Time to burst your bubble and face reality


I want to open by saying: Look, I get it. I get why many people (particularly the native speakers of English, who are probably the majority of readers here) come to Japan and stay on.

After all, the incentives are so clear at the beginning. Right away, you were bedazzled by all the novelty, the differences, the services, the cleanliness, the safety and relative calm of a society so predicated on order. You might even have believed that people are governed by quaint and long-lamented things like “honor” and “duty.”

Not that the duties and sacrifices necessary to maintain this order necessarily applied to you as a non-Japanese (NJ). As an honored guest, you were excepted. If you went through the motions at work like everyone else, and clowned around for bonus points (after all, injecting genki into stuffy surroundings often seemed to be expected of you), you got paid enough to make rent plus party hearty (not to mention find many curious groupies to bed — if you happened to be male, that is).

Admit it: The majority of you stayed on because you were anesthetized by sex, booze, easy money and the freedom to live outside both the boxes you were brought up in and the boxes Japanese people slot themselves in.

But these incentives are front-loaded. For as a young, genki, even geeky person finding more fun here than anywhere ever, you basked in the flattery. For example, you only needed to say a few words in Japanese to be bathed in praise for your astounding language abilities! People treated you like some kind of celebrity, and you got away with so much.

Mind you, this does not last forever. Japan is a land of bubbles, be it the famous economic one that burst back in 1991 and led two generations into disillusionment, or the bubble world that you eventually constructed to delude yourself that you control your life in Japan.

You don’t. Unless you marry an elite whose family funds your whims, you’ll discover that as you get older, opportunities narrow and doors close.

The first major life stage might be getting married — so easy to do here. Then you’d better lose the Peter Pan lifestyle and find a way to support your sudden kids. Or you’ll never see them again after the divorce.

Then you finally land that steady job that might lead to a career. But it’s hard enough nowadays for Japanese in their 20s and 30s to land secure employment (let alone climb the corporate ladder), so why should Johnny Foreigner cut in? Even if you manage to, people often assume tokenism and don’t take you seriously. The bamboo ceiling is pretty impenetrable.

But what about your trusty Genki Gaijin shtick? You’ll look jolly silly doing it as a geriatric, playing the perpetual dancing monkey, never the organ grinder.

Finally, as is true for everyone in Japan, the older you get, the less wriggle room you have in your career. Good luck comfortably changing jobs in your 40s or 50s. Most of the influential and reasonably self-actualized people in Japan are elites who spent their lives marrying into connections and cultivating Old-Boy networks, awaiting the right time to be catapulted into the next generation of leaders. NJ OBs in powerful positions? Unlikely.

Part of that is by design: Enough NJ live the life of Riley and assume the future will take care of itself. After all, for their fellow unambitious and unobtrusive Japanese corporate drones, it will; except that they will likely live a pre-designed, boring and “normal” workaday life taken care of by the state.

But for NJ, given the recent court decision about their welfare benefits, the perpetual weakness of their contract employment, and employers not paying into their pension systems with impunity, a “normal” career is not at all guaranteed. NJ have to be vigilant at an age when everyone else seems to be partying.

Another part is the shocking realization in many NJ (especially in those brought over during the 1980s Golden Age of Kokusaika (“internationalization”) who are now reaching late middle age and retirement) that they were working under a delusion: They were never seen as a colleague in the workplace. More as a pet.

This became evident as younger Japanese co-workers, who had less qualifications, time or experience in the company, got promoted over them. After all, what self-respecting Japanese wants some NJ as their senpai (senior) in the workplace? Suddenly, despite following all the rules, NJ didn’t get the same rewards.

So, after a quarter-century in Japan, I get it. And here’s what you oughta get by now:

If NJ don’t do something outside the bubble they’ve lived in so far, they might end up as some anonymous dead gaijin on a gurney, unremembered and unmourned, merely cremated and disposed of by authorities unsure of your next of kin. I’ve seen it happen — an accelerating number of times.

Why? Parables such as the one about “boiled frogs” come to mind (i.e., the frog who never noticed the temperature of the water around him rising until it was too late to jump out), but more insightful is what Pierre Bourdieu called the “illusio,” i.e., the belief that the great lifetime “game” we all agree to play is worth playing, and the fiction we collectively choose to follow is reality.

The fiction we have been accepting as reality is: Japan will treat NJ equally as long as they play the game by Japanese rules. This shows a sore lack of self-reflection about the NJ’s place in Japanese society, where those rules are stacked against them properly assimilating. It’s not because NJ always elect to be treated like guests. Guest treatment is in fact the default.

For example, have you ever noticed how difficult it is for NJ to become established in Japan’s essential, respected and licensed jobs — e.g., as doctors (and nurses), lawyers, engineers, administrative-level bureaucrats, etc.? Instead, where are they consigned? Factories, education, tenuous entrepreneurship, contracted tech, as nonadministrative corporate drones, and in entertainment. These jobs are basically fungible and expendable. And they are the default.

That’s why NJ must learn how to become “hosts.” By this I mean that they must offer Japan something that cannot be dismissed as a mere trifle or token effort.

That skill must be precious enough that NJ residents can choose to deny it to Japan, should they ever want to reclaim their power, self-respect and dignity. The NJ who exclusively do what Japan needs, and who cannot be replaced with a Japanese substitute (for example, people acting as indisposable ambassadors of Japanese knowledge — e.g., Ed Reischauer, Donald Richie or Donald Keene), can hold their skills hostage and become secure, respected, even immortal.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but face reality: What do you have to offer Japan? I’m not asking if there is something you do well; I’m asking: After all these years, is there something that you can do that Japan positively cannot live without? If not, then Japan can easily live without you, and you could be headed for the gurney.

No doubt people will decry this column. Look, I “get” that too, for it’s a natural part of illusio maintenance. People trapped in their bubbles will fight to their last breath to avoid having them burst. Facing the reality of their perpetual second-class caste status would force them to admit that they made a mistake by submitting to Japan’s default subordination processes — that they traded their entire life for something that they ultimately found no stake in.

Criticize away if that makes you feel better. It’s more comforting to play the game and party on. For now. But as your twilight years approach, you’ll look back in anger and wish you’d created a different bubble. Japan as an entire society does too, what with all this wasted human potential, as it fades into international irrelevance.

Debito Arudou’s “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan” is available on Amazon. Twitter @arudoudebito. Just Be Cause appears in print on the first Thursday of the month. Your comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp

  • Steve Jackman

    It should also be noted that in certain professions, such as law, Japan does not even allow foreigners equal opportunity to practice their professions. For example, non-Japanese lawyers in Japan are severely limited in regards to the activities they can perform. They cannot become lawyers in Japanese law (Bengoshi) and can’t even represent clients in litigation in a Japanese court of law.

    This is how Japan keeps its judicial system secretive and opaque by keeping all non-Japanese out. It allows Japanese judges to deny due process of law and discriminate against non-Japanese litigants by violating Japanese laws and court procedures with impunity (since they know that Japanese Bengoshi will not expose such unlawful acts and risk the wrath of the judges and jeapordize their own careers).

    • Mots

      While I agree with the facts and generally with the conclusion, I want to remind you that a young person in America has absolutely no future either. For most young people in the U.S. there is no career, and the society (police, courts, all companies etc) will treat you no better and often worse and with less respect, than what you describe as the fate of a NJ in Japan.
      The Japanese legal system is not worse than that of the US and issues of “secretive and opaque” are not determined by entry of foreigners. Further, even for Japanese it is nearly impossible to become an attorney, and having even excellent Japanese language skills is not good enough for Japanese in that competitive field. We should not judge Japan by comparison with the unusual American system wherein anyone with poor English skills and lack of ethics and professionalism can become a mediocre lawyer by spending some time and money on a for-profit law school. Further, their is no basis for concluding that the Japanese judicial system engenders less justice and fairness compared to the US.

      • Steve Jackman

        Diversity does wonders for openness and transparency. It is much harder to keep secrets in diverse systems like the U.S. On the other hand, extremely homogenous systems like Japan are breeding grounds for corruption, collusion and illegal activity, since it is easy to cover up secrets. This is one of the reasons why the Japanese judicial system is far worse than the U.S and other developed countries.

      • zer0_0zor0

        Diversity has nothing to do with it.

        A good quote from the article is

        Most of the influential and reasonably self-actualized people in Japan are elites who spent their lives marrying into connections and cultivating Old-Boy networks, awaiting the right time to be catapulted into the next generation of leaders.

        The problem is that the same holds true in American society. The issue is increasingly one of class under growing wealth disparity, and the neo-feudalistic accouterments attending thereto.

      • K T

        Mots – the point is not lack of opportunity. The point is that in the U.S., all people are screwed equally. In Japan, As Steve Jackman points out, there are impediments, put in place by the government, that discriminate against a group of people based on their race/nationality.
        There are plenty of examples – not just involving lawyers.

      • 6810

        “The point is that in the U.S., all people are screwed equally.”

        Tell that to the Mexicans…

      • K T

        I believe this was talking about the rights of a) citizens or b) legal residents. Your reference to Mexicans does not really factor into this discussion. Unlike westerners who live/work in Japan, the majority of Mexicans who immigrate to the U.S. take U.S. citizenship, therefore, they are no longer Mexican.
        Further, my point was about institutionalized racism, of which Japan is king. If you think there is any comparison between the U.S. and Japan in this area, you are seriously confused.
        You must be a follower of Barack “I didn’t say that” Nobama. He has trouble with the facts too.

      • tomuban

        “Unlike westerners who live/work in Japan, the majority of Mexicans who
        immigrate to the U.S. take U.S. citizenship, therefore, they are no
        longer Mexican.”

        Not true. Most Mexicans return home.

        And more importantly, the majority of Mexicans that do become citizens
        of the USA continue to consider themselves Mexican before American.
        And your snarkass Obama comment is stupid.

      • K T

        1. Mexicans who immigrate, can’t go ‘home’? In what universe are these 2 things related / relevant?
        2. Who cares what they consider themselves? They are granted the full protection of the law. And in comparing their situation to ‘foreigners’ in Japan, the contrast is huge.
        3. You are right – I could have done better on my Nobama comment – I should have just called him a dictator and a condescending liar, and left it at that.

      • tisho

        Hello, my comment is irrelevant to your comment, but i just wanted to say that i like what you said in your previous comment, that foreigners have to constantly re earn their rights on the table and that in Japan human rights are not seen as universal but rather a privilege which you have to earn. Although i want to add that, what you said – ”re-earning your place at the table on a daily basis” is a only half true, because, you are technically not re-earning your place or proving yourself to the same people, you have to earn it to new people. The people whose trust you’ve earned will accept you, the problem is that, since you will have to constantly prove yourself to new people that don’t know you. This is because Japanese have a very strong group mentality, and there are a lot of formal and informal rules. So its understandable when they see a non-japanese looking person, they would just assume you are not japanese and therefore you don’t know their informal or formal rules. There are two reasons for their assumptions, one is that they are taught to obey and conform since young age, they are not taught to question and think critically. Second is because there are virtually no non-japanese people there, so they have no basis to base their assumption. Of coruse its not right to assume, but thats a problem of education as i mentioned.

        Also, you said in your previous comment that, a brazilian male gets payed more than a brazilian female and an Iranian male. I was just wondering why is that ? Is there some kind of discrimination toward iranians ? why isnt that guy just quit his job and find another one ? Are there even a lot of iranians in Japan ? I never heard of this. I know there are brazilians, because Japan and Brazil have a lot of history together, there are more than a million japanese immigrants in Brazil. Many escaped poverty after and during the ww2 and fled to Brazil, many came back, i know a lot of them live in Aichi prefecture.

        I was just hoping you can give me some insight of what you know about groups other than english teachers.

    • zer0_0zor0

      There is nothing stopping foreigners from becoming licensed Japanese attorneys.

      The system is another story.

      • Toolonggone

        Unfortunately, NJ who are currently practicing law as a registered
        attorney in Japan by successfully passing the national bar exam
        are very few. I cannot come up with any of those who represent any foreign residents for civil/criminal case. There might be a way but I’m not so sure how many NJ who have a LLM or J.D are willing to go through a rigmarole.

      • Steve Novosel

        Sorry, but why is it a rigmarole to go through the same certification process as a Japanese lawyer? What would you expect? Is the process more onerous for a foreign national than a Japanese lawyer?

        I would HOPE that all are treated the same, and all must pass the same certifications.

      • Toolonggone

        Honestly, I don’t know how Japanese legal system treats legal credentials for foreign nations in general. Japan’s legal job market is extremely challenging. Less than 10% of Japanese students who complete the law school successfully pass the bar exam every year. And a growing number of law schools are shutting down. It’s anybody’s guess how much constraint and what kind of roadblocks foreign legal practitioners will have regarding the issue.

      • Steve Novosel

        i would imagine the pass rate wouldn’t be any higher, if not lower for foreign nationals wanting to become credentialed in Japan due to language issues.

        If I am not mistaken, aren’t there an exceptionally small number of lawyers in Japan to being with?

      • Toolonggone

        Yes, I think so. There should be some small number of foreign individuals practicing law in Japan. My hunch is that 1) they probably landed a job thanks to some connections with high-class Japanese legal representatives; and 2) most of them likely serve as a legal consultant(or a scrivener) for private or commercial businesses–rather than an attorney who takes the case to defend or represent a client in court. I think there is a better chance for the former. The latter probably requires an endorsement of national legal association (e.g., Nichibenren) and/or the state legal authority (e.g.MOJ).

        Ivan Hall discussed the issue as a part of Japan’s problems in his book titled Cartels of Mind (1998). According to Hall, there are far more Japanese individuals who are practicing law in the US than foreign nationals working in Japanese legal job market. That is what he found in the 80s and early-to-mid 90s of Japan. I don’t know how the things have changed in +20 years, though. Perhaps, my best hope is to see JT publish an article introducing foreign individuals practicing law in Japan.

    • Japanese Bull Fighter

      “It should also be noted that in certain professions, such as law, Japan
      does not even allow foreigners equal opportunity to practice their
      professions.” What’s so unusual about this? It’s the same in most European countries. You have to meet local requirements such as graduating from a law program in that country, passing a local bar examination in the national language, serving an apprenticeship, etc. (Details vary by country.) Some countries such as Canada do not allow foreign nationals to practice law unless you are also either a citizen or a permanent resident. Further, what good would it do to have a foreign lawyer representing you in Japan if he or she was not trained in Japanese law and was not fluent in the Japanese language? When I need a lawyer (solictor) in Britain, I always British lawyers. More than anything, I want someone who knows the local law. Moreover, even if it was quite easy for foreign lawyers to practice in Japan, it is extremely unlikely they would be interested in criminal or civil cases involving individual foreign nationals. They would gravitate (have gravitated) to corporate legal matters because that’s where the money is. (Don’t have recent figures, but in 2013 there were 363 registered foreign lawyers in Japan. This does not include foreign nationals, mostly Koreans, who have gone through the same route as Japanese nationals and who are not considered “foreign.”)

    • Steve Novosel

      “This is how Japan keeps its judicial system secretive and opaque by keeping all non-Japanese out. ”

      Allowing only Japanese lawyers to practice = “secretive and opaque”? What an odd conclusion to draw from that situation.

    • This is how Japan keeps its judicial system secretive and opaque by keeping all non-Japanese out.

      Discounting the singular unverifiable anecdotes from a Disqus account labeled “Steve Jackson”, if we look at data from a recognized global NGOs that actually specializes in measuring global opaqueness aka transparency (and the corruption that goes with it) regarding 18 areas including Judicial, Politics & Government, and Access to Information — for example, Transparency International — we see that Japan, while like most countries can always use room for improvement, scores quite well.

      In 2014, Japan ranked #15 out of 175, with a score of 76 out of 100. That’s an improvement of two points over 2013 and 2012, and a higher score than the United States. That puts it in the same class as most western European countries, Canada, and Australia. In case you were wondering, northern European countries tend to score the highest, with Denmark being #1, and Somalia being the worst.

      Specifically with respect to the judiciary, Japan scores 5.8/7 (18th/142 countries) for judicial independence from corruption and for Rule of Law, Japan received a 1.31.. on a scale from -2.5 to +2.5 (88% percentile).

      There’s always room for improvement and the Japan government would be wise to pay attention to Transparency International’s reports, of course, but individual tales from ‘nyms do not correlate with the professionally researched data.

      • Steve Jackman

        Mr. Inoue, given that your last name is Japanese, perhaps it is time for you to recognize that those foreign residents of Japan who are 100 percent non-Japanese and do not have the benefit of a Japanese surname, do not get the same privileges in Japan as you. Furthermore, there is no proof that some of the other posters defending Japan here while using foreign-sounding names are indeed non-Japanese themselves.

        In regards to Japan judiciary’s rankings which you mention, they are meaningless as far as I am concerned. The Japanese judicial system is very closed and it operates like a secretive cartel by keeping outsiders out. This is why outside independent observers never get access to see the dirty dealings which go on behind closed doors. It gets the realitively high rankings, only because it is very good at hiding corruption in its ranks, not because it deserves them.

        Japan is full of secretive cartels like the judicial system, including the closed Kisha club system for journalists. If Japan ever opened up its legal system to outsiders so they could get a first-hand look at its shady practices, it would be ranked at the bottom of global rankings, since it is among the most corrupt, unfair and racist in the world.

      • I think you misunderstood my point regarding names. You’re using a pseudonym. That gives you the right to privacy. I respect that. It gives you the right to express your opinion. I respect that too.

        However, this shouldn’t give you the expectation that anybody is going to believe your “Steve Jackman” back-story / resume that you created because there’s no way to verify them. Anyone that believes anything a ‘nym claims about their real-life credentials is a fool. Clever though how you chose a real-sounding name to make your Disqus avatar look more “credible.” Kudos.

        As they say, “on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” But feel free to continue to bark away.

      • Steve Jackman

        Eido Inoue wrote: “As they say, “on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” But feel free to continue to bark away.”

        Mr. Inoue, I find your vitriol and accusations quite offensive. Your comment, including the excerpt I have copied above, is a new low, even for you. It reflects much more on your character than mine. It does not deserve a response, so I will refrain from replying. However, I do believe that your comment shows very clearly the type of person you are. How can anyone take you seriously after reading it?

      • C.J. Bunny

        Dr. Jackman – hilarious as ever. I hope this column isn’t over, your trolling here makes it all worthwhile.

      • Steve Jackman

        A troll? Err, no, that would be you, C.J. Bunny.

      • Oliver Mackie

        “It does not deserve a response, so I will refrain from replying. However…(I will reply, actually.)”

        Your feigned anger doesn’t cut it here.

        Your comments re naming are wide off the mark. Have you seen a picture of Inoue-san? I think you have, as your specifically referred to his last name. So you think that, despite his physical appearance, it’s his last ‘Japanese’ name that makes him unaware and not subject to any of the disadvantages you talk about? If so, then you must also agree that, had Debito chosen to take a regular Japanese name upon assuming citizenship, then he would have not have experienced any of the disadvantages you talk about. Clearly this is not something you would assert as many of your posts, with their references to visible minorities, clearly show.

        “Furthermore, there is no proof that some of the other posters defending Japan here while using foreign-sounding names are indeed non-Japanese themselves.”

        Technically correct, but the fact that you are thinking along such lines (that Japanese are using foreign-sounding pseudonyms here to argue against you) suggest a level of paranoia and self-centeredness that is telling.

      • Steve Jackman

        Actually, it’s not paranoia. Just recently, the poster who had been commenting here frequently under the name Earl Kinmonth, admitted in one of his comments that he was Japanese.

      • Oliver Mackie

        Come on Steve! I think you know full well that he came here later in life (at age 53) and, if he is now Japanese, then it’s because he subsequently became naturalized. (If you didn’t know then you do now.)

        I repeat my point, if you are claiming that in Earl’s case too it is the adoption of Japanese citizenship that makes people accepted and therefore not subject to the disadvantages that ‘NJ’ (in the legal sense) experience and a subsequent inability to understand the plights of those in a different situation, then what happened in Debito’s case?

        You can’t have it all. Either it’s the visibility factor (regardless of adoption of Japanese citizenship) which creates the disadvantages you posit or it’s a matter of possessing citizenship or not. Either way, you have to explain the differences in experience and opinion of Earl, Inoue-san, and Debito by something other than a blanket statement,

      • Steve Jackman

        Since Japan does not allow dual citizenship, what would compel someone to revoke their original citizenship at age 53 and take on Japanese citizenship?

      • Oliver Mackie

        I do not know. I am friends with Earl on Facebook. He says he came here at age 53 and his resume would seem to support that. I am sure he would be quite willing to give relevant details if asked. To reiterate though, I do not know of he is a Japanese citizen or not, that is something which you stated was so.

      • Steve Jackman

        In the comments section of the Nov 8 article by Jeff Kingston in this newspaper, Earl Kinmonth wrote that he is a Japanese citizen and he confirmed that he now posts comments as “Japanese Bull Fighter”. You can check his own comments yourself.

      • Oliver Mackie

        O.k. So, Earl wasn’t a Japanese citizen for a majority of his life (unless he ends up challenging the world longevity record) yet is visibly ‘non-Yamato’, for wont of a better expression. Debito is also visibly non-Yamato, has Japanese citzenship and has a non-traditional Japanese name. Thus Debito and Earl qualify under the ‘foreign-born without a Japanese name’ category. Inoue-san is also visibly non-Yamato, yet has a ‘traditional’ Japanese name. I don’t know whether he was born in Japan or not, but certainly he is non-Yamato in appearance.

        Above you stated;

        “Mr. Inoue, given that your last name is Japanese, perhaps it is time for you to recognize that those foreign residents of Japan who are 100 percent non-Japanese and do not have the benefit of a Japanese surname, do not get the same privileges in Japan as you.”

        In claiming that Inoue-san gets privileges that Earl and Debito do not (unless you want to change that assertion, because you didn’t know that he was of non-Yamato appearence),
        you seem to be asserting that:

        a) citizenship and a Japanese name will get you privileges that citizenship alone will not.

        If so, then you need to be aware of the very different perspectives that Earl and Debito offer, despite their being in the same category as outlined above. The former has attained tenured professorship on exactly the same terms as his Japanese colleagues, whilst the latter claims extreme discrimination in a similar environment. This is not to dispute the accounts of either, but to note that generalizations such as, “Japan.. exclude[s] its non-Japanese residents from important positions, treat[s] them as second-class, subject them to racism and xenophobia, discriminate against them, and deny them access and opportunities” (posted below) cannot be made, unless you are referring solely to residents who do not have citizenship. If this is actually what you are asserting, then you cannot accept Debito’s assertions that he has been discriminated against despite taking citizenship.

        (b) visibility as a minority is not a factor (If it is, how to you explain the differences in opinion/experience of Earl and Inoue-san versus Debito), which would seem to contradict much of what you have posted before about Japanese discriminating of the basis of appearance and regardless of qualifications, such as Japanese language ability.

        Finally, and I do not wish to be appear condescending in the least (as such thoughts are far from my mind right now) but let me say how much I appreciate the fact that you now seem to be engaging in actual debate. I look forward to continuing this.

      • “what would compel someone to revoke their original citizenship at age 53 and take on Japanese citizenship?”

        Probably the same thing that compelled your ancestors to do it after emigrating to America.

      • Steve Jackman

        Immigrants to America did not have to revoke their citizenship, in order to become Americans.

      • You are quite wrong there, an awful lot of them did have to renounce their former citizenship when they became Americans – the former governor of California had to, for example.

        It is not just Japan that does not allow dual citizenship, you know.

      • Toolonggone

        >an awful lot of them did have to renounce their former citizenship when they became Americans – the former governor of California had to, for example.

        That is simply not true. You are still allowed to keep your former citizenship in the US. Some US succor players and baseball players do have dual-citizenship. And they can choose either team based on their preference.

      • No, the *US* allows people to naturalize and keep their prior citizenship – sort of, anyway, as anyone who naturalizes takes an oath to renounce all prior allegiances to other countries and monarchs, which to my way of thinking is effectively the same thing as “renouncing” your citizenship from a moral view, if not a legal one. The US is merely admitting that it has no way to force someone to renounce in front of a consular or government official of their old country.

        However there are quite a few nations that do not allow their citizens to continue to hold citizenship in that country if they voluntarily naturalize in another. Austria is but one of those nations. If an Austrian takes US (or Canadian or German or any other citizenship) they are considered by the government of Austria to have forfeited their Austrian citizenship. That’s their law – so whether the US turns a blind eye to the issue to dual nationality in such a case would be quite irrelevant.

      • Steve Jackman

        GMainwaring, you are wrong again as usual. America has never required anyone to renounce their prior citizenship in order to become American. This has in fact been codified now, so Americans can openly have dual citizenship and carry two passports, with the full knowledge and approval of the US govt.

      • You are not reading what I am writing. It is not about what America does, it is about what other countries do, although to the person affected it really doesn’t matter whether the US forces them to renounce or their former country revokes their nationality, now does it? Either way, people have taken US citizenship knowing full well that to do so would require them to give up their old citizenship.

      • Steve Jackman

        Wrong, Americans can legally maintain a second citizenship, in addition to being an American citizen.


        It is the inverse of the Japanese law which states that dual citizenship in not allowed UNLESS the individual’s former country of citizenship does not allow its nationals to renounce – thus one could be, legally, dual-national Japanese-Iranian, for example. But one cannot be (legally) a dual-national Austrian-American, as Austrian law does not allow it. Whether American law does allow it or not is irrelevant, despite the fact that you apparently believe only US law is what matters. The fact is many people have naturalized in the US despite knowing that doing so would cause them to lose their prior citizenship.

        Is that clear enough for you?*

        *rhetorical question, you have yet to let facts get in the way of your opinions, so I doubt you will budge an inch and instead just repeat “But ‘Murrica!” yet again…

      • Toolonggone

        >an awful lot of them did have to renounce their former citizenship when they became Americans – the former governor of California had to, for example.

        Question: Where does this come from?

        Answer: Don’t know. Some kind of a talking orbit, maybe?

      • zer0_0zor0

        The problem with the Japanese system is that the damages available for civil actions are inadequate, which serves to perpetuate a dysfunctional system to which average citizens don’t have access.

      • 6810

        Links, photos, essays, sources… or it didn’t happen. You know the rules, this is the internet. Back up what you say.

      • zer0_0zor0

        Good points.

        On the other hand, I have personal experience suing a municipality for violations of the Administrative Procedures Act, and can therefore attest to the fact that there is corruption in the Japanese judicial system, as recognized by a leading law professor with respect to my case.

        Moreover, the Administrative Procedures Act is specifically aimed at improving transparency. So the Japanese government has implemented that law, but the courts don’t enforce it.

        There was a case with similarities to mine in Okinawa recently as well. That case was filed by a Japanese, whereas I’m from the USA. That shows that it is not necessarily about race, but about being politically connected.

  • I’m guessing the advice in this column to foreigners is not written in the latest edition of the book being advertised at the bottom of this article:

    Debito Arudou’s “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan” is available on Amazon.

    • phu

      I actually ordered a copy of The Handbook long ago… and I’m really torn between regret and confusion. It actually has quite a bit of what at least appears to be useful and relatively unbiased information that could potentially be useful.

      On the other hand, I do regret having encouraged someone who later turned into such an outspoken… I don’t really know what to call him any more… and at the same time I wish he’d just managed to keep his mind out of the rhetorical gutter it’s clearly fallen into.

      • iago

        The Handbook is objective and useful, as is a lot of the stuff in the author’s archives. Kind of like Pink Floyd’s early stuff was great, their middle years good and their new album — meh.

    • Steve Jackman

      At least, Debito has written a useful book, has a successful blog and has for years been writing a column in the prestigious and highly regarded newspaper, The Japan Times (which is affiliated with the New York Times), that is read by thousands of subscribers. He has the conviction and persistence to follow-through on what he believes in.

      You on the other hand, Eido Inoue, are nothing but a professional troll, who spreads his venom and vitriol here and on other online forums, and stoops to calling other commenters derogatory names, as you have done to me in your other posts here. Your tactics, actions and snide comments are despicable. Shame on you, Eido Inoue.

      • Hahaha! I had no idea that “pseudonym” was a dirty word. Great comment, Fight Back!* Um, I mean, “Steve Jackson”. I am so up-voting you!

        [edit] * Sorry, I read the comment body without reading the poster name and got confused for a sec. ;)

      • Steve Jackman

        Eido Inoue, here’s an excerpt from your other comment to me: “As they say, “on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” But feel free to continue to bark away.”

        So, not only do you lack honesty and integrity, but you don’t seem very bright either.

      • Hey Sparky, I think you’re playing dumb on purpose, but I’ll indulge you anyway for the sake of others: do a web search for the phrase “on the internet nobody knows you’re a dog”. It’s a very common expression that means you can’t verify an anonymous internet user’s credentials.

      • Steve Jackman

        Sure, a common expression for trolls like you, Eido Inoue!

  • iago

    Well, that’s quite the line-drawing as we reach the end of the year, and perhaps the end of an era? Not sure how anyone follows that, so I guess it’s sayonara and farewell. Believe it or not, we shall miss you.

    I wonder what is going to replace JBC in future community sections, to cater to this market of over-sexed, alcoholic, loser English teachers in their dead-end careers and dead-end lives.

    • blondein_tokyo

      Most eikaiwa teachers leave Japan after a few years. The ones who stay the long term forge actual careers, either in schools or universities, or in some other capacity such as owning their own eikaiwa. Calling those people losers with dead end lives just because they chose a path outside of the tech or business world is classist.

      People can be happy in all different kinds of jobs and walks of life, so who are you or Debito to judge that?

      • 6810

        Wait… you read the article, didn’t you? Iago simply restated (rather dryly) what the author had already said.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Yes, and I disagree with a lot of what the article says. While it is true that foreigners do tend to live in a bubble world, I wouldn’t say that the majority are unaware of it. I also don’t think those who live here long term are made miserable by it. People who start to dislike Japan or who feel socially isolated tend to leave. The ones who must stay, stay; and that is where we get the stereotype of the grumpy complaining old eikaiwa sensei who is constantly hating on Japan. But it’s a very small percentage of the population. Debito is exaggerating way beyond reality here.

      • anoninjapan

        “…we get the stereotype of the grumpy complaining old eikaiwa sensei who is constantly hating on Japan…”

        I would suggest that any country where there are more mature/elderly people the percentage of people moaning/criticising increases. There is even a TV program in the UK called “Grumpy Old Men” where they bitch and moaning about..exactly such issues. But I also think it is a stretch to equate dissenting voices with unhappy ones.

    • Bruce Chatwin

      Perhaps a column for under-sexed, tea totalling, winner entrepreneurs in their oh-so-wonderful careers and oh-so-wonderful lives? Perhaps written by a character nicknamed Iago? What happened? Did an English teacher cuckold you? Such venom.

      • iago

        Not big on irony, then? Thought the hyperbole would have given it away.

      • Internet Terracotta Tiger

        Yeah, I’ve started to see people use … to avoid the kind of situation above. For sure your “apparent” marker is more fun, but I think I’ll start playing it safe with the HTML brackets! :)

    • Toolonggone

      Your pejorative attitude of those who fall into the cracks pretty much reflects on the apathy of the world people live today. Too bad you are not an exception to those who are tweaking cynicism to loser’s end. Ha.

      • iago

        You must realize that what you are defending is a strawman built from the stalks of the author’s own failings. It is autobiography. Clearly it cannot possibly reflect the myriad experiences of the collective “you” that it talks to.

      • Toolonggone

        Wow, that’s a huge leap in logic. You bring up a tiny portion of issue(e.g, English teachers) and claim that I am defending everything what an author says? Kind of maneuver so called a mountain out of a molehill. What an amazing skill you have…

    • J.P. Bunny

      After all the years of wing nut conspiracy rantings, pictures of aliens and the Loch Ness Monster would be an apt replacement for JBC.

  • Sam Gilman

    There are two arguments running through this article: one that is eminently sensible and really needs to be hammered into certain kinds of people, and one that is offensive bordering on racist.

    The sensible argument is that it is a big mistake to think that you will be 25 forever, living it up as a novelty act. You need to get a career, you need to get skills and qualifications to lift you out of the insecure unskilled sector (as Debito indicates, a lot of eikaiwa work is technically unskilled labour, and as such, is subject to the same insecurity as unskilled labour markets everywhere). You need to learn the language, you need to sort out your pension, you need to sort out your private/family life and so on. This may sound obvious to everyone reading this, but it’s simply true: there is a subsection of the western expat community that forget to settle down until it’s too late, and they have a crisis.

    The offensive argument involves the denigration of all of us who have made a career and a life here, and the denigration of ethnic Japanese that we live and work alongside. Debito is not commenting on specific bad practices or bad faith by this or that individual – he is making general statements about ethnic groups. He is not talking about the difficulties faced by westerners trying to make it in Japan, he is talking about absolute impossibilities, and how those of us who are under the illusion we have good jobs for which we worked hard to be qualified for, who are under the illusion that our partners love us and under the illusion that our children are a source of genuine happiness – all of us are just fools. The only reality is the one that he personally has lived.

    Apparently, all marriages with Japanese will end in divorce and the alienation of your children. Really? Apparently, Japanese are incapable of working for non-Japanese bosses. Really? Apparently, when you die, no one will mourn you. Really? The funny thing is, I know a fair number of westerner business owners and managers here who employ Japanese. I know loads of westerners with successful marriages. (Of course, I know some with unhappy ones as well – but they’re hardly an overwhelming majority). I have had the sadness to know westerners who have died – and sod you, Debito, there were Japanese weeping at their funerals.

    The most sinister aspect of this second, frankly racist argument, is the recommendation that a foreigner – if they are stupid enough to stay – should secure their lives in Japan by playing on their foreignness – on something that ethnic Japanese in their essence can’t do. If this is the conclusion of a human rights activist’s 25 year work in Japan, this is no activist. This is a casting agent for circus performers.

    There is a discussion to be had about how different sectors of Japanese society manage the increase in non-native born residents and their children, the communities they may form. There are discussions to be had about how certain economic sectors really need immigration to make up labour shortfalls. There are discussions to be had about support networks for foreign residents, including health and welfare outreach. But that’s all for the real world, not for the strange world of delusion created here.

    • Iain Macpherson

      Hear, Hear, Sam Gilman.

    • phu

      Indeed. The author is oscillating very oddly lately between his usual “Japan should change [in both sensible and irrational ways]” to this extreme, which seems to be “my disillusionment means all of you were similarly disillusioned, too, and furthermore none of you is worthwhile or has anything to offer this society.”

      Very obnoxious, very presumptuous, and way worse than the usual failures of logic and perspective I expect from Debito. I really hope people aren’t taking him seriously, but then it seems strange to run this column in this particular place at all, considering a lot of the people reading it are probably in the massive camp of exceptions to the author’s assumptions and aren’t likely to take well to his strangely condescending generalizations.

    • KyokaFan

      It sounds like an argument that’s particularly cogent to the author himself. Deploying critical theory with all the subtlety of a first-year undergrad with a Tumblr account isn’t exactly a marketable skill, and one wonders whether Mr. Arudou’s work would gain any traction if he were to venture out of the forgiving discursive space of expat media.

      After all, why not take one’s arguments into mainstream discussions of race, identity and society happening every day here among dedicated activists and academics? Perhaps it’s just so much easier for Mr. Arudou to condescend to his so-called “Genki Gaijin”, where “people treated you like some kind of celebrity, and you got away with so much.”

    • Guest

      Wow; I had a significantly upvoted comment here about Debito’s continued failures of objectivity and it’s been deleted. I don’t know if it’s JT’s general lack of journalistic integrity or Aldwinkle himself moderating, but that is pathetic.

    • Steve Jackman

      What’s getting lost in all this is that by failing to properly utilize the considerable skills, talent, expertise and diverse experiences of its non-Japanese residents, it is Japan that is the ultimate loser. A key reason for Japan’s stagnation over the last three decades has been the lack of fresh blood and fresh ideas to rejuvinate a country which is stuck in secular decline.

      It is an undisputed fact that foreign-born professionals make up a significantly lower percentage in Japan in areas such as business, research, technology, science, engineering, academia and medicine, as compared to other developed countries in North America and Europe, as well as, Australia, HK and Singapore. Foreign-born residents of these countries have made significant contributions to the society and economies of these countries.

      It is impossible for Japan to compete with these countries, since they have the advantage of drawing from a much larger pool of qualified individuals who bring significant diversity to the table, whereas, in Japan the above mentioned fields are almost exclusively the domain of Japanese people.

      So, Japan can exclude its non-Japanese residents from important positions, treat them as second-class, subject them to racism and xenophobia, discriminate against them, and deny them access and opportunities, but eventually it is the Japanese who will be poorer for it. The non-Japanese may yet have the last laugh. All the Uncle Toms with their disingenuous and snide comments here will not be able to save Japan from itself if it continues to go down its current misguided path.

      • Sam Gilman

        “Uncle Toms”? You think I’m a race traitor? That’s the lens through which you view yourself and the people you live with and work with? You think it’s a betrayal of my race to protest depictions in this piece of Japanese as cold-hearted foreigner-hating automatons – people who are half my family? My kids? You think that’s treachery to the colour of my skin?

        Steve, I would love to have a good conversation about the need for much higher immigration and the need to manage it well. But not with racists. Sorry. Not only would it be pointless, you’re beyond the pale. I hope your visa runs out very, very soon.

      • Steve Jackman

        Are you always this prone to overreact, without comprehending or trying to understand what someone is saying?

      • Sam Gilman

        “Look, let’s just ignore all the racist stuff I said”


      • Steve Jackman

        Again, you are overreacting. There is nothing racist in my comment. I challenge you to show me which part of my comment is racist.

      • Sam Gilman

        Calling foreigners Uncle Toms for protesting racist descriptions of the people they live and work alongside. If you don’t understand what’s wrong with you doing that, it’s because you’re racist. Slavery was defined by race and so you see people as defined by their race. Your talk of getting the last laugh over another nation, and of competition between nations – it’s all part of the package.

        Moreover, comparing people who are free to come and go, who get salaries, who can intermarry, who employ whoever they want, with the crimes against humanity suffered by African Americans under slavery suggests you’re pretty much dismissive of what happened there too. Nice one, Steve.

      • Steve Jackman

        You are completely off your rocker. Even the U.N severely criticised Japan last year for its dismal record on racism, racial discrimination and violation of civil and human rights of its minority/foreign residents in two seperate reports. Is the U.N racist too for issuing these reports and for asking Japan to take concrete actions to combat racism and discrimination?

      • Sam Gilman

        Oh I see. It’s playground logic. You think it’s OK for you to be racist so long as you think someone else is being racist too.

        That isn’t how it works.

        Am I an Uncle Tom for having a Japanese partner? Are my mixed race children offensive to you? What on Earth do you think Uncle Tom means?

      • Steve Jackman

        I think Uncle Tom has just taken on the added meaning of “troll”.

      • You tell him, “steve”. “Fight back!”

      • jimbo jones

        i think by “uncle tom” he means one who is obedient and passive in regards to unfair treatment imposed by those in authority. in this case, the staunch defense of a system that makes no secret about treating non-japanese as less than. one only needs to glance at an advertisement for an apartment that has “no foreigners” printed next to “no dogs” for an example of this. i think by taking the discussion to slavery in the US you are intentionally creating a straw man. while the post civil war south is where the term originated, language is always in flux.

      • Sam Gilman

        That’s not what Uncle Tom means at all. It is inseparable from the idea of race betrayal. (Here’s an experiment: try calling an African American man an “Uncle Tom” the next time he does something “obedient”, and see how much language is “in flux” on that one.)

        What you refer to is usually called something like “automaton”, or “robot” or “drone”.

        It’s not a straw man. There genuinely are expats who believe that westerners (and they’re referring generally to white males) are in a state comparable if not to slavery, then to the systematic segregation of the Deep South. This really is no joke. It’s offensive to African Americans, and it’s offensive to me as someone with a Japanese partner and children

        The point matters because Debito’s description of Japanese here clearly strikes many people as racist, and the commenter you’re defending has a reputation that way too. It’s not only offensive, it’s a severe misrepresentation of reality. If the aim is improving the lives of incomers, a false and racist picture of the society is a bad place to start.

        It would be great to talk about issues of how westerners can improve their lives here, but not on the terms set by people like Steve Jackman.

      • The UN criticizes everybody. It also criticized the United States regarding human rights. For its record on, uh, TORTURE. The UN has also criticized Canada on treatment of aboriginal women. And Australia for its treatment of asylum seekers. And a bevy of other countries which are considered to be liberal open democracies.

      • Steve Jackman

        Eido Inoue, your incompetence and ineptitude amazes me. The point being discussed here is that exposing Japan’s institutionalized racism, xenophobia and racial discrimination does not make one a racist. Try to get a grip on things.

      • Does your wife know you look down on her kind?

      • Steve Jackman

        Since when does honesty equate to looking down on someone? Also, who said that I had a wife and that she is Japanese? Doesn’t surprise me that you are prone to making unfounded assumptions.

      • “Also, who said that I had a wife and that she is Japanese?”

        You yourself did, some time ago – and you mentioned your half children as well. You may keep your Disqus activity private (as do I), but some of us have very good “analog” memories.

      • It’s mighty hard for a ‘nym to keep all of its fabricated back-stories straight over time. ;-)

      • Steve Jackman

        Eido Inoue, you are taking your trolling to new heights. I have never disclosed any personal details about my family, period.

      • Indeed, I think someone will be needing to change ‘nyms again. Perhaps to something more “grey”.

      • Steve Jackman

        GMainwaring, it seems all your senses are failing you, including your so-called “very good analog memory”. I have never commented on my family status, so your memory is playing tricks on you.

  • Iain Macpherson

    The fundamental fact about Arudou’s critical stance vis-a-vis Japan is that one can just as darkly look through the lens at *any* society. He implies that things are less bad in the U.S. or Canada, or wherever he comes from, but they’re not – all advanced-economy liberal democracies are just differently great and grim. It’s just as easy to perceive life anywhere as being some Bourdieu-esque hell. One’s perspective, or at least one’s rhetoric, just has to be utterly negative.

    • rossdorn

      Don’t fool yourself. Everybody SEES that you are different. “Back home” no one can tell….

      You are ignoring the obvious racism, and unlike back home, here it goes against YOU.

      • Iain Macpherson

        When I lived in Asia, for the overwhelming most part, any ‘racism’ worked in my favour. But, I did make sure to leave while the going was good.

      • Loren Fykes

        You are assuming everyone reading this article is someone whom everyone “back home” can’t tell is different. Would you be a white person, by chance?

  • Tesla_X

    Sounds like no one disagrees with the article, but for the discomfort at the obvious being stated.

    You may not agree with the Japanese looking to their own interests and race first, but that is the way they are predominantly today.

    During more harsh economic times, does anyone expect them to choose immigrants and foreigners over their citizens?

    How likely are they to follow the ‘wisdom’ of Barry Sotero Obama and give blanket amnesty and government handouts to millions of illegals by comparison?

    Do you really think European, American, South American or Chinese elites are really all that different?

    The others have better propaganda to cover their disdain and discrimination of people they perceive as ‘different’ or just INFERIOR while the Japanese see little need to do so.

    At least they are more HONEST about it.

    It takes generations to change racial habits and socialization.

    The Japanese have a population implosion problem.

    They have a grave genetic threat to their indigenous population because of Fukushima and its ongoing effects.

    Human beings genetically share a common lineage going back to a few thousand survivors of a very nasty global natural disaster from about 70-80,000 years ago, so like it or not, we’re ALL related if you go back far enough.

    Like it or not, they may need the support from their neighbors, immigrants, and others to survive as a culture and country over the long term.

    This needs to be responsably managed though.

    Japan lives during intestring times.

    • Terence Nomoto

      That’s Barry Sotero Obola

      they don’t have a population implosion – that it a ruse to cover the looting and mismanagement of the pensions funds

      • scrying

        There really should be a form of Godwin’s law for how quickly any internet conversation devolves into spouting off-topic, utter crap about Mr. Obama. Both of you should be ashamed of yourselves. As for the article at hand, Arudou makes some valid, if obvious points, but they are buried under a tone of such complete condescension it makes it hard for a reader to empathize. That isn’t “telling it like it is” as some are likely to defend it, it is a failure as a writer to understand your intended readership. Projecting your own bitter experiences onto the rest of us en masse doesn’t help anyone. While he has done undeniably good work as an activist for NJ, I would probably suggest some time away from the country, to see what the bubbles he speaks of are like for non-residents of other countries as well.

  • wanderingpippin

    I have been reading the Japan Times since long before the author of this article set foot in Japan and I find it highly offensive the gross assumptions he makes as to the readership. Neither the age, race, gender, occupation, family situation, motivation for coming to and staying in Japan, general life goals, nor condition of relationships with Japanese persons he describes fit my situation and I know plenty of other resident Westerners for whom most or all of those would not be applicable. This article is inaccurate, racist, highly biased, unhelpful, and unworthy of publication in a respectable newspaper.

    • 6810

      100% agree. Everything, from the tired, exasperated, condescending tone of the piece to the actual content is just offensive. It has neither humour nor insight and belongs on the author’s personal homepage as a personal reflection rather than a newspaper. Just awful.

  • Gordon Graham

    Of the three foreigners I know who have lived in Japan for more than a decade, one is the national marketing manager of a major electronics company, another owns and operates a lucrative automobile import company(he started out with next to nothing and had no connections whatsoever) while another is swimming in riches made in the financial sector. I myself have found a very comfortable and secure living, have bought and paid for a home and have a tidy sum put away for both my children’s education and retirement. I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given here. I have always been treated with respect and dignity…never as a dancing clown or pet. I’m sorry that Mr.Arudou’s experience has been otherwise and that his friends and acquaintances have been unable to make their mark in this country, but please remember his views are limited and don’t represent all foreigners’ experiences.

    • Internet Terracotta Tiger

      Proud to be the first to upvote an excellent post, Gordon! My life would have been so much poorer without a high-school exchange in Japan at 15, and happily living here for about four years and counting now at 38.

      • blondein_tokyo

        You should realize that someone who’s only been here a few years has a very different experience than someone who has been here 25 or 30 years. :)

      • Internet Terracotta Tiger

        Well, I lived in Canada for about 30 years and would feel none the poorer to never go there again. A former NHL player named Theo Fleury spoke of being contacted by literally thousands of Canadians speaking of how the justice system had failed them, next correctly referring to Canada as “Disneyland for Pedophiles”.

        It’s quite something to find yourself up against communities that have rallied behind child molesters to blame and vilify people who were 11 at the time, time and time again, as documented by a famous journalist in “Our Little Secret: Confronting Child Sexual Abuse in Canada”. My high school exchange in Japan was my first time meeting people who tried to help me get out of a psychological catastrophe, and I am gratefully still in touch with some of those same friends and former teachers two decades later and counting.

      • Internet Terracotta Tiger

        Respectfully, I would also like to add that I don’t think anyone should be disliked or resented for finding happiness in any country. As clear from my previous post, my life experience of my own home country didn’t work out very well, but it’s a terrific country for any number of people both native-born and from elsewhere. If I weren’t happy for them, I should be!

    • anoninjapan

      “…Of the three foreigners I know who have lived in Japan for more than a decade..”

      Oh Gordon the consistent troll, you’ve out done yourself again.

      Your sample set of 3 is most impressive And then you based your whole soliloquy on this sample of 3 out of circa 2 million. That is 0.00015% in case you’re interested.

      But hey, lets play your numbers game.

      I too can note foreigners that I know of living in Japan under your criterion, but more than 3 in fact..bully for me. Buy hey guess what, the diametrically opposite of your findings.

      Thus if you wish your rantings too carry substance, the contrary of your argument using your own measurement must also be true for others.

      Thus with a large sample based, the number of ‘negatives’ out weights your ‘positives’. Ergo, your findings are at variance with the majority numbers!

      • Except that the “majority” of foreigners in Japan are not the ones Arudou, you or probably Gordon are talking about, now are they?

        Arudou is not addressing all 2 million foreigners in Japan, and he never has. He is only talking about the few tens of thousands who are like himself: White, predominantly male, English speakers.

        Even then, while I recognize the type of individual he is singling out (habitual drunkard English-teaching Lothario), I don’t actually know all that many people that fit the bill.

        Perhaps I just hang out with a better class of people than Arudou did: folks with real jobs and real lives, and who take personal responsibility for both rather than blame everything and everyone around them for their own failings.

      • anoninjapan

        “…Arudou is not addressing all 2 million foreigners in Japan, and he never has…”

        I think that depends upon ones perspective. If you, as a white native English speaker draw assumptions that he is addressing this category or foreigner, then you are making a false assumption simply because it reads like that, as if it is being addressed to such an audience.

        The arguments raised can equally apply to someone from SE Asia who came to Japan hoping for a better future by working and training in a Factory. Except where most of them have been sent back home after their 2-3 year “technology transfer” working visa status expired. If they have, for whatever reason, been allowed to stay or prefer to stay beyond their standard 2-3 years…these non white English speaking residence face the same issues.

        Thus, on the face of it, I would agree it does read as if it is preaching to thewhite English speaking audience. But the assertions made about…” ok, now i’ve been here for XX years how far can I go..”..equally apply.

      • Gordon Graham

        You are under the false impression that I’m engaging in debate when I’m merely offering my perspective, limited as it may be, to the conversation. Again, as with Debito, I’m sorry your friends have found it a difficult go here. I have not. Nor have those foreigners I know. That you consider voices not in line with your own to be trolling is none of my concern.

      • anoninjapan

        “…That you consider voices not in line with your own to be trolling is none of my concern..”

        Oh cont-re my dear Gordon….that is your raison d’etre. Without dissenting opinions you have nothing to offer. You have no opinions based upon the subjects being discussed other than rebuttals of others to preserve your bubble.

        Funny how you are only able to see one side, constantly and consistently. M…m…m…myopia.

        The number of times you counter opines differing to yours as trolling is laughable, if it were not your sole purpose in these forums.

      • Casey James Vanbuuren

        With all due respect, reading the way in which you two bicker is painful, akin to pulling teeth, please stop. Why not just “oh really, things are different from my experience, in saying that perhaps my perception is different to yours because of personal experience and circumstance” “oh yeah that’s a very real possibility it’s already difficult to quantify what we’re talking about, that difficulty is only exacerbated by our evidence being almost entirely anecdotal” “good point mate”

        It just seems silly to me. To be entirely honest I’m reading the comments because I was hoping that someone would agree this depressing article is mostly projections of a man filled with regret, although it might resonate with some people, it isn’t necessarily the norm. That was my hope anyway. I have friends that are relatively successful in Japan, I have friends that aren’t, and I couldn’t say for sure if there’s more of one group than the other. I think success is difficult to define, it’s entirely subjective really.

        The other thing that really stuck out to me as being somewhat naive in the article, was the talk about the established elite etc. I don’t think that’s really a fair group for comparison because, regardless of ethnicity in almost any country the “elite” have significant advantages over the middle class, under class, immigrants and expats.

        I was reading these comments in the hope that most people didn’t identify with Debito’s projections, I’m leaving hoping the commentators on here aren’t indicative of the expat community in Japan, because most people kinda seem like jerks.

      • anoninjapan

        “…I was reading these comments in the hope that most people didn’t identify with Debito’s projections,..”

        Isn’t that somewhat delusions too? You’ve made your mind on the article, yet hoping many will disagree and align with more your thoughts/opinions.

        Where is there difference there?

        “…The other thing that really stuck out to me as being somewhat naive in the article, was the talk about the established elite etc..”

        Are you suggesting that there is no hierarchy system within Japan, culturally, that has a significant effect on one’s ability to move vertically within Japanese society?

        The points you raised are valid, that such ‘systems’ exist in all countries. However what this article, to me, points out, is that this hierarchy does have a significant impact on one’s progress which was either ignored or unknown from the outset, far more than other countries.

        The mere fact that Japan has a disproportionately low female to male ratio of CEO’s and board members is seen as one simple indicator of such a hierarchy system. Why do you think Abe tried to appoint females to his cabinet recently…to show the world Japan is moving fwd – this is the 21st C by the way not the 19thC!!. Only to shot himself in the foot with his choice of cabinet members!

        This is an insightful article:

        If something as simple as gender, being a woman is a barrier to progress in Japan what chance does any foreigner worker have of progressing?

      • Gordon Graham

        With all due respect why not just call people “jerks”

    • blondein_tokyo

      I have to smile, though, that people think four or even ten years is a long time to be in Japan. :) They have only just scratched the surface. Talk to immigrants who have lived their entire lives, 30 or even 40 years, in a country other than the one they were born in and you get very different perspectives from all of them.

      Things look differently the longer you stay. While some find themselves becoming more and more accepting and integrate well, others who liked it at first start finding the cracks and realize that Japan is not for them in the long(er) term. Thus we get people with very different opinions and experiences, since those who are not comfortable with Japanese society or who dislike being a foreigner feel their “foreignness” more keenly.

      And Gordon? You do tend to sneer at people who haven’t integrated as well as you have. You might feel as though it is some sort of special achievement, but really it doesn’t take any kind of special skills. It’s very dependent on the individual’s personality and preferences. Japan simply isn’t to everyone’s taste; and just because some people manage to settle down with a Japanese spouse, children, and find a place in Japanese society where they feel valued, others can’t find that. And it’s not as though they didn’t try- some people simply cannot fit in here, and that shouldn’t be held against them or held up to them as a failure of some sort. Simply put, it’s just not everyone’s cup of tea.

      And it has nothing at all to do with what career path they take, either. Like you, I know quite a number of long term permanent residents who have quite happily integrated, and it runs the gamut from English teachers to photographers to musicians to people in finance. It’s the same with the other group. The stereotype is one of a grumpy old eikaiwa sensei, but that is only a small (but very vocal, LOL) percentage of the overall population.

      I think it is those dissatisfied, disenchanted people whom Debito is addressing with this piece, as a sort of warning to them that they would be better off leaving Japan behind, but he doesn’t do a very good job of making that clear. I also think he is exaggerating wildly at the numbers of people who make up that group, and their presumed reasons for not integrating well.

      • Gordon Graham

        I’ve been here 28 years. I used 10 as an arbitrary starting point for “long term” as that seems to be the length of term that Japan interprets as criterion for permanent residency.
        As for sneering or who Debito is addressing in this “article”, I’m merely offering up an alternative experience of foreigners in Japan. There are some of us who have found a very agreeable life here without having to resort to being pets or dancing clowns. So, for anyone coming across this thread who has a genuine interest in coming to Japan (or for those considering staying on), there are opportunities here. I’ve enjoyed a wonderful life here (and yes, I take pride in achievement because I’ve worked extremely hard all my life to hone my skills, focus on my goals and commit to nothing less than excellence…like anywhere else in the world you make your own luck. I am grateful to the people in my community for recognising and rewarding my commitment) and fully recommend it.

      • anoninjapan

        “… I’m merely offering up an alternative experience of foreigners in Japan…”

        If only that were true. But sadly we know it is not.

        Any voice that differs from your own you take it as a personnel crusade to correct them to your way of thinking highlight where you see errors/mistakes in their opines and when you can’t you simply call them a troll. You are no different from the person you consistently love to hate, Debito. But i would suggest worse.

        Since Debito is presenting his opinion and you either accept/agree with it, or not. And he doesn’t appear to worry if you don’t. Whereas you do. You simply cannot accept that someone has a differing point of view from yours after you try and “correct” them to your own leaning.

        As blondein_toyko notes, every country has its up side and down side. Whether one cannot accept them depends upon the person alone and their own character and reasons for being in said country.

        Your soapbox crusade wont affect someone’s reasoning at all and i suggest that irks you. Evidence being your consistent and constant rebuttals are very 1-Dimensional and yawningly repetitive.

      • Steve Jackman

        Yes, Gordon, I know you say that you’ve been in Japan 28 years. It is also true that in previous comments, you have referred to yourself as a “guest” and an “outsider” in Japan, in spite of living here for three decades, having a Japanese spouse and kids who are half Japanese. So, the number of years you’ve spent in Japan is irrelevent. The problem is your state of mind, since your attitude is that of someone who just got off the boat.

      • Gordon Graham

        Yes, I’m a proud Canadian living in Japan who is very proud of his Japanese kids and wife.

  • Eric

    Good article, with lots of painful truths.

    If you came here in the 1980’s, Japan was to be the land of milk and honey. North America and Europe could do no right, Japan could do no wrong. Sony was the Apple of its day. In those days, the overseas mass media, our university professors and the job market were essentially saying, “Go East young man.” A year or so of university Japanese language classes on your CV was a significant plus in the job market.

    Fast forward to today, and many of us long-timers are now finding the Japanese dream is not all it was cracked up to be — yet for reasons involving families and careers, we have become vested here and as such it has become difficult if not impossible to pack up and start over in our home countries.

    Even if our salaries happen to be comparable to our peers back home — which they are increasingly not given a weakening yen and faltering Japanese economy — our lifestyles are not. Here, we often have longer work hours, less family time, $30k plus annual per-child tuition fees (and increased every year) if you want your child to grow up learning English at an international school, high costs of going home to see aging parents and relatives (that is if your Japanese employer will even allow reasonable vacation time), and sub-par homes in comparison with back home. Life here becomes a frantic, hand-to-mouth existence.

  • Eric

    I think that Dr. Arudou has been a positive force overall in advocating for Japan’s foreign community, and for Japan itself in helping to shine a light on uncomfortable truths where others (particularly the Japanese media) fear to tread. I thank him for his hard work and will continue to eagerly seek out his perspective.

    Having said that, there was one theme in this article that I felt detracted from the overall message in that it was counterproductive with respect to his role as a defender of human rights, downright offensive, and just plain unnecessary. I’m referring to his comment “not to mention find many curious groupies to bed — if you happened to be male, that is” and similar suggestions in the piece.

    Particularly in the wake of the recent Julien Blanc ‘pick-up artist’ controversy, that comment hit a raw nerve in that it fuels negative stereotypes. That sentence alone paints our entire community as a group of sexual deviants who have lived out some sort of rock star fantasy. For most of us, male and female, that is not the case. There are certainly exceptions (as there are in the Japanese population), but most of the people I know who lived in Japan during their 20s led romantic lives that one would expect from adventurous, expat types (ie. willing to venture abroad rather than staying close to the suburban comforts of home) in that demographic. I know many non-Japanese men and women married to Japanese spouses, with bi-cultural children, and living in Japan who might take offense to that suggestion.

    • phu

      Really? That’s the only thing you found here to criticize? The article paints “our entire community” as lethargic, short-sighted idiots with no value or future.

  • Internet Terracotta Tiger

    Red Flag: “Japan as an entire society does too, what with all this wasted human potential, as it fades into international irrelevance.” Written like a true hater.
    A quick comparison of Canada’s online journals with the 日経新聞 or Nikkei Asian Review makes it pretty clear which of the two countries is dangerously wasting human potential. Sounds like this writer could be helping his home country, as bad or worse than even Canada in celebrating dumb as cool and trashing smart as “geeky”, in learning a thing or two from everything Japan has to offer than to be continuously bashing Japan. US news doesn’t quite sound like Walter Cronkite or MacNeil and Lehrer anymore!

  • KetsuroOu

    I have always wondered why this column is titled “Just Be Cause”.

    Although the issue of foreign and human rights (in any country) is an obvious just cause, there is nothing “just” about Arudou’s writing.

    Just more negative commentary about Japan, because the author has an axe to grind and a column to fill?

    The column is allowed to continue just because its controversial nature brings in page views?

    Whatever the reason, this month’s just plain terrible instalment shows that it is well past time to end this feature.

  • Pat

    Debito, you hit the ball out of the park with this one. While I can accept that your claims do not fit everyone’s situation, they align PERFECTLY with my own: had a great time here in the 80s, have tried hard to get qualified for a university job, etc. Yes, the specific negatives you describe indeed fit my own case. Of course I know others in academia doing far better, but your description fits so many of us to a “T”. Then again, that you and I have shared many a beer here in Sapporo might mean you’ve borrowed some of my tales. Also, I sometimes wonder if — contrary to conventional wisdom — Hokkaido people are not somehow less friendly than those in other parts of Japan. Bottom line: your advice is valuable and should be shared with those contemplating a long-term career in Japan. (But as one reader commented, opportunities back home are also slim, so slim in may cases that even in our waning years we hang on to what we’ve worked for in Japan.)

  • Heather

    This article belongs to a blog, not a professional news website. “Outghta”? Really? How do you expect readers to respect your views – even if they are for newcomers?

    Your arguments are valid, but anyone who isn’t a native or citizen faces the same challenges anywhere, not just Japan. It takes time, effort, patience and understanding to assimilate and gain trust. Concerns about being expendable are reasonable, but they shouldn’t be an excuse for not taking that big step into new opportunities.

    • kietero

      He’s a blogger – he’s been doing it since 2002 or 2003 I think? He’s got an interesting blog but since his “nightmare” at attaining Japanese status (becoming Japanese legally), the quality has gone downhill. This is light compared to what’s on his blog.

    • Steve Jackman

      It’s better than 90 percent of the content and so-called “news” which routinely appears in the mainstream Japanese media.

      • Sounds like you are damning with faint praise…. Steady there, don’t tip your hand too much, we were all just starting to like you.

      • Steve Jackman

        I would really worry the day you start liking me!

  • Loren Fykes

    Debito, why are you still here? And, I don’t mean that perniciously or in some cheap-shot “love it, or go home” retort sort of way. I am NJ-serious. 本気で聞いていますよ。If you feel that we are all perennially second-class citizens, then what is your solution? What’s are the real next steps beyond the “observations” you make here? You end on a note challenging everyone who lives here, who has made Japan their home by saying, “what can you do that Japan positively cannot live without?” To answer that in one simple way, I’d tell my friends or children or anyone who lived here that asked me this, “just being you as you.”

    The reason I would answer it that way is because you seem to think that Japan is the only place in the world that has second-class citizens. It’s as if you have NEVER EVER been a minority of any sort. Ever. Anywhere (except maybe Japan.) Anyone who has ever been anything but a member of the predominant culture of the society in which they live knows that living the life as you want to live it, believing in yourself and in the values you hold dear, and engaging with the people in society who don’t give a rat’s arse whether you are white, brown, pink, yellow or purple, will lead to the happiness you wish to create.

    While we can all get negative and beat down the environment around us and blame it for our mishaps and problems, as a minority you chin-up and soldier on. Happiness is not guaranteed ANYWAY–no matter where you live or where you go. I don’t think most of the NJs who have emigrated here are as naive as you imagined, and even if some played the prodigal son (or daughter, but you feel there are somehow fewer of these types), they are likely to have figured out that they must shape up or ship out.

    In short, I think many respect what you’re doing, and even many also respect what you’re trying to say, but the delivery is terrible. You’ll earn a lot more kudos by offering solutions and ideas to change things for the better along with the constructive criticism rather than bloviate and putting everyone in the hotseat as if they have to prove their worth. We have to prove our worth everywhere. My biggest gripe is that second-class citizenship and the survival and prospering despite that is common. It’s being done. It’s happening worldwide. Talking about and sharing the tools to do so would be a much more pleasant and less generalizing article to read.

    And imagine how positive and helpful all of the posts would be. Imagine comments full of helpful tips and advice and links to resources rather than refutations of your individual conjecture.

    • ARUDOU Debito

      The solution I offered in the piece is to get qualified in something society wants that makes you become unsubstitutable. That’s true anywhere, but the scales for NJ are tipped against the normal career passivity in Japan.

      • Loren Fykes

        And this was my point above: the scales are tipped anywhere where said person is a minority. So, why chastise Japanese society as if it is an exception to this rule? It seems very one-dimensional (if not misaligned as an argument) to characterize the experience of a minority here as materially different (as if it is some fault of Japan and the people who live here) from anywhere else in the world–the US, UK, France, Germany, and most other developed nations where it has been clearly shown that members of the nonwhite and non-dominant culture face all sort of hurdles to integration and employment. If anything, Japan may be one of the easiest places in the world for this.

      • Toolonggone

        >If anything, Japan may be one of the easiest places in the world for this.

        If you are lucky enough to born to a family of race Japan has been worshipping as ideal model of foreign language teacher for many years, and not cursed by Secretary of Ed Arne Ducan’s “white suburban mom” narrative.

      • blondein_tokyo

        True! People of color tend to have a much harder time in Japan.

        On the other hand, we should not overlook the difficulty Caucasian people have when they experience racism, even benevolent racism, for the first time in their lives. While it’s tempting to say, “Oh poor you, first world problems”, everything is relative to how people grow up. It’s not easy getting used to being a foreigner; and it’s not easy integrating into a society that is extremely insular.

        And yes, Japan is more insular than MANY societies, so it might not be unreasonable to say that immigrants to Japan have a harder time of it than say, immigrants to the USA or Germany.

        If a German wants to correct me, feel free.. :)

      • Loren Fykes

        I don’t even think about my color here. There are times when I think that my color has played a factor in what has happened–I watch how a white guy gets golf privileges, asked to represent “yadda yadda” on a panel and other ridiculous things even though they are nearly as fluent or experienced as I am. But, also there are several people who are not like that. Most people do whatever they are doing negatively because they feel threatened. A Japanese female friend of mine who is now 88 told me that I should never let crap like that phase me. She said to me, “can you imagine what it’s like being a woman here?” So, there’s always somebody else who has it better or who has it worse. I try not to focus on what happens to the typical white person in Japan. That would be a complete waste of time.

    • C.J. Bunny

      Debito, why are you still here? And, I don’t mean that perniciously or in some cheap-shot “love it, or go home” retort sort of way.

      He isn’t. He left 3-4 years ago after the earthquake and was studying in Hawaii. I guess this is indicative of the problems he faced in Japan, that he felt he had to leave to get on, despite all the effort of naturalizing.

      • Loren Fykes

        Then I am actually MORE surprised that he did not admit that he was no longer in Japan. You are absolutely right; perhaps this is more an autobiographical piece than empirical analysis. It’s a shame–it comes across as feeling disenfranchised and bitter. But, this is the nature of being a minority. You go through periods of profound loneliness and anger, and again through periods where you feel loved and a sense of belonging. It comes with the territory.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Great post, Loren. I was thinking the same thing. I am really disappointed in this piece.

      • J.P. Bunny

        My personal guess as to why he doesn’t admit to leaving Japan is that it would take away any shred of credibility his whinge fests contain. There is no real reason for a column of that type to be printed in a Japanese paper. A person that continually tells us how terrible it is to live here, but doesn’t live here himself? Makes sense it does not.

  • CaptainAsia

    Sad but mostly true. Remember this used to be the country of the Samurai, whose lives flashed in front of them like sakura blossoms and old people were dropped off on tops of mountains in the middle of the night. Apart from all the rhetoric about well old people are treated in this country, I find the opposite quite true even for Japanese themselves, let alone Gaijin.
    Most Asian nations are very racist, especially the Han Chinese and they tend to single out foreigners more than the Japanese. Try to do what most of you are complaining about in this comment section in China and see how long you last. Just look at Tibet and see what the Han have done there and they call it help. Even worse try North Korea and then you get a real taste of how well graying white people are accepted.

    So while the going is acceptable put your head down and keep playing the role of the Gaijin clown, at least you get paid and fed for your time and if you keep up with your insurance the health system is pretty good as well. If you are still moaning then go back to your country which is so great or go to China, I hear it is good there……not!

  • Myu tube

    Brilliant writeup. Japan doesn’t play with American rules. Planning to stick here forever is imprudent. Mr. Abe says, “We’d like them to temporarily raise incomes for some time and then go back.”, that’s how Japanese companies treat NJs and it’s not justified to blame them. It’s wise to work for a company that is headquartered outside Japan, and it’s wise to shift somewhere else as soon as the opportunity shows up, preferably your home country or one that already has a huge number of immigrants.
    And this is reflected in everyday life here, Japanese people will always treat you like an outsider.

    • Oliver Mackie

      “Japan doesn’t play with American rules.”

      YOU DON’T SAY!

      Imagine that?! People wanting to run their own country their own way….whatever next?!

  • J.P. Bunny

    Yes, Little Debi, we get it. You’ve had a bad time in Japan, therefore the entire country is involved in a conspiracy against all foreigners. Anyone who doesn’t have extraordinary talents automatically falls into the sex crazed, English teaching, party animal category. Of course, if we dare to criticize Little Debi and his whinge fests, we must surely be trapped in our bubbles of “illusio maintenance”, heading for an anonymous and lonely death. No wonder Little Debi left the country, his ego and paranoia take up way too much space.

  • J.P. Bunny

    Another half page of paranoid drivel and sweeping generalizations. Life can be unpleasant anywhere. It’s not a conspiracy if things don’t go well for you.

  • Michey Peckitt

    “Another part is the shocking realization in many NJ (especially in those brought over during the 1980s Golden Age of Kokusaika (“internationalization”) who are now reaching late middle age and retirement) that they were working under a delusion: They were never seen as a colleague in the workplace. More as a pet.”

    Maybe Debito Arudou is correct in this, but he seems to imply, that being treated as ‘a pet’ is something particular to Japan, and I doubt it is. Most of the foreigners I know in my home country, the ones who aren’t students, are unskkilled or semi skilled labourers too, with a smackering of academics.

  • Oliver Mackie

    Not only is this article disappointingly autobiographical and self-centered, but he leaves out all the juicy details about his personal failings, seeking to blame everything he has experienced on the shortcomings of others. The only thing of worth is the idea that you should always been aware that, wherever you are, it is wise to look at your career with eyes to the future, and make sure that you have something to offer, rather than relying on what the ‘system’ might provide.
    Waiting to see how many minutes till this is deleted……

  • Dan Knighton

    International irrelevance? How? There are some pretty significant occurrences happening here.

    I’m not sure if the point of this article is to go home or motivate us to participate in society more.

    • Steve Jackman

      Sure, things are just hunky dory is Japan, as long as you ignore small details like the fact that the Japanese stock market has lost 60 percent of its value over the last thirty years (U.S and European stock markets are up six fold during the same period), Japan is the most indebted country in the developed world, wages are in terminal decline, the Yen is losing all its value, the country is sitting on a demographic time-bomb, and Moody’s just downgraded Japan’s debt to the same rating as the Czech Republic.

      • Dan Knighton

        I didn’t say hunky dory. All those things you mentioned sound pretty relevant. Also, some others: nuclear catastrophe, scrimmages with China, techno.

        I’ve been to the Czech Republic. It was a real nice place.

      • Recently, the Nikkei has risen to very high levels. It is now considered by some to be at a higher level than the Dow. Also the applicants to jobs ratio has risen to just over 1.1. That is the highest level it has been since 1992. The yen is sliding some but it is now at a level that it is expected to be at for a while and this allows for exporters to profit. Some analysts think that Japan is now through the worst and that this is the long expected recovery. Let’s hope so.

  • texastea

    Here in the US, if you say “all blacks are…” or “all whites are…” or “all Japanese are…”, you get in a heap of trouble. But this guy says “all foreigners in Japan are…” Well, I think he is just reading his own adjustment problems into all the foreigners in Japan. I don’t live there, but I’ve gone there once a year for about the past 30 years (I just returned to Houston from Tokyo), and I’ve met many long term residents (and a few who even naturalized) who have been great successes there, and they love it. For a loser, it is easier to blame others for their failure than themselves. It is part of having a weak mind to begin with.

    • Toolonggone

      Funny thing is that I find some people living in the south–especially Lone Star display similar type of mindsets like those bitching on teacher tenure system or defending fed grand jury’s decisions on Brown and Garner. It’s just like some of those (both Japanese and non-Japanese) here talking lots of nonsense about the issues Japan is dealing with.

  • KenjiAd

    I’m a Japanese national. I went to America when I was 26 and ended up spending 26 years in there. I had a good life in America. I now live in China. Over three years now.

    I like the challenge of living in a foreign country. It provides an opportunity to broaden my world and make new friends.

    Also for better or for worse, discrimination is something I’ve gotten used to. I didn’t/don’t expect Americans or Chinese people to treat me like one of them. It doesn’t bother me. I’ve learned a long time ago that it’s not terribly useful to keep complaining about something I have no control over, especially when I live abroad.

    Don’t get me wrong. I wish Japan in the future would become less hostile to foreign nationals.

    As a life-long “second class” citizen, my suggestions to foreigners living in Japan would be to focus on what you can control, such as your language skills and social connections. Don’t lose sleep over what Japan or Japanese people are or are not doing for you. That, you have no control over.

    Oh, I forgot. There are always some in the expat community who keep bashing their host country. Ignore them. Really. There is nothing to learn from these complainers.

    • Toolonggone

      One thing Japan could do better is to provide a very good example to other countries(See national health-care system and elementary school/public school system), rather than imitate the series of bad example(i.e., anti-immigration sentiment, ill treatment of detainees, corporate tax-cuts, state-led education reform, punitive accountability system) from the west.

    • blondein_tokyo

      Do correct me if I’ve misunderstood your post, but do you honestly think people should not complain about racism, or seek to end it? I ask, because your post comes off as though you think foreigners have no real good reason to get upset over racism, and should just brush it off the way you do.

      If that is really what you think, I couldn’t disagree more with that perspective.

      • KenjiAd

        Foreigners living in Japan (or in any country for that matter) have a good reason, but also a bad reason or no reason at all to complain about their lives. My observation as an expat is, some expats complain far more frequently and bitterly than they should. Yes, I do believe that.

        It doesn’t mean that expats should just shut up and move on. Not at all. But you need to choose what you should be complaining about.

        I’ve seen Japanese expats in America complaining about American racism, seen westerner expats in China complaining about Chinese racism (which actually often works for, not against, the very complainers). But the difficulties they inevitably experience as foreigners are not all because of racism or national discrimination. More often than not, that’s their own failings.

        For example, Mr Arudou wrote:

        This became evident as younger Japanese co-workers, who had less qualifications, time or experience in the company, got promoted over them.

        Does he mean that this would never happens if they were Japanese? What kind of world is he living? “Less qualified” people get promoted all the time for many reasons, including such a reasonable “reason” like personal favoritism. Why does he attribute this injustice only to the race/nationality?

        I think he does that, because paradoxically it’s a very comforting stance to take, as it allows him to blame others or the system or both on his own shortcomings.

      • Toolonggone

        >But the difficulties they inevitably experience as foreigners are not all because of racism or national discrimination. More often than not, that’s their own failings.

        I’m not sure that’s always the case in the US. Many American employers today are pulling off numerous profit-making schemes for corporate welfare by deliberately cutting pensions, wages and benefits like Koch Industry and the Wal-Mart. Foreign nationals are likely to become a target of employer’s bully-tactic because the employers well know for sure that they have to pay thousands of dollars for sponsoring work visa at the time of hiring. Microsoft’s recent tactic to outsource computer engineers from India by laying off numerous American employees is a case in point. There’s no guarantee newly hired Indian workers will get paid decently. I doubt it. This kind of practice is becoming common.

    • Steve Jackman

      You sound typically apathetic. Japanese society is famously apathetic at home, so it’s no surprise that as a Japanese person, you take your apathy with you to other countries when you move there.

      • KenjiAd

        Do you even realize you made a racist statement?

      • Steve Jackman

        First, it is not racist. Second, foreigners in Japan are regularly subjected to much worse forms of racism on an almost daily basis, yet most Japanese feel that that is not racism. Talk about double standards!

  • Yosemite_Steve

    This seems to be a new low for JBC, thought I mostly already stopped reading this column more than a year ago. Arudo has long since run out of things to say or the will to do any research on anything new. Here he is yet again warming over his own bitterness about being divorced and losing contact with his children due to Japanese divorce law. A terrible, terrible fate and warning to be sure, but his history is not a good enough reason for TJT readers to be so often subjected to condescending insults from someone who knows it all and if we disagree it’s because we are in our own deluded bubble.

    Seriously, TJT, we’ve had more than enough of Arudo’s rants. Among us we know Japan just about every possible angle and few of us long term residents are as bitter as Arudo. And give me a break – it’s not because we are stupid gaijin clowns and apologists. BTW, many of us are not English teachers (not that I personally look down on anybody who has gone that road). Please, TJT, give this space to somebody with more constructive energy to analyze something and tell us stuff we don’t know instead of the monotonous drumbeat of simply “Japan totally sucks for NJ”. I don’t mind Japan bashing as long as it’s substantial and maybe even researched, instead of the same old repeated schlock of this tired professional discontent still trading on his ‘important .Hokkaido court case’ of some 15 years back.

    Arudo’s main audience seems to be the 2nd or 3rd year English teachers, who may indeed be in need of being reminded (in the most over-generalized terms possible) that they face a lifetime of not fitting in here and there may be much better career prospects for them in a different career path back home. Things are pretty bad all over now, so I’m not so sure about those opportunities outside of Japan, but nonetheless, there is certainly a kernel of very good advice for them.

    As for anybody else who has been here long enough to suss out the lay of the land for themselves, what Arudo offers is insult, saying that we are pretty much clueless losers who don’t even realize the price we are paying for being here vs whatever choices we have to make a living somewhere else. We’re not capable of judging for ourselves what our own trade-offs are and we need Arudo to point out the social obstacles of being NJ.

    Arudo also betrays a very narrow view of what life means to him when he indicates sees no path to self-actualization except for becoming a recognized ‘elite’ (such as the “famous NJ rights activist” he once was in Japan). He says “Most of the influential and reasonably self-actualized people in Japan are elites…”. This seems to be a very Japanese style paying of attention to position. Without an elite job title, what you actually do means nothing, as only the powerful could possibly be considered ‘reasonably self-actualized’.

    • J.P. Bunny

      Agreed. The people who have been here for many years know how things work in Japan. Rather insulting for someone who doesn’t even live here anymore to be instructing us on how terrible things are.
      As for those who come here for a few years to sow their wild oats, so what? This happens in countries all over the world.
      Some of us were present to meet Perry at the docks, and we certainly don’t fall into the sex crazed, party animal, waiting for a lonely death category, just because we don’t fall into Arudo’s recognized elite. The Japan Times really should use the new year to start over and replace this drivel with something meaningful.

  • Toolonggone

    Take a look at the image of a splash and bubbles on top! That looks like a real artwork.

  • Adam

    Yeah, but … you really do get treated very differently. I can relate my own experience to some of what the writer is saying.

    It’s easier to understand if you have ever seen someone from Japan try to apply for a job in America after their OPT is running out. They must have something amazing to offer or it won’t happen.

    Also, if you do have something great to offer, part of your job becomes showing your coworkers how to do it, so that you are no longer required.

    Not to say you can’t have a great fun time, but if you compare it to what you career path would have been in your own country — let’s say if you had decided to be a radiologist — good luck getting a decent residency in Japan, much less a decent job as a doctor at a hospital.

    It is a wonderful country to work and live in for a few years and then visit again for years on end, and keep in touch with all the friends you made, is my advice to people who may be considering whether to stay or not.

  • qwerty

    seems like all the usual suspects still defending their ‘new’ wonderful lives in japan. I think they do protest too much

  • Marc Beyers

    What Editorialist states in his first line squarely contradicts his rant in the rest.

    >>I get why many people (particularly the native speakers of English, who are probably the majority of readers here) come to Japan and stay on.

    If it were an apartheid state, as he has incredibly claimed previously, why do the majority who come stay?

  • texastea

    According to the posts below, the writter is not even in Japan anymore. So I guess he followed his advice. Too bad he did not develop any essential working skills for long-term life in Japan, as he suggests. I’m just looking at this because my son moved to Japan in April. He was hired by a major Japanese electronics firm to work on encryption. He is one of only 6 people in the world who can do the work he does (although he may be exaggerating a little – Texans may do that on occasion), so you can say he has an essential skill for long-term life in Japan. I was surprised when I was in Tokyo this week to hear him blabbing away in Japanese with his friends. Of course, I have no idea if it is any good at it, but we did get what we ordered at restaurants. He is already talking about staying there. I think that based on comments below, he will succeed there if he does stay.

    • texastea

      Also, the thing he writes about sowing our oats when you are young. People do that everywhere.

    • Squidhead

      The writer developed the skill of writing clickbait.

      Congratulations btw. I think your son will get along just fine in Japan.

  • GIJ

    Some context: Debito will be turning 50 years old next month. I really think he wrote this rambling commentary not to any Japan Times readers, but rather to himself as he approaches the half-century mark in a most depressed and unhappy state.

  • KenjiAd

    To get an academic position in Japan or elsewhere, you need to show that you are capable of getting external funding. This could create a huge obstacle if you are thinking to look for a research faculty position in Japan unless your Japanese skills improve dramatically.

  • IparryU

    “Admit it: The majority of you stayed on because you were anesthetized by sex, booze, easy money and the freedom to live outside both the boxes you were brought up in and the boxes Japanese people slot themselves in.”

    Don’t hate, participate!

  • HayesOose

    “The majority of you stayed on because you were anesthetized by sex, booze, easy money and the freedom to live outside both the boxes you were brought up in and the boxes Japanese people slot themselves in.”

    Mr Arudou most definitely does not get what motivated me to make Japan my home.

    Here’s what I get: That Arudou feels that Japan has done him wrong in a most personal way. This is beyond the racism that is of course to be found here, just as it is to be found just about anywhere on the globe.

    Has there ever been a moment in his life in which Mr Arudou has even considered that his own failings have caused his failure to thrive in this country to a degree that he would find acceptable?

    His lack of close friend ships with Japanese people: Is it a failure of Japanese culture, or, is it rather that Mr Arudou is an unpleasant person to be around?

    His failure to reach academic and professional esteem to his satisfaction: Could it be that his work is just not up to snuff?

    Has he ever even entertained these thoughts?

  • HayesOose

    “The majority of you stayed on because you were anesthetized by sex, booze, easy money and the freedom to live outside both the boxes you were brought up in and the boxes Japanese people slot themselves in.”

    Mr Arudou most definitely does not get what motivated me to make Japan my home.

    Here’s what I get: That Arudou feels that Japan has done him wrong in a most personal way. This is beyond the racism that is of course to be found here, just as it is to be found just about anywhere on the globe.

    Has there ever been a moment in his life in which Mr Arudou has even considered that his own failings have prevented him from to thriving in this country to a degree that he would find acceptable?

    His lack of close friendships with Japanese people: is it a failure of Japanese culture, or, is it rather that Mr Arudou is an unpleasant person to be around?

    His failure to reach academic and professional esteem to his satisfaction: Could it be that his work is just not up to snuff?

    Has he ever even entertained these thoughts?

  • Oliver Mackie

    Let me add one point that I don’t think has been directly addressed yet, that is the enormous plus (for me anyway) of simply being able to live in a foreign culture, single at first, and then to marry someone from another culture and bring up multicultural kids. All other things being equal, this is huge for me, in fact it is a big-enough plus for me even if other things are not quite equal. Living in another culture and learning another language in context expands the mind like nothing else. Being able to witness kids develop into adults who can speak at least two languages at a native level is not only endlessly fascinating but makes me tremendously excited about their future.

    I came here 23 years ago in exactly the same way as outlined in the article: young (fresh out of college) and I was dazzled by Tokyo itself
    (so different from the cities back in the UK), the lifestyle (eat and drink whatever you want, when whenever you want – at a time when everything in the UK had to close by 11pm) and yes, the fact that shy me could get a girlfriend who was well brought up, trustworthy, fun and (in my eyes) far more beautiful than any offers I was getting at home.
    I worked eikawa through the first 4 years, joined a local bank for 6 more years, left of my own volition and went back to teaching. In order to get better pay and working hours I acquired an MSc in TESOL off my own back (time and money) and now things are quite comfortable (my wife has a good job too) with university work (non-tenured.) Looking to the future, I have started turning a hobby into a potential business and the initial signs are quite good. Japan has a lot of regulations that one has to abide by but all of them make sense within their field and, once you get through the starting-up process, things work well, as you have shown that you are serious about your intentions. After that, Japan is generally a fabulous place to do business, as almost all potential customers are reliable regarding payment, and suppliers and logistics are very trustworthy and competent. Any problems which emerge can be solved quickly and smoothly.

    Had I stayed in the UK, would I have had a better career? Possibly, as I went to a very good school and one of the top universities. Looking at my classmates who stayed in the UK, they run the whole range from unemployed and on benefits to high-flying lawyers making several hundred thousand dollars a year. But what I wouldn’t have had is the opportunity to so broaden my thinking through international marriage and parenthood, taste all the myriad of amazing food and drinks that this country has to offer in innumerable fascinating bars, restaurants, and homes, experience the joys and comforts of the service industry here, hike in mountains unlike anything in the UK, travel around on the most efficient and reliable transport system in the world and never need to own a car, experience the obsessive devotion of innumerable individuals and groups to doing their hobbies and professions as well as possible, never worry when I left my bag on the train that I wouldn’t get it back with all contents still in it, never be attacked on the street for being a ‘southern student’, and on the list goes.

    But, yes, I couldn’t become a lawyer here, unlikely a tenured teacher at university even, but, you know, I really couldn’t care. I can start a business, am free to pay relatively low income tax on a decent salary, can effectively opt out of the risky-looking public pension system and take care of myself, can put my kids through almost all of the myriad educational routes to choose from so that they will be skilled enough to stay here and work (no, not in the bureaucracy of course, but who on earth would want to do that anyway?) with any of the many domestic and international companies that place ability and skills before school name (and I’m pretty sure that the number of those companies will be much higher by the time my kids enter the marketplace) or go to the UK, or go elsewhere. Me and my wife will split our retirement time between Japan, the UK and who knows (if things go well) a third country too.

    I am so very happy I came to Japan. There are difficulties, as anywhere, but it only takes me a few days back in my home country hanging out with my career successful but oh-so-limited in cultural experience friends* to make me understand again how much I have gained from living (and I mean truly living) in a foreign culture.

    (*which is not to denigrate their choices of course)