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Will you always be an outsider in Japan?
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19 / F / Oslo
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Posted 11/30/12
So, I've read in a lot of articles that gaijin, or foreigners, will always be treated as an outsider no matter what they do. You can speak fluent Japanese and yet you will always be "that foreign guy." Or you can be married to someone who's Japanese and have children together and have lived there for years, but you'll still be "that foreign guy."

What do you guys think? Have any personal experiences? If so, please share!



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23 / F / The Netherlands
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Posted 12/1/12 , edited 12/1/12
My boyfriend's experience and thoughts : You will see this less and less in future generations. Old people tend to be racist (as they are in every country) but young people welcome multiculturalism (not all of them of course but the majority).

When I was still a kid the Chinese guy in our class was the Chinese guy. The Vietnamese girl was the Vietnamese girl and the black kid was the black kid. It was unusual, but now ? It's normal. Things change and you can't blame people for being a bit racist.
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Posted 12/1/12
From personal experience, yes you'll always be an "outsider" in Japan if you're white. I look more asian than most people and speak flawless Japanese, yet I'm still the "European" one to all my Japanese mates.
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21 / F / ireland
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Posted 12/2/12
I saw this article the other day on Cracked.

I've no personal experience as Japan has never appealed to me but it seems very likely that would be the case on an island nation that has been closed off for so long. I'd say it is also the case in most countries, to a lesser degree.

Hell, even here in Ireland, where we like to consider ourselves multicultural, there is a lot of 'othering'. You can speak English fluently and know all there is to know about the place, but you'll still be' that foreign one' to most people outside the capital. Doubly so if your not white.

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Posted 12/7/12
What becomes more interesting, is the fact that the longer you are in Japan, the more you yourself wonder what the other people are doing there, because they look foreign, even when you are foreign yourself!
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Posted 12/15/12
It's not all racism and discrimination though, most of the time it's just curiosity. It should come as no surprise that it's difficult for someone who looks nothing like the other 99.9% of the people around will get attention, it's all about how you handle it and whether you turn it into a good or a bad thing.
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29 / M / Las Vegas
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Posted 12/15/12

kamomill wrote:

It's not all racism and discrimination though, most of the time it's just curiosity. It should come as no surprise that it's difficult for someone who looks nothing like the other 99.9% of the people around will get attention, it's all about how you handle it and whether you turn it into a good or a bad thing.


When people are interested in getting to know you because youre different from what theyre accustomed to, its curiosity. When people avoid you and fear you because youre different, its racism and discrimination. I cant even be accepted in my own country. Im pretty sure they will look at me in a similar light if not worse in Japan but it doesnt bother me. I still plan on visiting because I want to learn more about Japanese culture. For some people its natrual to fear or hate what they refuse to understand.
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Posted 12/15/12

CLarose wrote:

When people are interested in getting to know you because youre different from what theyre accustomed to, its curiosity. When people avoid you and fear you because youre different, its racism and discrimination. I cant even be accepted in my own country. Im pretty sure they will look at me in a similar light if not worse in Japan but it doesnt bother me. I still plan on visiting because I want to learn more about Japanese culture. For some people its natrual to fear or hate what they refuse to understand.



When it comes to matters like these, it's usually about a lack of familiarity. It's only natural for some people to be suspicious of things they have no experience with. People who are open to new things and curious about the world will react in one way and people who are more set in their ways will react differently. Obviously this is no excuse for discrimination but even these people will usually come around after they've been convinced that it's nothing to be afraid of.

I don't know where you're from or why you feel like you're not accepted there, but as a half-Japanese person who has lived in many places besides Japan I definitely understand the problem. Basically all you need to know is that there are people who will always be cold and even hostile towards you, but there will always be others who will welcome you for the exact same reason; because you're different and represent something new to them.
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M / North Carolina, USA
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Posted 12/15/12
Yes.
Even if you are a Japanese who has lived out of the country for a while they will treat you differently.
If you are a foreigner who speaks perfect Japanese you will still encounter people who will pretend they don't understand.
Best to accept it and enjoy the perks of being a foreigner in Japan.
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22 / M / England
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Posted 12/18/12 , edited 12/18/12

Tomoko3san wrote:

My boyfriend's experience and thoughts : You will see this less and less in future generations. Old people tend to be racist (as they are in every country) but young people welcome multiculturalism (not all of them of course but the majority).

When I was still a kid the Chinese guy in our class was the Chinese guy. The Vietnamese girl was the Vietnamese girl and the black kid was the black kid. It was unusual, but now ? It's normal. Things change and you can't blame people for being a bit racist.


This.

In any country, you're likely to be viewed by your ethnicity.

I have a Japanese friend here in England, and just like I did, I refer to her as my Japanese friend. Is that racism or discrimination? No. She's Japanese and a friend.

I'll never see her as English, because she isn't. She is Japanese.

So I don't expect to be seen as Japanese when im in Japan. Does this mean they are racist and discriminatory against you? I dont think so.

Like the person above me said, older generations (and some younger) may actually be racist. But again, that can happen anywhere. Multi-cultural ism is slowly becoming the norm.

The only reason I can think of as to why Japan might be slower on this front, is that their population is still predominantly Japanese. Isn't it only something like 1% of the population is European/American?

Where as here, where I live in England, it's like 40% Asian. So maybe we're more used to a multi cultural environment?
Posted 12/18/12

SarahMonogatari wrote:

What becomes more interesting, is the fact that the longer you are in Japan, the more you yourself wonder what the other people are doing there, because they look foreign, even when you are foreign yourself!


lol isn't that ironic

medmal 
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66 / M
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Posted 12/21/12
I lived in Japan for 10 years. I'm a white American male aerospace engineer and was in my thirties when I moved to Japan in the eighties, so your mileage may vary. It took about a year to get adequate in the language. By the third year I was an official member of a sake drinking society and an amateur sumo club. I was the only foreigner. I was also a regular at several local izakeya and there was a sushiya in Hokkaido that I always ate at when I went up there for the Snow Festival. After a few years I became a sempai at the sumo club and the really good stuff would be brought out for me at the sushiya. I used to travel around Japan and just drop in on famous sake brewers. Because I was a foreigner, I could get away with this and be introduced to the owner. I would then drop some names from the sake society and that would get me a serious tour of the operation from the brewmasters. I worked hard to learn the language and culture, represent my own country in the best way I could, and be a good guest. I feel I was amply rewarded. I still correspond with many of my Japanese friends. That's my story and it is not unique. Hope it helps.
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M / Delaware, U.S.
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Posted 12/24/12

kiyozakiryota wrote:


Tomoko3san wrote:

My boyfriend's experience and thoughts : You will see this less and less in future generations. Old people tend to be racist (as they are in every country) but young people welcome multiculturalism (not all of them of course but the majority).

When I was still a kid the Chinese guy in our class was the Chinese guy. The Vietnamese girl was the Vietnamese girl and the black kid was the black kid. It was unusual, but now ? It's normal. Things change and you can't blame people for being a bit racist.


This.

In any country, you're likely to be viewed by your ethnicity.

I have a Japanese friend here in England, and just like I did, I refer to her as my Japanese friend. Is that racism or discrimination? No. She's Japanese and a friend.

I'll never see her as English, because she isn't. She is Japanese.

So I don't expect to be seen as Japanese when im in Japan. Does this mean they are racist and discriminatory against you? I dont think so.


She lives in England; ergo, she's English. Whether she's of Japanese descent or not makes no difference.

Ethnicity =/= nationality.
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22 / M / England
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Posted 12/24/12

The_Libertarian_Otaku wrote:


kiyozakiryota wrote:


Tomoko3san wrote:

My boyfriend's experience and thoughts : You will see this less and less in future generations. Old people tend to be racist (as they are in every country) but young people welcome multiculturalism (not all of them of course but the majority).

When I was still a kid the Chinese guy in our class was the Chinese guy. The Vietnamese girl was the Vietnamese girl and the black kid was the black kid. It was unusual, but now ? It's normal. Things change and you can't blame people for being a bit racist.


This.

In any country, you're likely to be viewed by your ethnicity.

I have a Japanese friend here in England, and just like I did, I refer to her as my Japanese friend. Is that racism or discrimination? No. She's Japanese and a friend.

I'll never see her as English, because she isn't. She is Japanese.

So I don't expect to be seen as Japanese when im in Japan. Does this mean they are racist and discriminatory against you? I dont think so.


She lives in England; ergo, she's English. Whether she's of Japanese descent or not makes no difference.

Ethnicity =/= nationality.


She's actually a foreign exchange student, studying here for a year. Therefore she does not have citizenship and is therefore not a British citizen. Ergo, her nationality is not British.

It's my fault, I should have been clearer in my description of my particular circumstance. If she had been born here, and her family had come over generations ago, then yes, I would consider her English :)

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M / Delaware, U.S.
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Posted 12/24/12
If she'd been a permanent resident and gotten citizenship, she'd also be British.

Likewise, I know a Latvian-born dude who's been here in the States since he was in high school. I actually thought he was from here when I met him--he's got no accent. He still has yet to show me his papers proving he's of foreign birth. Ditto this one Romanian-born chick I work with. She's been here nearly eight years now and can easily pass for American-born. I still wonder why the hell she hasn't gotten her citizenship yet--it's not like the citizenship test is that hard.

Some people prefer to identify by their nationality instead of their ethnicity.
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