I want to write about a little experience I had yesterday on my way back from work. It’s an incident which I’m sure all of us living in Japan have experienced, and highlights two issues in this country.

I boarded Tokyo’s Hibiya Line, which is fairly crowded during the nights, and sat down on the only open seat in the car. I found it peculiar as to why nobody was taking this seat, despite there being a number of people standing. The seat was next to a handrail, with the man sitting to the side essentially taking up two seats. There was enough room to sit down, though.

As I sat down, the man immediately tensed up, attempting to push me to the side. I wiggled around a little bit, and pulled my phone out of my pocket to occupy myself, then settled back into my seat while staying cautious of the man pushing.

He then suddenly jabs me on my arm and says, “Hey, stop touching my arm.” I apologize, telling him that I was attempting to get the phone out of my pocket, and now that it’s out I’ll settle back into my position. He continues to push me though, saying that he doesn’t want to be touched. I tell him that I’m against a rail, and there’s really nothing I can do. He starts to get more offensive. The conversation gets more heated, but it ends with him saying, “Go back to China, you Chinese!” (I’m Asian-American, but not Chinese.)

This argument illustrates two large problems that the Tokyo culture has: 1) The sense of self-importance that a number of people carry here, and 2) racism. The Japan Times has covered racism multiple times in the past, so there’s really nothing more I can say on that topic. Racism will always exist in this country, and there’s no helping it. But I believe the self-importance aspect should definitely be addressed.

Due to the isolationist ideal of the society, people in this country end up believing that they are above everyone else. We see this as people ignore others in need of help on the streets, to becoming confrontational over the smallest of matters. There are constant articles about how someone was killed over a dispute, or how bullying led to a suicide.

There needs to be a conversation about this. People might complain to themselves, but nothing is really acted upon when only one person is talking.

Vincent Hopkins

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.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.