I partially agree with Hidesato Sakakibara’s Feb. 28 letter, “Term ‘gaijin’ has run its course,” and Donald Seekins’ March 7 letter, “Use ‘expatriates,’ not ‘foreigner’ ” — both of which decry use of the word “gaijin.” As a Westerner, I have never had much desire to be addressed with this word by ethnic Japanese (it has happened only a couple of times in 15 years and on both occasions it was a well-meaning “gaijin-san”), but I’d like to propose an alternative application for the word.
There was a day in Australia when the word “wog” was a slur against Greek and Italian immigrants. Then, in the 1980s, a funny thing happened; second-generation Greek and Italians took to using the word to mock the most stereotypical of their own. “Wog” went from being an insult to an acceptable term of mild derision as long as you said it with a smile on your face.
During my time in Japan, I have constantly come across “visitors” so perfectly socialized by the nations of their birth that this fascinating and challenging land changes them little or not at all. They whine, complain and moan; nothing measures up; and the only thing more certain than that their Friday night gathering will resemble an anti-Japanese rant is the sad fact that they will still be here in Japan the same time next year. These people are “gaijin,” and it is other visitors to this land that should be addressing them as such.
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