Regarding Michael Hoffman’s Feb. 2 article, “For Japan’s foreign residents, the little things make such a big difference”: The other day I saw a language-school ad showing an interracial wedding between a Japanese man and his blonde, blue-eyed bride, with a white male gesturing frustratedly in the background.

To me, it inadvertently embodies the reason Japan has never truly been a global society. It says that, in a global age, the world is your rival. The visual context seems to imply: “Learn English. Grab yourself a Caucasian bride and make her Caucasian ex-boyfriend jealous.”

Not only does this ad insult Western women for treating them as trophies or prizes; it also can be degrading for Japanese women, implying that Western women are somehow more worthy of desire, a higher pursuit. It encourages Japanese men to learn English for all the wrong reasons.

For an ad that touts globalization in the punch line, it epitomizes the essence of the deep problems in Japan’s social fabric that must be rectified before the nation can become a truly global society. Far from promoting a global mind-set, this ad simply demonstrates the other side of the xenophobic coin — an underlying, racist, inferiority complex. This mind-set rears its ugly head in various ways.

Whether consciously or not, some Japanese see the West as an object of idolization, some envy or even conquest; in the case of this ad, it’s all three.

Regardless of the form in which this pervasive, zero-sum “we versus them” outlook on other ethnicities and cultures may appear, it is precisely the reason foreign nationals will continue to be categorized as “aliens,” or “them,” in Japan for many years to come, both legally and psychologically.

If Japanese politicians, corporations and schools truly want to promote globalization, they must first learn to embrace “foreigners” as fellow citizens of the same globe.

jun shiomitsu

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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