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Stereotypes ’R’ Us

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By Katherine Pitts

Expats in Tokyo seem to believe that Japanese culture has few redeeming qualities. Not only are the men sexist and the women moronic, even their fellow expats aren’t worth talking to. But if all these stereotypes are true, why are we here? I mean, we put up with a lot to live in this culture. Is Japan really such a terrible place?

All people believe in stereotypes to some degree or other, because they conveniently reduce situations and people to their most basic components. This makes it easier not to think. The problem starts when we stop questioning these stereotypes and their connection with actual situations. That’s why I think it’s time to re-examine some of the usual complaints about Japan.

Perhaps the most pervasive cliché is that Japan is a sexist country, especially in the workplace. As a Western woman, I definitely deal with sexism and xenophobia at my job. Do I deal with it more in Japan than in any other country? To be honest, I don’t know. Yes, I have had Japanese co-workers ignore my opinion because I am Western. But to be fair, Japanese people ignore the opinions of anyone who is not in a senior position. Remember, most Japanese aren’t allowed to have opinions until they are 50 years old.

Actually, by far the worst “professional dis” I have ever received was by a prominent foreign women’s professional group in Tokyo. Go figure.

So, do I personally find Japanese men sexist? Well, yes, but I can think of many sexist men in my home country, and in some parts of the world women are burned alive for receiving an education. This is not to dismiss the need for social change in Japan, but merely to suggest that we would be better off maintaining some perspective.

Then there is the charge that Japanese women are materialistic imbeciles salivating at the latest brand-name designs. While the seeming mindlessness of young Japanese women is understandably disturbing, let us Americans remember that we are the culture that made Paris Hilton a celebrity. What was that about glass houses?

Expats have their stereotypes about Japanese people, and Japanese people in turn have their stereotypes about Westerners. The most appropriate analogy I can think of is the “talking dog” phenomenon. If you came upon an English-speaking dog in the street, you wouldn’t admire its eloquence, you’d simply think, “Wow! It’s a talking dog!” Likewise, many Japanese people feel a similar sense of wonder when they see a Caucasian person speaking Japanese or attempting to perform any daily life function. Thus, often well-intentioned Japanese people will ask obnoxious and patronizing questions like, “Can you eat sushi?” or “Can you use chopsticks?”

While these and other questions could make the Guinness Book of Asinine Comments, we should be more generous. In this culture, we are talking dogs — we get to be superstars for learning simple vocabulary words. This, obviously, can also be frustrating, but there is nothing we can do about it. Caucasian people in Japan feel like they are the only ones singled out, but I can say with authority that there are significant numbers of Chinese and Koreans who are almost completely unintelligible in Japanese as a second language. So, in reality, many Japanese people really are impressed that Johnny Blue-Eyes can order water by himself.

Finally, we come to everyone’s favorite complaint: Charisma Man. He’s the man we all love to hate. The loser who comes to Japan and discovers how to finally meet women. Does it help that the women here are perhaps less aware of Western standards of attractiveness? Probably. Does the language barrier help stifle the offensive offal usually spewing from Charisma Man’s mouth, thus making him tolerable to non-native English speakers? Most likely.

I can’t help but wonder, though, why we care if Charisma Man is finally getting laid? Regardless of how much we like to speculate, his sex life is absolutely none of our business.

Doesn’t all this fretting and fussing really indicate an inferiority complex on our part? I mean, if we were truly satisfied with our own lives, would we really feel the need to focus on the lives of others so much? Do these things really bother us, or is it just that we are overseas, away from familiar social networks, with a lot of free time to whine? Often, the more we adamantly embrace these stereotypes, the more personally miserable we become—as if we were voluntarily shutting ourselves into an ideological prison. We should all keep in mind that, if things truly bother us, we can go home anytime we like.

Katherine Pitts is an English teacher currently living in Kanagawa. This commentary originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (http://www.metropolis.co.jp).

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Expats in Tokyo seem to believe that Japanese culture has few redeeming qualities.

Yeah, nothing like a sweeping generalization to start the day, and it only gets better further on... What exactly is the point of this article though? What I see here is oh-so-popular recently "on one hand X, on the other hand Y and my own opinion is not important" style of writing - what exactly does the author want to convey? What does she want to accomplish with this piece? I don't know - does she?

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Since we're on the topic of stereotypes, not all (western) expats in Japan are caucasians.

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Dr.Tofu- my thoughts exactly. It seems like Pitts began the piece with something concrete to declare, only to lose her nerve and end up with a piece of fluff. "Foreigners in Japan are whiny, but you know what? sometimes they're spot on!"

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Expats in Tokyo seem to believe that Japanese culture has few redeeming qualities.

Not true for the most part in my experience. But if we have a problem with something about the Japanese and the way they do things, we have a right to voice our dissatisfaction.

Does it help that the women here are perhaps less aware of Western standards of attractiveness?

Talk about some offal. Charisma Man exists to be sure, but so doesn`t Chip-On-Her-Shoulder Western Woman who sees herself outdone by the more attractive/enjoyable Japanese women. This must be the Pitts for all you high-and-mighty Western women.

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DoctorTofu,

This 'opinion piece' is rife with generalizations and views that can only come from a limited view point.

the seeming mindlessness of young Japanese women

Even with the 'seeming' this is still a generalization.

everyone’s favorite complaint

we adamantly embrace these stereotypes

This article claims We all live in stereotype-land. Maybe this writer lives in stereotype-land.

And I haven't run into the 'talking dog' reaction in at least a decade. Once you get away from the 'kore wa pen desu' level, I think this phenomenon tends to disappear. Or should I say once We step beyond 'kore wa pen desu' They are all more accepting?

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If this article is a snarky look at how many people generalize and reduce things to stereotypes, then it's pretty darn good. Purposeful irony and self-defacing humor and all that. If it was written with serious intent...wow.

Taka

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"we put up with a lot to live in this culture" what are you doing here!!! go somewhere you call home

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Typical filling article... Kept in a secret vault for the dreaded day where there is not even something to say about dog makeup in Japan...

2 theories behind the author... either she's for real and is not known among her friend for her great spirit but is a blast in someanother field. OR... it's a bloke paid to write said filling articles...

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but so doesn`t Chip-On-Her-Shoulder Western Woman who sees herself outdone by the more attractive/enjoyable Japanese women. This must be the Pitts for all you high-and-mighty Western women.

...and this mysogynistic drivel is one of my pet peeves about living here. Usually spouted by charisma men who have failed to get a girlfriend back home, laughed at in the pub, and suddenly find themselves hot property here in the land of the rising sun.

Many women here are in relationships and intelligent and confident enough (having made their way to Japan in the first place) for this patter to be background noise. All my friends are either married, or in relationships and would rather pluck out their eyes than indulge some imbecile chap who cant even be respectful to the female of the species.

As for superior Japanese women. Many are indeed lovely. I suppose they would seem like goddesses if no western woman would give you the time of day.

As for the we can all go home any time we want...Katherine, no we cant. Some of us are married and that means staying here, long term.

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Very simple, people like to complain. It is a release for stress and a way to bond. Go to Seattle tonight and you'll find people grumping away over traffic, the increasing number of highly pierced teens on Broadway or the fact that Belltown has been overrun by an army of beige clad yuppies who are trying to destroy the world with their SUVs and dockers.

Expats in Japan complain and are grumpy about things like any other urban citizens. There are things that are terribly annoying in Japan. Just like there are in New York, London, Istanbul or wherever you are. And more so when are far from what you know as truly familiar.

I've been here a while now and I honestly have a love/hate thing with Japan. I love the people I've met here and would not trade their friendship for another 50 years of youth, am annoyed by armys of cell phone checking girls who could do with a few lessons in walking in high heels. I love that the city is organic and that it changes and grows constantly. I'm annoyed that my favorite restaurants disappear over night.

Both Japanese and Expats have our attributes that hold up to the stereotypes. And we are also all unique. Tokyo is quirky, irritating, fun, suffocating, dynamic and too much to bear. And that is why a lot of us stay here. Like any major city, it is a wonder and pain to live here. So we rave about what we love and we complain about what rubs us the wrong way. This is natural and healthy as long as we remember that we only see the world from our own point of view.

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Having given it some thought, perhaps the next time the writer wants to make generalizations she should use the words 'My friends and I," or "Some people," or "There are those that think.." and then people won't jump on her for her generalizations including "We can all go home any time we want." Back in the 60s in the US the right wing had the phrase "Love it or Leave it." This is a rephrasing of that attractive wording.

Also, as Pinga points out, We all can't, for various reasons including marriage, relatives, the lack of a constitutional government in our home countries, war, illness, and a whole host of others. (Unless one is 20-something with no particular commitment to Japan.)

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FYI, I just referred to a higher up at my office as "Charisma Man" and a bunch of the Japanese Master Labor Contractors howled. I think it's going to stick. I'm liking this story more and more.

Taka Green-Eyes

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charisma men who have failed to get a girlfriend back home, laughed at in the pub, and suddenly find themselves hot property here in the land of the rising sun.

What an insult to any man with a Japanese wife and family. I can imagine the screaming that would ensue if it were said that western women married to Japanese were only here because they couldn't get a man in their own countries...

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"Expats"

The difference between an expat and a regular gaijin: The expat's pad is typically a 4LDK with a 20 plus jo living-dining room, a 12 jo master bedroom and hot and cold running water, while the regular gaijin's pad is typically a 2DK with a 6-jo living-dining room, a 4.5-jo bedroom and cold and freezing-ass cold running water.

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Im sorry, but to a man, all the western men I have met here have been losers, who want to believe that japanese women have not been infected with the feminist attitudes and because Im worth it creed of women in their home countries. Less forceful, more pliable, the marketing of the Japanese female is inspired to snag men who want to prove their masculinity. Generally having failed to do so in their home countries. Its these Charima men whose vile behaviour wins them no fans.

First they find out, all is not so cosy, and as soon as the ring is on the finger, Miss delightful changes somewhat.

Then they cry when they lose the children they have with their Japanese wives, and their wives leave them because Eikawa wages dont pay the bills or allow for the luxury lifestyle they crave.

So there is justice after all, I suppose.

Unfortunately western women who marry japanese men and end up stuck here are as generally mistaken as their male counterparts.

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I mean, if we were truly satisfied with our own lives, would we really feel the need to focus on the lives of others so much?

Boom. There it is.

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I'm with tkoind2. People enjoy complaining - it keeps one sane. I used to complain about things that annoyed me in Japan. Now I live in NZ, I complain about things that annoy me here (lack of good customer service, lack of halfway decent public transport, cost of single malt whisky, etc.) that contrast unfavourably with my experiences in Japan. There's much I miss about Japan, but I wouldn't want to give up the things I enjoy about living in NZ (good career prospects, a house of my own, permanent residence and the right to vote). Similarly, when I lived in Japan and whinged about things that annoyed me there, I didn't want to go back to the UK and give up the things I enjoyed about Japan.

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pinga - it seems your experience is based solely on hanging around eikaiwa teachers (in an unfortunate neighborhood too, it would seem - everyone you meet is a wanker? Dear god!). I'm not a teacher AND I don't live in Tokyo, but my experience is very different from yours. Sure, there are idiots everywhere, but I find most non-Japanese people I hang around are quite sensible and, well, normal - by both western and Japanese standards. Some of them are married (happily), some of them have girlfriends/boyfriends and some of them are single, but honestly, I don't see that many "charisma men" - actually, I almost don't see them at all.

There's another thing too - the process of "recruitment" (quotes intentional) for most eikaiwas is ridiculous - the requirements are as close to non-existent as they can be, there seems to be very little screening of applicants and (here I rely on what my American friends tell me - I don't come from an English speaking country, so I have no firsthand experience here) jobs here are marketed as basically a cool adventure with a lots of parties, no responsibility whatsoever and requirements less stringent than the ones to work in McDonalds'. I think this is the reason you get a lot of "bad apples" here - people who not only have no idea how to teach, but even how to speak their own language properly, people with no manners, "charisma men" and all that... Of course there's always the question of whether all those eikaiwas could find any proper teachers for the pay they're offering - how they say, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys...

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Remember that when you are are congratulated on your use of chopsticks to return the compliment: "You use a spoon very well".

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The "Guinness Book of Asinine Comments". This should become a whole new blog (???)

My personal favourite is: "Oh, I'll fetch you a knife and fork" by one obviously very confused waitress. Just as I announce to the whole restaurant: "Excuse me miss, I left my chopsticks at home.., do you have any that I may borrow?"

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Remember, most Japanese aren’t allowed to have opinions until they are 50 years old.

Um, you are seriously in need of getting out and seeing real Japan. I run an anime export company (J-List) and couldn't get through a day without many good ideas by my Japanese employees who are in their 20s and 30s. The more likely reason that your ideas are not accepted is that they are not good ideas.

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Haha, this article is going to be SO popular among the JT public :P

"I run an anime export company"

My condolences.

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True, we are all guilty of stereotyping to some degree, but I am quite confident most are not as guilty as Ms Pitts, who somehow managed to fill a diatribe against expats who make stereotypes about Japan into a stereotype-riddled commentary on Japanese society.

As Taka said, if it is meant to be ironic, well thanks for the laugh.. or smirk. If Ms Pitts is serious, it's even more funny, in a sick kind of way.

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I run an anime export company (J-List) and couldn't get through a day without many good ideas by my Japanese employees who are in their 20s and 30s. The more likely reason that your ideas are not accepted is that they are not good ideas.

Did your dabblings in Japanese culture make you forget american joke ie. sarcasm? No kidding people of all ages have great opinions. The tongue-in-cheek comment relates to how many older male figures seem to make a lot of so-called important business decisions. Which as she also remarks, doesn`t really change much anywhere you go in the world. Ahem, US Presidents, ahem.

BTW, major lulz to anyone accusing the writer of making stereotypes about Japanese individuals. She`s merely lifting up the words used by posters that are a dime a dozen on JT.

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AMEN Miss Pitts! I simply LOVE great commentaries like these, that tell it like it is. Truly hits deep for many here. But no doubt since it makes the naysayers here look bad, probably won't be too popular with them lol. But more insightful commentaries like these please, JT!!!

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The loser who comes to Japan and discovers how to finally meet women. Does it help that the women here are perhaps less aware of Western standards of attractiveness? Probably. Does the language barrier help stifle the offensive offal usually spewing from Charisma Man’s mouth, thus making him tolerable to non-native English speakers? Most likely.

Or it should say, the loser who comes to Japan and discovers that the average Japanese woman is slim, attractive, stays slim after having kids and has no hang-ups about being a woman in the first place. Does it help that the (Japanese) women here are less aware of western standards of female rear-end size ? Probably. Katherine, I'm more than happy to be Charisma Man if I can stay with slim rear-ends and stay away from the enormous ones..

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rjd, rjd, rjd, sigh... she missed a stereotype, the japanophile who actually has little or no experience of the place but cant stop spouting nonsense about it

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"the japanophile who actually has little or no experience of the place but cant stop spouting nonsense about it"

The only reason why you think he has little or no experience being that he doesn't whine and whine all the time? If that is called "experience" I hope I can have as little of it as possible.

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sarcasm: If ppayne is the real Peter Payne who runs J-List, you should be more interested in getting advice from him about how to be successful in Japan, instead of ridiculing the man.

I can’t help but wonder, though, why we care if Charisma Man is finally getting laid?

Perhaps you care, Katherine, because the tables are turned and Charisma Man is getting laid and Chip-On-Her-Shoulder Western Woman is usually not.

We should all keep in mind that, if things truly bother us, we can go home anytime we like.

Speak for yourself, We Chip-On-The-Shoulder Western Woman. If you do not like it here, Ms. Pitts, you are welcome to leave. Good luck to you!

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nothlondon, exactly. i actually live near Arisugawa park and go to the baby area. two things i notice the most. 1). compared to Japanese woman the western women are huge. 2). i often catch horribly depressed western men staring at these woman. think about it for a second. you just had a kid and you wife is telling you that fat is ok because she had a kid. then you go and see asian women who keep themselves thin (heredity probably) after birth. in my opinion, no matter how much you love someone that has to suck.

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Ms. Pitts, You ball-breaking, ego-deflating, nerve-hitting writer you!

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Dr Tofu,

Havent been near an Eikawa for years, actually. My main contact with foreign men is at the school gates, or having the misfortune to be railroaded by them at the supermarket.

Central Tokyo, quiet family suburb, there are a few at the school, picking up or dropping off at the same time as me. Apart from one notable exception, who appeared to be pretty decent, these are absolute creeps. In a community like a school, not saying hello in the morning, or acting like they are on a perputual summer camp is just plain wierd.

As for those creeps who never help a woman struggling with pushchair down the stairs at stations, or barge past in supermarkets, makes me realise that Japanese men behave very well in comparison.

As for those men obssessed with stick thin women, and who seem to have wierd eyesight which tells them western women here are all fat, they must just tell themselves that to cheer themselves up. I see a few western porkers male and female, from day to day. But the vast majority of western women here, baby or no baby, are slim.

I myself have two babies and dont fit into the sterotype of fat western woman at all. Japanese size medium. Please tell me where you see all these western women with children I dont meet another western mother from month to month, unless Im in costco.

I have also seen a few very tubby japanese mothers. Generalising and making fat seem like a crime is jsut unhealthy. Worse is the bullima and anorexia which is rife here.

Women here are encouraged to diet during pregnancy, putting their figures over the health of the baby and producing nice big healthy bouncing babies. Being slim right after popping out a baby is just not realistic an the health of the mother who will ruin her bones, and the baby, is more important than being attractive to a loser who lives in a fantasy land, and is phobic about weightgain in a woman. See, take away the Charima Man`s toys and he gets all nasty. I suggest one of those dolls they are talking about, they dont break wind, put on weight, and they might even make one soon who will do the cleaning for her master too!

No hang ups about being a women read chained barefoot and pregnant to the kitchen sink, eh?

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Havent been near an Eikawa for years, actually. My main contact with foreign men is at the school gates, or having the misfortune to be railroaded by them at the supermarket. Central Tokyo, quiet family suburb, there are a few at the school, picking up or dropping off at the same time as me. Apart from one notable exception, who appeared to be pretty decent, these are absolute creeps.

My sincere condolences, then. And no sarcasm there - it has to really, really suck to be surrounded by creeps... Then again, forgive me if it's REALLY hard to believe. I accept that you feel that way, but is there a possibility of you assuming that every westerner is a creep and thus being selectively blind to any positive qualities they might have, while at the same time greatly amplifying their shortcomings? I don't know your situation, the place you live in or anything about you, so hearing such a pessimistic story just makes me wonder.

Please tell me where you see all these western women with children I dont meet another western mother from month to month, unless Im in costco.

I didn't say anything about seeing western women with children - that must have been someone else. Where I live (Tochigi) it's also not a common sight. And we don't even have Costco :) And I really don't understand the comment about pregnant, barefoot woman chained to the kitchen sink - what is that all about? Hating "charisma men" is your right, but such comments seem a bit too much...

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First of all let me say that 'pathat' couldnt have put it better. If it is indeed the real Peter Payne from J-List everyone should listen up, he is pretty much part of the reason why Im here in Japan in the first place.

As for Charisma Man, that was big back in the late 90's, Japan is different now. Most guys here are rotting away behind their computers after their Eikawa job blogging about how crazy and wacky Japan is to the 4 or 5 readers who could care less back home. When they are not doing that, they are taking out their cell phone pretending to check the time everytime another foreigner walks by just to show "yeah... I live here" Its so childish sometimes...

And the Chip-On-Their-Shoulder Western Women should stop pretending that they own Harajuku, or if a Western guy happens to glance across and notice them on a train they shouldn't get all pissy, let alone flatter themselves thinking we are hitting on them. Unbelievable...

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So I wonder what you call a western man who was successful with women back home, then arrives in Japan, not for chasing women but for work, and is also successful with Asian girls here ? I guess Katherine Pitts may label him Super Charisma Man or something, but the truth is he should probably just be called Average Western Man in Japan.

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"I run an anime export company" My condolences.

Mate, that is not called for.. what do you do? streetsweep?

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So I wonder what you call a western man who was successful with women back home, then arrives in Japan, not for chasing women but for work, and is also successful with Asian girls here ?

A lucky bastard.

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Expats in Tokyo seem to believe that Japanese culture has few redeeming qualities.

Who said that? When? Where? You need some evidence or proof to back up this claim. I've been here 16 years and never met anyone make such an assertion.

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Expats in Tokyo seem to believe that Japanese culture has few redeeming qualities.

Let's see now. Hot spring resorts, no petty crime, summer festivals and girls in yukata, the best fireworks in the world, ski resorts an hour and a half out of Tokyo, ice cold beer in the summer, trains running on time. Yep that's right Kath, life is pretty tough here.

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"Expats"

I went to a party at an expat's pad last year. His company pays him enough that he can waste over 700,000 yen a month for a place that's maybe twice as big as my place but costs 7 times as much and, get this, he can't hang his futon outside on his veranda to get it nice and fluffy because it's against the rules to hang futons or laundry from the verandas in his tower. Ha ha ha!

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Interesting: I always considered I've been more successful with girls in Europe or US that here... After all, I met my (Japanese) wife in US :) and by the way, maybe half of my girlfriends while in Japan (that's 10 years) were not Japanese. sorry for breaking the stereotype...

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The money is good, not all the women act like they're three, the culture is interesting, the temples and shrines are beautiful, the mountains and ocean are beautiful, the money is good, the pottery and roof tiles are beautiful, the people in the hardware store actually know something about hardware, the vegetables are usually fresh, and the fruit cannot be used as projectile weapons, and sashimi is fine with me. Did I mention that the money was good?

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She makes a stereotype of alleged stereotyping, what a putz.

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I dont whine, I use common sense, in fact might change my name to commonsense123. less sarcasm, more thinking please

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I think too many of these JT commentaries are based on life in and around Tokyo. Things are alot different down Osaka and Kobe way in my opinion. I dont know anything about "charisma man". Every foreigner I have met has been a decent guy or gal. Usually its the travellers that are making the disturbances and trying to hook up for the night in clubs, and they are pretty normal too. I have never met a girl in five years that was interested in me just because I was a foreigner. I think I should live in Tokyo to really understand most of these commentaries and posts. Japan is the safest and most peaceful place I have ever lived. My complaints are all traffic related. That was the only thing I really griped about (and old people) until I went to China for 2 weeks.

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Yeah people like to complain and gossip, it releases pressure like others have said, and it helps people feel better about themselves. Does Charisma man's bedroom life matter to us? no. Does putting him down make us feel more adequate? perhaps. Like putting down western (I assume that means white) women as fat may help some people vent anger toward women or their own expanding waistlines.

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Great article. I am planning on moving to Japan in the near future and so I am unable to speak on a number of these issues. However, I have noticed these same topics as major complaints in the majority of websites I've visited in my research about the country. Having lived overseas myself, I have vented about my "woes" via the internet....it's a normal way to blow off steam. Still, being on the other side where I am researching this country, I can say that I have felt alarmed at some of these accusations toward Japanese that have been made. I'm sure there's truth to them---but I also suspect that some of this comes down to misunderstanding and a general lack of responsibility for how we treat foreigners in our own back yards. As for that stereotype that Japanese ask Westerners ridiculous questions about what they are able to do (i.e. can you eat sushi?), Westerners at home dish it out too. I do remember a French friend who complained that everyone asked her if she shaved her armpits.

I am a woman and married to a Westerner so I personally wouldn't care in the least if expat men didn't pay attention to me. However, I highly doubt that it's safe to stereotype (gasp--could you be guilty of this too) all Western women as being obsessed with expat men. Does it really frighten you that much that they might not be interested in you at all but instead in a nice Japanese man? Furthermore, what if they're not interested in dating in Japan at all?

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Did I mention that the money was good?

How good is the money? I consult in a technical field and it seemed to me that many of the fields were quite saturated already. The US had much higher pay, with a lower cost of living. Don't get me wrong, I love my trips to Japan, but the numbers didn't make sense to me.

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motytrah, It depends on the field you're in, and where in the US you're coming from, and where in Japan you're going to.

Japan is a nice place to live, though of course there are problems with the difference in culture, language, or whatever. If you are the sort who enjoys life wherever you are, there's plenty to enjoy here.

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Don't get me wrong Farmboy, a midwest guy like myself could easily live in a place like Kyoto. I just think supply and demand comes into play. Finding a good and experienced senior level computer/IT consultant in the US can be difficult. We can extract bloated salaries for 40 hours of work. I think Japan has a better education system thus better supply of workers therefor lower wages. I'm too much of a single malt scotch addict to take the paycut. :)

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motytrah

Scotch is pretty damn cheap here, no need to worry about paycuts

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bottchef - don't worry, this is a great place to live, especially if you are happily married and able to make a decent living.

Most of the people you hear bitching are those who realise that they are stuck in a dead end job, or are attention-seeking "writer-cartoonist-cultural observer" types (a.k.a. an English teacher trying to persuade him / herself that he / she has more purpose in life than simply teaching housewives basic phrases) or those who are simply unable to hold down an adult relationship.

The rest of us just enjoy the place, grumble occasionally with our friends and get on with business, life and love...

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Reading this post reminds me of something that I have always used to describe Japan. It is a land of extremes. Yes stereotypes, but on the extreme poles. usually a country would have one type of stereotypes, and for the benefit of not getting bombarded for a silly comment, I shall leave out the typing of these stereotypes since they are usually derogatory.

A land of extremes, Japan is where you would find the most cringe-worthy people walking among the most polite people in the world. You'd also find extremely stupid materialistic girls who shop in the same places are practical smart women. It is a land of neon signs, but full of tradition spanning centuries, even millenia. Then you have the image of a hip, electronic world, but also has been known for the record breaking amount of citizens celebrating their centenary.

Schizo? Hypocritic? No true self image? perhaps.

I love Japan for what it is, and I prefer to call it a Land of (cool) extremes

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Reading this post reminds me of something that I have always used to describe Japan. It is a land of extremes.

Absolutely agree with you. After living here for a month or so, I started calling it the Land of Contradictions - for exactly the same reasons you've listed.

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F&C

I am pretty much in agreement with yr above comment & when on JT we tend to like to let off steam so here is where a lot of us rant a little, ok sometimes a lot ha ha. But hey JT cherry picks the kyodo "news bites" & with usual poorly written commentaires what else can we do except oblige them & give them the hits they desire!

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To the author of the original piece:

Please stop refering to non-Japanese as 'Caucasian people' or 'Johnny Blue-Eyes' you silly American person! Not every non-Japanese is white.

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Perhaps the most pervasive cliché is that Japan is a sexist country, especially in the workplace. As a Western woman, I definitely deal with sexism and xenophobia at my job. Do I deal with it more in Japan than in any other country? To be honest, I don’t know. Yes, I have had Japanese co-workers ignore my opinion because I am Western. But to be fair, Japanese people ignore the opinions of anyone who is not in a senior position. Remember, most Japanese aren’t allowed to have opinions until

http://career.jp.msn.com/article2/kakutoku/001_1.htm

Average earnings for Japanese women who work full time remain constant from age 25-39 and drop after age 40, significantly after age 50. Their male counterparts on the other hand can expect a consistent increase in earning power from age 20 to 54, peaking between ages 50-54. By middle age, men working full time make almost three times as much as women working full time.

Here is data from research in Japan showing even though there are more women than men attending university, 97% of Diet members, 92% of lawyers, 90% of all corporate managers and 85% of doctors are men:

http://www.gender.go.jp/english_contents/women2004/statistics/s01.html

If sexism is just a stupid cliche in Japan, how do you explain these statistics? Oh, but you have ANECDOTAL evidence as a foreigner that you don't feel that disrespected! Well, that certainly trumps everything else.

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The whole article is one big cliche

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Does it help that the women here are perhaps less aware of Western standards of attractiveness? "Talk about some offal. Charisma Man exists to be sure, but so doesn`t Chip-On-Her-Shoulder Western Woman who sees herself outdone by the more attractive/enjoyable Japanese women. This must be the Pitts for all you high-and-mighty Western women."

Out -frickin standing comment......You are my hero Pathat. It never occurs to these western femaliod types that some men find these Japanese women far more attractive than them. And why does Pitss think this way? Because deep inside, all western women think they are the highest evolution of womanhood, and all others, particularly Asian women are beneath them. Some have even had the gall the say that Japanese women marry westerners for a Visa?!? Like they are ecaping crushing poverty. Talk about sterotyping............

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VoXman...I have heard such stereotypical comments like the "visa" thing but that is something stemming fromt he past and particularily not Japanese but other Asian women. Why? because it is a true statement relative to past experiences. I knwo a few myself through my firends, basically, their mothers did just that. From Chinese to Vietnamise to Korean to Taiwanise. Stereotypes have some truth. And the whole Asian women and shopping weill that too. I don't think I've ever met an Asian woman who doesn't go crazy over a sale and the way I saw them in Shibuya, well I rest my case. However, since some westerners probably do not have too much experience with knowing many Asians and the ones they meet are like this then that's why they generalize. I personally do not like to generalize but I do acknowledge that stereotypical type comments have some truth. Call it bad or not, it is what it is. They have some of these qualities but they also have a lot of splendid qualities.

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Fantastic article.

Chalked up my 31st year in Japan this year and in that time Japan has changed a lot. We have romaji signs on railway stations, western toilets, macdonalds.

One thing that most "visitors" forget is that this is Japan. No it's not another American state or a small country in Europe, it's Japan. Therefore we can all fret as much as we like about what Japanese people think of the visitors and what the visitors think of the locals, but it really doesn't matter.

What does matter is some basic human interactions like "equal before the law" and "kindness to others" etc and there have been some landmark events in recent years that aim to prove that yes, we are all equal before the law.

We all seem to go out of our way to point out the differences. Yes there are differences. Differences in education, politics, religion, upbringing, economy, values etc. Most of the time, for the person new to Japan, these are fun to explore. These are the excitement and the adventure that makes coming to Japan, a seemingly closed society, very interesting indeed.

As Katherine points out, guys are able to meet girls seemingly more easily and I know several foreign women who are completely idolized by their Japanese men. Not a bad thing at all.

Sure, every time I go into a hotel it's "good morning" not "ohayougozaimasu" but hey, do I care? No. Either is fine. My friends mothers fret that I won't like something particularly Japanese like "uni" or "umeboshi", but it doesn't bother me. It's kind of cute.

Katherine points out issues within the workplace and yes I can see how this can happen. Mostly this can be solved with patience, hard work and good results. Once the CEO invites you out for dinner because of your outstanding performance, these issues normally fade away.

I'm not saying that it's all easy going and fun fun fun. Like any country there are things that will get on your nerves, but in the end, the very things that make this country different are the things that make it interesting.

Enjoy!

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kudos to seimei, ive been here 20yrs, and has been through volumes, BUT, i love it here, its my home now, though i pissed off time to time, i still love and enjoy my time here. Too many grumpy gaijins wanna change Japan to suit them. Grow up or if you dont like it ....LEAVE!!!

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Average earnings for Japanese women who work full time remain constant from age 25-39 and drop after age 40, significantly after age 50. Their male counterparts on the other hand can expect a consistent increase in earning power from age 20 to 54, peaking between ages 50-54. By middle age, men working full time make almost three times as much as women working full time.

Here is data from research in Japan showing even though there are more women than men attending university, 97% of Diet members, 92% of lawyers, 90% of all corporate managers and 85% of doctors are men

You leave out the the equation free will and choice. What are these women doing with their college educations? My son's med school class is about half women, let's see where they are in 20 years.

No co-ed university in the US will refuse admission on the basis of sex. If you can make the grade you can get in. Why are there not more female engineers? Women in the sciences? They don't choose those fields. So even in a less sexist society women make similar choices. Can you say for sure it's absolutely sexism that is "keeping women out" of politics etc??

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I've actually found Japan, in many respects, to be no different than anywhere else I've been in the world, with regards to her people. Yes, some of the men here are sexist, and some women pretty stupid.....but name a country where such ISN'T the case.....

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When I first arrived in Tokyo, at the beginning of an 8 year stay, I had a date that same evening with some white guy who asked me out when he saw me standing in the lobby of the Kimi Ryokan. I had a marriage proposal from a handsome and well-educated Australian a couple of months later, and a member of the French mafia working with the Yakuza tried to recruit me into porn movies after I ran into him at the Yurakucho tourist information center.

I don't consider myself "hot" - in fact, I've got a pretty big inferiority complex, and as a female I'm larger on the average than most American women, so most of the time I felt like the incredible hulk in Japan. Maybe it's my double d's that were attracting all the attention - I don't know.

I've run into plenty of "charisma men". I could have cared less if they were dating or not, but a lot of them would tend to get into my business by parading their date in front of me as if to say "Ha ha! I'm getting some (finally?) and you're not." These imbeciles are seen all over Asia. Some of them are dead ringers for John Mark Carr, with some pretty creepy baggage in addtion to not knowing how to dress (e.g. waistbands pulled up around their nipples.) And I'd see these guys dating on occasion some very attractive local women, and wonder just what the hell the women were thinking. The charisma dudes seem to have a complex about who they go out with - usually only a razor thin arm-charm will do, and some of these guys were noticeably gay and using the girl as a "beard".

If the truth be told, it was pretty easy for me to find a guy in that country. What I found annoying was the attitude of some of these charisma losers who seemed to want to make getting a date some sort of competition. Luckily, there were more than a couple of "normal" guys that I worked with who had settled down with the local women who did not engage in this adolescent behavior. The other guys at work seemed to be keeping tabs on my social life while at the same time saying how much they despised "ugly western women". Talk about bruised male egos!

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