Readers’ comments in response to William Bradbury’s Foreign Agenda article, “Japan: a haven for the psychologically troubled“:
This is a wonderful article. It looks between the cracks of Japanese society and nature as well as the very complicated and variable (sometimes minute-by-minute) mindsets of foreigners.
I’ve lived in, worked in and set up businesses in Japan since 1974, and this is the most reasonable and considered article I’ve read about “fitting in.” You cover most of the bases, from the idea that being a foreigner anywhere is a different and generally liberating experience — foreigner status operates at many levels — to the very specific proposition that this special status, especially in Japan, is helpful and indeed comforting for people with a variety of emotional/mental disorders or eccentricities.
In response to those who feel the need to warn us about William’s positive experience of Japan, I suggest that it’s not a question of his or your or the majority’s experience of Japan; it is simply his experience. You need to read it on his terms, not yours.
I have also seen what many of you are saying about the social oppression, etc., in Japan, but you have to listen to those who simply don’t experience Japan in that way.
I am also one such person, which is why I enjoyed William’s article. Well done. Oh, and the article is written in a very engaging and unpretentious style.
This is a very interesting article. It reflects the type of foreigner Japan is willing to tolerate: One who is unwilling or unable to engage with society. This keeps them atomized and separate. They feel like they have no stake in Japan and just wish to be left alone. They won’t form friendships or start families, thus they will remain rootless.
Japan (as stated by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe) has an express policy of bringing foreigners to Japan to do much-needed work and then kicking them out before they actually become part of society. So, in the main, the only foreigners who can put up with this institutional racism are people who stay single and simply pursue their own pleasures.
I’m never sure the locals accept eccentricity, embrace it or just don’t give a monkey’s. Sadly, I think its the latter, and apathy, while it may be the safest option, is usually the least attractive, and I find it increasingly hard to appreciate the risk-aversion techniques the people in this community employ just to save themselves from having to address any kind of confrontation whatsoever.
Tolerance is not the same as acceptance: Just think of the gay community in Japan, tolerated but never accepted. To live in a world where you are largely ignored because you are different is not healthy, and to bask in it as Mr. Bradbury does is surely going to lead to trouble. I think Mr. Bradbury is a walking time bomb.
My advice: The next time you want to buy a T-shirt, William, go into that shop, snap a pencil and scream from the top of your lungs, “I am normal!”
The Japanese belief that some things are just too difficult for foreigners is nothing more that putting you in a box and leaving you in the cupboard. Stand up, because things are not that hard to understand, especially if they bother to explain it.
Never allow this attitude to fool you into thinking you are accepted; you are just tolerated, and personally I want more.
Dan, you want “more”? Join the long tradition of Japan’s best [literary figures] also wanting more.
Natsume Soseki wanted more from his fellow countrymen. Akiko Yosano wanted more. So did Junichiro Tanizaki. Same for Sawako Ariyoshi and Fumio Hayashi — the latter of whom hated to see so many just drifting, like “Floating Clouds” (the title of her 1951 book).
The great poets and writers have had to face this set of habits of people drifting, settling for less, maybe because of the group harmony goal also built into the culture here. This is kyōchōsei [the spirit of cooperation].
Whatever the cause obliging people to shear, reduce or silence themselves, good luck wanting “more.”
How very excellent. I myself live in Saitama. There are one or two white folk in my village. I am one of them, from England.
I have OCD [obsessive compulsive disorder] and Asperger’s. The locals, I suppose, put my lack of conversation down to my Western eccentricities. My boss too, I guess.
Very helpful article. Thank you.
I’m actually quite sad to see that this article over-extrapolates experiences from a person who suffers from OCD to “psychological disorders” in general.
As someone who works in mental health care in Tokyo (which, by the way, is not representative of the rest of the country), I am quite dismissive of all the generalizations made within the article — the views expressed here pertain to a particular case of OCD, mixed in with the liberations of living in a foreign country where societal norms are “different” than where that person grew up.
I can understand the feeling of identifying with a country that fits your societal ideal, but we all know this is a matter of perspective. I have known many OCD patients (some foreign, some Japanese) who share quite opposite experiences living in Tokyo, due to frequency of contact due to overcrowding, prevalence of communicable diseases (and fear thereof), unsanitary city life, etc., and I am not at all convinced that this article deserves the sort of “Japan is a great place for people who suffer from the rest of the world!” editorial in a newspaper.
This idealization and failure to see beyond personal perspective is also a behavioral symptom of OCD, of which readers should be aware. I am glad this author found solace in Tokyo, but please, editors, be a little mindful of hyperbolizing personal experiences.
The root cause behind a majority of these so-called psychological cases is unbalanced vaata. When excessive vaata enters the srotas (“carrier channel” of the mind), the person concerned starts behaving in an erratic psychological way. Ayurveda [Hindu traditional medicine] offers a wide range of safe medications and a variety of therapies like nasya (administering medicated drops into nostrils), shirobasti (holding medicated oil/ghee over the head), shirodhara (pouring a small stream of medicated oil upon the mid-brow zone), etc.
Homeopathy and Bach flower remedies also give us very effective medicines for treating a wide spectrum of mind disorders.