Spare a thought for the Western men trapped in Japan

by Olga Garnova

In Japan, it’s a familiar refrain: “Men have it easy — especially foreigners. They are males in a highly conservative patriarchal society, so they enjoy all the benefits: status, money, career. On top of that, foreigners often attract a lot of Japanese girls.

“These Western men do not really have to learn the language or try to fit in. Their Japanese girlfriends or wives will take care of the majority of things for them. Their careers, especially teaching ones, also may not require Japanese proficiency. They are never subjected to sexual harassment, abuse or sexism.” But is this the full story?

Jim, an American in his late 20s, used to be a very passionate young man. He claimed he was a communist — a Stalinist, even. He would engage in endless political debates during smoking breaks and drinking sessions. He dreamed of graduate school, an academic career and, one day, even leading a riot. But instead, he got married to a Japanese girl and already had children by the time he graduated. She did not want to leave Japan and insisted he earn a stable income, so he ended up teaching English somewhere in the sticks, far from any big university. “It is only for the time being,” he insists, but it’s difficult to see how he will ever have the money or mobility to realize his dreams.

Japan can be the best place in the world for some, but for others it can be a trap. And sometimes I think it’s far easier for Western men to be sucked into this trap than women.

Japanese society can be notoriously conservative when it comes to gender roles. While there is a lot of talk about the negative effects of imposing traditional roles on women, their restrictiveness and destructiveness for well-being are rarely mentioned in regard to men.

In Japan, men in general have very limited choices. The culture demands that they become “real men,” which usually means breadwinners obsessed with their careers. The job-for-life system that has dominated Japanese corporate culture for the postwar period demands the full devotion of employees. Promotions and salary raises were, and often still are, mainly based on loyalty and seniority. The company has to be a man’s top priority.

So what does this involve? Well, although hours have been dropping for the last few years, Japanese still clock up more minutes on the job per year than workers in almost any other OECD country, although many of those minutes are unpaid. Forty percent of workers say they regularly do what’s known as sābisu zangyō — unpaid overtime: 16 hours a month on average. So-called burakku kigyō (black companies) might require over 100 hours, and their youngest employees — those in their 20s — are hit the hardest. Karōshi — death from overwork — is such a prominent problem that the government passed a bill last year aimed at tackling premature death and illnesses caused by overwork, apparently the first of its kind in the world.

Japan’s corporate jungle is still overwhelmingly a man’s world — a world many women drop out of when they get married and have children, whether they want to or not. And when it comes to marriage, money tends to quickly become a top priority. According to a survey conducted by OZmall, a popular Japanese women’s information site, 72 percent of women would not be willing to marry “without money” — presumably meaning a case where the couple concerned had no money to speak of between the two of them.

While such pragmatism may be quite understandable in a nation that has not seen sustained growth for over 20 years, it would also seem to fly in the face of the Western notion of marriage being a culmination of a romantic relationship. For example, American adults — both married and unmarried — ranked “love” (93 percent), “making a lifelong commitment” (87 percent) and “companionship” (81 percent) as more important reasons to get married than “having children” (59 percent) or “financial stability” (31 percent) in a nationwide survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in association with Time magazine.

Sebastian, a 32-year-old university student with several part-time jobs and 12 years of service in the German Federal Armed Forces, discovered this disconnect the hard way when a Japanese girlfriend he had been together with for a year and had proposed to dumped him because he had “no future.” According to her, his Japanese major was not a promise of a successful career and, not being a native speaker of English, he could not secure teaching jobs. “Why is it always about money?” he asks.

To borrow from the headline of a past column by Kaori Shoji from these pages, “Marriage has little to do with romantic love.” No wonder foreign husbands often complain about Japanese women suddenly transforming from sweet and cute girlfriends into shufu — professional housewives emotionally and physically distant from their husbands and fully devoted to their children and home. Men can be sidelined when it comes to participation in child-rearing and other home-related matters, such as controlling the family budget. As opposed to a safe haven from the pressures of work, marriage can become an additional source of stress for men.

No wonder Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, at 18.5 per 100,000 inhabitants — about 60 percent higher than the global average of 11.4. As in most of the rest of the world (the most notable exception being China), men in Japan kill themselves at a much higher rate than women.

Japanese men have it tough, but foreigners might have it even worse. Unlike Japanese, who have been raised in the culture of strict gender roles and long work hours, foreigners — especially Westerners — may have very different expectations, lifestyles and ideals. For example, achieving a balance between work, family and personal time is seen as extremely important in contemporary European and American societies, but Japanese corporate culture does not support it.

Finding a stable full-time job after graduation will be very hard for Sebastian: As a foreigner approaching his 40s, he could become a victim of double discrimination — due to both age and nationality. And even when foreigners fulfill all the “requirements” for a promotion — having endured long hours, nomikai (after-work drinking sessions), business trips and relocations — they still may be denied just for not being Japanese.

Patrick, a 31-year-old American IT specialist, decided to leave a Japanese company he was working for because after all the overtime work he put in, he hit the glass ceiling.

“According to my boss, three promotions were the most I could’ve gotten,” he says. Patrick says his boss explicitly referred to his being non-Japanese as a factor. “But they wanted me to come to work even when I had 40-degree fever. Of course, I left!” Patrick adds that some of his foreigner friends managed to get higher in their companies’ pecking order, but “they had no life.”

Even when they have a steady income, men who do not have a stable job can be harassed. Jack, a U.S. Navy veteran retired after 20 years of service, receives retirement benefits from the U.S. government. However, his Japanese in-laws see him as a leech: His wife is working while he is back at school.

“They just do not get it!” he fumes. “I spent 20 years in the navy working every f——— day. I am tired of explaining that I am getting paid.”

Another huge problem is integration. According to Nana Oishi, a researcher specializing in migrations and Japanese studies, the greatest barrier in the workplace for foreigners is not language. In her study, which involved interviews with non-Japanese working in the country, “several respondents expressed frustration that their Japanese colleagues were not communicating sufficiently either with them or with each other.”

An acquaintance of mine, John — fluent in Japanese — was exasperated when, after three weeks on the new job and with no training or help from co-workers, he was asked to complete a project.

“They expect me to know how to do it perfectly without any explanation!” he complains. In the end, John had to contact the management overseas for help with integration into his work environment.

Integration outside of the workplace is also often a challenge, especially for men who are expected to have a full-time job, be the main provider for the family and, therefore, often find themselves with fewer opportunities than women to engage in social activities and make friends with Japanese. Forming personal relationships with the locals is an essential part of the process of adjusting to a new country, but Japan is recognized as being a society with low relational mobility, i.e., people have fewer opportunities to form relationships and terminate old ones. It is also a collectivistic culture, and thus it is difficult for foreigners to enter existing social groups and circles. Most of the time it is necessary to belong to some social group to establish and maintain friendships with Japanese.

Despite all the difficulties, it seems that it is relatively easy for foreign men to get married to Japanese women. And while those women are usually the least traditional — and the most likely to avoid the dreaded shufu transformation — intercultural communication always has a potential for misunderstanding and unintended offense. A couple’s expectations of marriage and family also might not match. Since family is one of the bedrocks of emotional support, this situation may result in lowered psychological comfort and overall wellbeing.

Nihonjinron — the largely discredited but still widely held idea that Japanese are an especially homogenous and unique people — can also complicate the situation. Although openly aggressive racism is rare, discrimination can be cloaked in the form of polite questions regarding a foreigner’s country of origin and ethnic background, their time of arrival in and departure from Japan, praise of their language and chopstick skills, and even unsolicited explanations of culture, food, tradition and so on. These words may sound quite innocent, but they can also convey very strong messages of exclusion and inferiority.

Acculturation studies connect experienced and perceived discrimination and subtle forms of racism, such as racial “microaggressions,” to mental and physical problems. People may experience anxiety, stress, anger, frustration, helplessness, psychosomatic symptoms and academic and work problems. All of this leads to lower life satisfaction.

Of course, foreign women are also subject to long hours, discrimination, microaggressions and problems related to these phenomena. However, studies have shown that women are generally better at recognizing and expressing emotions, and hence they ask for help more often. They also usually have better access to emotional support, which is predominantly provided by female social groups. There is a lot said and written about women. There is a whole industry dedicated to dealing with the effects of sexism, misogyny and other problems specific to women. A woman knows she is not alone; a man does not.

Men are trapped in “men do not cry” mentality. They are discouraged from complaining and prefer to keep their emotions and stress to themselves. Instead they engage in self-destructive behaviors such as excessive drinking, smoking and promiscuity.

And here we come to the “party boys.” How many of them are indeed pure hedonists who have pledged their souls to the pursuit of fun? There is an interesting type of depression that has been recognized recently by some psychologists called “masked depression.” Clinical psychologists theorize that men are more susceptible to this variant than the standard “sad” form. Excessive partying can be one of the ways this type of depression manifests itself, with all the “fun” just a means of concealing the overall unhappiness and lowered self-esteem a man is suffering from.

Having read this far, the outlook for Western men may appear bleak, but foreigners — and especially men — are by no means doomed to a miserable existence in Japan. There are examples of well-adjusted expatriates living a happy life here. So what is their secret?

Having non-Japanese friends and co-workers helps a lot. Not only can you use your native language, but the patterns of communication, expectations and levels of self-disclosure tend to be quite similar, and therefore it is often easier to build and develop relationships. The fact that we are all foreigners here “in the same boat” is a perfect icebreaker.

But perhaps the most important thing is to admit and fully accept that we can never fully assimilate in Japan. We can never become Japanese, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Ken Seeroi, the author of the popular blog Japanese Rule of 7, writes, “It seems you can either spend a lifetime trying to prove you’re as good as the worst Japanese person, or opt out and just be ‘foreign.’ ”

Embracing your non-Japaneseness, just being yourself, exploiting the “gaijin power” your outsider status affords you and simply enjoying the ride are the best ways to avoid the trap of loneliness and misery.

Some names have been changed to protect the privacy of interviewees and their families. Foreign Agenda provides a forum for opinion on issues related to life in Japan. Your comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp

  • KenjiAd

    I basically agree with your analyses, I strongly disagree with this one.

    Embracing your non-Japaneseness, just being yourself, exploiting the “gaijin
    power” your outsider status affords you and simply enjoying the ride
    are the best ways to avoid the trap of loneliness and misery.

    While the above method could allow lonely foreign men to cope with the reality temporarily, it will not solve the problems. In fact I think it would make the situations worse. You can’t solve the problem of none acceptance by substituting it with the delusional “gaijin
    power” which you know very well will not get you any respect in the end.

    I’ve seen a lot of expats, Japanese in America (myself used to be one), westerners in Japan and in China where I currently reside with my Chinese wife.

    Those who do well as a foreigner tend to have a common denominator. These are the people who don’t get too upset when they see or experience things they would strongly condemn in their own home countries – the kind of things that you tell yourself “Gee, they shouldn’t do this!” (but they do anyway).

    If you are a foreigner, you know what I’m talking about. And if you are a type who gets bothered by those things too easily, eventually you will suffer sort of mental breakdown. Your skin is too delicate. Soon you might start ranting on a forum like this, or start looking for girls who supposedly “understand” you (but actually don’t).

    But if you are a type who can let it go and has an ability to make fun out of it, you will likely be fine. Except for most serious offenses, the majority of discrimination can be annoying but not life-threatening.

    Instead of isolating yourself from Japanese people to protect your sanity, which this author appears to be suggesting, I would suggest a different approach.

    People, after all, are not that different from each other. People all over the world appreciate, for example, things like kindness and honesty. So try to find those in Japanese people. And try to show Japanese people that you, too, have those qualities.

    In other words, try to see they are the same as you, try to show you are the same as them.

    My two cents.

    • Thanks for the comments, they are very interesting.

      I’m a 23 year resident of semi rural Japan, and I cope. I have a business with lots of responsibilities, employees who need me. I have hobbies and drive my car up Mt. Akagi and have fun. I am making plans for the future rather than expecting to do exactly what I’m doing forever. I have a good balance with Japan I think.

      • mulogo1945 .

        I am only 5 years in Japan but retired here with my Japanese wife. Learning Japanese is most difficult for me, but even having no fluency, I have many Japanese friends. The lack of foreigner friends here does not depress me. I garden, fish and teach a little English. To me Peter Payne lives in the big city with a lot of conveniences, Japanese and foreign, that make me envy his situation. Contentment is something you make for your self.

      • Have fun in Japan! Actually you will find a “balance” with Japanese, enough fluency for your needs and not more. And since Japanese are often helpful and happy to speak with you, you can keep things pretty moderate.

        I live in a small city of 200,000, not super convenient but at least everything I need is here. I find the Internet is a wonderful way to fill in whatever is lacking from life in Japan.

      • HeatPhoenix

        Aren’t you from J-List?

      • Yes

      • HeatPhoenix

        It’s like spotting a celebrity!

    • Honestly, as a twice ex-pat, I think it’s just plain rude to live somewhere for any extended period of time and to not make a conscious effort to learn the local language and to adopt (or at least appreciate) the cultural norms.

      Whichever your host country, be a good guest.

      • Amen. The excuse the lazy make is “Japanese don’t want us to speak Japanese, and Japanese language won’t get you anywhere in Japan.” Most often illustrated with Ken Seeroi, self-professed professional blogger I mean writer and English teacher.

        The excuse is self-serving, of course. Eventually, you realize you’ve used this excuse for too long, spending a decade drinking and partying with NJ and J clubbers instead of studying and working hard and socializing with civilized (Japanese speaking) people (J & NJ) that have real lives and responsibilities.

        These I-don’t-wanna-try-to-fit-in foreigners, with their own private lost decade(s) in Japan prioritized alcohol, sex, and the English Internet, are then forced to double down and say that yes, they CHOSE to not learn Japanese and do The English Life because that’s the better path. Because not to affirm this would be to admit they wasted their prime years, having been given a unique and rare opportunity of life in another rich and wonderful country, and settled for less — the quick and easy and superficial route.

        You can fake social success, and make it seem like the Seeroi Post is Gospel, as it’s possible to live a non-poor life and hang around a very small, niche, section of Japanese society that “slums” it in the English-land, Japan (usually 20-30 something freeters and bored OLs looking for a small temporary thrill without a plane trip outside the country).

        However, if you want to go all the way, sometimes you gotta pass on the blue pill called Japan English-land and take the red pill.

      • Steve Jackman

        Eido, as with many of your other posts here, this one too reads like an ode to Eido Inoue by Eido Inoue. Yes, we all know that you are fluent In Japanese, but you are doing everyone a disservice by pretending that everything would be hunky dory for foreigners in Japan, if they were just fluent in Japanese. This is simply not the case. I would be a rich man if I had a Yen everytime a highly-skilled English/Japanese bilingual foreign employee at a Japanese company complained to me that the best way the company seems to be taking advantage of their skills was by having them translate documents between the two languages (and mind you, these are highly-skilled employees with American MBAs). Some good its doing them to spend years mastering Japanese, just so they can spend all day doing menial tasks like translating documents.

        For the record and to provide some context, I have worked for many years at some of the best known Japanese and foreign companies in Japan in senior management. No disrespect to you, but my professional positions have been far more senior than yours, based on your public profile. I have seen first hand the mistreatment of expats and foreign workers by Japanese managers, in a manner they would never dream of treating Japanese workers. And, guess what? Many of these foreigners were just as fluent in Japanese as you. Of the ones who were not, they were recruited by the Japanese company using a job description which clearly stated, “Japanese is not a job requirement”. However, after they were recruited under false pretense, the company routinely used their lack of Japanese language ability as a weapon against them. This shows a definite lack of ethics, integrity and professionalism by these companies.

        Japanese corporations often treat their professional foreign and expat employees as hostages, since they know that these employees have no recourse against a powerful Japanese company (the Japanese judiciary and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare are useless for foreign workers, since they are in the pocket of large Japanese companies). The fact is that the Japanese workplace is rife with physical violence and emotional abuse targeted towards foreign workers. So, I would really appreciate it if you would stop trying to distort the reality of working in Japan for foreigners by trying to paint them as issues exclusively affecting lowly English teachers, debaucherers, drunks, clubbers and those foreigners who want to only waste their lives.

      • Rule #1 of the internet: never believe anything a pseudonym says or claims about their background, resume or experience in real life†. Especially if they’re using it to make or bolster their opinion or point. They’re probably lying, or embellishing / exaggerating at best.

        But hey, cool story bro!

        † including those who use real sounding names [ex.”Steve Jackson”] so it appears to casual readers that they’re not pseudonyms.

      • Steve Jackman

        Eido Inoue, accusing other posters of lying is NOT cool.

      • 6810

        Um, it’s the internet, land of the braggadocio and home of the hyperbole.

        Mr Jackman (should that be you ‘real’ name and you are not lying [tee hee] to protect your anonymity), you frequently post “claims” of executive level positions, hide behind ambiguity, generalisms and platitudes… and have done very little to prove the veracity of any of your accomplishments/failures in your many, many postings on JT.

        Eido, on the other hand has his online identity out there for us all to see. Sure, it’s relatively neat and tidy… but it IS visible.

        So… truth, lying… who would you believe?

      • Bent

        Yep, something about his posts makes it all very hard to believe.

      • Mr Happy Face

        Rule #2: People often revert to ad hominem when they don’t actually have a counter-argument.

      • Rule #3: many people that throw out words like “ad hominem”, “strawman”, etc. don’t really know what they mean or how they’re used.

        If someone is making a claim about themselves and using their (unsubstantiated) CV to compare against somebody else’s personal vitae, then of course the follow up comments are going to be about the person(s) (ad hominem; lit. “to the person”). Because the content of their comment was literally all about the person!

        I agree with you: “Steve Jackman” (as well as “blondein_tokyo”) do over-rely on the ad hominem comment.

      • Steve Jackman

        Eido, the name-calling and pettiness in your comments is astounding.

      • Mr Happy Face

        Ad Hominem – a form of redirection; attacking the individual making the argument, rather than providing a counterargument.

        In other words, instead of you attempting to address any of the points he makes, you’re trying to discredit his opinion. Surely if the points themselves are invalid, you can provide an explanation as to why?

      • Steve Jackman

        Shhh! Don’t you know that not only is Eido Inoue Mr. Japanese, he’s also Mr. English (as evidenced by his admonishing the English usage of other posters here, including telling me that I didn’t know what “apologist” meant).

      • Can you explain the point(s) he’s trying to make? His point that I was addressing was [quote] “my professional positions have been far more senior than yours” [/quote].

        My reply, “source needed.”

      • MarkSNES

        Rule N1 Of The Internet: Never mention /b/

      • Manfred Deutschmann

        Why not let him do it? The people he can reach are gullible enough that learning a life lesson by moving to a proto-fascist society, and realising how far ahead the Western world is, is probably exactly what they need.

      • Bent

        Please feel free to share your position.

      • Steve Jackman

        Hi, Bent. Yes, sure, I’ll be happy to share my position with you. It’s called SVP of “Unbending things which are severely Bent out of shape”. Please don’t share this information with anyone else, since its confidential.

      • 6810

        Troll. Confirmed. Again.

        Try harder Steve, the best trolls are the ones with the most self-control, context, perspective and underlying message.

      • Steve Jackman

        I don’t which is worse, lacking a sense of humor, or being close-minded, racist and xenophobic.

      • walterstucco

        > or being close-minded, racist and xenophobic.

        don’t be so hard on US, they’re trying, poor souls.

      • Steve Jackman

        You clearly have difficulty with reading comprehension, since I was not referring to the U.S. Try reading my comment again and see if you can understand what I meant.

      • blondein_tokyo

        You know, it always makes me roll my eyes when I meet the “My Japanese is better than yours is” foreigners, or the “I’ve been in Japan longer than you” foreigners. Then there’s the “I’m MARRIED to a Japanese” foreigners, and the “ALL my friends are Japanese” foreigners.

        I guess everyone needs someone to feel superior to, but most of us don’t really even care how well you speak Japanese or who your friends are. And a lot of us speak Japanese just fine but don’t feel the need to brag or claim superior lifestyle status due to it. It really is rather silly.

        It’s also rather silly to stereotype everyone who is not you as sad alcoholic loners who can’t make “real friends” with “real” Japanese (i.e., those who do not speak English).

      • Who claimed I’m talking about myself? Not me. I know lots of people who have successfully integrated and assimilated into Japan, and are happy with their family, career, and life here. And the one thing most of them have in common is they live their real life in the real world in Japan — you know, the one that uses the Japanese language all the time for their family, career, and life (~127M people).

      • Steve Jackman

        Eido, you’re living in your own private bubble. Your comments certainly do not reflect the reality of life for the vast majority of foreign workers in Japan.

      • Geeter McKluskie

        I think Jake Adelstein said it best on this thread…I guess that’s why he’s the writer

      • 6810

        And ironically, neither does this article.

      • Steve Jackman

        Eido Inoue wrote, “Who claimed I’m talking about myself?”.

        You are always talking about yourself. It’s all a little too overbearing and narcissistic, if you ask me.

      • Whatever you say, Mr. [quote] “I have worked for many years at some of the best known Japanese and foreign companies in Japan in senior management” [end-quote]! ☺☺☺

      • Steve Jackman

        Eido Inoue, you are accusing me of bragging while at the same time hiding behind a pseudonym. Do you not see the fallacy in your logic? No wonder, your comments lack any logic or reasoning.

      • Steve Jackman

        I agree that using a person’s Japanese language ability as a litmus test of their credibility, as Eido often does, is completely wrong. I think the reason he does this is a form of censorship, since it narrows down the pool of Japan-detractors significantly. He knows that anyone who has spent years mastering Japanese most likely relies on Japan for their continued livelihood and is much less likely to openly voice any criticism of Japan.

      • blondein_tokyo

        I think the reason he does that is because he is an unabashed xenophobe. If I’d known that, I would not have even bothered replying to him. It’s just too wearying, and really, too depressing.

      • Geeter McKluskie

        You forgot the “I work in one of the largest and oldest Japanese corporations” foreigners.

      • blondein_tokyo

        This is just a fact, and was relevant to the discussion at hand.

      • Geeter McKluskie

        Oh, I see…a discussion on an article of a foreign guy married to a Japanese woman.

      • blondein_tokyo

        In the discussion you are referring to, we were talking about our experiences working for Japanese companies. This attempt of yours to paint me as hypocritical is both ridiculous and dishonest. I really don’t see the need to reply to you further.

      • Geeter McKluskie

        I was replying to a post of yours referring to the type of foreigner that “always makes you roll your eyes”. No need to reply

      • Brodie Taylor

        I agree with a lot of this however I think it’s problematic to imply that foreigners who can’t speak Japanese are lazy. Learning a new language is a long process and certainly doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years of study to have a functional level of Japanese, and a big hurdle for beginner learners like me is the limited opportunities to practice using it in social situations as it can be difficult for newcomers in rural towns to make Japanese friends. That said, foreigners should always make an effort to learn what they can about the country they live in, otherwise what’s the point in even moving abroad?

      • I agree with what you’re saying; that’s why I mentioned “a decade” and “long time” in the comment above.

        Obviously, learning a foreign language is hard and takes a long time. Years. And it’s a Never-Ending-Journey. But if you’ve been here five years or longer and you don’t have a learning / communication disability and your Japanese ability is still limited to ordering from easy to read (picture/kana/romaji) menu items, “bar banter” (reacting to key words regardless of context and delivering canned phrases designed to get a laugh), self-introductions and follow-up questions, interspersing Japanese words inside English (“Nihonglish”), answering easy questions with short answers, and saying short, simple statements, then clearly you’ve been prioritizing something other than trying to interact with real Japanese society in the Language of the Land.

        Everybody here has met those people who has been in Japan for five to ten years (or more) yet only has the speaking and comprehension ability of someone who has been in the country for a couple years: “survival Japanese.” They always have an excuse as to why and they’re unashamed about it. And they do nothing but complain about how it’s impossible to fit in and/or get ahead in Japan. Often blame their problems or unhappiness or lack of success on “discrimination”.

        That’s who I’m talking about.

      • Steve Jackman

        Eido, the problem with your comments is that you sound like a one trick pony. Yes, sure, Japanese language ability is important, but so are many other skills and attributes (both, personal and professional). Only having Japanese language ability means diddly, if you’re lacking in all other areas. There are many foreigners in Japan who are fluent in Japanese, but fall in this category. Perhaps, you even know one intimately?

      • One-trick pony? Oh “Steve”, you are good for the laugh. I’ll see you in the next Japan Times thread that says something nice about Japan– I can count on “Steve [one note] Jackson” to chime in on how that’s not true, Japan is simply awful. (or the reverse: Just Be Cause says Japan is awful, and you chime in about how brilliant the analysis is)

        Until then!

      • Steve Jackman

        Oh, did I hurt your feelings, Eido Inoue? I, for one, don’t like cry-babies.

      • walterstucco

        the chinese guys working all over the bars in Milan, are not speaking italian, just some of them speak a bit of it.
        But they try the best they can, they use a friend sometimes as translator, and they are more polite than any italian has ever been.
        speaking the language it’s just one of the many things you could do to get along as foreigner.
        it’s not your fault if you can’t learn it (there a re here a lot of old chinese folks, they willl never learn italian properly, they probably can’t even read chinese, they can only speak it) but at least they try.
        You must recognise the effort and not put yourself on a pedestal for just being at home.

        Wherever your guest comes from, be a good host.
        And don’t judge too nuch

      • Manfred Deutschmann

        But if you are an adult who really has the character and social skills of a petty little spoiled child, then it is impossible to be a generous, relaxed person that can accept an effort and try to meet people halfway.
        The Japanese can’t be helped, I think we all should stop trying and use the time more wisely to connect to those cultures that aren’t based on cult-like narcissism.
        It can’t be helped.

      • walterstucco

        > The Japanese can’t be helped

        but they are living in their own country! :)
        You cannot judge how a Japanese live at home! :)
        The whole point is: don’t go to Japan if you don’t want to face the real Japan :D

      • Catscan

        Straying a bit, but I wanted to say…True though what you’ve said is, Japan also wants to be a part of the international community–and a big part of it. In order to be a viable part of the international community, a country SHOULD make some necessary changes when it comes to human rights–and this is true of EVERY country that wants to be a big part of the international community. But in Japan’s case, this would mean that the blatant discrimination of anyone deemed “NOT Japanese” is wrong. (I mean, that should be a given anyway.) I think discrimination goes on in most every country in the world, but Japan has an issue where it’s generally more accepted/tolerated. America has TONS of discrimination problems, but at least there are people and media resources that pick up on it, talk about it, and actually fight it. Never see that in Japan. It’s a pride issue, I think.

      • Manfred Deutschmann

        It’s a strange and dangerous mixture of low self esteem and exaggerated sense of their own uniqueness, which in turn is based on lack of information about the outside world.

      • walterstucco

        That too!
        People tend to think that Japanese should know better, and they are acting like jerks because it’s fun for them, when actually most of what they know about us, is coming from myths and legends just like the things we usually take for granted about Japan.

      • Catscan

        ^ Yes, this. Strange and dangerous are exactly the right words for it, too. (As is the ignorance part.)

      • jake Harods

        hmmm, you understand the issue :)

      • walterstucco

        > America has TONS of discrimination problems, but at least there are people and media resources that pick up on it , talk about it, and actually fight it. Never see that in Japan. It’s a pride issue, I think.

        look at it this way: in Japan community is more important than the single, so, yes, there is discrimination, like you say, it’s part of human nature and modern societies, but for a Japanese the solution is never “I take my dad’s gun and kill everybody at my school” or “we should start a riot burn things and have a firefight with the police” and it is generally safer to live in Japan than in the US.
        The last known domestic terrorism attack was in 1995.
        You pay the price of having a very ordinated society, where much of the burden is removed from you by the state, because things works and tax money is used for the greater good (yes, they have criminality, mob, corruption, but I insist, generally it is working better than western countries).
        South America sounds and is more fun, people are more welcoming, but you can get killed for your 100 bucks clock.

      • Catscan

        Does that have to do with society, though? Or just the lack of availability of guns here? Because you could, admittedly, bring a knife to school, but it certainly wouldn’t achieve the same effects as a gun.

        When I think about all the recent killings done by CHILDREN (and often to other children) here…I’m not so sure I can agree completely with what you’re saying. :-/ Not saying I disagree completely either, but…

      • Geeter McKluskie

        You’re conveniently ignoring the spate of killing done by children in other countries…Also, society has something to do with the lack of availability of guns. They’ve collectively decided handguns are to be outlawed

      • Catscan

        Yes, but you’re conveniently ignoring the fact that racial discrimination and similar problems get ignored in this country to the point that they are even silenced in most media outlets, which was the point of my original comment. “They’ve collectively decided that handguns are to be outlawed.” Indeed. They’ve also collectively decided that speaking out against what should be obvious injustices and crimes against humanity is also outlawed. That’s my bone to pick with this society.

      • Geeter McKluskie

        Really? Is that true? Have they decided such a thing?

      • Catscan

        Have you heard about Asahi being forced to apologize for mentioning less than kind views about Japan’s treatment of Fukushima and the comfort women? Have you heard about all the professionals who have been silenced when speaking out against injustices in Japan? It’s nothing new. But then, if you haven’t heard about those things, I’m not surprised, since they are–as said–silenced. :(

      • Bent

        I am sorry but the Asahi categorically published untruths about two of the biggest events in Japan during the last 100 years. And both times the publication damaged the national interest. It is quite fair that they had to apologize. I know that in my country newspapers have to apologize if they are ‘caught’ misleading the public, although of course the matter is not always pursued. The Asahi was obviously pursued by the right wingers because of their position on the article, however they had to apologize because they had printed lies.

      • Geeter McKluskie

        Really? Is that true? Have they really decided such a thing?

      • Catscan

        Guessing you were the mistaken Guest Post below, and interested in how you’re following all my comments on here. Glad I have a fan. ;)

        So as I said below to your mistaken reply:

        Have you heard about Asahi being forced to apologize for mentioning less
        than kind views about Japan’s treatment of Fukushima and the comfort
        women? Have you heard about all the professionals who have been silenced
        when speaking out against injustices in Japan? It’s nothing new. But
        then, if you haven’t heard about those things, I’m not surprised, since
        they are–as said–silenced. :(

      • Geeter McKluskie

        Yeah, for some reason that particular post didn’t have an edit option, only a delete…I guess the delete option isn’t. It appeared to be. Anyway, yes, I have heard of those things…on NHK

      • Catscan

        LOL. I’m sure you heard about Asahi, but probably not the other ones I mentioned. Can you name names? Otherwise it’s just generic. And yes, I do believe NHK would talk about Asahi–as they would talk about any other company/outlet that is saying something the country doesn’t like. They would just do as I’ve already said…paint said company/outlet in a bad light for bringing attention to bad things done or happening in Japan. If you rely on all your news from NHK, I feel bad for you. You’re missing out on QUIIIITTTEEEE a lot and only getting a very distinct one-sided story.

      • Geeter McKluskie

        Well, I also read the Japanese newspapers…The same ones as You, I suppose, otherwise how would you have heard of such things. In other words, I guess the news is hardly being silenced or as you claim…outlawed.

      • walterstucco

        > Yes, but you’re conveniently ignoring the fact that racial discrimination and similar problems get ignored in this country to the point that they are even silenced in most media outlets,

        it that’s true, it means you know, it means you should not go there to complain.
        You can’t pretende there is a secret conspiracy to silence news and everyone knows at the same time.
        Japanese are not coming to your country to boss you, you’re going there and complaining of what they do at home.

        Japan has one of the lowest homicide rate in the world, maybe you go to welcoming america, where you should learn the language and the culture anyway, where the police could crash your camera because you were taking pictures of a firefighter’s truck (it happened to me personally), police there can kill black guys who “resisted” arrest, where you can get shot by a kid that has issues with his dad, with dad’s rifle, but the problem is Japan, where, at least, everything works how it should?

        > “They’ve collectively decided that handguns are to be outlawed.

        this is true in most of the “civilized world” except US

        I don’t get it.

      • Catscan

        ——–> “Japan has one of the lowest homicide rate in the world”

        Yes. Because of the lack of guns, which is a great thing. I don’t think anyone can deny that it’s a great thing and I don’t think anyone is. However, you seem to rely just a little bit too much on only what you hear on the news. A LOT of crime goes unreported in this country.

        ———> “maybe you go to
        welcoming america, where you should learn the language and the culture
        anyway, where the police could crash your camera because you were
        taking pictures of a firefighter’s truck (it happened to me personally),
        police there can kill black guys who “resisted” arrest, but the problem
        is Japan, where, at least, everything works how it should?”

        No, but the topic here is not America. The topic is Japan. And this is the Japan Times. If we are going to talk about how to improve the places we live in (and if that place is Japan), then this is a great place to do it. And true, perhaps we have only a limited say in how a country that is not our native place of birth runs things, but we still live here and can hope for equal treatment/basic human decency. But then you must also consider…what about the people born here who ARE Japanese natives but don’t “look Japanese enough” and thus face the discrimination I mentioned? Are they, too, in your book, not eligible enough to fight for their basic human rights here? Because they’re still fighting for that here, and it happens to coincide exactly with issues faced by foreigners living here, too. The point is, if a country wants to be taken seriously in the international community, it cannot allow such a blatant violation of human rights.

        As for America…America is a joke. I’m an American. A lot of Americans I know would agree that America is a joke, that it can call itself one of the top countries in the world but still be so backwards when it comes to human rights violations. In short, it is not a good place. BUT! The difference here is that many people around the world know America is a joke for those reasons. Japan gets a free pass, and all its own violations get swept under the carpet. I disagree with that. That is my point.

        —-> “They’ve collectively decided that handguns are to be outlawed.

        this is true in most of the “civilized world” except US

        I don’t get it.”

        You don’t get it because it’s not my quote. I was quoting something said by the person who deleted their comment. Hence the use of quotations in my comment. Please properly read before confusing yourself.

      • walterstucco

        > A LOT of crime goes unreported in this country.

        A LOT of crime goes unreported!

        > The topic is Japan. And this is the Japan Times

        No, the topic is americans in Japan complaining how Japan is from the point of view of someone not able to adapt to Japan.
        The article is about GOING to Japan, not BEING JAPANESE.

        There’s a big difference.

        You can’t go and criticise half of the world, when in your home you kill kids or put guns in their hands.

        > was quoting something said by the person who deleted their comment.

        I still don’t have that superpower that permits to read deleted comments.

      • Catscan

        I don’t think you read my full comment, and that’s rather convenient of you. Especially how you ignored the part about the discrimination faced by people born here IN Japan who are mistreated simply because they don’t look Japanese enough. They are directly affected by how foreigners are seen and treated in this country, even if they were born here and ARE Japanese.

        I feel like we agree a lot more than you think, and that you are simply eager to pick a fight with someone. Especially since the comment you just replied to was not originally to you, but to someone who deleted their comment, as I already mentioned.

      • walterstucco

        I know Japanese culture quite well, and I know, for example, about Ainu.

        I’m not saying it is right what they are doing, I’m just saying that that’s not the vast majority of Japan.

        I come from a rural small city in center Italy, I know how people can make you feel different, but you have to understand that Japanese people are mainly victim of their history, not cruel executioners.

        It is like what they say about Italy: since there’s mafia, every Italian must be mafioso, so you expect to find mafia everywhere.

        It’s just too simplistic.

        Ainu are not different from american indians, Turkish in Germany, Germans in Austria, Italians in Libia (or libyans in Italy), Algerians in France, Ukrainians in Russia (or Russians in Ukraine), etc. etc. etc.

        Japan is not worse regarding these topics, they are just harder to understand for us, so we try to guess what’s happening.
        Just like Italy -> mafia

      • Catscan

        “I know Japanese culture quite well, and I know, for example, about Ainu.

        I’m not saying it is right what they are doing, I’m just saying that that’s not the vast majority of Japan.”

        Oh yes, Ainu have some awful experiences. :( But look at Korean-Japanese and what they go through. And of course the Japanese people who do not look Japanese enough…One of the women mentioned in this article, a Japanese professor named Oishi… I remember when I studied under her, she told us about a Japanese-born Indian girl here in Japan who was harassed almost everyday by Japanese police asking for her “gaijin card”. Of course she did not have one, being a native Japanese, but they never believed her, and she was constantly getting arrested for “not having proper documentation as a gaijin”. She ended up leaving Japan, even though it was her home. Just sad… That sort of ignorance needs to end. It may not be the majority of Japan, but that it happens as often and as virulently as it does is still a problem. I think you also cannot deny that. And that Indian girl is just one example.

        “I come from a rural small city in center Italy, I know how people can make you feel different, but you have to understand that Japanese people
        are mainly victim of their history, not cruel executioners.”

        We are quite alike, then! Me as well! Not Italy, of course–somewhere rural in America–but I know just what you mean about lack of acceptance. Though I agree that Japanese people are victims of their own history, that doesn’t really excuse them for being ignorant. Like I said before…if you’re going to be part of the international community, the views reflected by your country as a whole should NOT violate basic human rights. (I’d actually say that rural Japan is a lot more welcoming than urban Japan, in fact. I feel like it’s urban Japan that is less accepting in many ways, strangely.)

        “It is like what they say about Italy: since there’s mafia, every Italian must be mafioso, so you expect to find mafia everywhere.”

        I agree 100% on this! I hate this stereotype, haha. You know, Italian-Americans go by two stereotypes: Mafia family or Jersey Shore idiots. If you don’t know Jersey Shore, please never waste your time on it. It’s an embarrassment to humans, let alone to the Italian-American people it’s trying to portray. >_____ mafia”

        I dunno, though, I would still argue that there IS something worse about the way it’s handled in Japan. Because anything deemed “damaging” to Japan’s image is often silenced, and because a lot of people in Japan still do not see such behavior/mistreatment as an issue. While I still agree that, for example, America is a world bully (I like that and might use that in future, haha) and has many problems of its own…I am glad that many American people hate this behavior and try to speak out against their country’s behavior. Not just America, of course. I know quite a few other people of other countries who speak out against poor behavior in their mother countries. Japan does not seem to do this, though, and that’s what’s more than a little disappointing to me. :( If you don’t realize it’s a problem, you can’t speak about it, of course. But if someone can’t realize human rights violations are blatantly bad, then that suggests a truly stupid level of ignorance, I regret to say. ><

      • Catscan

        P.S. There are indeed Americans in this article complaining about their lifestyles here. There is also a German, however, and one man who’s nationality is not mentioned.

        However, I’ve already made my point about why I don’t agree with this article and why I think it’s pathetic that these guys are complaining, so as said in my last comment, I think we agree a lot more than you think.

      • walterstucco

        We probably do.
        I complain about Italy all the time.

      • Catscan

        Amazing, you can edit your comment after I’ve already replied. Gotta love the people who do that.

        Oh, and by the way, sir, my grandfather also moved to America from Italy. Both my grandfathers did. I know how much they suffered when they went there. No one here is glorifying America, so you’re actually wasting your time trying to pretend anyone is.

      • walterstucco

        Just to clarify:

        I’m talking about the author of the post, not you.

        And BTW
        “Sebastian, a 32-year-old student with several part-time jobs and 12 years of service in the German armed forces, was dumped by the Japanese girlfriend he had been seeing for a year because he had ‘no future’ in Japan, she said. ”

        Is this really a problem?
        Is this related to being Japanese?

        p.s.: I’ve edited the post just to rephrase some of it, my english is really far from good enough.

      • Catscan

        You’re getting off-topic. I never said ANYWHERE in my comments that the people in the article have a right to complain. In fact, in most of my comments to people on here, I’ve said what you’ve been saying…that the people in the article DO NOT have a right to complain compared to POC groups and foreign women here. The issues being complained about in the article, in my opinion, are petty. These men whine about being married to Japanese women…WHY did they marry them, if it was such a problem? They have only themselves to blame. So you and I agree on that point.

        However, in our discussion, we reached the topic of violations of human rights issues…and that is why I have been talking about everything I’ve been talking about in my recent comments. I thought you were as well. To clarify: I am NOT talking about the people in the article in my recent comments. I unfortunately do not feel much pity for white men who come here and complain that Japan has trapped them.

      • walterstucco

        we do agree on this.

      • Baruch Obamawitz

        The Japanese tend to kill themselves, rather than killing others, more than compensating for the low homicide rate.

      • jake Harods

        The Japanese people ought to be at the forefront of fighting discrimination.You don’t need me to tell you how difficult that would be. The US government did not simply give rights to folks. You know about Edmund Pettus bridge right :)

      • Manfred Deutschmann

        Yes, that’s the point. But right now it is not easy to tell what the real Japan is from abroad, or even just by visiting for a couple of weeks, because of all the myths and lies.
        You have to have lived there for at least 6 months and understand the language to see beyond the facade. Then draw the right conclusions and head to the airport.

      • walterstucco

        > Then draw the right conclusions and head to the airport.

        or stay there and live happy forever :D
        I like the Japanese way, it’s like Italy, where everything is harder than the other countries around you, but unlike Italy, everything works as it should :)

      • Manfred Deutschmann

        And unlike Italy, people really like their organised crime cartels running the country.

      • walterstucco

        I would love that in Italy, where I was born and grown up, people would not like organised crime cartels running the country…

      • AndyLC

        > it’s like Italy, where everything is harder than the other countries around you

        I haven’t heard that before about Italy, could you elaborate?

      • Guest

        I agree, but there are people who had some bad experience in japan so we can’t be sure how we can advise them on what needs to be done. When i went to japan for a vacation there were these rude japanese police officers who just grabbed and pulled my back pack for no reason and when i asked them what the problem was all they did was drag me to their mobile. I got out of their station first thing the morning after calling my lawyer. and as for the reason why i was detained, they thought i was very suspicious cause my English was very fluent and they saw me walking with a muslim man but that man was my friend and he is in fact an Indian that met at south Carolina before coming to japan.

      • walterstucco

        I’m sorry for ehat happened to you, here is my experience abroad:
        first of all, I look like I’m from middle east, but I’m actually from Italy, Rome, my ID and Passports say so.
        I’ve been stopped at LAX (Los Angeles Airport) when I was going to present a video game to the E3, by the local police, they would not let me go out or talk with my friends, that where waiting for me, just because I have slightly darker skin than usual for a white male.
        I’ve been stopped and searched at Miami International Airport, when I was going back home, because the police did not believe I was going to Italy, they told me more than one time that if I was from Cuba and lying, they would arrest me forever, laughing of me, because, their words “I looked like a brazilian gay”.
        When I was working in NY, airport police brought me in for questioning, asking me if I had visited ground zero and why.It was shortly after 9/11 and of course I had visited ground zero. They asked me if I was muslim, what were my connections, why I was there, only because I look like one of them.
        I know why they do this, ignorance.
        I don’t mind, I know I have nothing to fear, I’m Italian, they can;t really do anything to me, they just waste my time and then have to let me go.
        I’m used to that for looking a bit different from the normal population.
        Even in my country police usually stops me at night when I’m near my car because they think I’n trying to steal it or when I’m waiting a friend on the street, because they see a drug dealer, instead of a regular citizen.
        Ignorance and misjudge are everywhere.
        At least in Japan I know I will never be one of them, and that’s completely fine for me, I know I’m free from some of the responsibilities I would have to carry if I was japanese.
        I don’t have to follow every rule of the japanese culture because, you know what, “I’m not Japanese guys” :)

      • Steve Jackman

        walterstucco, I find it strange how you respond to every comment about Japan here by saying that the U.S is worse. This is The Japan Times and we are discussing Japan here, in case you haven’t noticed. I can understand your comments if you’re Japanese, but if you’re not, then it baffles me.

      • jake Harods

        Ok, we get it. Japan is better than Italy and you adore it. That much is understood. Japan is a wonderful country (I tell all and sundry to visit) however entrenched behaviour and inability of people to break from it is a problem for the Japanese and foreigners. Every single Japanese that I know would like to remain here and not go back to Japan!

      • walterstucco

        > Ok, we get it. Japan is better than Italy and you adore it.

        No, you don’t.
        Japan is DIFFERENT, not better, not worse, DIFFERENT.
        Like Italy is not France or Sweden or Germany.
        Is much better in may ways and worse in many others.

        > Every single Japanese that I know would like to remain here and not go back to Japan!

        that’s why they left in the first place!
        of course if you leave your country, you try to make the best out of the new place.
        Or it would be a failure on your side for not trying.
        But give them 5-6 years, and they will want to leave UK too (or wherever you live right now)
        Everybody misses home, sooner or later
        Everybody wanna go back, sooner or later,
        Unless you left the country when you were a kid.

      • jake Harods

        I know a 50 plus Japanese woman. She will never go back as she reminds me anytime I tell her how nice I find Japan. Have you seen the state of Termini station lately? I was there last year :) Japan is functional with a thriving economy. Italy is neither :)

        Some of the people that are unhappy to return are bank workers transferred here and started to enjoy the freedom and work/life balance!

      • Ghani

        Hi I don’t blame Japanese culture or system is it even for hard for them selves to apprt and sarvive evry day life at work at home etc believe is not so easy to survive in France and some others county’s in Europe. Facing every discrmantion. From your banker to tax office because I pay more tax then local citizen etc even at sub way stations they just give the ticket and will not help to find your way as per expireces I tryed to undesatnd the society and take advantage from it even I went trough many trouble that every where can happen Japanese women are great and Japanese man too but kawaiso they are getting more worse stimulation simply because they are Japanese and one have right to mistake etc sekinin desu
        Let’s try help each other’s as a gaijin ms no honking to overcame the situations

      • jake Harods

        Here is a good example of Japanese behaving poorly in UK. So I went to my old Uni to request a transcript and when I saw the member of staff on duty, my heart sank. Rules are rules and in UK, we bend it all the time. The Japanese woman at the counter proceeded to quibble with every little thing I produced to prove my ID (we don’t carry passport about and I don’t drive) until I lost my head and screamed for the boss (her boss) to save me from the jobsworth.

        I got my wishes. She has not adjusted to UK at all although fluent in English. Are you suggesting that she should have stayed home? Home being Japan?

      • walterstucco

        I suggest that you should drink less.

        And that you should not transform an anedocte, where you are the one that didn’t adapt.

        You proved anything, you just proved that your poor behaviour is inappropriate (not bringing an ID with you when you’re going to request a formal certificate is poor behaviour on your side, the woman was completely right)
        I’m sure that the woman you’re talking about, did not blog about UK being a hard place to live, while the author of this post, did.
        That’s the real difference.

        “Rules are rules and in UK, we bend it all the time.”
        immediately after you say
        “until I lost my head and screamed for the boss”

        Yeah, rules are rules in UK, yeah keep dreaming…
        You just proved UK citizens are sloppy…

      • jake Harods

        My Uncle works for UN, Via di Callacalla or something, he has lived in Rome for 20 years. He says, Italy is the worst place ever due to silly rules and inability of things to get done. Luckily he does not work with Italians on a day to day basis. A man crashed into his car and it took a month to get a police report. It took him a month as he was a diplomat. It might have taken an Italian 3 months.

        You displayed your lack of knowledge. We do not have to carry IDs in UK, it is not a Fascist state. I had myriad credit cards and a work Identity.

        I also offered to name every teacher that had taught me (they still work at the Uni and would be able to vouch for me as they know me), the year I was admitted and my subjects. A fraudster won’t know these details.

        What the exercise was designed for, Walter, is that common sense is used a lot in UK unlike Italy :) Her manager promptly handed me the requested transcript.

      • walterstucco

        > Callacalla

        and please, it is unacceptable that you can’t even use Google and spell one of the world’s greatest monument’s name right.
        It’s called Caracalla.
        you’re just full of prejudice and ignorance.
        You don’t even speak Italian, you don’t know the traditions, you don’t know the names of the most famous monuments, and you judge from a culture that has history of conquering and killing everyone on their way.
        At least I know your language and studied your culture.
        You don’t even know where Florence is or how to pronounce Santa Domitilla.

      • jake Harods

        ha ha didn’t mean to upset you :) I shan’t dignify the others gibes with a comment although am tempted

        There is no need to speak Italian due to the simple fact business is not conducted in Italian, correct? You don’t have to speak English you know. I’m sure you are not speaking Italian to people in Japan, correct?

        Listen to the pronounciation on google :)

      • Japan is already a wonderful host. The welcome pack / pretty much all bureaucratic documentation are quadrilingual (ja/en/kr/zh), and you can quite easily get by for decades speaking only English, at least in Tokyo. Not that you should…

      • Razedbywolvs

        But I have been living in California all my life and I still don’t know Spanish.

      • jake Harods

        You did not get the article. This is not about people not learning language. That is another section but not this

      • Cry me a river.

      • jake Harods

        boo hoo. I have no dog in it. China or Japan are good to visit, Nothing more

      • Pablo Diablo

        Of course we never expect that of the multitudes who have occupied the good ole USA. In those cases, we are told to be more accommodating.

    • Shaun O’Dwyer

      As always, well said, Kenji.

    • Steve Jackman

      KenjiAd, I realize that you’ve been a Japanese expat in the U.S and China and that your comments are based on your experiences there. However, I think you fail to realize that expats in Japan face unique and very different challenges than what you experienced most certainly in the U.S and perhaps even in China. The situation for expats in Japan is much worse and much more serious.

      I have seen many extremely smart and highly accomplished expats in Japan driven to the edge by their Japanese colleagues, for no other reason than the fact that they were non-Japanese working in Japan. In the end, it didn’t matter how smart they were, how valuable their contributions to Japan were, or how much they tried to integrate and adapt. In the eyes of their Japanese colleagues, they were there merely to be toyed with, to be abused and exploited and someone to play cruel mind games on. You need to understand that it is often not the first choice of the expats, but that the insularity, xenophobia and close mindedness of their Japanese colleagues is what drives them to seek refuge in the company of other expats, just so they can try to maintain their sanity while in Japan.

      Your characterization of discrimination in Japan as not so serious is completely wrong, since you yourself have never been a foreigner in Japan. I have worked in senior management positions for many years at some of the largest Japanese and foreign companies in Tokyo. I have seen Japanese managers abuse their foreign staff, both physically and emotionally, in a way that I consider to be certainly very serious and even life threatning.

      A senior executive at the Japanese company used to routinely tell his foreign staff that Japanese labor laws did not apply to them and that he had the power to fire them for no reason, since they would have no recourse against the company. To drive the point home even more, he would threaten them that he would also get them blacklisted, so they could never work in Japan again. So, kindly refrain from extrapolating the way expats are treated in Japan based on your experience in the U.S or China. I, for one, would strongly discourage any expats from coming to work in Japan.

      • Interesting comments. I’m very happy I’m not living in a situation like this. My general impression — that foreigners in Japan have a better situation than they do in my home country of the U.S., or in France, based on talks with a French national employee of mine — still stands, though I likely have not seen the same “Japan” as some others here.

        (Living for 23 years in Gunma, started a company at the dawn of the Internet…)

      • Phil Knall

        I can only agree with Peter, I have been in Japan (work is Shinjuku, home is Saitama) for 9 years, working for a small-ish sports manufacturer as international sales/ purchasing agent. I have never felt anything but part of the team, get along well with colleagues, make the same salary as the ones in a comparable position, and have an ok amount of time outside of work to pursue hobbies and spend time with my wife.
        Obviously the situation will be different in larger companies or more “serious” industries, and it would be silly to speak for all expats… But while I do get chopstick skill compliments (all the time), I have yet to feel like I’m not wanted or valued here, and I lead a normal and happy life.

      • That’s cool. Good on you, Phil.

        Since I run a company, I often have to interview people to work here, which means interviewing gaijin. Often the reason we have to turn people down is low nihongo skills, which is a shame since all we ask is level 3 or level 2, which aren’t that hard to attain. Our main goal is to make sure the person can be comfortable with the flow of a Japanese office (even though half of us are gaijin). Having to translate お疲れ様でした into English for just one guy would be stressful.

        I think the position of gaijin in Japan will change. We interviewed a guy from Germany whose Japanese was so good, he just did normal 営業 (sales) for a major advertising company. Not for international or whatever, he just went around to Japanese companies, the same as every other Japanese salesman. It’s true that he didn’t like his position (hence he wanted to work for us), but the fact that a German could just do that job normally seemed amazing to me.

      • Phil Knall

        I think as people like your German guy get more common, Japanese employers will “get it” more commonly too. I guess it’s a slow process, but I believe it’s happening.

        I came into my job with a Japanese studies degree and an exchange year under my belt, so it’s likely a very different experience from people who learn Japanese on the job while here. I don’t know if I’d been able to fit in as well without the pretty high level of fluency I had because of that. But I think being easygoing, not stressing out about things being done differently, and actively trying to adapt are the most important things.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Yes, definitely. I’ve seen foreign employees grow frustrated, and then wind up getting fired or quitting because they just couldn’t accept the Japanese style of doing business. The more you are able to assimilate, the better off you’ll be.

        However, I do not fault people for not being able to assimilate. It’s heavily dependent on how much their character clashes with the culture.

      • blondein_tokyo

        I work in one of the largest and oldest Japanese corporations, and the foreigners are all on temp contracts, and don’t get the same bonus, raises, or benefits that the Japanese employees get. We are also excluded from meetings and are only told important information on what they consider a need-to-know basis, which usually means “you don’t need to know anything.” If your company treats you exactly like they treat their Japanese employees, you are one of the lucky ones, and your experience is not in the norm.

      • Phil Knall

        I recognize fully well that I was very lucky to find a niche industry that I was able to slip in, and probably the nature of working in a minor sport has a lot to do with my coworkers being laid-back and our company being small enough to allow me a fair amount of freedom and control over my department.
        I’m sorry to hear about your work environment, it sounds frustrating and I hope there is something else that makes it rewarding.

        Would you say your experience is the “norm?” I assume there’s probably more foreigners working in big corporations than middle-to-small companies, so maybe that is the most significant distinguishing factor?
        I don’t have a huge amount of foreign friends, but the ones I do generally seem happy. Some IT, some entertainment, some translators, all in smaller companies I think.

      • Steve Jackman

        I can vouch that the poor treatment of foreign workers at Japanese companies which blondin_tokyo has described is quite typical and is very much the norm (based on my many years of management experience at large Japanese and foreign companies in Tokyo).

        Even when Japanese companies sometimes hire higher profile foreign workers, it can often be merely window dressing (to give the appearance of being a global company or to get foreign business). For example, I know of a famous large Japanese company who gave a “made up” and non-existent executive-level title to one of its Western workers. In reality, this person was a temporary contract worker, worked at the company only occassionally on an as needed basis, and was listed at the very bottom in the company’s own internal Orgazitational Chart. In reality, no such senior level job title existed at the company, as what was printed on his business card by the company. When an existing or potential foreign customer would call the office and ask to speak with him, the company lied by saying that he was out on a business trip. Japanese companies are guilty of some pretty unethical and unscrupulous business practices, if you ask me.

        So why did the company do this? The reasons are simple. The company needed foreign employees to get foreign business (it touted having foreign managers in its sales pitches to foreign companies), but did not want to give them the same benefits as its Japanese full time Seishain staff (i.e., no job security, lower salary and no say in business or management decisions for the foreign workers).

      • blondein_tokyo

        Is it normal for companies to treat foreign employees badly? I think this is a very naive question. Companies want to maximize profit, and unscrupulous ones will often target foreign employees because they are an easy target. There is a lot of corruption in the eikaiwa industry, for example.

        My company, and other large businesses like it, are watched by the media so they can’t get away with egregious violations of labor law the way eikaiwa do. But companies are made of people, and people can range from kind and honest to nasty and racist. It’s rather the luck of the draw and depends heavily who your manager is.

        I would venture to say that if you have found your niche and really love your job, feel valued, and are compensated fairly, then you are one of the lucky ones whether you are Japanese or not. :)

      • Geeter McKluskie

        One of my best friends here is the national marketing manger for a large Japanese electronics company. He’s Canadian. I believe Carlos Goshen is the head of Nissan motors, Japan. Canadian, Sara Casanova is the head of McDonald’s Japan. Actually, there is quite a large number of foreign nationals in lucrative, crucial positions in Japan.

      • Steve Jackman

        Foreign executives like Carlos Ghosn (it’s Ghosn, not Goshen, as you’ve misspelled), Casanova and Michael Woodford, were all brought in to save their companies after Japanese executives had run these companies into the ground (Nissan was bankrupt, McDonalds Japan had plunging sales and Olympus was sitting on a huge accounting scandal).

        Ghosn came in because Renault acquired Nissan, even though, to save face for Nissan in Japan, they called it a merger. These are hardly representative examples. Really bugs me when people make comments like this about things they seem to know nothing about. If you want to know what life is really like for foreign executives in Japan, read the excellent book “Exposure” written by the former President of Olympus, Michael Woodford.

      • Geeter McKluskie

        Apologies for the misspelling, I guess I should have bothered to look it up. I don’t doubt Mr.Woodford’s life as a foreign executive in Japan was exactly as he says it was in his book. However, I also don’t doubt my good friend who also happens to be a foreign executive in Japan and was recently promoted from within to national marketing manager.

      • Manfred Deutschmann

        Interesting tidbit about Renault buying Nissan. Didn’t know that.
        And it’s true Nissan has never done as well as it did under Japanese CEOs. It’s quite the “show them how it’s done” success story akin to the Portuguese bringing in most of what is known as “Washoku” today, without ever getting credit for it.

    • Ghani

      Agreed I did and I’m happy with it

  • soccerteesandplaydoh

    Paragraph 5: “In Japan, men AND WOMEN in general have very limited choices.” FTFY.

    • Geeter McKluskie

      the “WOMEN” article will be out next week

      • soccerteesandplaydoh

        I doubt it will make much more sense than this one does.

      • Geeter McKluskie

        Need it make sense? Look at the attention this one garnered

  • 151E

    It seems for many an unwitting soul, Japan is the enchanted Ryugu-jo from which, if – like Urashima Taro – they tarry to long, they can never truly return home.

    • disqus_gfUW1DhhWs

      Or.. it is just another country.

  • wanderingpippin

    No idea why Jim is waiting for money and stability before realizing his dreams. He shouldn’t let the lack of those hold him back. He should go for it! Start a riot in the streets of that God forsaken town in the sticks that he is stuck in tonight!!!

    • If only he had admitted that his dream was to start a riot when he went through immigration in Japan. They would have denied him entry (for good reason: intent to commit a crime), and he wouldn’t be having this existential crisis now in Japan. Instead, he’d be moaning about his lack of prospects probably while salting the fries and wearing an apron and cap at a fast food chain in his country of nationality!

  • Blue Gum

    The company first mentality is the main contributor to the steep population decline in Japan.
    Combine that with the push to get more women working and it’s only going to get worse.
    They probably spend more on taking care of the elderly than they spend on child care.

  • Firas Kraïem

    “But is this the full story?” Yes, it is. This has been debated time and time again: the fact that losers exist doesn’t invalidate the huge privileges enjoyed by white men as a group.

    • I won’t deny that it’s nice being a white Californian who speaks Japanese, which puts me at the top of the “gaijin food chain.” Only French (or possibly Italian) men who speak Japanese would be higher. When (white, Western) people whine about any terrible hint of racism in Japan I remind that that most of the “discrimination” here is in our favor…girls we don’t deserve, sleeping with us and cleaning our apartments before they leave in the morning. People giving us presents we don’t deserve.

      So I keep any negativity about Japan in perspective. It’s a great place for many of us, though not for poor Sri Lankans working in the Sanyo factory.

      • nerdydesi

        That’s why as a brown guy, I can’t help but roll my eyes most of the time when reading about the woes of some white guys in Japan. If they could live a day in the shoes of a non-white gaijin in Japan and see how much tougher they have it. :/

      • disqus_gfUW1DhhWs

        Interesting though my Indian friends claim to have never experienced racism in Japan. Although perhaps their definition is different. Also a small sample group..

      • blondein_tokyo

        Not even two, three years ago a Nepali who was working in an Indian restaurant was beaten up and killed by a young Japanese man in Osaka only because he was a brown skinned foreigner. I’d call that some pretty severe racism.

      • Geeter McKluskie

        …an even smaller sample size

      • Bent

        So what.

        I am absolutely sure there has been instances of white western men being suffering unprovoked racists attacks in all the major western cities of the world. In a country of +100M a single incident is meaningless.

      • Geeter McKluskie

        It was meaningful to the person killed and his family. It was meaningful to the racist who killed him. It doesn’t mean that Japan is different than any other place in the world, though.

      • Bent

        It would be tragic for them, it goes without saying. But an isolated case of extreme racism should not be seen as representative of a whole society.

      • Geeter McKluskie

        I concur…it was just the word meaningless that I found sorrowful

      • Bent

        ‘…meaningless in the context of societal racism.’ I was just trying to keep my post short.

      • boganus

        Exactly, that is the point I, Bent and others in this thread have been tryingn to make. But blondeintokyo doesn’t want to see that because it doesn’t fit in with her personal experience and ‘feelings’.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Wow. You just said that. You just said, “One person’s death in a country of +100M is meaningless.” You just said, “so what” about the murder of an innocent, hardworking family man. I wonder if you might not want to just stop there for a minute and possibly re-word that? Because I really hope that is not what you really wanted to say.

      • Bent

        The word meaningless was used in the context of societal racism. I did not finish the sentence in full as I credited you with the ability to understand basic language structure and conversation patterns. I was wrong.

        Instead of focusing on me, why not consider the complete lack of basic logic in what you wrote.

      • boganus

        Bent, don’t bother. She is misrepresenting the statement made to fit in with her belief and personal experiences rather than looking at the statement objectively.

      • Bent

        Like hitting our heads against the wall hey… But turns out we are wrong as Steve notes that it is absolutely not isolated because some kids throw some eggs or something… wow. What can you say to such arguments?

      • Steve Jackman

        Ever been hit with gravel shot from an air gun on your way to school, like these poor foreign students routinely were many times? How about numerous other foreigners who’ve been killed in Japan, either by Police, under suspicious circumstances, or while being detained by immigration?

      • Bent

        ‘Ever been hit with gravel shot from an air gun on your way to school, like these poor foreign students routinely were many times?’

        No, so I will bow-out of the debate as I am so obviously unqualified.

      • Steve Jackman

        No need for you to bow-out, just don’t trivialize the racist abuse suffered by others in Japan on a regular basis.

      • boganus

        You clearly haven’t studied statistics or econometrics – correlation doesn’t equal causation. Hanging your hat on this one example as prima facie evidence is laughable.

      • blondein_tokyo

        When an attacker admits, in court, “I attacked him because he was a brown skinned foreigner.” it generally means, “I attacked him because he was a brown skinned foreigner.”

        You see, when someone attacks another person and says their motivation was race, that tends to lead people to believe that racism was in fact the motivation for the attack.

        Also, when someone makes a casual, offhand remark in a conversation, that’s all it is – a casual, offhand remark. Not an attempt to “give prima facie evidence”, as one would need to do if one were in a debate. This, you see, is not a debate. But if that is what you want, then I would suggest finding someone who gives a flying f…k.

      • boganus

        Again, you’re deliberately misinterpreting the statement. One example of a racist is not prima facie evidence of a societal racist attitude. Japan may very well have xenophobia/racism current, but you can’t take the acts of one and AUTOMATICALLY extrapolate to the entire population, in isolation. Jesus.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Why do you keep trying to debate with someone who has clearly said they are not interested? I mean, do you go up to strangers on the street and start trying to engage them, and when they say, “No thanks” you follow them down the street, still talking?

        This is me, walking away, with you yapping at my heels.

      • boganus

        Well you’re either debating the topic or not – for someone apparently making an off-hand remark you seem to be pretty strong in your disagreement to the original statement. You’re just trying to back pedal.

      • Steve Jackman

        This was far from an isolated case. There have been many cases of violence against foreigners by the Japanese. For example, it was reported in May 2014 in the press that Police in Tosu, Saga Prefecture, arrested three Japanese youths for violence against foreign students from Nepal, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, who were all studying at a Japanese language institure in Tosu.

        According to police, starting in December 2013, the three youths threw eggs, mayonnaise and fired gravel from air guns from their cars at these foreign students on at least 19 seperate occassions

      • Geeter McKluskie

        In other words, Japan is like any other country on the planet

      • Geeter McKluskie

        I’ll take a weekend in the “Black Passenger Yellow Cab” authors life, mid 90’s…Wait, make that a year!

      • blondein_tokyo

        This is an extremely selfish point of view. It looks like you are saying, “Sure, there’s racism, but since it doesn’t effect me I don’t really care.”

      • You’re not wrong, sorry about that. My point is that white Americans and Europeans are probably not as poorly off as Brazilians working in a factory, and we should think about them too.

      • blondein_tokyo

        Thanks for clarifying. I definitely agree. :)

  • Joel Tucci

    So I’m supposed to feel bad for someone who had 0 useful skills coming someplace where he didn’t speak the language and then gets upset that everything isn’t being handed to him on a silver plate. Let me play the world’s smallest violin. If you don’t like it, there’s the door.

  • Btd

    “Why is it always about money?” Its always about the money, always, everywhere on this planet. If the partner wants one day a family you got to have a job and put food on the table, if you just want to have fun than dump her before she does it to you and look for another one but one day the chicken will come back to r….. money talks… xx walks… as easy as that. Not that I agree with it but that’s the way this planet works…

  • KTA

    “Studies connect experienced and perceived discrimination and subtle forms of
    racism, such as racial ‘microaggressions,’ to mental and physical problems.”

    Which is deeply ironic in the context of this article, because that’s the daily reality of Asians living in the West, many of whom were actually born and raised in the West, and feel more spiritually and culturally in tune with the West, yet are seen as being foreigners in their own Western countries.

    Really, the only thing I took away from this piece is that these dudes somehow failed to take advantage of the obvious advantages and privileges that comes with being, well, a Western man in a non-West setting (and in a country where many of its citizens aspire to the Western aesthetic and ideal, at that)… and that we’re somehow supposed to feel sorry for their inability to do so.

    Jesus wept.

    • Superpancake

      Exactly. I understand that it can be difficult for guys who are married here and maybe “trapped” in this system. But I don’t understand people like this Sebastian guy. Okay, his girlfriend left him, now he is single and working badly-paid jobs in a country where he feels he doesn’t fit in. Why exactly does he stay in Japan? Seriously, go home and get a therapist! I studied Japanese in Germany and there were a lot of guys who exclusively wanted a Japanese girlfriend because of all the stereotypes you can have of Japanese women (quiet, sweet, obedient, they do everything to make you feel good). I only feel sorry for these kind of guys in a way that they must have a very low self-esteem to think this is the only type of person they can have a relationship with.

      • nerdydesi

        White guys and their Asian fetish.

      • Geeter McKluskie


    • thehim

      Best comment here.

  • Alain Breton

    I lived in Japan for several years. I am now back home. Japan was an incredible learning experience. Although I still deeply love the country and the Japanese and I go back as often as I can, returning home was the best decision I could ever make for my career. The important thing is to know when to leave it, which is basically when you have stopped learning. I don’t mean the language but learning as an experience.

    I have met over the years Westerners who have lived in Japan for far too long, and others that have been able to make the best of it. It’s true though that when your youth fades away, Japan can suddenly become a harsh place.

    The lesson here: be flexible in your decisions and don’t try to bend a grown tree.

    • blondein_tokyo

      When your youth fades away and you find yourself responsible for a spouse, children, and house payments, it really doesn’t matter where you are. It’s no fun being an adult, but we all gotta grow up sometime.

      • kayumochi

        Yes, that is true, but you are missing the point.

      • blondein_tokyo

        And what point is that? A straight white man trying to support his family in Japan has perhaps some problems unique to that demographic, but those problems are no more difficult than any other immigrant who is doing the same thing. In fact, a straight white guy likely has some advantages when compared to say, an African immigrant, or a GLBT person.

        We can have sympathy for everyone; there is no need to elevate one particular demographic and single their problems out as “unique” or “special” in the way this author is doing.

        I could, for example, write a similar article about the troubles I have had as a white woman in Japan, but I honestly don’t feel like my problems are special or unique enough to really warrant that much attention.

        A more interesting article, I think, would be to interview a wide variety of people from several demographics to show how we are all struggling, at least from time to time.

      • Catscan

        “A more interesting article, I think, would be to interview a wide
        variety of people from several demographics to show how we are all
        struggling, at least from time to time.”

        This is AWESOME! We should do that. I would definitely take part and/or help out. (And excuse me if I must admit in advance that I doubt the white male demographic here would have the worst problems out of all groups present.)

      • Spurs Fan

        This author likely as an agenda/personal vendetta against Japanese women.

      • Anne-So

        I just want to say I totally agree with you. Great comment. :)

  • Brodie Taylor

    ‘Japanese men have it tough, but foreigners might have it even worse’. Hahahaha this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read! White foreign males in Japan are in a place of total privilege. They’re often exempt from the social and work pressures placed onto most Japanese people because they’re foreign. Dozens of allowances are made for foreigners, from the fact we’re not expected to know Japanese, to the perks of teaching programs like JET. If their biggest complaint is that their easy-to-find Japanese girlfriends transform into ‘shufu’ or want them to be successful then their life can’t be that bad. And unlike Japanese men who have no real options other than to conform to the rigid social rules of this society or be disowned by their family, if Gaijin men don’t like it they have the option to go back home. This is a freedom that Japanese men who feel trapped in unhappy work/family situations could only imagine. If you really want to talk about ‘foreigners’ having it hard talk about those who actually suffer real discrimination here – people from Korean and Chinese backgrounds, not some privileged 22 year old White guy from the US with zero life experience who has come here to ‘discover’ himself.

    • nerdydesi

      I’m sure a brown guy will face lots of racism in Japan. These white guys who complain in Japan get little to no sympathy from me, them being already at the top of the hierarchy for foreigners in the eyes of Japanese.

      • Geeter McKluskie

        sounds like you’re in no need of their sympathy

    • kayumochi

      Yes, short-term transient white men do have it good in Japan. Long-term white men do not. You may want to re-read the article Brodie.

    • disqus_gfUW1DhhWs

      A few weeks into Japan I met some western male English teachers who were complaining that their office was not like Googles!!

      Sums it all up really.

  • Barkingdog48

    I was treated well as a Teacher /Professor in a large Chinese University. I enjoy working aggressively and so I felt my 8 years in Shijiazhuang were very well spent.

    • Hanfeizi

      That’s China, not Japan. But the situation for lower-tier expats who stay in China too long isn’t much better.

  • Stephen Tetsu

    Apparently, it is much harder to start a riot than I thought.

    • thedukeinjapan

      Yes, because you have to go to grad school and get tenure before you can start a riot.

  • Internet Terracotta Tiger

    Instead of bashing Japan all the time, why doesn’t anyone ever write about how lame, vulgar, and boring North American society is? I’m not ashamed to love cycling around beautiful villages, temples/shrines, castles from bygone eras and not getting eyerolls and snarky comments for being interested in the history surrounding them. No I don’t miss ugly suburbs of endless strip malls or third-rate coffee chains filled with ignorant jacka$$es convinced I’m not a real man for failing to care where the puck or football or whatever is at. But those kinds of microagressions apparently aren’t of interest to the same old snarky losers who always feel the need to bash Japan and the gaijins happy to be here!

    • Em

      To be fair – the author is not an American. She is a Russian from Moscow.

      • Internet Terracotta Tiger

        Thank you Em, duly noted. The writer’s nationality reminds me of what I’ve been sparing more than a thought for this week:


        I’ve met many Russians who seem to deserve so much better than a maniacal thug who would stoop down to threatening nuclear warfare on a peaceful nation. From this writer or others, I would like to read of hope for a country of huge potential that many associate with “an apparently bleak future”.

      • Internet Terracotta Tiger

        Thank you Em, good point and duly noted. Not entirely sure why my first response to you was deleted as it hardly seemed offensive about the author to me, but perhaps the JT doesn’t take kindly to poking its favourite clickbait topic!

      • Good point. That said, I have a friend from Russia (not sure what part) who has a nice Japanese/Russian family and acts like a normal Japanese housewife. She’s very successful as a translator and has an export company.

    • thehim

      And also, perhaps, America is not the centre of everyone’s world (except Americans, of course).

    • HeatPhoenix

      Considering this is the Japan Times…

  • arrotoxieta

    Nothing particularly strange. People have to become much more aware of their cultural heritage. The Japanese are. The Westerners are losing it, and that is why they are getting themselves in this kind of trouble. The Japanese are wonderful people. But marrying a Japanese? The cultural gap seems unbridgeable to me. The Westerners need to understand that the multicultural idea is a colossal illusion (at best). Japan will remain Japan. Westerners living in Japan are and remain Westerners. Embrace the idea, get a Western wife, make sure you are not ruining this place with “multiculturalism”.

  • Alex

    The tone of this article strikes me as completely wrong. It completely ignores the experiences of foreign men who are NOT white–who, I would argue, have it much worse here. And let’s not forget foreign women living in Japan, too. There are so many problems that we all face living here, and yet this article chooses to focus on one very specific group (who, again, don’t really have it all that bad considering other types of foreign people) and make it out as if it is the worst problem of all. (Also, the title is misleading. These men are not “trapped.” Japanese people who don’t fit in their society ARE, though. They can’t escape back to their original countries like the rest of us can if things get really bad.)

    • nerdydesi

      Exactly, I find it sad that this article is assuming that all “foreign” men in Japan are Caucasian. And even these Caucasian men will usually have it far easier than non-white men in Japan.

      If they think they have it bad, whoo boy. They’re already on the top of the totem pole for foreigners in Japan.

      • Alex

        That is the worst part of this article, in my opinion. That this specific group of foreigners is at the top of the foreign totem pole in Japan, and yet we’re hearing about how “all-important” their grievances are from none-other than the Japan Times. It would be one thing if this had been written on a personal/individual’s blog. I wouldn’t complain then, even if I disagreed wholly with the piece. But the fact that THIS is what made the Japan Times (rather than an article on, say, the experiences of a POC woman–especially Black or Korean–or at the very least a NON-white foreign man) is what upsets me. These guys are complaining? Please, gentlemen, take a good look around you. I guess people think their privilege applies no matter where they go.

        (Also…It’s very hard to feel bad for someone complaining about their marriage situation in a foreign country when they probably only used their wife for a spousal visa to begin with…)

      • kayumochi

        I didn’t find the article assuming that all foreign men in Japan are white. I find the article simply focusing on the experience of white men in Japan. To focus on Asian or African men in Japan would require another article as their experiences are vastly different.

      • Geeter McKluskie

        the kind that Baye McNeil writes, you mean

      • Alex

        I think the point is, an article for a group of men who don’t have it that bad (compared to other foreigners) made it into the Japan Times, but you would never see one for POCs, foreign women, etc. Only on personal blogs. That’s the unfair point–white men hardly have it as bad as other foreign groups in Japan.

      • AndyLC

        “I get to live where no gaijins are allowed cuz they think I’m Japanese” was the experience a fluent speaking Southeast Asian friend of mine had.

        ‘Course a sample size of one ain’t much.

      • Steven Scott

        or that they’re all straight. Super-hetero-centric. Boring. There is no one way to be in the world. Cookie cutter mentality seems to be the source of a lot of misery, especially in Japan.

      • Mr Happy Face

        I think this is a naive oversimplification of discrimination and racism.

        First, we have to look at what racism actually means. Most people will probably say something like “discrimination based on race”. But it is unfortunately not that simple.

        A lot of people often say things like “you cannot discriminate against a white man, because white men are at the top of the totem pole”. But this statement is very dangerous. It implies that no matter the injustices experienced by a white male, they don’t matter because of the injustices experienced by [ Blacks | Women | Jews | Korean Immigrants | etc ].

        Of course, this problem arises from a much deeper aspect of human nature, and that is: generalization. “If the white male is the dominant group, then all white males are at the top of the totem pole”.

        But is a homeless white man actually more privileged than a wealthy black woman? While this is an extreme example, it should illustrate the point that a social definition is only a statistical description of that group, and does not accurately describe every single individual which it contains.

        However in addressing problems only as they apply to minority and non-dominant social groups, we do something even more serious than “ignoring half the victims”. When we view social problems from narrow perspectives, we often end up with incomplete solutions, and very few problems actually end up being solved for anyone.

        Anyway, returning to the topic at hand, we’re not talking about poor black people systematically being trodden down everywhere they go. We’re talking about people of various races and genders, of roughly similar social standings, often receiving poor treatment as expats in the Japanese workforce. Dismissing the problems of one group simply because there are statistically more disadvantaged groups experiencing other injustices; is a dangerous approach to a specific problem.

        1. I’m not white
        2. The article is about “Western Men”, not “White Men”, and while I can’t be bothered reading it again, I didn’t get the impression that it was specifically talking about _white men_.

      • HeatPhoenix

        If only more people had as much sense as you.

      • Minxy Minamoto

        Where does the writer say all Western men are Caucasian? Perhaps it was you assumed it.

    • Aah Yes

      ” you would never see one for POCs, foreign women, etc.”
      Hogwash. You just hate white men — at least the straight ones. But surely you can at least pity an unfulfilled Stalinist among them for his lapse in courage. Needed to marry someone for the visa in order to stay in the country, to keep fighting for totalitarianism where rogue journalists can get away with sympathy for the devil after all.

      • Alex

        I don’t know where you got “I hate white men” from that, but as it stands, you are very, very wrong. I’d like you to go find an article on Japan Times about POCs and foreign women if what I’ve said is such “Hogwash.” Go on–I dare ya!

      • Geeter McKluskie

        Baye McNeil contributes regularly to the JT with articles on the black experience in Japan

      • Alex

        Any links? I’m glad to hear that! Now if we can just get some on the foreign women’s experiences…

      • Geeter McKluskie

        Google, Baye McNeil, Japan Times. Also Google Japan Times on foreign women…How soon is now?

      • Minxy Minamoto

        A simple search revealed more than a hundred just on foreign women.

      • Hanten

        I got nearly 10, 000!

      • Anne-So

        Poor white men.

    • Pete Wagner

      Target audience is never all-inclusive. You want a different perspective, google it, write it, don’t complain. The world is a big place, room for everybody.

      • Alex

        Yes, room for everybody, but not opportunity for everybody. I think it says enough that we don’t see an article with a different subject matter other than the same-old, same-old in the Japan Times. And until someone who WILL write about POCs and foreign women gets the OPPORTUNITY to write about them, we will never see anything different. So I reserve every right to complain.

      • Pete Wagner

        Oh come on. Reading is passive anyway. Live it! Carve out your own path.

      • Alex

        Perhaps, but when seen by enough people, it can be quite influential.

        Also, your words–like in your last post–are much easier said than done for some. But perhaps not for you, which is why you have no complaint with the same subject matter appearing over and over again.

      • Pete Wagner

        Oh no. But my angst is more with the lying, greedy, divide/control socio-politics that drives media and ultimately nations and people. If it serves to divide, ignore it.

      • Daniel Gerken

        Calls for non-division and unity are generally just veiled substitutes for domination. Divisive ideas are dangerous and not to be tolerated. Thinking that does not support White male dominance should be silenced. A truly equal and free world allows for all voices, and does not fear difference.

      • Pete Wagner

        It’s too easy to label it as white male dominance. White males are foolish pawns in the power game like the rest. Western strategy today is basically zionism, as the zionists are in power. Putin stands up to them. East Asia could too were they to stop falling into the traps of division. The fact that Korea remains divided is probably the most absurd thing, followed by all the American military bases still over there.

      • Alex

        I think I’m agreeing with you, though the way you worded this is a bit funny.

        “Thinking that does not support White male dominance should be silenced.”

        ^I presume that’s sarcasm? Because I agree with your last sentence.

      • Daniel Gerken

        Yes, the middle two sentences are intended to illustrate hegemonic thinking. It’s nice/refreshing to see a lot of anti-hegemonic sentiments in these comments. Almost always, I’ve seen it the other way in the past few years.

      • Alex

        Certainly don’t disagree with that one.

    • Hanten

      The author doesn’t explicitly mention non-white men in her article because she included all foreign men in it. There was no exclusion. Nowhere does she write about caucasian foreign males. There isn’t a single mention of whiteness. Perhaps you could write an article about being non-white, male and foreign in Japan.

      • Alex

        The experiences she addresses, if we are to take them as the WORST experiences a foreigner can face (which is the tone of this article), would not be the worst experiences for minorities or foreign women. POCs and women certainly share in the experiences mentioned, but the things in this country that they have grievances over are far more like human rights’ issues than the trivial issues listed in this article. It is because importance is being put on these more trivial issues that we can assume the subjects are all white men, for whom these issues would likely be the most important. I can assure you, POCs and foreign women would have far worse things to complain about. (And none of this changes the fact that none of the men in the author’s article are “trapped,” as her subtext would suggest.)

        I am not a writer for the Japan Times. I am a reader. I am stating what I, as a reader of the Japan Times, would like to see. And as you might have noticed from my original comment, many others agree. It would be within the paper’s best interest to consider what their readers want to see.

      • Hanten

        I’m sure the gaijin guys married to Japanese women who don’t want to live anywhere else will disagree with you. They are, indeed, trapped. Disagreement would also come from people who love living in Japan but realize that their success here is often hampered by racism.

        You’re assuming all the people in the article are white because of the types of problems they’re suffering? Perhaps if you re-read the article without your race glasses on you might see that men of color weren’t excluded there.

        There have been plenty of articles in The Japan Times about foreign women and people of colors lives’ here in Japan. I’m not going to give you a list of links. You can easily search for yourself.

        By contributing comments to JT articles you have become a writer for them and, guess what? You’re not getting paid for it. If you want to see your angle presented, maybe writing about it yourself is the best way to guarantee that and you can earn some money from it, too.

      • Alex

        “I’m sure the gaijin guys married to Japanese women who don’t want to live anywhere else will disagree with you. They are, indeed, trapped. Disagreement would also come from people who love living in Japan but realize that their success here is often hampered by racism.”

        >>Why did they marry Japanese women in the first place, then? THEY are the ones who came to Japan–the Japanese women probably thought they came here because they wanted to STAY here. That is something couples need to discuss first, but it’s hardly the fault of the Japanese women if gaijin men didn’t make it clear that they weren’t planning on staying in Japan permanently. Also, they are still not trapped. There is such a thing as divorce.

        >>I would agree that there are people who love living in Japan but find their success hampered by racism. However, as I stated in a previous comment, that is an issue not exclusive to foreign (white) men, and certainly not a reason for us to spare a thought for JUST them–especially considering they have it the best out of all foreigners facing discrimination here.

        “You’re assuming all the people in the article are white because of the types of problems they’re suffering? Perhaps if you re-read the article without your race glasses on you might see that men of color weren’t excluded there.”

        >>Funny. I’m a white person, too, believe it or not. But I can read the sub-text when I feel it. The tone of this piece does not reflect what I’m sure POCs and foreign women would find most “trapping” or “inconvenient” about living in Japan. It more suitably reflects the major concerns of a very specific group that has far fewer things of actual serious concern to worry about.

        “There have been plenty of articles in The Japan Times about foreign women and people of colors lives’ here in Japan. I’m not going to give you a list of links. You can easily search for yourself.”

        >>Perhaps so, although it says a lot that I haven’t noticed many of them. I suppose they weren’t given very much attention–certainly not the attention they deserve. But as I said, I disagree with the tone of this piece all around, and the statement it is trying to make. Hence my commenting here.

        “By contributing comments to JT articles you have become a writer for them and, guess what? You’re not getting paid for it. If you want to see your angle presented, maybe writing about it yourself is the best way to guarantee that and you can earn some money from it, too.”

        >>That seems to be your take on it. But I also happen to know that comments do wonders. Media has to pay attention to its audiences’ wishes if it hopes to stay on top. I have no interest in writing articles for a newspaper, but nor do I want to see–in a newspaper that I read–complaints that are really very minuscule in comparison to the ones we really should be sparing a thought for. I think we can safely agree to disagree.

      • Hanten

        I take it back. I no longer think it’s a good idea for you to be a writer. Your skills as a reader aren’t much if you can’t find any JT articles on POC and foreign women in Japan.

      • Alex

        Sir, you know nothing of my reading and writing skills, and since you seem to either disregard my full comments or have selective memory about what I’ve written to you, I would argue you’re the one who isn’t much of a skilled reader, especially to not be able to read between the lines.

        One should not have to go digging to find an article about the topics I have mentioned above. The fact that this particular article popped up on the main page for Japan Times should say everything. I’ve never seen that in the case of articles about POCs and foreign women. And that is precisely the difference I am talking about, the attention such pieces do (or, in this case, don’t) get.

        You seem to have quite the gripe about what I’ve had to say regarding the content of this article. Take a chill pill, dude. It’s just my opinion (although others have clearly shared in it). Could it be that perhaps you are one of the “poor” gentlemen discussed in the article?

      • Hanten

        Thank you for the great laugh! And for the respect of calling me “Sir” even if it was done ironically. I’ll take it anyway.
        I do know quite a few foreign men who feel trapped here in Japan living quietly miserable lives. The number of foreign women who feel the same way is miniscule in comparison. I belong to neither group but I thank you for your concern, anyway.
        Being an immigrant is a tough life and I love that this article asks us to consider the plight of some Western men here in Japan.
        I also love that you’re clinging to your initial all-white all-male gaijin grumbling interpretation. Stick to your guns, man!

      • Alex

        I can see I have indeed touched a nerve. Right, I think I must have been correct in my assumption. After all, no one would get as defensive as you have over such an article, unless it personally relates to them in some way. Especially considering there are plenty of people of every colour, white men included, who share my disagreement in the tone of this article.

        P.S. This quote of yours: “The number of foreign women who feel the same way is miniscule in comparison.”

        Where did you get your statistics about these foreign women, which you have already stated you are not one of? Or did they come from those many articles that supposedly exist on the subject, yet which very few others have actually seen? Just wondering, as you’ve made quite a few sweeping assumptions all in one go. Impressively done, sir!

      • Hanten

        The ironies are piling up. I am not one who feels trapped in Japan although I know many who are. I didn’t quote any statistics because all I have is anecdotal evidence.
        My nerves are quite untouched. I am still amused by your insistence that you know my gender and situation better than I do. This article is not about me.
        Back to the article.

      • Alex

        I’m sure all of that is quite easy to say when hidden behind a computer. None of it changes the fact that you have gotten up-in-arms over some of us (and quite a few of us, at that) having an issue with the tone of this article, which would otherwise suggest that the article reflects you personally in one way or another, or that you’re simply not the sort who knows how to properly pick your battles. (Or that you simply came here looking for a fight–not much to be said if you’re just a little troll, I’m afraid.) Whatever the case, you haven’t brought a single thought-provoking argument to any of your comments, so with that I will say to you what I have already said in a previous comment that you probably didn’t read in-full. We shall agree to disagree.

      • Minxy Minamoto

        I’d hardly say plenty of people agree with you. If you look at the massive number of commentators, the three or four agreeing with your views seem tiny. Reading down the stream I found more that disagree. I am one more of them.

        How do you know the color of any of them? How did you know the color of the people mentioned in the article? (Of course, the guy in the picture, excepted) You must be wearing some amazing glasses and they’re not rose-colored.

    • Steve Jackman

      I think you’ve answered your own concern. If this article is about the experiences of white men and other foreigners have it much worse, according to you, then can one not use this article to extrapolate the plight of non-white and female foreigners in Japan?

      • Alex

        No, that is precisely my problem with it. The article gives an explicit tone that these are the worst things foreigners face in this country. There are far worse things that we should be “sparing a thought for.”

    • Minxy Minamoto

      Having re-read the article, I’m bemused that anyone could think it was all about Caucasian men. It’s true the title includes the phrase “Western men” but not all Westerners are Caucasian.
      I also agree with you that people of color and women in Japan have it tough. Just because a writer draws your attention to one section of humanity doesn’t mean the rest of humanity doesn’t exist nor that their problems aren’t as bad. Or worse even, as you seem to believe.

  • Catscan

    Agree with most of the comments to this article, but adding a bit of my own.

    The author’s putting blame on Japanese women, but they’re all victims of their society, as well (if not moreso, considering they actually can’t escape it–at least not as easily as all of us). And she’s making it sound like it’s the women’s faults that their husbands suffer so much. That makes me at least a little angry. I don’t agree that women dominating the household (and the “purse strings” ) is the way to go – my belief is that family should be run by both parents, and everything should be balanced between those two parents – but that’s not the women’s fault. Women are already on the lower rung in this society, and I’d argue that the reason housewives become those “shufu” is because that’s all they have left to give them some control over their own lives. I can’t imagine it’s an exactly happy situation. Who doesn’t want (if not need) at least a little love? But when it’s a situation that involves control over your own life, then love sort of leaves the picture. Sad existence. But I hate when people put the blame on the Japanese housewives. Don’t like it? Change your damn society which PUTS women in the position to do that (and want/need to do that, for that matter).

    By painting foreign men’s situation as worse than foreign women’s in this case, too, it’s like completely denying that foreign women face the same problems as foreign men here and worse. I also don’t like that the article addresses mostly white men’s problems here, as if they are the only men here. Of the foreign people, white men’s issues here are no different from other foreign men’s issues. Except that other foreign men share those, and more. What I’d really like to see is an article about a POC woman’s experiences here. Some of my POC foreign female friends have had some God-awful experiences, and we never ever hear their voices.

    As for these female support groups she’s talking about…? Um. Where the hell are they? A rape hotline was only JUST created fairly recently, and having a friend whose best friend here was raped who is now suffering because she had nowhere to go (the police completely mishandled it, as usual)…It’s just making me curious about these supposed “support groups” she claims us foreign women have. How very lucky if she’s found one, because a great many of us have not. And even then, even if there was a support group out there, the fact that we’re having experiences where we need one so badly suggests a lot to me.

    I don’t like that she’s using age-old stereotypes either–that women can be emotional and ask for help and men can’t. It’s because of those stereotypes that women here can’t advance in their careers. Glass ceilings for a guy who got promoted three times…? AT LEAST he got promoted!!! And three times, no less! I’ve known female employees here, foreign and Japanese both, who have worked 20+ years at the same job and never left secretarial or basic desk work. I’m sure they could have complained, but I’m also quite sure that would have left them jobless, too.

    Sorry, but totally disagree. This article is painting victims of a specific group of people who are far less “victims” than other groups. It doesn’t mean their experiences aren’t real (I do believe they are, of course), but the tone of this article is just all wrong about it, and I do so hate when the serious issues of other groups are downplayed or ignored because of things like this.

  • KetsuroOu

    Congratulations on another fantastic article, Debito!

    • R0ninX3ph

      Not gonna lie, as I was reading I thought “Oh, this must be a Debito article” and was genuinely shocked when I got to the top and it wasn’t….

      • disqus_gfUW1DhhWs


        As much as I dislike Debito he is living proof that any loser white guy can make a life for themselves in Japan. Assuming they learn Japanese and work hard.

      • J.P. Bunny

        But he gave up and no longer lives here. The loser left.

      • Bent

        But JT are still publishing ‘articles’ by him?

        But that’s great news, and for him as well. Although his problems were obviously internal a change in scenario might be just the trick.

        So where did he go?

      • The Handsome Stranger

        To be fair, this is much better writing than Debito normally churns out.

    • thedukeinjapan

      For all his hysterics, at least he’s arguing (at least sometimes) for something more worthwhile (e.g., equal treatment for non-native citizens) than special sympathy for white men in Japan when experiencing universal human problems.

  • blackpassenger

    as i wrote in my book, black passenger yellow cabs: a memoir of exile and excess in japan. “Japan is disneyland. you cant live in disneyland forever. at some point, you must return to the real world.”

    • “JapanEnglish-land is disneyland Gaijin-land. you cant live in disneyland Gaijin-land forever. at some point, you must return to the real world.”

      FTFY. Nice book plug, btw.

      • blackpassenger

        thank you. let me know what you think after youve read it.

      • I have bought it and read it actually. It’s not my style (preferred genre of literature), but I could appreciate the prose and personal experiences.

      • blackpassenger


    • jimbo jones

      you’re book sounds profound. way to throw in a racial slur in the title. classy.

    • Geeter McKluskie

      You should have gone with the publisher…That way you wouldn’t have to stoop to shameless self-promotion on every thread…and you might have ended up selling more than 100 books to friends and family

  • Ken Seeroi, the author of the popular blog Japanese Rule of 7, writes, “It seems you can either spend a lifetime trying to prove you’re as good as the worst Japanese person, or opt out and just be ‘foreign.’ ”

    Yes, follow this guy’s wise advice, so you too can aspire to have few prospects and irregular employment and income (which he admits on his blog)… just like him!

  • blondein_tokyo

    This is one long bloated whinefest. “Whyyyyyyy won’t my wife work?” “Whyyyyyyyyy does my girlfriend expect me to pay for her on dates?” Dude, there are plenty of strong, independent Japanese women out there who do not expect to be catered to, and who have incomes of their own and don’t need yours. YOU are the one who made the decision to date someone who has no personal ambitions and who feels entitled to be catered to her entire life solely because she’s female. You made your choice; don’t expect anyone to now feel sorry for you.

    And just so you know, the western women who marry Japanese guys also have to deal with Japanese parent-in-laws’ unreasonable expectations, language and cultural differences, problems fitting in at work, and they too are living in Japan on their own without the benefit of friends or family to help. They’re just as isolated as you are, and they have exactly the same problems, so I really do not understand your need to play Oppression Olympics. It’s petty and it’s childish.

    • Minxy Minamoto

      Yes, yes and yes!

  • obvious

    Basically if you have no skills, no future prospects, then you have little chance. This is the same for everyone, not just westerners. How many Japanese guys without prospects are having the same issues? How many people have this issue all over the world?

  • TokyoJ

    Are we being trolled? April first is just around the corner… This can’t be serious, can it? As a white man living in Japan, I’m getting pretty sick and tired of fellow western white folks using the term “racism.” So you moved to Japan at 25 and some old man didn’t let you into the girl’s bar… Get over it! I remember shopping with black friends and having them followed around the store by the shop clerk. Every South Park/Family Guy-style “adult” cartoon makes fun of Asians with reckless abandon. Fellow white people in Japan: stop calling not getting your way “racism” – it’s a bit racist.

    • Internet Terracotta Tiger

      Hi TokyoJ, on your second question, no I don’t think it is serious. The JT needs clickbait it can count on just like any online paying news-source.

      Call me nuts but I find these message boards more entertaining than Dilbert, especially as I have been reading Dilbert for a very long time now and I’m starting to find it a bit stale, though still far and away the best comic.

      • Em

        It is serious. Cannot speak to the motives of the Japan Times in posting it, but the author herself was quite serious.

    • nerdydesi

      At least white guys in Japan who face racism can sympathize with non-whites facing racism in their own Western home countries like the U.S, Britain, Australia, etc. Now you get to walk in our shoes, finally.

      • Not really – white privilege is still white privilege. Suffering the “indignity” of being asked to show ID by the local constabulary is not the same thing as having to worry whether the officer will shoot you or throw a fatal choke-hold on you for “resisting”.

      • Softclocks

        Only black people suffer TRUE racism!

      • Catscan

        Exactly this. My friend had a good way of putting it. She said foreigners in Japan were in a sort of hierarchy with Japanese. She said Japanese men were on top, of course. Next were white men and Japanese women. (Sometimes Japanese women might even be below white men.) After that were other foreign men (except black men). After that were black men and white foreign women. And the last group was POC women, specifically black women. So visual ranking:

        1. Japanese men
        2. White foreign men (sometimes Japanese women)
        3. Japanese women
        4. Other foreign men (minus black men)
        5. Black foreign men and white foreign women
        6. Foreign POC women (specifically black women)

        Just her reflections on social hierarchy having lived in Japan for some years, but there are days I really must say I see exactly what she sees. So indeed, I would argue white privilege (specifically white male privilege) is a very real thing wherever you are in the world, even if you’re the “minority” group in a country.

      • Geeter McKluskie

        I think tailless stray cats should be 4

      • Catscan

        Aw crap. That pushes POC foreign men, white foreign women, and POC foreign women even further down the chain! (Although, I wouldn’t doubt certain people here would be happy to lower their status below that of tailless stray cats. ;) )

      • Geeter McKluskie

        Hey, they have their own island so it can’t be that bad

    • primalxconvoy

      I disagree. Racism is racism, regardless of where it is, or to Japanese what degree. The fact remains that racicial discrimination is still not a crime in Japan, but overstaying a visa is (the complete opposite of most developed countries). Living in denial isn’t going to help those in Japan suffering from racial discrimination, racism, xenophobia or ethnocentricity.

      However, to be fair, I once assisted an African gentleman at a train station, as two Japanese police officers had stopped him to check him (for drugs). Although he was in his rights to be angry (it seemed that they had repeatedly stopped him for different reasons prior), I, and another African man said l reminded him that, however “racist” the Japanese police were/are, one has only to look at the American police to see that he was lucky that he hadn’t been strangled to death or shot dead where he stood (with the officers being exonerated).

      • walterstucco

        > I disagree. Racism is racism

        and the japanese are not racists
        it’s just that you are not japanese

      • Manfred Deutschmann

        Yes, only Japanese is a race. All others are just bio-trash that needs to be enslaved and abused for perverted games.

      • walterstucco

        My fault, I wasn’t clear.
        We have the same kind of polite way of being jerks here in Italy, even from city to city.
        It’s a different way of doing, you either accept it or not, you are really not going to have any chance of changing it, otherwise it won’t be Japan anymore.

      • Stephen Tetsu

        I’m not sure being asked to work a job by your wife counts as racism.

      • Catscan

        Mm, indeed! Japan could be a GREAT country (there really are fantastic aspects to this place, better than many other places in the world), but the racial discrimination that goes on here, unchecked and considered “acceptable”, is a bit too much. I think it has a lot to do with pride, but I also think Japanese people don’t realize that a lot of that pride goes out the window when people are watching you be blatantly ignorant about things–and thus considering you either backwards, stupid, or both.

        God, that last statement of yours is so damn sad. How anyone in the world can think of something like that and find it acceptable is beyond me. America still has severe issues with racial discrimination, but the one good thing it DOES have (unlike Japan) is a fairly good-sized group of people who GET that that’s wrong and speak out and fight against it. I’ve never heard about groups like that in Japan, let alone media outlets who would consider covering such a thing. So shameful.

    • thedukeinjapan

      It’s racism to get racially profiled by the police and questioned on a fairly regular basis, yes. It’s racism to get racially profiled and get asked what you’re doing out at night in front of your own apartment building, yes. It’s racism to get racially profiled, pulled over at a stop and then forced to take a breathalyzer at the police station while cops search your motorbike and ask you whether you stole it, yes. It’s racism to get refused housing or credit explicitly for being non-Japanese. It’s racism when a woman on the train clutches her purse more tightly when you sit down next to her. These things that happened to me were racism. (They don’t happen as much now that I wear a tailored suit and live downtown, but that just means I’m looked at as one of the good ones now.)

      It’s not rising to the level of getting racially profiled and ending up shot by a cop in the U.S., thank god, but that just goes to show how fucked up the situation can be in the U.S., not that it isn’t racism just because a white person experiences it here. And really, I think it’s counterproductive to say it isn’t racism, as, from personal experience, experiencing racism in Japan as a white person is probably the closest you might get to in some small way experiencing what it’s like to be non-white back home.

    • Nathan Carter

      What? You’ve got to be kidding. You get a house, have kids, and do all the stuff and paperwork that comes with that and then come back and tell us you still have no experiences of veiled racism in Japan. Maybe you’re more at the “girl’s bar” and “South Park” level here, but when you grow up, and if you decide to stay here, you’re going to experience racism on other levels that will involve your family, the availability of choices for your future, and in many respects your identity and dignity.

    • GeeGee

      Are you trolling? In my home country of Australia if half the racist things that fly in Japan were done here there would be moral outrage and a media circus. Maybe it’s different in whatever your home country is?
      In my time in Japan I have witnessed a “no foreigners allowed” sign, was told I couldn’t try clothes on in a clothing store where many Japanese were trying on clothes (and no, I’m not a giant or fatty, I’m a size small, petite, well-dressed, normal looking woman), denied from buying tickets on a scenic bus tour and told it was for “Japanese only”, as well as being asked numerous dumb, discriminatory questions (“Ehh maji?, do people in Australia eat rice?”- seriously?). Japanese culture is what it is but I always think foreigners who don’t notice the underhanded racism must seriously be drinking the denial.

      • Geeter McKluskie

        There’s all of that and more, but there’s also a great deal more of the other…places and buses and people who aren’t racist or underhanded or seriously stupid. Foreigners who are oblivious to this must seriously be too drunk on themselves to notice

  • The extra photo of the guy displaying an empty wallet, by the way, is priceless (literally). JT should have made that the main article photo.

    • jimbo jones

      poverty is hilarious

      • 6810

        You’re right! Poor white guys on low salaries overspending and then saying it’s Japan’s fault are hilarious.

      • Bent

        Even people in poverty have cards of some sort.

        ‘I got know money, see my wallet is empty’?

        It is a bit strange.

  • Lawl. Let’s all shed a collective tear for his #FirstWorldUpperMiddleClassCaucasianAbleBodiedHeterosexualMaleProblems

    • Stephen Tetsu

      “I wanted to get arrested but I got married instead. Japan sux!”

      • Isn’t that effectively the same thing?

    • nerdydesi

      I’m playing the world’s smallest violin for these privileged folks. SMH.

    • Spike

      Of course, all of the comments end up being about “white privilage”. The internet is so predictable these days.

      • Chris

        If the shoe fits…

      • boganus

        Agreed. The leftist/feminist comments about ‘white privilege’ are tiresome and just a diversion to avoid looking at a specific point of view.

  • etchasketch

    Being white in Japan sounds tough. (said no one ever)

    • disqus_gfUW1DhhWs

      The worst for me is tall white men constantly complaining about airline seats… the only moment in their ultra advantages lives they are disadvantaged and it becomes a cornerstone of conversation!!

      • HeatPhoenix

        I’m tall but not white and they need to start building these planes a little bigger. I mean, come on.

    • kayumochi

      Short-term it is great. Long-term it is hell.

  • If a guy comes to Japan, has low skills and strange political beliefs (really? an American Stalinist in this day and age??), then doesn’t attain his life goals, I have to say “meh?”

    Japan offers tons of opportunity, if you’re smart and know where the cracks are (or 隙間 in Japanese, the gaps that provide opportunity). The internet removes just about everything bad about being in Japan, while providing tons of potential for doing interesting new things. If you’re stuck in an eikaiwa rut, why don’t you start looking into small businesses you could start, or skills you could learn that help change your situation?

    • Romjpn

      While I kinda agree with some analyses that the writer made, I also agree that well, you can escape those horrible japanese workplaces by trying to be on your own. Not easy but possible.
      I also dislike being a wage-slave here. I will quit soon but try to stay here :)

      • I’m luckier than most because I started a successful business at the dawn of the Internet. So I know I am not one to give an opinion on some of these issues. But everyone has freedom and opportunity, especially if you’re in a strange and wonderful place like Japan.

        Heck, I got my start stealing Twin Peaks Georgie Coffee posters from vending machines and selling them online in the early 90s. It’s hard to do but not impossible to find your own Konami code.

      • kayumochi

        Memories :) I was one of the first gaijin to sell on eBay from Japan. Oh the money I made selling junk no one in Japan wanted …

    • Softclocks

      How is a guy with no skills and no capital supposed to start a business?

      You think he’s getting a loan in Japan?

      • I didn’t get a loan and I started with a “Dummies” book. Though I’ll give you, my timing was good.

        The point is, if you go to a country and just do “whatever” until it all stops working for you you aren’t living life the right way. Instead why not look for some interesting chances to do something fresh and new.

  • maggit

    Totally agree, don’t try to be Japanese, cause you never
    will be. But it’s important to go with
    the flow, even if you don’t agree, or it will drive you crazy.

    I always thought I coined the phrase “gaijin power”. I thought it meant getting the most out of
    Japan. For example, getting a girl, just
    cause you are not Japanese. Or u sit
    down in a restaurant and the group next to you starts asking gaijin questions
    (e.g. where are you from? Can you use
    chopsticks). Which can be totally
    annoying. Then when you go to pay the
    bill you find that they paid for you.

    I think non-Japanese women have it much harder then men here
    in Japan. Even with “gaijin power”
    finding a partner and emotional stability can be hard.

    • Very likely so. As usual there are two kinds of “gaijin”: the ones that fit the pattern expected of us, e.g. European or North American, usually white, usually very tall, etc. and the others, Asians from countries Japan don’t know about, people from Poland or Uzbekistan or India going whatever jobs they can do well.

      Western women have some challenges too. Back when I was dating, a couple of girls wanted me to ask them out, but how can a guy here dat anyone but a Japanese? I mean, dude.

      • nerdydesi

        Why go to a foreign land to date people from your home country?

  • Fransisco TS

    “Embracing your non-Japaneseness, just being yourself, exploiting the “gaijin
    power” your outsider status affords you and simply enjoying the ride
    are the best ways to avoid the trap of loneliness and misery.”

    Suuuure. Let’s come to a country where we can’t speak the language, and instead of immersing ourselves in, let’s expect them to adapt to us. Yes very clever. Just be ourselves. Gaijin rules!

  • Ami Skanberg Dahlstedt

    What about Western women? African men? Arab women?

    • kayumochi

      Why don’t you write that post?

  • Frank Hansen

    I can only disagree with the proposition that foreigners cannot be promoted beyond a certain level in Japan. I am myself a full professor at a top level imperial university, and I am senior to all the japanese professors in my department. I have lived and worked in Japan for less than 10 years in total.

    • And I have a friend who got a full tenured professor position in Kyushu. So it’s possible, just not through eikaiwa.

      • blondein_tokyo

        You do realize that your experiences are not representative? In this very website is an article about how Japanese universities make it impossible for foreign instructors/professors to obtain tenure by putting them on temp contracts and simply hiring new people when it runs out. Other schools and universities hire instructors at juuuuuust under full time hours, so that they can avoid paying for insurance, raises, and other benefits. It’s abusive, and it’s dishonest, and I don’t think *anyone* deserves to be treated what way. What it looks like to me is that you are sitting very pretty up on your high horse, looking down at “eikaiwa sensei” and thumbing your nose. I find that to be reprehensible. Do you honestly need so badly to feel superior to other human beings that it makes you utterly void of empathy? That’s what it looks like to me, anyway. Do correct me if my impression is wrong, because I would really like to believe this is not the case. I like to think that most people are empathetic, and don’t look down on others just because their job isn’t as prestigious.

      • boganus

        All you’re doing is displaying stereotypical female emotional response to a pretty factual statement, all because it doesn’t agree with your specific experiences/knowledge. You make some interesting comments, but your solipsism is obvious. Where in his comment does he give indications he is ‘looking down on others’?

      • blondein_tokyo

        And all you’re doing is displaying a typical male testosterone-induced urge to barge in and take over a conversation in order to “correct” people just because you don’t agree with a response you read.

      • CrimsonTears

        I have no dog in this fight, but if we’re going by your reasoning: You technically barged in and took over the conversation to correct Peter just because you didn’t agree with his response that you read. Perhaps I’m mistaken, but isn’t Peter allowed to share his opinion and experiences like you and I?

      • blondein_tokyo

        Heh. Yeah. :)

        But I was mainly being facetious…attack a stupid stereotype with another stupid stereotype, right?

        I thought people would catch that. Maybe I should have added a ;).

      • boganus

        No you’re not. You’re change tactic now that more than one person has noticed how strident you’re being and trying to backpedal by claiming you were being facetious (i.e. joking around). Well you spent a lot of words to be apparently ‘facetious’.

      • 6810

        Blonde notoriously has a lot of time on his/her hands to contribute well meaning but misguided and outdated information on JT threads.

        Methinks if in Japan, s/he has so much free time as arestul of the advice presented in the article: no local friends, no local language and shut-in “I’m a gaijin” mentality.

        Steve, JDG, Blonde… you can set your watch by the regularity and consistency of their output.

      • CrimsonTears

        No problem at all. I don’t really have a place in this entire article considering I’m rather ignorant to the subject and Japan in general. I just enjoy the articles and comments. I always appreciate someone taking the time to reply though!

        Edit: I wish there was a PM function, I would ask people if they knew any accurate sites or blogs to get insight. All I ever find on the internet are largely bias, generalized and unhelpful information (I don’t trust the ALL Japanese are friendly or racist or xenophobic or whatever)

  • primalxconvoy

    Although some of the points contained in this article are genuine ones, it seems to be a story in search of facts, as it were. There are also a number of issues as to why this article isn’t really up to scratch:

    – The article keeps referring to “westerners” as the default foreign person, even though similar problems abound for any foreign person (in Japan).

    – How are the links to the various facts concerning Japanese life relevant to the main story? What additional facts link them to the story?

    – Why does this focus on men? Why not cover the general problems of all foreign people? What facts back up the claims that “foreign men can easily marry a (Japanese) woman”? Regardless of this; how is this aspect relevant?

    There are other issues regarding the competency of the final story, but generally, it is disjointed, lacking in focus and makes too many generalisations to be of any worth.

  • khakionion

    Sebastian – You are lucky you got dumped, she sounds like a jerk…I hope you find someone better. They exist in Japan.

    Patrick – Yes, dead-end jobs suck and congrats on quitting…I hope you find a better job. They exist in Japan.

    Jack – Not everyone gets along great with their in-laws, especially cross-cultural ones. On the other hand, very nice of your wife to go to work while you go to school. What’s the problem?

    Jim – Yeah, that sucks. I guess you got married too early, or certainly had kids too soon. (Oh and Stalinism? What?)

  • Jake Adelstein

    We are not fully accepted universally in any society; we are accepted and assimilated in a small world, one made of our peers and sometimes our community. The world and Japan is full of tiny subcultures and communities and there is no one who is ‘fully assimilated’ wherever they go. Japan is not a homogenous society–it’s full of tiny cliques, communities, corporate cultures, punks, otaku, poetry buffs, gay and lesbian, ardent Buddhists, superstitious polytheistic festival buffs etc and no one can move fluidly from one clique to the next–Japanese or Foreigner.

    You can move to McBaine, Missouri and don’t expect to be a ‘townie.’

    I’ve been in Japan since 1988. Within a small circle of friends and fellow journalists, I feel completely accepted and at home.

    “But perhaps the most important thing is to admit and fully accept that we can never fully assimilate in Japan. We can never become Japanese”—

    The problem is there is no definitive “Japanese”. There are norms and trends and but Japan varies in thought all the way from Green Peace supporters to the LDP. If you’re hanging out with members of the Nihon Kaigi, yes, you’ll probably always be ‘the other’. When your Japanese reaches a certain level, you can find a place to belong. Japan has a general set of shared values of which reciprocity and decorum are probably universally important. Internalising those values is a choice that everyone has to make–while deciding for yourself what values (ethical codes) in life that you need to uphold to be content with who you are.

    • soccerteesandplaydoh

      Yessss! It’s all interlacing circles, and you’ll be inside some circles forever and outside others forever, and some circles change members more or less constantly. Figure out which circles matter to you most and forget the others and remember, you don’t WANT to be in all the circles anyway.

    • Sam Gilman

      Excellent post. Obsessing over foreignness vs Japaneseness is pointless and in a way, really kind of narcissistic.

  • Simona Stanzani

    try being a girl then, even tougher XD
    though to be honest I never had any big integration problem, they treat me pretty much like a native. maybe I’m just not gaijin enough.

  • Ken Gtwo

    “He dreamed of graduate school, an academic career and, one day, even leading a riot. But instead, he got married to a Japanese girl”

    Pretty much sums it up. If you have dreams outside of Japan don’t go to Japan and don’t marry a Japanese girl. The place is all spark and no flame. All bright lights and promise with no delivery.

    Once you realize that all the shine and beauty is just a sophisticated cultural defense mechanism designed to hide a crusty old patriarchal system, the illusion melts away.

    Spend a few years there, check it out, but then leave. It’s the only sane thing to do.

    • Catscan

      Yeah, this statement pisses me off: “But instead, he got married to a Japanese girl.” As if that’s a bad thing to begin with. But it actually sounds like it’s everyone’s fault BUT his that he got married to that Japanese girl. Did someone chain him up and force him to marry her? Did someone blackmail and threaten him until he agreed to sign the marriage papers and go to the church? No? Then why should anyone care about his goals if HE made the choice to marry someone and ruin his own plans? The author makes it sound like it’s the worst possible thing to happen to someone, and yet I’m quite sure he was a willing partner in it initially, whether he regrets that now or not. (This is not even taking into account the people who marry specifically to get visas. >:( )

      • Ken Gtwo

        I just consider it a matter of false advertising. It’s no secret why most foreign guys come here. But they don’t know what they’re getting into. It’s not like many western marriages where two people are earning bread. You’re pretty much locked in for life, especially when the kids come. Kiss your dreams and hobbies goodbye.

        So glad I saw my Japanese friends get married and go through a few years with kids before getting married. I would never be able to give up everything they have, for their families and companies while gritting my teeth, smiling and pretending I was in utopia. And that’s the average even for Japanese dudes. Actually maybe worse for them since they can’t even push back on what’s happening to them.

        It’s hard enough to meet the person of your dreams anywhere in the world, but having to find out about this system after the fact is just an extra hassle on the relationship both ways.

        If you must, I say find a woman over there who is independent, adventurous, not down for the pretty (petty?) housewife, total financial dependency lifestyle. Good luck finding one though. They’re out there, but you sure have to surf through a bunch of plastic sparkle & glitter to find them.

  • J.P. Bunny

    “Well adjusted expatriates living a happy life here. So what is their secret?” No secret needed. Just be happy with who you are and worry not about being accepted or fitting in. Same as Mr. Adelstein, I have a very small number of friends and the centuries here have been just fine.

  • m.

    Unbelievable that Sebastian’s girlfriend dumped him! In Germany the girls are crazy for 32-year-old students “with several part time jobs”.

  • thedukeinjapan

    -Jim’s best prospects would have been moving to Russia between the mid-1920’s and 1953, not to Japan in 2015. Having a wife and kid(s) does not disqualify you from graduate school. (I know that from experience.) But having the dream of a career progression from graduate school -> academia -> leading a riot may disqualify you from admittance to graduate school, based on the fact that you are a moron.

    -Sebastian should not be surprised that women correctly recognize his very limited career prospects as a 30-something German veteran in Japan for some reason still working on an undergraduate degree in a subject that will leave him with a skill every Japanese person already has. Also, from the photo, he looks like a hobbit, which can’t help things.

    -Patrick is a quitter, unwilling to devote himself to his work to the same extent as his Japanese peers and therefore not able to advance in the gradual, lockstep manner one advances in Japan. Whether the amount of devotion expected by Japanese companies is fair to anyone, or whether the lockstep promotion system is a good way to promote internal talent at a company are separate questions.

    -Jack needs to calm down and STFU. His wife is working while he goes to school. He should be able to ignore his in-laws and enjoy his situation (unless, as may very well be the case, his benefits are not actually enough to cover his expenses) .

    -John should have used his supposed fluency in Japanese to talk to his co-workers when he was assigned a project he did not know how to complete. Although it sounds like the situation was resolved anyway in the end when he could talk to people overseas.
    -Ken Seeroi sounds like another washed-up English teacher and not a fount of wisdom for expatriates or anyone else.
    I hope the author has misquoted or mischaracterized the interviewees, for their own sakes.

    • You nailed it!

      • thedukeinjapan

        I thought of several ways to substantively critique the fundamentally misguided arguments of this piece but then just realized her alleged victims are so unsympathetic that attacking the examples directly was more appropriate. (And fun.)

      • blondein_tokyo

        It’s fun to make light of people’s problems? I get a very bad impression of you from that comment. Are you really that kind of person, or am I misunderstanding?

      • Bent

        When when you publicly blame a whole society for your obviously internal problems then you’re likely to get ridiculed.

      • blondein_tokyo

        You know, when I see someone struggling with something that I personally don’t find to be very difficult, I tend to just keep my opinion to myself and not make their struggle worse by trivializing it. That’s called “empathy”, and I think you are lacking it.

      • Bent

        But it is ok to imply that I (and others) are psychopaths? You can’t seem to manage to keep that ‘opinion’ to yourself.

        But don’t worry, we have empathy. For example, we feel sorry for you.

    • AndyLC

      >(unless, as may very well be the case, his benefits are not actually enough to cover his expenses)

      From what I’ve heard from friends that are US war vets or have them in the family, very likely not.

  • Manfred Deutschmann

    The article forgets to ask the only valid question about foreigners who live in Japan: Why the hell did you choose to do that?

  • walterstucco

    generally speaking, this is true everywhere.
    someone from sweden will never learn how to cross streets in italy.
    they just don’t get it.

  • disqus_gfUW1DhhWs

    Just food for trolls. Nothing meaningful here.

    Succeeding in Japan:
    1. Learn to speak local language.
    2. Know something about something.
    3. Work hard.
    Could be anywhere really…

    Too many people come to Japan without having worked in the real world in their own country.

  • derekdj

    I’ve know many westerners who succeeded quite well in Japan. From the description of these men in the article, they sound like people who would’ve had a hard time even in the west. The people I know who have done well are those who come in already possessing unique skills, personalities and the ability to absorb the culture (and not just the otaku world).

    Those who can learn Japanese, in particular vocabulary specific to their profession, as well as the ability to “joke” and self deprecate, perform and advance much better and faster than those who might be better skilled but can’t communicate. The ability to self deprecate (in their native tongue or in Japanese) is important in a culture where the odd nail gets hammered down and individual recognition comes second to how well the team performs. I’ve seen quite a few young people wash out of Japan because their pride showed too much or they didn’t get the same level of ego stroking they received in their western offices.

    “Gaijin power” is a novelty that will only get you pass your first year, after that employers and the group expect that you will integrate into the team. The lack of communication skills mean you’re the weakest link, where everyone has to slow down to accommodate the gaijin. We can see this time and time again even with highly paid executives who are brought in because of their “gaijin power”, but they refuse to integrate or even attempt to understand the culture; these people don’t last very long.

    • Very wise words, sir. Many of the doors that opened for me was that I was both linguistically and culturally able to do what I do here, e.g. build trust in business relationships, be a part of my local community etc.

    • boganus

      An informative comment. can you clarify regarding good examples of self deprecation? Is this only in a work situation?

      • derekdj

        I’ve found self deprecation important in social situations, for example when entertaining try not to come across as a know it all (even though you might be). Japanese are very social, in outings everyone tries to involve each other. I remember many years ago wine was a hot trend in Japan, little wine bars and tasting events popped up all over Tokyo. There was a young expat from Italy who would dominate conversations about his great and extensive knowledge of Italian wines every time our little group would go out. The “gaijin” novelty wore out quickly when you create a black hole around yourself; it no longer becomes a social environment. I was more of a California wine drinker, I would play down my knowledge of wines, recommend a few and engage my friends by asking their opinions or have them put out recommendations. I would also make fun of myself for using wrong words to describe flavors and colors, and ask friends to correct me. Note: once they’ve corrected you, learn those words, because they will get tired of correcting the same thing, plus you’ll score points for building vocabulary (nihongo jōzu-ni narimashita). This created a good flow in engagement.

        One line that I hear often amongst Japanese is “I’m not very good at …”; typically this is a polite self-deprecating way of saying this is an area that I’m pretty good at. There are very subtle ways to shine in social situations, humor and self-deprecation works well.

      • boganus

        Thanks for the clarification. It’s quite interesting because downplaying yourself in Anglo culture (I’m Australian) is seen as unattractive and almost weak. I’ve had a few situations where Japanese have said “you are gentleman” or “you are humble” and I thought they were being condescending, but on reflection it had come after they had made compliments about certain things I had done and I had waved them away by saying that I was lucky, or just a hard worker etc.

      • Steve Jackman

        Self deprecation is important in every culture, however, be careful of those who are passive-aggressive (this is as true for Japan as anywhere else).

      • derekdj

        It’s funny you should mention passive-aggression. I can tell you stories about passive-aggression in Japanese corporate world. I would say it’s a bit different from self-depreciation, a little less subtle once you start recognizing the signals.

  • Chris

    I can’t help but feel the people who feel trapped in Japan are people who would feel just as trapped back home, or anywhere else for that matter. A lot of what is mentioned in this article would apply to any developed westernised country.

    Working long hours in a boring office where no one speaks with plenty of overtime and little chance of progression sounds depressingly familiar to what I was doing in the UK. It is not endemic to Japan. Neither is people marrying for money or getting trapped with kids and a mortgage.

    The key to not being trapped is taking control of your own life. If you don’t like life here, leave. If you don’t have any friends, go out and make an effort to meet some. If you don’t like your job quit. If some girl dumps you because you might not make enough money, surely that is a blessing in disguise. There are plenty of people out there not motivated by money, Japanese or otherwise. If your in-laws nag you, either tell them how you feel or accept they are from a different generation, from a different culture, that they see the world differently, and that there is not much you can do to change that.

    The thing that annoys me about these articles is that people think these problems are unique to Japan. They really aren’t. I doubt any foreigner in any country gets to fully integrate. As a gaijin you will never fully be Japanese true. But as a foreigner in the UK you will never fully be British. That is life. You haven’t experienced the same shared culture for the same amount of time.

    To try and leave things on a happier note. I fully believe that if you come to Japan with a positive attitude and that you follow what you want to do, Japan can offer you many opportunities for an interesting and enjoyable life. Just don’t make silly choices like getting married after a few months to get a Visa or taking a job you hate just to get sponsorship and you should be fine :)

    • boganus

      “The thing that annoys me about these articles is that people think these problems are unique to Japan.”

      Where has anyone specifically said this. It’s a Japanese newspaper written in English for foreigners. What do you think – it’s gonna be about foreigners experiences in Vietnam and Rwanda? There talking about the specific experience about being a foreigner in Japan.

      • Geeter McKluskie

        True…but when people pile on with the Japanese are this and that, the implication is they are more this and that than the other and the they is writ large

  • Daniel Gerken

    Asia seems to have always been a place where shiftless Western dudes go because they have no other plan. It is not Asia’s fault that they are semi-employable, culturally inept, and generally dead-end-oriented. Please stop apologizing for them. It borders on cultural supremacism, when, in reality, these fellows probably wouldn’t be doing great in any context. It would’ve been better to write an article on how they can pull themselves up, including potentially leaving Asia, and not looking at it as mother-substitute.

  • kayumochi

    I suspect he didn’t.

  • Guest

    In total I have spent almost 3 years in Japan, 8 months at a Japanese language program in a suburb little town in Osaka and the rest as a diplomat in Tokyo.
    I agree with one conclusion at the article, the more I tried to undestand and get close with Japanese the more I got frustrated. I got peace of mind only when I realized that I would forever be a gaijin no matter how hard I tried.
    While women are hard to understand or trust all over the world, I consider Japanese chicks to be a mix between women and cats ( the cat part is due to the cultural differences and the national lack of ability or will to express their feelings sincerely. And I havent met a Japanese girl who wouldn’t admitt to me that they are selfish, like it wasn’t a bad thing to be ashamed of )..
    To the guys who are fresh in Japan, if you expect empathy, sincerity and loyalty dictated by free will not by being needy in your relationships with japanese women, YOU ARE IN FOR A BIG BAD SURPRISE…
    Since I was a diplomat, I could not be discriminate d at work. But I felt glad that I was a white guy in Japan ( Japanese have a inferiority complex to Europians ). They dont misbehave with black guys because they are afraid of them. They will heavily discriminate people from other poorer Asian countries.
    The ironic thing that I experienced was that the less I tried to respect and reach out to Japanese people (near the limit to arrogance and contempt ), the better treatment I got and I wonder why is that…
    But its worth it to learn Japanese if you are living in Japan, especially at the read and write level. Not for fitting in society, only for your own benefit. Try hitting on Japanese chicks that cant speak a word in English, that helps increasing your motivation lol.
    Sorry if I somehow insulted Japan, but unfortunately Im speaking from personal experience. .

  • LBTR

    In total I have spent almost 3 years in Japan, 8 months at a Japanese language program in a suburb little town in Osaka and the rest as a diplomat in Tokyo.
    I agree with one conclusion at the article, the more I tried to undestand and get close with Japanese the more I got frustrated. I got peace of mind only when I realized that I would forever be a gaijin no matter how hard I tried.
    While women are hard to understand or trust all over the world, I consider Japanese chicks to be a mix between women and cats ( the cat part is due to the cultural differences and the national lack of ability or will to express their feelings sincerely. And I havent met a Japanese girl who wouldn’t admitt to me that they are selfish, like it wasn’t a bad thing to be ashamed of )..
    To the guys who are fresh in Japan, if you expect empathy, sincerity and loyalty dictated by free will not by being needy in your relationships with japanese women, YOU ARE IN FOR A BIG BAD SURPRISE…
    Since I was a diplomat, I could not be discriminate d at work. But I felt glad that I was a white guy in Japan ( Japanese have a inferiority complex to Europians ). They dont misbehave with black guys because they are afraid of them. They will heavily discriminate people from other poorer Asian countries.
    The ironic thing that I experienced was that the less I tried to respect and reach out to Japanese people (near the limit to arrogance and contempt ), the better treatment I got and I wonder why is that…
    But its worth it to learn Japanese if you are living in Japan, especially at the read and write level. Not for fitting in society, only for your own benefit. Try hitting on Japanese chicks that cant speak a word in English, that helps increasing your motivation lol.
    Sorry if I somehow insulted Japan, but unfortunately Im speaking from personal experience. .

    • I’ve been here 23 years, actually more than half my life, so obviously I’ll have a different view. Personally I find I struck a balance, didn’t try to not be a gaijin, learned polite Japanese for business (but not “too polite” so I didn’t have expectations to be perfect all the time), and generally just go with the flow. I am out in Gunma, farther out than Tokyo, so I wonder if that is one reason for the difference.

  • The most significant thing I’ve learned is that there is a Japanese way to do things, and the “ok but you’re going to make life stressful for everybody who isn’t a foreigner” way to do things. These will range from hilarious exchanges to small moments of crisis with the people in your professional and personal life.

    “What do you mean you don’t have veranda slippers?”

  • Manfred Deutschmann

    I have very little respect for anyone from a civilised country wishing to live in East Asia (including Japan), but I have zero respect for people who have taken the step, found out that the reality in these countries is nothing like the myths, but still are staying and try to make it work against their feelings.
    You were so stupid as a white guy as to want to live in Japan. You learned a lesson, but you still don’t get it? That’s really pathetic.
    The only excuse is that it is easy to adapt a very wrong idea about the bleak reality of East Asian culture because of all the romanticised Western literature and the effort by the US after WWII to sell Japan as an ally and civilised place that had changed because of the lost war.
    If you are white and like living in Japan, godspeed to you. I’m glad you’re out of the Western gene pool.

  • Geeter McKluskie

    Olga garners clicks from Nova teachers…How fake is this pseudo article

  • Honey Badger

    “Ken Seeroi, the author of the popular blog Japanese Rule of 7”

    Ken Seeroi is one of the most annoying people on the internet. Most of his stuff sounds like a bunch of lies; and he comes across as a big douchebag.

  • Thomas Malloy

    “Having read this far, the outlook for Western men may appear
    bleak, but foreigners — and especially men — are by no means doomed to a miserable existence in Japan. There are examples of well-adjusted
    expatriates living a happy life here. So what is their secret?
    Having non-Japanese friends and co-workers helps a lot. Not
    only can you use your native language, but the patterns of
    communication, expectations and levels of self-disclosure tend to be
    quite similar, and therefore it is often easier to build and develop
    relationships. The fact that we are all foreigners here “in the same
    boat” is a perfect icebreaker.”

    Or No?
    If you intend to be here for the long haul but need foreign connection to have a happy life here then go back to your own country. What the hell is the point of going to a foreign country and surrounding yourself with your own people and culture? You don’t have to live here. Come for vacation and go back home. Idiocy.

  • gracey

    I think it’s a great article that applies to me to – I am a non-Japanese, non-Caucasian foreign female. I have stopped trying to find only “Japanese” friends (to practice Japanese with) or “foreign” friends. I let nature take its course – like minded folks tend to gravitate towards each other. Not surprisingly, most of my friends are foreigners.
    Edit – Yes, non-Japanese Asian women have it worse here. We’Re at the very bottom of the hierarchy. But I’ve learned to live with it. My reality is what I make of it – and I believe I’m way happier than many of my former Japanese classmates who are so hung up on how much their husbands make. Or even other foreigners at the top of the food chain. You can be disadvantaged in any society, but that doesn’t mean you cant be happy.

  • luggage lad

    That’s the thing about Japan. Any chump foreigner can get a nice GF when back in the states he’d have to struggle with things like not having your self-esteem stroked all the time or not being an insufferable douche.

    • Geeter McKluskie

      Why would he concern himself with my self-esteem being stroked? Sorry, I couldn’t help being an insufferable douche

    • boganus

      Nice cheap characterisation there. Obviously put a lot of thought into it.

  • John

    This is quite poorly written. Although I agree with some of the author’s
    points, this article is a bunch of random facts and gross generalizations thrown together. Here’s some issues I found with this article.

    1. Jim graduated from where? Also, did Japan really trap him, or the fact that he knocked up his wife?
    2. The results of two surveys are compared, one from a reputable think
    tank and the other not. Although two completely different questions are
    asked, the author uses this as evidence that Japanese women care more
    about money than their Western counterparts.
    3. That sexy girlfriend you married has now turned into a prudish housewife, so it’s “no wonder” that Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.
    4. Is the fact that Jack’s in-laws are complaining about him really an
    example of “harassment”? Also, how is this related to the other
    half-formed ideas in this article?

    If this piece was intended as troll food then it has succeeded, but I have had more insightful conversations in barrooms. That is, places where I enjoyed the company of others, not drowned my misery because I’m a “trapped” foreigner in Japan.

    • Geeter McKluskie

      click bait

  • Chibaraki

    “A couple’s expectations of marriage and family also might not match.”

    Any Japanese, American or other couple, never mind a bicultural couple, is doomed if they don’t negotiate and agree on how they are going to run their household, or how they relate to each others’ families. Don’t blame Japan for the mess these foreign guys get into. These guys may have mistaken perceptions of what Japanese women ane marriage are like. They and their partners are responsible for their choices.

    I am a non-Japanese woman living in the Tokyo ‘burbs, in a relationship with a Japanese guy. Communication, negotiation and shared expectations are what brought us together and keep us together.

  • ProllyWild

    I’m sorry, I usually try and be nicer about these things, but this article is garbage. it screams of western superiority complex and tries to make it seem as though japanese life is full of depression, loveless relationships and a complete lack of hope.

    so sorry western men are having to deal with the harsh reality of being minorities, but not so sorry at all. if you want to know who has it the worst in japan, its non-japanese asians. I’m not one of that group, but they have to deal with the same foreinger problems, but without the shallow perks of being a shiny new gaijin. Chinese and Koreans living in japan have it hard.

    For all these men who cant seem to wrap their heads around japanese work and marriage life, I say get a new job and a new wife. If either of them end up not being what you expected, thats a problem with one’s own life choices, not a problem with society.

  • Toolonggone

    The title should be “spare a thought for foreigners trapped in Japan.” Westerners are not the majority of registered foreign residents living in Japan. It just sounds like they still can enjoy their temporary life in Japan because they have tokenism compared to the vast majority of non-western foreigners. It doesn’t really matter since they are all subject to the hegemonic practice of “cultural/ethnic essentialism.” What’s the point in addressing sarcasm like this?. That’s cold comfort to me.

  • HayesOose

    It’s not just Japan: There are White (and let’s face it, we’re talking about White) men *all over the world,* even in “the west,” who are stuck: Cast off by their wives, girlfriends, would-be girlfriends, their mothers, not truly appreciated for the wonderful beings that they are *inside,* forced to actually *try* to be “as good” as the worst of those not White (excuse me, not “western”) men.

    It’s really really tragic.

  • Unrested Channel

    did a vid on this. possibly one of the most uninformed and idiotic articles ive ever read about japan. are you really gunna post garbage like this japan times and call it an informed article?

  • Nadia Luna Duvekot

    why doesn’t is say anything about the women being western in japan and the japanese boyfriends/husbands being to much focus on there jobs? leaving them home to work and be maids,taking care of house and kids, receiving almost no love just be a house wife and serve your husband that comes home drunk at 1 am and go’s to work in morning and comes home 1am (work) they call it to help the family.?., well in Europe they work till 5 or 6 and they also serve there family.
    i can understand that japanese women think this is okey but actually its not, it is ripping families apart, and you are not looking for love you are looking for a guy who is finically stable , a women who is good in cooking and cleaning and wants no career , just a house maid not wife.
    News flash japan : As a women you don’t need to give up your career when you have kids , as a man YOU DONT NEED TO WORK TILL FUKING 1 AM ABANDONING YOU FAMALY JAPAN ! Work to live not live to work

    • boganus

      “why doesn’t is say anything about the women being western in japan and the japanese boyfriends/husbands being to much focus on there jobs? ”

      Because the writer decided to make an article focusing on white men. Pretty simple really. Not everything is about you.

  • Razedbywolvs

    “He claimed he was a communist” Well of course he is broke.
    If your a good communist your go broke and if your a bad communist you get filthy rich.

  • Jay

    Hm. Interesting debate. I am a full professor in a small college where I feel I am treated fairly and equally. I have a beautiful (Japanese) wife and four beautiful kids (in my humble opinion!) For diversion, I come to the Japan Times to read, and what I get are articles such as this one and those by Debito Arudo telling me that I am really in fact a loser, a loner, in denial; I am pretending to be something I’m not, I will never be really accepted in Japan so I had better leave, etc. Yet this has not been my experience here at all. Although my Japanese is not perfect, I find most people very kind, friendly, open and willing to try and communicate, in either Japanese or in broken English. My Japanese might be better if I did not spend so much time reading in English, or when I am not, swimming, cycling, hiking, or gardening. To those who are having trouble here, ask yourself if it is because of Japan, or is it because of you and your perspective? Find one or two good friends, that’s all you need. Then get some hobbies! Parts of rural Japan are among the most undervalued and most beautiful places I have ever seen. There’s so much to see and learn. So get out there and do it.

    • disqus_GmvBCzEwVV


      That is a very good reply. You are certainly not a loser, not in denial, nor do you seem to be pretending you are something you are not.

      I also live in Japan, have been running a business here for sometime and also have hobbies I enjoy and friends of all nationalities and races.

      Like you I speak Japanese (not perfectly). I am not trapped (as I also have a business in my home country) and I do not understand why some would tend to look down on those of us here long term.

      For whatever reason there are those that have had bad experiences and tend to project this on the whole of Japan and call those of us that have good experiences or have good things to say apologists.

      I have always said that if one is unhappy in their station in life it is up to them to take responsibility to make it better; one thing that constant Japan bashing or bickering will never accomplish

      • Jay

        Cheers. After posting, I started thinking about how it is in my own country, Canada. Do you think a Japanese citizen, without fluent French or English (or both), would have a hope of landing a job, let alone getting promoted? Never. Japanese in Canada likely encounter some who are very helpful, open-minded and friendly, and others who sneer and make racist remarks; many Canadians assume all Asians are Chinese and confuse the politics and the cultures. Sound familiar? Japanese people would find Canadian behaviour and styles of communication quite strange (loud, open, assertive, direct, often ironic), and I have little doubt they’d feel isolated and homesick for the familiar. Everyone, everywhere has to deal with other races, groups, religions, who tend to bond together and keep the other apart. I am grateful to my Japanese colleagues, friends, relatives, neighbours, and most of the people I encounter every day for being so welcoming and understanding. I find it very easy and pleasant to live here.

      • boganus

        Yours is an interesting story. If you could reflect more carefully, what factors do you think have contributed to your overall positive experience? For example, what is your field of expertise and are they in demand? What area of Japan are you living in (generally speaking)? Does your life involve much interaction with bureaucracy etc.? Does your business fill a particularly important niche? Are you more of an introverted character (and thus only need a limited number of good friendships to be content)?

        I am considering moving to Japan, based on my education and work experience which is starting to come in demand in Japan, but there is not the skill set currently in the native population.

      • Jay

        I live in southern Kyushu. I have a PhD in English Literature, and while there is great demand for the English language and “eikaiwa,” there is less demand for literature. I guess I would say I teach “literature as a second language.” I got a job at an opportune time, because there are very few of them now. Few universities are hiring full-time staff; it’s all contract and part-time. The best thing I ever did was to bring a racing bicycle with me, cause rural Japan is a cyclist’s paradise. I also swim and hike. Working out regularly keeps me calm and content. Nothing like a hike followed by a long soak in a hot spring bath: an outdoor bath in winter with a view and you’d think you’d died and gone to heaven. Teaching itself can be rewarding, but committee and faculty meetings are fantastically boring. Nothing like a swim after a faculty meeting to drown the memory of it. I have gone through what are probably typical ex-pat stages, from euphoria to loathing to longing for home, until now, after nearly 30 years, when I finally recognize that my home is here.

      • boganus

        thanks for the response jay.

  • Dennis M

    I will never understand how anyone can honestly think men in any culture anywhere would ever oppress women and favor other males.

    You are literally saying men look at the beautiful, delicate, adorable little angels they want to sleep with and think: HATRED! IT MUST DIE! BURN IT!

    Then they look at the hairy, scary, ugly, imposing mass of muscle that competes with them for status, power, and a mate, whose heads they bash in during wartime, and think: AWWWWW! I’M IN LOVE!

    That is beyond insane.

  • J.P. Bunny

    Really hard to feel any empathy for some of these people. Jim the Hobbit should be thankful he has a wife that forces him to face his adult responsibilities. You can’t marry a person in a foreign country and have children if your dream is to endlessly yammer about politics and lead riots.

    • Paul Johnson

      A man can’t expect to marry anyone, anywhere, and expect any degree of autonomy anyway. Marriage is a waste of life for men. Turns out if you reject other people’s expectations, the only responsibilities left are the ones to yourself that you decide for yourself.

  • So why live in Japan? There are more welcoming places. I’ve come to the conclusion that you should never stay where you are not welcome.

    • boganus

      Curious, is this from past experience? If you had any insights be interesting to hear.

  • Phil Blank

    Lived there for several months and loved it, but that was back in the late 80s when I made crazy money.
    If I could afford it now, I’d move back.

  • Chaotic Thinker

    I don’t know what to say about this. I know males that moved to japan, work and still have a lot of time to themselves, Just about enough but not like it’s said right here. What kind of corporates are these?. I think the lesson here is not to join a corporate that needs a lot of hours or work.

  • Paul Martin

    I am a Welsh born, Australian and American raised journalist and radio
    shock jock who regularly broadcasts Worldwide. have lived in Japan on
    and off since 2008. My Sons have been married to Japanese, one now
    divorced the other with two children still married for some 15 years. I
    personally have found Japan a most pleasant place to live, life is what
    you make it in any country. If you manage to carve a living here you can
    fit in very well, it is the World,s safest country and I have found the
    vast majority of Japanese gracious and very helpful who will often go
    out of their way to assist you. I have even had a businessman pay my cab
    fare back to a hotel when I was lost and I never even asked him for
    that. I speak to attractive young women daily and at nearly 75 they are
    friendly, polite and extremely helpful no matter that most don,t
    understand English. I have lived all over the World and especially Asia
    and even though I find Japanese immigration very difficult to deal with I
    would say as a staunch critic with my own blog at paul martin foreign
    correspondent that Japan is hard to beat when it comes to environment,
    food, naturally beauty and lifestyle ! Japanese middle aged to older
    generation may be somewhat reserved but for the most part, compared to
    the outrageous and boisterous behavior in Western countries by today,s
    often hooliganistic youth I find Japanese hoonest and respectful !

  • Mikado

    Sorry, Im suppoced to feel sorry for this guy?

  • walterstucco

    no guns here.
    I’m not american.

  • jackstar72

    I’ve heard from several men that they like Asian women because they are submissive, easy to control, have small vaginas that make their penis look big? Do you think this is racist, misogynistic or maybe a bit of both?

  • Don Peny

    What some perceive as a corporation culture, I see as citizens working for a greater good. Citizens not only working for themselves but for their country. It’s what made Japan thrive and rarely seen in the West. It’s something to be respected, not looked down upon.

  • ideamonger

    A hard drinking Stalinist with a penchant for talking and dreaming of revolution and changing the world to fit his needs for an ideal job would have a hard time getting a job anywhere, not only in Japan…. Just saying….

  • niga jael jal na ga

    Just going to verbal-bomb the argument but the envy thing is very much a reach so you cannot use that point against him… just because for the most part, UK doesn’t care AT ALL about Italy. People here would even rather go holidaying in Spain, Holland or Croatia. Anyway, please don’t mind me and carry on.

  • ring ding

    In the end, just be a gaijin. That’s all you ever are and why would you want to assimilate? Face it, Japan is a military culture. from schools to work. OBEY. You really want that?! No life and unhappy? Have fun with that.

    And question your relationship expectations and what you are getting with a Japanese partner. Many gaijin lower the bar significantly for relationships by accepting a japanese partner with the maturity and communication skills of a child back home. It;s pathetic that instead having a mature, intellectually healthy adult relationship, you are marrying a child in a woman’s body. When was the last date you went on where a japanese women could teach you something new, tell you a story, or tell you a joke? Like never. I think many men lower their standards (or they had none in their home country to start with) simply because they got a piece in japan. Well, be careful what you ask for and marry into. Know the landscape and ask yourself, do I want to spend the next 30 – 40 years with someone who can’t talk?

    Also, its easy for ALL men to get a women, not gaijin men. but only if they are over 30. they want kids and it doesn’t matter who you are if they are old enough (post 30). before 30, all men and women have it tough. everyone. cultural apathy and dating morose. a japanese friend of mine (a woman) assumed “it is so easy for you to meet women” I said, huh?! why do you say that? she said, “oh, because a lot of the women at my work talk about gaijin men” and I told her, none of them speak TO gaijin men. Only about. its a big fantasy world in tokyo. once you start dating someone here, you spend the first months unpacking all their stereotypes and bad assumptions because they never ask gaijins about gaijins. I’m sure that goes both ways though.

  • Spurs Fan

    This article makes Western men look weak and pathetic. There is a simple solution if you find living in Japan is a burden: leave. Buy a one way ticket back to your country, mend your broken heart, cut your losses and let this failed experience make you a stronger man. I guess I could count myself lucky. My Japanese in laws are great, give me free reign in my relationship with my wife without any prying whatsoever. As long as we are happy they are happy. And my wife is sweeter than ever since our marriage. Dunno where this writer came up with this bull sheet story that all Japanese women become coldblooded creatures after marriage. I find Japanese values and values of my parent county Ecuador to be similar. The role of man and women as well.

  • Much of what this opinion piece says is true – Japanese companies usually require employees to put the company ahead of God, family, or even yourself. The weird thing is, many/most Japanese women like it that way.

  • disqus_fnwCMQDX7u

    “My gf broke up with me because she said I was a loser.. I thought Japanese women loved all white guys! My wife won’t move back to america with me.. I heard Japanese women would do whatever their husbands wanted to.. Plus how am I supposed to prove to everyone back home that I could get married after all!”

  • Pablo Diablo

    2 rules in life…Never hire a black and Never work for a slope!

  • Daniel So

    “Although openly aggressive racism is rare, discrimination can be cloaked in the form of polite questions regarding a foreigner’s country of origin and ethnic background”

    Reminds me of them white dudes who ask Asians — “where are you from? Nono. I mean where are you from?”


    its the same everywhere for all foreigners of all country, if u stay employee, dont expect to be promoted chief, and dont expect see tears if u loose your job.
    its a fact,
    if you are a foreigner, if you need help, or if u dont work, you will be only see as a parasite for people who dont know you…
    and i think the same in my own country, i hate stranger who get governement help and Watch tv all day while i work…
    YET, you can be a good foreigner, someone funny, someone who work, someone with extrajob activity, someone people like…
    there’s tonn of happy stranger in japan, and only jobless and unsocialized foreigner feel the difference..
    its up to you to dont be a looser and to stay in the society race.

  • ChrisB

    I’ve lived here longer than many (23 years), originally as an ex-pat executive and then started my own very small business.
    Japan is a great country but maybe not if you’re in the bottom of the pile trying to compete with Japanese; so don’t stay in the bottom of the pile. Think outside the box; there are a lot of opportunities, lock onto one and make it succeed. Being fluent in Japanese helps enormously but I’m not and while sometimes its frustrating I manage and don’t make excuses for myself.