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8 things you should never say to a Japanese person

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We asked Japanese people to tell us the things foreigners say or think about Japan that really gets their goat — and they were happy to oblige. How many of these faux pas are you guilty of?

We expats living in Japan tend to gripe about the stereotypes about our native countries. If you’re from England, for example, someone here might bring up the poor reputation of English food; if you’re Canadian, you probably don’t like being mistaken for American; and I once met an Iranian living in Japan who lamented that people confuse Iranians with Arabs. So today we’re going to turn the tables and ask Japanese people about the things foreigners say or think about the Land of the Rising Sun that really irks them.

1. “Ni-hao” (“Hello” in Chinese)

A recent Japanese tourist to Italy said that she was surprised that vendors in the streets selling umbrellas, selfie sticks, etc. (who also appeared to be foreigners) greeted her with “Nihao” instead of “Konnichiwa.” Furthermore, at a restaurant in Rome, her family was seated in a section with other Asians rather than among tourists of all nationalities. “It reminded me of the now famous incident with Gackt, at a French hotel,” she said.

2. “You must be Korean.”

If you can’t tell the difference between Japanese, Korean and Chinese people, don’t feel too bad because some Japanese people say they can’t either. But most Japanese people say they most definitely can detect the difference, so you’ll likely be insulting them if you call them anything other than Japanese. If you’ve never been to Asia, it may be even harder to recognize where someone is from, but it’s best to be sure before you make any desultory comments. Keep in mind that these three countries, despite any similarities they may have, are vastly different when it comes to politics, language, culture, and just about everything that isn’t superficial! And as politics continues to divide Asian countries along sociopolitical and religious lines, this has become an even more sensitive issue. Find out, or ask, before passing judgement.

3. Saying, “You’re Japanese, right?” to an Okinawan.

An American living in Okinawa laments that once he was chastised for thinking a Japanese woman was Okinawan. “I couldn’t tell the difference between Japanese and Okinawans then and I still can’t. I didn’t mean to be rude,” he said. “I learned later that it was a cultural thing.”

Just like Hawaii is part of the U.S. but has a distinct Hawaiian culture and people, Okinawa, although part of Japan, has a distinct original population. Naturally, indigenous people are proud of their roots and are partial to the things that make their culture unique. When visiting Okinawa, if you’re not sure if someone is Okinawan or Japanese, rather than risk an uncomfortable situation, better to find out first.

4. “What do you think about Yasukuni Shrine?”

Yasukuni Shrine, a place so controversial that even Justin Beiber’s visit was considered scathing, is a place that breeds contention between Japan and some other Asian countries, namely China and South Korea. One of the most popular and important shrines in Japan, Yasukuni honors all 2,466,532 men, women and children, who have ever fought for Japan (including foreigners) and thus serves as a memorial to Japan’s fallen soldiers. The problem with Yasukuni is the dilemma it presents other countries, since 1,060 of the buried are war criminals, and 14 are considered Class A war criminals. Fortunately, the controversy has been out of the news for some time now since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe no longer visits the contested shrine, favoring Ise Shrine instead. On one hand, he has ceased stoking of the ire of other Asian countries who oppose a prime minister’s visit, while on the other is aligning himself with the Imperial family, who have a close connection to Ise Shrine.

Your average Japanese person doesn’t want to get involved with the sociopolitical cross-fire, and feels uncomfortable voicing their views, whatever they may be, in front of others, so it’s best to avoid the topic of Yasukuni altogether.

5. Why do you still have an emperor?

Foreigners are generally curious about the oldest continuing hereditary monarchy in the world and may even ask why there is still an emperor. Although Emperor Akihito and the royal family are treated more like celebrities these days, foreigners raising the subject of Japan’s emperor often has some connection to WWII and Japan’s history before the war. In modern, peace-loving Japan—a result of the outcome of WWII and the imposed constitution (Article 9)—most Japanese have moved on and prefer not to talk about their country’s Imperial past. If you must talk about the royal family, talk about kawaii Princess Aiko or beautiful Princess Kako (something everyone agrees on!).

6. How often do you meditate?

While most Japanese, when pressed, will tell you that they are Buddhist (and Shinto) that doesn’t mean they meditate, know the Lotus Sutra by heart or are familiar with the finer points of either religion. Although most Japanese follow religious protocol at weddings, funerals and assorted festivals, when asked specific questions like, “So, what’s the priest doing now?” while watching a festival, or “How often do you meditate?” they’ll probably feel like they’re being put on the spot, which is never comfortable.

Which leads us to faux pas number seven:

7. Why? When? How?!

“How can you eat fish three times a day?” (Answer: sushi, sashimi, octopus salad, grilled eel, chirashi zushi, tempura udon, miso soup, shrimp curry, dried squid, nabe, etc.) “Where are all the bicycles?” (Answer: Um, China maybe?). What do you think of the issues surrounding the Senkaku Islands? (Answer: Uhhh…). Foreigners ask a lot of questions! While it’s fine to be curious, and it’s flattering to know there is so much interest in their country, many Japanese feel exhausted at the end of a day showing foreigners around, especially if the host’s English isn’t that fluent (and probably even if it is!). It can seem like an unending pop-quiz on Japanese history and religion for the locals. Choose just a couple of your most pressing concerns to ask each person, rather than bombarding someone with everything you’ve been dying to know.

8. Honda, Panasonic, Toyota!

We’ll leave you with a funny story from one of my ex-colleagues. “When I traveled to the U.S. and people found out I was from Japan, they’d often call out a few company names in a row. I do not recall all of them, but one name I vividly remember was always ‘Toyota!’ I usually replied saying ‘I have nothing to do with the company.'” While this is just seem like a playful reaction at first, hearing it over and over just might get your goat. Meh-eh-eh!

Foreigners — we’re a curious lot, aren’t we?

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Nine reasons why Japanese men hesitate to say “I love you” -- “I think I love you…”: Romantic confessions from around the world -- The “doya-gao” phenomenon and where you’re most likely to see it

© Japan Today

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59 Comments
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The bit about Toyota amuses me, because on my very first trip to Japan as a product planner for Pioneer's North American market, the son of the elderly Japanese couple next to me on the flight from the US was also a Pioneer employee. At a club in Roppongi Hills a few nights later, the young Japanese lady who ended up buying me drinks was the daughter of the then president of Pioneer Japan. Out of 30M people in the Tokyo area, and that's who I wind up running into! So, I might as well have emulated your Toyota tourist by saying "Pioneer!" to everyone I met!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Amy Chavez - you are getting funny and not in a haha sort of way. These are not serious faux pas.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

Haha. Whenever I tell Japanese people I'm from Seattle, the first thing out of their mouths is often "Ichiro!" He left Seattle like 5 years ago! At least say Starbucks or Microsoft!

14 ( +17 / -3 )

I lived in Portland, Oregon in the early 1990s. Whenever I told people that, they said "Tonya Harding!" And yes, it got old.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I believe that the technical term for what is described in the article is micro-aggression.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

"Foreigners — we’re a curious lot, aren’t we?"

No!

4 ( +12 / -8 )

Amy, I used to read your column in Japan Times many years ago and found it often amusing and an enjoyable read. These days you you seem to be struggling for ideas. You are not worth reading anymore, sorry to say.

13 ( +19 / -6 )

Not to cast stones, but this feels a lot like something that started out as a story idea and then the writer had to find some ideas to create the list. And I imagine that it then involved querying a few Japanese friends... who all sort of scratched their heads and ended up giving some ideas. And probably most could only come up with 1 or 2 things that "bother them". And even then I doubt most of these things would truly bother most/some/any Japanese.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Ok, well 1-3 are versions of the same thing & no biggie, just simply laugh to yourself & correct people if you want, water off a duck!

4-5 are history related primarily to WWII, Japan just needs to DEAL with it, but rather 70+yrs & counting most want to pretend it never really happened, well it did!

6 meditating...... I have never heard of anyone asking about that is 2+ decades, anyone else?

7 questions, yeah sometimes getting the same ones over & over again can grate a bit, but not to hard to deal with, see answer to 1-3 above,

8 Honda, Toyota....I think that sort/type of thing pops up occasionally depending on whats news worthy

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@Mary Seattle, the first thing out of their mouths is often "Ichiro!" He left Seattle like 5 years ago! At least say Starbucks or Microsoft!

Or Amazon or Costco

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm sure there are much more offensive things that you should really never say to Japanese. Things like "I love it here! Being in Japan makes me feel so tall!" or "I'm sorry, but you really did look like a girl from behind!" And there are comments that could get you deported, like yelling at a Japanese track team just before the 100 meter dash "Run! It's Godzilla!"

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Mary Nixon, I hear you! It's not exactly the same, but, when I say I am from New York and I am a Yankees fan, I get 'Oh, Matsui' (gone since 2010) or 'Ichiro' every time.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Nothing could be further than the real truth and how media likes readers to NOT know how we real Japanese feel about certain issues and keep these opinions out of being reported. For example "most Japanese have moved on and prefer not to talk about their country’s Imperial past. If you must talk about the royal family, talk about kawaii Princess Aiko or beautiful Princess Kako (something everyone agrees on!). This statement is so far from truth that it only applies to the most elder generation and uneducated at that. The real people feel that today and moving forward it is a waste of our yen to support a not required system to manage a country. Why is our hard earned yen paid to those who already are wealthy and become even wealthier without earning a single yen. As for the beautiful princess, there are even more beautiful Japanese women found all over Japan that exceeds kako. Our yen should be best spent on lives that matter to Japan, like those most unfortunate and your youngers education or job programs that benefit Japan not a an outdated antiquated yen money making scheme supporting a family who got there by murder during those times.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The problem with Yasukuni is the dilemma it presents other countries, since 1,060 of the buried are war criminals, and 14 are considered Class A war criminals. Fortunately, the controversy has been out of the news for some time now since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe no longer visits the contested shrine, favoring Ise Shrine instead.

Although I realize that space constraints meant that the writer had to boil the Yasukini issue down to its essential elements, but still this is just plain incorrect on several fronts.

First off, nobody is 'buried' there; instead, their souls are enshrined/commemorated/honored there.

More importantly, the problem with Yasukuni is that it is funded, operated and frequented by ultra-nationalists who are intent on whitewashing/glorifying acts of the IJA and denying all atrocities. This is particularly evident by the rhetoric used by the shrine's Yushukan Museum.

The enshrinement of the war criminals is often talked about, but it is merely one facet of the shrine's stance on glorifying the IJA, acting provocatively and insulting the IJA's victims.

Finally, I'm pretty sure Abe doesn't 'favor' Ise Shrine. Many of his cabinet members regularly visit the shrine, while Abe sends donations and his own wife pays visits there. And it seems highly likely that he will pay another visit to the shrine sooner or later.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I always ask and will go on asking all those questions and even more. Because I have to live with my conscience. I value my conscience and the truth higher than life. Also, these people are not happy, and if you prefer? Do you really think these people are happy, when they are not allowed to think? They are tolled that they are happy and peaceful. But deep down as they all know that they are not happy people. At the same time, as a lawyer's (I.H.R.L.) point of view they are the most nastily unhappy people...

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

My earlier comments are one side of the coin, and to argue the other point is in all fairness. The system we have today and includes living in modern era moving forward is attributed to the emperor and our gov system, is it perfect, no by any means but it works for Japan. Is any countries gov system perfect, no but it works for them. So what if we have an our Emperor, the family keeps our country and gives us something that was once alive. Perhaps not like in the old ways, but nevertheless a part of tradition in Japan that is still rich in culture, family and traditions not found in other parts of the world. We are Japanese and we like being who we are. This system may cost me a small fraction of yen but it is worth the cost as long as it keeps our values and traditions alive not in museum.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I just sat through a 2.5 hour bonenkai where the conversation with me basically went "I think Western people blah blah blah..." very tiring.

I will surely enjoy saying "ni-hao" to my colleagues from now on!

11 ( +12 / -1 )

"9 should be . . . Where does Kanji come from?"

I've heard many Japanese people say 'Chinese characters' rather than 'kanji' when speaking English. My Japanese teacher always used the expression 'Chinese characters'.

Has anyone come across a Japanese person who wants to avoid the fact they are Chinese in origin?

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Silly article. As if all Japanese fit into your tiny "Japanese People" box. The whole problem in Japan is often that everyone is trying to put everyone else in some kind of easy to understand and well labeled box. When in reality Japanese do not fit in these boxes any better than anyone in any other country.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Ramwag at Dec. 13, 2015 - 09:50AM JST I always ask and will go on asking all those questions and even more. Because I have to live with my conscience. I value my conscience and the truth higher than life. Also, these people are not happy, and if you prefer? Do you really think these people are happy, when they are not allowed to think? They are tolled that they are happy and peaceful. But deep down as they all know that they are not happy people. At the same time, as a lawyer's (I.H.R.L.) point of view they are the most nastily unhappy people...

Same here!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

PTownsend: or Tully's. Frankly I agree with one of the other posters that this article didn't really have any meaningful substance.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Never say to a japanese girlfriend how "juicy / big" her ass is. in Japan they tend to take it as if you're calling them "fat"...

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Regarding number one, even after telling her where I was from, I recently had a Japanese woman ask me why 'you Americans' do something. I replied 'you Chinese always ask that'. She wasn't impressed, though when I explained it to her she kind of laughed.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Another stereotypical article, but whatever. I'll bite.

"But most Japanese people say they most definitely can detect the difference, so you’ll likely be insulting them if you call them anything other than Japanese. "

No. Japanese canNOT tell the difference without a hint -- not at all. If they hear Korean or Chinese, then they assume the person is not Japanese, likewise with certain fashions they can guess the person is not Japanese, but that is all. Show them a photo collage of Asians and they'll NEVER guess where they are from. Likewise with Koreans and Chinese; they can't correctly judge where people are from either. I have a lot of Japanese friends who are constantly asked, by Japanese, where they come from or if they are Chinese or Korean because said friends don't die their hair.

Basically, this is just a list of insecurities, and people who answered these kind of questions sound like a bunch of insecure nationalists (all nationalists are insecure). I can't even count the number of times over my time here that I've been asked, or told in some cases, "Are you from America?", or "Is it the same in America?", etc., but in no way do I get upset, annoyed, or feel hurt, same as Japanese abroad should not get upset if someone confuses them with a Chinese or Korean person. Same with the "Toyota, Honda!" number 9 thing that upsets people; why on earth would you get angry about that? When, after answering that I am in fact NOT American, but from Canada, people start listing off things they know, like, "Maple Syrup, Niagara Falls, Salmon," etc., I don't get upset.

Now, if someone were to INTENTIONALLY, knowing the person was Japanese, start saying "ni-hao (ma)", or instead of Honda, Toyota, Panasonic, starting shouting, "Fukushima! Takada! Yasukuni! Sex Slaves! Olympus! Toshiba!" or what have you, I can see it being upset, but not if a person makes a simple mistake about nationality or if they are mentioning the things they know about your country in a positive light.

I can understand people not wanting to get involved in Yasukuni. Even though politics in Canada is pretty lame, if someone I just met wants me to talk about certain political events, or for example debate gun control in Canada vs. the US, I don't really want to talk to that person because they're not interested in talking to me or getting to know me, they are interested in a free lesson about sociopolitics to confirm generalizations one way or the other. Same with number 9 and the Senkakus -- why on earth would you ask someone you just met about such an issue? I know a Japanese guy who, whenever he meets foreigners, after greeting them asks immediately, "Have you heard about the disasters of March 11th, 2011? Do you feel sorry for Japan?" If they don't know about it, or in detail, he starts talking about it, and if they do of course they say they feel terrible about what happened and he says this makes him happy. I have advised him numerous times NOT to lead with this as his introduction or he'll never hear from them again, but he doesn't listen.

Anyway, Japanese should NOT be annoyed by "all the questions" foreign people ask in the Why, Where, When? part of this article, because I can tell you the questions NEVER stop when it's vice-versa. Having a Korean wife I'm asked if I "eat Kimchi every day", or if I always eat bread, can I use chopsticks, etc. etc. etc. I don't care much, unless it's someone I know well who shouldn't be asking, so the same should go vice-versa (except for said controversial topics).

tinawatanabe: lighten up. Japanese language, and pretty much all customs, come from China and Korea, as do the people themselves here. But of course they have changed over time to become a unique language/culture, despite many aspects being shared across the three nations, and of course other parts of Asia as well. It's fact. That fact does not mean English is "stolen" or "borrowed" from other cultures, nor is there any need for you to angrily react as such, as English is also a language that has evolved over time with various origins and I doubt anyone is going to be offended by that fact.

Jimizo: "Has anyone come across a Japanese person who wants to avoid the fact they are Chinese in origin?"

Sadly, yes. Not only do they want to avoid it, I know some who get downright angry. And you have come across it also, indirectly. Just look at the right-wing reaction to the Emperor admitting there is Korean blood in the royal line, as well as in much of Japan in general, and look at tina's reaction to the fact that Kanji are called "Chinese characters".

10 ( +12 / -2 )

The first appeal uses the instance of a Japanese woman in Italy who was greeted in the Chinese language. Well, hmm...the article starts out with "us expats living in Japan...blah blah blah." It gives the impression that one shouldn't say certain things to Japanese in Japan. An Italian, someone who probably has limited experiences with Asians, ought to be forgiven. Now, approaching a Japanese in Chinese in Japan is presumptuous. Also, the article falls into the all-to-common fallacy of believing that the Italian was a foreigner in his/her country while the Japanese is not a foreigner. Non-Japanese are forever doomed to be foreigners no matter where they may be or go. But that's a different can of worms to be opened later.

Next, the article implores you to not address an Okinawan as a Japanese. But wait... I thought the article was talking about what you shouldn't say to a Japanese; yet it goes on to say that Okinawans are not Japanese, which is a different issue all together. But using the kettle logic spread out across the page here, the Okinawa argument doesn't deserve to be here in the first place. Basically, this argument says: don't call a Japanese a Japanese because he or she might not be a Japanese even though we're telling what not to say to a Japanese. But just keep in mind they might be Okinawan.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

At least these are random questions asked by random people during your stay in the us/west. They should have done an article on 8 (or more) things you should never ask a foreigner in Japan, specially if they are the VERY same questions asked by 99 out of 100 japanese you meet for the first time..

1-Where are you from? 2-Why did you come to Japan? 3-What do you do in Japan? 4-When you go back home? 5-Can you eat japanese food? 6-Can you use chopsticks? 7-How do you like japanese women? 8-Where did you learn japanese?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

A recent Japanese tourist to Italy said that she was surprised that vendors in the streets selling umbrellas, selfie sticks, etc. (who also appeared to be foreigners) greeted her with “Nihao” instead of “Konnichiwa.”

Earth to Japan: if you are a tourist in Italy, you are the foreigner. Which somewhat sends a coach and horses through the premise of this article. Though it probably gave readers a laugh.

Furthermore, at a restaurant in Rome, her family was seated in a section with other Asians rather than among tourists of all nationalities. “It reminded me of the now famous incident with Gackt, at a French hotel,” she said.

Maybe it's out of consideration, as Japanese like their mealtimes quieter than the average Roman. Maybe previous tourists from Asia had complained about noise. Or maybe the locals got tired of busloads of camera toting tourists, and didn't care whether they were from China, Japan or Korea. Or maybe they didn't know that Japanese consider themselves superior to Chinese and Koreans and therefore felt insulted.. Whatever.

Agree that this Nihonjinron narcissism gets very old. Amy, I'm sure it's not really your fault, as you don't get to choose the topics you write about, but this one is so lame, maybe you should have turned it down. I also used to enjoy your other columns on other sites, but this one is just sad.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The first thing uneducated people say to a japanese: WHAAAAAA (bruce lee shout)

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I can relate. Since I'm from Seattle, the first comments from Japanese people are usually "Mariners!" and "Ichiro!" followed shortly thereafter by "Starbucks!" and sometimes even an "Amazon!" or "Microsoft!" for good measure.

Sure, it gets old, but hey... if it's the only icebreaker someone can think of, I'll just roll with it.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Perhaps 4 and 5 should be asked more often. Maybe 6 too. More questions by curious foreigners - especially why questions - might give the people more incentive to actually know more about their country and its ideological/cultural underpinnings. Perhaps in time for the influx of foreigners for the Olympics.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Junichi: You're dealing with a pretty educated crowd if they mention Starbucks, and even moreso if they also mention Tully's and Seattle's Best, and they should get a few points for going just beyond "Ichiro".

Mr. Noidall: Great points about the Japanese foreigners in Italy and the Okinawans as (or not) Japanese. I meant to include the latter in my post, but alas it was long enough as it was.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@Thunderbird

Only No. 7 doesn't apply to me... More like : "why did you marry a Japanese man" ???

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"Only No. 7 doesn't apply to me... More like : "why did you marry a Japanese man" ???"

I've been asked why I didn't marry a Japanese woman. One guy was giving me a really intense glare when waiting for my reply.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Because Okinawans are Japanese. Unless the person in question is not a citizen of Japan, for some reason. And how would strangers know that?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Jimizo: "I've been asked why I didn't marry a Japanese woman. One guy was giving me a really intense glare when waiting for my reply."

So have I. I saw a smile when asked if I married a Japanese woman turn into an insane look of anger when I said actually she was Korean. I've even gotten an angry email saying "You and your pretty wife should leave" once, and have had plenty of those glares as well. Some people were much more calm about and asked "why", to which I simply said, "It wasn't based on nationality", and others simply don't ask because they realize it's not important.

Like I said, the people who are likely to have answered most of these questions are the type of people who desperately need to know what others think of them, and if it's not what they want to hear get offended.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

"My name is Amy Chaves and I'd like you to pay me to write about Japan."
1 ( +2 / -1 )

If you've been here long enough - never mention the word hoshounin to a friend (or partner - unless marriage is on the cards)!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I didn't know Okinawans were considered to be different from Japanese people. As you know, Japan presents itself as a completely "homogeneous" society. I don't really see why they would get offended over this though. Most foreigners would use the term "Japanese" to refer to the nationality, rather than the race/ethnicity.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

My university in Kyushu gets a lot of Okinawan students. I'd imagine that 95% of them would be more than a little annoyed if anyone suggested they weren't Japanese.

Sure, they're Okinawan, but that doesn't affect the colour of their passport.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I had a British friend over here once who got so fed up with people saying : "America-jin desuka ?" he always replied "No ! Anta Chosenjin desuka ?" Since he was a pretty "well built" guy, they usually "slinked off", their tail between their legs

3 ( +4 / -1 )

That's kind of funny just for the big macho guy being all imposing, but at the same time using 'anta'!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Far too many Japanese people assume Caucasian foreigners are American. So what is to prevent us innocently mistaking a Japanese person for a Korean or Chinese. As for point number 8, it is common for Japanese people to blurt out random things they know about your country, once you tell them where you're from. That one cuts both ways

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Far too many Japanese people assume Caucasian foreigners are American.

Well, it's not just Japanese. I've gotten it many times in many countries, including from Americans (in Japan).

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The eiffel tower is more beautiful than the Tokyo Tower. Is it allowed to say this? :p

1 ( +1 / -0 )

They forgot #9: What do you think about U.S. bases in Japan keeping Japan out of trouble since 1945?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

****Oldest . . . monarchy in the world? And I am King David MMM of Wales, and possibly Israel too. It was Edward I who cheated me out of my inheritance. But his dynasty ended on the rubbish heap anyway.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

They forgot #10: What do you think about root beer?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You have to be a bit careful with "Actually, I like China. I've spent quite a bit of time there and liked the people and the place".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Like others said #1 and#2 are exactly the same as how all white people are labeled in Japan, so this complaint should be a good 'teaching moment'

3. I've never been to Okinawa, but the Okinawa girl I shared a house with in Uni was so confused when she first came to Hawaii that people distinguished between the two. She is a proud daughter of Okinawa, but it seems she wasn't raised to separate the two (though, to be fair I think now a days, 10 years later, she does)

4-7 - I've never heard anyone bring up any of those things.

8 - GIVE ME A BREAK. If there is one thing Japanese love, it is to take credit for every thing anyone from Japan has ever accomplished.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Do you know Karate? Is another bad one.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

You have to be a bit careful with "Actually, I like China. I've spent quite a bit of time there and liked the people and the place".

Yeah, I'm definitely careful with that one.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

****I like US microbeers. Are they the same as root beer? English microbeers, unlike Japanese jibiiru do vary in flavour according to where they are brewed.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Talking about #1 on the list, it is funny because the media makes people believe that the U.S. is the place that has all of the race issues. I have met quite a few Japanese people telling me that in England, Australia or New Zealand, they have experienced people saying, "go back to China!" or "hey Chinaman!" while having something thrown at them.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The eiffel tower is more beautiful than the Tokyo Tower. Is it allowed to say this?

As long as you add that it's not as high, you might get away with it. (I wouldn't risk it.)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

it is funny because the media makes people believe that the U.S. is the place that has all of the race issues. I have met quite a few Japanese people telling me that in England, Australia or New Zealand, they have experienced people saying, "go back to China!" or "hey Chinaman!" while having something thrown at them.

Having stuff thrown at you isn't very nice, but it's better than being shot at.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I don't see the problem. People just trying to be friendly and start conversation with people they know nothing about. If they make wrong assumptions ask about boring things, introduce yourself, introduce conversation topics. When people confuse me with Ling Chiling or Angelina Jolie and I don't make a fuss, I just sign a few autographs, pose for a selfie and hasta la vista. Travelers may hear much worse.

people saying, "go back to China!" or "hey Chinaman!" while having something thrown at them.

That's truely offensive and unacceptable, whoever is the target. They should call the local police. That's how pogroms start.

I didn't know Okinawans were considered to be different from Japanese people.

You never opened a history book. They were not Japanese citizens until the mid 70's. Many of them moved to Honshu to work as blue collar migrants and they were not welcome by mainstream communities (just like burakumin, zainichi, etc). But foreigners don't know who is who. They think everybody looks Chinese, like the guy that sings 'Gangnam Style'.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Having stuff thrown at you isn't very nice, but it's better than being shot at.

Being struck by a chunk of hot meteorite is pretty bad too, but it is highly unlikely to happen (as is being shot at). Racial epithets are much more common, and something that might be useful to discuss.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@ #3, Do they have a Japanese passport? Do they pay Japanese taxes? Are they speaking Japanese on a daily basis?

I get having unique culture, but getting upset over something like t hat seems more like an attention grab than anything else.

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You would think that by now, it being almost 2016, that the majority of Japanese kids (depending on age, granted) would know that western looking 'gaijin' could be from any number of countries except the U.S. but I still get my fair share of "Amerika jin da (s)" I'm so used to it now that I just laught it off, but it is annoying. After all it's not like it's just after the American occupation or anything. This hasn't really changed much in the 15 odd years since I've been in Japan either. As far as Japanese tourists abroad go, I can usually spot them a mile off due to what they are wearing. If though, you put a Japanese, Korean and Chinese person in the same clothes and were asked to guess their nationality it would be a lot harder, maybe even impossible. I think it's natural to wonder which of those three countries someone is from if you can't guess from their attire or language, but just assuming all westerners in Japan must be American is plain silly.

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