The image of ourselves in Japan

Paul Gaysford’s reflection on his life in Japan (“The joy of not being accepted,” April 18 letter) felt familiar because its tone is congruent with similar ideas expressed repeatedly since Lafcadio Hearn.

I remember the letter “Revel in being a misfit” (Aug. 3, 1997), which was a reply to “Misfit foreigners in Japan” (July 13, 1997). The latter, by a Tokyo resident, was a response to a spate of letters at that time related to the matter of foreigners’ cries of racism among Japanese landlords who rejected their tenant applications.

The debate moved away from a mere consideration of rental difficulties associated with foreign tenants and toward a more existential consideration of foreigners’ misfit natures even in their home countries.

The Tokyo resident made the often privately ribald claim that at least some of us immigrate to Japan for being failures in our home countries. She didn’t probe the reasons other than to say that many of the foreigners she encountered here struck her as misfits of any society. The writer of the Aug. 3, 1997, letter basked in the charge.

Who we are and how we feel about ourselves are evolving things, and probably complicated because of it. But I agree with Gaysford’s pride in being a gaijin, and with reveling in being a misfit.

grant piper

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.