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Birth of a Twitter trend: the story behind #gaijinconfessionfriday

by

Staff Writer

Last week, a simple hashtag — #gaijinconfessionfriday — kicked off an outpouring of guilt and humor on Twitter from Japan’s foreign residents.

Expats admitted to feigning a lack of Japanese ability in certain situations, wearing bathroom slippers beyond the toilet and questioning the sincerity of the old “you can use chopsticks” compliment.

In a matter of hours, the hashtag was trending on the nation’s list of popular hashtags and local Twitterati were coming together to post, retweet and just laugh at common struggles and insights.

Also that day, Twitter Japan published a Moment — a compilation of curated tweets — explaining the trend in Japanese.

It all started when Twitter user Reese (@lefteyedgirl) admitted early Friday morning that, after four years of living in Japan, she had actually never done karaoke here.

Brian de Heus, a Dutch programmer based in Tokyo, followed suit with “I don’t like udon” and added #gaijinconfessionfriday to this tweet.

Via direct message on Twitter, @briandotjp told The Japan Times: “I felt inspired to start the hashtag after seeing a fellow expat confess to not liking a typical Japanese thing. I figured I’d make it easier for people to share their ‘gaijin confessions’ and tweeted my confession together with the hashtag.”

De Heus said he didn’t really expect much — “maybe a few other people would tweet their confessions and move on to the next big thing by lunch” — but similar tweets kept appearing, eventually landing the hashtag on Twitter’s trending list.

In hindsight, he said, “It’s really cool to see so many people with relatable experiences.”

Ashleigh (@pandomi) said she was happy to see not only “real struggles of foreigners in Japan, but but a lot of jokes to bring us together.” But will she continue writing confessions every Friday? “I think I might. Maybe not with the exact fervor I did before, but with updated confessions … weekly.”

Timothy Ryan (@TimothyRyanJP) said, “I liked that the hashtag got picked up and gained attention by Twitter users who are Japanese. While the responses from Japanese were mixed positive and negative, foreigner life in Japan doesn’t seem well-discussed by Japanese.”

Ryan also said that he’s likely to tweet out further confessions on future Fridays. “I’ll definitely use the hashtag in the future if I have something to say from the week,” he wrote.

So how did he find out about #gaijinconfessionfriday? “I follow the guy who started the hashtag and those that made it spread around,” said Ryan. “After that, the gaijin Twitter twerps took care of the rest.”

Nevertheless, he added, “It was a shock to see it end up in the trending section of Twitter. I’d never seen a Japan-based English hashtag end up in the trending section.”

De Heus is skeptical about the hashtag’s shelf life: “The internet loves beating dead horses, but with 52 Fridays in a year I’m sure the Confession Friday will stop being a thing after a week or two.”

Reese wrote that it might be a “one time deal.”

So will this become a recurring Twitter event? Or just a blip? Tune in to #gaijinconfessionfriday on Friday to find out.


The Japan Times’ curated list of #gaijinconfessionfriday


Correction: This story was updated on April 20 to include the fact that the concept was initiated by @lefteyedgirl.