Reader Mail

Japanese and foreigners ‘other’ each other

I totally agree with the June 29 article “Being ‘othered’ in Japan is not the same as oppression.” Having lived in Japan on and off since the mid-1970s, I know that the situation of Caucasians in Japan is not at all comparable to that of Blacks or Hispanics in the United States or other Western countries, where they are frequently the target of discrimination and harassment of all kinds. Moreover, although white people are “othered” in Japan, they still tend to be treated much better than foreigners who fall into the large category of "People of Color," including people from neighboring Asian countries.

One dimension of "othering," however, is the tendency for it to create a counter-othering toward Japanese people among foreigners. After a while, it becomes very difficult for foreign residents to pull themselves away from the mentality that all Japanese people are essentially the same, with basically the same opinions and feelings. This is in part due to foreigners' prejudice, but also to the eagerness with which Japanese self-stereotype.

Japan may be an advanced country, but it is still a place where the local people tend to think of individuality as unimportant. If this mentality was different, living in Japan for everyone would be a much more pleasant experience.

Donald M. Seekins
Nara

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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