Thank you for the Oct. 8 article regarding non-Japanese and mixed-race Japanese living in Japan (“Gaijin Day: How an event about unity proved divisive“). I question whether Japan is really becoming more welcoming to non-Japanese.

I was discouraged from coming to Japan by some who believe Japanese are racist. After arriving, I was told that Japanese welcome visitors from abroad but don’t want them staying here long term. I couldn’t believe either. After many years living here, however, I can now understand some of the truth in both.

I don’t believe Japanese are blatant racists, but some routine behaviors are prejudicial. As an individual of lighter colored skin living in Nagasaki Prefecture, I was more than once presumed to be American and rebuked for the atrocities that nation inflicted on innocents here over 70 years ago. My skin pigmentation also seems to warrant comments from Japanese as to how well I can use chopsticks.

Despite my having lived here and tried to fit into the Japanese lifestyle for nearly 18 years — longer than the students I teach have been alive — I am still considered to be an outsider.

A colleague writing his graduate thesis about the Japanese health care system says it is not adequately prepared for aiding non-Japanese, and that this must be improved if Japan wants to depend on increased tourism to boost its economy. Another colleague living in the ward that has the highest percentage of non-Japanese residents in Tokyo believes that it does not provide enough support for them.

As the population continues to age and more non-Japanese are needed to supply the workforce and support the tax base, increased services for non-Japanese residents support is necessary. Japan still has much to do before it can be considered welcoming to non-Japanese.


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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