Regarding Donald Wood’s June 14 letter, “Undoing foreign stereotypes“: I have to admit that I have never met a foreigner who jokes about natto. The only natto humor I have ever encountered consists of Japanese people trying to force the stuff on foreigners for a laugh. This even included the compeer at my wedding forcing a tub of natto on the best man for the titillation of the Japanese guests. As it happened, he ate it and enjoyed it, which became yet another source of amusement.
Which brings me to the main point: Foreigners who eat natto are just as alien as foreigners who eat hamburgers. When I first came to Japan, I was on a health kick and ate natto and umeboshi most days, and it made me a henna-gaijin in many people’s eyes. Japanese people treat me with a lot more respect now when I tell them I had egg and bacon for breakfast.
If Wood seriously imagines that eating natto and speaking Japanese are going to get him accepted as an equal in Japanese society, he’s living in a dream.
I will agree, however, that gaijin contribute to the problem. Celebrities like Dave Spector and Marty Friedman do us no favors by acting like performing monkeys for the TV cameras. Meanwhile, the gaijin I like to call “head-teacher types” brag about how many years they’ve worked without taking a sick day, and lecture their fellow gaijin on how to behave.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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