The recent surge of anti-racist action around the world has not left Japan behind. Local actions such as the Black Lives Matter marches in Tokyo, Nagoya, Fukuoka and Osaka, and the ubiquity of overseas protests in the news, have reignited discussion of racism and xenophobia in this country. This development is as welcome and necessary here as it is everywhere else.
An interesting element of this discussion, which has come up repeatedly over the years, involves non-Japanese people’s experiences of living in Japan. You’ll often hear white people say on Twitter and elsewhere: Now that I’ve lived in Japan, I understand what it is like to be discriminated against and therefore I understand racism in my own country. The short response to that sentiment? You don’t.
The oppression, danger and systematic and institutional racism Black people are subjected to around the world is nothing like what white people face in Japan.