Life in Japan

Sad and Surprising Facts About Foreigners Born in Japan

As you all know I keep ranting about the life of (mainly Western) foreigners here in Japan and how they’re treated in my “A German Alien in Japan” series.

When you are a non-Asian foreigner in Japan it’s very likely that Japanese people will stare at you. You’ll get compliments for your great Japanese skills after a mere “arigatou” (thank you) and you might even be treated like a superstar!

You’ll probably hear questions like “Where are you from?” or “When will you go back home?” – even though you consider Japan as your (new) home. You might feel like an outsider more often than not.

Life as a foreigner in Japan can be hard sometimes. You’ll probably feel lonely and isolated. You are “the alien” that will never be accepted as a part of Japan. Most likely you’re seen as a “temporary visitor” who will eventually leave again.

This is hard enough to deal with for most of us. Some manage better than others, but it is – and always will be – a problem foreigners in Japan have to face!

But what about people who were born in Japan by parents with no “Japanese blood”? How do foreigners born in Japan feel?

 

Foreigners born in Japan are not Japanese

According to the Japanese law you receive citizenship not by location of birth (jus soli), but by “the blood” (jus sanguinis) that is running through your veins. Thus, foreigners born in Japan are not Japanese citizens. As a consequence they cannot vote, for example.

This might sound weird to most of us. I suppose that the majority of my readers come from countries where you receive citizenship by “location of birth”.

If both of your parents are foreign, you are not a citizen of Japan, even if you were born there. If one of your parents is Japanese you can get Japanese citizenship through the “right of blood”.

However, there’s hope for foreigners born in Japan. It is possible to obtain Japanese citizenship as a foreigner. Even you and me can get it! It’s called “naturalization“. This is a bit complicated and it would go too far to explain the details. If you’re interested, you can read more about it here.

There are a few disadvantages if you want to become a Japanese citizen, though. One of the biggest is that you have to abandon your other citizenship.

Despite the disadvantages there are a few foreign-born Japanese people (日本国籍取得者, nihon kokuseki shutokusha), people who obtained the Japanese citizenship through naturalization. Probably the most well-known person to the English-speaking blogger world is Debito Arudou.

 

Being a foreigner born in Japan

To be honest I never thought about this much in my early years in Japan, especially not during the so-called “honeymoon phase”.
At some point we had two “half” kids (children with a Japanese and a non-Japanese parent) at my school. They surely looked different and it was the first time I realized that they might have just as many problems as most of us foreigners here in Japan.

It wasn’t until I met a woman (a former co-worker) who was big, blonde and blue-eyed, that I realized what it means to be a “White Japanese” (白人系日本人, hakujinkei nihonjin). Apparently she had no Japanese blood running through her veins, yet she was born and raised in Japan.
Her parents (both American) moved to Japan before she was born. She speaks English and Japanese fluently. Judging by her looks NOBODY would think she’s Japanese.

I’ve told you how I feel about being treated as an outsider almost every single day here in Japan – and compared to her I might be an outsider. Can you imagine how she must feel listening to all the stupid questions about when she’s going back home or how great her Japanese is and how well she can use chopsticks?

Luckily she’s a very cheerful and humorous person and has learned to deal with it. After all she married a non-Japanese guy and has “non-Japanese” kids now who were also born and raised in Japan. It can’t be so bad. Yet I think Japan still has a lot to work on!
Foreigners born in Japan

Sometimes when Japanese people have the typical small talk with me I like to experiment a bit:

Japanese person: “Oh, where are you from?”
(Explanation: Literally it’s more like “from where did you come today”. It’s the standard question locals ask tourists, also Japanese tourists who would usually answer from which prefecture or city they come.)

Zooming Japan: “From XY Prefecture, XY City – which is near XY City. Do you know it?”

Japanese person: “Uhm …. no, I meant, where did you live before that? smilie

Zooming Japan: “Oh, I see. I used to live in XY Prefecture for 4 years before moving to XY Prefecture … smilie

Japanese person: “Uhm … I mean, where were you BORN??!!” smilie

Zooming Japan: “What do you mean?”
(More often than not I tell them at that point that I’m originally from Germany which leads to a stereotype rant about Germany.)

Japanese person: “You’re clearly not Japanese. Oh, are you maybe a half? I mean where were you born? Are your parents French?”

Zooming Japan: “No, I was born here in Japan.”
(I’m lying just to see how they react – knowing that there ARE “White Japanese”.)

Japanese person: “Oh, I see. Your Japanese is really good. When did you come to Japan?”

Zooming Japan:smilie Like I said I was born and raised in Japan. I went to a Japanese elementary school and …”

Japanese person: “So, when did you come back to Japan?”

Zooming Japan: “I never left Japan …”

Japanese person: “When will you leave Japan?”

Zooming Japan: “…………..”

Japanese person: “Your Japanese is really good!”

Zooming Japan: “………….”

Well, not all the conversations are exactly like that, but I guess you get the point.
A lot of Japanese seem to be unable to imagine that a foreign person was born and raised in Japan. A foreigner will never be Japanese in their eyes. They don’t know how to deal with that kind of situation. I’ve seen most of the Japanese people I’ve “experimented” with speechless.

 

Besides conversations like the one above there are so many situations that will remind you of your “non-Japaneseness”.

For example, you’re required to carry some kind of ID (passport, resident card etc.) as a non-citizen of Japan.
[Until recently (July 2012) there was no “resident card” for foreigners, but something called “Alien Registration Card”.]
The police can ask you to show your ARC (Alien Registration Card) or passport at any time and you have to provide it. Japanese people don’t have to do that, of course. They can just use their driver’s license or whatever. (*This has changed with the new system and the ARC being gone. )
But how will the police know if you’re Japanese or not? Judging by your looks?

Maybe you can see how complicated life can be as a foreigner in Japan – and all the more for foreigners born in Japan.

 

Interview: How’s life as a “White Japanese” in Japan?

I only know from my former co-worker how “White Japanese” people might feel. But how about all the others?
Here’s an awesome video featuring interviews with “White Japanese” expressing how they felt growing up in Japan:

 

Japan needs to change

Japan is an island. It has been isolated for a very long time. Even nowadays there are only 1-2% foreigners living in Japan and the majority of those are of Asian descent. That’s why you – as a non-Asian foreigner – will stick out – even in our modern times and even in big cities like Tokyo and Osaka!

Of course, there’s usually no aggressive violent behavior against foreigners here in Japan, so I think we’re still better off than most foreigners in other countries. However, I think Japan needs to “grow up”, to broaden their horizon and to accept the fact that times are changing – something Japan isn’t very good at.

 

What do you think?

Does Japan need to change?
Or is it good that Japan stays the way it is with mostly only “true Japanese” people living here?
Do you think it’s equally difficult for “foreigners” born in other countries?
Are you a foreigner born in Japan or do you know anybody like that? What’s your experience? How do you feel about it?

83 Comments

  • I really can relate to this article however in a different setting.

    i am persian by blood but was born and raised in plymouth, England. In Plymouth there are only mainly white british citizens and few ethnic minorities causing some people to have rather unwelcoming attitudes towards others of different nationality. My skin colour is white unlike most persians however my surname sticks out like a sore thumb, which leads to many people asking stupid questions that are really awkward such as is english your second language, were you born in Iran and did you move to England. Not every person in the world with foreign blood is born in their country.

    I grew up embracing both persian and little english culture. This caused me to not exactly know some of the habits that English people had. A good example of this is the views of alcohol consumption. This causes some people to make fun out of me at school.

    One thing for sure is that this occurs everywhere in the world, its a issue that will take long to perish.

    • Jasmin,
      I’m sorry to hear you’re treated that way. :(
      It makes me sad, but I agree that it occurs everywhere in the world.

      I haven’t experienced this myself (my friends told me about it), but in Switzerland German people aren’t treated very nicely. Of course, they won’t know you’re not Swiss until you open your mouth and clearly show that you can’t speak proper Swiss German. I would have never expected that in a country where at least a part shares the same language, culture and landscape that could happen. But it does. :(

      The thing, however, that is so extreme here in Japan is that you don’t even have to open your mouth. They don’t need to know your name. They will judge you at first sight.
      I suppose this happens in any country with a rather homogenous population. I heard it can be just as extreme in China or India.

  • Hey

    I just came across your blog and I agree on all your points. I also look very different from than the Japanese so it catches lot of attention as typical gaijin ( foreigner in Japan) here..Though Japan is a nice and polite peoples country but sometimes they act very weird to the foreigner. The same conversation every japanese people will have with the gaijin in start where are you? ohh your Japanese is so good even if you just say Thank you and the most disgusting things are ohh your face is so small , your legs are so long I envy you..japanese people have so short legs blah blah…( i mean it is good to have compliments for looking good but com`on every time you check out the physical appearance of gaijin is disgusting and annoying in certain culture it is rude to check our peoples physical appearance it is not because of the conservative things but it is about the peoples appearance is should not be judged in public )

    they surely cannot accept the thing that the foreigner without any Asian feature can be a Japapanese..it is just out of their horizon… I think it will take them another century to digest the multicultural intergration.
    and regarding the citizenship they are really close minded as without Japanese blood you cannot get the citizenship this is awful…and weird.. Japan really needs to Grow up if they want to be more international country as their economy really needs foreigners now so I think Japan grow up before your economy goes into Dolddrum.

    • Japan is good in ignoring things. Even their own aborigines, the Ainu, have long not been accepted as such.
      In the mind of some Japanese people they are better than other Aisans. They are superior.
      They also fail to admit their sins in past wars.

      There are a lot of things that should change.

      And many Japanese people don’t mean any harm when they tell you that you have a small head or a long nose. They just don’t know it’s NOT a compliment in many other countries.
      They surely don’t think it annoys us.

  • I was born in Japan and still speak the language. When \I lived in Japan I use to carry a Gaijin Toroku(Foreign Residence Card) it states what year, month and day and place of birth
    and re-apply every year. But, if I want to become a citizen of Japan, I would have take test.

    Also, there is another way to get citizen of Japan is to get your mother’s surname or marry to a
    Japanese wife and to get her maiden name.

    So what is wrong for a foreigner who speaks Japanese and he and she respect the Japanese culture Now, I live in Canada and they think we foreigners with blond hair and blue eyes or any colour who speaks Japanese is nothing wrong.

    If foreigners speaks Japanese perfectly and I think Japanese should speak English perfectly
    as well. So, try to get along with anyone.

    • Hello, Frederico!~
      Thanks a lot for your comment.
      It’s good to hear that there are some options for those born in Japan to become true citizens of Japan if they want to.
      I suppose you meant not the surename of the mother, but of the Japanese parent, right? If the father is Japanese, it would be the father’s surename, I suppose. Though in most cases kids have their father’s surename anyways.

      Well said. Everybody should get along with each other and certainly there shouldn’t be any discrimination based on races.

  • Hi,

    I have been in japan for sometime now. Somedays, it seems its ok, other times I hate it. Its a sort of schzoid exisitance I guess. I dont agree with the generalization that Japan is like any other country when it has to do with racism or xenophobia problems. The problems in Japan are unique because Japan is a country of uniqueness, and they want to keep it that way. Just look at the recent TPP issue, and how Japan is once again playing childish to get its way (its way or no way) and the whaling issue. The Japanese said they would play along, only latter to ignore the ruling. There is a rule of law, like any other country, in Japan, but when it comes to foriegners, it depends on the situation (situational ethics) If a Japanese hits you by car and drives away, well perhaps he didnt see you, (happened to me) but you do the same….expect the rule of law to be applied. Apply for a job, and speak in clearly understandable Japanese, only to be answered in English “Im sorry, we only hire Japanese ” Take this up with the labor office, and get the bewildering reply of “Im sorry, nothing we can do” even though the law clearly prohibits discrimination.
    I never get starred at in any other country, and while those countries (ex. SG or HK) may have racist problems, they dont have the concept of soto/uchi or group harmony collectiveness. This unique but dated social behavior is what keeps the foriengers out or at a distance, while all others are accepted, within groups. Its a clever way of keeping Japan for the Japanese. I must tell you I hear gaikoukujin or gaijin just about everyday I go out. The whole concept of being a Japanese is being different from the rest of the world. Cars, animals, machines, language, if it isnt Japanese, its gaikouku. It can drive you nuts.

    • Hi Grand!
      Thanks so much for your comment. I totally understand how you feel.
      I have days when I don’t like certain things about life in Japan as well.

      I agree with what you said about the unique / extreme concept of “soto / uchi” here in Japan.
      There are other countries where racism, discrimination and staring exists. Probably almost everywhere in the world. But the way it’s “carried out” is completely different in Japan.
      The concept is so strong that you might hear Japanese people say in e.g. Italy: “Look there are so many gaikokujin!”
      They don’t realize that it’s them who is the “outsider” now.

  • I kind of want to laugh, not by much but at least a little. I haven’t read the whole thing because I’ve tired right now but i saw at least how you say you often get ask “where you are from”. I have to say I find it slightly funny as I’m a forth generation Australian and if I had to guess, I’d say I’m pretty sure I look Australian too. You know light white skin, soft brown hair and greyish-green eyes. Nothing special, but I have been asked so often by strangers “Where are you from?”. That I have made a game of it. It really just amuses me. I could be anywhere, from a friends house, a place i go to regularly, walking on the street with friends, or on one occasion at my brothers home. Anyway, I always laugh and ask them, “Where do you think I’m from?” and you wouldn’t believe the places people have guessed.

    America, Canada, New Zealand, England, Scotland, Ireland, French, German, South African, Russian, and on one occasion half South African and half Korean because apparently my eyes looked slanted. XD All because I apparently have some sort of came-and-go accent, that I cannot hear. I think it just because I had a lot of speech therapy as a child. There night have been Spanish once too, but I really can’t remember. I know that I have a Malaysia/Turkish friend that I have know since she was 14 and I 15 but because of her small size, I have had people thin that she is my little sister and even my daughter and I’m only 24! (and the first tie that happened i was 16! XD) I also have a friend who is Spanish and people think he my brother! So what does that say? XD Truly, it make me laugh.

    I guess my point is that, you not alone in being… misjudged? Though I guess I can understand how it could be annoying. But it also how you take it and treat it that would make it more annoying to you. And really is it worth… no, are they worth your time to be angry over? Is the other party angry or possibly having a bad day because of it. Not likely. Basically, they are not worth your anger and in the end, you are the only one possibly having a bad day over it.

    At least those are my thought on the little things. As I said at the start, I haven’t read these posts the whole way through as I am tired. But the little things, “Where are you from?, Where were you born?” they caught my eye and I just wanted to say your not alone.

    • Oh, whenever I was on vacation in Europe people would guess where I’m from as well. Often I ended up being Spanish or Italian, but surely not German. *g*
      I don’t mind that at all. It’s normal when you’re visiting somewhere – and clearly don’t speak the language (or dialect) fluently.

      What I don’t like is the fact that many Japanese people ASSUME you are American without confirming first. They assume you can speak English just because you don’t look Asian.
      And I also don’t like the fact that they assume you weren’t born in Japan just because your face is not Asian / Japanese – ALTHOUGH you speak the language fluently.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Zaidee, and greetings to Australia! ^^

  • In a lot of countries you can get citizenship, but socially speaking, you are still an outsider. Sometimes that citizenship is just a piece of paper that no one sees or cares about.

    In the USA for example, an ” American” is usually seen as “someone born here” and a “foreigner” or “immigrant” is someone not born here. Regardless of what paper they have.

    Even if you become naturalized, you are only American for various official purposes, not for social purposes. People will always ask you” Where you from originally?” and once they find out you were not born in the US, they generally treat you differently. Sometimes with curiousity, sometimes with hostility. And if you protest and say you are not a foreigner, the answer goes- I mean foreigner- not born here!”

    Also, no way people will see you as American if you have a foreign accent no matter what some paper somewhere says.

    My friends and I came to the US as immigrants and still, long after we are citizens, many people treat us as outsiders. That affects life in all respects- employment- they ask you ” where you from originally?”- bang, they don’t even want to see you, in dating- many girls just don’t want to date you- they like all American guys- read: born here.

    Plus the law states that you can never be President. Through no fault of your own. And when media talks about you, they’ll always put a tag on you, Mr so and so, German-born, Polsih-born, An immigrant, etc.

    Most countries in the Americas are like that. Mexican= born in Mexico. Brazilian= born in Brazil. Not born here= foreigner/immigrant. Not equal to the real thing.

    In East European countries, they are worse still. You can be born there for 7 generations but you are still not Polish, Russian, Czech, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, etc. The Holocaust is an example of that. All those Jews were born there and most had citizenship but it means nothing in social terms. And look at Yugoslavia- Albanians lived in Kosovo since what? 7th century? Well, they are Serbians then? Nope!

    In many countries they separate citizenship- which is a paper hidden somewhere in your document drawer that no one will ever see from ‘nationality”= which is what you are ethnically- your name and your face. And that is how they judge you.

    I bet some Germans are liberal and will consider some Ahmed Bul-bul-ogly a ” German”. Maybe in his face. But not most people.

    How much more would it be in Japan. But at least in Japan, the rules are clear.

    • What is a “real” American anyway? There are only very few native American, right?
      I think this is a VERY complicated topic in any multi-cultural country and if there are other countries nearby (like in Europe or America), it’s a completely different story compared to an isolated island like Japan.

      At least people need to confirm if you were born in e.g. America, they can’t tell just by looking at you. But in Japan they think they know just by looking at your face. That’s a huge difference. I know that Japan is not the only country where this is happening, but as I happen to live here, that’s what I dare to write about.

  • I don’t think Japan needs to change per se. To me the Japanese care for social harmony and hierarchy. There is a difference between multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. The Japanese are used to this social harmony and want to preserve it, that is why an outsider will always be an outsider – i.e an outsider disturbs the established harmony. This is not only the case in Japan however, in European countries, you of course can be seen as “German” or “French”, but only on paper. In daily life you are still regarded as a foreigner, and their schools are regarded as such too.

    • That’s absolutely right with one tiny difference, in Japan one thinks they can tell by looking at your face and judge if you’re an outsider or not. In many other countries, e.g. in Europe, one would have to ask you or look at some paperwork to confirm it. Once this first step is done, you might be treated like an outsider anywhere in the world, but this first step is what is important – and it hurts that people judge you after just looking at your “non-Japanese” face for a second.

  • I know! my dad is Swedish/Italian and my mum is Finnish/English, I was also born and raised in Japan. Fortunatly, I have dark brown hair and black eyes, so I learned if I walked around with my head down I wouldn’t get stared at too much. I still get people saying “Oh your Japanese is excellent!” Yeah… I know, maybe because I lived here since, forever. Ugh its very tiresome and Japan I love you but please change!

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your situation. My former co-worker was in the same boat as you, just that she’s blonde with blue eyes and quite big, so she sticks out like WOAH. But she takes it with a lot of humor. I guess, this is very difficult. I’m sure I couldn’t do it. If you get to hear it almost every single day, it’s not funny AT ALL.
      “Oh, you can eat with chopsticks?” “Wow, your Japanese is so good!”
      This is already very annoying for us who have lived in Japan for several years, but how much more annoying must it be for you? :( :( ….

  • I was just wondering, as a British person who studies Japanese, if a foreigner born in Japan has a Western name, what are the problems that arise with that? Translation for official documents/passports etc? Would they use romaji or the original name when international issues arose? Would this go for any foreigner with a name that was not compatible with Japanese?

    Sorry for pulling up this post, I have an old friend who may be moving to Japan for her boyfriend. Of course, she is a little worried about all of this! (her name is Samantha, obviously a bit more tricky to translate than my name!)

    • The Japanese nationality law is such that a foreigner wishing to naturalize as a Japanese citizen must adopt a “Japanese style” name. It’s actually as simple as making your name written out in katakana/hiragana/kanji the official version of your name. Or you can go as far as adopting a traditional Japanese name.

      A foreigner born in Japan is still not a Japanese citizen, so they aren’t required to have a “Japanese style” name, including having an official katakana version of their name. However, most Japanese government agencies strongly prefer (more like insist) that a foreigner’s name be spelled out in the Latin alphabet. If your legal name is officially in Cyrillic or Arabic, you may find that an insult, but it’s likely you’ll find that constrain similar in other parts of the world outside your language zone.

      tl;dr it’s not a problem.

    • If you are a foreigner born in Japan, you wouldn’t get a Japanese passport, but a passport from the country your parents are from.
      You wouldn’t struggle any more or less than any other foreigner who’s living in Japan.

      There are people who decided to get a Japanese name, but that’s a BIG step, so I would only recommend it if you’re sure you’re staying in Japan forever.

      Your name WILL work in Japan. Foreigners just write their name in katakana.
      The only problem is that it doesn’t fit into many documents. I’ve previously written about this, too. :)

  • it is pretty much like been english in growing up in scotland but a little less abusive, i sort of stopped caring and some people i know who have english parents but were born in scotland some people still see them as english if they find out, but if your are from any other place they don’t care. i think anywhere you go you get closed minded people

    • Absolutely. Same back home in Germany with our neighbor countries Austria and especially Switzerland.
      Just in Asia you immediately stand out and are categorized as different whereas in “our” countries people actually have to talk to you and ask before they’ll know.

  • Hi!

    The post is great and thought provoking. I’m not native English, so please don’t mind if I express something incorrectly.

    I think I’m among the minority here, but I do think the strict rules and manners Japanese and Japan treats foreigners and preserves its culture, is the good way.

    I’d gladly hear a sociologist’s opinion on this matter, but here’s my two cents anyway.

    First: Japanese belong to the mongoloid race, right? Europeans, Negrids, Arabs etc don’t. While all of you are constantly speaking about righteousness, democracy, international laws, tolerance and many sublime sounding concepts (like politicians do), you leave out the MOST influencing aspect of this whole topic: you look different. You look much different.You look so different, that even on a mere glance everybody there can tell you that you’re from a different race, nation, land, country, culture. Or are you not? How would the others had knew it? Hm?

    Second: you represent something with your body, which you can’t never change. And while I absolutely understand why laws, politics, rhetorics etc. want people to believe that they can be equal with anyone (in modern democracy), the truth is that most of the population judge someone by seeing the outlook, the body – which is our instinct. And most people obey their instincts. And most people obey their instincts even if there are laws, rhetorics, politicians above them.

    I must add, that I absolutely understand your feelings of being treated as an outsider. I mean, if I could live a new life, I would choose to be Japanese – that’s how seriously I feel. But I’m not Japanese. I don’t look like them. I’m European, I’m tall, not short, my eyes are round, not narrow, my hair is brown, not black, even my thinking is different whether I pretend to think like them or not. You know what I mean. It can be heartbreaking, truly, but that’s how things work.

    • I see where you are coming from and it’s true that one can’t change their race ….or maybe plastic surgery could.
      And I’ve met Japanese people who came to accept that a “Western-looking person who is not even ‘a half'” can be a “Japanese” at heart – if they were born and raised in Japan. But it does take a very long time and it just won’t sink in completely.

      But having been in Japan for such a long time, I can also understand the Japanese. Even I feel the same way sometimes. If I see a “Western-looking” person who speaks Japanese fluently like me, I’d never even think that this person could be “Japanese” (as in born in Japan, grown up in Japan). It’s just so rare and that’s why it doesn’t get into people’s heads that easily.

      • By the way thanks for the reply. You must be in love with Japan and its people to reply to hundreds of these comments. Sometimes I think that’s the most we can do – to love them with all of our hearts. If anything, that’s what makes the world a better place. So be strong!

  • This was really interesting to read, and actually inspired me to look up a bit of material on the topic. It was rather sad reading up on the trials of foreigners in Japan (even those of 100% Japanese descent who were born elsewhere), and has only cemented the feeling of…alienation. Growing up, I found my own personal values rarely, if ever, aligned with the Western ones I was taught and as I discovered Japanese media and culture, I realized it fit with it perfectly. It makes me wonder if reincarnation isn’t true and my last life was as a Japanese girl, haha..

    Sadly, I am not, despite the name above. And that is…frustrating, to say the least. I don’t have that White European look about me, but am heavily mixed. I guess maybe I’m envious..? The Japanese have such a sense of ethnic pride and identity, of closed-circle belonging, that it makes it difficult to even relate on a human level at times, I think. It makes it understandable that one would have trouble living there. I’ve thought about it, but I’m incredibly tall for a girl, even here in the US, and I absolutely look of Western descent, so I wonder if I would ever be able to fit in, if people of non-Japanese descent who were born and raised there struggle to do so.

    Were it possible to simply be re-born Japanese at the flick of a switch or have some sort of medical procedures done to change my outward appearance to that of what is “normal” among Japanese people (height, frame, weight, hair/eye color, etc.), I would do so in a second without any regrets. Not because I feel “Japanese culture is better than anything else” or “Japan is the best!” or “it’s best to be of Japanese descent!” but because it feels closest to any sense of belonging I’ve had. It would feel right, the way a Spanish person defines that culture as theirs’, or a Brit does the same with their own culture. Except I’m not Japanese, I have no such blood (much to my chagrin), and because of that…it can never happen as things are. I imagine this rather…emotionally open reply is unlike a Japanese person’s behavior, but I do it to make a point..

    If you aren’t of entirely Japanese descent and born and raised in Japan, you’re an outsider. Completely. Forever. How does that change? And when? I feel like I’m looking at a 1950’s America, or even WWII-era Germany, when I read articles on what amounts to the racism so present in Japan. It isn’t the violent kind…it’s the soft kind: the assumptions and the conversations and the small (and large) differences in treatment.. Life is far more difficult for anyone who doesn’t fit into that specific ethnic/national mold, but at some point…if there really is such an emphasis on social harmony…should it not be about whether one considers the culture to be “home”, whether they live under its norms and expectations, and whether they contribute to that society?

    Surely one can take part in and consider those days and events that Japanese consider their own under the mantle of a Japanese nationality the way Americans celebrate July 4th, regardless of whether they are first-generation immigrants or seventh? And yet…I imagine that if you spoke of those events with regards to “boys” or “girls” or “people” doing this or wearing that during the event, they would imagine a Japanese person doing such, and even a Chinese or Korean individual doing the same wouldn’t come to mind, let alone a Westerner. I always hear of younger generations being more open-minded, but even at 26, I wonder when that will matter for us. The generation most-often blamed for it all – the baby boomers – are still very much alive and in-control of things. And how would things change within our lifetimes just because of a generational shift in power or popularity with regards to viewpoints? If Japanese culture and ethnicity are so inextricably linked, where is the solution? If everyone were mixed to the point that they could claim six or seven different lines of heritage, how would Japan identify itself? And how would people who can’t claim Japanese descent fit in? This seems to be an issue Japan still deals with to this day, but with no one willing to provide a solution or to even acknowledge it as a problem. It’s depressing..

    • I agree with many things you’ve said.
      What you call “soft racism” in Japan, I often call it “passive racism” as it’s not violent / active in my eyes.

      Like you said if you look at other countries such as America or Germany it’s clear that a change can happen, but Japan always takes MUCH longer than other countries with these kind of changes. But to be honest I can’t see Japan becoming a multi-cultural society. And I’m not even sure if I wish for it.

  • Good day. I was born in japan my parents are both filipino. I want to ask a question regards to my citizenship. Now i’am leaving here in the philippines for almost 10 years. I’am 17 years old. Before i become 18yrs. old i want to go back in japan. How come i go back in japan. Shall i go to japan embassy?

  • if youndont like Japan why dont you go somewhere else? law is different, customs are different because, big surprise, is not europe nor america! it’s japan.
    you should get used to the country, not the country to you.
    I am a foreigner living here for 10 years, had a lot of trouble but never thought “japan has to change” that is simply absurd

    • Hi Francisco,
      Are you actually talking to me? Sorry, I’m a little bit confused here. :)
      First of all, I don’t live in Japan anymore. I agree that people should try their best to adapt to the country they choose to live in, but that doesn’t mean that people who were born in Japan should be treated as the “eternal foreigner” which was the topic of this blog post.

      A lot of Japanese people think there are many things that should change in Japan. Just because one is a foreigner, they have no right to think about things that maybe should change in Japan?

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