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Now that I’m back from Hawaii, I finally had the chance to wade through all the emails I decided to ignore until now (sorry if that was you!). A decent number of them were people worried about racism in Japan; mainly, they were worried that people in Japan would treat them poorly because they were, well, gaijin (that means foreigner, in case you didn’t know).

A few of these emails made reference to the infamous “no gaijin” signs which are supposedly littered all around Japan. When I searched around the internet for more information on this, I was surprised with what I found…

Well, actually, not that surprised.

First off, it’s not that bad. In fact, it’s the opposite. There is so much talk going around the gaijin world about anti-gaijin sentiment, or the “no gaijin allowed” signs…thankfully, a lot of this talk is done by people who don’t know much about Japan, or have never been there. A few rumors have spread around, they’ve gotten bigger, and people pass the word on until it becomes a bigger monster.

Now, I’m not saying that racism isn’t a problem in Japan. In fact, where isn’t it an issue? As a gaijin, you will stand out, and in a country that is 99% Japanese, you will be interesting and people will be interested. Does that mean people will treat you poorly? No, not necessarily. Will you get a lot more attention than if you were Japanese? Definitely.

I found a couple vides via JapanProbe the other day. I thought they were absolutely hilarious, though it seems as though JapanProbe’s commentors thought it was pretty insensitive and mean. I can’t help it, though, I’m a Dave Chappelle fan.

[yframe url='http://youtube.com/watch?v=VGaKYtI_flI']

And commercial #2

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owLnfQQ3heI']

This sort of moves me into my next topic: “No Gaijin Allowed” signs.

If you search for “No Gaijin Allowed” in Google, you’d probably expect to come up with a bunch of hits. If you search for it in an image search, maybe you’d expect tons of “no gaijin” signs chained onto restaurant doors (so that those dirty gaijin can’t rip them off and steal them). Instead, I found almost nothing. My normal Google search consisted of “No Gaijin Allowed” tshirts, and the image search came up with things that had nothing to do with anything. I wasn’t too shocked, though, I did expect to see more.

The reason for this? Those signs aren’t really that prevalent. I’ve been all over Japan, and I try to go to as many different places as I can. I have not once seen a sign like this. When reading about people’s experiences who have seen these signs, they explain that these signs don’t necessarily mean “No Gaijin Allowed.” Instead, they mean “We don’t want any trouble from Gaijin, so be respectful” or “We can’t speak English, and we don’t want to be bothered with body communication.”

Still, there is some anti-gaijin sentiment. I’m not denying that. Gaijin don’t always make a good name for themselves, and the few bad apples ruin it for everyone. Since gaijin stand out so much in Japan, one misbehaving gaijin can make all gaijin look bad. Every once in a while a story like this will come out. On top of this, there is some bad blood between the older generation that fought in the war and anyone not Japanese. Even that is turning around though, and I’ve never had a bad experience with someone of the older generation. Still, I can see some potential problem. On the other hand, our War veterans sometimes have bad feelings about Japanese, so it’s not like it’s any different.

Anyways, I just wanted to say that the “anti-gaijin” mentality isn’t as prevalent as a lot of people think. Japan’s a friendly place, and as long as you try to keep in mind that you are in another country, and you need to follow some of their cultural guidelines (like taking off your shoes, damnit!), you shouldn’t have any trouble. If you don’t make an effort, though, and think that you can get away with anything…well…then you might get some anti-gaijin sentiment. I warned you, though.

So what about you? Have you ever had any experience with this?

[Image source]

  • WOTDsctoo

    Wow, I never knew sounding out katakana was so dangerous! That was interesting. XD

    Anyway, I can’t say I’ve had any experience with this. I’ve only been to Japan for a short time with my school, and since we were in a relatively small town, we only saw one other gaijin, and he was there to help the high schoolers learn English. I think it seemed more like we were rockstars than hated…I hope I wasn’t just misinterpreting. >.> I site the “Japanese people aren’t actually impressed with your Japanese” article to support the paranoia. XD

    Nah, I think that this was pretty informative and help to debunk some fears. That video was pretty funny though (although maybe a bit offensive XD) Although…I think that one video may be embedded twice.

    Thanks for the article! :D

  • fh

    Occidentalism also has more detail about the truth of the “no gaijin” signs. The infamous Debito onsen sign was written in response to russians who would get drunk and cause trouble, scaring off customers. One restaurant in Tsukiji had a similar sign, but underneath wrote in Japanese, “Japanese customers who cannot observe the following rules will also not be accepted” — the issue was because many foreigners did not understand the store’s “eccentric” food, and the sign was since resolved (the owner apologized as he did not know how to translate the warning into more neutral english). A hobby-knife shop in Akihabara also had a sign, but only to deter tourists as the knives would be confiscated at the airport (the sign has also since been removed).

    Perhaps the biggest tip is one of body language and mutual understanding. Being open and friendly will net similar responses. Acting with superiority and dominance (the so-called “gaijin smash”) will net distrust and cold feelings.

  • spdrcd

    lolz….anti-gaijin spary…lol…
    i think many japanese are not racist…but most time just really silly with lots of weird stuff…and some about the things they dont know much about…so i think it not really a racist problem…but instead some other problem..and the problem i think is to be less silly and think about what kinda’ stuff they are doin’ to other people of different culture…just like how sometimes american also does when they think asians,hispanics, and etc. differently based on sterotyping…but instead i think people should be taught to accept and learn to embrace those differences; instead of making fun of them…

  • weirdo

    Holy crap, thank you, SOMEONE finally realizes this.

  • http://skillster.blogspot.com Skillster

    Well in which country is this sort of anti foreigner feeling prevailant?
    Every country, thank fully I am in London which is multy cultural and needs the tourist business, I was recently in Istanbul, Turkey and it is the same – many people speaking several languages in order to engage with tourists.
    I think Japan isn’t that widely bothered with foreign tourists in their country, most sites/attractions looks like they are visited by 99% Nihon-jin.

  • djarno

    I love the irony of that sign.

  • ghindo

    Those videos are hilarious. Thanks for posting them!

  • henk spaan

    I once saw a “no gaijin” sign, in kabukicho. It was the entrance of some adult entertainment club. That’s the one and only I ever saw in Japan.

  • http://ashtraygrrl.com Emx

    I have to admit before I went to Japan this year I’d scared myself to death by reading ‘racism’ stories on forums…

    However when we got there 99.9% of people were nice, but we did have one or two experiences of anti-gaijin sentiment. Those sorts of attitudes towards foreigners and race only reflect badly on the people who express them, so I didn’t let it bother me.

    Lol lucky for me I didn’t get maced like those poor tourists in the video ^_^

  • http://caitlinomara.com Caitlin

    I’ve never seen a “no gaijin” sign but I don’t look that hard for them. I’ve had very little racism and certainly nothing where I felt physically threatened (unlike high school in the US). I agree with the idea that as long as you’re making an effort and not being disrespectful, people are pretty nice to you.

  • TTD

    Woah, far out!

    I mean, I was just wondering about this whole concept of an anti-foriegner sentiment in Japan, which I had heard about, yet which seemed a bit too odd and blown out of proportion…so I did some looking around on the internet trying to find out more about it, without running into much luck…but then, just before I was about to go to bed, I decided to check Tofugu (my favorite blog about Japanese culture)…and lo and behold, here’s this article! It’s uncanny, really.

    And yes, thank you for clearing that up. The wondering was just driving me crazy.

  • http://www.sanokame.com Sano

    Haha, great videos!! XD

    I’m not scared of those signs or racism overall in Japan, it’s worse here, and it’s not even that bad here. However, I wouldn’t go to a restaurant with a “JAPANESE ONLY” sign unless I know what I’m doing (speak Japanese, be respectful and as you said, follow the cultural guidelines).

  • Fujiko

    Never saw one, I think these signs are rarely met.
    :)
    I think that somehow, some of us lived in Japan…well.. I believe in reincarnation and stuff:)
    So…maybe some of us, the ones that learn japanese and are interested in Japan, once lived there:)
    So…this sign doesn’t make sense: who is gaijin ? Maybe we all lived there once:)
    Maybe deep inside we have japanese spirits and the people around are gaijin for us too:)
    Anyways, I feel like home there, and I am sure that some of you too.

  • http://www.zdwonline.de Haf

    I have been living, working and traveling in Japan for half a year and I have only seen one “Japanese People Only” sign during that time, it was at a sushi restaurant at the Tsukuji fish market, and below the text was a lot of Japanese text which I didn’t bother reading because we were heading for another place anyway. But I did make a photo:
    http://www.zdwonline.de/?page_id=314&picture_id
    :)

  • St

    I’ve never been to Japan so I can’t tell if these signs are a common sight or not. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s vastly overblown like Koichi says. You have to look at it from a cultural studies perspective. Westerners (understood to mean white people) have historically constructed East Asian people (understood to mean anyone of East Asian ancestry) and others as atavistic, bound (in the sense of “restricted”, not just “connected”) by blood ties, and unable to identify with people beyond their own extended family, let alone their ethnic group or race. It’s a idea that you can also encounter in novels like for example “The Daimond Age” by Neal Stepgenson. The west, then, is always constructed as the opposite of this. The reason, thus, why these signs get so much play is because “Japanese are racist” is “good to think” for white westerners. It helps them to confirm and reinforce their own self-image as rational, broad-minded, liberal, and humanistic.

  • darintenb

    In regards to the comment about what country doesn’t have stupid people/racists. There are three real problems I see with that.

    1) Just because everyone else does it, it doesn’t mean you have to. Japan should strive to do what’s right, not just the bare minimum (that applies for everyone, not just Japan).

    2) I certainly don’t see more than one racially offensive sign a month living in Tokyo for the past 6 years, but I’ve never seen one in America for the 19 years before that. (Being white it’s possible I missed some, but you can rest assured the mainstream media would have attacked such a sign like Debito does here and that hasn’t happened to the best of my knowledge.) In this case, I don’t think Japan is even doing the bare minimum. 1 sign is already too many.

    3) Free speech vs. discrimination. I believe in free speech. One someone uses their free speech to be racist, it doesn’t bother me. Why? Because I just think to myself, “they’re stupid.” However when someone practices racial discrimination I think, “boy I’m stupid for coming to this ファッキング county” (to borrow your katakana and ovoid any potential profanity screening plugins).

    Sure, Debito has created a lot of attention for an issue that really isn’t that prevalent, but the fact that is an issue at all is disgusting. Sure people are racist in America (and anywhere), but the type of stuff that people do in Japan would get you sued out of house, home, and any cent you could ever make for the rest of your life, and possibly some jail time too.

  • http://www.sanokame.com Sano

    Oh cool, I never thought of it that way, I believe in reincarnation too and that might actually be true! 1UP for you my friend :)

  • St

    @ darintenb

    “2) I certainly don’t see more than one racially offensive sign a month living in Tokyo for the past 6 years, but I’ve never seen one in America for the 19 years before that. (Being white it’s possible I missed some, but you can rest assured the mainstream media would have attacked such a sign like Debito does here and that hasn’t happened to the best of my knowledge.)”

    Never seen one in 19 years? What about the confederate naval jack? You do know that people who use that thing often don’t mean it as a sign of harmless regionalistic folklore, but do it with the precise intent of giving the middle finger to black people? To me that’s even more offensive than a dry “no foreigners” sign, because it deliberately aims to make other feel bad or to intimidate them. And what about all the looney white power groups up there in the rocky mountains?

    As for the “mainstream media”, don’t forget that one of the most popular pundits, Michelle Malkin, defended the internment of Japanese Americans. Not a peep about that form the mainstream media.

  • Fujiko

    :) thx
    One year in Japan and I thought my heart is going to explode because of leaving Japan.
    I also learned japanese very fast, went to kendo classes and finally passed a 3 kyu exam in kendo. I very often feel I have that nihonjin no tamashii inside.
    I am very sure of this.I know many will raise their eyebrows, some will lough, but I just know, just have the feeling.
    I think many of you felt this too, but some of you just never put it in words, because others would lough.
    Hum…it makes me sad how narrow minded some people are. Racism certainly makes me sad.

  • darintenb

    Sorry, I lived in the north where people have class so perhaps I’m not from the national average. Only time I’ve seen a confederate flag is on TV/Internet and other non-physical or in person forms.

    But none the less, said flag qualifies as free speech, which I write off as “they’re stupid”, which is different from denying entry to one’s store because of their race. Rest assured that in 2008, the second someone flying a confederate flag turned away a minority from their bar etc, they’d have their liquor licensee or foods business licensee revoked and a nice lawsuit on their hands.

    Just last week a saw a sign for an apartment that said, “we reserve the right to refuse foreigners and prostitutes.” Don’t even get me started on housing in this country, that’s a whole different mess that is so huge you could dedicate an entire blog to just that problem alone.

    Edit: Your comment about Michelle Malkin is also an example of her right to free speech. She has a right to be an idiot and no one can take that away from her. Just so long as she doesn’t do anything to take rights away from another. She may make someone feel bad, but locking the door to your business (not home — that’s different) is discrimination,and there’s no two ways about it.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/CHESTERlikesSUBARU Chester_King

    The simple truth is Koichi was more likely to see racism during his vacation in Hawai’i (including physical violence) than the sum total of his stay in Japan. In this case, it’s asian and polynesian resentment towards white << gaijin >>, a.k.a. mainlanders.

    As for the Japanese version of anti-foreigner attitudes…. a total piece of cake in comparison. Which is a good thing.

  • St

    darintenb, you can’t just brush it all off as “free speech”. I gave you three prime examples of racism in the US
    -The confederate flag, one of the most common displays of overt racism
    -Hate groups, probably the most extreme form
    -The succes of people who believe interning entire groups of people is justifiable.

    Now ok from a legal-technical standpoint this may all fall under “freedom of speech”, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t cause for serious concern. In fact I find this casual, trivialized racism far more disconcerting than the occasional case, perhaps punishable in the US and other countries, of foreigners being barred from a certain establishment. I’m curious what you’d think if a good portion of Japanese in areas with a large foreign population suddenly started driving around with a flag of imperial Japan stuck to their car if you’d know they did it just to stick it in your face, like people do with the confederate flag. I doubt whether you wouldn’t find that racially offensive for 19 years.

  • darintenb

    >Now ok from a legal-technical standpoint this may all fall under “freedom of speech”…

    Exactly.

    I’m not saying those people aren’t stupid, in fact I’ve said just that every time, but they aren’t breaking any laws in America. America probably has the widest legal protections of free speech you’ll see, and probably the only western nation with no law against hate speech. Regardless these actions are all speech, not discrimination as nothing is being taken away from someone. These signs denying access to a business however are discrimination, and are illegal in any country advanced enough to have laws.

    >I’m curious what you’d think if a good portion of Japanese in areas with a large foreign population suddenly started driving around with a flag of imperial Japan stuck to their car…

    Clearly you’ve never been to Japan and thus have never seen the ‘speaker trucks’ or the large ‘black trucks’ that do just that. Again, these people are just as free to do that as I am free to call them idiots for doing so, because they are causing me no harm, hurting me in no way. However denying me access to someplace because of my race is indeed wrong.

    I’m sorry we are forced to repeat the same thing back and forth as I fear you are not actually reading my comment.

    I have said in every single comment that although such actions are the actions taken by idiots, they are protected by free speech, and they should be allowed to make it publicly known how terrible of an excuse for a human being their are. However, they are not discriminating against anyone in the legal sense of the word. Every time, you just give me more examples of people that do this, and every time I tell you the same thing.

    What we see in America is protected by free speech as it is purely speech with no action. What we see in Japan is not because it is action that is taken based solely on racial prejudices. And after all, the topic of discussion is Japan is it not? So you can give me all these examples of things that bother you in America, and I will point you back to my first post, item #1 where Japan needs to do what is right because Japan needs to become a just country, not just do the bare minimum to survive.

    I think you are misjudging me as someone who doesn’t know much about Japan, but I assure you you are wrong as I’m not some random English teacher but instead someone who has studied everything from East Asia Studies to Law, and now Design in Japanese universities not as some 1 year vacation exchange but as a legitimate student that say for the exact same entrance exams as Taro or Hanako.

    The underlying problem here in Japan is they do not have human rights, or the rights afforded to all human beings as law. In their ‘human rights’ section of the constitution, they have Japanese citizen rights, and as a non-japanese citizen, all rights afforded in the constitution need not apply. This is very different than from America for example, where human rights are the rights of a human.

    Technically, there is nothing legally wrong with even these Japanese Only businesses, and that is why Debito could not fight his case until after he took his Japanese citizenship. You could say that as I am brushing off racism as free speech in America because it’s legal, I must then do the same for discrimination in Japan because it’s legal here. However I do not do so because I think America’s laws are right, and Japans are not. Japan’s legal system is ancient, decrepit, and corrupt. It was already behind the times when it was first instated, and was built on deceit the second time around as well as the Japanese language constitution that was ratified by the Diet was systematically and deliberately untruthfully translated from the English original, and that is why these problems are here today.

    I think the US’s stance of freedom of speech is the most appropriate for todays modern world, because just as it unfortunately allows racists people to say racist things, it allows you and I to call them out while at the same time prevents anyone form taking publicly or privately afforded powers and then fueled by their racists misconceptions to act negatively towards another. Here in Japan however, there are no such limitations.

    Which is worse, Japan or America, is irrelevant. I shouldn’t have brought the comparison up however most everyone here is American and I felt it appropriate for a frame of reference. The issue here is Japan is not perfect, and even if Debito and others make the situation seem worse than it is, the bottom line is it is not perfect, that 1 such sign is too many. And the attitude of it could be worse, or it’s not that bad, just allows for things to remain anything less than perfect. I believe Japan should learn from the Lexus commercials in the states. The relentless pursuit of perfection. Instead however, Japan is currently in a state of doing the bare minimum and even then fighting and screaming the whole way along.

    Excuse my long rant, most of which has been just a rehash of what I have said in every other comment, but it seems as though I have to say it again in order for anyone to actually read it for once.

  • St

    darintenb there’s no need for you to assume that I didn’t read your posts carefully. Nor is there a need to bring up the argument of authority or be condescending towards people who study (or “vacation”, as you call it) in Japan for only one year.

    As for the black vans, I know about them. I’ve never been in Japan, but I can’t help but have the impression that they’re far less usual in Japan than people / cars / state buildings flying confederate flags are in the southern United States.

    But, back to the core of what we were arguing about. You claim that racism is less of a problem in the US because the ubiquitous racism I see in the large parts of the US is protected under the first amendment clause of the constitution, whereas the “no foreigners” signs that have been spotted on occasion in Japan is worse because it a kind of racism that affect someone very directly and was outlawed in the US in the 1960’s. I do not follow that rather legalistic line of reasoning though. Whether something is legally protected or not does not determine whether it is something that sensible people ought to be offended by and concerned about. You brush it off because of the strict dichotomy you make between “discrimination”, which you find outrageous, and “protected free speech”, about which you say “One someone uses their free speech to be racist, it doesn’t bother me.”. However, from a critical legal theory standpoint, this dichotomy is untenable. One has to acknowledge that racism is a structural feature of American society and that it comes in many forms. You can argue that denying someone entrance to your business because of the colour of their skin is worse that constitutionally protected hate speech. But you cannot argue that just because Japan has a couple of cases of punishable discrimination it has a bigger racism problem that America just because America’s ubiquitous racism falls within the borders of constitutionally protected speech.

  • darintenb

    >You claim that racism is less of a problem in the US because the ubiquitous racism I see in the large parts of the US is protected under the first amendment clause of the constitution, whereas the “no foreigners” signs that have been spotted on occasion in Japan is worse because it a kind of racism that affect someone very directly and was outlawed in the US in the 1960’s.

    Incorrect. The first line particularly.

    >You claim that racism is less of a problem in the US…

    No, I claim that the No Gaijin Allowed issue is not a non-issue, that it is indeed a very big issue. It is the exact same kind of issue as the you speak of racial discrimination in the south in the 50’s and 60’s.

    ‘Strict dichotomy’ is indeed something that I think is very important. You’re talking about racism. I’m talking about discrimination. I don’t care if someone is racist as long as they don’t take it to an action which is discrimination. (Okay, I don’t not care, they’re idiots, but i’m willing to deal with it because the day they get prosecuted for thought crimes is the day I get prosecuted too.)

    We’re talking two different issues here, Racism vs. Discrimination. Racism is a thought crime, discrimination is a crime of action with it’s basis on on the racially hearted thought crime. In America, one commits discrimination and they enter a world of hurt. In Japan, you get a slue of people defending.

    I agree with you that racism is bad, and it does exist in America. BUT I don’t care. I care about what hurts me. Some idiot in America driving around in a car that says kill all whities on the window is disturbing, but until he actually does it it’s just a thought crime, and he’s just a hick. Here in Japan, where I live, where I face this issue every single day, I care about not the guy in his truck with loud music and a big flag, I care about the guy who puts a sign up on his apartment that says he reserves the right to deny housing to foreigners and prostitution. Prostitution is illegal in Japan, and he puts being a foreigner in the same category with them. He reserves the right to deny a service to someone because of their race. That is discrimination, and that is a problem. And that is my ultimate point. Discrimination exists. Maybe it’s not as big of a problem as Debito makes it sound, but the issue in itself, no matter how small, is automatically huge.

    I agree with the things that you list as being ‘wrong’. They disgust me too. But I’m willing to accept them because blocking them would block me as well. I only request from you that you accept that I agree with you on that issue, but that is not where I’m taking issue. Can you agknowledge that I agree with you on those issues as somehting that is wrong, BUT, they are not the subject with which I am taking issue? That my issue is denying service to someone because of their race is wrong, and is inherently a HUGE issue even if it happens only once in a while.

    Or perhaps you are actually trying to say that some guy with a flag in his window is somehow more distractive to the human society than someone denying services to another because of their race? If that’s the case, then I’m afraid I have nothing more to day to you because that has become a fundamental core of my life, and so far your argument has done nothing to change my feelings on that.

    edit:
    >Nor is there a need to bring up the argument of authority or be condescending towards people who study (or “vacation”, as you call it) in Japan for only one year.

    Sorry, but authority is an issue in this case. Someone who comes on a 1 year vacation who does not speak fluent Japanese can not understand the situation. No matter how well read, how well educated someone is on Japan, if all of their information is 2nd hand translated to English, they ultimately understand nothing. Once Japanese is translated to English, the translators bias is put through, words are changed. Just translating it to English removes it’s from it’s original Japanese context, form, and structure, changing it’s meaning every so subtle, but that little bit is enough to void all benefit that would normally be gained from reading such materials. I don’t mean to sound like an ass when I list my ‘qualifications’, but the bottom line is in this situation, they are extremely relevant because of the translation issue.

  • http://www.tofugu.com Viet

    All you white people have it good! The Asians that aren’t Japanese have it worse apparently, although I haven’t experienced it personally.

    Apparently I have Japanese facial features, thus get mistaken a lot for being one. I remember on the last trip to Japan, a random Japanese individual approached me for directions and was speaking straight up Japanese. He gave me a retarded stare when I responded in my broken Japanese, but it did change once he understood I was a foreigner. I should be the one asking for directions! And then there was Koichi’s highschool home teacher who mistaken me for one of her ex-students… haha.

  • St

    Well, that’s roughly the answer I expected. You only see those instances of racism which have a very direct, very tangible causal connection to concrete negative effects for the person experiencing it as having to be criminalized. And I’m inclined to agree with that.

    But then you totally ignore that huuuuuuge social cost of constitutionally protected hate speech. After a lot of prodding I could get you to admit that you actually do care a little, but certainly not too much. What do you think has the most serious negative consequences for people as a social GROUP? Being barred from one or two public baths or restaurants and having a couple of jackasses driving around in a van spewing hatefull rants? Or having the media and entertainment industries portray you as a criminal (if you’re African-American), a rapist (if you’re African-American), a bandito (if you’re hisanic), an illegal alien (if you’re hispanic), an eternal other (if you’re Asian-American) a terrorist (if you’re Arab-American)…?

    In conclusion, it doesn’t attest to good judgement to focus all your anger and outrage on one form of illegal discrimination and downplay all the rest just because it is covered by the first amendment.

  • darintenb

    So all of that means that ‘no gaijin’ signs are not a problem and i should smile and say “thank you for being better than america”?
    No.
    We need to strive to be the undisputed best at everything we do at all times, otherwise we will be destined for terrible things. In any ranking, there is #1, and dead last. Nothing in between. On the topic of racism and discrimination in Japan, the same is true. Japan is not the worst place in the world. But it’s far from perfect; and it’s not even the best. That means there is room to grow, and any complaint is a legitimate complaint that needs to be addressed fully without hiding behind the straw-man that is an example of something worse.
    I want absolute perfection. I want the examples of racism in america you’ve given to go away, but I don’t see why they have anything to do with the topic of discrimination in Japan other then to diminishing the wrong that goes on here because there’s wrong in other parts of the world.
    Go back and read my first post. My argument was not that Japan is worse than America, that was your interpretation of my argument. My argument that saying it’s worse in America is a complete cop-out that says, “go ahead japan, as long as your not the worst in the world it’s okay”.
    There will always be examples of worse things in the world. Hell, we may as well just round up all the Arabs and throw them in jail right? They can’t be trusted right? Besides, Hitler took it one step further; he didn’t just put a group of people in jail, he killed them too, so as long as we don’t go that far, everything’s okay.

    Now I know very well that’s not what you’re intending to mean, and it’s disgusting that I would even imply that is what you mean. You’re taking the same approach as I am, just on the other end. Not a necessary wrong, but an acceptable wrong. For me, in order to protect my rights, I will deal with racist thinking people but I wont stand to have my rights taken away. As I see it, you think the occasional rights of some foreigner in Japan being taken away just aren’t a major problem that takes priority when we look at other wrongs in the world. However, you’re giving Japan a ‘get out of jail free’ card just because America isn’t perfect, and I think that’s just bad.

    btw
    >Or having the media and entertainment industries portray you as a criminal (if you’re African-American), a rapist (if you’re African-American), a bandito (if you’re hisanic), an illegal alien (if you’re hispanic), an eternal other (if you’re Asian-American) a terrorist (if you’re Arab-American)…?

    All of that happens in Japan too just exactly as you’ve explained it. Some of it is probably imported from America, but it still goes on here. It may not happen as much because there just aren’t that many foreigners, but whenever there is anything at all relates to a foreigner, the media, the people go out of their way to make a note of it and push the stereotype as far as possible. My favorite was a bank robbery not long ago. The description of the criminal? He looked like a foreigner. No further description, not even what color foreigner, just a foreigner. After all, anyone robbing a bank looks like a foreigner, that’s what they do.

  • darintenb

    That is very true. There is indeed a ‘white priviledge’ in Japan. As much as it bothers me when people see me and speak broken English even though I have better Japanese then they do, imagine a Cambodian person who maybe doesn’t speak English or Japanese in Japan and the language barriers they face.

    They also face even more racial prejudice and discrimination than I do as a white person as they are, as the mayor of tokyo calls them, third rate humans. It’s disgusting. And because that’s their place in society, they are powerless to change it.

    BUT, any sort of progress made by Debito or anyone else who levees their ‘white privilege’ in this country are not only afforded to other people like him. My make-believe Cambodian person also gain the same rights that Debito or anyone else fought for.

    And again, just because someone has it worse doesn’t mean that someone else can’t have it bad and complain too does it?

  • St

    “My argument was not that Japan is worse than America, that was your interpretation of my argument.”

    Well let’s see

    “I certainly don’t see more than one racially offensive sign a month living in Tokyo for the past 6 years, but I’ve never seen one in America for the 19 years before that. (Being white it’s possible I missed some, but you can rest assured the mainstream media would have attacked such a sign like Debito does here and that hasn’t happened to the best of my knowledge.) In this case, I don’t think Japan is even doing the bare minimum. 1 sign is already too many.”

    I did interpret this as you implying that you think that Japan has a bigger racism problem than Japan, given that you say it performs worse with regard to the one form of racism that you can genuinely become upset about, namely illegal discrimination. If there a different way to interpret this, I’m sorry for not having notice.

    As for human rights, that is, in my opinion, just a load of Anglo-American mid 20th-century hooey. I’m much more inclined to agree with the People’s Republic of China that how a country organizes it’s political system and how it treats it’s people is part of it’s internal affairs. Of course countries that violate said human rights can be quite unsavoury places, and we should our distance from them. There are of course extreme cases like genocide, but generally we should not try to impose our values and ideas on other countries. After all these universalistic human rights discourses contain no guarantee that they will not be abused in the interests of imperialism. But that’s of course a completely different discussion.

  • darintenb

    >I did interpret this as you implying that you think that Japan has a bigger racism problem than Japan, given that you say it performs worse with regard to the one form of racism that you can genuinely become upset about,

    You have said before that I’m talking semantics, but ignore that very fact as you read. I’m saying that Japan has a bigger Discrimination problem than America, and that just being a racist is one’s right. Just like it’s one’s right to pierce a chain form their bellybutton to their nose. While it’s their right, I think both are truly messed up.

    >As for human rights, that is, in my opinion, just a load of Anglo-American mid 20th-century hooey. I’m much more inclined to agree with the People’s Republic of China that how a country organizes it’s political system and how it treats it’s people is part of it’s internal affairs. Of course countries that violate said human rights can be quite unsavoury places, and we should our distance from them. There are of course extreme cases like genocide, but generally we should not try to impose our values and ideas on other countries. After all these universalistic human rights discourses contain no guarantee that they will not be abused in the interests of imperialism. But that’s of course a completely different discussion.

    I think that last statement makes it very clear that you and I will not see eye-to-eye on very much as China is beyond any doubt in my mind the most purest form of evil on this earth that no one has the balls to stand up against. (see further here: http://blog.darin-tenbruggencate.com/2008/07/11… )

    Also, just for the record, I think you need to understand that I don’t appreciate the racism here, and that I think it leads to the discrimination that I truly take issue with, but as long as it stops at racist thoughts and doesn’t overflow into discriminating actions i think we should be hands off. (see: http://blog.darin-tenbruggencate.com/2008/07/23… )

    However again, after your China remark, it’s clear that we will not agree on much of anything. I’m not going to say you’re wrong, but that I disagree eight million percent, and I would like to end this conversation (at least in the context of this tiny input box — driving me bonkers) for now because there will be no mutual understanding between us as we have just very very different outlooks on the world and life.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    look how skiiiinnny this discussion is getting from all the replying.

    both of you have interesting points. Anything that has to do with any amendment or any law has a lot of vagueness to it, thus the conflicting of opinions. I love it!

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    Truth that. Luckily I’m hapa, and can barely speak pidgeon (thanks to my family all coming from and living in Hawaii) so they only think I’m a somewhat-awkward local.

    Anyways, that’s why tourists shouldn’t go to Wainai

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    Can’t ignore that even though other Asians in Japan have it the hardest, it is getting better for them. I’m not saying it should have to get better for them – they should be treated like everyone else – but the younger generation (folks around my age) are much more accepting than those older than them. Koreans are the closest (probably because they are the most similar, and can assimilate the best), and even those from the Philippines are gaining more respect (doing a lot of nursing…kind of like in the US, actually). Really, it’s not much different than other countries. When a big immigration of a race starts, there is resentment and fear from the country that is being immigrated. You see that everywhere. Then slowly there is acceptance, and then normality. Sadly, it just takes time, and especially for Japan, which is already Xenophobic to begin with.

  • http://www.tofugu.com Viet

    Of course, anyone can complain regardless of their circumstances :) No one suggested otherwise. I was just merely pointing out that Caucasians aren’t the only one dealing with these kind of issues.

  • darintenb

    >I’m not saying it should have to get better for them – they should be treated like everyone else – but the younger generation (folks around my age) are much more accepting than those older than them.
    >>they should be treated like everyone else
    Sadly, equality does not exist in the Japanese society. Anyone who asks for equal treatment is assumed to be the weaker party, because if they were stronger, they would beat their chest and make it known. Remnants of the class system during the samurai days.
    >>but the younger generation…
    However once they get out of college and get into the work places, that changes. And even still, the older generation set the bar sooooo low, that even people like these bafoons are an improvement. http://sankei.jp.msn.com/life/education/080716/

    It’s so ironic with Japan though because around the turn of the century she sent so many of her citizens to Brazil to work as near slave labor on farms to earn money for the poorly run Japanese economy. They seem to have no problem bitching about the hardships people faced in 1908 and implement the same limitations on people in Japan in 2008. (This is the 100th year anniversary of the great migration, or as I call it, the great slave trade as the Brazilian government paid the Japanese government for those laborers, and the Japanese gov. willingly sent them.)

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    You’re right, though, Non-Japanese Asians have it hardest. I studied the zainichi koreans in Japan a lot in school…but that’s nothing compared to what the South-East Asians have to deal with. Luckily you have a round Japanese head :P

  • St

    “All you white people have it good!”

    Ah really? I for one am a 7 foot 6 golden-haired honkey of pure Swedish ancestry, with DNA directly extracted from the melting water of the purest nordic glaciers and eyes as blue as those of the Dune Fremen. And don’t get me started about my musculature… So what does that translate into in terms of social status?

  • http://www.tofugu.com Viet

    Well… If you are a Fremen, then you are above everyone in terms of social status :)

    Love the series btw.

  • Dezzie

    I just got back yesterday from Japan, and I have to say that Japanese people are really quite kind to foreigners. Everyone, from my host family, to my homeroom class in school, was really kind towards me. I tried my best to embrace Japanese culture and fit in, so I guess they really appreciated that. Sure, I stood out a whole lot becasue I was foreign, but it didn’t seem to matter at all.

    I’m still in highschool, so I’m curious as to what it’s like living alone and trying to make a living as a foreigner in Japan. Probably then will one supossedly experience the sort of discrimination, etc. that people are reporting. Even so, I think the majority of Japanese people (of my generation anyway) are very open towards foreigners.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/CHESTERlikesSUBARU Chester_King

    Forget Oahu…. that island is full of crazy people…..

    Luckily, I’m moving to Volcano Village on Big Island to work on a few tea farms. Half the farmers seem to be from the San Francisco Bay Area so I can talk “PEET’S” with them.

    Aloha -

  • http://www.vietamins.com Viet

    Ignore this.. meant to be a reply to St.

  • boomer892

    Wow! I just want to say how much I love this site. I’ve accidentally come across Koichi’s videos and linked me to this site.

    I’ve been wondering about this subject for awhile now, and was going to email Koichi about it and now its here.

    First off, I’ve been to Japan only a couple of times. But it was only for business, so I spent most of the day in a meeting and then back to my hotel to sleep. I didn’t have much time to really explore, because I didn’t know any Japanese at that time. And time was a factor, I only had a couple of days to wrap up the meetings and head back home.

    But recently, I’ve been thinking about moving to Japan or Korea. Depending on the information that I get. And I’m hoping that some of the community here would be able to share their experiences and shed some light on this topic for me.

    I (28 years old) am Chinese born in Singapore moved to Canada when I was 8, and I’m currently taking Japanese classes to get me going for now. And plan to move to Japan within the next year or so, I just want to get prepared for it within that year. After watching that ‘Japanese are not impressed” video it kind of scared me, not being accepted and all. I’ve been through that when I was a kid, but now Canada has changed so much and its better.

    I love the language, culture, sport (I practice kendo), and people. What better way to learn more about a culture than to immerse yourself in it. But when I get there, I need to kick start my career again; I’m a marketing manager here for a print media company. And I was just looking into some U.S or Canadian companies that are existing there to be part or even to an extreme of working for a Japanese company. Since I’m taking a big leap, that myth about Japanese people alienating foreigners true?

    Don’t take this the wrong way when I ask; but do they treat ‘Asian’ looking foreigners different from ‘Non Asian’ foreigners? A little better a little worse? Or just the same? I heard many different takes on it, and I need to shed a little more light on this.

    Anyone who has experience please feel free to share.

    Thanks,

  • emiko

    i just finished my japanese class yesterday! but i’m going to keep on studying! yay! i’m so excited!

    Okay, I’m not hurt by the whole ‘No Gaijin’ thing THAT much. It isn’t like it is only Americans. And it seems almost a little polite to me, because the people are being honest that they wouldn’t be able to help a foreign speaker. But that is just my opiniong ^^

  • http://tofugu.com Tofugu_Erin

    I’m still in Hawaii, which is why I have no motivation to do anything internet-related, haha. Ah well. I’ll start writing posts again soon, I think.

  • http://www.sevententotokyo.com billywest

    It’s true, you don’t find much outright racism here in Japan. I’ve never seen a ‘No Gaijin’ sign except for on the internet. But, I have been refused service in every area I’ve lived in at least once, including Tokyo. Actually, the worst time was here in Tokyo. But, I think the reason it was such a slap in the face each time was because I rarely do face such discrimination that when it rears its ugly head, it catches me off guard.
    Overall, I love living here in Japan and don’t want to live in any other city in the world right now but Tokyo. I feel comfortable and am treated with respect most of the time. When someone tries to put me down and discriminate against me, I stand up for myself, just like I would anywhere. Things are calm and safe here and it’s one of the least risky places to come to if you’re going to pull up stakes in your own home country and live abroad.

    I know I’m rambling, but allow me this small anecdote:
    The first time I was asked to leave an establishment in Japan was actually kind of funny. It was in Kanazawa and the place was an adult club. They had a poker table so that’s why my friend and I were interested. Anyway, the bouncer-type guy does the arm-cross thing and says “Japanese only.” I said, “Don’t worry, we speak Japanese.” The guy gets pissed off and shouts, “Nipponjin tte itterun darou!” Luckily, one of the oyaji-types gets up from the poker table and says in very good English, “You don’t want to be here if nobody wants you here do you? Go down the street. They want you there.”
    Anyway, we saw his logic and left that joint. That was the first time I’d ever met any over-30 yakuza-types. A little intimidating, to say the least.

  • michal

    Can someone here translate the text on the sign, please? I think it might clear some things up. Thx in advance.

  • http://www.narrativedisorder.com DBR

    Regarding your “a few bad apples” comment.
    I have been living in Japan for a month at the beginning of a 2 yr stint and so, of course, my husband and I are being given all sorts of advice both solicited and un- .Of course much of the advice is useful but I find that there are things here and there mostly to do with what I would consider honour (yes, we westerners have that concept too – shock horror!) that I am starting to wonder exactly what kind of foreigners have actually come to Japan!

    The most common example of this is the advice that “Promises are very important to the Japanese.” Now I haven’t not done anything I have said I will do so I know it’s not personal but just general advice and when it’s given it is most definitely a warning. Each time I question the person, trying to get exactly what it is they mean by this advice. Do you mean they take everything you say AS a promise? I ask – which is my (and most people I know) general philosophy anyway but I know it’s not everyone’s. No, they answer, they just mean nothing more than “keep your promises.” Well… err… DUH. Exactly where so they get the idea that promises are not important to foreigners? It’s what the word “promise” means – it is so important that we have a word for it!
    What kind of dishonourable shits have these people had to deal with so often that so many people give this particular piece of advice LOL?

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    I think the Black Ships ruined our trust as a people :P

    Well, maybe not…

  • http://youtube.com/profile?user=chokudori クリス

    Whenever I head back, my pidgeon always comes out. It even comes on over the phone when I’m talking to family.

    Tourist should definitely stay in town like Waikiki, because I would hate to see them get punked out for some cash from some 7 foot, 12 year old sole [pronounced 'so-lei']… reliving my childhood memories.

  • http://youtube.com/profile?user=chokudori クリス

    Full of homeless and ice-up locals, but I wouldn’t consider them crazy… unless you drive down Merchant and Hotel street, haha.

  • http://youtube.com/profile?user=chokudori クリス

    Well at least you were mistaken for Japanese, which I think is pretty cool [I'm probably only saying this because I'm really into Japanese culture] I’m Filipino, but apparently I give off the impression that I’m Hispanic [No offense to anyone Hispanic]. I was with a customer and she was ordering in Spanish, now my Spanish isn’t good, but what led her on to believe I was really Hispanic was that I understood what she said and replied back in the same language, which just made it worse on me. Blah blah woof woof… maybe my eyes just don’t look right.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/CHESTERlikesSUBARU Chester_King

    Hmmmm…..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHyUHnjjCGo&feat

    Not as impressive as world history has taught us………..

    oh, well…..

  • http://youtube.com/profile?user=chokudori クリス

    I can relate, but then again my family in Hawaii are so out of touch with technology, I wouldn’t be able to get onto the net if I wanted. I think the most modern thing they use is a karaoke machine and cell phones.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    lol

  • http://youtube.com/profile?user=chokudori クリス

    I wonder if that spray comes in different scents。 納豆 might be a good scent to drive away those 外人。

    ”外人がありません?”
    ”え〜そなのかんけね!”

  • yza

    Awigatou Koichi!

  • yza

    Etou…. XD LOLzzzzz

    Hontoni Omoshiroi – the commercial.

    XD LOLzz

    Thankiez so much again Koichi!

    mata

  • yza

    Gomenasai! I mean the video not the commercial. But if it is a real commercial then it is. ahehe

    Still, Gomen.

  • Zaywex

    Actually, I have. -_=;; However, I think that was just one woman.
    A cousin and I were traveling via 新幹線 (is that the right kanji?) and we were sitting next to a middle aged woman. She started up a conversation w/ my cousin (who is half 日本人) and eventually she asked about me. So I turned around and introduced myself (you know, よろしくおねがいします, etc) but she sort of ignored me….
    So I spent the rest of the trip looking out the window. ;_;
    Maybe I had a really weird accent…?

  • レイさん

    Haha Awesome Sign

  • http://Wafukari.intothenew.net Wafukari

    That is mainly because us Americans will sue for anything. Besides getting sued by everyone and their mother, in America, those signs are against the law, AND this doesn’t really stop those signs from being put up. I have seen my fair share of anti black and Asian signs all over the states. I disagree with these signs and usually will refuse service to places that have them, but they still exist. I, also, don’t think that people are saying that “because everyone else does it, then Japan is too”. I think they mean don’t give more criticism to Japan for having those signs when there are plenty of places in the world that do the same if not worse.

    My opinion is slightly skewed. I have never been to Japan, though I will be moving there in a months time, but I will get to see first hand what it is like. I will be living in Saitama and will probably visit Tokyo very frequently.

    Just a few things I wanted to say. I don’t mean to cause an argument. So please lets not escalate this to an argument. Not saying you were going to, just wanted to say it before it happened. Okay, I’m talking too much now.

    See you guys

  • St

    Yes that’s right, 新幹線: new trunk line. Which is of course far more convenient than the 古枝弯.

  • kevinnwhat

    those videos are hilarious hhaha

  • wei wei

    wow ok thanks that really clears the air about that in japan

  • http://google.com Allison

    Racism happens, whether there is a sign or not. A couple I know live in downtown Nagoya and tried to go to a restaurant within walking distance of their apartment. They were greeted with a Japanese woman crossing her arms, giving them the universal sign for no entry. And on the train, the seat beside you is the last seat to fill up, if they even choose to sit beside you. One time I entered onto a train, two high school girls looked at me, looked at each other then walked out of the train to enter another car down.

    It’s a very odd kind of racism here though. People will bend over backwards to help you, IF you ask. They are very nice and extremely polite, to your face. Otherwise they will go to lengths to avoid you, even crossing to the other side of the street.

  • http://www.tofugu.com Viet

    Approve


    Viet Hoang

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    lol, beat you to it, apparently.

  • http://www.tofugu.com Viet

    Yea.. but it isn’t showing up on the main website?

  • http://www.tofugu.com Viet

    Yeah… But I deleted your approval!

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    I see it, though disqus has been a bit weird today

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    oh schnap.
    apparently we didn’t do something right with the email reply
    thing…anyways, going to sleep, nightynight

  • http://google.com Allison

    Racism happens, whether there is a sign or not. A couple I know live in downtown Nagoya and tried to go to a restaurant within walking distance of their apartment. They were greeted with a Japanese woman crossing her arms, giving them the universal sign for no entry. And on the train, the seat beside you is the last seat to fill up, if they even choose to sit beside you. One time I entered onto a train, two high school girls looked at me, looked at each other then walked out of the train to enter another car down.

    It’s a very odd kind of racism here though. People will bend over backwards to help you, IF you ask. They are very nice and extremely polite, to your face. Otherwise they will go to lengths to avoid you, even crossing to the other side of the street.

  • Ryan

    I lived in Okinawa for 18 months. There was some existance of this anti-gaijin thing, but in all honesty it was deserved. I dont know how many times I saw drunk-ass airman or marines smashing a planter box in the road or punching off car sideview mirrors. Americans are genarally overbearing and rude and loud. And thats when were sober. If I were Japanese, I wouldnt give any gaijin the benifit of the doubt.

  • http://www.tofugu.com Viet

    Sadly… Okinawans get the short end of the stick. Why have full blooded Japanese deal with the US military when they can toss the problem to the minority group?

    Gaijin treatment may be bad, but the Japanese likes to treat their own subgroups a lot worse. Read up on the burakumin. They are sort of the Japanese version of the Indian untouchables.

  • Ryan

    I recently went on a trip to Japan for three weeks, and much of it was spent with university students (all around twenty years old). Our entire group received nothing but love and respect from the students we came across. We even had a couple weeboos in our group (it was a school-run trip), and even they were at least respected. We got so close to the students by the end of the trip (alcohol certainly helped admittedly) that almost everyone was crying on the day we left.

    During a conversation I had with one of the university students, and he told me flat out that racial intolerance is something that makes his blood boil, and that he never understood it. Keep in mind, that I’m a 6′ lanky white guy with big, curly brown hair and blue eyes.

    The group that we hung out with in Japan was almost entirely made up of people who had been to America the previous year on a reverse of the trip we were on (our schools are sister schools or something). They said that they received so much kindness from the American students, that they were paying it forward to us. Anyway, when people talk about all the Japanese being xenophobic, they obviously experienced Japan in a completely different way than I did (but of course, I got plenty of stares just walking down the street, but that is understandable). I made many very close friends during my time in Japan.

  • Menrui

    I got ricked rolled

  • Alexis

    I am a white american teenage girl who is really tall and has light-ish hair and really light eyes and i am going to Japan, I will be visiting a few big cities and a few small ones, including Tokyo. How will people treat me?

  • http://tofugu.com Tofugu_Erin

    To be honest, probably really well. Just be polite and don’t make a scene, and I’m sure you’ll be well-received. The fact that you’re a tall America/European-looking girl won’t hurt, either.

  • Eringu

    When my school visited Japan most people were very nice. We visited major cities so we saw a lot of gaijin. Every one was very nice though, only real issue was to try to get people to speak any Japanese to us.

    One kinda funny thing was that people didn’t like to be near us on trains. At one point we got on a packed train, yet still had room because they scrunched towards each other so they wouldn’t touch us. People were generally ok with me sitting near them, but my friend who is fourth Japanese had the issue that people would get up and find a new bench when he sat down.

  • Rohi

    You are right! My grandma was passing Japan on the way to America to visit me through Delta Airlines. She was openly discriminated against, and didn’t recieve any food during her flight. She is South Asian/Tamil. Sometimes I worry about going to Japan. I know everyone isn’t like that, but still. I hope I can have a good experience in Japan!

  • http://www.myspace.com/stuka82 Stuka

    Japanese men with thumb sized dicks must be threatened by the gaijins because gaijins can get more women than them, LOL

  • http://izeyhec.blogspot.com/ Izeyhec

    i wasnt aware that this problem was still around i mean i guess that is culture for you some times things just stay hard wired in to places

  • Daemon

    You know, most of the reports I’ve heard of “no gaijin” signs and the like were connected with mizu shoubai…

    I’ve also heard that it is at least technically illegal in Japan for a business to ban gaijin as a class.

  • http://www.myspace.com/heatlessangel heartlessangel

    ok so I know wat this article was about but I got so side tracked with Adam and Joe’s beautiful Tokyo song lol so funny わかりました

  • Harlekini

    In Sweden, we’re used to taking our shoes off, but perhaps not in a dressing room. Made a fool of myself…

  • bobi

    That's nothing. I ride on train carts…alone.

  • Vicky

    Everyone who I have spoken to who have been to Japan have been treated very well. My friend did have one experience though. She used a public bath and when she got in, the two Japanese women who were already in got out. I think that this was more a worried 'oh my god, I don't speak English, and they probably don't speak Japanese, how do we handle this awkward situation…I know! We will just leave!' I don't think it was meant as an act of racism, and probably many of these signs are misunderstood. I went to Germany a few years ago and on the whole, the German locals were very nice and accomodating, however once they learned that I spoke a little German and mainly English, they made their hasty excuses and left rather than face an awkward situation.

    Can't condone racism in any form, but I do think that alot is to do with a breakdown in communications and that scare monger rumours are frightening people into either not visiting other countries or clouding their judgement so that they go with an air of 'no one's gonna get away with being racist to me!' Which would instantly put anyone's back up!

    I'll get down off my soapbox now ;)

  • Ana_chan

    Heh, I really like the picture (has to be because I'm a baka gaijin who gets excited whenever she understands a few kana–sigh) and the videos are funny too. Thanks!

    I don't have any experience as far as the “no gaijin” signs are concerned, though I am as worried as everybody else since I'll soon go to Japan for the first time. “Gaijin” stand out no matter what. It doesn't mean we have to act like great brutes to live up to the image of the Ultimate Rude Foreigner. I mean, learning the language and having respect for the culture is the least one can do. Besides, isn't it the same in every country, Asian or not, when one is a foreigner? Of course, it's not as easy as it sounds, but still. It doesn't hurt to try, right?

  • Ana_chan

    To Fujiko,

    Um. Warning: I don't know how to express my thoughts without sounding like a fool so I apologize in advance.

    I really wanted to thank you for your comment about having some sort of nihonjin no tamashii inside. I'm not conceited enough to think that I was the only one feeling this sort of irrational connection to the Japanese culture, but heck if it's an easy thing to admit. I have to say, I don't really believe in reincarnation, it's more like, I *want* to believe in it (but I'm feeling too disillusioned about religious beliefs and human kind in general, sorry) but in any case, I wonder why I've always had these weird urges to bow and apologize all the time; I'm fascinated by the Japanese language, when learning it, I feel like I'm finally reuniting with something long lost, listening to a song I had somehow forgotten and always wished to remember. I really long to be part of this culture (again?) even though I will never really be, because I was born a “gaijin”. The only explanation I've come up with so far is, I must be a closet masochist. Mh, I think Freud would have a field day with this.

    Anyway, thank you for being nice to us people who usually won't dare speak up our mind because others laugh at us.

    And now I feel incredibly embarrassed.

    Don't hesitate to tell me if I completely misunderstood your feelings and thoughts. I'll just go and bury myself in shame somewhere.

  • http://www.myspace.com/kiyoshi Kiyoshi

    Having lived in Japan for both parts of high school and college, I can say that racism is getting worse, if anything.

    I speak Japanese and even have a Japanese name (adopted), and think it's more of the “closet” racism that's a problem than these outright racist practices of barring foreigners from some establishments.

    You can speak Japanese, have a work visa, a Japanese name, etc… but if you don't look Japanese, it seems Japan is only fun for a visit for some people.

    Unless you like being the monkey boy token friend, that is…

    Situations like these improve as the older, racist-ier generation dies out.

  • missy

    Never encountered the signs. I did have a bit of a problem with the whole “talk about them because we assume they don't speak Japanese” thing. Not the “oh it's a gaijin” thing (you kinda get used to that) but the “why the hell is /that/ here” thing. I think I just remember those the most clearly, though. They certainly weren't in the majority.

    The looks on their faces when you tell them you understood what they just said makes it a little better though. :3

  • Digger

    (I know this is an old post, but I can't help but respond.)

    You're writing a comment against discrimination, so hopefully you'll concede that some southerners (many of us, in fact) *do* have class. Many of us strongly reject racism and show an active interest in other cultures. Just so ya' know….

  • Natasha

    Do south asians really have it worse? I thought they'd be treated better than chinese or koreans!! 0__o

  • Stella

    I find it ironic that they're saying “good-bye” to Gaijin….. in english. I mean, really. “bai bai Gaijin”?? Wouldn't it be more appropriate to say “sayonara”?

    Either way, it's funny :D

  • http://femalenudity.blogspot.com female

    Thanks,very interesting and useful post

  • Ariel

    What do Japanese people think about Americans that are partly Japanese?
    I am 25% Japanese, and my sisters and my half Japanese mother and uncle are thinking about going to Japan. If there is any racism towards Americans, do you think we would be as shunned if we are part Japanese?

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    Half/Part Japanese is the new sexy. You’ll be fine :)

  • Sullz

    Well that was awkward.

    A few months back I was reading this blog while my Japanese exchange student was watching TV in my room. I played the first video, and after it was done she got up and forced me to play it again… D: After watching it she was a bit of a jerk to me the whole time she was here. I'm guessing this is an unspoken issue in Japan, or maybe her family is stricter than others. Shrug.

  • http://tofugu.com Tofugu_Erin

    Ah, that's no fun.

    Sorry about that!

  • IMHO

    Hi, just discovered this site and although this is a fairly old post, it's such a hot topic for me and my fellow foreign English teachers here in Japan I couldn't help but add my two cents. I definitely agree that racism and discrimination against gaijin in Japan are by no means as bad as they could be. For a country that has been so isolated, and so abruptly and relatively recently faced with all these issues of internationalization, multiculturalism, ethnic diversity etc. that colonized countries like the US have been dealing with for centuries, I think the Japanese have behaved pretty well. Also, with such a tiny proportion of the population being non-Japanese, any bad behaviour on a foreigner's part naturally has far stronger impact on the gaijin image as a whole: and if every foreigner you've ever met has trashed your onsen it's human nature to expect the next foreigner you meet to do the same.
    Racism definitely exists, though, and I think the number one problem is that too much of the populace doesn't really acknowledge it exists or is even fully AWARE of the problem when it occurs in its subtler forms. I can't count how many times I've heard a Japanese person mention with pride how there's no racism in Japan, I suppose thinking of lynchings and genocide and ghettoes, as schoolkids pass me on the street giggling and whispering “gaijin go home” and I move into a tiny slum of an apartment because it's the only building in town that will rent to foreigners.
    Being ethnically Japanese is such a huge and absolutely core part of so many people's sense of identity, and divides them so irrevocably from non-Japanese, that naturally it's unusual to question it when a person is being treated differently because he or she isn't Japanese – they ARE different! This constant widespread sense of innate difference, combined with a strong national pride and, let's face it, a dislike of admitting shortcomings (Japan as a country doesn't exactly have the best track record when it comes to owning up to its mistakes), means that racial discrimination isn't really addressed as a problem until people like Debito stir up a big media fuss and force some kind of response from people. I have a huge respect for Japanese people and by living here I've met some of the most internationally-minded and tolerant people ever in my life. But I think what's missing in Japan at large, and that needs to get developed in order to avoid escalating troubles as the birth rate falls and immigrants increase, is more self-accountability instead of just accountability to the rest of the world. There doesn't seem to me to be enough discussion and education amongst JAPANESE people about what racism is, why it's bad, and how to combat it in their country – people seem largely happy to let business continue as usual, as 4th- and 5th-generation Korean immigrants remain feeling marginalized and ignored, other Asian foreigners are often treated as crime scapegoats by the media, and kids who have barely heard of the Holocaust kick and scream when they find themselves sitting next to me on the train (and are removed, unreprimanded, by smiling parents).
    Things are getting better, maybe, but until discrimination is more frequently identified and condemned by Japanese people themselves without foreign pressure, the prejudices that often hide under the politeness will continue to surface in more concrete ways.

  • andersmusician

    haha bye bye gaijin lol

  • Gabriela

    darinteb: I'm a Brazilian-'Japanese' lawyer in BR and got really interested in all your comments, especially concerning its legal aproach. Do you mind send me any information you might have about Japanese Legal System/Human Rights Issue? And what's about the Debito issue (is it the same person who wrote at JapanTimes an article about the gaijin thing?). Thanks. gabnaga@uol.com.br

  • http://www.englishclass.com.tw 英文家教

    Don't stop learning people. Just keep at it and you'll get it eventually.

  • DokEnkephalin

    “maybe you’d expect tons of “no gaijin” signs chained onto restaurant doors (so that those dirty gaijin can’t rip them off and steal them)”

    O hell yeah — I want to find one of these signs and steal it!

  • http://drama312.blogspot.com/ Jesi

    how was that like, living with a host family? going to school there and what not?
    im just curious, because i'm doing the same thing in a while…i just need to learn more japanese. ^^''.

  • http://drama312.blogspot.com/ Jesi

    wow, i'm glad someone brought up this topic.
    for a bit, i had worried if people over there (japan), may be really mean towards foreigners.
    that made me less encouraged to travel there for college.

    and that is true…there will be those odd people sticking out of the group making everyone else look bad.. >_>

  • http://www.comparevoipproviderrates.com/ VOIP

    It says roughly “this store is for people who LOVE fish. Even if you're Japanese but don't love fish we will ask you to leave”.

    I honestly don't know what to think about this one. They're making an assumption that a foreign person does not love fish as much as a Japanese one would. It's bizarre discrimination – but it's still discrimination if actually enforced.

  • Franzeska

    Frankly, I think about 90% of the whining you hear from English speakers about “racism” in Japan is really about the fact that a bunch of clueless WASP anime fans from the US go over there every year and discover what it's like to be a minority for the first time in their lives. Arguably, that's one of the benefits of living in a foreign country, but it can certainly be unpleasant and disconcerting, especially if you're not expecting it.

  • L.B

    That's what I believe. If a person is not used to even subtle forms of racism, i.e being a majority, going to a country where they are now the vast minority…

    I'm black. I'm so used to racism in so many forms, (at least the asians seem to be very subtle vs the americans who just straight up tell you they hate you and attack you, ) that whatever racism is in Japan, is most likely not going to faze me at all. I probably won't even notice.

  • Franzeska

    Yeah, definitely. A black guy I know said Japanese people asked him if he was a rapper all the time, but that's exactly the kind of dumbass thing white people in the US do too.

  • Dan-kun

    “This is the 100th year anniversary of the great migration, or as I call it, the great slave trade as the Brazilian government paid the Japanese government for those laborers, and the Japanese gov. willingly sent them.”

    As a fourth generation japanese-brazilian hapa, I have to say… it is absolutely true that the initial migrants were treated pretty much as slaves. But I wouldn't go so far as to call it all “The Great Slave Trade”, seeing as after the initial hardships, things began to go very well for japanese-brazilians, and now most of us are part the middle and upper class, I have never seen a japanese “mendigo” (beggar) in Brazil, ever, not once. Japanese-Brazilians have done pretty well in Brazilian society. So I'm glad it happened (after all, I'd never been born if it hadn't :P), and I feel very thankful to all those immigrants who survived so much and managed to build a future here.

  • Dan-kun

    “This is the 100th year anniversary of the great migration, or as I call it, the great slave trade as the Brazilian government paid the Japanese government for those laborers, and the Japanese gov. willingly sent them.”

    As a fourth generation japanese-brazilian hapa, I have to say… it is absolutely true that the initial migrants were treated pretty much as slaves. But I wouldn't go so far as to call it all “The Great Slave Trade”, seeing as after the initial hardships, things began to go very well for japanese-brazilians, and now most of us are part the middle and upper class, I have never seen a japanese “mendigo” (beggar) in Brazil, ever, not once. Japanese-Brazilians have done pretty well in Brazilian society. So I'm glad it happened (after all, I'd never been born if it hadn't :P), and I feel very thankful to all those immigrants who survived so much and managed to build a future here.

  • Dhiaa

    Such a powerful topic and I never really knew this had existed… I myself am Iraqi (Arab) born in the United Kingdom and have lived here for just over 19 years. I have had people think I am Italian or Mediterranean simply because I do not reflect the typical features of a Middle Eastern person. I do plan on going to Tokyo Japan for a holiday sometime soon perhaps with my mother as she takes great interest in far eastern cultures. I am sure that I will attract the typical gaijin attitude from some simply because I am not Japanese but I am not infact a westerner as they may perceive at first and I doubt they will notice that. Would I still be considered a typical westerner by the Japanese like some who have mentioned past experiences or not?

  • Dhiaa

    Such a powerful topic and I never really knew this had existed… I myself am Iraqi (Arab) born in the United Kingdom and have lived here for just over 19 years. I have had people think I am Italian or Mediterranean simply because I do not reflect the typical features of a Middle Eastern person. I do plan on going to Tokyo Japan for a holiday sometime soon perhaps with my mother as she takes great interest in far eastern cultures. I am sure that I will attract the typical gaijin attitude from some simply because I am not Japanese but I am not infact a westerner as they may perceive at first and I doubt they will notice that. Would I still be considered a typical westerner by the Japanese like some who have mentioned past experiences or not?

  • leiyayon

    Sorry for the random comment but I have lived in both Hawai'i and Jaoan for a considerable amount of time and there is definatly (in my cases) a much higher amount of tension between the Hawaiian natives and teh mainlanders and caucasians in general compared to Japan.

    I lived in Hawai'i at a young age for quite some time and was put in a private school in the fear that I would be rejected or even abused by the other children If I had been put into a public school. Now this isn't a statement on the Hawaiians at all and Im certainly not acusing anyone of anything yet I had gotten my fair share of dirty looks and rude comments from the residents despite being a resident myself for a number of years. Now I lived on the Big Island and it drastically differs from its sister islands yet mostly because of the tourism. I basically had a long-standing joke with natives and Japanese-Philapino-Ect ect. alike that they want you to “spend your money and go”, yet all in good humor.

    Now when I got older I had already been exposed to Japanese culture, seeing as many people of Japanese decent resided in the big island of Hawai'i and Ive had many friends, both american and japanese born, and I was finally ready to embark on my new japanese life. I had taken my time to learn the language as throughly as I could (though I admit, despite still having a very much up and running contact with my friend in Tokyo my japanese has gotten rusty, occupied with various other languages I had been learning) and took a plane to live in Japan with my close close friend.

    It really was shocking for me, not at all used to the huge citys so Tokyo came as a surprise. Their reactiosn even more so. Imediatly bombarrded with cameras and phones alike I got swarmed itn the streets for my unique hair (blonde) and eye (green) color and as soon as I escaped the crowded streets I rushed to the nearest pay-phone with a call to my friend in a very crude shout of: “Tasukete!”
    He had told me to next time…wear a hat. The culture was extremly different but thanks to livign in Hawai'i and having friends of Japanese decent, I had fit in quite nicely. There was, admitadly some animostity and when I was left alone for a few times I had gotten harrased by people but for them ost part everyone was extremely well-mannered!
    School, is a different story however and the students are not nearly as tolerent as their older counterparts and bulling did occur yet I was fortunantly a strong-willed child and found my place in the social standing and before I knew it, my excitinf Japanese Adventure had been over.

    And not once had I seen a sign that had “No Gaijin” printed boldly across it.

  • leiyayon

    Beautiful Imagery there~

  • http://hi.baidu.com/yishiym123 TwoBlue

    Perhaps the biggest tip is one of body language and mutual understanding. Being open and friendly will net similar responses. Acting with superiority and dominance (the so-called “gaijin smash”) will net distrust and cold feelings.

  • http://hi.baidu.com/yishiym123 TwoBlue

    Perhaps the biggest tip is one of body language and mutual understanding. Being open and friendly will net similar responses. Acting with superiority and dominance (the so-called “gaijin smash”) will net distrust and cold feelings.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jake-Murphy/1096551978 Jake Murphy

    So, question, what are Japanese people's view on Irish people? Please tell me they don't adore us like the Americans….
    Although we are quite cuddly….

  • Hekie

    You clearly don't understand anything about japanese brazilians ,so please don't say stupid things..

    * First : The brazilian government never paid anything to bring japanese workers.
    * Second:It was emperor's desire(or the government's desire)to send people overseas because of overpopulation and high levels of unemployment the country faced mainly because of the (1905)Nippo-russian war.
    *My grandfather (who was japanese) was a very proud person and he was very loyal to Japan. He would NEVER accept to be treated like a slave and had a very prosperous life in Brazil.
    *The japanese are the second most prosperous ethnic group in Brazil(1,600,000),just behind the jews(96,000.)
    *Many of the “dekasegi” go to Japan because the salaries are higher and the country is safe.
    *The western jew media is manipulated by the jew masters,and i think you should get facts straight.
    (Ps:I'm Sansei)

  • Thirdeye

    Michelle Malkin is known to be a right wing loony and she was widely denounced for her defense of internment.

  • Samuel welsh

    still  those shop keepers let japan down,they should learn english and remove those signs.

  • Dolphinwing

    I’ve never been to Japan before (planning to go this summer!) but there are many Japanese people who come to my town since there is an english school nearby. Several times I have tried to make friends with some of the Japanese people, I’ve only made one friend who still keeps in touch, everyone else just laughs at me like they’re somewhat impressed with my Japanese or they seem mildly afraid

  • Electricrailwaygod

    Somebody, PLEASE someone, I have this burning question that I can’t seem to get anyone to answer!  HAKUJIN  (白人) and HAFU (ハーフ) vs Gaikokujin (外国人).  I have met a Hakujins from Japan in New York once who indeed carried a Japanese passport (I almost got into a love relationship with him some time ago — until some other “gaijin” (American) stoled him away from me)!

    Really, how are hakujins, people born and raised in Japan, with full Japanese nationality who are basically caucasian treated uopn a daily basis?  And the same for “hafu” which is of course, from the English word “half”!  …Or for that matter a “hapa” a Hawaiian word now in a non-perjoritive sense means someone like me, who has Asian ancestry as well as non-Asian ancestry.  I am a Yonsei, but racially I am 95% hakujin!  (If one looks really close at me perhaps the %5 Japanese (especially of my eyes) can be seen.  So just where would WE (people like me) stand in Japan?  As Gaijin, or indeed as “hakujin”, or even “hafu”?

    I am going over there either towards the end of this year (2012) or during the summer months of 2013 when Fujisan is open for hiking to the summit.  Hopefully I won’t be called a “gaijin” but if I do, I am afraid that I might take it as an offence.  I am a Hakujin hapa, thus European born in  Switzerland, as well as from other European descent AND Japanese as well!

    非常に親切にありがとう!

  • snoho

    I feel a little silly replying to such an old post, but for the record I have seen more than one of these signs in bars and clubs in Nagoya. They do not mean that language is the problem. They mean they don’t want foreign customers. I was really shocked when I saw this, so I spoke to one of the bouncers about the sign (in Japanese) and it was made clear to me that foreign customers regardless of language ability were unwanted.

  • http://www.jlist.com Peter Payne

    I’ve never seen these signs and I’ve been here 21 years. Yes, once a video store told me they didn’t want to rent to me because another foreigner had stolen a bunch of videos the week before, but I calmly discussed things over with them and they were cool with it.

    Remember that Americans/other foreigners sometimes *want* to be victims. If you’re not a victim you’re nothing.

  • http://www.jlist.com Peter Payne

    When I went there, I met so many Okinawans happy to see me, because I speak fluent Japanese. The master of the restaurant would come out and shake my hang. It was very strange.

  • Sato Tatsuhiro

    First time I writing in regard to this issue. I am saddened to learn as a gay man that the largest population of gay bars on this planet 300 alone in “Ni Chou” (Shinjuku ni Choume) in Tokyo discriminate against fellows members of our LGBT communty based upon “non Japanese”. I do hope that upon my karmic return back to the land of my own ancestry that I shan’t ever be denied entry to a gay bar or any other venue I would probably wind up emotionally wounded!

    I am hakujin, predominately Caucasian as I have 87.5% European, Swiss, German, British, and Scandinavian as well. I also have that 12.5% Nihonjin as well. Thus from all accounts of the definition that I know of nikkei, I am such. I am planning to come back to my true homeland in one to two years time. I will (politely) try and stand up to any sort of racialism and challenge these few (thank goodness to what I understand to be very few) who would deny me entry being told that I am not Japanese enough to enter, that okay should I get a katana or a Nihontou (Samurai sword for those of you who not know) and slice myself in “seppuku” style one eighth of my body and throw the eighth in the club as being Japenese?
    Would their challenge be that I don’t have Japanese nationality, or is it purely racial, I simply do not know. I might be a “two deminsional gaijin” on paper, but my ancestry, kokoro (Heart) to tamashi (soul) says different. I am karmically, inter-incarnationally, and ancestrially Japanese despite being mostly hakujin and non-Japanese insofar as NATIONALITY in this life so far! Otherwise I am as Japanese as one can possibly get!

    I would be mortally emotionally wounded and in great pain if I were ever told that I could not enter a gay bar, onsen, otsen, restaurant, rent apaarto, or whatever that I was not “Japanese” enough to enter or take part!! It is already bad enough to be legally considered to be a “foreigner” or “gaikokujin” (外国人) in my own true homeland! I might even, if really bad enough, to driven to Aokigahara Forest (Jukai) near Fujisan and wind up doing Ji-satsu (suicide)! Truely I would. I am patriotic and would defend to the hilt if necessary for this country, as I even have cried in tears of my homesickness to return. to ever be told that I am an outsider would be absolutely tear my Heart and Soul apart thus being mortal to me!

  • Michael

    I think experiencing Japan for a short time is an entirely different experience than living here for an extended period. Especially if you only visit the cities, the countryside is a whole different world.