Although published in 2018, the article “The empty seat on a crowded Japanese train: 10 years on, the ‘gaijin seat’ still grates,” written by Baye McNeil, has stuck with me for these few years. It stuck to me because Japanese people also distance themselves away from me, even though I’m Japanese.
One specific experience that standout happened two years ago. My sister and I were at a cafe enjoying our conversation with melon sodas. But, instead of talking like any Japanese people, we were mixing English and Japanese like many kikokushijo, or returnees, probably do. When we started speaking in English, a man sitting next to us began glaring at us. At first, we thought it was strange because it wasn’t like we were talking loudly. But, we tried not to care and continued our conversation. When we spoke in English again, the man moved his table away from us and glared at us with disgust.
His behavior reminded me of how Japanese people distance themselves away from me when they discover that I’m not a typical Japanese. The only time they see me as a true Japanese is the first few seconds when I say my name when introducing myself. But, they soon create space when they discover that I’m a kikokushijo who can speak English. The space they create makes me feel isolated, lost and unaccepted in my native country. It makes me wonder if I should hide my true identity or accept the fact that I’m not a real “Japanese” and will be treated as a stranger in Japan.
Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo
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