lifestyle

6 types of Japanese people you’ll meet while living in Japan

113 Comments
By Evie Lund, RocketNews24

A while back, we had some fun talking about five of the more noteworthy types of foreigners you’ll meet in Japan, based upon observations drawn from our time spent working and living here in the Land of the Rising Sun. Whether you’re a Plastic Sensei, Hateimus Japanicus, Secret Ninja, Bubble Dweller or Kid in a Candy Store (or indeed, all of these at different times), we reckon there’s probably quite a lot foreign residents can find to nod their heads at when considering each of those five extreme types.

But what about the flip side of the coin? Spend enough time as a foreigner in a country like Japan—a place that’s 98.5% ethnically Japanese — and you’ll be sure to notice that Japanese people will approach you, the foreigner, in a number of different ways. Today we’d like to share our thoughts on six kinds of Japanese people foreigners might meet during their time in Japan. See how many of them you’ve come across during your time traveling or living in the country.

Let’s start off with one of the first types of people foreigners encounter when they come to Japan. You’re a lot more likely to spot and appreciate these folks while you’re deep in your Kid in the Candy Store phase, i.e. when you find everything amazing and worthy of a photo. Tourists and exchange students usually have plenty of tales to tell about these folks, and they truly are the salt of the earth. We’re talking, of course, about…

The Helpful Hito

"Hito" means person in Japanese, and the Helpful Hito always has one eye open looking for foreigners in distress. They’ll swoop in, desperate to assist you somehow and ensure that your impressions of Japan are positive. In fact, long-time foreigners are wary of spending too much time standing still and spacing out in public in case a Helpful Hito mistakes them for a traveller in need and asks them if they need directions (it can get embarrassing if you were just contemplating what to have for dinner, or killing time until a friend arrives).

The Helpful Hito is basically a tourist’s best friend, since they can help you out in a pinch and point you towards the right train station platform, bus stop, or simply bat your incompetent paws away from the breakfast buffet at your hotel when you accidentally try to put salt in your coffee before you’ve learned the kanji for sugar (Wasn’t me, I swear). Part of the reason behind the Helpful Hito’s existence is that a lot of folks in Japan just tend to be downright nice anyway, not just to foreigners but to each other. If you drop something, they’ll chase you down to return it. If you’re dripping water from your umbrella onto your shoes and the nice department store floor, they’ll show you how to use the umbrella condom machine (I’m so sorry for that mental image, but it’s the best way I can think of to explain those contraptions which dispense polythene sheathes for your umbrella).

The Gaijin Hunter

I think we all knew this one was coming at some point. The phenomenon of the Gaijin Hunter is one that almost every foreigner who has lived in Japan will be familiar with. In fact, quite a lot of people who have spent an extended period of time here will attest to having met, and possibly having even been ensnared by, at least one Gaijin Hunter. They can be difficult to spot at first — you might just think you’re on really good form or are having a run of good hair days. Eventually, though, you might start to get the icky feeling that the person lavishing you with attention probably wouldn’t be quite so interested if you were just another regular Joe nihonjin.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being interested in foreigners and foreign culture, or finding foreign guys or gals especially attractive. No, the problem arises when the Gaijin Hunter in question really doesn’t care about the actual person they’re with — their personality, likes and dislikes, even their looks to a degree — so long as they’re a foreigner. On the arm of or with your arm around a GH, you become nothing more than gaijin arm candy to be shown off in public. Once you’ve been here a while, your spidey senses will quickly become attuned to sussing out when someone sees you as nothing more than a rare and exotic accessory to show off, and you’ll be able to dodge them quite easily. Unless, of course, you’re completely fine with the arrangement, in which case, the hunter might become the hunted.

The International Ninja

Imagine you’ve known someone for quite a while, working with or around them on a near daily basis, and have come to be quite friendly. They don’t talk that much about themselves, and in general they seem as Japanese as miso soup. Then, one night at a work night out, they open their mouth and a torrent of grammatically perfect, flawlessly pronounced English gushes forth. Surprise! Your work buddy, who has patiently sat through months of your garbled attempts to not totally butcher the Japanese language, is actually fluent in English and once spent a few years living overseas!

These International Ninjas conceal their worldly knowledge often for a variety of reasons, which might include not wanting to stand out or wanting to avoid looking like a show-off. Some English teachers who work as ALTs in Japanese schools notice this phenomenon when they have kikokushijo (returnee) students in their classes. Despite having lived abroad with their parents and subsequently learning to speak fluent English, these kids tend to hide their abilities or goof off in English lessons to avoid standing out in front of their classmates (which is kind of a shame, when you think about it). Whatever their motivation, the International Ninja will usually reveal themselves at some point, although it might take a bucket of beer or the forging of a close friendship to get them to drop their ninja disguise and talk American TV shows with you.

The Wannabe Westerner

We love it when Japanese people are interested in foreign countries and cultures, especially if they happen to be interested in our specific country and culture. Learning a second language, travelling, and expanding one’s cultural horizons are amazing things for any human being on planet Earth to be doing, and the last thing we’d ever want to do is cut down someone trying to do just that. Unfortunately, every now and then you might come across someone in Japan who’s a bit of a bore on the whole issue. They think Japan sucks and can’t wait to move overseas. They frequent gaijin bars (and sometimes morph into Gaijin Hunters), and frequently talk about how Japanese society is rigid and unyielding. They’ll refuse to speak to you in Japanese, or talk about Japan at all. All they wanna talk about is the place you’ve just come from. Occasionally, their bubbling enthusiasm for foreign cultures can lead to insensitive gaffes like loudly repeating explicit profanity they’ve picked up from some of the more colourful TV and movie exports. Sometimes, however, some people just find that they fit better into a culture other than the one they were born into, and that’s totally okay, too.

The English Vampire

The English Vampire tends to be a subset of the Wannabe Westerner. This one might seem a little out there, but we’ve come across many tales of this type of person, as well as encountering a few ourselves, so we know this one does happen. The English Vampire is a person who cold-approaches foreigners they spot out and about for impromptu English practice. Their intentions are benign enough – they simply want an opportunity to test out their English, and you are the lucky foreigner selected for the task. Unfortunately, English Vampires can be a little blind to the fact that not every foreigner walking around is dying to stop and chat in English. Sure, we’ll say hi and how are you if we’re not in a rush, but often the English Vampire isn’t actually that interested in knowing anything about their foreign prey, or having an actual conversation — they’d simply like to talk about themselves (their age, their hobbies, experiences abroad, and so on) and you, as temporary selected English sensei, must be quiet and listen. After all, how often does the English Vampire manage to capture a real live foreigner (remember, Japan has a population that’s 98.5 percent ethnically Japanese) to be the sounding board for their English skills?

Uncouple this from the fact that being bugged by random people in the street isn’t something that many people, foreign or otherwise, enjoy, and the other issue is that you’re basically using people for your own ends. After all, Japan is positively bursting with English conversation schools, at which thousands of foreigners make their living, so there’s really no need to be approaching complete strangers when you could just sign yourself up for classes or join an online language-exchange.

While some might think that any foreigner who rejects a Japanese person’s request for a street lesson is nothing more than a stingy old meanie, we do think there’s something a little presumptuous about the supposition that any visibly non-Asian person walking down the street is just dying to give you English lessons for free. There’s also something a little presumptuous about the supposition that any visibly non-Asian person speaks fluent English, but I digress.

The Gaijin Reminder

Perhaps this one is just an inevitable result of being a very visible minority in a very homogeneous nation. The Gaijin Reminder is someone who, for whatever reason, really needs to keep foreigners in a box marked ‘other’. While it’s pretty futile to think you’ll ever become Japanese (you won’t) or that you’ll ever be able to move about undetected as a foreigner (you won’t) or that Japanese people might stop thinking of you as a foreigner after they get to know you (they probably won’t, at least not completely), it still sucks sometimes to be constantly reminded that you are forever gaijin. Yes, we’re talking about those people who insist on responding to you in English when you try to talk to them in Japanese, even if you’ve lived here 10 years and are functionally fluent and they barely paid attention in high school English classes. The people who immediately hand you a knife and fork and whip away your chopsticks in a restaurant. You’re a foreigner, so you must not know how to use traditional Japanese utensils, right?

Some of this, admittedly, is perfectly innocent and goes back to the Helpful Hito, who would rather accommodate you in your foreign language than subject you to the struggle of trying to speak Japanese. The problem is that this mindset ignores the fact that many foreigners can, in fact, speak Japanese and understand the intricacies of Japanese society. By-and-large, the reverse is often true (especially for tourists passing through), but treating everyone as a clueless tourist does a disservice to those who have actually studied hard and attempted to integrate into society. It’s demoralising to hear people loudly proclaim how “strange” it is that you are able to have a “normal” conversation with them in Japanese, and while it’s meant as a compliment, it stings of damning with faint praise, especially if the other person knows you’ve studied Japanese/lived here for years and years.

Again, though, we do have to consider the social situation as a whole—we can’t expect others to immediately think of us as special snowflakes who aren’t like the rest of the gaijin masses (and nothing is more obnoxious than the fluent foreigner who is snide to Japanese shop staff who politely try to speak to them in English). Perhaps we should try to appreciate the sentiment behind this over-accommodating behaviour rather than taking it as a personal affront and source of irritation.

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- The coolest figure collection you’ll see today: Space maids -- Sorry, studs, you’re just too handsome for your own good! -- You’re probably not as genki as this old lady

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113 Comments
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I dont know. I was.last.november one.week in tokyo. NOONE.tried.to.speak.with me. Ok. One older.woman in the night approached.me.trying to sell a massage. Thats it. All other contacts I had to approach first. Anyway I felt the people.dont approach easily each other. Bur.maybe tokyo is not japan haha. And I have no blond hair and am not female.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You forgot the middle school boy that just really wants to say hello to you and won't stop until you say hello back or you are out of sight from him (normally traveling in groups of three or more)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The "May I speak to you'on the trains was the worst. They must all be on different trains now, where the Gaijin are more polite than me. Or perhaps I don't get around as much. I DO remember the lady who gave me her seat in 2008 when I was using a walking stick.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Pidestroika: ... to every single customer except to non-Japanese like me to whom he says absolutely nothing.

What wonders of diplomacy are you expecting? He's a combini clerk!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Pidestroika, with regard to your complaint about the kombini clerk, I do understand and accept your point, but you should take control of the situation and shame him into treating you as he does the other customers. If it happened to me I would slowly lean forward, look into his eyes, and with an exaggerated enunciation say "arigato gozaimas" to him, and then stand there with raised eyebrows waiting for his reaction. Do try this and let me know what happens!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Excellent article that avoids the pitfalls of generalization and complimented by insightful comments. What a pity that the vast majority of normal people, both Japanese and not, are not dying to know more in this hot topic.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

I'm sorry Pidestroika, but I simply do not accept that it is 'presumptuous' to automatically speak English to any Westerner. Statistically, most westerners in Japan will be either Americans, Australians, New Zealanders or Britons. Furthermore, even those Westerners who are not one of these nationalities are likely to speak English as a foreign language. And the probability is that these Westerners will be tourists (rather than residents) and will therefore not speak Japanese. Therefore, automatically speaking to them in English is the most efficient (as well as friendly and helpful) tactic.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

,if you had had the non-white experience, what about this topic is about whites? how do you even know that the majority of the posters on here are even white!? Ill complain about any person if theyre doing something wrong, especially if there white. Inferiority, jealously complex whatever it is you need to swallow that cr@p and grow a thicker skin. WTF is a non-white experience!? How about you experience a non-yellow or non-black experience, you tone stinks of racism but your probably too blinded to even realise it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Bill Adams: when you've spent quite some time here in Japan and see the polite and delicate manner Japanese (not all ofcourse) interact with eachother and then...all of a sudden the switch goes on and they (not all ofcourse) behave awkwardly, blunt or utterly weird towards foreigners, then there are grounds to share the frustrations you've experienced, wishing they could at least just behave towards you as they behave towards eachother. In my konbini there is a clerk that always says "arashta" (the kombini version of "arigato gozaimashita") to every single customer except to non-Japanese like me to whom he says absolutely nothing. You can call this "paranoia" on my part or whatever you like. In my eyes the clerk lucks social skills. And I believe that's what this is all about. Is it rude for the Japanese to automatically speak English to any hakujin they see? Well, presumptuousness is indeed a form of rudeness. When you see a woman wearing a wedding ring you don't immediately ask how many children she has. You ask more delicately IF she has any children.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

As always,there seems to be a lot of offended Caucasians up in here whenever a chance to complain about Japanese behavior presents itself.But if things were so bad you wouldn't be here but more importantly,if you had had the non-white experience you wouldn't be witching and moaning like the bored,self-entitled gaijin many of you are.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

I have 4 cars but only have the space for 3.5. Theyd never approach me directly even though im pretty sure I know who it is. Anyways the cops came becuase they got a complaint, they werent overly worried because the car in question is mostly on my land and doesnt restrict access to cars using it being a quiet residential street. That was three months ago and the car is still parked there. The only way Ill move it is if the police threaten me with a parking ticket, unlikely.

Lucky for you you live in Japan where minor problems are dealt with through an intermediary (in this case the police) in order to maintain the wa. In some places outside Japan you could expect the same problem (you being the one in the wrong, overflowing your property with more vehicles than you have room for) to be 'solved' via the Second Amendment.

funny thing is if the neighbour in question had approached me politely and asked me too move it then Id happily do so, but now they can go jump, this is one rock that wont be moved so F easily.

Funny thing is, in Japan that approach would be considered very impolite and would put the neighbour as much in the wrong as you already are. Could even lead to the two of you rolling around in a pond until one of you stopped moving.

(As an aside, why/how do you have more cars than you have room for? Registering ownership of a car involves registering a parking space for it, and they do come to check that the space you specify does actually exist and isn't being used by someone/something else.)

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Some people here seem determined to be offended, no matter what Japanese people do. If they don't speak English, if they do speak English, if they ignore you, if they come up to you ... Given the belligerent attitudes displayed by some here it's no surprise that maybe the locals are less than impressed with you.

If a Japanese sees a Westerner it is friendly of them to automatically speak English. And it may surprise some of you to know that some Japanese are just not very friendly to everyone, not just foreigners. A little less paranoia might help ...

1 ( +5 / -4 )

crustpunker: The 3rd question I'm ALWAYS asked is whether I like Japanese food (duh!) followed by the the absolutely obligatory "do you eat nato?" Then I get depending on the answer:

"No" - "Why not? It's good for your health" "Yes" - "Really? Isn't it smelly?"

I've never met any Japanese who doesn't want to know whether I eat nato or not. It seems somebody, somewhere has written a "how to break the ice with a foreigner" textbook which is compulsory reading for all Japanese with absolutely no exceptions and no deviations. No Japanese has EVER asked me what kind of music or movies I like, if I like manga, what's my favorite sport, my best or worst experience in Japan or any other conversation starters. It's always, ALWAYS the "nato question". Japanese readers, please help, I really want to know: do you ask the "nato question" when you encounter another Asian or African or is it an exclusive to hakujin question?

7 ( +8 / -1 )

"How about "the lunatic"?

Har! Or, how about just the ones who start squeezing into the train from the other side of the doors from me, who is patiently waiting for the rest of the people getting off the train before I get on?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Regarding jpn_guy's comments: very good discussion. Japanese culture is as basically exclusionary as many western cultures are (ideally) inclusionary. They will eagerly look for new ways to exclude each other (Nazi blood typing being one of these). It's just the way they are. Fortunately, I don't care. But, I feel for you. You tried very hard. I have lived here for 24 years and it has been lovely because I have never expected to be accepted by the locals nor wanted to be. I have my own circle and am content with it.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

In what other part of the world is it OK to just blurt out a personal question like that upon meeting someone in the first 8 seconds?

All of East Asia, and quite a lot of the rest of the planet. Not something to freak out about.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Thought all these types were relics. I don't see them where I live.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

….and all 6 I desperately try to avoid.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

the 'comedy genius' types who greet me with "Hello!" when I walk in the izakaya. I get the sense the volume of the laughter from the group the speaker is in can depend on the rank of the speaker.

If this goes down well, expect it to be followed up with, "This is a pen!"

How we laughed.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Here are the classic questions I usually get asked when meeting a Japanese (usually male) for the first time.

Where are you from?

Have you been in Japan long?

Are you married? / Do you have a girlfriend/ boyfriend?

There seems to be this ABSOLUTE need to classify and categorize people as soon as they are met.

In what other part of the world is it OK to just blurt out a personal question like that upon meeting someone in the first 8 seconds? Would it be considered rude for a Japanese person to ask another Japanese person this? male to female or female to male? I can't imagine that this would be OK. What if I am gay or recently divorced? And if so, is it ok to be like,

"Nah brah, divorced a month ago..Cheers for that."

5 ( +7 / -2 )

I know this is not meant to be some deeply researched sociology tract, but still it is pretty weak.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

There is the one subcategory of Free English lessons hunter: the ones who suppose that all countries in Europe and Americas have English as their native language, and who are shocked to hear that yes, people in Sweden speak Swedish and people in Finland speak Finnish.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

They left out.... self confident and well adjusted Taro and Keiko.... the type that sees foreigners and does not think much of it. They don't go out of their way to talk, but if the opportunity presented itself, they wouldn't shy away either. They're not weird, they're just busy with their life and know how to prioritize. Which I think are the vast majority of Japanese.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

This article perpetuates stereotypes based on the identification of non-existent social sub-groups. Do the names of any of the groups identified exist outside this article, was the info obtained by following ethnographic methods commonly used by sociologists? Thought not.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

we can’t expect others to immediately think of us as special snowflakes who aren’t like the rest of the gaijin masses

Sure, we can't expect to be thought of as "special snowflakes", but is it too much to ask that people use their brains and imagine that individuals from different countries maybe don't all fit into the same box, feel the same way about things, or even speak the same language?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I'm so wrapped up in work and family and doing whatever I want during my few moments of free time I don't know what people here think of me and I don't really care. Have I met any of these six types? How should I know? I don't classify people and give them names. I just take each person as I meet him or her. If someone's a jerk to me, I just assume it's some personal problem going on there I don't know about and put it out of my mind. If someone's nice to me, I'm happy and everything's fine. I was like that back home, too. Either we got along or we didn't and if we didn't, I didn't give you a moment's thought.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

How about the defensive (read: insecure) boyfriend type? You'll be sitting on the train, minding your own business, and the guy will do everything in his power to stop his g/f sitting next to you. If there are two seats available, he will be the one that sits next to you every time without fail. If they're standing, he will make sure he is practically shielding her, with his back turned to you."

I actually encounter a lot more Charisma man types exhibiting this behavior than the J-guys. The perceived competition threat defense mechanism that causes them to look in any direction other than yours and completely ignore the "other foreigner " that just entered the room. Especially at places like Starbucks etc. LOL

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Japanese neighbors blank each other too.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Don't forget 'the blanker'. Usually in the form of a neighbour who totally ignores you when you greet them.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

These 6 Type of people hardly represent 1% of Japanese People.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

doesn't have to be tea necessarily. As long as you are served last after everyone else no matter when you ordered, the Brain Locker exists.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Never experienced such a bad experience at the restaurant with my tea. The only type I don't like is the GH looking for $$$. It's embarrassing and if you want money go to work; being cute isn't enought.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The Brain Locker. When customer service for non-Japanese basically falls apart. Multiple times: You're in a restaurant and ordered some tea with your meal. The waiter/ress doesn't give you your tea until the meal is finished and you're about to leave. Your Japanese friends were served normally.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Sometimes.

I hope you're not trying to say that your comment was the truth though, even you know that's ridiculous right?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Being in Japan is like being in an abusive relationship. YOU LOVE THEM despite the fact that THEY HATE YOU.

I've never felt like the Japanese hate me. I've often wondered about people who feel this way.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

@jpn_guy - "The truth of why so many people leave is much more simple. They are made to feel unwelcome, and they leave Japan despite their love for it"

Being in Japan is like being in an abusive relationship. YOU LOVE THEM despite the fact that THEY HATE YOU.

It's better just to leave!! :-(

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Re: "English Vampires"

I have a particular disdain for the female ones, especially if young (<25yo).....Countless times I've heard "I really want to practice English, but guys just want to have sex!"

Then the conversation proceeds as follows (if necessary with one of my Japanese-speaking friends translating for me): "You want a private English tutor? I charge $25/hour."

"Takai!!!!!"

"I'm probably the most proficient English speaker you are likely to encounter. I'm the go-to guy amongst my peers for proofreading/editing/correcting people's essays and resumes, even those of other native English-speakers, due my superior command of the language. Besides, my time is valuable to me....so I price it accordingly."

"Demo takai!!!"

"Why do all of you expect men to provide you with a valuable and marketable service without compensation? You don't want to put out and you don't want to spend any money, and yet you are surprised you can't find anyone to entertain your demands?"

There are generally 3 outcomes from such an exchange:

1: They sit there with a stupified look upon their face. Priceless. End the conversation and go about your business.

2: They inquire about your living arrangements, and "studying" at your place. ^_^

3: They try to negotiate the price for English lessons at a coffee shop or something. At which point you've basically convinced the girl to pay you to flirt with her.

All positive IMO....

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Ugh. Another of the massive and extreme generalization articles. At least they took a hint from the "five kinds of gaijin" and took a shot at themselves at the beginning of the article, and toned down on the anger at writing the types (perhaps because they are not Japanese they felt that they had to be softer in the descriptions?). YES, there are people who FIT into these categories, but none who fill them, and more importantly it can only describe a very small portion of the bevy of differences that exist here among the Japanese (as with the five types of foreigners article). I love people watching, regardless of where I am. Today I was in the center of Osaka, walking around, and found myself looking at heaps of people -- some more than others -- and wondering what they were up to, what kind of person they were, what their dreams were. Probably none were anything like the people categorized in this article.

I wish I hadn't read it.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

People talk to me like a regular dude. God, it's beautiful.

I'm a partly Asian partly white American. Sadly, I never got that in my own country. I've gotten way more acceptance here in Japan. Sorry you never could fit in.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Tinawatanabe offers herself as a very good specimen of one type of Japanese you are bound to encounter - one who loves her country so uniquely well that she assumes everyone else hates it.

Probably to her disappointment, this is not a uniquely Japanese trait. I have met Americans, Brits, Frenchmen and Russians who bring the same tediously thin-skinned aggression to every well-meaning conversation. But live here for a few years and I guarantee you will meet one of Tina's ilk.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

Qweryjapan Coming to Japan is like the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I am a naturalised japanese citizen now . My five stages were impressed,impressed,impressed, What the f... Is this ? Where to escape.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

People talk to me like a regular dude. God, it's beautiful. Now after nearly 20 years, I live outside Japan with my family. People talk to me like a regular dude. God, it's beautiful.

man, after so many years in Japan this is surely what I miss the most! I wished I could break free from this never-ending dejavu. if you meet a 100 japanese for the first time, 99 will come up with the same silly questions!!!

11 ( +13 / -2 )

I'd like to counter that often foreigners feel like they aren't being treated as regular human beings, because they aren't being treated the way they would in their own experiences, not realizing that the Japanese are treating them the same as they treat everyone else.

Well yes, there is an element of truth to this. Many Japanese people's close friends date back to junior high and high school. While this happens in any country, it's well known that the proportion is higher and Japanese guys (particularly guys) may struggle to make friends among themselves in adulthood.

Japanese kids struggle when they move from one end of the country to another.

I played an indoor sport once with some guys who formed two teams from respective workplaces. The teams never mixed during the breaks, despite playing together every week for five years. The natural flowing together and mixing that would happen in my own country did not take place even though they hung out hundreds of times. When I asked one guy in my team the name of a guy in the other team, he said he didn't know!

So I'm not going to contradict you. There's a lot to be said for observing how Japanese guys treat each other, especially when they are in the out group.

At the same time, the very premise of this article is that there are categories of Japanese responses and behavior that are particular to dealing with foreigners (except the ninja, who may hide his skills from everyone, particularly his own countrymen). There is, after all, the phrase as 'gaijin-atsukai'. The existence of a word to describe the differential treatment foreigners receive would seem to contradict the position that this differential treatment does not exist.

Of course Gaijin-atsukai, goes beyond simple refusal to speak in Japanese and make unwanted assumptions, to encompass assumed incompetence, childishness, failure or inability to take responsibility, and removal from any decision making process. A foreigner is not ichinin-mae, at least not until they leap through strenuous hopes to prove otherwise (and earn their stripes which may be taken away at any time and for any reason).

So while I accept your point that Japanese people (for better or for worse) do not treat each other in the same way as we treat each other back home, I don't think this is the only phenomena on the table here.

You allude to this yourself in your descriptions of how you've learned to deal with assumptions made about you. How many Japanese people have to strategically ask people to speak to them in Japanese when they are in a rush? This is not of course the most troublesome example one could pick.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

implicitly agreeing here that if you have difficulties as foreigner in Japan, the way the local culture treats outsiders is a major part of this?

Yes I am. I don't necessarily think that this is the way it should be, I'm just saying that is the way it is.

One thing I've learned in life though is that there are two ways of dealing with things that are not as the way you would like:

1) Try to change whatever it is you don't like

2) Try to change your reaction to whatever it is you don't like

I've gone the second route for the most part in Japan. There are things that I don't like in this country, but when I can't change them (#1), I instead change my attitude about whatever it is that bothers me (#2). For example I used to get frustrated when people always think I'm American, now I just let it slide and point out that I am not. People still think I'm American, but now it doesn't bother me anymore. And it used to frustrate me when I would speak Japanese, and they would reply in English. Actually, it rarely happens to me anymore (my Japanese level got to a point where people just generally don't do this), but now instead of getting frustrated/angry, I just accept that maybe they want the chance to speak English and speak English with them. The exception is if I'm in a rush, and they are slowing things down, at which point I give them a quick '日本語でお願いします'. I still don't let it frustrate me though.

I would also reiterate that wishing to be accepted and treated as a regular human being is not the same as wishing you were Japanese.

Fair enough, but I'd like to counter that often foreigners feel like they aren't being treated as regular human beings, because they aren't being treated the way they would in their own experiences, not realizing that the Japanese are treating them the same as they treat everyone else. The specifics of what they are saying may be different, since the listener is from a different country, but the types of things they say to foreigners are the same types of things they say to each other. In other words, the content is different, but the source is the same.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

That's okay. I'm noisy after 9pm on purpose. LoL, they used to slam their windows & shutters, but never once approached me about the ordeal. yeah get that also, had a neighbour complain to the police because one of my cars was slightly over my house boundary on the road by about 20cm. I have 4 cars but only have the space for 3.5. Theyd never approach me directly even though im pretty sure I know who it is. Anyways the cops came becuase they got a complaint, they werent overly worried because the car in question is mostly on my land and doesnt restrict access to cars using it being a quiet residential street. That was three months ago and the car is still parked there. The only way Ill move it is if the police threaten me with a parking ticket, unlikely. funny thing is if the neighbour in question had approached me politely and asked me too move it then Id happily do so, but now they can go jump, this is one rock that wont be moved so F easily.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

@strangerland

They want to be Japanese and try to do everything that they think would lead to inclusion of foreigners within their own countries, then get bitter when that doesn't work in Japan.

Thanks for reading my comments and for your response. This sentence, which I think sums up your point of view, is in two parts, but they don't necessarily follow one from the other.

"They want to be Japanese". I will plead not guilty here. I have never wanted to become, or thought I was, Japanese.

"They try to do everything that they think would lead to inclusion of foreigners within their own countries". I will certainly plead guilty here though, and I don't think this is contradictory.

In my own country, trying to learn and speak the language and do as the locals do does indeed score you points. As you suggest, this is what I tried to do - do what a foreigner in my own country would have to do to be accepted. That might have been a bit naive, but it was my only point of reference.

In essence then, 20 years down the track and with the benefit of hindsight, I agree with you on this part. Doing what would get you accepted in other countries does not get you accepted in Japan.

Aren't you, though, implicitly agreeing here that if you have difficulties as foreigner in Japan, the way the local culture treats outsiders is a major part of this? You would seem to agree that the often wielded 'it's you not them' argument does not stand up to scrutiny.

Anyway, I would also reiterate that wishing to be accepted and treated as a regular human being is not the same as wishing you were Japanese.

The only way that would be true if Japanese people would only treat other Japanese people as human beings.

And that can't be true, since that would be supremacist, wouldn't it?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

do enough to get along with the locals, but I have never and will never try to become Japanese, to do so would be an insult to who i am.

Exactly. And 99% I am the nail "sticking up". But it's totally fine.

They are made to feel unwelcome

That's okay. I'm noisy after 9pm on purpose. LoL, they used to slam their windows & shutters, but never once approached me about the ordeal.

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

@ qwertyjapan

"Coming to Japan is like the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance."

that's right!

Ah yes not to mention the phantom vandalizer, the untimely sanitation collectors, and the inconvenient postal receipt leavers.

Welcome to Japan.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Japanese people you’ll meet while living in Japan?

well lets see, oh, what about the loud coughers in your ear with no hands, the nosy watchers, the bump into on purposers, the 3-4 wide human sidewalk walls, the gaigin card checkers, and last but not least the mean muggers.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

The secret is to not care. Come to Japan, and learn to live in Japan in a manner in which you are happy. Don't base your happiness on the expectations of others. that is the exact way i live my life in Japan, do enough to get along with the locals, but I have never and will never try to become Japanese, to do so would be an insult to who i am. I have one foot on either side of the fence, play the Japanese game when I have to, be who i am when i dont give a F. There are two types of gaijin in Japan, those that have been assimilated, those that refuse assimilation but have a high tolerance level to handle all the petty BS, the rest go home.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Over-exuberant celebrations of using chopsticks etc. Telling you only Japan has seasons, and other mind-numbing nonsense.

@sf2k. Oh yeah, the chopsticks . . . and how they're all baffled with the drawn out "ehhhhhh--!!" when you explain to them that you learned how to use chopsticks from an early age because there are several local Asian restaurants where your from stateside.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Ah yes the Gaijin Hunter. Replied in high school French, and was lucky that ended pretty quickly.

Where's The Pigeon Holer: Endless questions about race and blood. Over-exuberant celebrations of using chopsticks etc. Telling you only Japan has seasons, and other mind-numbing nonsense.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

sitting on the bus or train is their choice like they may have encountered a rude awakening in the past so like keeping distance is their choice.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

On particular Japanese Person stands out when I was doing business in Japan in 1994. He was all about that i should not try to be 'Japanese' that it is futile and i should go back to America. He thought by my being constantly polite and just understanding that I was somehow trying to be Japanese. I explained that I am normally very polite and that I was in no way trying to be Japanese. I explained that I am in the country to do business and am just friendly and helpful. After this explanation the Japanese individual ''brightened'' up and was friendlier. Still said that i should finish up as soon as possible and return to America, but was happy that I was not trying to 'suck up' like so many gaijin to be Japanese. It was a surreal experience. hope not too many have met Nationalists that have acted that way.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

Gaijin Hunter oh dear I see this at least once a week, my atuned spidey senses can pick them out about 30m away. If there a pretty lady then all is fine, otherwise easiest way to repell them is to put on a "really having a bad day face" and avoid eye contact at all costs, if that fails and they still start talking to you in Japanese or English. being a white male its nearly always "are you America!?" which i reply with fake strong Russian accent, "no english, I Russian" filters out about 99% of them.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Japanese people love Japan. They, with some justification, think it is one of the best countries on earth.

This is very true. I'm sick of hearing how "great" everything is here when its really not all that.

They are made to feel unwelcome, and they leave Japan despite their love for it.

we've all stepped on those eggshells before. When I visited Australia there were no "Helpful Hito/Gaijin Hunters/Ninjas etc." Rather, hospitable people talking to me like a regular dude.

5 ( +9 / -5 )

On the point of Japanese people's view of foreigners, when I look at my Japanese friends, all of them are fluent in English, have lived abroad and do not constantly remind me I'm not Japanese, take nasty sideswipes, constantly fish for compliments about Japan etc.

The longer I stay here, the more I write off the majority of Japanese people as people I don't want to spend my free time with but there are people here worth bothering with and you can have a 'regular' conversation with.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

I loved Japan so much I tried so hard to be real part of it. It spent thousands of hours studying Japanese. I married a Japanese woman. I bought a house. I thought I would stay in Japan forever, and made pretty good attempt at following up on that intention.

I think this is where it falls apart for a lot of foreigners. They want to be Japanese and try to do everything that they think would lead to inclusion of foreigners within their own countries, then get bitter when that doesn't work in Japan.

The problem is that the meaning of 'Japanese' is different than say the meaning of 'American', in that American is a nationality, while Japanese is a nationality and an ethnicity. We can become Japanese nationality, but we will never be Japanese ethnically, no matter what we do/try.

The secret is to not care. Come to Japan, and learn to live in Japan in a manner in which you are happy. Don't base your happiness on the expectations of others.

Either that, or come to Japan and live here for as long as you enjoy it, and get out when you stop enjoying it.

Both ways can and do work.

22 ( +23 / -2 )

I loved Japan so much I tried so hard to be real part of it. It spent thousands of hours studying Japanese. I married a Japanese woman. I bought a house. I thought I would stay in Japan forever, and made pretty good attempt at following up on that intention.

Japan has a lot going for it. People are general diligent, reliable and trustworthy, just like the stereotype. In professional settings, people deliver on what they say they will do. Service is impeccable. Payments are made on time. Although there are problems like 'ore ore sagi', when it comes to money, people are generally incredibly honest. People take their hobbies and interests seriously. Most people are keen to learn how to do things properly. Parks on Sundays are full of happy families not surly teenagers taking drugs.

All of which leads us to the question - when so much about Japan is so well organized, and so many of the social problems faced by Western countries have been addressed, why do so many foreigners leave?

Japanese people love Japan. They, with some justification, think it is one of the best countries on earth. If they stopped to think for a while, they would realize there is a contradiction here. Why are so few foreigners so keen to leave such a great place. Those that do ponder the question come up with various answers, often wrong.

Foreigners can't learn Japanese. Foreigners hate Japan. Foreigners can't adapt to the culture.

The truth of why so many people leave is much more simple. They are made to feel unwelcome, and they leave Japan despite their love for it.

22 ( +24 / -3 )

If there are two seats available, he will be the one that sits next to you every time without fail.

I do the same thing (regardless of whether the guy is Japanese or not), so I wouldn't say this is a Japanese thing.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Coming to Japan is like the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

You're in denial that what you hear and see is true. "This can't be true!" "Wow! Look at these women!" You're angry at everyone and everything because it doesn't make sense. This is where you discover online forums. Cough, cough. OK, I'll try to learn Japanese and act more Japanese and see if I can fit in a little more. Oh, God. This is hopeless. No matter what you do, you're still the gaijin poodle. Acceptance. It is what it is. Relax and don't take everything so seriously.

I'm at stage 5 after 24 years.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

This is what I miss too, being talked to like a regular dude. Yes, it's a good thing.

But you don't talk like a regular dude. you talk like a regular Japan hater.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

How about the defensive (read: insecure) boyfriend type? You'll be sitting on the train, minding your own business, and the guy will do everything in his power to stop his g/f sitting next to you. If there are two seats available, he will be the one that sits next to you every time without fail. If they're standing, he will make sure he is practically shielding her, with his back turned to you.

It's hard to explain, but I've spoken with heaps of other foreign guys & they've all experienced the same thing. Surely others on here have noticed this?

Or you're almost always the very, very last option when there's a empty seat next to you on the train. Next time you're on the train, just observe. I'm not a huge guy, but the train of thought is probably that I would give the person less space if they were to sit next to me - so they'll almost always choose the other empty seat first.

It sounds trivial, but this has been my observation after riding trains for almost a decade in Japan (8 of those years in Tokyo).

9 ( +12 / -3 )

@jpn_guy. Thanks for sharing your post. . . An interesting read indeed.

Now after nearly 20 years, I live outside Japan with my family. People talk to me like a regular dude. God, it's beautiful.

This is what I miss too, being talked to like a regular dude. Yes, it's a good thing.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

@jpn_guy - "I had been invited... solely for... being part of the entertainment... Now... I live outside Japan"

Thank you for being honest about your experience. It is one you share with MANY, MANY people... :-)

8 ( +10 / -2 )

they can't make it in their own native country so why not

This ridiculous comment again? I've heard it so many times over the years. Yet so many foreigners I've known who have lived here for a year or two have gone back to their home countries and become very successful. People who make this comment don't seem to realize that a year or two of experience living overseas is quite appealing to many companies in Western companies.

It's true that there are some foreigners who can't make it successfully in their home countries and come to live in Japan. These ones don't usually succeed in Japan either. But trying to pigeonhole us all into a single category is no different than some Japanese who try to do the same thing.

10 ( +12 / -3 )

This article reminds me of a wedding I went too after about 10 years in Japan. At the time I was working at a Japanese company where I used Japanese all day every day. At the time, I also I owned a house in Japan and spoke Japanese around the kotatsu with my wife's family.

Well, the bride and groom were also both Japanese. I knew the groom through a sports club. I though I was invited as I was his friend. I arrived to find all the non-Asian looking guests were seated around the same table.

The MC after asking people to enjoy the food and drink told everyone there was a 'table of guests from all around the world'.

I realized I had been invited,without my consent, solely for the purpose of being part of the entertainment . I'm sure some of our readers think this is an over-reaction.

But sure enough, after the food ended an endless stream of people came up to practice their English. They were all friendly and warm. I did not want to be like the 'obnoxious fluent foreigner who is snide to Japanese shop staff who politely try to speak to them in English', nor did I want to ruin the celebratory atmosphere.

So I spoke to everyone in English, although it did let them know I had traveled from a few kilometers away rather than 'all around the world'. Of course everyone wanted to talk in English about my home country rather than their own or my life in Japan. I'm sure many people recognize this situation.

When people began to struggle in English or could not speak enough to sustain the conversation in English about my home country (their chosen topic), I let them know that I'd been resident in Japan more than 10 years, considered Japan my home, and tried to engage them in a regular conversation.

Almost without fail, this prompted people to lose interest, like kids who'd been promised the real Santa Claus and ended up with a poor imitation.

Not withstanding the friends you can and will make, The English Vampires, the Gaijin Reminders and the Wanabe Westerners are a real issue for anyone who wants to stay in Japan long-term, integrate into the society, settle, and consider it home.

It's a warning worth heeding. The above is just one example. Only a few weeks ago, I received a Facebook invite from a Japanese 'friend' to a Halloween party explicitly mentioning 'lots of foreigners', as if they are part of 'the show'.

Given the wording of the invitation, I know exactly what will happen if I turn up to that party and start speaking to people in Japanese like I do with my wife's family, expecting to be treated like a regular human being.

On top of the above,I have to deal with people telling me without irony that all of the above is my own fault for not integrating properly!?

Well, I wrote to my 'friend' to thank him for the invitation and wish him well. Soon after, he moved away with his new wife to a new town. He never got back in touch with me again.

Now after nearly 20 years, I live outside Japan with my family. People talk to me like a regular dude. God, it's beautiful.

23 ( +26 / -3 )

@Evie,..like 6 types of people sure shows that you have a limited source of genba experiences like numbers type amounts to many many more;..like you've lived a sheltered life and yet here's in reverse like reasons be that most foreigners come cold turkey to seek out adventure in Japan is that they can't make it in their own native country so why not: in Japan they considered to be a minority and only inferior upon first settling in yet superior and idoliized for speaking perfect English and that alone can open many doors toward future opprutunities yet where they came from they were an average or below the norm achiever.

So different types of Japanese are all about their choice and like that's Japan's 21st Century is adding on more and more types;..some types are unique, some are no brainer and cybersonic yet still that's Japan like only influencial with the influx of foreigners yet what we must prevent is foreigners corrupting them biting Japanese Tuna,..now that's scary , .

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I guess I've been pretty lucky in that I've run into very few of the foreigner hating Japanese that so many here seem to run into so often. I could count such incidents on one hand, and still have fingers left over.

I hear you there Strangerland, but for some of prior-US Military guys who were stationed here in past decades, it wasn't so unusual to run into the japanese haters on a weekly basis. Heck, we had to deal with belligerent iranians every now and then too. Or whatever foreign nationality here among japanese who despised our very presence.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

They don't have much opportunity to actually employ it but everyone around them tells them they need it. So I'm happy to give them that chance.

Me too. Why not - I already speak Japanese, and don't need the practice. If I can give them an opportunity they usually wouldn't have, and it doesn't inconvenience me at all, then I'm ok with it.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Be nice too for the Japanese to not automatically think that every foreign person they meet has to be greeted in English and when responding in Japanese, they have to continue to try to communicate in absolutely horrid English and refuse to look at the Medusa speaking "their" language.

I've done some thinking on this. This thing called English is hoisted upon the Japanese at an early age. And they're beaten over the head with it for many years after. They don't have much opportunity to actually employ it but everyone around them tells them they need it. So I'm happy to give them that chance. If they respond in English, I'll speak English-- or rather call their bluff! Usually they can only go as far as a few recycled phrases will take them. They realize it, I realize it, I complete my transaction in Japanese and I'm out the door.

One time was funny though when I went to Starbucks. The staff asked me in English, "for hear?", while gesticulating obnoxiously with one finger pointing down. I said, yes. Then he said, in English, "mug cup?" while pretending to drink from a coffee mug. I wanted tell him that I speak English, he spoke to me English and I answered, so why the over-the-top gestures?

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Yes, RanaSodhi, actually I have seen that, particularly when they live overseas. Though I am not sure how prevalent it is. It's as if being overseas with a foreign husband somehow potentially dilutes their sense of identity and they need to overcompensate for this by overdoing the Japanese thing. The foreign man accepts and encourages this, I think, because his wife then seems more exotic or because he is ignorant of Japan and his wife is the only authority or because he believes he should not be judgemental about another culture.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

It's a good joke for sure.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I remember a western woman in my first company in Japan saying something along the lines of "whenever I hear about a white guy married to a Japanese woman, I think 'it's just another statistic'".

At the time, I couldn't put my thoughts into words, but after I had time to think about it, I realized they were something along the lines of 'way to boil down the lifelong commitment that two people have made to each other into a single number'.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I honestly haven't seen that. I have seen a hell of a lot of snobbery about western men married to Japanese women from western women.

True, Jimizo. Very true.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

What a waste of time. Sure glad I only read the first paragraph.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

I honestly haven't seen that. I have seen a hell of a lot of snobbery about western men married to Japanese women from western women.

Agreed.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

@Rana Sodhi

I honestly haven't seen that. I have seen a hell of a lot of snobbery about western men married to Japanese women from western women.

13 ( +15 / -3 )

An intersting group is Japanese wives of white people !! Those white husbands are fine but their Japanese wives have some weird kind of pride !!

-6 ( +6 / -12 )

Be nice too for the Japanese to not automatically think that every foreign person they meet has to be greeted in English and when responding in Japanese, they have to continue to try to communicate in absolutely horrid English and refuse to look at the Medusa speaking "their" language.

Not really fair to pin that on all Japanese people when it's only a subset. Trying to pin it on all of them is essentially doing to them the same thing that people complain they do to us - put us all in a single category.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Then you have the Japanese person who may or may not be cordial at work but who absolutely does not know you once you are past the office door.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

If we live in a country we should be trying to learn and use the language of that country. We should also greet people in that language.

Be nice too for the Japanese to not automatically think that every foreign person they meet has to be greeted in English and when responding in Japanese, they have to continue to try to communicate in absolutely horrid English and refuse to look at the Medusa speaking "their" language.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I like the 'comedy genius' types who greet me with "Hello!" when I walk in the izakaya. I get the sense the volume of the laughter from the group the speaker is in can depend on the rank of the speaker.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

After reading other posters' comments, I guess I've been pretty lucky in that I've run into very few of the foreigner hating Japanese that so many here seem to run into so often. I could count such incidents on one hand, and still have fingers left over.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

The idea that you can just go up an start talking to anyone that looks different in a specific language is rude at best and racists at worst. If you hear someone speaking English or see them on a park bench reading an English book or something, then that is different, but to just assume foreign equals English is rude.

I've laid English on plenty of people before, Japanese and foreign alike, either in the assumption or the hope that they will understand it. It's a quick way to establish whether they do understand or not. I suppose an alternative method might exist - gesticulation, picture cards or some such - but this one works for me.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Missed the most obvious one -- the Jack@$$ Japanese, or as other posters have called them, the 'hateimus gaijinus', The numerous ones, primarily male, who decide it is their place to not-so-subtly remind you, in whatever way possible, that you are a guest in Japan, and one which they would prefer not be there. My best example of this type is when one driving his car practically run me over in a cross-walk, and proceeded to jump out of his car, and kneel down and pound the pavement and scream about how this country is his sacred ground, and I should have not been in his way.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Life is good. Enjoy the silliness of it. Don't complain, just smile. Yeah...you would be surprised at how many free drinks and food is in the offerings!

8 ( +9 / -1 )

It's fun to categorize different types of people but in my experience the biggest group are the 90% of Japanese people who really couldn't care less about who you are or where you come from.

@Miyagi Ken -

But It really depends where you go in Japan since English isn't always the default assumption. In Hamamatsu I've had a few people greet me in Portuguese, and in Obihiro I've had someone say hello in Russian. I don't speak either of these languages but I just say Ola or Zdrastvutye back to them and smile. I appreciate the their effort even though their assumption is wrong.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

You forgot to add the 'hateimus gaijinus', the Middle aged pachinko dweller, who always seems to spit, soon before you pass in the street, and grumble something about 'gaijin'

I've certainly had my run-ins with these type. Just stand your ground. They're wimps.

9 ( +13 / -5 )

I just say アメリカ人じゃないよ (I'm not American)

10 ( +11 / -1 )

This upsets my friends, so I tell them that it is the same with foreigners here.

There have been a few occasions where I was walking and some kids pointed at me and said,"Uwa! amerikajin!" I am American so no big deal but I wonder how other foreigners feel to be called American.

10 ( +11 / -2 )

Ken - what exactly makes it rude?

There's an area of Beijing where I'm regularly greeted in Russian (by Russians). I've never thought it rude that they assume I speak Russian (I don't).

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Sometimes foreigners don't speak English at all though. I know many Vietnamese people living in Miyagi that cannot speak English but have studied for two years at a Japanese school and passed the N2. They are often met with people speaking English to them because they don't look Japanese. Or people that have never met will ask if they speak English instead of asking if they speak Japanese. Likewise, I have heard stories of people visiting Australia (I have never gone myself) and the locals greet them by saying "ni hao". They are asian so the assumption is that they must speak Mandarin. This upsets my friends, so I tell them that it is the same with foreigners here.

The idea that you can just go up an start talking to anyone that looks different in a specific language is rude at best and racists at worst. If you hear someone speaking English or see them on a park bench reading an English book or something, then that is different, but to just assume foreign equals English is rude. This is Japan so people living here should be 1. able to speak Japanese or 2. currently learning Japanese. It is best to approach someone with a Japanese greeting and then ask about their English ability.

If we live in a country we should be trying to learn and use the language of that country. We should also greet people in that language.

2 ( +6 / -5 )

@Strangerland,

Zones - see Moonraker's post.

See it now. Wasn't there when I first loaded the page and then later typed my comment. Should have reloaded the page before posting the comment.

@Moonraker,

Sorry for not seeing your comment first.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Not sure where this would be classed... but was sitting on the Musashino line a couple of years back... only person in the car... and a woman came on and sat next to me. I was a bit dumbfounded (not that we were actually talking)... as usually in my experience people will sit next to the sickest person alive rather than next to me.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

I wonder what types of Japanese "non-westerners" encounter while living in Japan.

I imagine the list wouldn't be as humorous.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Sorry about sounding all ebony and ivory but after having lived in Japan and several other countries besides my home country I've found that people are pretty much the same wherever you go.

Possible exceptions here are the nondescript blue-grey suit wearing businessmen staggering arm in arm to the station.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

In connection to the previous article "noteworthy types of foreigners" I wonder what types of Japanese "non-westerners" encounter while living in Japan. The six mentioned here and good and true, at least to me, and I've encountered all of them but does a Korean living in Japan ever meet the Wannabe Westerner, perhaps mutated to Wannabe Korean? Does a Chinese living in Japan encounter the English Vampire, transformed into the Chinese Vampire? If an Asian looking US citizen asks something in perfect English, what response/reaction would they get? What is the commonest reaction when a Japanese encounters a fashion model from Kenya or Brasil? How do Japanese behave around faithful Muslim women casually doing their shoping?

In other words could we please have, at some point, an article not written by and for "westerners" but at the very least from a different viewpoint? Or is there to be a followup with "5 types of girls you'll probably like to meet, or not, in Japan", "5 types of salariman you really hate", "5 types of wonderful obasans"...

4 ( +7 / -3 )

I've met all the types described, mostly in the first couple of years I was here (maybe newcomers emit some kind of pheromone that attracts Hunters, Wannabes and Reminderers), but they are few and far between especially in the inaka, and these days 99.9999% of the folk I meet are zones' Everyday Japanese, who are basically no different from Everyday Folk Everywhere and not the same as the visually-challenged type described by paulinusa.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

The Passive-Aggressor: Usually male and in a group, this type cannot help but loudly blurt out some vaguely-remembered phrase from their JHS Sunshine textbook when confronted with a foreigner. This makes their utterance a total non-sequitur and impossible to respond to, but it helps them to maintain their perceived status level within their group. Alone, this type shuns non-Japanese out of anxiety.

4 ( +8 / -5 )

Moonraker's first post.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Zones - see Moonraker's post.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

This is all in good fun, I know, and it is a little humorous, I suppose. However, I would note that all of the categories define Japanese by their relation to foreigners and things foreign. Which, looking it at it as a foreigner, probably is natural.

How about this group: the Everyday Japanese. The Japanese we all see and know across Japan. They may or may not speak any English. They may or may not have an interest in things non-Japanese. They are just busy living their lives everyday. Going to work, taking care of their kids, being polite and civil to everyone (including non-Japanese), and just living life in Japan.

Because, I would imagine that is the largest group of Japanese in Japan. Is it not?

12 ( +16 / -4 )

Then there are the other 90% who you will probably never meet and have no interest in you or anything outside of Japan.

You've got that right. In fact, you'll be treated as if you're invisible.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

As someone who enters Japan from another industralised country at first everything seems relatively normal to us but, understandably, after a few weeks of adjustment we get questions about things you encounter. Oddly enough, if you ask questions perhaps of some of the "helpful" types you seem to get the same expanations, almost as if there are rehearsed. You know ... "Japan is an island country therefore..."; Or "We Japanese love nature"; etc. It is at that point that I realised that in reality the people I meet generally have no idea how things work. For them it is all down to some aspect of a presumed culture. This careful managing of how you should think about and understand Japan I found rather irritating and a bit creepy, to be honest. And it still exists, for example in how tourists should "enjoy" their visit. And you too have to therefore be pigeonholed by your own culture, which they also presume to know already and just need you to confirm.

15 ( +18 / -3 )

These International Ninjas conceal their worldly knowledge often for a variety of reasons, which might include not wanting to stand out or wanting to avoid looking like a show-off.

One other reason some of these International Ninjas aren't forthcoming with their English fluency and international mindset — empathy toward non-Japanese people who are trying to navigate the waters and fit in.

These are the people you want as your friend. They have been there, so know what it is like to feel like an outsider and make a point of NOT acting like the Gaijin Reminder who "needs to keep foreigners in a box marked ‘other’."

5 ( +7 / -2 )

In my 6 years of living in Miyakoji-mura (Tamura, the mountain house was 22km from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, and I lived there for one year) and then the outskirts of Koriyama city (for the other 5 years), I never once encountered any of those types.

The encounters I had were the odd "Harro!" from curious schoolkids - which was fine by me. I did meet and make many English-speaking Japanese friends but that was my own doing and they were all down-to-earth and genuine human beings. Perhaps it was down to living in such 'inaka' locations. Good times.

(I now live in my native Scotland having Noped out of Japan in 2012.)

10 ( +13 / -3 )

You forgot to add the 'hateimus gaijinus', the Middle aged pachinko dweller, who always seems to spit, soon before you pass in the street, and grumble something about 'gaijin'.... Could be a moody antisocial person, or undiagnosed Tourette's syndrome.

21 ( +24 / -3 )

The English Vampire is a person who cold-approaches foreigners they spot out and about for impromptu English practice.

When fresh off the boat in Japan, I was floored the very first time I encountered a person who flat out told me that he wanted to be my friend because he wanted to practice English. I responded by mumbling something vaguely about free English teacher is not being a solid premise for friendship — a bit one-sided. Just one of the many people I met who refused to speak to me in Japanese even though knew I was studying the language.

Before coming to Japan I had always heard that Japanese people were indirect. From that point forward, I came to realize that people here tend to be much more direct/blunt in many situations than people from most other cultures.

14 ( +16 / -2 )

Yes, these are some of the people that you might meet. Then there are the other 90% who you will probably never meet and have no interest in you or anything outside of Japan.

27 ( +33 / -6 )

How about "the lunatic" ?

17 ( +23 / -6 )

You forgot the "gaijin gawker"...people who have apparently never seen a gaijin in person. They stop in their tracks, stare for an extended period, and follow you with their eyes as you walk by.

27 ( +31 / -5 )

How about the obassan in the suupa that acts like she's in the national museum and needs to spend twenty minutes inspecting every vegetable while standing smack dab in front of you in the famously narrow Japanese supermarket aisles?

Or the "I can't survive unless I have a cigarette hanging out of my mouth" salaryman who always happens to be standing next to you?

13 ( +20 / -7 )

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