lifestyle

When you feel like you’re the only outsider in the community, do these 2 things

21 Comments
By Anisa Kazemi

According to the latest statistics, there are just a little over 2.5 million foreigners currently residing in Japan. Although this may seem a significant number, perhaps it loses its weight when compared to the colossal 127.1 million of the country’s entire population. Naturally, the native people of Japan heavily outweigh the foreigners. Or in other words, when living in the very rural Japanese countryside, everyone is Japanese but you.

Now, if you love the attention, that’s great news. But if you’re a sensitive gal like me, this can make your life pretty darn difficult. Especially if you’re coming from an increasingly multicultural country such as New Zealand. Why does it matter? Well, theoretically it shouldn’t, but we’re flawed human beings with a heck load of feelings and sometimes, we just can’t help but feel like a complete and utter outsider (with four legs).

My many inaka tears 

I can’t speak for urban expats, but for me, being a foreigner in my incredibly rural Japanese Okayama village proposed various discomforts. For one, almost everyone openly stared (sometimes with their mouths wide open!).

In their defense, I look noticeably different: my skin is darker, my nose is longer, my hair is way curlier and my butt and thighs are bigger. Also, my mannerisms were unlike theirs. For example, my bento usually contains lots of nuts and legumes and things vegetarian — a term almost non-existent in my deer and boar-hunting village.

In addition, I don’t peel my persimmons, figs nor grapes; I hardly ever use an umbrella (both for sunshine and rain), I like getting a sun tan and I clock out of work when my shift ends. All of which contribute to feelings of being treated like an outsider — or at least being perceived of as one.

Don’t get me wrong, this happens everywhere. And it’s perhaps normal. Even in New Zealand, a super diverse nation, my Iranian family and I were and still occasionally are a subject to prejudice – more so when we were small-town dwellers. At school, my sister and I were the butt of “bomb” and “terrorist” jokes. Worse off was my father, a walking stereotype; a middle-eastern taxi driver with thick black facial hair.

However, if we looked past the ignorants making the offensive comments, we’d see an Indian person, a Chinese individual and a Samoan/Tongan/Fijian/you-name-it family all sharing the same walkway which helped us feel a little less marginalized. But in my very rural very Japanese village, my tactic of adjusting to the local lifestyle was ineffective since looking outside (at others) for solace was evidently out of the question. Which was a situation that used to leave me in tears more often than not.

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© Savvy Tokyo

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

21 Comments
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personally, most of the racism and crap i have experienced has been in Tokyo and the surrounding areas. I've found that the more inaka a place is the nicer the locals are. Then again, being fluent helps. If you can't speak the language very well, I can see where it can be difficult and lonesome. I speak only for myself when I say, give me the inaka anyday.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

I've found that the more inaka a place is the nicer the locals are. 

My thoughts exactly.

In the countryside, people may be less used to see foreigners, but past the initial surprise, most of them don't care where you're from, and will welcome you with open arms (the opposite of people in big cities who will not care about you at all).

In my experience, they are actually super happy to meet someone who traveled so far to see a place that others might consider "insignificant".

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Good article...enjoyed it.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I really wish we didn't have to click through to read the whole article, but I guess the owners of this site are trying to lure it's long-established readership to another property they own. (But click-bait is click-bait, and I still find it annoying.)

9 ( +9 / -0 )

The reference to "butt and thighs" is very odd for an article on cultural integration. Maybe the Kardashians do have a global influence?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Not sure the relevance of the header pic of the chick on the bike in Yamanashi-ken or wherever, but the article was a refreshing look at an old issue.

I think Anisa would succeed most places she would go anyway.

In Kochi, I realised we are all the same as we all come from somewhere and there is nothing we can do about it. A bit zen, but it helps me cope.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I agree with the posters who said the Tokyo area is worse than inaka. I usually feel like walking around with my middle finger raised, especially in my neighborhood. Going to places like Nagano, Okayama and Okinawa are a bit less stressful.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I usually feel like walking around with my middle finger raised, especially in my neighborhood.

HAHAHA!!! Brilliant!!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japan poses an awkward dilemma for those who sing the praises of diversity and tolerance. Staying true to their beliefs is to put themselves immediately at odds with a society whose guiding instincts have always been antithetical to the idea that greater and greater diversity is always good. Accepting Japan’s right to be like that though entails a need to be equally understanding and accepting of nativist sentiment, Maori or Pakeha, in the NZ her parents emigrated to.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Adapt, integrate, but don't sell your soul!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

My brother and his wife had a great time when they visited Tokyo. They had a nightmare of a time traveling around the countryside without me due to ‘friendly’ country folks. A pity they spoiled their trip. I’ve had a few bad experiences in the inaka too. I remember one yokel on a train in Shimane talking openly to his friend about the size of my wife’s bust until we shut him up.

Take a flight from Tokyo and enjoy the view out the window. That’ll do.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

here in osaka I just wanna smack anyone that looks at me funny for more than two seconds. And that's ok a good day. This writer is a little too sentimental

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Adapt, integrate, but don't sell your soul!

Totally agree, need to keep you own culture alive and the language.....

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The reference to "butt and thighs" is very odd for an article on cultural integration.

Did the possibility of the author simply stating a FACT, without bringing feminism, racism, the Kardashians, etc into discussion occurred to you?

Her body is simply bigger than locals', a problem for many ladies of other races, painfully obvious as soon as they try to find fitting clothes in some inaka store.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The world is always a little more different the further from home that one goes.

However, being human means that we can adapt and integrate if we wish and that is easier than ever now....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

ebisenSep. 20 10:56 pm JST

The reference to "butt and thighs" is very odd for an article on cultural integration.

Did the possibility of the author simply stating a FACT, without bringing feminism, racism, the Kardashians, etc into discussion occurred to you?"

LOL, funny how the PC brigade always brings up tangential issues, rather than focusing on the crux of the argument.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I agree with the posters who said the Tokyo area is worse than inaka. I usually feel like walking around with my middle finger raised, especially in my neighborhood. Going to places like Nagano, Okayama and Okinawa are a bit less stressful.

So why are you staying in such an environment?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

LOL, funny how the PC brigade always brings up tangential issues, rather than focusing on the crux of the argument.

Which argument, the nonsense below? :)

The reference to "butt and thighs" is very odd for an article on cultural integration. Maybe the Kardashians do have a global influence?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Aly RustomSep. 20 01:26 pm JSTI usually feel like walking around with my middle finger raised, especially in my neighborhood.

HAHAHA!!! Brilliant!!

That gesture and the meaning behind it doesn't even exist in Japanese language and culture. It means nothing there.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Her body is simply bigger than locals', a problem for many ladies of other races, painfully obvious as soon as they try to find fitting clothes in some inaka store.

that is a fact for most non-Japanese people. On the other hand, my own family line members are not very tall. One of my uncles served in the Korean War and he went to tailors in Tokyo during liberty and he got some good clothes for good value (yen vs. $) and he still wears them today. A perfect fit by some local pros.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

my butt and thighs are bigger

That's evolution - going back to environment and local racial/genetic development spanning 100000s-millions of years. Just like her eyes look 'round' without the Far Eastern skin tuck/fold. It's a fact of the diversity of man.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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