lifestyle

How do you feel about being a ‘gaijin’ in Japan?

204 Comments

While Europe and the United States are multicultural and multiethnic, Japan still remains relatively homogeneous. People from other countries and “non-Japanese-looking” people are more conspicuous in Japan than in Western countries.

This article in Madame RiRi looks at how some foreigners in Japan feel about being “gaijin.”

Question 1: What are some positive and negative experiences you have had in Japan because you are a gaijin?

-- I have had mostly positive experiences. However, an old woman sitting beside me at a soccer game in Hokkaido made me uncomfortable. She did not notice that I was not Japanese, so she asked me something, but she stopped asking me after two words as soon as she looked at me. Then she asked my Japanese wife who was next to me. I think that is insulting to foreigners.

-- Some people misunderstand and assume that I am going to threaten them or do violence to them, and I often hear the sound of car doors being locked when I pass by people sitting in a car alone in a parking lot or garage. Also, I’ve noticed that especially middle-aged women try to avoid walking close to me. It’s obvious. I don’t know why people assume that I am dangerous.

-- I have had only good experiences.

-- I have had more good than bad experiences. However, it depends on how you think of the experience. I’ve had people staring at me like I’m doing something wrong and I started to care how people think of me. That made me uncomfortable. But after I decided not to care how people think of me, my life in Japan got much better.

-- It is good to be a gaijin in Japan. There are some days when I don’t feel like a gaijin. Anyway, my closest friends don’t care that I’m from another country. It doesn’t bother me if people don’t like me because I am a gaijin. I am going to stay in Japan.

-- I haven’t had any problems so far. Honestly, I have found being a gaijin beneficial at times because foreigners can avoid troublesome situations that Japanese people have to endure with a smiling face.

-- It is easy to be a gaijin in Kobe because there is a foreign community. So nobody reacts “Wow! Gaijin!” when they see me. The negative experiences I have had are mainly the result of miscommunication.

Question 2: Are you having fun as a gaijin in Japan?

-- Yes, I enjoy being a gaijin in Japan.

-- It depends on the day. I don’t enjoy being a gaijin when people ask me typical questions such as “Can you use chopsticks?” and when people treat me with prejudice.

-- So far, I have enjoyed being a gaijin. Nothing has gone wrong yet.

-- Yes! I enjoy being myself. I think that “being a gaijin”is something that only a Japanese person would think. (I don’t like the question.)

-- Mostly yes. However I am a bit lonely.

Question 3: How do you feel when Japanese call you “gaijin?”

-- It depends on the way and intent with which the word is used.

-- I don’t really mind because Japanese people call me Gaijin-san. Adding the honorific makes it polite. I don’t mind the word as long as it is not used in a rude way.

-- I have never been called a gaijin by Japanese people, and I’ve never heard Japanese people around me call other foreigners gaijin. But surprisingly, I heard the word used by foreign students studying in Japan. They were making fun of themselves, saying they were gaijin in Japan.

-- I get the same feeling as when someone calls a person black.

-- Japanese people I know don’t say gaijin; they use gaijin-san. But even if they called me gaijin, it doesn’t mean that they are prejudiced. They just don’t pay attention to the correct way to use the words.

-- Actually Japanese people don’t say gaijin to my face, but I have heard some Japanese people calling me gaijin when they communicate with each other. At times like that, I am more interested in what they are saying about me, rather than what they are calling me. I usually make a signal that I can understand what they are talking about, even though my Japanese isn’t that good.

-- It depends on the situation. If Japanese people use the word gaijin in casual conversation, I don’t really care. However, I would rather they refer to foreigners as gaikokujin because it is politer. I am uncomfortable when kids talk to me, saying things like “Hello, gaijin!” at shopping malls.

Question 4: Do you think that Japanese people discriminate against foreigners?

-- Of course. However, most Japanese people just don’t know much about foreigners in general.

-- Unfortunately, there is discrimination sometimes. But I’ve never experienced being discriminated against in Japan.

-- If I thought that I was being discriminated against because I am a gaijin, my life in Japan would be difficult. I communicate with Japanese people openly without caring if they like me or not. There are some Japanese people who don’t like me and some Japanese people who like me. I focus on caring about the people who like me.

-- Generally speaking, Japanese people don’t knowingly discriminate, but some of them show that they don’t like gaijin. Japanese people are scared of “differences” — even between other Japanese. Japanese people are conformists, so they usually don’t like things that they cannot predict.

-- Sometimes Japanese people don’t respond when I greet them. But I don’t think that means they have hostility or are prejudiced toward me. They just assume that I cannot speak Japanese. However, when I speak to them in a friendly manner, most Japanese people respond to me in a respectful way.

Sources:

Becoming a Gaijin in Japan…How do foreigners feel about it? Part 1 (MADAME RiRi) Becoming a Gaijin in Japan…How do foreigners feel about it? Part 2 (MADAME RiRi)

© Source: Madame RiRi

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


204 Comments
Login to comment

It speaks a lot about ourselves when we worry about these things. I accept that the world is full of ignorance and racism. If a person's opinion does not affect me then I cold really give a toss what they say or think. If it does affect me, well, that is an entirely different , matter.

I would certainly defend myself against a racist attack (verbal or physical). I would object to being denied entry on the grounds of race... (and have done - let's face it no family restaurant likes a screaming row in the lobby). As to private opinions... who really cares?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Blimey are we going down this road again? This question must have been posed in at least 3 versions in the last couple of months.

But anyway...one of the joys of being a gaijin in Japan. Arrived at Tokyo station for Narita express and realised I had left my passport at home. Grabbed a taxi and did a non stop (except to get the passport) trip to Azabu and back. Got on the next Narita express with my original ticket despite all the warnings they give you not to do so. Found an empty seat and started to relax figuring I'd still be OK for the flight. Bugger, along comes the inspector. Turns out the young Japanese guy a few seats ahead of me had got on without a ticket but was wanting to buy one. The inspector gave him a ticket but only after giving him a long admonishment about the evils of getting on the Narita without the correct ticket (put someone in a uniform etc). Next up was me. He took my ticket, checked it and saw I was on the wrong train, gave it the stamp with his little gadget handed it back and moved on. I guess trying to sort it out with a gaijin was going to be just too much trouble.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I think the answer you give depends on how long you've lived here. A lot of the very real problems won't be apparent to short time residents and to visitors. Finding housing, for example, or dealing with government officials at various levels.

As usual though, the magazine probably only asked visible looking foreigners, not the vast majority (other Asians) who by and large experience a very different Japan..

12 ( +14 / -2 )

It's always fun to be a foreigner in Japan provided you know Japanese language !

5 ( +9 / -4 )

its great...i left my criminal past home and now have everyone in yamanashi believe that i am an educated, well-to-do, hard working person. i try to avoid other non-japanese though, as they ask too many personal questions about why i am in japan. i have successfully reinvented myself. i don't intend on returning home to people who know the real me.

21 ( +27 / -6 )

Im sorry but this article is just pure nonesense.

Do you think that Japanese people discriminate against foreigners? —Of course. However, most Japanese people just don’t know much about foreigners in general.

Oh ok so its ok to discriminate as long as you know no better. Must remember that, oh l didnt mean to discriminate and be rude l just didnt know anything about you.

Unfortunately, there is discrimination sometimes. But I’ve never experienced being discriminated against in Japan.

Hang on just above you said of course there is discrimination, now your saying sometimes there is then you say you've never experienced it. Come on what is it of course, sometimes or never. Please make up your mind.

Generally speaking, Japanese people don’t knowingly discriminate, but some of them show that they don’t like gaijin. Japanese people are scared of “differences” — even between other Japanese.

Ah so if your different in any way then expect to be discriminated against because the Japanese dont like differences in people. Hmm sounds very Nazi Germany in the 30's now doesnt it with the pure race etc etc. Its ok for some Japanese to not like foreigners because some foreigners dont like Japanese, but shhh dont say that out loud or you will be accused of being anti Japanese. But its accepted for them to be openly hostile to foreigners, oh and please please dont call a Japanese in another country a Gaijin because they will get insulted. Whereas we just have to site back and take it.

Japanese people are conformists, so they usually don’t like things that they cannot predict.

About the most accurate thing you have said in your whole article.

Moderator: Please note that the above answers are all given by different people.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

I am who i am. I'm no Gaijin, don't worry what others think of who i am or how I'm classed as a "Gaijin". I'm just another human being living in another foreign land. I do my part, pay my taxes and I'm done with.

If you just be yourself, you'll be just fine. If you let society dictate you and judge you, you will start getting a lot of "How do i feel about being a Gaijin in Japan" syndrome.

Peace ;)

7 ( +8 / -1 )

That 外人 T-shirt makes me cringe.

18 ( +20 / -2 )

oh, i had to look in the mirror - i am not japanese!! surprise surprise. of course i have been discrimated against. of course i have discriminated. i am a human being and i do what human beings do. it is so sad if people dont like me because i look different. they dont know what they are missing out on.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

The word has never bothered me. I've been in Japan 28 years and have always called myself a gaijin. Most of friends also call themselves and other foreigners gaijin. Nothing offensive about it. I think one of the respondents in the story got it right. Whether a word or phrase is offensive depends on the way it is used, or event the intent with which it is used.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

There is nothing wrong with being a 'gaijin'. There isn't much you can really do about it. It's just something you need to accept and move on with. Even if I become a citizen of japan, I still don't look japanese. Spending too much time of on thinking about it will only stop your progression as an individual. Let people think what they want, if they think badly of you its probably cause they have had a bad experience in the past with another foreigner or have heard rumors etc. The only thing you can do is be polite when you deal with them. If you see them often enough, maybe they will change their view of foreigners.

I brought my Japanese girlfriend back to Australia with me to meet the family last month. She was blown away that we had more sushi restaurants than anything else ha. The whole experience really opened her eyes, I think she though she would be considered a gaijin. But the term foreigner doesn't really exist in Australia / UK / America etc.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It's always fun to be a foreigner in Japan provided you know Japanese language !

Funny, I find the more you know, the more frustrating it is. I agree with Vast's comments. I was happy as a clam for the first three-four years but after learning the language, looking for an apartment, dealing with ignorance and discrimination and actually being able to understand what is being said... I certainly wouldn't make the starry claims the the people interview did. Did they head to the local eikaiwai and ask only new people here?

-11 ( +8 / -19 )

Mmm, I remember being surprised by how bent out of shape foreigners were in Japan when I first arrived about this, but the longer I lived in Japan, the less I found it to be a real factor to me. I never experienced any overt racism in Japan. I experienced plenty of exasperating beliefs and that general across the board Japanese conviction that the Japanese are 'completely unique', which I know some people translate to be a belief in a master race (Cletus?) but if that's true they have to be the nicest master race I have ever met. I dunno, there are some quirks about being a foreigner in Japan but you just have to try to take things with a grain of salt and realize that, in the grand scheme of things, you are being afforded a great chance to live somewhere different, and in my opinion, somewhere pretty great.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

doesn't mean we need to like being called 'gaijin'.. why don't they just learn your name? I guess we can start calling every one of them nihonjin-san now

8 ( +11 / -3 )

Considering that its often a two way street for us Gaijin in Japan... meaning you are often excused for behavior outside of the norm and also that you are often treated like a King because you are foreign.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

"But after I decided not to care how people think of me, my life in Japan got much better."

"...I have found being a gaijin beneficial at times because foreigners can avoid troublesome situations that Japanese people have to endure with a smiling face."

Two good responses to always keep in mind.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Please don't tell me they actually sell that shirt...

5 ( +5 / -0 )

With regards to is "gaijin" a slur, call a Japanese person out if Japan and see the reaction you get. Daggers from their eyes. Adding San or Sama to the n word doesn't make it respectable nor okay so don't kid yourself trying to stare it is okay when using gaijin.

-5 ( +12 / -17 )

@genjuro you want one don't you =D

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@tmarie what are you talking about? If you're japanese, then your're japanese no matter where you are in the world. Nationality is a descriptive word. By all means call me australian, cause I am? Whats wrong with that.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

I'm sick of this damn word. Stop throwing it around as if being a foreigner is a personality trait and do something interesting with your lives.

13 ( +18 / -5 )

Readers, we are aware that this is a hot topic for some of you. However, if you are not willing to be tolerant of opposing views and discuss the issue in a mature manner, then please do not post on this thread.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@ tmarie

When living in Ireland, my Japanese wife would often comment that "In Ireland, I am the Gaijin, ne..."

Regarding the questions in the article, apart from once having my application to rent an apartment rejected because I couldn't speak Japanese to the landlord's satisfaction (she called the estate agent to ascertain this), I can't think of anything resembling discrinination.

A couple of times I've done stuff to give gaijin a bad name (drunken rudeness), if I'm honest, but that was a few years ago,

Also, there are plenty of places in Europe which are nowhere near multicultural or multiethnic, and I'd be confident that this is the case in parts of the USA also. Europe and the USA are more than the cosmopolitan cities.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

lol, sorry mod. I read what tmarie said wrong any way :) .. and umm i wasn't being sarcastic or anything either. I think you may have read it in a tone i didn't intend anyway. I was literally asking tmarie what he was talking about. Cause i didn't understand what he wrote. Im not even fired up :)

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I always feel complimented when I read articles like these and note Madame Riris obsessive interest in everything we do. I had no idea we were all so interesting to them!

I have had good and bad experiences but the good experiences outweigh the bad by about 10 to 1. The problem is, when the experience is bad, it tends to be very bad, and it is easy to focus on that and ignore all the other things that are actually so great about being foreign here.

After many iterations I am in a good place now, where I can enjoy all the advantages of being a non-Japanese, but at the same time can "manage" the downside. You have daily ups and downs and frustrations, (when a Japanese asks me if I like Japan I always answer "what day is it? Tuesday? Oh, yeah, I like it today!" and they generally get the joke) but when Japan really starts to piss me off all I need to do is go home for a few weeks, and then after that I am generally really looking forward to coming back!

0 ( +10 / -9 )

I've never felt out of place.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

so this article talks about gajin (strange person) instead of gaikokujin?

5 ( +8 / -3 )

There is truth in nearly every point, you can spend the whole time being annoyed at every little thing or just look at the experience as a whole and see the mostly positive.

Overwhelmingly it is great, as I always say if I didn't want to be here I wouldn't be. (Though I am a white male from a non-threating country and am aware this isn't the same experience for everyone, pretty much everywhere sadly)

At the end of the day if you decide that the balance is too far the other way for you then there is always the option of going "home", Im not suggesting we should make our feelings known and assist people to see another point of view but do something positive about it, the audience on Japan Today can do little to change anything but if you person by person show that you are worthy we might just make a difference.

I agree there are some fundamental and very frustrating issues with housing and general bureaucracy but things are slowly beginning to change, 5 year visas the end of the Alien Registration system and allowing both Japanese and non-japanese to co-exist on the same "family records". (my largest gripe personally is I have no say in what happens to my taxes, I hope one day permanent residents will be able to vote, though I think thats 10-15 years away)

I can only hope that everyone who complains about the way the are treated here would defend and assist anyone of a different nationality living in their country.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

whoops spelling error.. wish we could edit posts. Meant to say;

Im not suggesting we shouldn't make our feelings known and assist people to see another point of view but do something positive about it, the audience on Japan Today can do little to change anything but if you person by person show that you are worthy we might just make a difference.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I think it`s just rather ignorant to throw everyone into the bucket by using, "gaijin". It shows a remarkable laziness and lack of courtesy not to find out where the person is from and really does bring out the stereotypes which Japanese seem to focus on. But when I met many Japanese at university (in my home country) they hated being mistaken as Chinese or Korean or even being called Asian.

Where I come from it is so rare to hear the word, "foreigner", if we talk about Japanese we say, "Japanese", Chinese are, "Chinese", we don`t just call them throw them all in the same group and call everyone we meet an Asian. But in Japanese there is very little effort to find out where a person is from, the conversation usually starts out with, "What part of America are you from?". The majority of Japanese have a bad habit of thinking, "foreigners", are all the same.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Well, my name says it all. Wish I wasn't a whining foreigner for so long. If you do have a hard time, keep it in perspective. It's only the people you are dealing with that are the cause of the problem, not the entire population.

Have to say too that other gaijin in Japan caused me as many problems as the locals.

Anyway, possibly moving back soon. Even another short trip would be good, it's like going home :-)

0 ( +4 / -4 )

The only thing that bothers me about being a gaijin in Japan is when I am speaking Japanese to a Japanese person and they keep saying sorry, I don't speak English....

I'm like "I am speaking freaking Japanese to you! Stop being terrified and just listen to what I am actually saying!"

9 ( +9 / -0 )

SuginamiguyApr. 04, 2012 - 09:24AM JST

I think it`s just rather ignorant to throw everyone into the bucket by using, "gaijin". It shows a remarkable laziness and lack of courtesy not to find out where the person is from and really does bring out the stereotypes which Japanese seem to focus on. But when I met many Japanese at university (in my home country) they hated being mistaken as Chinese or Korean or even being called Asian.

Same here. My mother uses the word foreigners to talk about a specific group(s), rather than a general idea, and I quite clearly see people cringe around her. She's 70, that's her excuse and she grew up in a Britain from another age. I've never heard anyone use the term 'Blacks' or 'Orientals' for decades.

I think most of the people interviewed are newbies - Japan likes them like that - and are still going through their honeymoon period, don't blame them for that. However I would like to add that on the whole and as long as you interact with Japan and its government tentacles at a superficial level, it's a much better place to live for non-japanese, than it is for the Japanese. There are many things I'm appreciative about. One of them is that I wasn't born Japanese. They have it much harder than us.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Apart from not being able to express myself as well as I would like (Only myself to blame there), it's slightly annoying when I make enquiries in a shop (no problems with my everyday Japanese), but the staff doesn't know the info I want, and goes to ask a colleague, but I sometimes hear "Gaijin-sama"... Why not "Kyaku-sama"? I'm still a customer, and a customer who speaks Japanese well enough that they don't need a staff member with English ability; not sure what my non-Japaneseness has to do with asking about a product in a shop...

Prejudice? discrimination? Yeah, sometimes but both positive and negative.

Positive - being given free stuff when you've chatted to an independent business owner in Japanese (called it international relations if you will). And of course, we are given certain graces socially on account of us not having the same mindset as the Japanese; we are forgiven many a social faux pas.

Negative - Not being sat next to on a fairly busy train/bus. A real acid test on trains is to sit in the seat next to the end seat by the door - Japanese seem to love that seat! I guess easier for napping. If your in the seat next to the end seat, it's empty, and there are people standing, it's highly likely those people don't want to sit next to a gaijin. Of course, you may view this positively from the "silver lining" aspect of having more room to yourself.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Greapper1: One of my first frustrating experiences many years ago was asking a simple question( in Japanese and in every imaginable way) to a young woman who kept saying wakarimsen. She damn well knew what I was asking but for whatever reason chose not to respond.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I have heard on a few occasions and had it confirmed by colleagues/students, that Japanese when overseas and talking amongst themselves, still refer to the local populace as Gaijin. They don't seem to get it that when they are overseas, they become the gaijin

That right there gives you a fascinating insight into the way the Japanese mind thinks.

If they'll visit your country, and still call you Gaijin there, then there's no hope that they'll ever stop calling you it here. The "san/sama" suffix is as good as it's gonna get.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

@Irishosaru

You're lucky you even got a test of your Japanese ability. Last time I was on the apartment hunt, I'd looked at about 10 rooms in one day, when back to the real estate office, and upon the real estate guy calling the landlords/management companies, I heard his voice fall every time he said "Gaikokuseki". I'd never felt so de-humanised. Made me realise that it's easier to get a room if you're a dog, than a foreigner. I was also annoyed that normally, when they are discriminatory, Japanese are passively so, but on this occasion, even though I was there, I wasn't party to the call, so the landlords that day were more than likely active in their discrimination as they were talking with another Japanese.

Thankfully, I finally found someone who took me in. I keep meaning to thank him for it, but it feels weird to thank someone for doing something that they should do anyway, y'know?

8 ( +12 / -4 )

They don't seem to get it that when they are overseas, they become the gaijin

Gaijin doesn't mean foreigner. It means 'not Japanese' i.e. 'outside person'. Or, gaikokujin - foreign country person. So, if you're Japanese and visiting Russia, Russians are still foreign (not Japan) country people.

I know what dictionaries say. I also know how the word is used in real life. Two different things.

16 ( +17 / -1 )

tmarieAPR. 04, 2012 - 08:41AM JST With regards to is "gaijin" a slur, call a Japanese person out if Japan and see the reaction you get. Daggers from their eyes. Adding San or Sama to the n word doesn't make it respectable nor okay so don't kid yourself trying to stare it is okay when using gaijin.*

kaminarioyajiAPR. 04, 2012 - 09:46AM JST I have heard on a few occasions and had it confirmed by colleagues/students, that Japanese when overseas and talking amongst themselves, still refer to the local populace as Gaijin. They don't seem to get it that when they are overseas, they become the gaijin That right there gives you a fascinating insight into the way the Japanese mind thinks. If they'll visit your country, and still call you Gaijin there, then there's no hope that they'll ever stop calling you it here. The "san/sama" suffix is as good as it's gonna get.

Although I agree, I think that the Japanese concept of the terms seems to be slightly different than how we translate it which might explain why they seem upset if they are called it and why they use it outside of Japan.

"Gaijin" is commonly translated into English as "foreigner", right? But I think a more exact translation of what the word means to a Japanese person would be to translate it as "non-Japanese". When a Japanese person travels overseas, they do not become non-Japanese. So even though they are in a foreign country, they don't see themselves as a "gaijin". Likewise, even though though they are in a foreign country, they still view the local people there as "gaijin" because they are not Japanese.

This is really not so unusual, is it? Locals often have specific words for "outsiders" (people outside of their group). Such terms are most often used in a derogatory manner. Ever hear of the word "haole"? It's a Hawaiian word locals used to describe foreigners/outsiders/mainlanders (particularly white people). Some native Hawaiians still use "haole" even when they are traveling outside of Hawaii. And, try calling a native Hawaiian a "haole" and see how they react.

You could say the same for others as well. Try calling an American traveling overseas a "non-American" and see how they react. Try calling a Canadian a "non-Canadian". A French person "non-French". Most likely they would not be happy. And, if asked them, many of them would probably say that they consider the locals to be "foreigners" in a sense.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

@Borscht, I would argue that that's just semantics.

My point was that when in, for example, Australia, there's no real reason why a Japanese should say "Gaijin", and not "Australiajin"

4 ( +7 / -3 )

kaminarioyajiAPR. 04, 2012 - 09:41AM JST Negative - Not being sat next to on a fairly busy train/bus. A real acid test on trains is to sit in the seat next to the end seat by the door - Japanese seem to love that seat! I guess easier for napping. If your in the seat next to the end seat, it's empty, and there are people standing, it's highly likely those people don't want to sit next to a gaijin. Of course, you may view this positively from the "silver lining" aspect of having more room to yourself.

I hear people say that but I never have had that happen to me. Sometimes when the trains are crowded, I wish it would but maybe I'm just unlucky. Also, I also sometimes draw the seat next to the end seat. If it's occupied, the person sitting next to me doesn't get up and move. And, if the seat does become unoccupied it doesn't stay that way for long.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

stopped caring about it years ago. won't tolerate rudeness from anyone though, whatever nationality

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I used to feel very foreign here, but now I don't. I think half the "problem" was me feeling too tense walking into a shop etc, and projecting that tension onto everyone I interacted with. Now that I have confidence in the language and culture, and don't think I project that tension anymore, and as odd as it seems, people seem to know I can communicate to them (and I don't have it stamped on my forehead, etc!).

It's always been fun here, and the racism that is both real and perceived just washes off when I think of the situation in the country I was born in (UK).

If you can't live here, you would probably have an issue anywhere!

6 ( +8 / -2 )

I'm just glad its not another "Tokyo will meet the apocalypse in 3 months..." article.

Anyway, I love everyone's comments; fun!

I usually refer to myself as a gaijin upfront...then wait to see the reaction! Some people lecture why its not good. Others are utterly speechless. And some actually get my odd humor.

My first week in my town, on the edge of Tokyo and Saitama, so not exactly the styx. My first McD's trip was HILARIOUS! Found the ladies working the counter calling their co-workers and leaning over the counter to stare at my blue eyes. That was my 'welcome to Japan moment.'

Incidentally, does anyone know what they call 'green' eyes? I wonder if the traffic light rule applies...just curious!

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Author needs to live in Japan longer before she can write an article like this. Gaijin is a derogatory word

Check the The Mit Encyclopedia of the Japanese Economy (a Japanese book) on the subject:

http://books.google.co.jp/books?id=0RS0CGUaef8C&lpg=PA195&dq=gaijin%20derogatory&hl=ja&pg=PA195#v=onepage&q=gaijin%20derogatory&f=false

"A slightly derogatory term meaning outsider for foreigners. It is used widely in pace of gaikokujin, the proper term for foreigners"

7 ( +9 / -2 )

I like it.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

When you throw a lit match into a room filled with gasoline, don't be surprised of the following reaction.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@gogogo

I think any word can be derogatory. It is not the spelling, it is the emotion behind it when used. That is true for any language I have used.

It is just an abbreviated form of gaikokujin, in the same way that rimokon is short for rimo-to kontoro-ru and rajikase is short for rajio kasetto pureya-. I don't think that people are abusing their household devices by using these terms, nor do I think they are comparing us foreigners to appliances.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

I'm happy to see that most people see the very stark and real difference between "gaijin" and "gaikokujin". The former is not just a contraction of the latter, any more than the contraction of Japanese is... well, you get what I mean.

Referring to one another as "gaijin" is a bit of "in group" slang. However, I can't think of any occasion where someone who doesn't know me needs to use either gaijin or gaikokujin. In a shop, I am "okyakusama". At work, I am ".....san" or "...sensei". If someone wants to get my attention, they can say "sumimasen...". If one staff member needs to describe me to another, they can call me "the guy in the jeans and yellow tshirt". No reason at all to be addressed as "gaijin-san" or "gaikokujin-san". It's just a lazy shortcut.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

It's a good thing some of the time, probably most of the time. It used to get to me because my high-school Japanese teacher told me it was rude as it had implications of 'outsider' (not part of the society) but from my experience, most people don't say it or mean it in a bad way, so it doesn't really bother me.

However, I did recently have a bad experience on the ski slopes up at Nagano. A guy called me a 'kusotare gajin' (s$%t-stinking gaijin literally) but I reminded myself that a'holes are everywhere and not to let it affect my judgment of Japanese people in general.

It also excuses you from a lot of mendokusai stuff that Japanese people have to put up with. However, I would prefer to be called by my actual (real) name and not by 'gaijin' or 'gajin-san' but shou ga nai I guess as Japanese are obsessed with categorizing and pidgeon-holeing absolutely everything.

I used to do weddings in Japan (before converting to Buddhism) and was told that my Japanese was too Japanese and that I should 'gajinify' it a bit more. Felt like a real stage muppet then and there.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Good thing about being a gaijin male here: You get more girls.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Finding housing

Yes! Very true Vast Right-Wing Conspirator.

Two years ago when I got divorced and had to suddenly find a home on my own without any Japanese support, I got rejected 9 times out of 10 by the landlords in my area even though I speak fluent Japanese and have a steady full-time job. I couldn't help thinking - this would have instantly caused an uproar if it had happened in the US and would most probably have led to some kind of civil rights lawsuit. I didn't let it bother me too long but I just felt sad when I realized how behind the times Japan is in certain areas like this. Medical care is another issue but don't get me started on that!

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I lived in Tokyo for 15 years. I have been back in my "home" country for 10 years. I am far more unhappy here than ever I was in Japan. I don't belong here. I find myself being discriminated against for not fitting in, being different, here in my "own" country. Some of the discrimination is self-administered. I can't relate to these people who have such narrow views, or views I no longer entirely reflect. The people here are missing something. They are like the blind who don't know they can't see.

The word "gaijin" doesn't stop at meaning "non-Japanese". There is also a meaning that comes close to "not-quite human" ("Yes, human, in a way, but just not quite. After all, only Japanese are truly human.").

One of these days I may see what it is like trying to get a foothold in Japan again. I am not too optimistic about the prognosis however. We'll see.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The vast majority of Japanese people hold a very thin veneer of civility toward foreigners.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

If you stay here for a lifetime then you get to see their real faces and just how far behind enemy lines you actually came.

I've seen a lot. Most of it bad. Colleagues, friends, myself, we all got a piece of Japan's ugly side. I've seen them come and I've watched them go.

Those that left Japan within a couple years had a few laughs and left relatively unscathed. Gifted are those that can recognize BS immediately.

Some get a taste of what it means to be Gaijin and they hit the road quick.

Then there are those like me, even here on JT, long in the tooth. We've seen a lot of bad things. We've been in the courts. We've experienced fraud, harassment at work, child abduction, police harassment and outright prejudice and discrimination. We are the ones they call Gaijin more than anybody else. We don't get the luxury of being called Expats. Unless we make it to the Embassy office our governments have forgotten about us.

Gaijin is nothing more than marker. It means we are devoid of any rights and our own identity never comes into play on any level in this society.

What a horrible word it is.

3 ( +10 / -6 )

Really the only discrimination I have experienced being a gaijin in Japan was when I went to the local fudosan 14 years ago. They were friendly enough but when I was interested in some properties and they called the landlord, I got the reply back: "No gaijin, sorry." The fudosan was pretty embarrassed.

I recently moved apartment and admittedly I'm paying a lot more these days, but they were eager to have me apply to live there. I guess times have changed.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I just happen to have been born somewhere else, have a different colour passport and a DNA pattern that makes me physically rather conspicuous among the locals. Apart from that, I don't 'feel' anything about this question.

-3 ( +2 / -6 )

NetNinja, why do you stay here? The world is not a horrible place. Japan can be really tough, but surely you deserve happiness - everybody does. There is no shame in leaving and trying to find some peace.

Personally Japan is comfortable for me on the whole, as long as I dont expect too much in terms of equality. Ive had Japanese people served in queues before me when Im clearly next, stared at, my children asked "where are you from" , which I find really strange as they are Japanese. Immigration can be horrendous, I dread going to Shinagawa, but that is just one day a year.

That is all positively outweighed by the fact that on the whole Japan leaves people alone to live their lives. On a day to day basis life here is quite comfortable for me. In my experience there are far more good hearted Japanese-born people who just want a friendly conversation and to be smiled back at, than people who would be nasty to your face.

Just dont have problems here and expect support or fairness.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

How do I feel about it? Nothing.

Japan is not the 1st foreign country I lived in and I feel the same as back home. Just getting on with my life, language, signs, etc change but that's it.

Most foreigners in Japan and overseas feel the same, just live your life and don't sweat the small stuff.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

My in-laws refer to me as a gaijin at times. So does my best friend.

I take no offence at it. If anything, I think it's funny that they are uncomfortable using it. Because last time I checked in the mirror, I was a gaijin.

Even if a rude person refers to me as a gaijin, I only take offence at his rudeness. If there is speculation that I or any other gaijin are lesser people because we are gaijin, then I will get annoyed. But I still refuse to reverse discriminate, that's is absolutely stupid and you are lowering yourself to their stupid level.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

@bilderberg_2015

The vast majority of Japanese people hold a very thin veneer of civility toward foreigners.

How do you know this? Is there an iPhone app tp read minds?

Please let me know what it's called, I want to check it out.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@summershadow

One of these days I may see what it is like trying to get a foothold in Japan again. I am not too optimistic about the prognosis however. We'll see.

Here's a couple of suggestions.

Be positive Don't expect special treatment, good or bad. Live with what life deals you.
0 ( +3 / -3 )

The vast majority of Japanese people hold a very thin veneer of civility toward foreigners.

It thins quickly when you rub them the wrong way.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

folks I think the original question was more about being a foreigner in Japan than the word gaijin, just sayin

1 ( +4 / -3 )

That is correct.

And in addition to the above, most of the -/+ has been covered, best thing is to just ignore the fools best you can & remember that if your a western foreign type we have WAY more freedom in Japan than the Japanese, think about all the "stuff" we can just kinda wave off, that part is great!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Most people I know who have a rosy view of Japan are those who have only lived here for a year or two, and who cannot speak Japanese above the level of a three-year old. Those of us who have been here many years, and who can understand Japanese well, get to see the daily racism and crap all around us. Landlords not renting to foreigners, bars not admitting foreigners, the police and courts never siding with you, even when you are in the right etc...the list goes on. Living in Japan enables you to see all this stuff. Just residing in Japan for a year or two, which is what I would classify many people as doing, enables you to leave with a very positive image of Japan and Japanese people; unfortunately entirely misplaced.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

@tmarie: "Funny, I find the more you know, the more frustrating it is..." agreed (basically) so what's the remedy? just show you know very little and they will believe it...because majority of them have assumed that because you are a foreigner you don't know Japanese. Atleast i am able to manage my stay with some patience and little humor ofcourse !

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Most people I know who have a rosy view of Japan are those who have only lived here for a year or two, and who cannot speak Japanese above the level of a three-year old. Those of us who have been here many years, and who can understand Japanese well, get to see the daily racism and crap all around us. Landlords not renting to foreigners, bars not admitting foreigners, the police and courts never siding with you, even when you are in the right etc...the list goes on. Living in Japan enables you to see all this stuff. Just residing in Japan for a year or two, which is what I would classify many people as doing, enables you to leave with a very positive image of Japan and Japanese people; unfortunately entirely misplaced.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Interesting contrast..... when UK people are abroad we would tend to refer to foreigners as "locals"........

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I liked being tourist in Japan, living here...as a foreigner is horrible. You'll never be "Japanese" in their eyes, even if you lived here for 14+ years.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

@bilderberg_2015

Think you will find a lot of long-term foreigners like Japan.

Living in Japan enables you to see all this stuff. Just residing in Japan for a year or two, which is what I would classify many people as doing, enables you to leave with a very positive image of Japan and Japanese people; unfortunately entirely misplaced.

Living in Japan? Is 16 years long enough to qualify? How about living and working in a environment where Japanese was the only language spoken and there was no special treatment for foreigners? Does that count?

Those of us who have been here many years, and who can understand Japanese well, get to see the daily racism and crap all around us.

Please get over yourself.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

Gaijin is called a gaijin for a reason. I live with a guy from Russia and this dude does not follow any house rules and it drives me up the walls. Apparently, the rules do not apply to him because its not his custom!

Ok, thanks for being considerate! Not!!!

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

@GW: So use the word foreigner then, simple find and replace with that word would have been better, I guess JT wants alot of comments :)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@midnull: hear hear, Japan was great the first few years when I didn't speak Japanese, ignorance is bliss :)

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I second Reformedbasher's post and (more than) double his 16 years.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

y3chomeApr. 04, 2012 - 12:47PM JST

Interesting contrast..... when UK people are abroad we would tend to refer to foreigners as "locals"........

I don't know which UK people you've been hanging out with, but the ones I know finished their secondary education and only use this example as a form of laughing at themselves.

With the japanese, no matter their education, I couldn't count the number of times abroad that I've heard Japanese refer to the locals as gaijin.

Watching the customs area in Chinese airports is pure comedy as groups of confused Japanese tourists don't know which queue to join, the Chinese or foreigner/gaijin queue; clearly, they think, they are neither.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

midnullAPR. 04, 2012 - 12:55PM JST I liked being tourist in Japan, living here...as a foreigner is horrible. You'll never be "Japanese" in their eyes, even if you lived here for 14+ years.

Are you Japanese? Are you naturalized? Why do you expect them to see you as "Japanese"?

Similar thing happens in other countries around the world. I've been to parts of parts of the US where they pretty much think that everyone of color (i.e. not white) is not an American regardless whether they really are or not. Lots of people who immigrate to Western countries and eventually become naturalized citizens are still treated as "second-class" or "non-citizens" by segments of the population regardless of how long it has been since they first arrived.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

I am no gajijin, I AM MEXICAN and proud of it! Japanese running around Mexico not understanding SPANISH nor how to eat and enjoy SPICY FOOD are the gaijins to me and to the millions and millions of other mexicanos, hahaha!

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Aliens and humans will never live in peace.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

A friend of mine was in an elevator on his own going up from the lobby to his place of work. The elevator stopped at a floor in between and the doors opened to reveal a woman who was about enter the lift, looked at my friend, gasped and backed away. She was not going to share a lift with one of them gaijins. My friend went right off Japan! I get a bit of the same on trains

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nihonbunka/17779384/ Nevertheless, I have have sometimes had the reverse (people falling asleep on me) http://www.burogu.com/2012/03/somnambulant-interaction-on-japanese.html

While I have been in Japan for quite a while, like bilderberg, unlike him or her, I still like where I live.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Prince Gaijin is what I tell the Japanese.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

@Maiko_toyama I think It's more prominent in japan though.. like the article says...... A perfect example would be my father. He is native New Zealand (Maori) and really dark skinned and my mums side is irish. She is super white, red hair.. the works. Both have lived in Australia for over 40 years now, both have been naturalized. Both see them selves as Australian and so does everybody else. It's a case of the people around you. Australia being somewhat of a cultural pot it doesn't matter what you look like... Japan will someday be the same, it will not be for a very long time though.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

No one forced me to come here. Yeah, there is "discrimination," but it exists everywhere. Whaddya know ? - Japanese are like the rest of humanity.

"Like the t-shirt, girlfriend. So edgy! Totally transgressive. You are sooo pushing-the-envelope"

Strikes me as a pretty transparent ploy for sympathy, unearned moral rectitude or cheap laughs, depending on who she so bravely unveils herself before. My guess is she is one of my fellow Americans, or a Canadian.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Dog; Not sure about locals being away of laughing at themselves. Natives perhaps. Or maybe that is the Grammer School education coming out

0 ( +0 / -0 )

When living in Ireland, my Japanese wife would often comment that "In Ireland, I am the Gaijin, ne..."

Gaijin is used in reference to those who are not Japanese. Some people get it others don't because they are caught up in the semantics and dictionary meaning of the word.

Japanese usually when they travel overseas don't see themselves as gaijin, because everyone around them is gaijin and they are Japanese. They are foreigners or to many I've known, and don't consider themselves, in their ignorance, gaijin.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

If they had used the politically correct term of 'gaikokujin' many people might not even know what it means. Where as everyone knows what gaijin means. Yes you can interpret it to be offensive if you wish. However, 'gaijin' although derogatory is more well known to 'foreigners'.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I don't care that I am singled out as a gaijin, I suppose because I am white and most of the "discrimination" is of the positive kind. If I was Korean, Chinese, SE Asian or black however, I'm sure I would probably think differently.

I just returned from a short trip to my home country of Australia.

Like most countries, passing through immigration in Sydney they have the line for Australians and the line for foreigners. Despite my wife being Japanese, we were told to stay as a family and join the Australian line.

Returning to Japan, the first thing I was told was "Gaijin wa acchi da". Can I line up with my wife and son? I ask "Dame, dame. koko wa Japanese only". He never even asked if I was naturalized, or even to see my passport.

It's just a small thing, but to me really reinforces the idea that no matter how long I live here, I will never be considered one of the group.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

@ Maiko_Toyama, yes I have been neutralized. My parents have moved here when I was 14, and I was treated horribly as a foreigner by other students. The teachers said nothing. Before Japan we moved to Russia, and nobody picked on me cuz I was a foreigner, they just called me the quiet kid.

And I've been to America, north and south, central too. Canada. Australia, South Africa and Kenya, Russia, Belarus. And Japan was the only country that really picks at their foreigners and then complains that their population isn't growing.... Only in Japan, for such a "save face" society will a native be rude to you cuz you're a foreigner, but no be obvious about it. At least everywhere else in the world if they don't like you they'll let you know why instead of leaving you dumb founding and guessing why.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

here are my 2cents worth to the question:

is there discrimination in japan against foreigners? yes. plenty of it cos there is no law who will punish people who discriminate. i will tell you a story happen two weeks ago. went with my girlfriend to bank and wanna open bank account for myself. was not able to open one cos iam a tourist and not long enuff in country plus no alien rego card. i asked if there is joint account avaiable, that also was denied, joint accounts do not exist in japan. i was kinda stunned. ok i said let me go home and do some research.

2 weeks later, i have bank account and also a credit card from the same bank in my name and i still dont have this alien reg card....

you wanna know how its done?

girlfriend open account in her name, i went to cityoffice and get a limited power of attorney that enable me to deal with all banking matter on her behalf. went with that paper to bank and gave them a lesson in japanese law. you should see the face of the bank manager.... priceless.

was done in 10minutes. its all about finding ways around problems, if they dont have joint bank accounts than take the other road and get what u want from them.

i also find this socalled staying away from foreigners works in my favour cos iam here not to see so many anyway.

iam grateful that they work so hard here, provide a safe place for me so i can enjoy my stay to the fullest and not have to pay a single yen tax.

cheers

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

Lieberman2012APR. 04, 2012 - 01:40PM JST Strikes me as a pretty transparent ploy for sympathy, unearned moral rectitude or cheap laughs, depending on who she so bravely unveils herself before. My guess is she is one of my fellow Americans, or a Canadian.

Maybe just over analyzing just a tad.

Why can't she just be a model that Madame RiRi paid to wear that t-shirt. If you're gonna do a piece on "gaijin" then why not find a blonde hair (probably blue-eyed) white female to wear the t-shirt. They probably had the shirt specially made for the shoot.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I don’t really mind because Japanese people call me Gaijin-san. Adding the honorific makes it polite.

Alright, well if that's all it takes, good for you.

I don't know why people assume that I am dangerous.

Well, if everyone is giving you that reaction, maybe the problem is you. (relax, I'm joking)

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Being a gaijin, it is quite simple to break the ice with the ladies especially when they are interested in speaking a foreign language. Total immersion, so to speak.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

there really is a lot of miserable people that read this isn't there, I get the feeling some would be unhappy whatever is happening where ever they are.

I agree somethings need to change as I said before, some are starting to change, and some of those things are just as tough for Japanese people themselves and because Japan is Japan some things never will.

Go outside and enjoy the weather :-)

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Maiko. I have no doubt there are bigoted people in every country, mine included. Not much can be done about that. The problems arise when officialdom maintains the same attitude. When blatant racism is excused. When businesses and companies are allowed to behave in a racist way and there is no legal remedy. It isn't possible to control how people think, but it IS possible to control how they behave towards others.

Another pet peeve of mine is the "first naming" that gets done when dealing with foreigners. This is common both in person and in the media. Example, a TV show goes overseas and is taking a look at the life of Bob Smith, an American lawyer. The show will refer to him as "Bob-san" constantly. Not "Smith-san". It's a way to separate foreigners from Japanese, and to take them less seriously.

Happened to a friend of mine at work as well. The staff list at her school was being read. Every other teacher, even the part time ones, were referred to as "Last name-sensei". She alone was referred to as "First name-san". In spite of being a full time staff member, with teaching credentials, and years of experience at the school. A small thing, but revealing.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Jo HaApr. 04, 2012 - 02:03PM JST

is there discrimination in japan against foreigners? yes. plenty of it cos there is no law who will punish people who discriminate. i will tell you a story happen two weeks ago. went with my girlfriend to bank and wanna open bank account for myself. was not able to open one cos iam a tourist and not long enuff in country plus no alien rego card

Are you for real?

This isn't discrimination, this is common sense. Go try open a bank account in Europe, UK or USA without having a place of residence in the concerned country or without a domestic NI number.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Another pet peeve of mine is the "first naming" that gets done when dealing with foreigners. This is common both in person and in the media. Example, a TV show goes overseas and is taking a look at the life of Bob Smith, an American lawyer. The show will refer to him as "Bob-san" constantly. Not "Smith-san". It's a way to separate foreigners from Japanese, and to take them less seriously.

Absolutely agree with this!

2 ( +5 / -3 )

The vast majority of Japanese people hold a very thin veneer of civility toward foreigners

.Awww, I dunno. I met a number of ladies I found to be wonderfully willing to celebrate my gaijin-ness..... (OxO)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

20 years in, and the most difficult thing for me has always been my lack of guarantor but if you make a good salary, you can usually get past the hurdles. Speaking Japanese and being able to read contracts has enabled me to pretty much do whatever I want here, same as in my home country. From getting credit cards without a problem, buying several cars and buying a house, I've done it all and I've always been served like any other Japanese person.

I work for a Japanese company where only Japanese is used and the only time I hear the word 'gaijin' in any form is when the Personnel Dept. asks me for my gaikokujin toroku shomeisho and they haven't done so since I became a permanent resident.

The permanent residency is what made the most difference in my life in Japan and allowed me to be completely self-sufficient. I am now the one being asked to become guarantor by Japanese family members.

The only time I feel different in Japan is when I am training at the park late at night and police officers stop to ask me questions and demand to see my 'gaijin' card. I usually show them my driver's license and they are OK with it. After a quick chat, they usually just tell me that they'll tell their compadre about me so I'll not be disturbed again. It doesn't happen much these days so they must have done so.

I love my life in Japan as much as I loved my life back home.

19 ( +20 / -1 )

Vast Right-Wing ConspiratorAPR. 04, 2012 - 02:50PM JST Another pet peeve of mine is the "first naming" that gets done when dealing with foreigners. This is common both in person and in the media. Example, a TV show goes overseas and is taking a look at the life of Bob Smith, an American lawyer. The show will refer to him as "Bob-san" constantly. Not "Smith-san". It's a way to separate foreigners from Japanese, and to take them less seriously.

Sure, I guess. I also hear things like "Shinsuke-san" "Ichiro" (usually with no san, how rude), "Shizu-chan", "Ma-kun", etc., etc. being said a lot on TV. I am not saying it doesn't happen to non-Japanese, but I am not sure if the only reason it is being done is to separate non-Japanese from Japanese. It could be that in some cases the non-Japanese person actually prefers to be called by their first name. Maybe the TV staff did start with "Mr. Smith" but somewhere along the way during the pre-show prep he just said "please call me Bob". That part just didn't happen to make it onto TV.

Haven't you ever been introduced to somebody who said something like "Hi, my name is Robert Smith but please call me Bob".

Not saying this is what happened in your friend's case but I have known teacher both in Japan and back home who prefer to be called by their first name instead of "Mr. xxx" or "Ms. yyy".

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@GW: So use the word foreigner then, simple find and replace with that word would have been better, I guess JT wants alot of comments :)

gogogo, I was just pointing out that many were missing what this thread was supposed to be about, quietly hoping the mods wud offer me their job so I cud keep them from deleting my best posts LOL

As for the G-word, I use it a fair bit, even when describing myself, I have found that context is EVERYTHING wrt to whther the G-word is cool or offensive or somewhere in between

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan is my home, for now. My Japan family and all of my stuff is here.

I recently asked my father-in-law what he thinks about having a "gaijin" for a son-on-law. His response was "In my eyes you are not gaijin or anything else, you are my son."

If it were not for the awesome family of my wife, I would have never survived Japan as long as I have.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

I don't know why people are getting so worked up about the question. I mean, you DO notice that 'gaijin' is in quotation marks, right? Hence the question is about being a foreigner in Japan (how and why some Japanese will call you 'gaijin' is just a part of being here and part of the discussion, not necessarily the question).

I've had fun being a 'gaijin' here, but as you get older it becomes a little scary if you are not firmly anchored down. I'm nearing the point where I can no longer delay a decision on whether I'm staying or going. As to the term 'gaijin', I have no qualms with it at all, so long as it is not said in a racist manner, but that goes with just about any other word as well. The only thing that bothers me about the use of the term (aside from the aforementioned), is when Japanese use it overseas when talking about the native people of that nation. I remember a woman I talked to who went to Australia and said, "There were so many gaijin, I felt uncomfortable!".

Anyway, there are a lot of plusses and a few negatives, and it's important to try and outweigh the latter with the former, for the negatives are usually very small things, and often only made big in the minds of those 'offended'.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

smithinjapanAPR. 04, 2012 - 03:46PM JST The only thing that bothers me about the use of the term (aside from the aforementioned), is when Japanese use it overseas when talking about the native people of that nation. I remember a woman I talked to who went to Australia and said, "There were so many gaijin, I felt uncomfortable!".

That's probably because, like with many Japanese, the term means "non-Japanese" to that woman. So any "non-Japanese" person throughout the world is still gonna be a "gaijin" to regardless of where they are at the time.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I have mixed feelings about being a foreigner in Japan, as a lot of you have already said there is a huge gap between the period when you dont know much about the language and how things work and the time after, when you realize how the Japanese system sees the foreign community.

Now, this is not something that only happens in Japan of course, and I try to remember that every time I hear things like "Well, he is a gaijin" or "That is how things work here in Japan. End of story", etc. But I think that the most frustrating part is that you dont see the people around you trying to understand things and trying to change for the better when it comes to having to deal with non Japanese stuff.

Whether it is on TV, conversations around you or what have you, the "gaijin" are treated like clowns or zoo animals, like something talk watch or talk about, one of them tells his friend right next to him "man, the "gaijin are weird haha" and that is it, they dont want to know anything else, nor your opinion, nor the reason why you are like that, nothing.

This kind of behavior is what really drives me nuts, the fact that you are good while you are a cute tourist that talks weird and spends money on souvenirs, but when you try to give your opinion or try to ask the reason why things are like they are, you become the non-welcome gaijin that does not understand anything because this is Japan and you are supposed to just be grateful that Japan allows you to be here and enjoy its wonderfulness. And if you try to demand your rights or to change things for the better then its even worse.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

@Mike.... I agree that there are times that first names are used in Japan. You mentioned with famous people, which is true, also as nicknames. However, in my friend's case, it was a formal meeting and not a casual gathering. The TV shows often dont actually talk to the person in question, just refer to them during the broadcast.

If people want to be referred to by their first name, that's great. It's up to them. But the default setting, particularly when speaking Japanese, has to be "last name-title". Anything less is demeaning.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

@ Jo Ha, yeah being a foreigner is pretty bad in Japan, being a woman foreigner is even worse. They are so sexist there. If you're foreigner and a woman you're pretty much shafted.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

@ Synbios, I couldn't have said it better myself. My Kenyan friend next to me agrees, lol.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

There are way more positive points living here than any negative ones. I`ve only personally experienced racism a couple of times in almost 20 years. I have received so much kindness and support from thousands of Japanese people.

There isn`t a single country on this planet which does not have some degree of racism, even in those like my own Britain which has laws against it.

I enjoy the plus and forget the negatives and I don`t allow them to stress me out.

If there are foreigners living here do dont enjoy it, theres aways a simple solution to it.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

The term "gaijin" is so misused, to the point where even Japanese people forget the true meaning of the word. As we all 'should' know, the term "gaijin" is short for "gaiKOKUjin" or foreigner. But people here have adopted the term to mean "outsider" or "different from me" or "non-Japanese" which give it a derogatory context. This is why I despise the word now. Especially because I am half-Japanese and just as culturally Japanese as most people here, its really insulting when people label you because of the way you look.

One time, when I was in the States, I overheard a couple of Japanese people talking, and one said to the other something to the effect of "the gaijin in the shop told me blah blah blah"...and I immediately thought, why are they referring to that guy (who was an American) as a gaijin? Your the gaijins here!

I think nowadays its become a 放送禁止word, or a word that they can't even broadcast on TV (at least in most contexts of the word). Its like calling an African-American the N-word. For me, people I know don;t refer to me as a gaijin, but I do see the word thrown around a lot especially at work. If my office had a more of a heterogeneous makeup, I would rally to have the word banned, but unfortunately, non-Japanese are outnumbered here so I have to live with it. I guess this is life in Japan.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Sometimes discrimination can be a good thing or a "blessing in disguise". Koreans in Japan are the worst receiving end of discrimination more than any other groups of people but that made Koreans more and more determined to work harder in Japanese society.I can think of the CEO of Softbank whose name is Mr.Son, a Korean resident in Japan, and he is now the third richest man in Japan!!

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Actually, Mirai, you are incorrect. The word gaijin predates gaikokujin by a long time. "Gaijin" was used before foreigners even came to Japan, to refer to people from outside a village or area. Gaikokujin is the legal term for someone from a different country.

The rest of your post is right on. "Gaijn" is not a word that is allowed in polite company, in serious discussion, or on the news. It's an epithet.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I think one problem is that in Japan, the Japanese people living in a huge city, are far from being cosmopolitan in a sense that they're used to seeing foreigners so much that they barely notice them. In the big cities in the Western world, there are so many different nationalities living together that nobody really can think along the lines of "we're insiders, they're outsiders" - because everyone is in a minority. So, despite of the Tokyo area having 35 million people crammed into a small space, it does not feel like an international, or if you want, liberal place - it feels the same as a backwater village somewhere in Akita-ken. Of course, the right-wing Japanese media also plays a part, blowing up foreigner-related crime out of proportion in relation to the homemade crime and organized crime everybody knows runs big parts of the economy.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

"Gaijn" is not a word that is allowed in polite company, in serious discussion, or on the news. It's an epithet.

Well said. Which is why I wonder why JT couldn't have asked "How do you feel about being a foreigner in Japan?" rather than use "gaijin". It is all about "us" and "them". The laziness and rudeness of it all speaks volumes. can't be bothered to ask our country? Gaijin. Want to use a slur against foreigners? Gaijin. You'll never hear it on NHK or see it in print. Why? Because it is a slur and any educated person knows that. And funny Mirai, if "gaijjin" is the short form of gaikokujin and is allowed to be used in public and on JT, shouldn't the shortened form of Japanese be okay? It isn't.

With regards to it meaning "Japanese" person. It traditionally doesn't. It meant someone who was from a different village or area - meaning that Japanese too can be called "gaijin". And as I said in my earlier post, call a Japanese person a gaijin when they are out of the country and they will give you dagger eyes. Why? Because they know it is rude. If it isn't rude, why the reaction? Why the need for them to explain they are Japanese? If gaijin is just short for the word "foreigner" they should be okay with being called it. As it is, "they", for the most part, also don't like being called a "gaikokujin" and will announce they are Japanese. Funny, as a whole, their country has no problems ignoring our nationalities and labeling us all as one lump, why can't they stand being treated the same?

I'm glad some of you haven't had some nasty experiences that others like myself and my foreigner friends have had. Is the discrimination "beneficiary" at times? Sure. But I would rather be treated like the locals - good and bad - than treated as something less than the locals. Some of you think they are just curious and harmless and that's great. But after so many intrusions, so many disturbing comments... I'd like to be left alone. Just like how the locals are left alone.

-1 ( +8 / -9 )

Another pet peeve of mine is the "first naming" that gets done when dealing with foreigners. This is common both in person and in the media. Example, a TV show goes overseas and is taking a look at the life of Bob Smith, an American lawyer. The show will refer to him as "Bob-san" constantly. Not "Smith-san". It's a way to separate foreigners from Japanese, and to take them less seriously.

This is partially because the foreigners choose to use their first names. I know foreigners here in Japan who do not use their first names and are called by their family or surname. It's a matter of choice for many.

When I go to hospitals or am called on the telephone for something "official" they use my entire name, which is a mouthful, and I give them credit as well for doing it and not just using my first name alone. If they did that I would hang up on them or ignore them totally.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@dog, i have bankaccounts in many countries and its very easy to open one even via online.

japan is the only country who denie tourists a bank account and have no joint bankaccounts for couples. get your facts straight before you comment.

-12 ( +2 / -14 )

This is partially because the foreigners choose to use their first names. Or more often than not, someone's dumb English teacher many years ago told them to always address a foreigner by their first name because that's what they do in "gaikoku". I have been asked on very few occasions what to be called. Until I say they can call me by my first name, call me by my last. With San added. Anything less is rude.

-8 ( +3 / -11 )

japan is the only country who denie tourists a bank account and have no joint bankaccounts for couples. get your facts straight before you comment. Perhaps YOU could get your facts straights. You're wrong on both accounts. Plenty of countries won't allow you to open an account if you don't have a permanent address let alone a tourist visa - with bills or a driver's license for proof. England being on of them. Many countries don't have joint accounts - from my understanding, South Africa is one of them.

Also, you're here on a tourist visa and think you can rock up to JT and start telling US about Japan? Laughable. Live here for a few more years. You're far too bitter for someone who is here on a tourist visa. And coming from me, that says a lot.

-9 ( +6 / -15 )

Or more often than not, someone's dumb English teacher many years ago told them to always address a foreigner by their first name because that's what they do in "gaikoku". I have been asked on very few occasions what to be called. Until I say they can call me by my first name, call me by my last. With San added. Anything less is rude.

Are you speaking for all foreigners, again?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@tmarie

i have also bankaccount with barclays in london, u can get permanent adress via a internet service. you also can get a telephone number in any country via this service or u open a LTD and get account this way.

in australia you go bank and show passport and get bank account in 1minute.

i just open bank account in germany via internet, just had to send them copy passport with a stamp from aussi bank. also got creditcard with it.

shall i go on and on.... maybe you start thinking how to open back doors and you will solve many problems quicker in life.

and yes it was also easy to get all in japan, even a joined account together with my gf and a creditcard in my name and all without an alien card too. back door are always there, just have to find them and know how to open them.

cheers

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

I love it here and unlikely to leave! If you make the effort to speak and read Japanese well life here is great!

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Being a foreigner here is the only thing to be, can play dumb when ever you like , dont understand the customs or the language when ever it suits and don't even know what the rules are What a fabulous place to be a foreigner in.

And all the pretty girls want to learn english, back when i first came here they thought every gaijin was a hollywood star as that was the only place they'd ever seen a foreigner, again what a fantastic place to be a foreigner.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

exportexpert, i agree. i love to see the faces when i walk around tokyo unshaven,in tshirt, shorts and sport shoes. weather 15 and sunny and i must the only one in tokyo today haha.

love it and not planning to learn a word in japanese. dont wanna understand what they talk.

i can be in my own world and they leave me alone

-15 ( +3 / -18 )

tmarieAPR. 04, 2012 - 07:01PM JST This is partially because the foreigners choose to use their first names. Or more often than not, someone's dumb English teacher many years ago told them to always address a foreigner by their first name because that's what they do in "gaikoku". I have been asked on very few occasions what to be called. Until I say they can call me by my first name, call me by my last. With San added. Anything less is rude.

Perhaps what you say is indeed true to some degree. But could it also have something to do with the order a person's name is written.

Most Japanese typically use the order last to first., right? ( I think the Chinese and Koreans also do the same but I'm not sure). Most native English speakers typically use the order first to last, right?

So if I write my name or my name is written as "Mike Fagg" isn't even remotely possible that a Japanese person might mistakenly assume that my last name is "Mike" and my first name is "Fagg" and call me "Mike-san" without trying to be disrespectful at all.

I have been in Japan for quite a long time, even now it still feels awkward to right my name as "Fagg Mike" or "Fagg, Mike" and instead often just write down "Mike Fagg". So often when my name is being called at a restaurant or the bank , etc., the staff person usually says "Mike-san, "

0 ( +1 / -1 )

tmarieAPR. 04, 2012 - 07:32PM JST Are you speaking for all foreigners, again? I guess you missed the following words in my post - "I", "Me" and "My" so I guess not.

Yeah, my mistake. I didn't notice the "I", Me and "My" in

tmarieAPR. 04, 2012 - 07:01PM JST Or more often than not, someone's dumb English teacher many years ago told them to always address a foreigner by their first name because that's what they do in "gaikoku".

Perhaps you could point them out for me.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Jo HaAPR. 04, 2012 - 08:18PM JST most japanese dont know what --fagg mike--could mean.... maybe the grasseating man get horny..joke

Correction.

You wouldn't be the first person to do so.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Is this kind of "superiority complex" by simply being a "gaijin" that put off some japaneses... they know you feel kinda, "special", they know you feel being watched all the time, they know you know you can pick any j-girl without the less effort.... even for me, it's kinda kimochiwarui when somebody enters in a japanese chat/social network site shouting: Hiii!! GAIJIN deeesu! ¬¬ So? Where's your content?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

joha the world is bigger than just Australia and Japan.......but then if you are Japanese it's just Japan and gaikokuland or America so from that point maybe your comments about bank accounts might ring true!

Kind of narrow minded over generalized views I do believe.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

After reading a good smattering of posts on this subject, I'll pass on my visit to Japan! We have enough prejudice here without being subjected to more from a country I can't speak the language!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

exportexpert, i agree. i love to see the faces when i walk around tokyo unshaven,in tshirt, shorts and sport shoes. weather 15 and sunny and i must the only one in tokyo today haha.

love it and not planning to learn a word in japanese. dont wanna understand what they talk.

i can be in my own world and they leave me alone

Gross.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

@yubaru and oginome The more you react the worse it will become. Wishing there was a "block poster" option so that they didn't appear in my views. Might appeal to some, so no sense in blocking to everyone, but when you know the content of the post is just going to be ugly, it would be nice to be able to have it sidelined somehow. Eewww!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I do agree that its pretty bad taste for JT to use the term"gaijin" in an article...Its pretty insensitive IMHO considering the fact that this is suppose to be a news site for the English speaking community in Japan (of which most are foreigners)

2 ( +4 / -2 )

@chaz ed

After reading a good smattering of posts on this subject, I'll pass on my visit to Japan! We have enough prejudice here without being subjected to more from a country I can't speak the language!

Interesting comment - but if you can't speak the language, you won't have too much clue about the racism side! You could though, encounter one of the most incredible service cultures in the world. It is truly amazing to be here as a visitor and feel the highest levels of service in so many places. There are exceptions, but generally, as a visitor you would feel welcome. The issue many have here is being a longer term guest in Japan (which I haven't found an issue with yet).

Don't miss out!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Whatever you do, don't be overweight here ! I get told how fat I am and poked in the gut by my J-coworkers everyday. They think people who are overweight are open season for insults as fat equals weak will. I could have sued for sekuhara 100 times by now. They would never do this to another J-folk, but us gaijin are considered fair game.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

@mike... the name writing thing is a bit of a shibboleth. Most official forms I have seen in Japan are ordered 'last name, first name', so there is no mistaking them. Come to think of it, the same applies back home, too.

I think the easiest thing to do is to use the rules of the language you are using. In Japanese, use the Japanese order, or just your last name. In English, use the Engilsh order. It saves a lot of confusion. As you said, other countries besides Japan use the "family name first" order. If people use my first name in inappropriate situations, I just mildly remind them that my family name is "conspirator", and things are smooth.

The reverse is also unusual- using Japanese name order in English. It causes nothing but trouble to people who don't know given names from family names. Imagine a Japanese guest going to a hotel and asking for a room, saying "I have a room booked. My name is Tanaka Kenji". The clerk will invariably say, "I'm sorry Mr. Kenji, there is no record of your reservation in the computer..."

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Come on! The English word "foreigner" is not that different from "gaijin". "Outsider" isn't much better but so what? The words "gaijin" or "gaikokujin" don't bother me. Long ago it was "Nanbanjin" and "Tojin-baka"!

But to answer the question.....The advantages of not being Japanese in Japan far outweigh the disadvantages. As you dig and dig, learn and learn, you start to realize that Japanese people are the best at everything, whether it be cooking a meal, asking for that one extra form you need at some government office but don't have, growing square watermelons, forging a sword, making toilets, creating stupid words, knowing when to get you another drink, or knowing how to really enjoy a bath. The list is endless. I've been here almost 20 years and I've come to believe it. Best place in the world and it's so easy to take it for granted.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

Vast Right-Wing ConspiratorAPR. 04, 2012 - 10:32PM JST @mike... the name writing thing is a bit of a shibboleth. Most official forms I have seen in Japan are ordered 'last name, first name', so there is no mistaking them. Come to think of it, the same applies back home, too. I think the easiest thing to do is to use the rules of the language you are using. In Japanese, use the Japanese order, or just your last name. In English, use the Engilsh order. It saves a lot of confusion. As you said, other countries besides Japan use the "family name first" order. If people use my first name in inappropriate situations, I just mildly remind them that my family name is "conspirator", and things are smooth. The reverse is also unusual- using Japanese name order in English. It causes nothing but trouble to people who don't know given names from family names. Imagine a Japanese guest going to a hotel and asking for a room, saying "I have a room booked. My name is Tanaka Kenji". The clerk will invariably say, "I'm sorry Mr. Kenji, there is no record of your reservation in the computer..."

It's not even remotely possible that a Japanese person my innocently make a mistake and mix up a person's first and last name?

Do you think the hotel clerk who says "I'm sorry Mr. Kenji" instead of "Mr. Tanaka" is being rude and trying to separate Tanaka-san from Americans?

How many Americans think that Yao Ming's first name is "Yao"? How many British think that Park Ji-Sung's first name is "Park". How many figure skating fans outside of Asia know that Kim Yu-na's first name is not Kim? Of course, the three I mentioned are famous athletes so maybe they don't count, but there are plenty of Chinese/Korean/Japanese academics/professionals working/living overseas who stick with the order of family name first name.

Is it not possible that the name of your friend the teacher was written in the wrong order on that list and just read as is?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Aside from "No Foreigners" signs on some hostess bars (where I wasn't going anyway), I don't remember any discrimination. Usually quite the opposite & I often felt like a rock star- especially in the smaller towns where foreigners aren't a common site. While I might have been initially offended by the label "gaijin," I eventually embraced it & have continued to call myself "gaijin" long after leaving Japan (trust me, even though I'm American I feel more like a foreigner in Trenton than I ever did in Japan).

I need to find that t-shirt.... Bet I can find them on eBay next week....

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Jo HaApr. 04, 2012 - 07:18PM JST

@tmarie i have also bankaccount with barclays in london, u can get permanent adress via a internet service. you also can get a telephone number in any country via this service or u open a LTD and get account this way. in australia you go bank and show passport and get bank account in 1minute. i just open bank account in germany via internet, just had to send them copy passport with a stamp from aussi bank. also got creditcard with it.

Well good for you Escobar jnr, but in the real world, T Marie is right. Especially since 2001.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

... it becomes a little scary if you are not firmly anchored down. I'm nearing the point where I can no longer delay a decision on whether I'm staying or going.

Interesting point, Smith. I laughingly refer to myself as a "professional gaijin" as I make my (comfortable!) living from doing the bits and pieces that help bind my community to the rest of the world. I have almost no non-Japanese friends aside from my non-Japanese students at University (all non-native English speakers). If I left, I know there would be a hole where I had been; nothing serious, of course, and something would eventually fill it up, but I feel value in knowing I am appreciated by my neighbors, my community, and those who I work for. Sure, I'm gaijin - "You can hear it in my accent when I talk," as Sting sang - but so what? I fit in better here than I would in, say, Alabama. It's all relative.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

omg being called gaijin it's just the most terrible thing in the world

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Mike;

Of course it is possible that people make innocent mistakes about names. God knows I've done the same. However, in many cases it is deliberate, usually as a way to mark their status as outsider. In my friend's case there was no mistake. They had been coworkers for a while. The use of "san" instead of "sensei" was another way to try and show, for lack of a better word, contempt.

My hotel example was meant to show that it is best to follow the rules of the language you are speaking, rather than the rules of your own particular culture. Tanaka (perhaps a victim of a Monkasho education) followed the Japanese naming convention even when speaking English, and the clerk simply followed the rule of English.

People can stick to what ever order they want, but should then be prepared to explain themselves on a regular basis. People assume that the order given is based on the language being spoken and not the ethnicity of the speaker. It's the only sure way to avoid confusion.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I always feel like somebody's watching me~♪ ~

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Just learn the language and watch most Japanese open up.

Problems solved!

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

as I live in Toronto now, with 150 odd languages and lots of people born somewhere else, including myself, I can tell you that I have never called anyone a foreigner either as a description or to someone's face. I thought about the word usage while reading this article, and I honestly never recall uttering it. Interesting.

So from my perspective I can't imagine why Japan insists on remaining thinking from the 19th century or earlier. I suppose it's quaint for some, and for the newspapers, but really, if you're in a society overburdened with thinking about where people come from, it does not reflect well upon you.

I hope things get better and Japanese become more proud of their own country, and not worry about it.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

btw, even Japanese in Toronto will call someone non-Japanese "gaijin" even though technically they are the ones in another country. There's a real fixation on this that just isn't totally comprehensible I think. That's one tradition I can do without. I hope Japanese can one day too.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Quit walking around with a chip on your shoulder and things will be cool too!.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

@choiwaruoyaji

omg being called gaijin it's just the most terrible thing in the world

(Assuming you're being sarcastic) lol :-)

@kurisupisu

Just learn the language and watch most Japanese open up.

That, and losing the great white bwana expecations some people have. Not that only white people have these delusions.

I noticed the people who were a-holes there, were a-holes to everybody. And the people back home who are a-holes to foreigners are also a-holes to everybody.

Would be good if we could get all of the racists in the world and move them to a small island. They could then choose to get along or live in strife.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Whatever you do, don't be overweight here ! I get told how fat I am and poked in the gut by my J-coworkers everyday. They think people who are overweight are open season for insults as fat equals weak will. I could have sued for sekuhara 100 times by now. They would never do this to another J-folk, but us gaijin are considered fair game.

I am not overweight, but I certainly feel for you on this. I totally blame the Japanese media. A lot of Japanese comedians are overweight, so there has been a development of a stereotype that all overweight people are funny and to be laughed at. The odd thing is many of these overweight comedians aren't even funny. Same goes for foreigners, transgenders, gays and lesbians. They are the odd ball bunch or the "freak show" in the eyes of the j-media, so they feed that stereotype to their audience. So people now get the notion that oh, you're [fill in the blank] so you must be [fill in the blank], because that's the way the media wants it.

BTW, I don't this is sekuhara (sexual harassment) but it is certainly harassment none the less and I personally wouldn't tolerate it. Tell your HR manager and let them handle it. If they tell you that you have to suck it up because you're in Japan and that's the way it is here (typical excuse given to cover up their insensitivity) then threaten all law suit, or just tell them that you'll be consulting the labor department and or a lawyer so that you know what you rights and options are. I guarantee you that they'll change their tone fairly quickly. With a lot of workplace bullying going on in Japan lately, the tolerance level for this type of poor behavior has gotten lower a bit.

Sorry for the OT mods...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I was thinking about this article last night, the question is quite loaded from the outset and it certainly doesn't make any distinction from someone passing through and someone who has been here quite some time.

How do you feel about being a gaijin (which I assume to mean non-japanese in this case, all about context in my mind) in Japan is bound to bring up mostly posts with the same somewhat negative stance.

Next time perhaps Japan Today can be a little more careful about the wording unless of course they actually want this type of reaction.

Yes there are issues however the negatives are vastly outweighed by the positives in nearly everyones experience I have come across.

Learn the language and where appropriate follow the cultural norms just as you would expect of anyone who came to live in your country of birth and I think mostly your experience will be great.

I do believe there are some cases where legal protection should be extended to legal residents in banking, housing and other matters however again overwhelmingly provided Im prepared and realistic I have encountered few major obstacles. Some important systems are changing from this July, legal residents will be recorded in the Japanese system, and visas will be 5 years and re-entry permits will not be needed in many cases, these are pretty major steps for a sometimes slow moving country.

But over all get out there enjoy all the wonderful things Japan does have to offer and show people that "outsiders" can also be respectful, understanding, gentle, intelligent and trustworthy and perhaps then one person at a time we can show Japanese people that if they do judge people simply by what they look like and where they are from they will be the one's who are missing out.

Anyway lets aim for a positive article next time, I think a bunch of irate non-Japanese after reading this is just as likely to ensure that the distance between Japanese and Non-Japanese continues as anything else.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

When I was in Japan I always thought: "it would be the best place to live in the world, if only we could remove all the Japanese from these beautiful islands". That's how it felt being a gaijin.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

@Tmarie Excuse me. We've seen each other on this blog many a time. Please don't take this personal but you are wrong about the bank account thing.

It's a proxy account and an address and it's perfectly legal.

Before I decided to reside in Japan I was here with the American government. I made one of those Japanese "Hankos" or stamps. I opened a bank account and put 500 yen in it. Then I left it there. I just let it sit. All I wanted to do was leave some money in Japan for when I returned. They didn't hesitate at all. They'll ALWAYS take your money.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Feel sorry for the poster who says he/she was bullied at school. Would the situation improve if they went to another school?

Same applies for adults, but as an adult you are more capable/responsible. Don't like your situation? Like zichi says, do something.

I'm in a less-than-happy situation overseas. I'm not a bystander - I can take action to improve things. I may fail, but I can try.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

**tmarieAPR. 04, 2012 - 07:32PM JST Are you speaking for all foreigners, again? I guess you missed the following words in my post - "I", "Me" and "My" so I guess not.

Yeah, my mistake. I didn't notice the "I", Me and "My" in

tmarieAPR. 04, 2012 - 07:01PM JST Or more often than not, someone's dumb English teacher many years ago told them to always address a foreigner by their first name because that's what they do in "gaikoku".

Perhaps you could point them out for me**

Where on earth and I trying to speak for anyone foreign in that statement?? I am trying to explain why perhaps, most Japanese think it is okay to call some foreigner they don't know by their first name. If you want to argue, fine by me but could you ask least want to argue about something that makes sense?

-15 ( +2 / -17 )

I should clarify that because of my half Maori / half Irish heritage I can fit in just about any where in the world :P .... i look like a spanishy asian white dark Hawaiin guy lol. I can blend in pretty well. A few times when I wear my sunnies people assume i can speak japanese.. once the sunnies are off though.. the games up lol.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

yeah the positives outweigh the negs, if you can find yr little spot in things its good, the thing I dont like is in my opinion that Japan(people & country) just tolerate us for the most part, Japan doesnt really want us to stay & get established.

Even recently talk of this point system for letting in foreigners just smacks of bringing in BODIES need to do THIS & THAT, and then they are free to depart. The perfect example of this is Japan trying to get nurses from places like Indonesia, Philippines, very clearly Japan DOESNT want these people to stay, just come in & service Japan for a while.

Those of us that stay for decades, perhaps even die here do you really feel like your welcomed or merely tolerated, for me its clearly the later, I dont feel the overall country really wants us here long term, yes of course we all know individuals who are fine with us here & they make our lives MUCH better which I truly appreciate, but in a larger sense imo Japan just wants to use us & hopes we eventually leave & that is sad imo.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I think that talking about the "Japanese", "most Japanese" and the "majority of the Japanese" is a gross generalization on the part of the non-J who project their experiences on the whole J. population. As if dealing with just one drunk or henna Nihonjin means that all J. are the same. Not all J. are xenophobic and not all J. love or should love foreigners. Same goes for the foreigners. The way a US soldier sees Japan is vastly different from a Chinese worker or a French university student. So I think it's better to talk about your own personal experiences than bag everything in aphorisms like "All Japanese don't like foreigners". And let's not forget that stupidity is international.

I had a few bad incidents and a lot more uncomfortable encounters with J. I'm from Europe, from a completely different place, with a different upbringing and cultural background. It's only natural to face difficulties. For example I could never understand the obsession of the J. with the "Carpenters" and "B. Joel" (ooonestiiiiii!). But looking back after more than ten happy years in Tokyo I can say that overall Japan has treated me wright and I'm glad I made this country my home. During this time I've met some wonderful J. I respect and feel humble in front of and a bunch of morons. About the same amount I would normally encounter in my country.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Haven't you ever been introduced to somebody who said something like "Hi, my name is Robert Smith but please call me Bob".

Yes! But this is typically "American". My business cards are written with my Japanese surname first and my European first name - written in KANJI - last however, this has never prevented Japanese people (when they finally find out how it's pronounced...) from calling me by my first name... I usually try to explain that first names (in Europe) are used among school friends, among friends and/or lovers, for one's children, for the maid and for animals...

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Gotta love the continued rhetoric: "If you don't like it, go home."

What if Japan is our home? My house is here. My home is here. I pay taxes and contribute to society. My children go to school here. So, if I don't like something, am I supposed to remain silent?

If I don't like being unfairly discriminated against, I'm supposed to pack up and leave? That is silly logic at best.

And yes, the more integrated into Japanese society you become, the more you realize how limited your rights are. If you can live in a happy bubble, then good for you. If you need some kind of cooperation from the business, political or administrative world, good luck getting treated fairly. Not saying you won't, but the odds are against you.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

If you need some kind of cooperation from the business, political or administrative world, good luck getting treated fairly. Not saying you won't, but the odds are against you.

Got to disagree there 100%. Talk to your ward.

Myself a PR-holder and currently on social-welfare due to a medical disability. Raising my son and the ward is taking well care of us, they even offered a helper to come and clean, etc. In short I get 100% free medical, schooling, etc for me and son, free water and as much support as I want just a phone-call away.

I know quiet a few foreigners in a similar situation.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Well written Horrified. This IS my home. I get upset at the things I see because I care and want this place to be a better country. Ignoring the issues and looking the other way isn't going to make this a better place to live - be it for Japanese OR foreigners.

-5 ( +7 / -12 )

Mike Fagg: "That's probably because, like with many Japanese, the term means "non-Japanese" to that woman. So any "non-Japanese" person throughout the world is still gonna be a "gaijin" to regardless of where they are at the time."

You're using euphemisms. While I don't care about the term at all, it literally means 'outsider', and is best translated as 'foreigner', not 'non-Japanese'. A Japanese national calling an Australian in Australia 'gaijin' is just plain ignorant. The Japanese in that case is clearly the '外' person, no?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

If Japanese people want to upset or insult people they sometimes say you are acting like or doing something like a gaijin. It is a real putdown. Does anyone remember ol'blinky using it on a japanese reporter a few years back? still, I'd rather be a gaijin in japan than a japanese!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Mirai Hirashi: "I do agree that its pretty bad taste for JT to use the term"gaijin" in an article...Its pretty insensitive IMHO considering the fact that this is suppose to be a news site for the English speaking community in Japan (of which most are foreigners)"

It's not in bad taste at all, in my opinion, especially since 'gaijin' is in quotation marks. It's a statement on culture, as such. If it were NOT in quotation marks that would be another matter.

There's really only one occasion where use of the term 'gaijin' bothered me. No, not when some drunken idiot says all gaijin should 'go home' -- for that is what such a person is, an idiot -- it was when a co-worker and I decided to hold a party in our community. We invited foreigners from a local university as well as Japanese in the community for a cooking/casual party in which people could mingle, exchange email addresses, etc. When my co-worker made the poster he wrote that 日本の方 and 外人 were all welcome. To be fair, when I pointed out, kindly, the difference in status with the language used he was extremely embarrassed and apologized, and made clear it was not intentional, but it was exactly that that bothered me -- the natural way it just came out, without a second thought. We had a great party after that, with people from various countries showing up, sharing dishes from their countries, etc. And of course the Japanese guests were extremely hospitable and offered to take the foreigners around here and there if need be, help them out if they needed it, etc.

Living here permanently poses a number of problems, of course, as it would anywhere, but being a visitor and/or guest here is pretty much second to none when it comes to said hospitality and helpfulness.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

smithinjapanAPR. 05, 2012 - 03:29PM JST You're using euphemisms. While I don't care about the term at all, it literally means 'outsider', and is best translated as 'foreigner', not 'non-Japanese'. A Japanese national calling an Australian in Australia 'gaijin' is just plain ignorant. The Japanese in that case is clearly the '外' person, no?

Find this discussion pretty interesting so I looked up the term in some online Japanese dictionary. Here's what I found:

(1)外国人。 「―選手」「―墓地」

(2)内輪でない人。他人。外部の人。

I think we as non-Japanese living in Japan tend to focus on (1). So in that sense, sure a Japanese person in Australia is a "gaijin". For many of us (at least I was this way for the first couple of years I lived here), (2) doesn't even pop into our heads. To us, "gaijin" means "gaikokujin" which means "foreigner". This probably has to do with the way we experience the word and commonly hear it used.

But, is it not possible that the distinction between (1) and (2) is not so clear cut for some Japanese (perhaps older Japanese)? Could the Japanese person in Australia be focusing on (2) and thus still refer to an Australian as "gaijin" simply because the Australian is not part of the Japanese person's group (i.e. nationality).

Not trying to ruffle any feathers or insult anyone. Just thought it would be interesting to hear if this makes sense to anybody but myself.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

yagura - makes sense to me.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Yagura, when Japanese are called "gaijin: outside of Japan they get ruffled feathers because they know it is rude and means they don't belong to the "in" group. Drawing attention to the fact that THEY are the outsider is a slur. Which is why decent media in this country doesn't allow it.

It is one thing to state 'gaikokujin" which is foreigner. I have no problems with that word. I do have an issue with "gaijin" as it means outsider and is used as a derogatory meaning. Some will claim it is just the shortened form of "gaijikokujin" but it isn't. I will excuse older people who use "sama/san" because well, they're old. My grandmother sometimes uses "boy" when she sees a black person. I will correct her. However, when it is anyone under the age of 50? Not okay and they will be told, politely, that the correct term is gaikokujin. I will then ask them to think about why NHK and the like don't use the word. I will then ask how they would feel if they were outside of Japan and refereed to either as gaijin or the shortened form of Japanese. Usually once you get to the shortened form of Japanese and how rude it is, they get it.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

Should say, usually get it. A few will argue until they are blue in the face that it is the shortened form and isn't rude so I will then turn around and say fine, I'll call you by the shortened form of Japanese then. I hate doing that but having lived abroad and had Japanese neighbors and friends, it sometimes it mind numbing how they still think they are the only group that matters while other nationalities, and more so the host country, can just be lumped together as one and always thought of as the same group having the same thinking, culture....

-4 ( +5 / -9 )

tmarieAPR. 05, 2012 - 04:45PM JST Yagura, when Japanese are called "gaijin: outside of Japan they get ruffled feathers because they know it is rude and means they don't belong to the "in" group. Drawing attention to the fact that THEY are the outsider is a slur. Which is why decent media in this country doesn't allow it.

I really am not an expert on the etymology of the word even after having lived here for almost more than half my life (almost 25 years) and have heard it used many many times. Honestly, it never has really bothered me but maybe it's time for a rethink. I was just trying to point out that word 外人seems (at least according to the dictionary I checked) to have two meanings: (1)外国人. 「―選手」「―墓地」 and (2 )内輪でない人,他人, 外部の人. Maybe that dictionary is incorrect when it says ”gaijin” means "gaikokujin".

So to me it's not too hard to imagine some Japanese people using meaning (2) to describe non-Japanese people even when they are outside Japan. Perhaps they are using it just among themselves. I hope that they aren't walking around and shouting it at any non-Japanese they see. I've never heard a Japanese person use it overseas myself but maybe it would bother me if I did. Not sure.

Moreover, I personally don't go out of my way to call Japanese outside of Japan "gaijin", so I have really no idea as to how they react. But if you say it makes them uncomfortable then I am not going to say your wrong.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

hmm... i spend now three of my hard earned vacations in japan (and i hope much much more) cause i love so many aspects of this (your) country. as a swiss born and raised with a spanish passport (my parents emigrated many years ago from spain to switzerland) i am used to jump between different cultures (even if the gap between the swiss and the spanish is not so big as the japanese and european). the swiss cultures is in many parts pretty similiar to the japanese one, and for so, i feel very comfortable in many aspects. but i noticed something i am not quiet sure if it has to do with the mentality or its just an accumulation of bad luck. sometimes i feel in japan like people are much more aware of foreign people in the sence that they are not direclty scared, but kind of reserved cause.. argh, hard to say, maybe they think that non japanese are more criminals. i had this very embarassing happening once i can`t forget.

i was on the way from nikko to, i dont remember the name, a small village up in the mountains near the first lake. a very beautiful place by the way. so i was sitting in this bus with, my luck, japanese friend. the bus stopped at a regular stop and some young guys stepped out of the bus. the payed the ticket on the way out till one started to search his wallet. the bus driver started to get nervous and the guy runned back to where he was sitting before wanting to go off. his seat was right in front of ours, so he came there and searched the floor. he searches his backpack, floor again, backpack.. floor.. floor backpack... in this moments, when he was searching his wallet, i notices like people watched at me all the time. i felt so bad in this moment.. i think i did get a really red face. i felt so guilty without having done something. my friend did notice i was getting nervous and i told her that maybe the people were thinking that maybe i did steal the wallet. she could not answer, how. i mean, what answer could she have gave to me?? i started to search the floor under my seat cause maybe the wallet could have slipped on the floor. in this searching process, i noticed that between the seats, there was like a plastic bridge, with a notch. so i thougt it had could felt in this notch. and stood up and checked the seat where he was sitting before. bingo... there it was. but i didnt take the wallet, i told it to my japanese friend. she took the wallet and the hole bus was clapping hands. clapping hands and watching at me. i felt so bad... cause maybe they thought i had stolen it and put it there. but.... it was my feeling, and i am not sure if people were thinking like that. but moving around japan makes me feel sometimes like a bad guy as people do avoid me. when i am in the metro, most of the time the seat beside me is empty, even if its a bit crowded (not if its very crowded). most woman change the street side when nobody around and i am on the same streetside. and i am more the babyface then the classic criminal looking guy (what is very silly, i know, but we got some stereotypes in the head). it makes me feel a bit bad, cause i really want to comunicate with japanese people. even if i cant speak japanese. cause i really love this country. thats the only thing that makes me feel bad sometimes. but.... its my thoughts, maybe i just have to get over it and dont care about what people are thinking :D hasta luego!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

lapinsubmarine.

Don't feel bad, I tend to get squashed between people on the seats during the commute. Your Japanese will come with time and communication will be easier. Can't recall how many japanese tried to use my shoulder as a cushion while sleeping on the train.

Just be yourself and don't over-think stuff.

Outside my apartment they are widening the road = major construction as they are adding pavements and bicycle lanes. One of the guards approached me and said he wants to talk english(fluent and no accent) but has few changes as he learned it back in 1962. Very nice guy and we chat daily in Japanese actually.

You will find most older people can speak english and german too.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

It"S ME

Can't recall how many japanese tried to use my shoulder as a cushion while sleeping on the train.

I must be one of those scary foreigners as when l sit on the train people will move to other seats or will not sit on the same seat as me. I find this hilarious if not a touch pathetic. Come on l wear deodorant... Must be all the tatts.... Makes me an evil criminal type......

You will find most older people can speak english and german too.

Completely agree it is usually the older generation who are the biggest age group that attempt to speak to you. I got followed through Hiroshima one day by an old guy was funny every time we stopped he stopped in the end he came up shaking he was trying to build up the courage to ask where we were from in english. He was such a nice guy in the end we talked for 10 minutes. Damn funny though

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Yagura, good post! I think it is time to rethink it to be honest. Language changes with time. The shortened form of Japanese, the N word for blacks... was "acceptable" at some point to many but now is not. The same thing seems to be happening with "gaijin" - which is why I can excuse it when older people say it. I can not accept it when a child of three screams it out at me while pointing when with parents who do nothing to tell the daughter she is being rude. Using gaijin or not really isn't the issue in that case though to be honest - it is the notion of "us" and "them" at such a young age. That reaction and language obviously comes from the parents - and usually when this happens, they aren't exactly the type of Japanese person I would like to associate with - but even then, gaijin shouldn't be used. Gaikokujin wouldn't make me cringe near as much though I admit I would still roll my eyes.

I've had a few experiences with Japanese abroad calling myself and others gaijin. In line at immigration I have overheard conversations along the lines of "Oh, here is the line for Japanese and gaijin" in which one time I turned around and said, "No, this is the line for gaikokujin and you are one of them as this isn't your country." Looks of shock - probably because I spoke to them in Japanese. This sentiment was backed up by a laugh from an older, obviously well traveled Japanese man who then lectured these girls about how rude they had been and not to use the word "gaijin". Other times I will turn around and state "gaikokujin" and you're also one as this isn't Japan. The other times have been when I lived abroad and hung out with Japanese who would go on and on about "Oh the gaijin here eat this, oh the gaijin here do that..." out loud, in front of me and clueless to the fact that the people they were speaking about were not one lump sum nationality from a land called gaijinland. This has happened on more than a few occasions and my husband would cringe and mutter "And these are the 'international' Japanese?" I have in the past, corrected them and told them they were being extremely rude, that they don't know if they people they are referring to are from the country they are in or if they are "gaikokujin" like themselves. They usually get it and accept that it is rude - they've just never been told before that it is hurtful and rude.

Will say, classes start and every year I get a few students who call me a gaijin and the class gets a lecture on how it is rude and to not use it - and to, if they can, find out the person's nationality as it is much nicer to say 'The Canadian, French, British.. teacher" as opposed to "The foreign teacher". Thankfully, never had an issue with that one.

0 ( +9 / -9 )

This IS my home. I get upset at the things I see because I care and want this place to be a better country. Ignoring the issues and looking the other way isn't going to make this a better place to live - be it for Japanese OR foreigners.

tmarie - that is the most perfectly-crafted explanation I've read for a long time. There seems to be a large body of people who want us to applaud the incompetence, corruption, and perverse cheerleading for the defeatist "This is what we have. Don't ask for better" mentality.

We chose to make this country our home because we love it here. We obey the law and pay our taxes. Why must we pretend it's acceptable for incompetent politicians and corrupt executives to try to spoil our home?

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Most of these comments are too long to read, being in Japan for most of my life, I've come to not really think about the difference! I don't feel different and if people feel I am different, it certainly doesn't affect me. The first 7 years were hell, after that, I just seemed to fit in. I think if one perceives oneself as being different, then obviously one will feel that way. If I am going to be bothered about how I am treated because of my appearance, then I am not going to get very far in life, I am very positive and I am rightfully treated, like-wise. In the old days, Japan did not like having foreigners here but we have come a long way, on both sides! I try to bury the nasty treatment received by immigration officials and the like, years ago, because I knew things would change. It is must easier now for foreigners to enjoy Japan because of true globalization! Still, I miss so much of the old Japan! If you are positive, just go with the flow!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I feel like a gaijin no matter where on earth I am. And it feels great.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

I don't feel different and if people feel I am different, it certainly doesn't affect me.

While I can understand what you're saying, the fact of the matter is, it DOES affect you. It affects your whole entire life - from where you can live, how you get treated by staff in places, from having to carry a card and update information, from keeping you out of certain positions that are for Japanese passport holders... Your average Japanese person isn't aware of all the discrimination we face by living here but they certainly don't help it when they label us differently from them because well, why? I still don't know why people here need to separate "us" from "them" - and I don't mean just with foreigners. The whole uchi/soto thing does my head in.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

@CapnSinbad

I am not fat! i am a member of the local sumoclub! :p

Anyway when my coworkers point at my belly i just say it is all 筋肉 (kinniku- muscles!)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well, I have been in Japan for long time. I was here back and forth as a kid (during the late 70's and 80's) and the attitude towards foreigners were MUCH different back then. At least noways discrimination have gotten to be a lot less overt. Back then, people would literally stare at you or talk about you out loud and assume that you don't understand a word they were saying or out right say things like "外人帰れ!" (go home gaijin). I also remember seeing the "Japanese Only" signs not on just hostess clubs, but on other business establishments as well.

Back then, I was too young to really understand how hateful the discrimination was, and I really never thought of myself as a gaijin. I only realized it when after I was 11 or 12 years old, but by then, there was bigger expat community in Japan, so people were more accepting of foreign culture. But yeah, its really sad when jmedia are so insensitive enough to publish word in an article and expect it to be "okay" to the foreign community.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Back then, people would literally stare at you or talk about you out loud and assume that you don't understand a word they were saying or out right say things...

Interesting. I still have this happen to me - regardless of the size of the city. People stare, kids point me out to their parents (parents do nothing to punish them for being rude), people attempt to touch my hair on the train... We don't all live in Tokyo!

Personally, I would rather the in your face discrimination than the quiet institutionalized discrimination. Easier to know who dislikes me due to my ethnic background than be shocked to find out later. And yes Mirai, I agree. It is sad. More so when I know the editor has had numerous complaints from posters but looks the other way.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

It can be embarrassing not to be able to speak Japanese especially if you look like one. So, Westerners have a better deal here. I also know from close Japanese associates that if your Japanese is not 100%, it will stand out too. Agnes Chan the ex-HongKong singer who is married to a Japanese speaks what most people will say is 'fluent Japanese', but it has been pointed out to me that Japanese can tell from her conversation on TV that she is not native. On the other hand Mongolian sumo wrestler like Hakuho speaks like he was born here.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Agree with other posters - sure, there are occasional times when the ethnocentric ways here rear their ugly head - but when it comes to the J-ladies, all the fellas will agree: GAIJIN ADVANTAGE - GUARANTEED! Personally, I would never want to look "Japanese" anyway - so I reckon using your gaijin advantage is the way to go!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

BurakuminDes -

but when it comes to the J-ladies, all the fellas will agree: GAIJIN ADVANTAGE - GUARANTEED!

Yes, that's true. But for us married guys, it's not really a huge plus (beyond a slight ego boost.) I'm happily married -- what do I need with a 20-year-old girl with an infatuation? That won't get me a promotion, or even a different type of job. That won't get me a voice in my neighbourhood community. It doesn't count for anything important in life once you're married.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

IT'sME:

Got to disagree there 100%. Talk to your ward. Myself a PR-holder and currently on social-welfare due to a medical disability. Raising my son and the ward is taking well care of us, they even offered a helper to come and clean, etc. In short I get 100% free medical, schooling, etc for me and son, free water and as much support as I want just a phone-call away.

Good for you. Count yourself fortunate, but like I said, it's not that way for everyone. In fact in October of 2010, the Oita District Court proclaimed foreigners DO NOT have the right to receive benefits:

"OITA - The Oita District Court ruled on Oct. 18 that foreigners with the right to permanent residence but without Japanese citizenship are not entitled to welfare benefits, rejecting the claims of a 78-year-old Chinese woman who sued after being denied benefits by the Oita city government.

In the ruling, Presiding Judge Yasuji Isshi said, 'The Livelihood Protection Law is intended for Japanese citizens only. Welfare payments to non-citizens would be a form of charity. Non-citizens do not hold a right to receive payments.'"

http://www.debito.org/?p=9991

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I read a lot in Japanese, and often find the expression "我が国" (Our Country), in any type of formal documentation including business. I am reminded I do not belong to this country, which affects me badly as I feel at home, and this shows well the self-centeredness of the Japanese people, though I see it as their expression of love towards Japan island. Still, I think that nature belongs to all human beings.. Japan people, please share it with the world !

0 ( +1 / -1 )

horriffied,

I am a Pr -Holder next with the one exception-voting we are inother aspects as Jpaese

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

GAIJIN ADVANTAGE - GUARANTEED! Does that make you guys feel better?! Good lucking guys are good lucking guys the world over. If anything, it would be pretty clear that if you are bragging about the j-chicks hitting on you, you aren't that great to look at or you'd get the same female response the world over. Zero to hero, two to ten, charisma man... You guys are clearly letting the female posters here know where you fit on on the scale of good looking...

It rather funny, the foreign guys here who are attractive are always very nice to foreign women - I find. The Charisma men on the other hand... Watch out. Spiteful and nasty. I enjoy thinking of what their married life may be like to a local...

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

In my travels, whenever I encounter a group of J-tourists, I always bid them a warm welcome to our lands fellow gaijins, then observe their reactions, heheheh.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@horrified

Thanks for pointing out the case in point - here is some more information http://www.courts.go.jp/hanrei/pdf/20101220104616.pdf http://qanda.rakuten.ne.jp/qa7369685.html

Some points 1) This was a district/regional court decision, and as such it has no jursidiction outside Oita 2) Even within Oita, there are potential grounds for a legal challenge (While I'm no expert, Article 14 of the constitution might be a good argument; I acknowledge that the Supreme Court does have decisions which state "Reasonable Prejudice", but I don't know on what grounds a nation can withhold welfare and tax residents at the same time - just my opinion though 3) the link you have listed isn't the most credible (though neither is the second post I listed, but it is still more credible than the opinions of an activist for the most entitled race on earth, at any point in history to this date; few would refute the actual court case though)

On topic, being a gaijin is ok. I've been out of the country for a while, but while I was there, I can say I had a mixed impression - somethings are great (cheap, delicious food), somethings are not great (cash has its limitations; as does consensus in decision making)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The word "gaijin" or "gaikokujin" are particular words to mention foreigner. Since the native Japanese people have their nationality sense, the may discriminate between Japanese and foreigners and this is very normal to the people of other countries also. The author has written his experiences in relation to Japanese and others living in that country very acutely from his feelings and so I love such a valuable article, since I dream of visiting that country, in future.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Looks like the JT crowd fell for this one, and the owners of this site got the response they wanted. Look, why adopt the Japanese mentality as your own? That's an invitation to mental confusion and instability. Stop thinking of yourself as a "gaijin in Japan" and realize that you are equally a (insert nationality here) in a foreign country. That is all--an American, Italian, Korean, Australian, etc. in Japan, a foreign country like the other 190 or so foreign countries in the world. Think that way and your existence in Japan becomes far less of a polarizing matter in your own mind. Adopting the Japanese view that there are two types of people in the world--Nihonjin and gaikokujin--is just a weird thing to do. You didn't spend your childhood singing Kimigayo in front of the Hinomaru, did you? Then don't think as if you did.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Will agree with Tmarie in regards to "claiming" getting girls is easier. I would say they definitely show more interested in foreigners, but I see and date the same amount of girls here as I would back home. If its an ego boost for you, that's great. But claiming it makes you look kind of silly :)

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@MASSWIPE

One of the most sensible comments I've seen in a long time.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Part 1

Well this is opening up a can of worms. The so called

why foreigners can't adapt to Japanese way due our individualistic tendencies lol.

Where have I heard that before. Well since JT is bringing it up let's bring this into a different light shall we. First of all people need to remember that Japan is first and foremost Japanese. So obviously the whole concept of foreigner or Gaijin to be more specific has little if any meaning here. You can't expect a county like Japan to understand how this might be offensive to foreigners when there aren't enough around to really matter. Not to mention in a country which is 99.9% Japanese as though it makes any difference? People tend to fear what they don't understand or can relate to. What is not familiar to them within their own cultural contexts is seen as a threat and must be avoided. In fact you don't even have to be of a different cultural background, race or ethnicity to be misunderstood. This happens a lot even among people in one's own state or from one city to the next.

Just as many Japanese see the west as New York or LA and just assume the entire country is like that. While I agree with not seeing yourself as a Gaijin mentality to a point. You can't ignore that fact entirely as it could get you into trouble or worse. Knowing how context works within Japanese society is like trying to decrypt Egyptian hieroglyphics lol. It can get lost in translation very quickly. Not to mention create uncomfortable situations for you which could be seen in a negative light. Those who have been in Japan for any length of time know this and have to learn to read between the lines.

If language was the only barrier you had to deal with that would be one thing. Yet as with most any country that will only get you so far. Japan is not a place one should be going to without having at least some idea of what they are getting themselves into. Having at least some knowledge of the culture, mindset, customs, language, food, people and social quirks is really a prerequisite. Although Japanese people are human beings, just like you and me. They are not aliens from some mystic planet like some people like to believe.

Many Japanophiles out there love to mythologize the Japanese, and focus on all the little cultural differences. They will claim that Japanese brains are just wired differently. If you are not Japanese, will never be able to understand, or to communicate on a real level. It is true for them, because it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. They expect never to be able to make true connections with Japanese people, so they confine themselves to operating within the waltz of hard Japanese societal rules.

A mail unanswered; a question glossed over; a topic hastily changed. All these responses represent indirect ways of refusing, or communicating disinterest towards the idea being put forward. The culturally attuned foreigner or Gaijin knows not to push it any further, if no answer is forthcoming. Frustrating as it may seem, the lack of an response is essentially a negative response. A friendly, good-natured invitation to hang out again soon or We should be good friends may perfectly match the atmosphere and feeling at a social gathering but it is not a reason to start setting aside days in your social calendar. In contrast to the west where that has a more direct meaning as with most things. Knowing the honne, tatemae way of thinking has caused more then it's share of confusion even among international business exchanges or at highest levels of government. It is these sort of cultural quarks which make some Gaijin experience in Japan a complete nightmare. Understanding the truth behind the words can make ones experience in Japan one to be remembered or to be forgotten.

Use your language ability only when it is necessary or when communication becomes an issue.

Any Gaijin who has worked in a Japanese environment will know that it is crucial to make sure that you are understood and often even when you think you have explained yourself thoroughly in every conceivable way, mistakes are still made because of miscommunication. This is not just about selecting the right words. It is about making sure your body language, your behavior, your priorities back up the point you are trying to make.

Probably the most important concern in any kind of group behavior among the Japanese, is maintaining the wa (harmonious, preservation of the group). For foreign Geijin especially westerners this is often a difficult concept to understand, because in comparison to Japan, the values of individuality and self-expression are valued much more highly in other cultures. I can go on forever with this but the point is that whatever your experience has been in Japan good or bad is likely of your own doing.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Part 2

Over my years in Japan I have found a few things which have worked for me. Not saying it will work for everyone but has made my experience here more enjoyable. When dealing with Japan you need to use a sort of reverse physiology. Some people wouldn't go this far but it has worked for my own sanity at least lol. If I am found being discriminated against.

I apologize for not understanding the Japanese way or for any disrespect I may have caused.

Even if I know I haven't done anything wrong it doesn't matter!! If an officer stops me on the street to check my passport papers.

I smile & apologize for wasting his time as he must have better things to do.

That almost immediately drops the suspicious attitude and things usually go along smoothly from there on out. When on a bus if someone moves away from me.

I stand up and apologize for my rudeness in taking their spot lol.

That one works surprisingly well. Most either sit back down immediately or seemed shocked and apologize in return. If I am refused admittance to a club, store, restaurant or otherwise.

I apologize sincerely for being rude and disrupting their time as was being inconsiderate.

How is me entering a store being rude? Well it's not but I usually like taking the humble or even self punishment approach. That more then not has reversed their attitude in return. By not asking why I wasn't allowed in we both save face. I am taking the blame for it which in turn helps my situation. In many cases it was due to the fact the menu wasn't in English or the like. In a store was out of fear on not knowing any English. In a club was usually of fear of a Gaijin creating problems for them. Japan is very much a culture of What if

Even if the threat doesn't really exist. It is the potential of that existing later on. Although in most cased once they realized I wasn't a threat. That I could speak in Japanese, if necessary or function without them making special arrangements. It usually wasn't that big a deal that that point. They didn't want to inconvenience they had said or out of fear of how I may react. Add to this the assumption of having to speak in English only added to that perception. In many cases things aren't always as they seem once you get beneath the surface. In some cases I would get the response:

"I don't like foreigners!!!" I respond in Japanese. "I don't like foreigners either is that wrong?"

That one almost always gets a laugh or horrified look just depending. Likely not expecting I know what they were saying. Multiple apologies come forth there after. In some cases within the proper context such as a izakaya. I would buy them a drink and apologize in return for my misunderstanding. I actually met my girlfriend in a similar way.

Your a Gaijin right? Last I checked unfortunately, I am so sorry. It's unforgivable I know lol.

Japan is in many cases get characterized as an inward-gazing world that grudgingly accepts the presence of foreigners within its borders, but largely shuns their participation.

Undentable smiles, prim polished politeness masking an underbelly of disdain and xenophobia. An impenetrable alienating society to those not born into it. The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between. But those who choose to spend time here experiencing, breathing, living the country, the culture, the people come to understand that Japan cannot be summed up as some sexual theme park nor is it fair to mischaracterize it as a cold hostile place for outsiders.

Japan is an amazing place with great people, interesting history, culture and a very complex social web. It is without question one of the best decisions I have ever made regardless of the inherent difficulties that followed. When all is said and done, Japan is Japan. Expect it to be something that it is not, and you will be disappointed. But accept it equally for its merits and its faults, make the effort to understand it, and learn to roll with it and you will be in for an experience unlike any you could have in any other corner of this world. In closing I give you one of my favorite Japanese quotes.

Strength is Happiness. Strength is itself victory. In weakness and cowardice there is no happiness. When you wage a struggle, you might win or you might lose. But regardless of the short-term outcome, the very fact of your continuing to struggle is proof of your victory as a human being.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

How do you feel about being a ‘gaijin’ in Japan? Gaijin means not of Japan. I feel the word is very offensive to me.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

ReikiZen - nice post. Say, here in the good old USA, my wife and I always laugh at her "Resident Alien" card. Gaijin just makes me laugh as well. Lighten up and help the guy next to you carry their burden, whomever they are.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

hello,im simple and understanding for all gaijin and japanese,if writing papers come i bring some in the house i asked my kids coz maybe they will laugh my work,some i did but cant avoid i should write im headache in comes writing my hand written not clean and good,but i work professionally,im the worker of big company so i should teach and help in good way japanese especially the new and young without experience,many of them know me cant write well.ofcourse how about if i ask them to write in english?i know how to speak many language 4-5 ,its the ability of being a gaijin in japan my pasport were red japanese 12 years ago,drivers license gold,permanent job with all benefits,the expert of the company say to me 1-2 time that i should speak polite japanese well.i i asked my kids if somebody tell them they were half ? they said sometimes,they cant speak other langaugebut i saw they were good more than pure japanese ,from kinder they were leader until now. aspiring tv talents.their names i make japanese kanji,i was divorce from japanese and dont like to marry japanese coz so many experienced from them i re marry other country,but i served japan,i can take my pension well,and live easily this country good in many ways.unlike asian country.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I want to start by saying that I LOVE JAPAN and I would not live here if I did not. The people are amazing and loving and the food, oh well, its the best, since I love sushi and sashimi! Having said that, I have been working here since 1997 and I have lived all over the world, Iceland (born), England, Sweden, France, Egypt, Congo, India, USA and more. Japan is by far the most racist country I have lived in. Legally you do not have the same rights as a Japanese, ever! Even the Finnish born Senator Marutei Tsurunen finds the same thing, he is a part of the Japanese senate and is still feeling like a Gajin... This part of living in Japan is hard but there are so many other good things that I just ignore it and I dont let people bother me with this, the few people that show it. Its more the establishment and the system then the people them selves. PEACE

1 ( +1 / -0 )

There is............ not a lot I can do about it? Apart from the being in Japan part.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is my view. I was born and raised in Japan, but I am a American only by my pasport. I spent 31 of my 36 years in Japan. I am a called a Gaijin. I am half. Growing up I got picked on by both American and Japanese. I pretty much fought everyday. Japan is my home and to be called Gaijin is extremely offensive to me. Everyone else here see it as just a word that is why it means nothing to them. Japan is my home and to be called a foreigner is like driving a spike through my heart.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

ryukyustrikerAPR. 13, 2012 - 02:30AM JST This is my view. I was born and raised in Japan, but I am a American only by my pasport. I spent 31 of my 36 years in Japan. I am a called a Gaijin. I am half. Growing up I got picked on by both American and Japanese. I pretty much fought everyday. Japan is my home and to be called Gaijin is extremely offensive to me. Everyone else here see it as just a word that is why it means nothing to them. Japan is my home and to be called a foreigner is like driving a spike through my heart.

You say that Japan is your home. Indeed it does sound like it is more of a home to you than the United States. So, why hang on to your American citizenship after all these years? Have you applied for Japanese citizenship?

Not saying this would change the way those around you see you and get them to stop calling you a "gaijin". But legally it would be better for you, wouldn't it?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

In the beginning, I (like many fellow foreigners coming to Japan) was a bit offended by the Japanese drawing such a strong line between them and the "outsiders". In the meantime, having made certain experiences, and having gained an inside view into how politics, the media, the workplace, the social structures here work, I am almost proud to not be a part of it. I will happily spend my remaining time here, because Japan is an interesting country, but I am at the same time very glad that I will never have to really deal with life here like a Japanese person has to (unless they want to be the outsider). It's just too much hassle, and it's not a free, self-determined society.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There are different gaijin experiences in Japan, so it really depends on who you ask. There is the gaijin, who is only a gaijin to Japanese; he doesnt feel himself to be a gaijin because he is too new or sheltered to really understand it and he isnt bothered by it. There is the gaijin who is married with children and who is immersed in the culture; who wants to be accepted but never is. He is bothered by the word gaijin because he knows it means outsider. Unlike the other camp of gaijin, he struggles everyday to survive. I have been on both sides so I know its territory. I do find it annoying when people say its just a word, or you should learn more Japanese, or hey, why dont you take up Japanese citizenship? I dont see how this would make anything better, my face is still foriegn. Perhaps its really meant as a cruel joke. I found the best way to deal with the gaijin phenomenom is to surround yourself with good gaijins who think like you; it will help keep you sane. A decent job makes all the difference as well, there isnt really much else here to do. Or you can leave. I dont see any hope of Japan making any social progress, unless your Japanese. Every year there are new rules/laws passed for Japanese. I rarely see anything that applies to gaijin. You can still be denied access to employment and shelter, two of the basic requirments for sustainment in a modern society. In order to get a job or shelter in Japan you must be trusted. There lies the dilemma with many Japanese companies; should we trust this gaijin or just find a Japanese? Labor is not a commodity as it is in other countries.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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