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How much will I stick out in Japan? 2018/2/1 13:46
I've heard that as a foreigner in Japan many people stare at you, or school children might even ask to take pictures with "the cool foreigner". I'm about 6ft, super white,have wavy brown hair and blue eyes, which I imagine isn't too common lol. Has anyone had first hand experience with this? Are you treated differently because of your "foreigner status"?
by DanJpan  

Re: How much will I stick out in Japan? 2018/2/1 14:36
Not in a big city - there are lots of foreigners from all over the world visiting Japan. They have seen them all.

by MZR (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How much will I stick out in Japan? 2018/2/1 15:13
In major cities such as Osaka and Tokyo, you will be just another one of the millions of western tourists which visit each year.

For extremely rural towns with no tourist attractions away from public transport, you might be given a quick second look but not much more.
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: How much will I stick out in Japan? 2018/2/1 15:40
Agree with previous posters.

When I first was in Japan in 1995 I had an entire elementary school staring at me and shrieking ggaijin, gaijinh when I went to register at the local office for galiensh(that was how we were officially called back then). And that was in Saitama. So not a totally rural place.
Now over 20 years later I have travelled Japan intensely going to far flung places where foreigners are seldom going and only had people interested in a normal way in me (and actually more interested in my brompton than in me as it looks more alien than me now).

Me = female Caucasian with light hair
Bicycle = brompton
Me & bicycle =

Enjoy your trip to Japan!
by LikeBike (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: How much will I stick out in Japan? 2018/2/1 16:16
Awesome thanks for the replies, apparently my thoughts were exaggerated ( I prefer to blend in so that's for the best lol). Also @LikeBike Wow I've never seen a brompton up until now, but now that I have I can see why it might draw attention,very cool looking bike.
by DanJpan rate this post as useful

Re: How much will I stick out in Japan? 2018/2/1 16:27
The best way to think about it is the following way....

You sometimes see men dressed in female cosplay outfits on the train and many of the locals would not even give it a second look. Do note this is quite rare but I wanted to give you a general idea....
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: How much will I stick out in Japan? 2018/2/2 02:21
I'd say it depends on where as well, sometimes being foreign just gets people to try to be more friendly towards you. I've had people try to chat with me in Zao onsen and Osorezan because they just don't see as many foreigners by themselves in the onsen. I think the most attention I've ever seen paid to a foreigner was in Kakunodate, where a bus load of Chinese tourists practically mobbed my African-American friend and seemed to think she was more interesting than the sakura. This was in '09, and it did get old, we wanted to take our own pictures.

Unlike what everyone is saying, sometimes even in larger cities foreigners still will get more notice. Last Summer, I was in Japan with my daughter and she got extra attention. She's now 7, fair skinned with dirty blond hair. She's also outgoing and friendly. At Tokyo Disney a few people wanted pictures of her and even asked for her autograph. She was in costume one day, but it happened even when she wasn't. She thought this was terrific. In Kyoto, one of the young female receptionists at our hotel made sure her friend who also worked in the hotel came out to see my daughter when we checked out and she got some extra attention in Takayama when we ran into a film crew. We also ran into a Cosplay event in Ikeubkuro, and some of the Cosplayers wanted pictures with her. She got extra attention in USJ in '15 as well.

I suspect it's because foreign children with just one parent are rarer to see and make us look more approachable than a family of 3 or 4 or even larger.
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: How much will I stick out in Japan? 2018/2/2 04:02
I stick out like a sore thumb. I'm 6'0" but very heavy set, caucasian and always wearing shorts and/or short sleeve polo shirts. In Japan, short sleeves aren't an all-season thing, so I do look like a tourist. I don't care. I dress comfortably for me and as long as I don't offend anyone, I'm fine.

Yes, location is a big factor. I was at Okayama Station just last October and at the very end of the platform was a group of elementary school second-graders out there for their school initiation trip on the Shinkansen. I walked towards them as I was very curious and when I got close, some of the children yelled, "gaijin!" to which I responded, "hai, gaikokujin desu." When they heard me say that, they started jumping for joy and laughing. I was invited to board the Kodama service train with them although I wasn't allowed to photograph them. The teachers let me show them photos of my visit to another elementary school in nearby Onomichi and the kids were glued to my iPad. They allowed me to sit with them and one girl wrapped her arms around my massive arms and rested her head on my shoulder and wouldn't let go. The initiation trip is only a one-stop trip to the next station where they alight. They all lined up again at the platform and waved goodbye to me as the train rolled away. It was definitely worth the extra 45 minutes to Hiroshima that I had to spend on the train versus the Nozomi service.

Even in Onomichi, people look but are always friendly and say, "hello". Onomichi is famous for a cycling path nearby and many people use it, but don't stay in town much. When I go to shops and they ask me why I'm there, I always mention the school I go to annually and after showing them photos of my visits, they suddenly point to some of them and say,"oh, my son is in the same grade as this boy" or "my daughter is friends with this kid!" and they're excited to tell me. I'm sure they're a little surprised I visited the school.

I've been to Japan on 10 separate occasions and have traveled from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Otaru in Hokkaido and many places in between. I don't know much Japanese but I can get by on most occasions with a smile and an online translator to get my point across. I will always stick out because I don't look like a Japanese person. And that doesn't matter. Kids will look at me and say, "herrow". Some will play "touch" (offer their hand as in a 'high five') and they'll dare each other to say something. I had a group of Jr. High School students waiting for the tram across from the Atomic Bomb Dome and one of them said, "ice cream". I repeated it to them back and they said it again, so I decided to playfully mess with them a little and say, "Ice cream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream" and that must have blown their minds, because they said, "you are so coooool!" and started taking photos with me with their phones.

As long as you as comfortable with yourself and don't mind a little attention, you'll be fine. In most instances, people won't even acknowledge you unless you say something to them. That is especially true in the major cities and tourist spots. In the small towns, like Minamisanriku, where I was stopped by the police, or Kesennuma where they wondered if I had gotten lost, people will perhaps pay more attention to a foreigner. At the school I visit, the second graders stared at me closely when I knelt next to them for a photo. When asked why, the teacher told me that most of the kids hadn't seen blue eyes before and were curious.

Things have definitely changed from the first time I went to Japan in 1987. Back then, even the high school kids were very shy and giggled at the sound of me speaking in Japanese. And that was a town next to the airbase I was working at. Don't worry about sticking out and embrace the culture, food, and especially the people there....they're great!
by John B digs Japan rate this post as useful

John B 2018/2/3 13:23
John B, I never knew you were so entertaining. I read every word and you make Santa Claus look like nothing!
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: How much will I stick out in Japan? 2018/2/4 05:18
Uco, thank you (I think) for your comment, lol! Funny you mentioned Santa.... I am very seriously thinking of dressing up like him when I visit the by-then 3rd graders at that famous school in!
by John B digs Japan rate this post as useful

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