*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Japan is not your home.

I'll just put this link here, for anyone who hasn't internalized this yet.  Leave.  Fuck Japan.  It's not your home, and it never can be, and many will remind you often, and remind your beautiful 'hafu' children too, and theirs also.

Those of us of all races who actually live(d) there and have/had to deal with institutionalized racism, like not being able to
  • get a loan
  • lease certain apartments
  • basically do anything without having a Japanese guarantor
  • apply for a credit card (which appears to have eased in the last three years)
  •  get a bilingual job despite being fluent in both languages because it’s “Japanese-only”
  • have a real entry in your Japanese partner’s koseki as a spouse and co-parent of their children (you get to be a footnote!)
  • get a cell phone without paying upfront because of the length of your visa; or pay upfront because you don’t have a credit card (see above)
  • be able to keep your name upon marriage or gaining citizenship
That is to say nothing of the social racism and microagressions, such as
**Note that most of these are not unique to Japan, especially the last point. That still doesn’t make it okay.


  1. Ha, you have a couple of rant triggers for me in that post. The Japan apologists who claim there is NO racism in Japan always totally ignore the rent thing. How can anyone say there is no racism when a company can straight out say Japanese Only to renting a flat (or anything else). That's not to say it may not be harder to rent in Australia if you are a certain race but it's illegal to do so.

    And the creepers taking photos... OMG. After living in Japan, I totally understand celebs who go apeshit and smash the papparazzi cameras. I'd do it too but the last few times the creepers have been kids who know can run faster than me.

    I'd add to this list, parents who hussle their kids away from you because you are obviously dangerous. That's where it all starts!

    1. Yup. I have never had to rent on my own here: first tour on JET and second renting in MIL's building. If I had to, I would have left sooner, and never returned.

      The photos not so much, but that may be more of a female thing, or I may be homely or 'kowai', or just old. One thing, nobody takes pictures of kids without asking first, and that only when mine are playing with theirs. I appreciate this. The kid thing is an ice-breaker, as is them hearing me talk to them or wife in broken Japanese.

      And he's right about the kokuseki (family register): I am noted as the sperm donor, in essence.

    2. I had an old lady point me and my friend out to her granddaughter, saying "Look, Gaijin". If the little girl hadn't been so young, I would have told her that I wasn't a monkey in a zoo. I figured terrifying the kid would only make things worse in the future, she'd cry every time she saw a white person. The kids saying "hello" all the time drives me crazy. I literally cycle miles out of my way to avoid elementary schools. I have to, for my own sanity.

    3. Yes, that ignorance we have all experienced. I can top it for stupid. At a bar having a Japanese DJ night in TORONTO, two J-girls walked out to the patio, looked at my buddy's and my white faces, and the more stupid or voluble of the two said, "Ah'... Gaijin-da." To which I truly answered, "Bakayaro! Kochi-tte omae-ra 'gaijin' jya-nai ka?"

      Blank incomprehension. 'Gaijin' means non-Japanese to the Japanese, despite the characters ('outside-person') and literal translation ('foreigner'): other. I suppose 'alien' with all of the negative connotations (non-human) is a better translation.

    4. "Bakayaro! Kochi-tte omae-ra 'gaijin' jya-nai ka?": "Fuckwit! Aren't you twats the 'foreigners' here?"

    5. About the taking photos of kids thing, I think it cuts both ways. I've seen tourists take sneaky pics of Japanese kids. So not on.

      Also, not Japan related but at the place I just finished up working, there was a guy who was very outspoken and a NQR. One day he was having a rant about the swimming pools. Public pools here now have a policy that you have to register to take photos of your kids. No big deal, just letting the front desk know these are my kids and I'll be taking photos of them so they can keep an eye on what's going on. Why a single, middle aged man would even care about that or be against is creepy in itself. I stopped just short of calling him a creepy motherfucker but I think he got the idea!

  2. Funny you mentioned that about kids talking shit... I can't believe how mothers will stand by and let their kids say stupid shit without correcting them or feeling ashamed. The only reasonable thing I can think of with that is maybe a lack of understanding about how what their kids are saying (or how they're saying it) could be offensive (still not forgivable), or that they just can't imagine that a foreigner could understand Japanese at all...

    1. Any of the above: Japanese understand but do not reign in young children, don't perceive exclusion of others as offensive, don't perceive of aliens as understanding Japanese. There is one more thing: Japan is not an empathetic culture whatsoever, to other Japanese or to aliens. People outside the rules don't rate.

  3. Hi there, I just felt the urge to come out of my semi-retirement here and comment on this. The "micro-agrgession" things I've never personally experienced (but being half-Japanese I blend in better than most), but I just felt the urge to comment on the "institutionalized racism" part where I have some experience:
    get a loan - I have a loan in my name...
    lease certain apartments - I don't consider it "racism" really but it's correct about the guarantor thingy,
    basically do anything without having a Japanese guarantor - only place where I've ran into this as an issue is for renting?
    apply for a credit card (which appears to have eased in the last three years) - I applied for one within the first month I was here and got one? Former foreign girlfriend long time applied for an AmEx and got one (which she shouldn't have since she bailed on her bills)
    get a bilingual job despite being fluent in both languages because it’s “Japanese-only” - Dunno about this one
    have a real entry in your Japanese partner’s koseki as a spouse and co-parent of their children (you get to be a footnote!) - Didn't this change a bit recently?
    get a cell phone without paying upfront because of the length of your visa; or pay upfront because you don’t have a credit card (see above) - Always applied and got one without any problems? Don't think you get one on a tourist visa in many countries?
    be able to keep your name upon marriage or gaining citizenship - ??? My name is the same as it's always been???

    Japan is in no way heaven on earth and has more than it's fair share of problems. But I have never ever been threatened with violence or chased by skinheads in Japan due to being half white. This has happened to me in Sweden, not to mention racist "jokes" about Asians where I have been on the receiving end too many times to count.

    Being half mean that you're always the minority. I'm not saying that to complain or anything and I don't have an issue with it, but it would be wrong to assume that they won't encounter racism outside of Japan.

    1. Mr. Salaryman, thanks for your input, even if I might argue some points, which I won't. Only one: the second paragraph is an ad hominem argument you realize. Also, correct me if I am wrong, it applies more to your blended heritage and Sweden than it does to the experience of most readers here. As for Canada, is it perfect? Hell no. I'd rather be white in Japan than black in Canada, much less the U.S. Japan still is what it is.

    2. I was actually more thinking of your children (assuming they're half-Japanese?). You lived in Japan as a minority and felt you experienced discrimination and racism due to your race. That's nothing I will argue, but assuming that your children will be sheltered from the same by moving out of Japan is naive.

      The racism that I have experienced back home has been much more direct and violent than here in Japan, that's not to say that I hold any bitterness or grudge towards Sweden, I quite like living in both countries.

      You will of course no longer be a minority I assume and don't have to put up with too many bigots, but Japan is not unique in sometimes being narrow-minded towards minorities. That's speaking from experience and something that you should not forget when watching your kids grow up.

      (For the record, I should say that for me, overall the positives by far outweigh the negatives I've experienced as mixed white-Japanese and the fact that I'm always in the minority is just how it's always been)

    3. I think we mostly agree; however, not entirely. Where we differ has much to do with the sheer number of 'visible minorities' in Canada versus Sweden: over 20% in Canada, and far higher in cities; quite a bit less than half of that in Sweden.

      I differ over the mixed-'race' situation for my children, not that I have had such an experience: what racism they experience in Canada will be from only the lowest forms of people and obvious (I suppose we agree on this), whereas what they face here is pervasive essentialising ('Orientalism', ironically) from Japanese of all social classes, only because they appear more different to Japanese than they are. The ignorance in Canada will be episodic and from people beyond the pale; the ignorance in Japan will be pervasive and even from within their own social groups. The first is enraging, but the latter is depressing.

    4. The other thing, and I have mixed feelings about it, is that NE Asian is now just about taken as 'white' in Canada, socioeconomically. People with any visible African heritage, from wherever in Africa or the New World, are still associated with crime. People with visible South Asian heritage are associated with religious extremism or parochialism, and mistreatment of women and girls. Visibly European and NE Asian gets a pass. This is a change for NE Asian since my youth, for the better for them, if still grossly unfair to so many others. Unfair, but makes life easier for my children, and for you.

    5. I think that you just have to try to be sensitive to what's going on and be on the lookout. How people react to perceived racism is very individual and up for discussion. Much like how foreign people in Japan have different opinion on how pervasive the racism against them here is you will likely find the same range of opinions among minorities in Canda. I of course do not know the situation in Canda very well, but recently in Sweden a huge debate flared up as an adopted Korean Swede spoke out against what he perceived as institutionalized and pervasive racism against asians across the society.

      I haven't looked it up, but I am willing to bet that the risk of unprovoked violence against minorities is much higher in Canada. A "peaceful" country like Norway had one of the worst racially motivated mass murders in modern history, extreme right wing parties with racist agendas are getting into parliament in most European countries. Things like this makes people like me a bit uncomfortable even if we're not directly on the receiving end.

      My point is that even though you think that Japan could never be "home" to half-Japanese kids, don't be so sure that Canada will be either. But, on the other hand they feel 80% at home in Canada and 50% in Japan, that's pretty great!

    6. All fair points, and neither of us are arguing from much data, but sociology is BS from a scientific analysis anyway. I have to argue one point, again: "I haven't looked it up, but I am willing to bet that the risk of unprovoked violence against minorities is much higher in Canada." I doubt it.

      I'll assume you meant per capita. I honestly don't have the data for Canada, Sweden or Norway, but the latter two have something Canada has never had: a myth of a single ethnic identity. We even less than the US. Canada's always been a negotiation of peoples: first French and Native who cooperated in exploration and the fur trade, then the English after the British conquest of New France, and many other peoples once policy was to populate the areas any distance from the Atlantic, present southern Québec and Ontario. The interactions have been unfairly balanced, especially for Aboriginal peoples as ever, but nobody ever got a clear upper hand. We are better for it.

      I've not met so many Swedes, though one was a Somali Swede I taught in an ESL school in Toronto. My guess is her family had been important and educated in Ethiopia, how ever many generations back, as she had a certain poise. I was living with someone else and rather missed a chance... Is 'Barni' a Swedish or Somali name I always wondered.

  4. Well, to end this, I need to ask you how you feel about Rob Ford and Justin Bieber being the two probably most talked about Canadians so far in 2014? I'm not too fond of Bieber, but the pure insanity about Ford I find somewhat appealing.

    (Just to clarify, by "higher in Canada" I meant compared to Japan, not Sweden, Sweden can be pretty nasty and violent with the alcohol and all that, there's also a long proud history of unprovoked violence just for the hell of it. "Barni" is btw not a Swedish name)

    1. Rob Ford is very harmful, because he's a tool of right wing populism hiding the usual Neo-Con crap, even if he's too stupid to know he's just a tool (and he is stupid as well as out of control). Bieber much less so, as the damage he causes he'll get sued for and he'll be at best forgotten in a couple years, at worst the usual strung out has-been.

      I don't mind them being in the news as Canadian. Canada gets more good press than it deserves (as does Scandinavia...) for a country that votes in Neo-Con governments which support American aggression with rhetoric, UN votes and sometimes troops. Then there is the 'Five Eyes' Anglophone alliance of spying.