Spot The Difference
The cost of Japan’s “Us vs. Them” mentality
By: Glen Clancy | May 24, 2012 | Issue: 948 | 30 Comments | 33,035 views

When you’re riding the train in Japan, take note of where everyone sits around you. If there is a spare seat next to you and a spare seat across the way, Japanese people will often take the latter. Is this racism? I would argue not—at least not a sinister form of racism.

There were 2.1 million foreigners living in Japan in 2010, 1.6 percent of its 127 million total population. In Japan, common attitudes towards foreigners (or what I’d call “soft racism”) are often born out of the ever-present focus on cultural difference rather than feelings of superiority (“hard racism”). The decision to avoid sitting next to a foreign person on the train most likely derives from a fear of the unknown, rather than a genuine aversion to foreign people.

The word for foreigner in Japan, gaijin, has become synonymous with an “us” and “them” mentality. In Japan, you’re often not an Australian, Briton or Indonesian. You’re simply a gaijin.
The linguistic classification of foreigners into a single group both inadvertently encourages ignorance of the array of different cultures worldwide, and prevents the realization of the many social and human similarities other cultures share with the Japanese. For example, I’ve often been asked such questions here as, “Do people overseas eat a lot of rice?” or, “Do people overseas drink coffee?”—as if everyone outside Japan is a united entity.

But there are advantages to this shared national psyche. It bonds the Japanese people closer together and forms a family-like union between 127 million people, or rather—124.9 million people.

This sense of family unity is reflected in universal social practices such as removing shoes before entering a house or school, the custom of public bathing in onsen as well as activities such as nabe parties or izakaya outings. Following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of 3/11/2011, there were numerous foreign reports written in admiration of Japanese victims and refugees lining up courteously in ration queues and remaining considerate of others despite the horrific conditions.

Spot The Difference
Glen Clancy is a former resident of Japan who now works at Arena magazine in Melbourne. He can be found online at

Another example of this consideration lies in a story of a friend of mine who headed home after work one day carrying ¥100,000 rent in cash. As he reached for his wallet before arriving home his gut sank with the realization that it was gone. As happens in so many stories of this kind in Japan, the local police station called him to interrupt his distress. A stranger had found the wallet on the street and handed it in—along with its precious contents. Though many readers might have heard—or experienced—stories like this, it’s worth remembering that there are few countries in the world where this kind of thing happens. The family-like bond in Japanese society breeds this kind of common respect and thoughtfulness for their fellow community members—and even a foreigner, in this case. But this sense of unity comes at a price.

Many Japanese people struggle to relate to foreigners. Often when I order at a restaurant in Japan, for example, the waiter will turn to my Japanese friends and reply to them—even though I’ve just spoken in Japanese. This lack of familiarity and understanding of foreign cultures could be damaging to an aging Japan faced with increased immigration and intensifying globalization pressures.

Some of these social issues have been recognized by the Japanese business community who lobbied successfully for English to become a compulsory subject for fifth- and sixth-grade elementary school students from 2011—albeit only one lesson per week. Rakuten, Japan’s largest internet online retailer, announced that English will be the company’s official language by 2012, with all internal meetings held in English.

The Japanese government has also made some steps towards “internationalizing” the Japanese psyche over the past few decades. Way back in 1978, the government launched the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program in communities across Japan. In 2011 there were 4,330 participants from 39 countries acting as assistant language teachers (ALTs), sports education advisors (SEAs), and coordinators of international relations (CIRs). The program has been largely effective promoting cross-cultural interaction at grassroots level. However, there still remains a gap in the appreciation of the diversity of foreign cultures, and a communication gap.

Japan needs to expand on these programs and policies to strengthen cultural awareness and, in turn, improve Japanese international relations. This will expose more Japanese to foreign people—hopefully without adversely affecting their family-like social bond—and allow them to communicate, exchange ideas and most importantly, relate. And perhaps the next time I’m travelling on a train in Tokyo and there are two empty seats, a Japanese person will sit next to me, not because they chose to sit next to a foreigner, but because they didn’t see a difference.

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  • johnnyrabbit

    I appreciate the fact that Glen tried to write a nice balanced article about his negative experiences in Japan without being too condescending or critical. I think this is a great approach that should be emulated by a lot more ‘critics’ of Japan.

    However, ultimately, Glen’s analysis is a product of Glen’s rather over-active imagination. I think we all know that this “Japanese don’t sit next to foreigners on the train” nonsense is exactly that, nonsense. The fact that this trope lives on is testament to both culture shock and the cloud of myths that is perpetuated online by the English-speaking community. Anyhow, it’s been making the rounds long enough, don’t you think? Simply doesn’t happen.

    Unfortunately there is nothing in this rather bland analysis that we haven’t heard a thousand time before. More JETs? Really? It’s up to a mob of churlish 20-somethings to the country from itself?

    I wonder if people write these screeds after visiting Saudi Arabia or Burma, or are those places considered third world enough not to merit the angst?

    What is it about a successful asian country that produces such a hiccup of desperate polemic from your average mind-blown anglo-saxon. We’ve all seen it happen/been through it etc.

    C’mon, you visit a country where you don’t speak the language fluently and you have some communication issues? Isn’t it just that simple? Where does this unseemly desire to plead your treatise on “the Japanese” to other English-speaking foreigners in a English publication really come from?

    Some say culture shock, others say it’s just the result of the demographic and still others say that’s it’s an insidious form of racism itself, the superiority complex writ large.

    Given the news about the shocking attitudes toward immigration in the news in Australia at the moment, perhaps one should focus on the home front as well!

  • Charltzy

    I can see where you’re coming from here, but unfortunately I see some of the same things back in the UK.
    A good way to realise this is if you substitute “Gaijin” with “Immigrant”, as I think the meaning is one and the same in Japan/the west.

    RE: cultural generalisations, well let’s be honest here, have you ever been to a foreign country with a Japanese person and seen how they’re talked to? Some the “soft racism” can be a bit “harder” than it is here in Japan!
    My guess is in some cases it’s bad blood from WW2, but who knows for sure. Jpse on the other hand are generally more “over it” than westerners in my experience.

    As for the restaurant/cafe situation; even though my wife just spoke fluent English to the waiter, he will still default to me to ask me a follow up question, as he can see she’s “not frum raan ‘ere”.

  • kujirakira

    Well this is a pretty classic case of Cultural Imperialism persisting into the 21st Century.

    1. Start with a preconceived notion that another Culture is inferior.
    2. Use cliched stereotypes and misinformation to pigeonhole said Culture.
    3. Rationalize malicious attack on Culture using specious evidence that’s all in the author’s head.
    4. And of course the solution is that they need more white people to teach them the way and educate them in proper culture.

    Textbook example of The White Man’s Burden.
    Rudyard Kipling would be proud.
    But hey, maybe I’m being too harsh… I mean, up until the 70s the solution most Australians would jump isn’t that Japan needs more white people to educate them. A few decades ago, you would’ve been suggesting we kidnap Japanese to eradicate their culture entirely and breed the yellow out of them.
    So I guess, there is some progress and hope for the perpetually racist nation of Australia afterall.

  • johnnyrabbit

    Anyone who has been in Japan for any good length of time has met a Glen before. It’s a pattern. It’s a script and it’s always the same.

    I guess I don’t find it odd that the biggest complaint English teachers have about Japan is the “education system” and the ultimate solution is always “learn more English”. Let’s press the stop button on that classroom CD shall we?

    But what i find most odd about the Glens of this world and the recent “micro-aggression” trend is that they are sending mixed messages all the time.

    The crux of the message is this: “Learn English. Appreciate my culture. But don’t speak English to me and don’t ask me where I’m from. Don’t ask me any personal questions at all. They bore me. But know me deeply.”

    We all know the Japanese have very little tolerance for BS of this kind. They will shoot you down in flames and drag your name laughingly through the mud as well they should!

  • blondeintokyo

    A myth? Simply doesn’t happen? I hate to inform you, but yes- it DOES happen. It’s happened to me personally, and it’s happened to friends of mine. LOL…when it happened to me, it was a couple of little old ladies. When I sat next to them, they looked really nervous, and said, “Oh! A foreigner…scarey…let’s move.” I was flabbergasted, because I’m 5’1, blonde hair, blue eyes, and a baby face. I’m the least scary person there is! It made me LOL. :)

    These little incidents are quite common in everyday life. Debito Arudo’s recent article in the Japan Times covered it perfectly. Our HR manager, whom I’ve worked with for four years now, is continually excited about how well I use chopsticks and mentions it every time we go out to eat. She doesn’t mean anything by it; but it IS very off-putting all the same. That kind of unconscious “othering” can really and truly get you down. The longer you’ve been here, I think, the less you expect to hear those things, yet it still happens all the time.

    But there is hope. Just today I had a great teaching moment. A guy in my office declared that “all French people love wine.” When I told him that was a stereotype, and it was like saying “all Japanese people love sushi”, he laughed at me and said, “Of course all Japanese people like sushi!” Immediately, I took an office poll. Three of the eleven Japanese present didn’t like sushi. We had a good laugh, and perhaps- perhaps!- this guy will think twice before blindly believing in stereotypes. :)

  • cardigans

    I have never felt that people on the train don’t sit next to me because I’m foreign – I always understood it was because I was sneering at them and thinking, “I just know you won’t sit next to me because I’m foreign, right?! – I knew it, you racist…!”

    Seriously though, hell, people in any country will catch a vibe that you are checking them out to see if they will sit next to you or not – how else would you even notice??

  • kujirakira

    Dear Blondegrrl, you may wish to consider taking Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
    It’s supposed to help a lot in dealing with these issues of imagined persecution.

  • littlebig

    Great article. Can relate to everything. Hits home! Thanks glen!

  • blondeintokyo

    Dear kujirakira, internet trolling much?

  • yakiimo

    Ranting commenced.

    Train seat vacancies? …check… weekly at least.
    Restaurants? Check
    Chopsticks? check… since I was 5, dammit.
    Language? check.
    If you can’t see these things going on around you, you probably aren’t noticing the stupid annoying crap you’re dishing out either. Observancy is a precious thing. Yes, the home front is atrocious. Australia bad? Try the US. More radical conservatism/liberalism now than in 50 years or so.
    Mr. Clancy isn’t bashing. He’s opening up dialog that needs to be opened. The English education system/logic here is abysmal. I feel truly bad for all the students I’ve taught that they’ve been force-fed a lie, and had to waste their precious time (seeing as many sleep less than 6 hours a night in high school/Jr.High) learning the least useful language possible, and having it get twisted around in their heads because no one’s there to correct them (or the textbooks)… Spending 6 years in formal school learning MASSIVE amounts of ENGLISH and 95% of those kids have NOTHING to show for it? That points to a systemic issue. The JET program is obviously not the answer.
    Idea! Hire an accredited teacher…. and PAY them for it. This doesn’t work, however, because in every situation I’ve seen where someone CAN speak English well (Japanese included), they are usually pigeon-holed and kept out of the decision-making process because the non-English speaking English teachers feel threatened.
    When this happens, the students lose…. and THE STUDENTS LOSE. We aren’t lamenting how it affects us…but how it affects the students certainly affects teachers.
    Rant completed…

  • yakiimo

    Oh wait… Look at the charter school in Gunma. It does work. Oh… I taught preschool where the kids spoke better than my junior high kids… hmmm… must have been something going on there like teaching basics and phonics that actually helped them understand language better… just saying…
    NOW rant is completed…

  • johnnyrabbit


    I know that’s how it must have felt to you, but I can assure you that’s not what happened. Perhaps a little time away from Debito will help you to stop looking at every social interaction through his paranoid and divisive lens.

    I think Charltzy hit the nail on the head when he said the same thing happens to his wife in the UK. I don’t know what her reaction was but somehow I can’t imagine she penned a lengthy screed in Japanese on the evils of the British Empire to be published on a UK-based Japanese website for expatriates!

    Let’s be clear. What happened to both Glen and Charltzy’s wife in those respective restaurants is unwanted and unfair but what I find strange is the unnecessary amount of angst and drama that people like Glen attach to these obviously minor incidents. This is why we have to listen to such cloy phrases such as “intensifying globalization pressures” that are the stock in trade for offended young foreigners in Japan.

    Is anyone suggesting sending an Asian version of the JET programme to the UK to change the hearts and minds of fish’n'chip shop workers before the country collapses under the weight of it’s own callous indifference to non-native English speakers? No.

    What’s at the heart of the matter is that Glen is shocked that this kind of behaviour would happen to him, because he is a Westerner and therefore superior to the Japanese whereas this kind of behaviour in the UK or the US is just something that immigrants have to live with, the price to pay for them to “join in” the superior culture.

    When the shoe is on the other foot, it blows minds because it doesn’t fit with the stereotype, yes, stereotype, that Asians are all secretly longing to break free of their chains and become enlightened Westerners and that they need us to help them with that transition. When that doesn’t happen we get tirades like the one above, bemoaning the lack of understanding and hyping up the dramatics. Japan is doomed I tell you, DOOMED, unless they study more English and respekt my authorita!

    People like me, who have lived in Japan a long time and actually belong in Japanese society have to put up with this all the time. It’s stale, It’s boring, It’s lame.

  • Doing Business in Japan

    Hi Glen, so you notice this as well? Years ago I used work in Tokyo Monday thru Friday, head north to where my wife and then infant son were living in Mito and Monday morning head back to Tokyo. More often than not I would take the commuter rapid which, at the time, had box-style seats. The seating arrangement where two passengers faced forward and opposite them were two seats facing them.

    Every Monday morning I had the same experience. Always I was the last person to be sat next to. The salarymen, and OL’s almost never sat next to me. I mentioned this to my wife who said I was imagining things. But I know what I saw and experienced and was of the same opinion (more or less) as yourself, that I was being subject to some sort of racist treatment. But later observations proved this theory incorrect.

    Firstly, I would ask you, how are you dressed? If you’re eikaiwa casual and sport the roguish unshaven look – i.e. travelling casual, then I’m not surprised that you’re being passively or actively spurned. One time I had to renew my gaijin card at the ward office and at the time I was going through my own ‘casual look’ with a scruffy beard, casual togs, and probably a casual attitude to match. I made a little mistake on my documentation and was thoroughly told off by a low-level clerk for not paying attention to my application. Fast forward a few years, I was back in mainstream, a gaijin salaryman. Gone was the beard, my clothes were business casual and I looked like the kind of guy my mother-in-law remembered when I first visited Japan. Again, I had not paid attention to one or another detail and my application had a mistake. No problem. The clerk just smiled at me, told me to fix it by the time I had to come back and bowed.

    Back to that Monday morning ride…Believe it or not, the passengers who avoided you, in their eyes, were actually doing you a service. Eh-eh-eh-eh-eh?!?!?!? For the Japanese, saving face is still a deep-rooted need. If someone sits next to you and you ask them a question – directions, guidance, etc, and they do not possess enough English to help you, both of you lose face, and in their eyes you are worse off than before. ‘Ah….’ goes the thinking “better not to put either him or myself in that position. I’ll sit over there….”

    If you’re interested, my blog contains posts about doing business in Japan, Japanese business culture and Japanese business etiquette.

    Thanks for your efforts Glen.

  • gweilo

    Why is there only 2.1 million foreigners living in Japan? WHY? I guess in replying this question we will have answers for a lot of other questions…
    Why it’s nearly impossible to find and work in Japan for a foreigner? (of course we all know success stories where it “works”?
    This “problem” in Japan is quite complex. It’s about culture, it’s about Government, we won’t talk about the second world war here but we could…
    Of course most of the Japanese will be very “worry”, “curious”, “suspicious” to strangers. I have seen first hand. Especially if your skin color is more … Darker than the white … Plethora of stories mention this concern…
    But at the same time, visiting Japan last year, I had a bunch of Japanese friends, really “traditional”, 30 years old average, welcomed me very very nicely. We went to a bar where the young people here (± 30 years old) was meeting a foreigner (Me) for the FIRST time. They were so curious in a nice way, asking tons of questions like mentioned above. I had forgotten my pack of cigarettes and I asked if they were selling or if I could buy 1 in exchange of a glass of something, one Japanese girl came, no speaking English but she gave me a NEW pack totally full of cigarettes. And just left the bar.

    So, it’s.. Complicated… To know the deep reasons of all that. I guess no one has THE truth.


    This gives a “photography” of Japanese society now… They reap what they sowed… No foreigners, no mixing, no babies.


  • youngwizdom

    I have experienced this, people about to sit down then walking away on an extremely crowded train. I never feel bad about it, they’re the ones standing and getting crushed.

    I also often think how we’re gaijins here. But if you meet any Japanese visiting another country and ask how it feels to be a gaijin (foreigner)? They get often get upset as if how is that possible…

  • xrcxx

    Come on….a Japanese NOT sitting next to me (you) on the train. It happens most of the time. A few points to look at. Where? Tokyo? Osaka? or out in the sticks? What train line? Most of the time I’ll be the last person (with an empty seat next to me) that the Japanese will sit in.
    I’ve been in situations where someone is standing up in front of me (empty seat next to me) and at the next stop when someone got up from their seat in the row across from me, that person went and sat there. What the H___?
    Next, sometimes they zoom in on the train with the empty seat in target view…and almost upon taking the seat realize that it’s a good ole’ gaijin sitting next to the empty spot that was targeted and BAM! they are off to a different seat or another car. Ummm if you aren’t affected by that…either you didn’t notice or ……….!
    There are also those who get on the train, especially at a starting station, I usually sit at the end near a door. They sit down and leave a gap (space) that’s about a 3/4 size person space… which I know is going to lead to embarrassment because there isn’t enough space for anyone to sit down in. And I feel somewhat guilty, but hey I’m next to the seat rail at the end, not hogging any space….what the F___? For me, this is an almost 70% of the time I ride the trains. How do I feel? It depends on how the day went! Once in a while, yes, it’s gets to me!

  • xrcxx

    Sorry I don’t agree with the gweilo view of things. I don’t want to hear the fear of being asked a question in English excuse. I sit next to all kinds of people in many countries…and I can’t speak the language. A cheap excuse. As a matter of fact, even if the person next to me is reading an English textbook or a novel…I will NOT even ask them anything in English. Why! When I have they just gave me the “dame” I don’t speak English cross hands sign. After that, I quit. If you say “Hello” only I’ll talk to you!…

  • noodlewestern

    Don`t you think the fact this story got printed tells you an awful lot about this magazine ? I have been to Tokyo numerous times and I`m amazed this magazine has not moved on in its tone since 2004 (My first visit) A lot of the comments underneath are right on the money. What`s with this space filler ? The tone of this article is clearly written to provoke this kind of reaction. You could put your hand on the map of the world , close your eyes , and you would be hard pushed to find a less foreigner friendly country than Australia. Try being Chinese , speaking in Chinese , and see how popular you are then , Maybe I watched the movie JIMMY BLACKSMITH too many times , please METROPOLIS MAGAZINE OWNER editor stop it. Print real stuff don’t scrape the barrel.

  • noodlewestern

    The world is full of prejudice , racism if you wanna call it that , go anywhere and its there , sometimes its inoffensive , even charming , ugly , but at the end of the day its human beings , Australians dislike Australians too you know , avoid sitting next to people on trains , the train story is a worldwide one. MATE. GooDAY !

  • johnnyrabbit

    I’m a Westerner. I take trains every day. Japanese people always sit next to me.

    There was only a small space open next to me the other morning. A japanese man was standing and tapped me on the knee and said “brother, can you let me sit down?”. I shuffled over and he squashed right in.

    I often wonder what kind of peculiar lunacy lends people to believe “the Japanese” are avoiding them on trains. I think Kevin hit the nail on the head when he talked about wound-up foreigners eyeballing all and sundry on the train and “daring” them to sit down next to them.

    Looks like it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy. Ask any Japanese person about it and they won’t know what the dickens you are talking about. Ah! But that’s just part of the conspiracy right, victimized Westerners! For God’s sake give it a rest and get on with the mundane tasks of living and relating to other human beings. Frankly, it’s embarrassing that people still talk like this after it’s been proven not to be true so many countless times.

  • gweilo


  • kujirakira

    “Why is there only 2.1 million foreigners living in Japan”

    It’s quite interesting how people like this believe white people are the only ones who count as foreigners.
    Whose the racists again?

  • kujirakira

    “Looks like it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy. Ask any Japanese person about it and they won’t know what the dickens you are talking about. Ah! But that’s just part of the conspiracy right, victimized Westerners!”

    They need their persecution complex to feel special.
    I’ve never had issues with people sitting (or not sitting) next to me on the train either. Nor issues with people complimenting me on something mundane (oh the horror!!) I think these people fail to realize how much Japanese conversation is scripted — the weather, your chopstick skills, your language skills — if you take issue with these things, that’s your own problem. Don’t blame other people for your issues.


  • kujirakira

    Love how the moderators here protect liars like debito and his ilk.
    If blondie really heard that conversation, let her post it in Japanese.

  • Jeffrey

    Up thread someone introduced the factoid that there are “2.1 million foreigners living in Japan.” Hardly. The bulk of the people who make up this number are ethnic Koreans, most of whom don’t speak Korean and may never have even visited Korea. Another good chunk is comprised of ethnic Chinese. Ditto with their familiarity with any version of Chinese and the country as well. Throw in Brazilians and Peruvians of Japanese descent, and your looking at about 400K resident foreigners in the whole of Japan who can’t pass for Japanese. There are more foreigners living in greater LA than all of Japan, even excluding all the illegal aliens from Mexico.

    The fact remains that Japan has one of the lowest percentage of immigrants and ex-pat residents in the world and is the lowest of all industrialized democracies.

    And “noodlewestern,” while you may have “visited” Japan many times over the last 8 years that’s hardly the same thing as living there. Your impressions and opinions of Japan and the Japanese are those of a tourist, not a long time resident.

  • gweilo

    “It’s quite interesting how people like this believe white people”
    It’s true that kind of “topic” will always generate interest/hate/Like/indignation (cross the right definition), but the minimum to debate is to UNDERSTAND that we all are a different opinion, based on our own experience. But like I said, there is not one truth. There are many… If you are interested by this topic, try to type “Is Japan racist?” on Google you would be very surprised that it’s not only a bunch of crazy foreigners that are “taking issues with that” that mentioned some… Issues… In fact 16 400 000 results… Strange… That’s not a proof of nothing, just an “interesting topic”.
    I noticed that no One replied to my simple question… As Expected. It could be a child asking this question, try to explain “why there is only 2.1 million foreigners living in Japan”.
    Again, be opened to others, try to learn that people can have different opinions of yours. And that is re-enforced by the simple fact that no one knows the personal stories of each of us. Be tolerant. Open the dialogue. Behind all that there are questions, curiosity and interest to Japan. I strongly believe that most of the Japanese are really nice and curious about other cultures, as I said, my living in Japan was really nice and.. full of surprises. Good and bad. Exactly if you come to Paris in France. Bad and good. Balance, you see? Giving a chance. See?

    I’m also aware that behind a keyboard it’s easy to Romp. It’s a wonderful “défouloir”… But that is an other debate.

    Oh, and last, I’m not “white”. (but if you decide to be suddenly clever, read the scientists: there is only One race…)

    But like I said also above, it’s pointless… There is no debate anymore. Everyone is convinced by their own “issues” and all others are rather stupid or ignorants. Haha! Good luck in life.
    It’s like: “I never had a fire in my house. = So, fire don’t exist.” Limpid reasoning.

    That will be my last comment on this… Thing.
    Good luck everyone, I let you with a funny quote:

    “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies,
    but the silence of our friends”.

    Martin Luther King Jr.

  • Benjamin Green

    Hi all

    Very interesting discussion. I must admit I have been guilty of letting the negative experiences of other “Gaijin” influence my attitude towards Japan. I think having an open mind is a very important thing as is accountability for ones personal actions and how they influence/affect others.

    What do people think of establishments in Japan that do not allow entry to non Japanese, they are generally establishments catering for night life etc. Some will even advertise the fact with a sign at the entrance. I am not sure this practice would be tolerated anywhere that I know of, not from my experience anyway. How can this be practice be justified at all?


  • blondeintokyo

    @johnnyrabbit, I assure you it did happen, and exactly as I described. I speak Japanese fluently, and there was no mistaking their words or actions. It’s actually quite interesting to me that you would accuse me of …what? Lying? Why would I make something up, especially something that mild? If I really wanted to slam Japan, really make it look racist, it would be easy to come up with a story depicting actions far worse than a couple of disconcerted old ladies. :)

    I can also assure you that I don’t look at Japan through a “paranoid and divisive lens.” Your attempt to establish this from one mildly written anecdote is frankly puzzling. If you could perhaps establish a pattern of me writing consistently flaming screeds, then maybe you would have good reason to think this, but you don’t. I suspect this was just an attempt to discredit me so that you could dismiss me as a Japan basher, but considering the mild tone of my post I think it’s safe to say it fell pretty flat. Frankly, I am unsure why you would even want to do such a thing. It’s just nonsensical to go around denying random people’s experiences, most especially when you know absolutely nothing about them and have no reason to disbelieve them.

    The truth of the matter is, I have a love/hate relationship with Japan that is exactly the same as the love/ hate relationship I have with my country of origin. Seeing both the good and the bad, and loving the good and hating the bad, is a perfectly fair and balanced perspective.

    No doubt there are foreign residents who have unbalanced views, unfair criticisms, or are unreasonable in their expectations, but pointing out the weaknesses in a society is not analogous to bitter criticism. And I think anyone reading would agree my anecdote falls squarely in the former category.

    I also found this very interesting:

    “People like me, who have lived in Japan a long time and actually belong in Japanese society have to put up with this all the time.”

    People like you, who actually belong in Japan? Very telling, this. :) I find it absolutely hilarious when long term foreign residents look down their long, tall noses at other foreigners who they think haven’t been in Japan for as long as they have. It even seems to be a badge of pride! But I guess everyone needs to feel they have a special place in society, to set themselves apart from all the riff raff, and make themselves feel unique, don’t they? That place is yours, and you are welcome to it. Although I have lived in Japan a very long time indeed, I have other, better ways of identifying myself. :)

  • littlebig

    gweilo -> thank you very much for your comment. summed it all up nicely! i echo your words!

  • johnnyrabbit


    Woah! Slow down with all the persecution complexes there!

    Seriously, I’ve found that most Japan bashers have a very similar MO and they are pretty easy to spot.

    1.) claiming to be ‘fluent’ in Japanese. Very common, and always used to ‘prove’ the fact they could never possibly misread the situation. A catch-all for saying, “I’m never wrong”.

    2.) claiming a love/hate relationship with Japan. Used to justify any and every numerous criticism. Aka “I like the food, so I can hate them as much as I want”.

    3.) claiming to be some kind of higher moral authority. Given away by the phrase “pointing out the weaknesses in society”. Yes, everyone’s an armchair social scientist in Japan. Spare us the commentary please!

    People like me, fully assimilated and accepted into Japanese society do tire of the rabid Japan bashing typical Debito fans.

    Claiming you have been in Japan a long time doesn’t make your prejudices any less ugly for it.