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Do Japanese treat Gaijin 2008/5/22 14:42
tourists different than Gaijin living in Japan?

My company, based in the US, has given me the option of relocating to London or Tokyo for a year or two. Coincidentally I vacationed in Japan (mostly Tokyo and Kyoto) with some friends this year and had an amazing time. Though I spoke limited Japanese everyone was was exceptionally nice and polite - almost too nice and polite.

I have some acquaintances whom have lived in Japan or who knew people who lived in Japan (primarily Tokyo area)who stated there is a lot of racism there - mainly involving the exclusion of foreigners from social circles and sometimes establishments. How easy would it be for a foreigners moving over there to make Japanese friends?

I am not naive and pretty well traveled, before traveling to Japan earlier this year I was already aware of Japanese only establishments, customs, social circles, etc..

however....with the hospitality and kindness I was shown while vacationing there makes me wonder....was it because I was a tourist and somehow everyone knew that that I was treated differently?

I've been to London several times and I know the integration will be easier and not as ''foreign'' as Japan however Tokyo seems more intriguing and I am all about adventure and the unexpected anyway...

FYI - I am a 30ish Caucasian male if that makes any difference.

by Clark  

I think you should take a chance 2008/5/22 20:37
I am from London and hate the place. If you like football or drinking, you might have fun.
You should definitely go to Japan. People are very friendly. If you have a problem, it might be with some drunk guy on the train. They usually don't have the courage to do anything, just mumble something to themselves.
I have heard much worse stories about young gangs in London.
I think your friends must be talking about hearsay. Those sort of clubs would be really expensive anyway.
Better start learning Japanese!
by BlondeGaijin rate this post as useful

not that bad 2008/5/22 21:13
The establishments with "No foreigners" signs are pretty few and far between and are mostly hostess bars- would you really want to visit?

I don't know what kind of social circles foreigners might be excluded from- a WW2 veterans club perhaps?

I have lived in Japan 10 years and have lots of Japanese friends. Many Japanese will go out of their way to make friends and associate with foreigners, and the more Japanese you learn the wider the range of Japanese people you will be able to communicate with.

The main area where you are likely to experience racism directly is in finding an apartment to rent- some landlords, possibly a majority, will not rent to foreigners because they think it's a hassle. There are plenty of other accommodation options though so it isn't really too much to worry about.
by Sira rate this post as useful

Go to Japan 2008/5/22 21:55
Go to Japan!!!!
I wish I had you chance, my friend lives and works in Japan for 2 years now and has many Japanese friends, he loves it there. He hasn't had any problems with racism etc. From the few times I visited the Japanese people are some of the nicest people I have met and very welcoming and he feels the same.
I live in London and if I could I would move to Tokyo in an instant, much friendlier than the people here.
by loli rate this post as useful

Need not worry! 2008/5/23 01:44
I'm one of the Japanese living in Kanagawa Prefecture, next to Tokyo.
I think most of Japanese people are afraid if they can't speak collect English when they meet foreigners, becauase they aren't used to communicate with foreigners in English.
If you or your acquaintances feel some Japanese are reluctant to be friendly to foreigners, it's just because of it, not racism.
My pleasure if my answer meets your want.
by Autumngarden rate this post as useful

Yes! 2008/5/23 04:15
I don't think you have to worry about racism in Japan.... My husband is an American and we visit Japan for a couple of weeks every year, but he loves Japan! Of course, he is aware of people looking at him always, but he knows that it's only because of their curiosity. Not so many people can speak English (although they know a lot of words, they are too shy to speak...), but they treat foreigners well. Especially, if you can speak a little bit of Japanese, they'll be so excited to talk to you. It's not like I speak English in the US but nobody thinks it's amazing... (It's not fair, isn't it?)

You have to be careful, though. Some White guys are in Japan to fish Japanese girls and people are aware of ''Furyo Gaijin.'' But if you respect Japanese people and culture, you'll enjoy staying there and have nothing to worry about. My friends who used to live there really had fun.

Hope this helps.
by IS rate this post as useful

By all means.. go 2008/5/23 09:01
But be advised the Japanese observe several levels of friendliness based on circumstances. If you are in a social circumstance it is one thing, if you are in business or worse competition you might expect some curitious but very straightforward no bs dialog. Lets say friendly but formitable.
by Peter rate this post as useful

nightmare 2008/5/24 10:05
you well find that type of exclusion-ism in a more traditional japanese company. eventhough my company wants to go global and keen on having exchange of corporate culture (i work for their american subsidiary, but relocate here for 1yr) but they hardly give about what i bring to the company. yes, they're nice. they'll throw big parties at every opportunity on my behalf, go out of their ways to help me with my work, but i made the mistake of questioning them about all the inefficient and unnecessary rules (sometimes comically stupid rules) i was met with much consternation and dark faces. my work basketball team welcomed me to the team with a big party and everyone so happy to play ball with an american. last week we welcomed a few new employees to the team fully decked out in the company's uniform. ok, so i was never offered uniform, no big deal, but then i was not invited to a game against another team. hmm..i guess i'll have to be content being on the practice squad and i don't suck!
by kansai slave rate this post as useful

my experience 2008/5/24 11:32
my experience won't necessarily be your experience, and my experience is based on teaching in Japanese high schools and living here for a while....
the Japanese with whom I work are very friendly and polite, yes, and I have actually made a couple of friends - true friends, I think - but on the whole, I think there is a feeling among the Japanese people with whom I work that I am just 'passing through' and I won't ever be able to be one of them. It's so hard to describe what makes me feel that way, but kind of like the previous poster's experience with the basketball uniform...small things that seem thoughtless, failures to include me in social events or even professional meetings - not ALL the time, just...sometimes. I think there are assumptions made about my likes/dislikes/interests based on me being American, that guide peoples' attitudes towards me, without ever asking me about them.
I just think it's different to live here. When I go off for the weekend to a ryokan or tourist venue, I find friendliness and curiosity in spades. 'Oh! you speak Japanese so well!' when all I've done is ask the price of something.
I don't know. I've been here five years and I feel I'll never really fit in.
by Spendthrift rate this post as useful

Interesting 2008/5/24 14:56
This is extremely interesting. The last two posters are in line with what my aquintances have told me about living/working in Japan but the previous posers had more positive experiences.

If anyone else would like to chime in it would be very much appreciated.

The company I work for is an American based global company so that might make a difference in regards to the corporate setting.

Thanks for all the replies.

by Clark rate this post as useful

Sorry 2008/5/24 14:57
I meant "posters" not posers.

by clark rate this post as useful

same deal with me 2008/5/24 16:45
I have a postdoc at the University of Tokyo, and I also teach a class, and I don't know if it's just something due to the academic world, but the administrative staff treats me like complete shit. It's like the other two posters have said, it's subtle. Like maybe not answering your email promptly, etc. Of course, you can't directly talk to someone either, (And ask about inefficient rules?! Ha!) because no one engages you one on one. Professors and students are fine though. I also agree that no one likes to talk to the 'english speaking person' because they are embarrassed; one of the students actually told me that. Like you two posters above me, I have the feeling I'll always be second class, but I am really only 'passing through' so I just roll with it. I found out that if no one will tell me what I need to know, then I just do what the hell ever I think is right, and no one really questions me.
by Bob rate this post as useful

Some opinions is interesting to me 2008/5/25 02:55
Hello Clark and people,

I've read your opinions with interest.

Yes, I agree with you.
Japanese may stare at you everywhere in spite it's not a good way,
may treat you just like "Passer-by",
and may be strict to people "not obey Japanese rules", etc.
It's true in some point, although it's very ashamed.

I think the reasons are:
Most of us aren't used to communicate with foreigners in English so much, still now.
You know, our country is archpelago, not so many foreigners come and go like other countries.
Our poor English ability is due to it, I think.
(You can see the level as reading my English!)
Surely we study English for many years, but in real life, we don't use English actually so often.
In the first place, we don't have so many chances to communicate with forigners in our daily lives.
Probably most of japanese are confused how they treat foreigners or communicate with them.

I think some are due to our personality.
Japanese are so afraid to make mistakes, especially in the public places.
And Japanese value "being in line with other people and the rules" so much.
Standing out is not welcomed in our society.
I don't know if it's good personality or not.
Because the personality is considered as "virtue" here.
We regard it as "modesty".
Once I start taliking our personality, the story will be long one.
And my English ability isn't enough to tell what I want to do.


Considering all things, most of Japanese are basically kind.
Maybe not so friendly at first, but basically people don't dislike to welcome and treat people, although they are foreigners.

As one of Japanese, I'd like Clark to try to visit Japan and feel our country by yourself.
by Autumngarden rate this post as useful

COURAGE!! 2008/5/25 06:31
Clark read carefully, GO FOR IT !!! Is better to go, try, succeed and when you had enough just come home, five years later you will be proud that you had adventures, stories and many friends, dont worry about racism , blacks, hispanics and asian deal with this in america and is no big deal to be honest in a year I who am hispanic deal with a racist situation maybe twice a year but the other 363 days I am very happy here in america.

So Clark, this weeken is memorial day, so on Teusday I want you to go to your Bosses office and tell them that you WILL take the Japan job offer, Do it for yourself, it will be a small step in your life.

And to everyone else that keep saying discouraging comments and advices. STOP IT with the jealousy and encourage Clark with positive attitude, I dont want to read any more, "but,but, but, no, no.bad, bad"
by ericgn rate this post as useful

strangers in Paradise 2008/5/25 06:33
I have been living in Canada for over 30 years and most of my friends are immigrants from around the world. The "native Caucasians" friends I have are people who have lived or at least extensively travelled abroad. Even after all these years we 'immigrants" aren't truly accepted by many of the Caucasian natives who have never been outside their country (except for the USA). Do they resent how much we have changed their culture in so many ways?. My Canadian born friends from "visible minorities" whose families came to Canada generations ago do get asked "where do you come from?" This is definitely worse for them than for me and other immigrants. BUT THINGS ARE MUCH BETTER NOW.My first year I was asked by job interviewers if Europeans lived in real houses,had real schools etc. One of my bosses, born in England, told me she was even asked to learn real English! This doesn' happen anymore..Discrimination and racism etc. are found ALL OVER THE WORLD. In the late 1950s the government promoted both my parents to an important job in a small town 100 km from the big town where they were from. A few people in that town actually stopped them on the street to tell them that they weren't welcome..at the same time some neighbours, farmers who looked scary and tough--even the women--turned out to be the nicest, most helpful people they ever met. Some Japanese, like too many people around the world, have a fear of anything and anyone different. It has nothing to do with Japan, with us foreigners. It is obviously harder for someone who live permanently in a new country than for a tourist to face discrimination or ignorance, especially when the person doing it is educated..All the same my life is much more interesting in my country of choice than in my birth one and I hope that it is or will be the same for those of you living permanently in Japan. For what's is worth my mate isn't from my birth country but from Japan. ONE LAST THING when I go back to my birth country local people think that I am a foreigner who is extremely fluent in their language..and in fact I no longer feel totally at home there!
by Red Frog rate this post as useful

re: autumngarden 2008/5/25 15:01
"Standing out is not welcomed in our society. I don't know if it's good personality or not."

your ambivalent is very revealing and sums up the differences of the two cultures very well.

in the US, individualism or standing out, reigns supreme as a characteristic. the word "outstanding" is often given as an ultimate praise for performing above and beyond the your peers. most american strived to be a standout.

in japan, standing out are only seen with negative connotation, mainly that it's boastful and disruptive. and in a status conscious work environment this can lead to some serious losing of face.

i came here knowing this dichotomy well, and tried to assimilate to them and find a common ground, but so far i find it difficult to adjust because they won't even attempt to budge.

by kansai slave rate this post as useful

treat others as 2008/5/25 15:54
Standing out is not welcomed in our society This is not unique to Japan, this is also found in all the countries around the world that are much older than the USA. Using the law of average this is therefore a normal attitude and the USA culture of Me, ME is not normal (meaning not average) and does rub many people the wrong way, even tough many Americans are actually pleasant people.
by Sensei 2 rate this post as useful

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