A high price to pay for a little peace of mind


Sometimes it’s hard to believe the American that emerged, naked and naive, from Narita International Airport back in 2004 and the person writing this column are one and the same. Life in Japan has made me, unmade me and remade me. I’ve unpacked and sorted through all sorts of koto (generally, things without material form such as ideas and feelings), uncovering things about myself that I likely wouldn’t have if I had stayed in the U.S. Some of these changes have been minor, others major, yet each represents “the Creator’s hands in molding your character into the wiser, more worldly, man you are now,” as my mama once told me.

Mama would be pleased to hear that some of those values and ideals she instilled in me have managed to remain intact. I still respect my elders as well as people who respect me. I still think for myself and stand behind those thoughts — right or wrong. I’ve even managed to retain a value she has often lauded: in almost all situations, whether or not it places you in a good light, honesty is the best policy — particularly in regards to oneself. However, there has been one casualty that would certainly disappoint her. My life in Japan has often called into question the universality of an ideal she held in high regard: One should refrain from judging other humans by anything other than the content of their character.

I put up a good fight but it’s hard to overcome the perception that one’s character and abilities are indelibly linked to one’s race or nationality. It’s a perception that many Japanese people (and, to be sure, many non-Japanese living here, too) will convey every day in 100 different ways: “We are exceptional,” they say, “uniquely different from everyone else in the world.” I resisted with all the evidence to the contrary I’ve accumulated over the course of a lifetime. Nevertheless, I have slowly succumbed to judging Japanese people as a group of exceptions rather than exceptional. I realized this, sadly, marked the beginning of the end of an ideal I held most dear.

At first, I would catch myself joining the chorus of legal aliens here who generalize about the friendliness, kindness and politeness of Japanese people. The superiority of customer service here and the overall safety and cleanliness of the environment would somehow be linked to Japanese character and, sometimes, even their race.

And later, among my boys, I would chime in on jam sessions, where remarks such as “Japanese girls are so …” and “Japanese guys are so …” are frequently spat from non-Japanese mouths. Unless someone disagreed, there would only be nods of agreement all around.

Generalizing about the positive and negative traits of Japanese people as a whole is the norm among non-Japanese here. Of course, if you make the very same generalizations but replace “Japanese” with “black” or “white” or “Polish,” it would give many of these people pause for thought. I’d be among the first to say “Whoa, bruh! We’re not gonna have any of that.”

Before coming to Japan, I found generalizations problematic and so I refrained from doing so. However, once I found myself in an environment where this is done, ad nauseam, by natives and foreigners alike, I felt entitled to bend that golden rule from time to time. Living here among the Japanese so long and experiencing these often generalized qualities, both good and bad, first-hand on a regular basis (as opposed to, say, seeing them appear on TV) only helped reinforce this view.

However, it was the persistent dehumanization that typically occurs here that licensed me to go beyond bending and, ultimately, break that golden rule.

A Japanese man or woman walking ahead of me will often turn and spot me in a crowd of people walking behind them. They will then proceed to behave conspicuously as if they have spotted a predator stalking from the tall grass. (If you need a detailed description of how to tell if someone believes you are following them, consider yourself very fortunate.) I used to keep moving forward, telling myself to simply ignore them. The person walking ahead of me might suddenly shift gears and increase their walking speed or even break into a run. Or they might stop and peer into a shop window and watch me until I pass, then resume walking. I would pretend not to notice. I would sometimes label it paranoia and let it go at that. Other times, though, I’d stop and do something that an agent conducting surveillance in a movie might do, such as tie my shoes, and then resume once they’ve passed me again — just to distress them for criminalizing me. By the time I got home, I would have identified something funny or poignant in the scenario and sometimes write a blog post about it.

I remember thinking of a conversation in James Clavell’s 1975 novel “Shogun,” where the Lady Mariko explains the meaning of an ancient Japanese poem, “The Eightfold Fence,” to captured British pilot John Blackthorne, who is given the title Anjin-san (which is often translated as honorable pilot in works referencing the novel). “Sunset watching is a great help or listening to the rain,” she says. “Anjin-san, have you noticed the different sounds of rain? If you really listen, then the present vanishes, neh? Listening to blossoms falling and to rocks growing are exceptionally good exercises. Of course, you’re not supposed to see the things, they’re only signs, messages to your hara, your center, to remind you of the transience of life, to help you gain wa, harmony, Anjin-san, perfect harmony, which is the most sought-after quality in all Japanese life.” I wanted to cop some of that wa in the worst way.

In a last-ditch effort to hold on to this ideal, I used to focus on my own version of “The Eightfold Fence.” Instead of concentrating on all the obvious acts of anxiety and discomfort that erupt when my presence is noticed — for instance, a woman who shifts her pocketbook away from me or a guy who suddenly changes queues on a subway platform upon seeing me behind him — I’d tune my ears to the recording of a bird warbling over the station’s loudspeakers. Instead of wasting any energy on a salaryman securing his wallet in his back pocket, or a panic-stricken mother suddenly shielding her child or a young man shamelessly throwing himself between his girlfriend and I in a bizarre act of unwarranted heroism once he notices me in close proximity, I’d lock my eyes on a certain kanji character in an advertisement, dissect it by its radicals and let its meaning wash over me like a waterfall of wa.

Yeah, not so much, Mariko. That didn’t work for me (nor Anjin-san, as I recall) — I just ain’t built for nirvana-seeking amid habitual incivility.

Nowadays, I simply ignore this behavior as often as possible. When this proves impossible, I give them a plastic grin, move away or say something in Japanese, which tends to help at times.

I walk an ultrathin tightrope between alleviating the anxiety of mostly innocent victims of irrational fear, misinformation and ignorance, and maintaining my dignity, but I walk it almost like it’s a natural reflex these days. I’ve modified my soul’s response to this behavior that has effectively become part of me. Anger has been replaced by a pitylike emotion I don’t really have a word for.

I refrain from labeling such people as racists. I simply think of them as exceptions and hold them to a different standard — a decidedly lower one — than I reserve for most people. This allows me to enjoy all the great things Japan has to offer.

This stance is a high price to pay for a little peace of mind, at least as far as I am concerned.

If I told my mother all of this, I know exactly what she would say.

“I hope you know what you’re doing, boy,” she’d grumble. “I raised you right, you’ve got a good head on your shoulders and the Creator knows you’ve got a good heart. But I don’t want those people over there damaging it, so you need to seriously think about booking your butt a ticket on the next thing smoking outta Asia!”

And yet the latest snippets of news from the United States — militarized police officers killing unarmed black men at an alarming rate, including a teenager who was shot two weeks ago in Ferguson, Missouri, an event that has sparked violence across the country — doesn’t exactly suggest that “home” is a sanctuary either.

Besides, I wager neither Japan nor the Creator are done with me yet.

Black Eye, which appears in print on the third Thursday of every month, focuses on the experience of living in Japan from the perspective of people of African descent. Baye McNeil is the author of two books and writes the Loco in Yokohama blog. See www.bayemcneil.com. Comments and ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp

  • AdMortem

    I would assume that white Africans like myself will be treated as a bit of an oddity in Japan.

    • AprilLynn71

      If you told a Japanese person you were African, they’d assume you were joking. Generally, they don’t see Africa as a continent made of many countries. They see it as one country full of black people and Ebola.

      • Gordon Graham

        By “they”…I think you mean Americans

  • Michey Peckitt

    I wonder if something like the French word ‘pathetique’ might capture you ‘pitylike emotion’. Another nice piece Baye!

  • NoSurpriseToMe

    Another fascinating article. You have an incredible gift in communicating the tragedy of profiling and discrimination, the complexities of emotions they provoke and with eloquence and restraint. Yes, America is a hot mess for all the reasons you describe but we need talented journalists like you that can communicate these experiences powerfully to a wide audience without alienating them.

  • Kayode

    Mariko shared another Japanese concept, Baye, that I think is relevant to this. She spoke about putting thoughts and emotions into mental compartments in order to maintain balance. I feel like it’s sort of what you’re doing.

    I had my first of those irrational fear experiences last year during a trip to the UK (I’m from the Caribbean). Some guy started scrambling for his things when he noticed me standing behind him, and later, an entire family sat staring at me in a train. I felt that exact same sort of pity that you described. I felt genuinely sad for them, and not in a bitter way either.

    The rest of the trip was fantastic, and literally everyone else I met was friendly and helpful.

  • Ignatius

    Awesome article. It was very interesting.

  • Gianluca G.D.

    I thought it was a little slow in the beginning, but then I “saw where this was going” ;)

    I laughed at some point, don’t recall exactly when. It was “sadly funny”
    the description of some of your evasive manoeuvres. Anywho, thanks for
    sharingj! Ciao, j

  • Jay

    Interesting read, and delicately expressed. I have always said, somewhat less delicately, that the Japanese are the most racist people I have ever encountered; not of the malignant dangerous sort that characterized Naziism, but a benign form that consists of a hyper-sensitivity to others and themselves according to fixed concepts of race. Everywhere I go, I hear whispers, “ara, gaijin da.” Some embrace it as a chance to practice their language skills; others turn and flee; some ignore me so completely that I’ve wondered if I wasn’t a ghost. My children, born here and fluent in Japanese, are constantly being asked to speak English and surprising people when they speak Japanese. It never ends. Yes, most are polite, friendly and helpful, but most are also completely unaware how their thinking is racially constructed.

    • KenjiAd

      I agree that Japanese people are racists in a broad definition of this term. But as you probably know, the vast majority of Japanese people consider “racist” only in a narrow sense in which a racist is defined as someone who despise people belonging to different racial/ethnic groups with contempt.

      Because of this narrow understanding of racists, most Japanese people would argue that they are not racists toward Caucasians, while they would agree that some Japanese people are racists towards Koreans.

      This gap in understanding racism is frustrating, but is not unique to Japan. I’m Japanese currently living in China (but I spent 26yrs in America). Here in China, another Confucian country, racism in a broad sense is also common place.

      I often see a job advertisement for English teacher which includes a requirement like “Caucasian only.” I sometimes hear a perfectly nice young Chinese girl who openly says she would never date a “black man.” They have no understanding that these are blatantly racist comments. Not to mention that the 2012 anti-Japan riot targeted anything, anyone associated with Japan, including Chinese people who owned a Japanese car.

      As a Japanese national, I hope that Japanese people will some day understand that theirs is a racist country. But I’m not very optimistic, to be honest.

      • Jay

        Nor am I. But I am glad you understood what I was trying to say. I think Japan is a clean and peaceful country, and most people are kind and friendly. It’s just this “heightened awareness” of race that can be so annoying and depressing. I have lived here 27 years, I work and pay taxes, and I participate in the local community. But I am always outside, still stared at, and can never be Japanese, even if I were to change my citizenship. Where I am from (Canada), there are so many different people, and many of them of mixed race, that no one cares, no one notices, no one comments. You are Asian Canadian? That’s fine. You are half Irish and half black? Great!. But who do you vote for and which hockey team do you support?! Incidentally, it would be unthinkable to post a sign that said “Caucasian only” in Canada, and if you said publicly that you would never date a “black” or “Asian” or “white” man or woman, you would likely find yourself losing friends in a hurry.

      • KenjiAd

        Japan is an extremely ethnocentric country where the vast majority of population believes that there is something unique and superior in the Japanese culture or even their DNAs. While each country presumably has some ethnocentric tendency, I believe that Japan’s ethnocentrism is world-class.

        As a Japanese national, I grew up hearing that only Japanese people can understand certain concepts (such as “Wabi” “Sabi” etc).

        I also once believed that Japan is the only country in the world that has distinct four seasons.

        And needless to say, whenever I saw a Westerner using a pair of chopsticks, the skills which only East Asian people are supposed to be able to master, I was awestruck and said “Wow, you can use chopsticks!? Wow!”

        I’m afraid you will keep hearing this chopstick compliment in Japan until you die. :-)

      • Steve Jackman

        There are relatively benign forms of racism, as in some of your examples, and then there are the more darker and serious forms of racism. Unfortunately, there is too much racism and race-based discrimination of the later type in Japan.

        People have a right to appreciate their cultural uniqueness, but the vast majority of racism in Japan goes much beyond this. I find Japanese people to be among the most racist and close-minded in the world. The irony is that they are only hurting themselves in the long term through their sheer ignorance, insularity, arrogance and hubris.

    • Mark Makino

      People all over the world regard racism as open hatred of other races, when a much more common prerequisite for that is simply the belief that our biological makeup as assigned a semi-arbitrary group (a “race”) determines our beliefs and behavior. Seen with the latter definition, Japanese society is very racist, but we should recognize the fact that this definition of racism is not widely used outside social science.

  • Mark Makino

    Very nice article. I’ve also been disappointed with how quickly liberally-educated citizens of multiethnic countries can abandon their democratic principles for the dream of a simple, one-country-one-culture worldview that seems prevalent in Japan.

  • Hella Jiggy

    I’ve only experienced this in Tokyo. To put it very frankly, Tokyo people are their own kind. In Osaka, Fukuoka, hell, even in Hiroshima I’ve been embraced with open arms.

  • Hella Jiggy

    When Japan realizes that they’re dying and finally allow foreigners to flood into the country, they’ll change their ways. It won’t be easy, but I doubt it’ll be violent.

    • Chien-Hung Lai

      In fact, not only Japan, even some of us will have the same reaction like this article said in Taiwan.

      Don’t be so sad!

    • Gordon Graham

      I’m sure Japan is looking closely how racial and religious tension has gripped most of Europe and will be hesitant to open the flood gates.

  • Arianna Hayes

    When I first decided I wanted to move to Japan, I expected this sort of thing. I love Japanese culture, but I stomach these kinds of articles because I know that I’ll be in the same situation. However, as of late, I’m not sure I could handle it as well as I thought. I’m about to graduate from university and although I’ve exposed myself to many different types of people, both American and foreign, I realize now that I’m still in that university bubble. I’ve only recently experienced a few out-of-the-bubble incidents and both of them shook me to the core. I’ve begun to worry about how strong I actually am, and if I can really survive in a country where I’m the absolute outsider. Even more so than in my neighborhood. Reading these types of things have made me more nervous about my impulsive decision, because I’ve been working towards this for four years. Working my ass off. Putting in hundreds of hours of volunteer work and studying just to get to Japan. My heart’s been absolutely set on it and I have no idea why. I don’t know why Japan. Perhaps because I’m black, I feel some subconscious obligation to decriminalize my culture? I don’t really know, but I hope I can be as strong as you when my time finally comes!

    • KenjiAd

      I think that one key factor to deal with this sort of situation is to try to understand the _intent_ of a person who is discriminating you. Then you will find that people who discriminate, even avoid, you in Japan actually do not _intend_ to hurt you nor has any understanding that their action is hurtful.

      Most of the time, I think Japanese people are just avoiding the situation where they don’t know how to deal with. For example, some Japanese people might walk away from you, afraid that you might start talking to them in English.

      Of course this doesn’t justify their action, but you can put the discriminatory behavior into a perspective by which at least you can see where they are coming from, even though you do not agree with it. This way, you can avoid thinking too much.

      Japanese people are generally ethnocentric, believing that, as a foreigner, you will not be able to understand certain things about Japan or its culture. Even if you’ve lived in Japan for 30 years, many Japanese people would still assume that a 10-yr Japanese kid can understand something that you don’t understand.

      This ethnocentric barrier is tough to break. I’d even say that it’s probably impossible to break. So instead of banging your head to the unbreakable wall, I suggest you to look for people who do not have this ethnocentric wall around them. I can assure you, there are some (like me). Not many, but there are.

      • Steve Jackman

        I couldn’t disagree with you more. Your arguments that Japanese racism is somehow unintentional, benign or to avoid certain situtions is absolutely ridiculous.

        I have seen Japanese racists often go out of their way to commit racist acts against non-Japanese victims. It is as if they derive great pleasure and a sense of empowerment by commiting racist acts. There is nothing innocent or harmless about their racism, so you are either clueless or being disingenuous.

      • KenjiAd

        I could be “clueless” because I haven’t been to Japan for a long time (close to 30 yrs). Although I grew up in Japan till age 26, I also have never been at a receiving end of the Japanese racism, because, well, I’m Japanese. By the way, your suggestion of me being possibly “disingenuous” was uncalled for.

        You mentioned that you’ve “seen Japanese racists often go out of their way to commit racist acts…” I’m sure you’ve seen it. I didn’t argue that this sort of racist act, hate crimes actually, does not occur in Japan. It does; anti-Korean demonstrations and vandalism are good examples of what I consider hate crimes.

        However, Mr McNeil’s article at least doesn’t refer to anything remotely resembling hate crimes against him. His examples, e.g., Japanese people avoiding him, are more “benign” (borrowing your word) than, say, going out of the way to damage properties owned by Koreans living in Japan.

        I happen to believe that most forms of racist act are indeed benign, unintentional, reflecting more on the ignorance of the person who does it, as opposed to any malicious intent.

        As someone who lived in America for 26 yrs as a Japanese national, I did have my share of discriminatory things said or done to me. In fact, that was almost daily occurrence (like mockingly bowing to me, as soon as they knew I was born in Japan). But I wouldn’t call them “racists,” since I don’t want to trivialize this word.

        I’m pretty sure that non-Japanese people are discriminated by Japanese people in Japan. That’s just the way it is.

        And, believe me, I do understand how frustrating discrimination is to a person discriminated, however benign the intent might be.

        But I’m telling anyone that, it’s really no use to get constantly angry at people who actually have no idea that their acts are discriminatory. It’s clear that Mr McNeil knows this.

        Finally, when I was in America, I had a few Japanese expat friends who were absolutely convinced that every single American was a racist looking down on him. He wasn’t very happy.

      • Steve Jackman

        With all due respect, given that you’re a Japanese who’s been out of Japan for thirty years, don’t you think you should recuse yourself from a discussion about racism encountered by foreigners in Japan?

        Believe me, the depth and breadth of racism and racial discrimination in Japan is much greater than you think, and it goes much beyond the racism encountered by Korean residents of Japan.

      • KenjiAd

        No, I don’t think anyone is disqualified to express opinions. We could have a field day debating who, you or me, has a right to say something on this important issue, but do you think it will be useful?

        I would, however, be very interested in your assertion that “… depth and breadth of racism and racial discrimination in Japan is much
        greater than you [I] think, and it goes much beyond the racism encountered
        by Korean residents of Japan.” [ ] is mine.

        Can you substantiate this claim? In particular, your original claim – I quote “… Japanese racists often go out of their way to commit racist acts against non-Japanese victims. It is as if they derive great pleasure and a sense of empowerment by commiting racist acts.”

        I reply, I said I’ve seen it committed against Koreans living in Japan. You said, it’s not just Koreans. Who else? For example, is there any incident in which a non-Japanese was targeted for some criminal acts? How often does it happen? Anecdotes evidences would be fine. I’m not one of silly people who demand statistical evidences as if the inability to provide them would somehow discredit the opinion of their opponent. I do think you must have seen or heard some terrible racist incidents in Japan. Can you tell us that?

        I’m aware that non-Japanese people are discriminated in housing, employment, marriage, for example. I have a non-Japanese wife who used to live in Japan by the way. The housing discrimination was common place when I was in Japan. My wife suffered from it. And the housing discrimination was not even illegal at least at that time. How about now?

        The problem of this type of discrimination, however, is compounded by the fact that the perpetrator of discrimination, in this case the landlord, does not even think his/her action is discriminatory.

      • James

        Interesting debate guys. I can vouch for Steve here. As a caucasian I myself have been racially discriminated against while living in Japan; the most severe case I have heard of personally. Earlier this year, with full knowledge that a non-Japanese person lived in my house (non-Japanese people have lived there for the past 30 years), someone felt it appropriate to defecate outside my doorstep. If that’s not racist I don’t know what is. It only really hit me when I had to clean it up, but that was one of the scariest things I had ever been through and it happened in a country where you are claiming racism is only directed towards a minority of cultures. I accept it is in the extreme minority of cases, but it does indeed happen.

      • Oliver Mackie

        “Earlier this year, with full knowledge that a non-Japanese person lived in my house (non-Japanese people have lived there for the past 30 years), someone felt it appropriate to defecate outside my doorstep. If that’s not racist I don’t know what is.”

        Sorry, there is a lot of unwarranted assumption in this, IF it is a full account of events (and if it is not, please add details.) How do you know that the person who defecated outside your doorstep knew that a foreign person was living there? Your assertion that (s)he must have known because of the 30-year history falls apart if the person was not familiar with the local area. Furthermore, how do you know that they did it for that reason. Heavily drunk people often relieve themselves in unusual places for the only reason that they cannot wait.

      • Steve Jackman

        Deniers will deny. Many people still believe that the holocaust never happened and that Obama is an illegal immigrant who was born in Kenya.

      • Oliver Mackie


        Asking for sufficient evidence is not denial. Please do not link my comments to holocaust denial. Occam’s razor applies here, there are other simpler explanations for what happened, believe me (without going into more detail about myself than I want) I have direct experience in such matters (i.e. drunken defecation in places other than those designated.) Indeed, the nature of deliberate acts of racist aggression is that they are rarely isolated, but usually get repeated (with variations) so there is a stronger evidence requirement here (unless the account was incomplete.) Deniers will deny, and accusers will accuse.

      • Steve Jackman

        Oliver, as I wrote in my other comment here in response to James’ original comment, his is not the first time I have heard of someone defecating or leaving sheets of toilet paper laced with human feces in front of the home where there were clearly foreigners living (caucasians, in both these cases).

        In all my years of living in Japan, I have never heard of this happening to a Japanese person. Given that the ratio of Japanese to foreign households in Japan is roughly 99:1, it is statistically highly unlikely that these two foreign victims were picked at random.

      • Oliver Mackie

        Again, two cases in ten years, recorded by someone who was actively looking(!)

      • Steve Jackman

        Finally, the mask comes off and you show your true colors, Gordon.

      • James

        Oliver, you’re quite right. You’ll just have to take my word on it, and be glad that it didn’t happen to you. It was deep in the countryside where there aren’t many travelers from out of town, about 10 minutes’ walk from the nearest train station, and anyway, how many times have you seen someone defecate on a random person’s doorstep? I’m sorry, but it sounds pretty obvious to me, perhaps if you were the victim you would understand better.

      • Oliver Mackie


        I take your word for it, now that the full story has been told. My sympathies, it must have been quite a trauma to have gone through.

      • Steve Jackman

        James, this is interesting, since it is the second time I’ve heard this happening to a caucasian in Japan. The first time I heard of such an incident was a few years ago, when someone left several sheets of toilet paper laced with human feces in front of the door of a caucasian couple living in the Tokyo area. The name of the couple living there was written outside their home, so it was clear that foreigners lived there. I wonder if this sort of thing is a pattern in Japan.

      • Oliver Mackie

        So you’ve heard of two cases in ten years….

      • Steve Jackman

        Oliver, do you really expect to be taken seriously by making comments like this?

      • Oliver Mackie

        Do you expect to be taken seriously when you consistently fail to support your clams of vast and increasing amounts (your words, “on a daily basis”, “Often…I have seen”, “More…than anywhere else in the world”, “increase”) of such incidents? Given the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of NJ in Japan, involved in millions of encounters (of all kinds) on a daily basis, the most you (someone who is clearly focusing on this topic, in cooperation with a few others) can come up with is two incidents involving feces…to which you add “I wonder of this sort of thing is a pattern in Japan.” Talk about looking for something that’s not there! One doesn’t need a degree in statistics to realize that this is non-news.
        Nobody has said that these things never happen, they happen in every country, often to a much greater degree however. The UK has a mainstream political party built around an anti-immigration policy which just got 25% of the vote in European elections. Need I remind you of the racial tensions currently in the news in the US? The onus is on you to either back up the (as yet) unsupported claims you are making or tone them down to match the scant evidence you have.

      • Steve Jackman

        My claims are fully supported, if only you would bother to do a search on past articles and readers’ comments in the archives of this newspaper using keywords “racism” and “discrimination”, or by reading accounts of hundreds of foreign residents on Dr. Debito Arudou’s website, about how they have been victimized by racists in Japan over years. If these are not enough, then read the United Nations’ recent report on Japan about racism and violation of human rights, which is extremely critical of Japan.

      • Oliver Mackie

        As you keep saying, and the evidence you have cited, in totality, points to nothing other than an extremely low incidence indeed. ‘Hundreds of accounts’ collected over years given the number of encounters that have taken place, is a tiny tiny drop indeed, even if one acknowledges that they represent not all. Additionally, you choose to ignore the so much vastly greater amount of positive experience (kindness, help, friendship) that many NJ have experienced.

      • Steve Jackman

        You are clearly not interested in a serious or honest discussion about this topic, so I’m done with you. Goodbye!

      • KenjiAd

        James, I know my comment might upset you, but you actually don’t know if that was a racist incident. You are interpreting it as a racist incident, and you may be right. But your interpretation is not based on the particular incident per se (someone pooping in front of your house), but because of your belief that this sort of thing could happen to you in Japan.

        It is entirely possible that, as you said, some racist wanted to intimidate you. If that’s the case, the intimidation will likely continue, because most racists would not be satisfied until the objective is met.

        If it didn’t, I can tell you what might have happened. II think that some drunken guy pooped it. How do I know that? Well I don’t, but I do know that if you go to a dark corner with lots of bars around, a kind of place that only Japanese people go, you actually can see it happening. People are releasing it, even “big” ones. So it’s possible, again not saying that’s what happened, that whoever pooped it just happened to do it in front of your house.

        Again I’m not dismissing your interpretation. I’m merely pointing out that, sometimes under the siege mentality, the feeling that I do understand, people often misinterpret an incident to fit it to their pre-existing fear. Been there, done that.

      • James

        Yeah I understand that, and I like to think that way so I feel less victimised. It’s just under the circumstances it certainly did not feel that way. I have since moved from there and have come to terms with it. I may not have been clear in my earlier comment where I said that it is the extreme minority; my way of looking at it now is that the person who did it did not know me as a person, they only took me at face value, which in no way reflects the many many wonderful Japanese people I have met and interacted with up until now.

      • Steve Jackman

        KenjiAd, you seem woefully ignorant of the seriousness of racism and racial discrimination in Japan. I guess, it shouldn’t surprise me, since according to your own comments here, you’re a Japanese who has been living outside of Japan for 30 years.

        Racists, especially in Japan, are extremely cowardly people. They often hide in crowds and anonymity. There are a lot of one-time racist acts committed by these people against foreigners, which I refer to as “drive-by” racist acts. They do not have a business card, with “Racist” printed on it. However, for foreign victims of racism in Japan, it is easy for them to connect the dots that these acts against them are driven by racism, since they are targeted on an almost daily basis by these Japanese racists.

        As I have also stated in my other comment here, James’ account of someone defecating infront of his door is not the first time I have heard of a caucasian being targeted with such a racist act. A few years ago, there was another caucasian couple living in Japan who were targeted in a similar manner, when someone left several sheets of toilet paper laced with human feces in front of their home.

      • KenjiAd

        One more thing I can tell you.

        As I said earlier, I lived in American for 26 years. I don’t recall any serious racist incident at all. Honest. But one of my Japanese expats friends, who lived in America for 10 years and left – he kept telling me a story after story of how racist many Americans are.

        He talked about the way a guy at convenience store “snickers” at him – But I just think that the guy was simply trying to smile to a customer. And you know some people end up looking like snickering when they are smiling. lol

        He talked about how a waitress, a Caucasian female, was ignoring his table – But waitresses ignore tables all the time, you know? He doesn’t know the lazy waitress was ignoring him because of his race. Yet he was convinced.

        The list goes on and on.

        Maybe I’m optimistic. Maybe I’m ignorant. But I do believe that expats in general tend to see negatives more than positives in a country they live. That’s unfortunate, because you (generic “you”, not you James) really can’t put yourself into a siege mentality that people around you do not like you and want you to disappear. If you keep feeling this way (I suspect Steve was one when he was in Japan), you are fighting an un-winnable battle everyday and eventually get so tired.

        So I take an attitude that, when in doubt, try to believe the goodness of people around me. Remember, I live in China now. And not a whole lot of people like my nationality. I can’t afford to let me into the seige mentality here. lol

        Steve, you seem like angry at a lot of things that people in Japan did to you. I really have nothing to say. Hope you are happier now. Not everyone can live happily in a foreign culture.

      • Steve Jackman

        KenjiAd, you are very wrong on two accounts. First, I am still living in Japan. Second, I am absolutely NOT angry. Pointing out that racism and racial discrimination is a serious problem in Japan does not make one angry.

        Wrongly accusing people like me of being angry, when all we are doing is pointing to the obvious racism which exists everywhere in Japan, is right out of the playbook of those Japanese like yourself who do everything possible to whitewash and deny the problem of racism in Japan. You guys always try to discredit the messenger and make it a personal issue, whereas, it is anything but.

      • Oliver Mackie

        “all we are doing is pointing to the obvious racism which exists everywhere in Japan”

        If by everywhere you mean everyone, then you are way off the mark. If you are referring to a very very small minority pretty evenly spread among the population, the we are on the same page (but where’s the news in that fact?)

      • Oliver Mackie

        and “all we are doing” can be read two ways, might be a telling use of language there.
        Not angry, but with perhaps an extremely disproportionate focus on the negative, given it’s relative rarity and great abundance of the positive.

      • Steve Jackman

        Oliver, tell me once again the positive aspects of bigotry, prejudice, xenophobia, racism and racial discrimination?

      • Oliver Mackie

        None. That’s not what I said. Those things represent a tiny percentage of behavio(u)r here with most behavio(u)r being of the positive kind.

        But ‘all you are doing’ is focusing on that. Even the poster who had his doorstep defecated on said “I may not have been clear in my earlier comment where I said that it is the extreme minority.”

      • Steve Jackman

        You’re wrong on both counts. Foreigners in Japan have to contend with racism, xenophobia and racial discrimination on an almost daily basis in areas of employment, housing, dealings with police and judiciary, and while using Japanese businesses such as restaurants, shops, department stores, sports gym and barber shops, etc.

        In regards to James, who posted the comment about someone defecating on his doorsteps, you are misrepresenting the entirety of his comments and even contradicting your own response to him, in which you wrote to him, “it must have been quite a trauma to have gone through”.

      • Oliver Mackie

        Contradicting myself by acknowledging that it happened in that particular case, must have been a trauma, but is generally extremely rare as he also stated and your own posts support. Lost me there…

      • Steve Jackman

        I suggest you read the recent report by the United Nations documenting racism and abuse of human rights of minorities in Japan, which is extremely critical of Japan, before you write any more comments here.

      • Steve Jackman

        It truly baffles the mind how you are asking me to substantiate my claims about widespread racism in Japan, as if this comes as a complete surprise to you and you are a complete newbie to this topic. If you want to have an honest discussion about racism and racial discrimination in Japan, then I would expect you to have some basic knowledge about this issue. Otherwise, as I said earlier, you’re just being disingenuous (to which you seem to have taken offense).

        Please use the search function of this newspaper using keywords “racism”, “discrimination” and “Steve Jackman” (for my previous comments on this topic), and you will find plenty of stuff to substantiate my claims. Furthermore, I suggest you visit the Website of Dr. Debito Arudou, since he has been diligently documenting cases in Japan of racism and racial discrimination on his website for many years.

      • saitamarama

        This whole discussion between you two has pretty much lead me to the conclusion that Kenji has pretty much “got it.” I find it curious that you find it okay to attack him for “not being in the country” when a large portion of his commentary is related towards comparing his own experiences as a Japanese expat in a foreign country; yet you give Debito a pass despite having been living overseas yet seeing fit to continue running commentary on the current Japanese zeitgeist despite hardly referencing so much as a TV show or article.

        Frankly, I do agree that I find some of Kenji’s views suspect given the amount of time he has been outside of Japan. However, unlike Steve, he comes as a relatively level-headed gent who isn’t flying off at the handle in a calvacade of condescension and negativity where I wonder why he even bothers staying overseas.

        Unlike Baye’s last article, I don’t really have much here that connects for me, so I’m going to keep my commentary limited to this observation.

  • Paul Johnny Lynn

    I wish I could say my 15-plus years in Japan have been different Baye, but sadly I can’t. People crossing the street when they see me, choosing the stairs instead of the lift ‘cos I’m there first, empty seat either side of me on a packed train, etc, etc. It’s probably one of the big reasons I’m a semi-hikkikomori on my days off. Naturally not everyone is like this, but it’s my estimate the bigger percentage are.

  • ceugb

    “I give them a plastic grin, move away or say something in Japanese, which tends to help at times.”
    This may be something I need to learn to do, the plastic grin part. Catch me on the right or wrong day I do say something in Japanese but it doesn’t really help much. I think in all my years living here I went through a couple of phased. The first one was the one you described as your first, second I ignored them, now the third is the mouthy person that has something to say (in Japanese of course) …and a lot of times not so nice.
    Don’t get me wrong, I see Japan for what it is and over the years I’ve come to know its not all Japanese people, a few but sometimes those few really do rub you the wrong way.
    Another great read Bae, I actually found myself doing the Japanese “um, um, um, as I read it.

  • Wuppimon

    The longer I stay in Japan and the more I get to know Japan and its people the less I respect them, the more I feel sorry for them and the less bothered I become about the petty racism that some complain about! Don’t worry about Japanese, they are very, very ‘little’ people who, on average, don’t add up to what you are!

    I have less and less respect for them because of their refusal to accept responsibility for their historical or current wrongdoings and their grubby attempts to sweep everything under the carpet and continue pretending that they are perfect and ‘exceptional’! They were exceptional at one point only because they were the only Asians copying the West. Now however, everyone is doing it and hence the Chinese and Koreans have overtaken Japan. I really enjoy reading about the decline of corporate Japan and what this means for their ‘exceptionalism’!

    I feel sorry for Japanese because while trying to maintain the facade of being ‘unique’ and ‘exceptional’, they are (individually and collectively) putting themselves under great strain and hence the high rates of suicide, depression, anger and mental illness. Japanese just need to let go an act normal!

    I understand that the idea of Japanese ‘exceptionalism’ arose because they weren’t accepted as equals by the West and of course didn’t want to associate with their FELLOW Asians. I find it hilarious because Japanese are so obviously NOT exceptional in ANY way and I also find it rather sad because Japanese aren’t happy with being Asian and I think that it’s very sad when people get up everyday and aren’t happy with the way they look and what they are.

    I look at myself and most of the foreigners I come across and can say that WE are quite exceptional: most of us are very intelligent, educated, well-travelled and come from good families. All of this has given me a certain sense of confidence and stood me in good stead. I’m NEVER bothered with what mostly provincial and ignorant Japanese people think and neither should you be!

    • Steve Jackman

      I completely agree with you that there are too many petty and “little” people in Japan. They use racism as a crutch to prop themselves up and to distract from the fact that they are intellectual midgets. By and far, the foreigners I meet in Japan are of a much higher intellectual stature than the local Japanese.

      Japanese people’s racism, ignorance and insularity used to bother me, but now I just feel sorry for them. Many of these people fall in the category of not even knowing what they don’t know, so they are deserving of our pity.

      • Oliver Mackie

        “By and far, the foreigners I meet in Japan are of a much higher intellectual stature than the local Japanese.”

        ‘By far’ or ‘by and large’? Either way, this is hardly surprising. To be a foreigner working in Japan, you have to be a university graduate. And, by definition, NJ working overseas in Japan are far more ‘traveled’ than both the average Japanese and citizen of our home countries.

        “Many of these people fall in the category of not even knowing what they don’t know, so they are deserving of our pity.”

        No, if they deserve anything, they deserve our sympathy.

      • Steve Davis

        Wow Mr. Steve you really in denial that you hate Japan, but you live there. The Japanese people can see your hate for them and that’s why they act negative towards you.

  • Court Merrigan

    During my time in Japan, I finally concluded that Japanese without significant international experience (i.e., the vast majority of the population) are akin to hillbillys with TVs – they’ve simply no experience with difference, and so gawk as someone out of the hills might on their first trip to the big city seeing all the big tall buildings & different-looking people in meatspace for the first time. This is as true in Aomori as it is in Tokyo. It’s not their fault, really; but it sure does get tiresome.

    • Shaun O’Dwyer

      Pretty much the same in pre-multicultural Australia, New Zealand and the UK, though there was also racist hostility to Black, indigenous and Asian people then too. And sometimes there still is.

    • Steve Jackman

      My sentiments, exactly. I think many foreigners only look at the facade of Japan and wrongly assume that all that glitters is gold. In reality, and once they scratch the surface, they see the true hillbilly heart which beats underneath all the glitter.

      • It’s the same thing here in Canada. I cannot understand why anyone would want to move here, but everyone seems to say they want to and say how beautiful it must be despite having never been here.

        The facades abound in each country.

        I haven’t been to Japan enough to formulate an opinion but my last trip I did notice how outside I really felt. Probably a lot like a Japanese family feels when they first move here.

        A very interesting and well written article.

      • Steve Jackman

        Canada is one of the most multicultural countries in the world, whereas, Japan is on the other end of the spectrum. Not sure, how you can compare the two.

      • Oliver Mackie

        “I think many foreigners only look at the facade of Japan and wrongly assume that all that glitters is gold. In reality, and once they scratch the surface, they see the true hillbilly heart which beats underneath all the glitter.”

        But who created the facade? Seems to me that many NJ created it for themselves and came here expecting the very cutting-edge of world society, though I have no idea why, and have been disappointed with a reality that is not so different from many places in the world, though still far better than most in some aspects.

      • Steve Jackman

        I blame the Japanese more than non-Japanese for creating the facade, since they are the ones who are in complete denial that Japanese society has a serious problem with issues like racism and racial discrimination. It is this lack of honesty by the Japanese people which is largely responsible for the facade.

      • Gordon Graham

        Luckily for the Japanese they have English conversation teachers who’ve majored in Women’s Studies and Anthropology to tell them what’s what.

    • Oliver Mackie

      “they’ve simply no experience with difference, and so gawk….It’s not their fault, really”

      Exactly, and it is a phase which will pass with time. Talk to NJ who came here in the 60s…every single time they walked into a restaurant (outside of the very very center of Tokyo) every single diner would stop eating and stare. Doesn’t happen now. Come back in 20 years, most of the behavio(u)r noted in this article will have gone. The laws will have changed too.

      • Steve Jackman

        I wouldn’t be so sure. Change is not always for the better, since sometimes it can be for the worse. Living in Japan, I have seen nationalism, xenophobia, racism and racial discrimination increase in Japan over the last few years, so the trend is not good.

      • Oliver Mackie

        Evidence please. How one individual can observe ‘an increase’ in a population so large is beyond me. And I don’t just mean an increase in recorded cases.
        My observations are based (among other samples) on changes I have witnessed among the 240 new 11-year-old kids who come under my charge each year, every year, over many years. These kids are taken from a cross-section of Tokyo residences, so represent a decent and stable sample. English skills are better, overseas experience has increased, views on Japanese uniqueness are way down, bullying of the NJ members is non-existent. Also, as I posted before, there is total consensus among those who came here on the 60s and 70s that less-and-less of the ‘gawking’ behaviour occurs, something which tallies with expected changes as any culturally sheltered population gets more and more exposed to outsiders.

      • Steve Jackman

        There is plenty of evidence and hundreds of testimonials by foreigners living in Japan about the racism and racial discrimination they encounter on a daily basis. Just do a search in this newspaper’s archives using keywords, “racism”, “discrimination” and “steve jackman” (the last one is for my previous comments about this topic). Also, take a look at the website of Dr. Debito Arudou for evidence, since he has been diligently documenting cases of racism and racial discrimination in Japan for many years on his website.

      • Oliver Mackie

        Yes, but that is not evidence of an increase, merely of an increase in attempts to record it.

  • Steve Jackman

    I have seen more intellectually lazy people in Japan than anywhere else in the world. This intellectual laziness and numbness is one of the reasons why they would rather judge people as groups and not as individuals. It is easier for them to stereotype and generalize groups, but it takes more effort to get to know people as individuals.

    • iago

      This appears to be a human trait rather than a uniquely Japanese one.

      • Steve Jackman

        It’s a matter of degree, not kind, which I’m referring to.

  • Squidhead

    I’m confused…is this article about Japanese or Americans?

  • A GG

    Having travelled to Japan on several occasions for long periods of time; I can really relate to the author and some of those who commented… I travelled throughout Japan but primarily in Tokyo. While in Tokyo I stayed in Roppongi Hills with a buddy who was temporarily transferred there from the states. Totally different culture in Roppongi Hills from the norm in other parts of the city or country. Very westernized. Almost felt a sense of belonging Roppongi. Outside of that comfort zone it felt like I was constantly being judged or stared at. Was it because I was a foreigner; maybe because I was American or was it that I didn’t know the culture. Tell you what, you learn tradition fast and whatever you do don’t display your tattoos!!Definitely felt many moments of not belonging there and wanting to be back in my comfort zone. It’s felt strange to try and make friends because I always felt judged or made to feel stupid, but in the Japanese culture I guess I really was… It hard to be a foreigner living in Japan. You either make it or don’t. It’s a balance of your tradition and theirs. You must make friends with the locals but always have friends your familiar with, otherwise you’ll feel alienated by one or the other. Life can be difficult for Americans there and adjusting at times seems pointless. I love the culture, love the locals and the few dear friends I’ve made there’re will forever be part of me. For those who wish to travel there I say it’s a wonderful experience and something to always remember. You’ll definitely bring back a piece of Japan back home with you. Those wishing to work and live there; whether short term or long. Be prepared for the adjustment.

    • Steve Jackman

      “I always felt judged or made to feel stupid”.

      Ah, I see you too fell for this trick by the Japanese. Don’t worry, this is straight out of the playbook and is one of the most common tactics used by the Japanese against foreigners (especially, those who are new to Japan).

      In reality, this is nothing more than a racist attempt by the Japanese to establish a hierarchy and to put the foreigner in his place of subordination. It is also used by the Japanese as a shield to hide behind with all their insecurities and inferiority complexes. Don’t fall for this absurdity, since you do not suddenly become stupid just because you are in another country.

    • KenjiAd

      I used to be a moderator of a newsgroup frequented by expats living in Japan where Japan/Japanese-bashing was the sport. lol

      I noticed a few fairly common pattern among those expats.

      The westerners who start living in Japan, many of them at least, will get very frustrated initially. Particularly the ones who had a rosy expectation of Japan before they went there – they would be invariably almost devastated by the reality.

      This is normal. Culture shock. From there, however, they diverge into two distinct groups.

      One group of expats would isolate themselves to a small group of like-minded expats and keep complaining. They usually don’t stay long in Japan because they can’t stand it. But even after they go back, some of them would still come to the discussion group and keep complaining.

      The other group would slowly adjust to the reality of their new environment. While they sometimes complain, they never becomes any sort of Japan hater. They always have many Japanese friends to socialize and their Japanese language skills improve over time.

      It’s the same for Japanese expats living in America. I’ve seen two distinct types of J expats.

      An interesting question is what exactly differentiates these two kinds of expats? It’s strange, don’t you think? Both groups of people experience basically the same culture shock.

      I have a theory, which may be totally wrong. But I’m going to say it just as a food for thought.

      I think it has a lot do with the degree of ethnocentrism the expat him/herself possesses. If you are an American and strongly believe American virtues, chances are you would not do well in Japan. Why? Because, as Mr McNeil mentions, Japan forces you to throw out some of the American virtues you consider essential to your identity.

      But if you are not strongly ethnocentric, it’s easier to adapt yourself to a different culture.

      It’s not that one is right and the other is wrong. It is quite natural for a person to identify him/herself with a particular culture that s/he grew up with. But if you start judging people in a different culture, solely from your point of view, that’s where stress comes in, I think.

      • Steve Jackman

        You are again being disingenuous. If you have been following the articles and comments about racism and racial discrimination in this newspaper and on the Website run by Dr. Debito Arudou, you should know that racism and racial discrimination in Japan affects non-Japanese of all races, nationalities, and ages, ragardless of their language ability and length of stay in Japan.

        You have stated in your other comment here that you are a Japanese whose been living outside of Japan for the last 30 years. So, my question is when exactly were you moderating a group of expats in Japan? I have been an expat in Japan for over a decade and have met countless other expats here during that time. Your pseudo-analysis of the different types of expats in Japan is completely off the mark and an absurd theory. Since, you’ve never been an expat in Japan yourself, I suggest you spare us your such nonsense.

      • Oliver Mackie

        As an expat of 23 years experience, I find his (somewhat simple, it is true) model quite an accurate description. I’m not sure if the cause he postulates is correct. I had, of my own accord, assigned it more to an a variation ability/willingness to accept the concept that most contemporary cultures are essentially of equal value.

      • Steve Jackman

        You caught a minor typo I made in my comment below, so I hope you can be as diligent in editing your own comment here so I can comprehend what you’re trying to say.

        What exactly do you mean by, “I had, of my own accord, assigned it more to an a variation ability/willingness to accept the concept that most contemporary cultures are essentially of equal value”?

      • Oliver Mackie


        I am happy to clarify my comments, and thanks for pointing out that they are far-from-simple to comprehend (despite being typed perfectly!)

        What I mean is that, I personally believe that all contemporary societies deserve equal respect. My reasoning is that, by virtue of being in existence in the present, they all represent the best current efforts of societies to deal with the circumstances (economic, geographical, external to their own society, etc) in which they find themselves.

        There are some common trends which can be found among human history, especially more so since different societies have come more and more into contact with each other. Many examples abound, e.g. a general trend towards emancipation of women (which of course must have stemmed from a common case of subjugation of women in the past), the common stages of economic development, agricultural development, industrialization, modern capitalism (including environmental damage)…..Of course there are variations, but the core trends seem quite clear (though not in advance.)

        All societies are not at the same stage of development, of course,

      • Steve Jackman

        I think you’re over analyzing. Sometimes, one just has to call a spade a spade.

        And, um, sorry, you’re giving yourself too much credit. Your earlier comment was anything but perfectly typed.

      • Oliver Mackie

        “And, um, sorry, you’re giving yourself too much credit. Your earlier comment was anything but perfectly typed.”


      • Oliver Mackie

        “I think you’re over analyzing.”

        Only in response to your request for further clarification. I hold this as a ‘belief’, a gut feeling if you like, as I suspect those who feel the opposite (you perhaps?) do to.

      • Oliver Mackie

        And besides one person’s “simply calling a spade a spade” is another’s lack of intellectual rigo(u)r…

      • Steve Jackman

        KenjiAd, you still have not answered my question about how it is possible that you used to be a moderator of a newsgroup frequented by expats in Japan, when you have admitted in your other comments that you are a Japanese who has been living outside of Japan for 30 years. As far as I know, internet newsgroups did not exist 30 years ago. Have I caught you red handed playing fast and loose with the truth?

        Please explain your statement in the comment above that, “I used to be a moderator of a newsgroup frequented by expats in Japan where Japan/Japanese-bashing was a sport. lol”, when you’ve been living out of Japan for thirty years, according to your other comments here.

      • Oliver Mackie


        He didn’t say he was a moderator 30 years ago and, unless I’m mistaken, you don’t need to be anywhere in particular to moderate a newsgroup.
        He said he moderated a newsgroup which was frequented by expats living in Japan. You’ve caught him with absolutely nothing.

      • Steve Jackman

        How can someone moderate a newsgroup of expats living in Japan, if the person has himself been living outside the country for 30 years? A moderator needs to have local knowledge about what’s happening on the ground and the issues affecting expats in Japan, in order to be an effectice moderator. In any event, as I said, I’m done discussing this topic with you, since you do not seem to want to have a serious and honest discussion.

      • Oliver Mackie

        Don’t disagree with your description of an ideal moderator. But anyone can actually moderate a discussion board. You accused him of lying about the fact that he had actually done it.

  • Steve Jackman

    I agree, this is a very well written article. It is the best one yet of Baye’s series in The JT. After reading this, I feel bad for my somewhat harsh comment criticising Baye’s style of writing, which I posted after reading his first article in this series. Good work, Baye, keep it up!

  • bball jones

    I feel you on the search for wa stuff and “eightfold fence” man. just trying to stay mindful– by listening to the bird chirps on the station platform or whatever– and finding a way to transcend it all.

    Japan is like a wise old teacher beating us over the head with a stick. Ideally at some point during our stay in Japan, we conquer our Pai Mei’s and graduate to the next level. Like you, I’m on a personal quest to “leave” the struggle here, but remain in Japan physically. Going back to the States to me seems like “giving up too soon.” Jumping ship, before things really start to get better…
    AND/OR its just scary to think about going back to the hood.

    It may feel like we are giving up/trading something off here, but its more about learning to enjoy this time we are blessed with and the embracing our own true sense of being.

    “Want what you get at this moment.”
    — E.T.

  • BRad

    Good read. Very interesting but I definitely agree. The history represents the xenophobic ideology of this country. Its sad to see this because I am Japanese (American). I feel like time and globalization(which is happening now) are key things we need right now. By 2020 when the Olympics come around, things will hopefully be easier/better.

  • Oliver Mackie

    This article deserves some credit for its writing style, and clearly comes from sincere emotions based on real experience, but I must confess I am a bit confused. The articles is entitled ‘A high price to pay for a little piece of mind’ which suggests that, either the author has acquired a little peace of mind but has had to pay a high price, or that the author has decided that the high price of a little peace of mind isn’t worth paying.
    He states, “(m)y life in Japan has often called into question the universality of an ideal she held in high regard: One should refrain from judging other humans by anything other than the content of their character.” As I read this, the author is saying that he is starting to generalize about the Japanese like other NJ do (he cites some examples) but that he feels some conflict about this, versus the principle that his mother tried to instill in him, i.e. treat each individual only by their character.
    The author them goes on to detail various acts of ‘racism’ which he has encountered, which have led him to start to generalize about the Japanese (that they are racist.) I have no doubt that the incidents happened as reported. He then details how he has decided to label these acts as those of ‘exceptions’ in order to avoid abandoning his principle and starting to generalize by calling all Japanese racists. What the article is basically saying, however, is that in general, Japanese are racists of a certain type (labelled by some in the comments as ‘benign’ but this qualification is disputed by others.)
    If I have read the article correctly, then the problem I have is this: the incidents that he has reported are, in fact, very much the exception rather than the rule. I don’t know how often the author has to go though such incidents but, even of it were an average of one per day, in a city as large and crowded as Tokyo, it would mean that the of the several thousand people he must encounter/travel alongside/pass by each day, less than 0.1% of them react in such ways. Given that some of the acts he has detailed can be seen in a more benign light (though some most certainly cannot) and the fact that I doubt he has had such experiences anything close to every single day he has been here (though I am of course willing to be corrected on that if I am wrong) then I don’t see how the evidence given points at all to racism among the Japanese in general.
    I think the author may be confusing the frequency of occurence of all kinds of behaviour, simply due to the vastly increased number of contacts (in the broadest sense) with people, due to the nature of the crowded existence all of us lead here. Should I infer that in general Japanese play their personal stereos too loud on the train (I encounter this almost daily)? That they are selfish and don’t give up their seats on the train to elderly people? Or that they are kind and do? (I encounter both behaviours almost daily.)
    I don’t want to dismiss the emotional impact of the negative experiences that the author has encountered, but I see very little evidence given to allow him to justify abandoning the very sound principle his mother tried to instill. The same glass can be seen as either half empty or half full. At the very least, the author’s glass seems to be very much full, leaving no other justification necessary for labeling exceptions as such than the fact that that is what they truly are.
    (Now, if you want to talk about the Japanese media, then I would likely be much more in agreement with many of the comments here….)

  • nellsonne

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  • LinguaJunkie

    Very well written. Thank you.

  • JatinChittoor

    Great article!! I truly understand how you feel. Unfortunately people are afraid of change and don’t tend to change so easily. I hope for a world where stereotypes, discrimination and racism are non existent.

    If Japan wants to improve its economy and wants to host the 2020 Olympics, their attitude towards gaijins has to change. But then again Japan is quite a socially backward nation. I’m looking forward to my trip to Japan during the Olympics and see how people react to my color lol.

  • Oliver Mackie

    Oh, so it’s Japanese children you’re referring to. Give them a break, they’re only kids. And I find it hard to believe that this is the case with anything close to every Japanese child they encounter, as your use of ‘whenever a Japanese child’ suggests. Finally, asking someone to ‘say something in English’ suggests simply curiosity, not something that we want to discourage in our young ones. Does every Japanese child then refuse to converse with them any further in Japanese and insist that they converse in English only? Seems unlikely…..

  • Oliver Mackie

    “2017/18, this is when the racism of this country will truly hit everyone hard. When everyone starts losing their jobs just because their companies/schools don’t want to give foreigners permanent positions and have to give them all the extra benefits that go with it.”

    Please clarify your prediction here. Why will everyone start losing their jobs? And why in 2017/18?

    If domestic companies find that they need foreign labo(u)r to fill positions that were previously filled by Japanese workers, why will they stop giving the benefits that previously went with those positions?

    If you are referring to an influx of manual workers to do construction work, then those positions have never included such benefits, whether the employee is Japanese or not.

    “You’ll always hear Japanese people and most foreign people tell you how polite Japanese are.”

    Actually, you’ll hear most Japanese people whom you come to know better than just meeting them once agree that Japanese are not particularly polite, compared to people anywhere. They will agree that Japanese tend towards formality in many situations, not the same thing.

    You’ll hear most foreign short-term visitors to Japan, or those that have met Japanese overseas, tell you that Japanese people are polite, because that is their experience.

  • Wuppimon

    I NEVER said anything like that! All I’m saying is that when people think that they’ve been badly treated by Japanese, they should remember that (1) Japanese aren’t as angelic/perfect as they’d like you to think and (2) the affected person should NEVER forget their worth as a (equal) human being, which as some have pointed out can be affected by microaggressions.

  • Steve Davis

    This discussion is a little funny to me, its like having a bag of foreign cry babies, worrying about someone not liking them. Yes if you look at the world in a negative light you will see a negative world. I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas, I am an African American male, my mother taught us that there will always be people that don’t like us, but we have to stand tall and shown the world the beauty within us and people will feel it and appreciate being around you. Most people don’t know what racism is,I am from a country that was built on racism, enslaved black people, denied them rights and black men was strange fruit hanging for trees in the southern parts. Today young black men are still being killed by the Police and other black in certain cities. So, I know about black history and racism. People on here are just crying about nothing. My wife and I look at the world as something beautiful, and we see the beautiful things, not the negative. We really don’t see the people who don’t like us. Here is Yamauchi, Japan the people have treated my family and I wonderfully, my kids are treated good at their schools, and have a tons of friends. many old people stop and talk with them and even give them gifts, my kids love it here in Japan. My self, I been treated amazing, people smile and greet me, and many try to talk with me. they can tell I have respect for them and Japan and enjoy being around them. The Arthur see people crossing the street when he coming, I see middle school kids and others smile and trying to speak to me. The Arthur see people afraid of him and walking faster, I see 20 or more extra people show up for Judo practices, because my family and I are doing judo with them and they are curious about our life experience in the states. Basically, I am saying a person will see what they choose to see. If, you are culturally sensitive and care about what everyone thinks about you, don’t leave home or move to places where you are not the majority. I am from Texas and if you don’t like Texas, get the hell out, and if you don’t like Japan and its people, please leave. People want to cry about a place they decided to live. I never let being black stop, me from doing anything, I will like everyone and I will never expect everyone to like me. Most people will be more comfortable being around people whom are more like themselves, its not racist, it a fact. I choose to look at the world in a beautiful way, and Japan is a beautiful place.