree that personality comes into it as does humility. I found it very easy to make friends in my own country, and sometimes perhaps I have let my disappointment that I still find it hard to make friends despite spending more than 15 years learning Japanese get the better of me. Kind of like, I'm fluent now, I've adapted to living here, why won't you treat me like a regular human being? Maybe that's entitlement, I don't know.

Anyway, I would like to take some of the advice given here, and perhaps things will work out better for me. In the mean time though, I do have some questions which I would be delighted if you, or any of the others would have disagreed with me on this thread, could answer:

1) I notice the "othering" that starts with complimenting you on your chopstick usage progresses as your language ability . Often, if I express an opinion about politics, an episode of history, a well-known novel or even a local landmark the person I am talking to says "wow, you know that?" "ee, soiu koto, shitteiru no? sasuga desune"

Instead of engaging me on the topic, the topic becomes how odd it is that a foreigner like me can comment on the topic. They may start talking to someone else about this instead of continuing to talk to me. This is an absolute conversation stopper, because if I engage with their amazement (assuming I am allowed to join in the conversation about me, which is not always the case), I am having a conversation I don't really want to have and don't enjoy. If I keep trying to say what I want to say, I am ignoring the rhythm of the conversations and failing to respond to what they have said. Does this happen to anyone else. Any advice anyone?

2) What do you do when people continually comment on your physical appearance and characteristics? I know the aren't you tall etc., is meant as a compliment. Typically, this is an opening gambit and people aren't likely to keep repeating it when they meet you on subsequent occasions. But there is one unfortunate exception: playing sport. I love sport, it is something I truly look forward to. But every time I intercept the ball i get "aren't your legs long?" "everytime I win the ball I get "you are big and scary". It's continuous, relentless and has gone on for years and years. Should I just laugh this off? Am I imposing my own cultural values on people by being upset that they call me "scary" over and over even though they have known me for years? Is it my fault that I want a regular conversation between games that is not about me?

Listen, I know none of the above compares to being subject to a racist beating in the street, but hopefully we can all agree that is not what this topic is about.

As I said, any words of advice gratefully received.

Cheers

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I actually had a really hard time meeting people, living in a small city. My Japanese was decent, but didn't really find any places where I got the chance to use it beyond greetings. I think this article basically could say that Japanese do not often socialize or mix groups as adults (like others said) and leave it at that. You need to be able to comfortable being alone for awhile if you choose a smaller city. That is the main reasons foreigners stick together, they remember that feeling and often want to help the new people learn the lay of the land.

But, I do think when Japanese meet a foreigner, they should first ask how long the foreigner has been in Japan, and then ask questions accordingly. If someone has lived here many years, people should get that certain questions are not really good.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

FightingViking-

Thank you fishy ! I see someone took off the minus now ! Was that you ? (Je crois vraiment que c'est une question de "personnalité"...)

you're welcome.. and no, that wasn't me who took the minus off.. it just means someone liked what you said and gave you one thumb up :) and yes i agree 100%, it's your personality that matters :)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@hatsoff

Well I can easily imagine the 'language exploitation' thing in reverse - a Japanese person goes to, say, London, and comes across someone who used to work in Japan. Nothing much in common except for that link, but it's a good chance for the English person to speak a little Japanese. I can think of more egregious examples of exploitation than this, and I think the idea of friend can sometimes get confused with close acquaintance. People usually have more close acquaintances than friends.

It's a bit different because, for one thing, we (I'll use the UK as an example here although I am sure it is the same in the US or elsewhere) don't seem to have the same fetishization of Japanese language the same way many Japanese are obsessed with English. I am pretty sure the Japanese visitor to the UK will be far less likely to be bugged with 'Nihongo Kaiwa' in the same way we are all subjected to Eikaiwa in Japan. In fact, I bet they'd get annoyed if they had just a fraction of the same behaviour we have to get used to in Japan - constant questions and broken English with people you don't really want to speak to. I guess if you aren't a native English speaker you don't understand how irritating it can be, and not just from Japanese people - lots of people do it wherever you go in the world.

On the other hand, do Japanese people get fed up with the manga and anime obsessives? Probably! I remember hearing a story about a good-looking Japanese girl living in London who was getting very fed up with being hit on all the time. Well, isn't it the same thing? You get bugged by people just because you have a white face and they think you speak Eigo, and you don't even get a shag out of it most of the time!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Compare to Japanese people, Western people are much more open to sharing opinions. It's so hard in Japan to make friends because the Japanese are generally incapable of handling any criticism or differing opinions. Their egos are incredibly fragile, and if you accidently upset them, rather than tell you where you screwed up, they'll just distance themselves from you. Many times foreigners have walked into a conversation with a Japanese person who were unwilling to share personal opinions on anything, and prevent offending someone. In effect most foreigners only ever have very surface level conversations which would never lead to a deepening of rapport. In a advance nation like Japan, you still have around 30K suicides per year for over last 15 years in succession, and there are alot of lonely people who are incapable of making true friends and they deals with problems alone.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

After seven years lining in Kansai I returned to the old county - and that is where I really learnt who my J-friends were - and still are.

The realisation that people I had considered 'good' friends in Japan had really only kept me as 'gaijin-pet' was, to say the least, disappointing.

On the other hand, there are those that I truly miss and I know (from mutual friends) that they also miss me but do not maintain the contact for reasons known only to themselves.

But the true friends, we email & skype each other and they come to visit me in England and our common interests are the foundations of our friendship.

Whilst in Japan I had to deal with grown men asking if they could be my friend (a statement, I informed them, that usually comes from young children, not adults, who understand that real friendships take time to develop and evolve) and people pointing at me in public saying 'look there's a foreigner' (and THAT was in Osaka - not inaka!).

But, on the other hand, when my father died, all western & J-friends headed for the hills rather than deal with a bereaved friend. Bar one or two - one of which (J-friend) I married and now lives with me in Blighty.

Said hubby often jokes 「外人は多いですね」(There's a lot of foreigners aren't there) because he knows the irony of that comment now he's in the west.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Wouldn't "5 reasons Japanese find it hard to become friends with each other" be more enlightening?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

SenseNotSoCommon Spot on

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I think most of the people on here (and elsewhere) who get worked up about the gaijin tag and racial equality and all that are short-termers. Most of the 'lifers' enjoy being a gaijin, otherwise why would they choose to stay so long? Instead of complaining all the time, why not embrace it? I'm a runner and love being the only gaijin in races or trying to beat other gaijin. In one race I was in, a Japanese bloke yelled "You're the top gaijin!" as I ran past. I pissed myself laughing because actually I was the only gaijin! I love that kind of thing. And for what it's worth, I agree with others on here that the language barrier is not always to blame for difficulties making friends. One of the best acquaintances I've met in the teaching world, was a maths teacher at the junior high school I was working at. He couldn't speak much English and at the time the same was true for my Japanese, but due to some common interests we got on like a house on fire. There 's more to making friends than language.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Japanese feel that everything is yurusanai or unforgivable, and they must find retribution no matter what. When they do not have a legal case, they will resort to the "soto" card and to ridicule.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

gokai_wo_maneku makes a good point about socially inept gaijin in Japan. That said I've met an equal number of socially inept Japanese salarymen. Some so unimaginative that it literally hurts to work with them. Anyone expecting "racial equality" in Japan just didn't do their research before coming here... We're decades off from that.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

For me, having lived in Japan for many years, finding a Japanese friend comes down to the same principle as what we do when we're looking for a good doctor. They're not all that good or to our liking, but when we do find one we like we hold on to them. Same thing with friendships . . . anywhere.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Most of the 'lifers' enjoy being a gaijin, otherwise why would they choose to stay so long?

Wow. My experience is the exact opposite. Most of the long termers I know just want to be left alone and would like to be treated like the locals. It's the newbies that seem to enjoy all the comments, the looks, the random English leeches walking up to them and talking to them. Why stay? Because they have a life and family here and while the "gaijin" thing is rather annoying, it pales when comparted to the rest of what they have built here?

I have a lovely group of Japanese friends that I am thankful for. I met them when we were all single, out clubbing and the like. I have not really met anyone since I'm at that age where folks are married, have kids and not going out. I think it becomes harder to make real friends in your 30-50s when work and family are such a large part of your life. Coworkers, in my opinion, are very rarely friends. The locaks often feel the same while I think many foreigners don't seem to understand this and get upset when they learn otherwise.

Do I think it is more difficult here than home? Sure. A bit. Factor in language and culture difference and why would it be the same as home? I hate being the token gaijin puppet but I am at a point in my life where I just basically tell these folks to screw off and refuse to play the game. I don't think many newbies get that they are being used at the beginning and are jaded when they figure out that these people really aren't friends. Some perhaps are but if I had 100 yen for every Japanese person who tried to use me for my gaijin "cool" factor with their friends, I'd have a lot more money. Fair enough. Move on.

Frankly, I find the foreigners in Japan just the same. I certainly won't be friends with every foreigner I meet - though many seem to think I should because they're a foreigner, I'm a foreigner. Just as bad as the locals in this regards in my opinion. The J friends I have are friends for life. We've proven that by getting married, relocating, having kids, getting divorced and still be a central support team. I'm grateful and thankful for them. Just like I am for my non-Japanese friends.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Most of the 'lifers' enjoy being a gaijin, otherwise why would they choose to stay so long?

Wow. My experience is the exact opposite. Most of the long termers I know just want to be left alone and would like to be treated like the locals. It's the newbies that seem to enjoy all the comments, the looks, the random English leeches walking up to them and talking to them. Why stay? Because they have a life and family here and while the "gaijin" thing is rather annoying, it pales when comparted to the rest of what they have built here?

I have to agree with the original comment. I like being a foreigner in Japan. I like the special treatment it affords me. Sure I don't like some of the annoying stuff that also comes with it, but overall the positives well outweigh the negatives. Conversations with my mates show them to feel similarity. Of course, like attracts like, so I don't doubt that there are those for whom the negatives outweigh the positives, and they hate being foreign in Japan. I don't understand why they would have stayed in the first place though myself.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

I don't usually chime in on this old worn out subject but does this make sense to anyone ....How many good friends do you have at home that you met in a bar or walking down the street ? My friends back in Canada are all from school, work, sports, people I've spent time with. My boys played baseball here so I've got a big list of baseball dads if I feel like hanging out and talking about that and I've got my golf buddies I can get a round whenever I want and golfers are the same here as anywhere else. Nothing wrong with a bunch of acquaintances. The time I've notice people crossing the street is when they see me coming with my 30 kg bulldog:)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I'm sort of in the Strangerland camp on this one.

I enjoy being a foreigner in Japan, because I take the best of what it means to be a foreigner in Japan, and don't particularly care about the stuff many people get really steamed up about when it comes to being different. For me, the experience of like in Japan is defined by a lot more than just the nature of my relationships with people I know, or how others perceive me.

Japan always strikes me as being a very, very particular and rigid kind of society and culture - almost stylised, and the Japanese take great self-satisfaction and pleasure in that. They really do. They are like hippos wallowing in an extremely pleasurable waterhole of their own making - they love it. But I don't mind that at all, because I generally like what I see and enjoy life in Japan, and most importantly, I am not, and definitely don't want to be Japanese. I'm an expat from a foreign culture who will adapt when and where necessary whilst retaining my 'foreignness' absolutely.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

One of the interesting things about living in a different country are the everyday challenges (or adventures) Japanese culture whether in business or personal situations, tend to avoid risk so I find if I reduce the risk factor it is easier to get people to open up. While it is frustrating at times, really caring and listening about any person, is what we all want. Being sensitive to the other persons communication, as in all cultures, will allow for many good relationships to develop.

When I get the "chopstick" compliments, I always say "thank you" and don't be too concerned about the words - since it really is more of a conversation starter. HOWEVER, I continue by telling people in my childhood, my father would always order "take out Chinese food" on Fridays to give my mother a break from cooking........and this creates some good curious questions (or not) -- and of course, I speak English or Japanese whichever I feel makes the situation "more comfortable.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

xrc is right. We always come back to the issue of our gaijiness. Honestly, I dont think there is no such thing as a Japanese friend, unless that person is a japanese of other country origin. For most Japanese, the gaijin is an outsider of interest. Personal relationships are mendokusai, and as soon as the interest has worn off, the gaijin becomes mendokusai. Its a zero sum game for the gaijin resident (not visitor) in Japan who wants to become close to the Japanese in my opinion.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Most gaijin cannot communicate at the native Japanese level and thus its only to be expected that making friends especially close friends is less likely.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I dont think there is no such thing as a Japanese friend, unless that person is a japanese of other country origin.

While I've been agreeing with the article throughout my comments in this thread, I have to disagree with this comment. It's hard to become friends with Japanese people, but not impossible. I have some Japanese friends who I'm sure will be friends most of the rest of my life. Some have moved overseas, and I've visited them overseas, and I see them when they come back here. If I ever leave, I expect the reverse will happen as well.

May I just ask what the "best" things of being a foreigner is here because I really don't see what these benefits are that people are talking about.

There are lots of them. A few off the top of my head:

  • Getting bought drinks at bars after a little English conversation
  • Every time I go to get my hair cut, no matter the barbershop, the shop manager always cuts my hair.
  • When I worked for a Japanese company, I wasn't expected to put in the same overtime as the Japanese
  • When I go to business meetings, I often don't wear a suit. Japanese people could never get away with this.
  • While making friends is difficult, striking up conversations is really easy. Much easier than for Japanese people.
  • Not relevant for me anymore, but being white made it really easy to meet girls here when I first came.

If you think it's hard being a foreigner in Japan, you should see what it's like being Japanese here. I also wonder why you would ever have stayed if you cannot think of even one benefit of being a foreigner here. Would I had felt that way, I would have left ASAP.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Interesting, Madame Riri has posted a follow up article based on the reaction to 'an English website's translation of their article'. I can assume that it's probably this page they are referring to:

http://www.madameriri.com/2014/03/20/%E3%80%90%E6%B5%B7%E5%A4%96%E3%81%AE%E5%8F%8D%E5%BF%9C%E3%80%91%E3%81%AA%E3%81%9C%E5%A4%96%E5%9B%BD%E4%BA%BA%E3%81%AF%E6%97%A5%E6%9C%AC%E4%BA%BA%E3%81%A8%E3%81%AA%E3%81%8B%E3%81%AA%E3%81%8B%E5%8F%8B/

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If anyone compliments me on my chopstick use ever again, I'm going to immediately put them down and start eating with my hands.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Interesting, Madame Riri has posted a follow up article based on the reaction to 'an English website's translation of their article'. I can assume that it's probably this page they are referring to:

By 'this page', I meant the page that we are currently viewing. Not the one that I linked to.

Anyways, upon actually reading the article, it's definitely referring to this Japan Today page, as they (almost) directly translated my first post in the thread, along with a number of other posters. They were good enough to include the poster's names in their translations as well.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@strangerland,

I think all foriengers in Japan experience the percieved preferential treatment that you describe. I would not mistake that as being liked, its just hard to enforce the norms on gaijin and the gaijin is seen as an escape from the straightjacket rules and conformity. I have found Japanese to be moody; if the economy is crap, they then turn on the forienger. I dont for one second think Japanese like me for who I am; they like me because I represent something different than them. Ive had Japanese "friends" turn on me in a heartbeat when surrounded by other Japanese and tease me etc. The need to belong to a group and conform in Japan is enormous. As a forienger your the perpetual outsider.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

if the economy is crap, they then turn on the forienger

The economy has been crap for a very long time now. Never been 'turned on' by anyone.

As a forienger your the perpetual outsider.

Well I suppose if you want to make yourself a perpetual outsider, or see yourself as a perpetual outsider, if every bit of teasing is seen as people 'turning on' you, then yes you're going to be a perpetual outsider. Wherever you go. On the other hand, if you just get on with things, interact with people as people and not as 'they're Japanese and I'm not', put yourself inside a Japanese family maybe and add to it, I don't see how it's possible to remain a permanent outsider.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@cleo...thanks for the laugh.

Anyway, I have found that Japanese who "like" foriengers usuall fall into the following catagories. No hate intended, as many of us once had a Japanese fetish also and I think this can be applied all over the world

1) They want to practice their English. A most annoying experience 2) They have a Gaijin fetish. All gaijin are interesting. Whats in their trash? What are they saying when talking to each other? 3) They have a superiorty complex and want to use it to school the gaijin on how WW2 should of really turned out 4) They are "strays" They dont really fit into Japanese society, and harbor feelings of resentment about that. They seek out the gaijins companionship, usually trying to change the gaijin to fit their bizarre expectations of how things should be 5) They want the romance (male or female) or a gaijin mate. Inspired by a visit abroad, gossips, etc. 6)They lived abroad, and want to revisit that feeling of letting go, its ok to be "myself" Its quickly extinguished as soon as another Japanese arrives on scene 7) Anybody want to add?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Japanese who "like" foriengers....

...probably aren't the people who would be top candidate for friend. People who 'like' a group of people (regardless of their age, interests, personality, character etc) simply on account of their race are people I'd rather avoid, regardless of their race.

1) When I come across someone like that I treat them to my full-on Lancashire accent. It usually doesn't take more than a few minutes for them to want to revert to Japanese.

2) I've never had anyone looking in my rubbish (that I know of) but I have had visitors from England asking for permission to inspect my fridge/larder/underfloor storage. Different dietary lifestyles are interesting, it seems. No big deal.

3) Never had anyone even wanting to broach the subject of WW2, except to express their regret that it happened at all.

4) Never met this type, either.

5) In my younger days I had plenty of practice putting off bright young sparks with a fetish for blondes. They aren't gentlemen. Japan is no different.

6) Got invited round for lunch/drinks/coffee a few times by this type. When you realise you share no interests etc., the second invitation doesn't arrive. Or if it does, you politely turn it down.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Allot of experiences in Japan are influenced by gender and nationality. I highly suspect your answers to 2, 3, 4, and 5 are a result of this.

The strays are can be women or men, but many are men. If you never have met a stray, me wonders what kind of existance you have had in Japan.

If you have never met a Japanese with a gaijin fetish in any fashion, me also wonders what you have been doing in Japan.

People from the U.S. might/might not get the WW2 rant. I suspect that since your from England, you wont get it, but some Japanese are quite proud that they gave the British a spanking in Singapore and you lost the island to them. But I agree, this is a rare topic.

5 you missed the point, or perhaps I didnt make mine clear enough. What I meant was that many Japanese marry the forienger because they represent something they cant find in their own culture.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

If you never have met a stray, me wonders what kind of existance you have had in Japan.

If you have never met a Japanese with a gaijin fetish in any fashion, me also wonders what you have been doing in Japan.

I'z bin gettin' on with me life...:-)

Seriously, what you call 'strays' and 'people with a fetish' aren't unique to Japan. London is full of strays and weirdos of every flavour, from all over the world. As a hot young thing back in the day, I quickly learned to spot them and avoid them. By the time I got to Japan it had probably become second-nature. Life isn't long enough to spend any of it getting into and out of scrapes with strays and other folks' fetishes. (Unless the stray has four feet and whiskers, of course. Picked up more than my fair share of those, kept a few, found homes for the rest. But I don't suppose that's what you're talking about.)

I don't think I got you wrong on number 5. The Japanese can only marry the foreigner if the foreigner agrees, yes? I agreed only the once, when I was certain he was besotted with me, not my foreignness. All the ones who were just after 'the foreigner' got turned down.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I think all foriengers in Japan experience the percieved preferential treatment that you describe. I would not mistake that as being liked, its just hard to enforce the norms on gaijin and the gaijin is seen as an escape from the straightjacket rules and conformity.

I never claimed otherwise. That's not going to stop me from enjoying the benefits though.

As a forienger your the perpetual outsider.

Well, as a foreigner, I'm a perpetual foreigner. But as for outsider, it depends on the group. Japanese break all groups up into 'uchi' (inside) and 'soto' (outside). As far as being in the Japanese group, we'll always be outside. But in other groups, we're inside. It just depends on the group.

The economy has been crap for a very long time now. Never been 'turned on' by anyone.

Yeah, I can't say I've ever seen that either.

put yourself inside a Japanese family maybe and add to it, I don't see how it's possible to remain a permanent outsider.

That's an interesting point. My wife has three siblings, all who have married, one who has divorced. When I first met my mother-in-law, she wasn't exactly happy that her daughter was going to marry a foreigner. But over the years I've proven myself, and she likes me more than either of her other children's spouses, and we have a really good relationship now. It has got to the point that whenever a family representative is needed for something - most recently divvying up of her late husband's mother's assets, I am the one who goes along as the family representative, ahead of even the oldest son. There is no doubt that I am not an outsider in this group.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

My experience while I was in Japan was that I met perhaps 10 Japanese people who were really open to friendship like we do back home. Those guys didn't feel it was very personal to talk about their family in the first meeting, for instance. I mean, when you befriend someone at the local bar in US or other countries, you talk about almost everything, from music taste to personal stuff. This is not what happens with Japanese people. After some time I realised there are things you can't talk at all to a Japanese friend. So, I wonder if this is true friendship...

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I dont think japanese are capable of close friendships with any foriegner. The foriegner represents something gai (outside) and is just an object of interest.

The first and foremost priority for most Japanese is to become a member of a group, enter the best university, get the best husband or job.

The forienger is just a distraction to this compulsory behavior; a relief of sorts.

Any interaction with a forienger is just a means to an end; a way to promote ones ranking or social status within a group, or to be more competitive, like having a high Toeic score.

Communicating in English in Japan isnt really communicating at all. Its showing off ones skills.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

After four month long visits to Japan and staying with Japanese family in real Japanese environment I can only say that i am looking forward to may next trip there.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Any interaction with a forienger is just a means to an end; a way to promote ones ranking or social status within a group, or to be more competitive, like having a high Toeic score.

Wow, we have had such different experiences. The Japanese friends I do have either don't speak English, or if they do, we switch back and forth. And using me to elevate their social status? How?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

biznas - you are kidding right? "the Japanese"? After all the testimony for and against, you would be dumb not to see that indeed many people have made valuable, lifelong friendships.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

No, no kidding here.

A few years ago there was a Chinese language boom, then a Korean one, now back to English. Chinese and Korean are out of fashion as they are troublemakers. So we see allot of Adult English lessons on TV, more of the repeat of the crap you saw in the 90s. No real application English like composition or speech- that requires individualism and it gets squashed in that good ole need for conformity.

I dont have high hopes for Japan. Its a country with great capacity but allot is holding it back. They rely on saviours like Koizumi or the lattest Abe, but we see the 3rd arrow, as was to be expected, a failure, just like the English boom will be.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I believe the Japanese in the country side can be genuinely happy and laid back.....it is just those who live in the major cities or highly populated areas where they can be very cold.

Of course, this is just based when I visited over there and they mistook me as a "hafu".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I dont think japanese are capable of close friendships with any foriegner.......Communicating in English in Japan isnt really communicating at all. Its showing off ones skills

Or you could stop limiting your interactions to only those who speak/want to speak English, and instead show off your Japanese skills, get in some real communication.

....What's that? Not got no Japanese language skills? You deign to pass verdict on a whole country, the vast majority of whose residents you are unable to communicate with? And it's their fault?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

got plenty of J skills, but because most Japanese approach me wanting to use their English as I am a gaijin. if I reply in Nihongo, Im a henna gaijin, I must hide my skills in order to keep what little sanity I have left.

I can see your a lifer gaijin, comfie in your zone, so its useless to argue my point with such an individual. Good luck to you and your gambare nippon adventures!

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

biznas, I never speak to my Japanese friends in English. None of them seem to mind. Just sayin.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I dont think japanese are capable of close friendships with any foriegner

You do realise that for many Japanese, their best friend is their non-Japanese partner, and vice-versa? I cannot imagine a closer friendship than the one I have with my husband, and I imagine/hope he feels the same about me.

most Japanese approach me wanting to use their English as I am a gaijin

I find many Japanese who see me as a 'gaijin' tend not to approach me because they assume I don't speak Japanese and they know they don't speak English. Once we've been introduced, or they've seen me talking to someone in Japanese, or I've approached them, there's usually no problem. And for many more people, there doesn't seem to be any problem in the first place anyway. So yes, I'm very comfy in my zone and I find it sad that instead of trying to find out how your situation could be different and how you could be more comfortable, you retreat into 'you don't understand' mode.

Where are all these Japanese people who are desperate to practice their English skills on furriners? Cos they're not crossing my path.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

i don't have one japanese friend. and i am saddened to say that i don't really want one. the majority of them are idiots. and the samurai and ninja of the old makes them look good. if i were japanese and had kids, i would send them to live and study in the U.S. or in a foreign country. but i wouldn't let them be with the typical caucasian foreigner who seems to be their ideal standard of what a foreigner is supposed to be like. I would force them to forget japanese. they would be more gaijin than a gaijin. i would have them marry outside of their race. and if they want to come back to Japan and help their country, i would welcome them. but after living that way, i doubt they would fit in. and this is the problem!! i think they would be bullied or something because they wouldn't think and act like a robot. their steps would be out of sync in the morning herd to work. they would have compassion and not act like all of the other machines walking around here. they would actually want to have dinner and spend time with family. not because its just something we are supposed to do.. next time you are in the conbini, just look at those magazines of all those pretty faces of girls. They are ALL the same. they all act the same. they all want to be a house wife and just loaf around and eat donuts and gossip. its a dangerous culture and mindset. safe country, but on the flip side, dangerous.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I agree with everything that biznas is saying and I think his/her points are valid and the rule rather than the exception. I see the apologists are at it again thumbing down opinions that challenge their little gaijin bubble of denial.

No real application English like composition or speech- that requires individualism and it gets squashed in that good ole need for conformity.

I've found it frustrating when high school English text books try and set up a discussion of some sort in a way that one might in a classroom in the west. For example, a 3rd grade text book might have a unit on agreeing/disagreeing and giving opinions on a topic like school uniform and whether they should have one or not. It comes as no surprise that noone wants to speak up or give an opinion because Japanese JHS students wear uniforms and orders will be obeyed without question. So any attempt to learn and use English will only be successful if it is approached from a Japanese cultural viewpoint. Therefore, success at really learning English is a moot point.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I'm Australian and we've been doing the same thing for years as well. You're lucky if anyone even says hello to you if you're Asian in this country. I guess if you're white you expect special treatment wherever you go in the world. Maybe most Japanese are just like Australians and look at you wondering, 'what are you doing in my country and when are you going to go home?'. Luckily, I am the type of person that can look back and think, 'I don't give a flying f.... what you think'.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

The apologiest defense/denial stratedgy is a tired tune, like a cult member defending their faith at all cost. They all pretty much say the same thing when confronted with anything that challenges their existance in Japan. They surely experience the same issues that other gaijin do, but they have come enjoy the taste of the bitter Koolaid. I hope I never reach that point. I will agree with cleo however, that Japanese will open themselves up to a point with their significant other moreso than with any other Japanese. This can become a difficult situation for the forienger, because youve commmited yourself to a relationship but your expected to play the soto/uchi game as well. You become ultra soto as soon as you step outside into the world, no matter how hard you try to act or speak Japanese, but uchi in your home and its all shoganai. The bizarre soto/uchi concept keeps us all "safe" in Japan but its dated from fuedal times. I prefer not to interact with Japanese unless I have to. This would go directly against what apologist advice, but I have found that all the advice I have read or listen to when it comes to Japan has been wrong or unrealistic. The more Japanese I speak, the less I am accepted. The more foriegner I act, the less discomfort I have. Its not too difficult to understand. As the author stated, I am a perpetual outsider. Why change what I cant?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Apologists are apologizing for the sake of being accepted. Or they're just unconsciously influenced by the environment.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

There has been much talk about how Japan will deal with its need for immigration, and we can read all sorts of wonderful feel good solutions by pro immi Japanese. None, at least from what I have read, require that the Japanese people themselves change. There will be wonderful programs put in place to get gaijin accustomed to the Japanese language and customs. Nihongo benkyo etc. Been there done that. Its not the solution. I personally dont think Japan can accomodate and assimilate a large number of foriengers. They would rather slowly fade away with their unique culture. There are too many unique characteristics of Japan culture (soto/uchi) etc that cannot be changed. The foriegner themselves must adapt or endure it, usually resulting in what the action was designed to do in the first place; expel the otherness. Repeat cycle.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

So having friends is now being an apologist? cultist? if anything sounds like a zany religion it is those arguments. It is not impossible to make lifelong friends in Japan...or anywhere else really.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Actually I have made plenty of friends in Japan, mostly forienger. I would like to thank japan for that, because the Japan experience forced me to interact with others I usually would of never done. I have had Japanese who lived abroad tell me the same thing, and they can appreciate foriengers who live in Japan.

I admit, if I were Japanese, I would be very proud of my country and I try to keep this in mind when discussing anything international with Japanese. I know the minute I point out anything negative, I am scolded or asked to leave. I approach the topic with caution, always buffering any comment with praise, then I might get something like, "yes, but we Japanese dont like others..etc.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The foriegner themselves must adapt or endure it

This is the same argument put forward by nationalists/racists in the west - anyone coming to our country has to assimilate, speak like us, dress like us, eat like us, act like us, we don't want no Asian/Muslim/foreign ghettos in our country - and it's as ridiculous here as it is there.

To have a good life in Japan there's no need to adapt to the point of smothering your own identity. Learning the language is a given of course - how else are you going to communicate? - but nothing else, I've found, really needs to change. In fact, go too far down the path biznas claims is necessary and you turn yourself into a weirdo who is recognised by neither Japanese nor one's fellow compatriots. Who wants to associate/be friends with someone who is acting foreign? Just be yourself.

your expected to play the soto/uchi game as well

I've never been expected to play any games, or be anyone but me.

no matter how hard you try to act or speak Japanese

You try to speak Japanese? Didn't you tell us you had 'plenty of J skills'? Most Japanese people are much happier speaking Japanese than trying to get by with their schoolboy English. Most are joyful when they realise they don't need to try to speak English.

The more Japanese I speak, the less I am accepted.

Unless your Japanese is really, really basic or really, really weird, that's rubbish.

The more foriegner I act, the less discomfort I have.

Why try to be something you're not? instead of 'acting foreigner', why not just be biznas?

I know the minute I point out anything negative, I am scolded or asked to leave.

lol I did lots of pointing out negative stuff when my kids were in public elementary school. Instead of being scolded or asked to leave, I got elected to the PTA and together with other like-minded mums was able to make several changes for the better.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

thanks for the advice Cleo, it was deep. But process this Cleo and other apologist- lets say a Japanese woman living in the U.S. "complains" to you that white people constantly ask her if she is from Thailand and many white men approach her because of an "experience" they had while in Asia. Should I inform her that she was probably a loser in her own country (Japan), stop her complaining, if she dont like here then leave....thus disqualify everything she said? Of course not. Something obvisouly made her feel uncomfortable. Unnatural. Less human. Why is it when gaijin in Japan "complain" we are given the hate?

Seems to be a one way cake and eat it too attitude. We can see this everywhere in Japan. The kaze mask. Its mendokusai to show ones emotions, lets just hide behind our kaze mask, then we can be ourselves, just like we act when abroad. Lets stare at our cell phone, no need to interact with others, its mendokusai. Gaijin, you dont like it, your mendokusai so leave!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

mrkobayashi

Guess what, Tessa, every country is the same. People don't like hearing any criticism about their own country from a "foreigner." I've learned the hard way never to criticize British food in front of a Brit, and so on. Japanese are the same.

You just proved his/her point by saying that everybody else is the same way! It's not unique to Japan! (which is the favorite cop-out excuse as the likes of Hashimoto).

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

lets say a Japanese woman living in the U.S. "complains" to you that white people constantly ask her if she is from Thailand and many white men approach her because of an "experience" they had while in Asia.

Maybe you should go and listen to Mr Kong's podblog ("12 things never to ask an Asian woman")- that's exactly the kind of thing the woman there is complaining of (though she isn't Japanese). Do her experiences mean that the US is a place filled with people unable to accommodate others, where non-white people cannot make friends and are not welcome? I don't think so.

I've never suggested that anyone who cannot make friends here was/is probably a loser in their own country, or that they should leave, so I'm afraid your strawman argument falls on stony ground.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Apologist always seem to contridict themselves or miss the mark completely;

I did listen to the soundbite. Thats where i got the material from my post from. We can learn allot from her experiences. All the author of the posted article was trying to do is eactly what the Asian lady was trying to do, its just coming from opposite experiences.

you seem dim....are you the wife of a rich japanese man?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I did listen to the soundbite. Thats where i got the material from my post from. We can learn allot from her experiences

We can learn a lot from her about how obnoxious her precious, bitchy comments make her seem. She's probably a nice lady, but her stupid comments don't make me want to be her friend. Or to even talk to her. She objects/You object to being asked where you're from? You think you speak the local lingo better than the locals? (Your problem is the opposite of course, you expect everyone to speak your lingo and then complain when they don't do it well. I wonder what kind of impression of Americans Ms. Chen would have if she limited her circle to only those who spoke Chinese?). People should choose their eating utensils based on their genetics? Compliments about your appearance make you want to smack people?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

When you have nationalists seriously claiming that Japan is just perfect and flawless and can do no wrong, and when the foreigners complain about something, it is the fault of THEM, not Japan or the Japanese then you can be sure that something is wrong.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Thomas - nationalists? Are you serious? No one is claiming that Japan is 'just perfect and flawless and can do no wrong'. There's plenty wrong with Japan. But when people complain that the problem with making friends with Japanese people is that they don't speak English, then yes something is wrong, and it isn't with Japan or the Japanese.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I didn't mean you, but you know that there are some nationalists on here and in Japan that shall remain nameless.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

if I reply in Nihongo, Im a henna gaijin, I must hide my skills in order to keep what little sanity I have left.

I've heard so many foreigners say that in my years in Japan, and every time it was simply the person's justifications for their own insecurities. I've never met a single foreigner who could speak Japanese at a decent level who has made this claim.

The apologiest defense/denial stratedgy is a tired tune, like a cult member defending their faith at all cost.

You do realize that the Japan hater's come off exactly the same don't you? Any attempt at an explanation for something the hater hates gets a reply of 'you're just an apologist'.

You become ultra soto as soon as you step outside into the world, no matter how hard you try to act or speak Japanese, but uchi in your home and its all shoganai.

This is only relevant when you are speaking of soto and uchi in relation to being Japanese. We will always be soto. But everyone's lives are made up of multiple different circles, and depending on the circle, sometimes we are soto, sometimes uchi try screwing up at your work sometime the staff will apologize to people outside the company on your behalf extensively, because as your co-worker you are their uchi and the person they are apologizing to is soto. But after the person as left, when they are complaining about you to a coworker, you will be soto and their coworker will be uchi. Trying to simplify it to a single soto/uchi based on Japanese/non-Japanese is showing a complete non-understanding of how these terms work, how deeply ingrained the concepts are in every level of the Japanese language, and what your place is in the various areas of Japanese society.

The more Japanese I speak, the less I am accepted. The more foriegner I act, the less discomfort I have.

Again, both of these are manifestations of your own insecurities, not based in the reality of the situation.

As the author stated, I am a perpetual outsider. Why change what I cant?

This is only a half-truth. You'll never be Japanese, so trying to change that is not only futile, you lose out on the benefits of being a foreigner. But you'll only be a perpetual outsider if you see yourself that way. It's quite easy to get on the inside in other circles that have nothing to do with Japanese-ness. Family, company, sports, arts - all of these are areas where you can become an insider.

The fact is, I've never met anyone who learned to speak Japanese at a comforable level who made the sort of claims that you are making. I've heard the same time and time again from those who didn't learn the language though. People who don't learn the language feel like permanent outsiders because let's face it, they are. It's impossible to feel like part of te group when you have an inability to participate as a full member of the group. If you don't have the ability to sign up for cell phones, rent hotels, get loans, handle problems that arise, and make phone calls to get information about one thing, and need to rely on someone else who speaks Japanese to handle these things, it's impossible to feel like you belong. That's not to say it's all sunshine and roses for those who speak Japanese, but the people who speak Japanese have an entirely different set of complaints to the ones that I've quoted above.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

When you have nationalists seriously claiming that Japan is just perfect and flawless and can do no wrong, and when the foreigners complain about something, it is the fault of THEM, not Japan or the Japanese then you can be sure that something is wrong.

Nope. As many had already "hinted" to, when you have a problem making friends in a country where you reside, the problem is most likely, you.

You can admit your insecurities/deficiencies and try to improve on it or like for some, take the easy way which is to blame the entire country.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

"Again, both of these are manifestations of your own insecurities, not based in the reality of the situation"

Oh now I get it! Its my insecurities! Thanks for the help, you just cleared everything right up ) Now lets go be secure and see if anything changes. I will still get stared at, moved away from on the train, refused jobs, barked at by "secure" Japanese who want to take out their frustrations. But you said become secure...and that changes everything...)

Lets apply my "straw man" argument to this. Lets say the Asian woman interviewed by Kong complained about being compared to a brothel worker. She complained about it. Oh, shut up already, its her insecurities!!!

It has nothing to do with being secure or insecure. Its a cultural phenomenon that cant be changed.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Oh now I get it! Its my insecurities! Thanks for the help, you just cleared everything right up ) Now lets go be secure and see if anything changes. I will still get stared at, moved away from on the train, refused jobs, barked at by "secure" Japanese who want to take out their frustrations. But you said become secure...and that changes everything...)

This is a straw man. Look at your original comment to which I replied it was your own insecurities:

The more Japanese I speak, the less I am accepted. The more foriegner I act, the less discomfort I have.

None of the things you mentioned have any connection with 'speaking more Japanese and becoming less accepted' or 'feeling less discomfort by acting more foreign'.

So I stand by my comment. Your thoughts on speaking more Japanese and becoming less accepted, and feeling less discomfort by acting more foreign are both manifestations of your own insecurities.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Lets say the Asian woman interviewed by Kong complained about being compared to a brothel worker.

But she wasn't, and she didn't. She did say she was mistaken for a waitress in a Chinese restaurant. Hardly a brothel, hardly a major insult. I was once in a school where I was mistaken for an English teacher. So what.

If you wear on your face the feelings you express in your posts, it's not really surprising that people stare, and don't want to sit next to you, or employ you. Try forgetting you're in Japan, just go out and act normal.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Well good luck to you and perhaps you can pull all that over on somebody else....thats some dangerous stuff youve got yourself into )

I seek out happier places.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I imagine you'll find something 'broken' no matter where you live.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

No, actually I loved my experience in other countires. I wasnt considered or treated as an outcast. but somebody as yourself will find some way to twist that into something that apologizes for Japan.

Many of us here agreed with the author, so lets summarize. Its useless arguing with an apologist. There are loads of documentation and books that show evidence of the same experiences as the author had. They cant be disqualified Ive experienced them, others I know have had them. They have nothing to do with the following:

1) Insecurities 2) japanese language skill 3) straw men 4) expression of feelings

Good luck to you, and gambatte in Nippon!

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Um, read the second post in this thread, than re-read your post and see how foolish it is.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@strangerland,

Ill add your points to my last post to make it seem less "foolish"

Reasons foriengers have difficulty making friends with Japanese has nothing to do with different interest, small homes, insecurites, facial expressions, language ability or any other apologist excuses. Rather, it has to do with all the points the author posted in their original discussion.

@cleo,

"If you wear on your face the feelings you express in your posts, it's not really surprising that people stare, and don't want to sit next to you, or employ you. Try forgetting you're in Japan, just go out and act normal."

Sure, Ill just get a kaze mask and hide them, and be even more antisocial.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Why are people that have made Japanese friends apologists? It is not impossible, just like how it is not impossible anywhere else...sheesh People agree with the author people disagree with the author. Instead of looking down on people who have made friends here, what is so hard to accept about people befriending Japanese people on a more than superficial level?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@mochiake,

I can appreciate your post, and unlike some others I have read here, I could relate and it kept me interested from start to finish. Yes, many Japanese are not interested in what happens outside of Japan, unless it involves Japanese. The malaysia flight? Seen very little about it on the J news. There were no J citizens on board. I was also here during the great earthquake also and I was standing on this bridge after it happened. I started a conversation, of course with the usual fake praise you must do in Japan, with a J man standing there. I mentioned how Japan can chanto tsukuru, while in NZ, all the buildings fell down. Im ashamed to say that, but this self demoting behavior is a common way to start any conversation with a pig headed Japanese. His reply was the usual, aitsu nanimo dekinai or something anit foriegner Japan superior nonsense and quickly went into the gambaru nippon mode and scooted off. I admit that the West is too preoccupied with things outside their borders and should concentrate on more domestic issues, but I really appreciated your post and could relate )

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

The malaysia flight? Seen very little about it on the J news.

Maybe you're watching the wrong channels. There was a long report on the flight, what they'd found/hadn't found so far and interviews with friends and acquaintances of the pilot on the telly this afternoon.

I started a conversation, of course with the usual fake praise you must do in Japan

What 'usual fake praise'? No wonder you don't make friends, no one likes a faker. It does show, you know.

this self demoting behavior is a common way to start any conversation with a pig headed Japanese

So before this man who has just experienced probably the most frightening time of his life even opens his mouth, you decide he's 'pig-headed'? I'm not surprised he skooted off.

Dunno what mochiake said, but it seems it was so interesting the mods have taken it off into a corner where they're keeping it all to themselves. I do wish they wouldn't do that. Especially when insults like 'you seem dim' posted by self-confessed fakers are allowed to stand.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@cleo,

Sorry for the comments, shouldnt of said that. You been naggin on my post for awhile. I dont think Jenny Chen was bitchy, I really could empathsize with her because Asians do get allot of crap said to and about them in the U.S. but suffer quietly for it. There is no need to suffer; we should all be allowed to share our experiences and Im not a faker. I was also in the earthquake, and was trying to have a conversation with the J man. I have enjoyed reading the comments by others who have had the same experience as me. I dont want it to become tit for tat.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Reasons foriengers have difficulty making friends with Japanese has nothing to do with different interest, small homes, insecurites, facial expressions, language ability or any other apologist excuses. Rather, it has to do with all the points the author posted in their original discussion.

If you'd read the rest of the thread, I've claimed very clearly that the reasons have nothing to do with language ability, and that that the original points were quite accurate. And I'm sure you'll find a way to keep backpedalling with that one too.

You are trying to pigeonhole anyone who doesn't agree with you into whatever you have defined an 'apologist' as. You've done so with me, and you've done so with Cleo, and neither of us have apologized for anything. But you have gone off on a tangent as it is anyways. Your original points that I claimed were a result of your own insecurities were from your comments about speaking more Japanese and getting thought of as the henna gaijin. Then you suddenly switched to the points made in the original article as a defense of your point about being thought of as a strange foreigner for learning Japanese. Then when it's pointed out that I agree, all of a sudden it's about something else. You're all over the place.

Next, you do realize that the author of the article is Japanese right? That it's a translation of an article that was on a Japanese website?

The malaysia flight? Seen very little about it on the J news.

1) As Cleo said - maybe you're watching the wrong news, because it's been on the news here. 2) While it's somewhat interesting, is it really that big an issue that it needs to be in the news every single day? They just keep regurgitating the same news over and over, with one single new added point - 'another possible find of wreckage'. How about they just tell us when they actually find some wreckage?

Not that I'm defending Japanese news (I have to clarify this, else be branded an apologist for not agreeing with you 100% with no counter points whatsoever). Japanese news gets hung up on stories for days on end like Samuragochi, and this STAP saibou thing.

I really could empathsize with her because Asians do get allot of crap said to and about them in the U.S. but suffer quietly for it

Many of them don't suffer particularly quietly. Like the girl from the podcast. She had a rude answer for every comment that was made to her.

If there is one thing I find quite despicable is people who snap at someone who is just trying to be friendly, even if they are misplaced in their friendliness. I get annoyed at people telling me that I'm good with chopsticks as well, seeing as I've been using them almost my entire life. But I don't snap at them, instead, I just say "yes, many westerners can use them, I've been using them most of my life". Because it's a lot better then getting cold and p*ssy and making some smart-a$$ remark.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I didn't say that I had trouble making friends.

Welcome to the vast majority.

But it is true that there are a lot of people in Japan like you who can not accept that Japan can possibly have any flaws. And so any foreigner or minority that criticize Japan become problematic. And so they become ostracized.

Of course it has flaws one of which is allowing visa's to English speaking people whose only qualification is that they are merely born to a country that speaks English. This is crazy for what you eventually attract are incompetent social outcasts who couldn't get a decent job in his/her country.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

The apologists basically agree with this nationalist narrative that Japan can not have any flaws.

The problem is that the people who call others apologists apply this to anyone who disagrees with them even a little, whether or not the person disagreeing is the type to find flaws in Japan or not.

For the most part, 'apologist' is just a name bandied as a pejorative in order to avoid admitting that there may be another view point other than the one that is anti-Japanese.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I see 2 different types of foreigners here.. One who have this positive attitude to make friends and not blaming people's language level for not being able to talk about what they want to talk about. Others who call Japanese idiots and not capable of having conversation without YOU being able to freely express your thoughts and opinions in Japanese.

I honestly do not think there's just one simple answer of Yes we can be friends with Japanese, or No we cannot be friends with Japanese, because just like some people stated, it all depends on the person.

I speak Japanese, English and French (I'm a native Japanese/French speaker) - when I meet foreigners, I tend to use English first and continue to use it if that's the best or most comfortable language to use for conversation, but if the foreigner's Japanese is better than my English, I'm more than happy to use Japanese.

And for people who are saying you get sugoi!! for saying simple words in Japnaese -- guess what, when I speak to foreigners in English, I get this WOW, your English is so GOOD!!!! as soon as I say a few sentenses.. and when I speak Japanese to them, again, those same foreigners say WOW, you are so fluent in Japanese!!!! WOWWWW... well, I grew up in Japan, I just don't look Asian because I'm 1/2 French but you see what I mean... the Sugoi, Wow, thing isn't just a Japanese thing. Foreigners do that, too.

I said this in one of my posts earlier, but some of us make life-long Japanese friends while some don't. Blaming the fact you don't have Japanese friends or it's difficult to make friends here to Japanese people is simply non sense.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

And for people who are saying you get sugoi!! for saying simple words in Japnaese -- guess what, when I speak to foreigners in English, I get this WOW, your English is so GOOD!!!! as soon as I say a few sentenses.. and when I speak Japanese to them, again, those same foreigners say WOW, you are so fluent in Japanese!!!! WOWWWW... well, I grew up in Japan, I just don't look Asian because I'm 1/2 French but you see what I mean... the Sugoi, Wow, thing isn't just a Japanese thing. Foreigners do that, too.

Guilty as charged. Before coming to Japan, I remember meeting a guy from Chile who had only been in the country for three months, and we were able to converse in English. Thinking back on it, his English wasn't that good yet, but I was impressed that he was able to converse, and I told him 'your English is good', and I honestly believed it (and for that matter, still do). It wasn't perfect, but the point of language is to communicate, and he was communicating.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Japanese people in general, but not all, definitely don't make as much as an effort as some others in befriending foreigners and making them feel accepted. Denying the areas that the Japanese could improve upon, is not going to help anyone.

-7 ( +0 / -6 )

Thomas -

Japanese people in general, but not all, definitely don't make as much as an effort as some others in befriending foreigners and making them feel accepted

guess what.. I think you're just noticing that since you are in a foreign land. I am not sure where you are from originally, but I had that same feeling when I lived abroad- nobody tried to use my native languages (Japanese and French) in the U.S. and Australia other than them trying to practice some words. They probably wouldn't have really had any business with me if I didn't speak English.

what did I do?? well, instead of waiting for those people to reach out to be friends with me, I reached out to be friends with me. Did I expect them to speak Japanese or French? No.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Denying the areas that the Japanese could improve upon, is not going to help anyone.

Neither is complaining about it.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Thomas... i dont know your personal experience but at least on this thread the ones who say if you dont like it then leave, are not japanese. why do you generalize japanese people ? sure there are japanese people who dont want foreigners in japan but there are also ones who welcome people from other countries too. i definately feel welcomed and my husband who speaks very little japanese are welcomed in our neighborhood community. when invited to BBQ or nomikai, my husband is always hesitant because of the language but our japanese friends try to use limited english with him just to make sure to include him .. sure it kind of sound like they are practicing enlgihs with him but its their way of trying to include him.

if your personal experience in japan is negative, well im sorry... and i do not deny all japanese like non japanese but to generalize japanese people is just not wise.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

There won't be any over-reactionary hysteria or defensiveness like "We're PLENTY friendly towards foreigners! If you don't like it, then LEAVE!!"

Even faced with comments like,

To be frank I find them rather boring...their conversation is so narrow though I could only understand and speak simple English. They don't even try to speak a word of French/German/whatever.

there are the myriad conversational minefields, that you have to step over very delicately, if you don't want people to hate you. (You know what I mean, right?) Sometimes Americans are so swift to take offence, it's as if they have a huge complex or something

Communicating in French/German/whatever in America isnt really communicating at all. Its showing off ones skills.

?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

So, as the article goes

You do realize the article is a translation of an article written in Japanese right?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Two very important points.

The first point being that racism, discrimination and xenophobia are so embedded and endemic in Japanese society that, were it not for the occasional foreigner raising a stink about these, the Japanese consider these to be perfectly normal parts of their culture and society.

The second important point is that the rest of the world has treated the Japanese with kid gloves and given Japan the benefit of the doubt for so long that the Japanese feel they can get away with such dispicable actions without getting rebuked by the global community. It is time to stop giving Japan a free pass and to start holding it accountable for its actions.

If the Japanese will not change by themselves, I think it falls on the global community, sporting organizations like the IOC and FIFA, and international human rights groups to put pressure on Japan to reform its racist, discriminatory and xenophobic ways.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

The first point being that racism, discrimination and xenophobia are so embedded and endemic in Japanese society that, were it not for the occasional foreigner raising a stink about these, the Japanese consider these to be perfectly normal parts of their culture and society.

"Raising a stink" almost never improves a situation. All it does is alienate the person/group who is being racist/xenophobic. It's like yelling at a teenager who has done something wrong. They don't think "oh, I did something wrong", they think "shut up, you suck".

Educating through being a good model, and/or explaining things in a palatable manner does so much more to improve the situation.

The second important point is that the rest of the world has treated the Japanese with kid gloves and given Japan the benefit of the doubt for so long that the Japanese feel they can get away with such dispicable actions without getting rebuked by the global community. It is time to stop giving Japan a free pass and to start holding it accountable for its actions.

I see this same equivalent in the recent surge of Japanese nationalism. They feel that they have treated their Asian neighbors with kid gloves so long, that they are fed-up with it, and so they are becoming ultra-nationalist. Which isn't helping their situation whatsoever, it's making it worse. Same as suddenly coming down on Japan and the Japanese will alienate them, and also worsen the situation.

Diplomacy is not easy, but it's the right way to handle things.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Well said, strangerland. Well said.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Thanks.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Nigelboy

Of course it has flaws one of which is allowing visa's to English speaking people whose only qualification is that they are merely born to a country that speaks English. This is crazy for what you eventually attract are incompetent social outcasts who couldn't get a decent job in his/her country.

i really agreed with you, maybe that's why is raining today!

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Susan Elizabeth-Marsh TanabeMar. 14, 2014 - 12:22PM JST

Exactly, most of these people sound like this old book from the 80s called "Culture Clash Japan" that I was given before first going here. It's funny when (probably) Americans point out insincere flattery by Japanese, when you consider all the absurd things you have to listen through when buying anything in the US.

Isaac MorrisMar. 14, 2014 - 09:47PM JST

Isaac you're wrong about the names, and you're wrong about voting. The right to vote is like the one reason to go from perm visa to citizenship, but then no one votes anyway so why care.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

To Mocheake: I can't agree with you more on your thoughts below. I thought I was going out off my mind thinking "Am I the only one feeling this way?" until I read this article and your post. Thank you.

Mocheake MAR. 14, 2014 - 10:52AM JST I always know where I stand here. It's pretty clear that I am a foreign "friend" to all of the Japanese people I know. They never invite me anywhere, never set up anything for us to go out and do and I never see their Japanese friends or family. They see nothing wrong with it and use every excuse as to why the problem is not with them but with you or just plainly ignore it. You can defend them if you like but I know Japan is mostly a covertly racist and biased country where most people don't care about anything that happens to others outside their country. When the devastating earthquakes in New Zealand and Haiti happened, there was barely a peep written or spoken about them, except in the case of some Japanese dying during the New Zealand one. In my opinion, they generally don't care what happens to non-Japanese. People outside of Japan see them as such "nice" people because of the low crime rate (understandably), "shyness" and all that superficial bowing that goes on, etc but my eyes have been wide open since day one. I have gotten ten times better hospitality and made better, quicker friendships in so-called Third World countries than here. They are easily the most predictable people I have ever come across and when I walk out of my house I could narrate what's going to happen on any given day at work or on the bus, train, etc with uncanny accuracy. Like it or not, I am actually happy to see China getting stronger and standing up for themselves against Japan. I hate their government but I have been treated way better by my Chinese friends than by the people here, including my "in-laws". I wanted to be accepted and liked and I really wanted to like this place but many people here go out of their way to remind you you are a foreigner and don't belong and will never truly be accepted every day of the week. You can call me a basher if you want but what you should say is he calls it like he sees it.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It is hard, almost impossible, to become real friends with Japanese people, or fit in Japan, yes. Everyone knows this. What I want to know is why people insist on living in a country where this is the case. This is the reason I don't have any non-Japanese friends in Japan - all they do is analyze, criticize, complain, and in general exist in a state of indignant confusion. I don't want to have endless conversations about the anthropology of Japan, because I live in this country and I accept it for what it is and go with the flow. It doesn't bother me if things don't make sense or are contradictory, as long as I can figure it out and function. You know why it is hard to fit in with Japanese people? You are not Japanese. It is that simple. Japanese people are not like you, they work incredibly hard and make so many sacrifices because it is the Japanese way, because they are Japanese. Do you do that - do you act in regard to the Japanese way? Japanese people do. This is literally what makes people Japanese, this is what gives them a collective consciousness, the thing they are so proud of. Would you sacrifice your life for Japan? Because Japanese people would. Do you care about the future of Japan more than yourself? Because most Japanese people do, and even if they don't, they will act as if they do because this is the way of Japan. This is why Japan has a low crime rate, it is why things work the way they do, and Japanese people want it that way. So until you can identify with Japanese on an experiential level, they will not be able to identify with you or trust you. Japanese are subjective people, utterly. They generally don't analyze or have objectivity. Don't expect them to be different, or to change. They won't. It doesn't matter if it's a good or bad thing. The problem is with you and the solution is that you move to a country that is suited to you and your way of life.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Gee, thanks guys. I sure am glad that y'all have helped so many of us here. NOT I lived in Japan for some time, about 16 years, and I have many good Japanese friends. Of course there were those times when some tried to make me feel like a real Gaijin 外人、but I just stayed away from them. It really was simple, I don't think I am extra special or super intelligent but I figured it out pretty quickly. And I found it much like right here in Austin - when I was sincere and honest with people they usually liked me. I never tried to gain friends, but they came naturally to me. So really Japanese aren't that different, just ready to enjoy more friendly people like the rest of us. But what do I know - I am not a writer for a fancy magazine like Japan Today.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Plain and simple.

There are people that easily make friends and some that don't, just personal traits but they can be changed.

This is regardless of their place of origin, color, creed, etc. Some are just better at making friends.

Forgot all the reason and justifications, it is individual.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Tessa

To me, I was merely stating the obvious. To them, I was suddenly a font of all wisdom.

I think the "brain-dead" housewives are just playing the role of pupils who are supposed to respect the teacher. It is impolite to challenge or ignore the teacher.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I don't think this is a "Japan" thing. Most crowded big cities are like this. Everything is superficial and friends are hard to make. As an asian, I get treated like an outsider all the time even though most of my life I lived in the US. Maybe you guys are just finding out what it is like to be part of a small minority.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites