The joy of not being accepted

I am so grateful to professor Jeff Kingston for his April 14 review of Adam Komisarof’s book “At Home Abroad: The Contemporary Western Experience in Japan.” I’ve lived here for nearly 17 years and have never really understood my own deep feelings about this country and its people.

As a teacher, I have only been able to scratch the surface in discussions with my advanced students over the years, never to really understand my love/hate relationship with Japan.

I’ve always viewed with a certain disdain those Westerners who are said to have “gone native,” and thus I was suspicious of the late Donald Ritchie. Although I had never read him, I believed him to be a complete Japanophile.

But how refreshingly therapeutic it was to read Kingston’s quotes from Ritchie such as: “If I were Japanese I wouldn’t stay in this country for more than ten minutes. I stay here because I am in a position which I find preferable — a position where none of their qualifications for being a member apply. … I never said I fell in love with Japan. A lot of people writing about me said that I fell in love with Japan. … We (foreigners) have the best seat in the house.”

I too rejoice in not being accepted here and, indeed, am proud to be a gaijin. As Ritchie said, not being accepted means “they leave us alone and we are not really held responsible for things. We are like big children. This is a huge advantage”.

I have finally been able to understand, and can now express my own ambivalent feelings toward this country, thanks to Kingston, Komisarof and, especially, Ritchie.

I will buy Komisarof’s book and study Ritchie’s writings. I may then understand Japan and the Japanese further. I encourage confused gaijin like me to do the same.

paul gaysford
tokyo

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.