"To the impartial eye, the world not only seems an unlikely one-off phenomenon, but a constant strain on reason. If reason exists, that is, if a neutral reason exists. So speaks the voice from within. So speaks Joker's voice." - Jostein Gaarder

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

One of the reasons I dont blog much about Japan

Is what my friend Alisa puts out so bluntly here...

I will not say that Japanese are racist, but, I can definitely say with confidence that a huge number of them are...

You see, we "gaijin" or "mukonohito" = the people from far, will never have the pure genes of the superior japanese...

we've gotten used to being eyed in the train, or people leaving their seats when u sit, or not talking to u when u need to ask for direction, or... or...

read the post... it's kind of like "fashet khele2" but, the problem goes way much deeper inside...

I'm feeling better now, much better.

In Japan you have to get over things quickly.

They have a saying that means "there's no way around it"- shou ga nai.

They say it often, too often. They use it as a blanket to cover all kinds of sins, corruption, and laziness. But the culture of shou ga nai is infectious, a carte blanche for every inaction.

But, take my example. When I was searching for apartments I got rejected from four different places, sight unseen, because I was a foreigner. The first time, I was really hurt and stunned. The second time, I was angry. The third time I was annoyed, and the fourth time, I was numb to it. Shou ga nai.

This is how it happened. I was sitting in a sunny realtor's office, flipping through a gigantic binder of apartments in an area I wanted to live in. When I found one of a decent size for a good price, I would tell the kid who was helping me, and he would call the other realtor's office. They would say if the apartment was still available, why it was so cheap, and when it would be available for a viewing. If everything seemed OK, my agent would go into his speech:

"Now there is just one thing, my client is a foreigner. She's a girl, she's American, she works for a Japanese company, she has two guarantors, the president of her company, and another friend, who is Japanese. Is that OK?"

Then there would be a pause, and sometimes he would say "yes, she speaks Japanese...Thats OK? Alright thank you."

I got so used to the eventual OK that I was beginning to think that the whole process was just a formality. It wasn't.

Eventually I asked about a place in the area and the guy went through his lines. Then the pause.

"Oh. Oh. Oh I see. Well, thanks anyway."

I watched his face as he put down the phone, and I could see the poor kid was trying to work out how to break the news to me. "Well, apparently they don't rent to foreigners. They've asked the landlord before, and they've always said no"

He watched my face as I took the news. I didn't say anything, I just smiled and blinked. What could I say? I wasn't surprised, and although I was angry, who could I be angry with? It wasn't the fault of this kid in front of me, nor the decision of his manager. I couldn't blame the voice on the other end of the phone, and the landlord, three degrees of separation away from me, was probably some crotchety old lady who didn't like anybody and was afraid of everything.

After a few minutes, he said. "daijoubu desuka?" I looked at him and smiled too big. "Hai."

The next day my coworker tried to explain it to me, "Well, you know, the landlords, they don't like renting to gaijin because they don't know their habits."

I threw down my chopsticks and gave him the most dangerous look I've given anyone in a while. I was sitting in a basement restaurant, eating raw egg and grated yam over rice. No one had any right to say anything to me about my "habits". He didn't notice my look though. He continued, "What? They don't know what they will do to the room? Desho?"

No. Not "desho". This is what I wanted to say, but what I couldn't say:

"Don't justify their RACISM to me!!"

That's right people, I said RACISM.. about JAPAN!!! Not xenophobia, or protectionism, or isolationism, or any of the politer words that Japan, as a world power, seems to be entitled to.

I can't go into all the reasons why Japan systematically and unrepentingly gets away with racism. It has to do with their massive foreign PR mechanisms, their houdini-like ability to pretend problems aren't there when they are, and the magical timing of the MOJ, which swoops in with symbolic reforms just as people were starting to make a big to-do about some injustice.

But mostly, mostly, it has to do with the fact that foreigners like myself, white, privileged, educated foreigners, are generally treated very, very well here. They love my English, they love my skin, and they love me when I can use their chopsticks and eat my food. Sure they may never accept me, they may never offer me a real job and they may get huffy when I refuse to leave after three years or so, but when I complain about those things, people just scoff and tell me to get over it. Of course, every once in a while, the deep seated racism that lives in this country blindsides me in a way that ruins my week and makes me angry. But because I can't complain about the general way my life is going, I forget about it that too. In a few days I feel better, and I let it go.

The people who lose in this situation are the Chinese, Korean, Southeast Asian, and Middle Eastern residents, immigrants, and temporary workers. They don't get well compensated for their jobs; nearly no one finds them "cute" or "kakkoi". They don't have time to write letters to their prefectural government, or write blogs about racial equality in a supposedly homogeneous and traditionally isolated country.

The racism, the widespread, institutionalized, and accepted racism in this country needs to stop. And not because Japan will need to open its borders as their workforce decreases, and not because they signed some pact with the UN. Just because its wrong, and because its wrong anywhere.

Yeah, I know my life isn't in danger, and in other places there are genocides and riots and violence over race. And I know America has far more race- related problems than Japan. But at least in America we can talk about it. We have shows like Chappelle's show, which actually brought some complicated racial dynamics to the forefront. We can major in Ethnic studies, and we can talk about the psychological impact of transracial adoption. (right lisa?). But because everyone thinks that Japan is a magical land of cherry blossoms and lollipops, where the trains run on time and everyone is polite, nothing ever gets discussed. And therefore nothing ever changes.

For anyone needing some final proof about the extent of the problem, check out the review of a magazine that was released and sold in Family Mart, a huge convenience store chain. It is a sensationalistic, fear mongering chronical of evil foreigners and the crime wave they are inflicting on Japan. Check out the evil, slanty-eyed Chinese, whose inferior DNA makes them predisposed to be violent. And how about that terrorist in the background? This magazine was published with cooperation from the national police force, making it in part a government concoction. Imagine if a magazine like this was sold in a 7-11 in America. Just imagine it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think there were so many ploblem about renting.
I think you should know the reasons
why they refuse...


February 15, 2007 3:12 PM

Blogger Sakura Kiss said...

You know something, many foreigners can relate to how you feel. But I don't believe Japan is a racist country, its just that Japan is very isolated from the rest of the world. They can very ignorant about other cultures (sometimes more ignorant than Americans O_O). I learned this when I used to have a Japanese pen pal and when I speak with Japanese students on campus.

You pointed out that the Japanese like when you use chopsticks, that's because one of the first things they sometimes assume about a foreigner is that they can't use chopsticks. Anyways, the Japanese get their views about other people mainly from their media, and their media is terrible about how it portrays people of different ethnicities.

So don't sweat it, Japan is behind in alot of areas that concerns race relations and gender issues.

Okay, I'm done now. :D

February 15, 2007 3:21 PM

Blogger Yazan said...


I know I can't prove it.
but the thing is, I'm not an ultra sensitive foreigner, I came here with absolutely the best idea of japan, from the japanese who travelled through syria...
maybe if i went to the US i wouldve noticed racism more, cuz I'd have a set-idea in my head that americans have turned up a notch when it comes to middle easterns... but no, in day to day life, i was forced to see it... everyday..
and the thing is, u cant just bash the claims of 90% of foreigners here, because we "dont understand their culture"...
What about that magazine? would u like to tell me why was it popular in its first week? why the police department would co-fund this? why one of the biggest chains here FamilyMart would agree to sell it... unless ofcourse u dont see whats in there as racist?

listen,the matter of fact, is that most of the japanese that I know try their best to make me feel like home, but this country as a country, is not foreigner-friendly.

February 15, 2007 3:51 PM

Blogger Alisa said...

In response to the gregory clark comment:

I find this sort of attitude alarming. Why is it OK to ban all of one ethnic group from a business when one or a few people of that specific group broke the rules? Thats completely ludicrous.

If a black person robs a 7-11, should we ban all blacks from convenience stores?

And, as far as foreigners not understanding the rules of Japanese culture, there are many reasons a person might not follow the rules in an Onsen. Should we ban all children from onsen? All drunk people? The mentally handicapped? A business could easily invest in an english/ russian/ portuguese sign explaining onsen protocol, and then eject noisy or disrespectful individuals from the establishment.
Individuals, NOT ethnicities!

I'm really shocked that a non-Japanese person has adopted so much of Japan's twisted logic to justify their highly unfair policies

February 15, 2007 3:55 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

>What about that magazine?
There is rarely what the Japanese commits the crime in foreign countries as national pride. I mean killing and robbery.

However, Chinese and South Korean's heinous crimes stand out too much though I hate to say.

February 15, 2007 4:21 PM

Blogger Yazan said...

I'm sorry anon, but what u just said is disgustingly judgmental and stereotyping that i cant find in me anything to reply to.

almost 90% of the terrorists in the last century are muslems, according to ur logic, we should be just banned from the face of the earth?

That magazine is outrageously racist and disgusting... I donno,
I dont know u, and i cant judge u, but ur the first one i saw defending such a disgusting publication.

February 15, 2007 4:38 PM

Blogger Alisa said...

And, may I add, the crime RATE among Japanese is currently HIGHER than the foreign crime rate?

Guess why you never hear that on the news?

February 15, 2007 5:01 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

´╝×And, may I add, the crime RATE among Japanese is currently HIGHER than the foreign crime rate?

chinese robbery and burglary are extermly high.

that is why it stands out too much

February 15, 2007 10:33 PM

Blogger montchan said...

Such sob ass stories always get me laughing. If it's so hard for you in Japan, then MOVE somewhere else. But of course you won't do it (or the girl who wrote that drivel about apartment renting) because you like to get your nice salary and you like to be treated like a quasi-celebrity.

So, shut the f*ck up about racism, and if you don't like it so bloody much, then LEAVE LEAVE LEAVE!!!

Nobody's FORCING you to live there, in case you haven't noticed.

February 15, 2007 11:46 PM

Blogger Shannon said...

I've heard many similar stories from people (One Russian, the rest American) who've lived and worked in Japan for a number of years. I haven't heard about the apartment rental problem, however, but most of the people left because of the frustration of always being foreign despite years of study/cultural adaptation and still discriminated against.

Living somewhere really gives you a perspective of a culture's flaws and realities.

February 15, 2007 11:59 PM

Blogger Yazan said...

the matter of fact, no. no one is forcing s to live here, it's even more, they're even paying me a scholarship to study here.....

but u know what, i chose to come here, and live here, and it's my human right, just like my legal right to be treated good, and i dont care if u dont like me bitching about it... but it is... and I wont leave because they forced me to, i will leave when i want to... and the fact is that we're saying this because WE BOTH did love japan!

February 16, 2007 12:16 AM

Blogger montchan said...

I never said that anybody is forcing you to leave, just that nobody is forcing you to stay there.

And if Japan is paying you a scholarship, then awesome! Remeber this old saying "don't shit where you eat."
And if you are still unhappy, then for gods sakes just leave. Come to Sweden, then you will see what real racism looks like.

February 16, 2007 12:39 AM

Anonymous Alisa said...


what a good point. I should just pick up and leave the first time something bad happens to me in any country that I live in. And if I don't like president bush I should just get the hell out of America too, right?

For the record, I didn't know when I decided to move to Japan that I'd be barred from many things that seem like normal activities because of my race. Silly me for expecting a major world power might treat their foreign residents with some modicum of respect.

And also, I DO intend to get out, as soon as I feel like I've learned all I can from living here. (maybe another year?) Funny, isn't it, that this country has one of the highest standards of living in the world, clean trains, nearly crimefree streets, and generally very kind people, and yet I could NEVER picture myself living here? I can't stand the thought of living my entire life as an outsider, no matter how fluent i get, or how accustomed to the culture I become.

And then Japan wins, right? Another whiney foreigner gave up and went home. And they can all have a good laugh about that when their workforce is collapsing under the weight of their massive aging population.

But, what are you really saying? Don't you believe in any universal human rights? Should anyone who feels discriminated against or dissatisfied in anyway uproot their family and get the hell out of dodge? What about those who are not financially able to move? Isn't there some emperical value in striving to make the world a more fair place for everyone to live in?

February 16, 2007 12:47 AM

Blogger Yazan said...

It's not my job to make japan's picture more beautiful or uglier than it is...

the fact that they're giving me a scholarship doesnt mean that I have to be their PR bitch, I earned my scholarship..

I wouldnt be living here if I didnt want to, but my experience and the experience of so many other foreigners who live here, and who japan will come to need them badly in the next few years could be so much better, and its only our national right... I will talk about racism in my own country when I see it, actually i did... it's the concept that matters.

well, there u go u appear to have some input on sweden urself... how idiotic would it seem to tell u to just leave. no i will not leave, i have the right to be here and i will be as long as i want to. and if i feel discriminated against i will voice out my experience...

I am not saying that all japanese are racist... just like when an airliner in the US forces a guy out of the plane [an american citizen mind u] because he was wearing a t-shirt with arabic script... it doesnt mean that all americans are racist, and it didnt mean that the guy should just pack his stuff and leave, no instead he blogged about it, and he made it a media scandal...

so, no, I will not leave. at least not now. and when i feel that something is wrong, i will, talk about it... just like when something makes me happy...

February 16, 2007 1:12 AM

Blogger montchan said...

Oh people, take a chill pill. I believe in universal human rights as much as the next person. I don't know, maybe I'm so damn bloody special, but I never had a problem in Japan because of my race. FYI, I lived in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nara. People were kind and helpful, even in Tokyo. Yes, the bureaucracy was hideous, but no worse than where I live now.

Everything is relative, and compared to where I am now, Japan seems like paradise. And you bet, we are doing everything possible to go back there. So your whiney stories get on my nerves (and a few others in my situation). Hence my simple advice, LEAVE and make room for gaijins who actually want to be there, and want to live there. Yes, for the rest of their lives.

I am assuming that if you could move TO Japan, you are financially able to move OUT. Most people when they go somewhere, obviously have enough money to go back home. If they don't, they should stay home.

And yes, I didn't like president bush, and that was precisely what we did - got the hell out of America. And have no plans to return there for as long as the war is going on. In retrospect, we should have gone back to Japan then. We were stupid we didn't.

And yazan,
yes, we are leaving Sweden. March 2008, sooner if we can swing it. To where? Back to Japan!!!

February 16, 2007 2:59 AM

Blogger Alisa said...

well, no one is forcing you to read my whiney stories. If they bother you so much, you should have just stopped reading and MOVED on with your day, right? But you read them and left a comment because it bugs you that somebody somewhere thinks the way I do, even though it doesn't personally affect you in any way.

And the social problems in Japan bother me, even if their effect on me is very minimal, and they will continue to bother me even after I've left- just like the war still bothers me even though I no longer live in the US (or iraq for that matter)

And there are people in Japan who get treated much worse than I do, people who can't just pick up and go- some of whom didn't even choose to come to Japan in the first place. (Like descendents of Korean or Chinese people forced into Japan as laborers). These are not usually people who have time to try and change their situations.

Its more what is happening to others, and not myself that I'm worried about, but the way things usually work is that the people who are priveledged enough to have less to complain about, but complain anyway, bring out the reforms that end up helping people who actually need and deserve it. I don't have the stomach or the heart for the epic battles some gaijin activists like arutou debito wage (debito.org), but I would at least like to try and make people more aware of the situation. Whats wrong with that?

February 16, 2007 10:40 AM

Anonymous Wake-up call said...

Why all this damn tension???
Can the guy express himself without having all the Japan-related folks bitching around?
Hello freedom of speech!!!

February 16, 2007 11:22 AM

Blogger Yazan said...

lets make this clear, either ur calling hundreds of foreigners here liars... or it's just that these "stories" that we're telling just dont bother u as a person, that means that we have different standards and views on tolerance and individual rights.

and rest assured, Japan has many places for foreigners we're not taking ur place, so stop it with the neurotic get out, move out bullshit... infact in 10 years time they will be begging foreigners to come here, not the chinese and korean and brazilian poor laborers but the highly educated, proffesionals, i.e. the kind that will never live in such circumstances... it's so amazing how they cant figure that out.

we obviously have different ways of handling our problems, I'm sure Bush personally appreciates u leaving the US because of the war.

why cant anyone accept critique anymore, how did japan turn into this sacred grail that no one can talk about... regardless of how much I love the culture, these people have serious structural problems.

When 6 students less than 9 years old in 6 different schools commit suicide in the time span of 1 month, that means that this society has real fucking problems... and hiding behind that thin line of bullshit wont help it get over it.
when 60 percent of an island country's shores are cemented, that means this state has some serious problems.

February 16, 2007 12:50 PM

Blogger abufares said...

I have to thank you for bringing to our attention little things that can only be learned through living in a place. If I ever get a chance to visit Japan (something I always wanted), it'll be for a week or a little more. I'd never get the chance to experience the subtleties of life there.
Your post brought into focus a topic, as you've said, well hidden.
And this, my friend, is the real value of blogging.

February 16, 2007 6:07 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi, yazan
there are surely many bloblem in japan.

for example.
>when 60 percent of an island country's shores are cemented, that means this state has some serious problems.

why did this phenomenon happen?
the japanese is a kind of atheism.
Needing it for atheism is a rule of the society and harmony first.
that is way japan is called shame culture.

>that means that we have different standards and views on tolerance and individual rights.
However, the societies are given to priority more than the individual in Japan.

February 17, 2007 11:19 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you look around carefly in japan..
and you should know why those things were happened.
Please make not only eyes seen as a foreigner but also eyes seen from Japanese.
It is to understand the cause and moreover.
I think It is a feature of Japan that never norm in Absolute-G

February 17, 2007 11:39 AM

Blogger DUBAI JAZZ said...

Hi Yazan,
I've never been to Japan, but when I was working for one of the public sector's establishments back home, I was once appointed in a joint team with some Japanese experts from Jaica: nice old blokes ... however, very introvert and discreet...
On a lighter note: I tried twice to apply for a membership in Syria Planet, but with no avail...do you think you can pull some strings? ;)

February 19, 2007 2:42 AM

Blogger Yazan said...

Dubai Jazz,
I can assure u that no one is blocking ur membership in Syria Planet, except my own laziness and stupid computer problems, and lack of time..

u see, I'm the only volunteer that's taking care of checking new blogs and adding them to the planet, and in the last month i've had som serious time consumed in school, and other personal stuff, plus something happened to my email that deleted the folder where the planet feedback comes.. so all the submission emails were deleted... Sorry...
I will do it right away... dont worry...
it's just been such a long month...

February 19, 2007 4:17 PM

Blogger DUBAI JAZZ said...

Hi Yazan...don't worry about it bud, it's good enough of you to volunteer to do this job...
Thanks alot for adding me...:)

February 20, 2007 12:54 AM

Blogger Leafless Eve said...

If you were in the States you could have sued their asses!

You might argue that some Americans are racist, but atleast the govt. has LAWS against it... And racists are not tolerated and looked down upon and most educated communities.

March 05, 2007 10:49 AM

Blogger Yazan said...

Leafless Eve,
Yes, the matter of fact, in Japan this attitude IS somehow sponsored by the state... by the way they treat Asians, by the yearly disgusting visit from the primeminister to the Sensoji Temple..

March 05, 2007 2:42 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, it's also VERY VERY hard to be a foreigner in the Middle East, despite the privileges Westerners get. For non-Westerners, as in Japan, it's pretty much hell. Apparently this is a world-wide problem.

March 06, 2007 5:05 PM


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