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.
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