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View Full Version : Are Japanese more hypocritical with foreigners ?



Maciamo
Jan 29, 2005, 12:01
Foreword

I know some people are going to call this thread "overgeneralization" because I am talking about "the Japanese", a group of 126 million people. Let me say from the start that for the sake of discussion I will use the term "Japanese" not to refer to "all the Japanese", but to "the average Japanese in the streets (of Tokyo where I live), based on my observations". The purpose of this thread (and other ones with such generalization) is to compare one another's opinion based on our personal experience. This seems obvious to me, but I need to explain this if I don't want to be misunderstood.

Are Japanese more hypocritical with foreigners ?

I have now been living for 3,5 years in Japan, during which time I have assiduously analyzed the behaviour and mentality of people around me (just for the record, I very rarely meet foreigners in Japan, apart from Thomas once in a while :p )

I am pretty good when it comes to understanding people's emotions and guessing what they think. My wife is often surprised how I express her own feelings better than she can herself. I often predict correctly what the person I am talking to will reply to some questions - be it about their opinion, feelings or knowledge for something specific. When I ask the question, I can see in their eyes what they are going to say before they actually say it. I rarely mistake (esp. with Japanese people, which I usually find easier to understand than Westerners).

After these few years of mind-reading and careful observations, I am left with the feeling that the average Japanese have awkward and prejudiced feelings against anybody that doesn't look Japanese. (let me define that "the average Japanese " are not those who come to practice their English with the first foreign-looking person, or those who have lived abroad, but the real average Japanese that don't speak English and know little about other countries).

For example, no later than today, as I was queuing at the supermarket cashier, the careless woman in front of me walked back and stepped on my foot. She first started a typical "ahh, suuumimaseeen !", but as she turned and saw that I was not Japanese, her voice faded before she finished her "sumimasen" and she just walked away with a strange look on her face. This has happened to me times and again.

First, when I mentioned that to my wife or some Japanese friends, I heard "excuses" such as "they think you don't understand Japanese because you are a foreigner", or the like. But these are really just (prejudiced) excuses. At the place near my house where I usually buy my bento, and have been going for 3 years, the staff (you should know m by then), still hardly says anything to me and when they have run out of one kind of bento, make signs crossing fingers and speaking in strange Japanese as if I couldn't understand. They have heard me speak fluent Japanese with my wife, and could not possibly not remember me, but still act in such prejudiced ways (while I always speak Japanese with my Japanese friends, and the have no problem understanding me at all). The worst is when those kind of shop's staff thank the previous (Japanese) customer with "arigoto gozaimaashitaaa, mata okoshi kudasaimaseee" then when it is my turn, they just don't say anything or mumble a quick and dry "arigato gozaimass" as if they were angry.

This week again, as I was riding my bike at lunchtime in crowded central Tokyo, a police car stopped with the policeman rushing toward me and asking if that was my bicycle and checked the registration number. There were other bicycles around, so my intentionally stop me for no reason. That is very embarassing in front of hundreds of people (and made me come late to my appointment, as it took a few minutes). The policeman was also surprised that I spoke so well Japanese and asked me if I had lived for over 10 years in Japan. Again that is very prejudiced to think that foreigners can't speak decent Japanese just after a few years's stay (or maybe because he couldn't do the same in English).

Westerners usually see the Japanese as polite, well-mannered and respectful. But do they behave this way because of social-pressure or because of genuine good feelings ? Very often it is due to social norms. But taking things a step further, I'd like to say that the attitude of many Japanese toward foreigners is very different from the one they use between themselves. When the "foreigner" is a "customer/guest" (kyaku-san) and people treat him/her even better than they would treat a Japanese, with lots of blatant flattery (sometimes annoyingly so, like the fake expression of amazement at how well a gaijin can use chopsticks or eat sushi - which in fact conceals a deep-rooted cultural prejudice that foreigners are inferior to Japanese). But when the foreigner is not a "kyaku-san" or reluctantly so (esp. in small shops), we can see how this was really hypocrisy, as this time the gaijin is treated like a weird animal and not even like a standard Japanese customer.


Any thoughts ?

Ma Cherie
Jan 29, 2005, 12:53
First and foremost, I want to ask has there been any kind of attempt to educate the average japanese about different races and cultures? From all the rumors I have heard it seems to me that some japanese tend to display their ignorance about other cultures. I am not trying to sound like a racists, but I wonder if there has been an effort made to try to educate some japanese people about other races. And most importantly, will they be open minded to learning about other cultures?

Maciamo
Jan 29, 2005, 14:00
First and foremost, I want to ask has there been any kind of attempt to educate the average japanese about different races and cultures? From all the rumors I have heard it seems to me that some japanese tend to display their ignorance about other cultures. I am not trying to sound like a racists, but I wonder if there has been an effort made to try to educate some japanese people about other races. And most importantly, will they be open minded to learning about other cultures?

It may seem very contradictory, but many Japanese are interested in foreign countries and cultures, and are ignorant about them at the same time. Fore example :
- Japanese do travel a lot - for short periods, though, and rarely attempting to learn about the local culture apart from the food.
- There are more foreign language schools per square metre in Japan than anywhere else in the world, but Japanese are famous worldwide for being poor at speaking any foreign language.
- Japanese have imported and copied so much from the West and other countries that it would seem natural for them to feel somewhat international. Al Japanese can read the Roman alphabet although it isn't used in Japanese.
-There are thousands of foreign (mostly English) katakana words in Japanese, and the number increases fast each year. What other language on earth continually imports so many words from outside nowadays ? But yet, the words are often given a different pronuciation and meaning from the original ones, principally because of the ignorance of the masses who use them and the little care of the authorities to educate them.
- Japanese are often eager to learn about "foreign countries" (gaikoku), but always seem to end up with the simple stereotypes and not much beside. At worse, they mix all countries up and create false stereotypes that are valid for all foreigners.

So it seems that there is a real desire from many Japanese to learn about the "outside", but they very rarely seem to have the ability to get it right(even among those who have lived abroad). I think it may be due to the influence of an overly prejudiced and simplistic society. Another cause is the lack of critical thinking instilled by the Japanese education system, as well as a general tendency of the Japanese population to be interested in simple things (food, sex, manga...) or stress too much the importance of emotions over rationality (as seen in Japanese TV programmes, series, movies and manga). Unfortunately, emotions without critical thinking lead to easy stereotypes, or when negative, to prejudice and racism (even dormant or non-violent, it's still racism).

One of the results of the lack of critical thinking of the Japanese is that many of them do not hold strong opinions, and indeed are very influenceable. This may seem bad, but it can also be a very good thing, as most Japanese will not have the self-motivation to act "in an extreme manner" without support from the group. So, even being racist, they are hardly aware of it themselves, because they care little about what it means, and don't think much about the implications. Most Japanese have little interest in politics because they are too fickle to hold strong opinions that requires a critical or rational judgement. I think that this is not only typical of the Japanese, but all (South-) East Asians. To illustrate, throughout China's history, people's loyalties could shift easily from the losing to the winning side, because they didn't fight for a cause or principle (including religion), but for more down-to-earth reasons such as food, money or power.

I believe that East Asian societies share this lack of critical thinking and strong practical sense, in addition to a strong collectivism (as opposed to individualism). The positive side is the lack of extremist movements and people fighting for their beliefs or ideas. The negative side that people are fickle, influenceable, and have difficult to have their own opinions and judgement (easy targets for casual stereotypes and prejudice).

mr.sumo.snr
Jan 29, 2005, 14:27
Wait another four years and you won't really give a damn. Of course you could take action like that ***** 'Debito' in Hokkaido - perhaps picket outside shops where obassans routinely push in front of others at the check-out.

I am fortunate to be blessed with a bulk sufficient to make squeezing around my colossus at the cash register a total non-starter (it's a hobby!).

You can also play the: "I'm sorry but I don't have my glasses with me so can't read the display. Therefore could you please repeat the total amount due; speaking in clear, precise, and suitably honorific Japanese" game with the high school reji-girls at the local JUSCO (it's a favorite personal pastime!)

Ewok85
Jan 29, 2005, 22:40
It depends on where you are I think. Sitting up north in Saitama and south in country Chiba (country = no keitai reception :D) people were generally nice and fairly unassuming, first glance I'm a foreigner, may or may not know Japanese so I'd get a smile and slow simple Japanese, and depending on my answer they'd sometimes pick up a conversation (had a memorable one in a 7-11 amd another in Mos Burger on a quiet evening).

Never had any trouble with the police, and the one time I approached them to see about getting my bike back after it was stolen went well (they originally blanched at the idea of me rocking up at the local station as noone spoke Japanese, so I had to wait while they got someone who 'knew english'. Ended up speaking Japanese anyhow, which kinda voided the original idea). But I have to admit its nice that they make the effort.. (same thing here in Aus, I've dealt with 2 customers over the phone who were Japanese, their english is good but its nice to have someone who knows what you mean in your mother toungue... or at least sounds like they know :P)


There are thousands of foreign (mostly English) katakana words in Japanese, and the number increases fast each year. What other language on earth continually imports so many words from outside nowadays ? But yet, the words are often given a different pronuciation and meaning from the original ones, principally because of the ignorance of the masses who use them and the little care of the authorities to educate them.

Hilarious segment on the evening news on day, I think it was the NHK news... they were on about this. They got 2 fairly recent imports, 'simulation' and a political related one, I forget it right now... and asked people if they knew the word "oh simulation? of course!) and what it meant (ah.. umm... *insert something waaaay off the mark). Was interesting to watch.

Maciamo
Jan 29, 2005, 22:41
I am fortunate to be blessed with a bulk sufficient to make squeezing around my colossus at the cash register a total non-starter (it's a hobby!).

You can also play the: "I'm sorry but I don't have my glasses with me so can't read the display. Therefore could you please repeat the total amount due; speaking in clear, precise, and suitably honorific Japanese" game with the high school reji-girls at the local JUSCO (it's a favorite personal pastime!)

I think you completely misunderstood my point. I don't have any problem with being pushed at the counter; my example was just to show how Japanese apologize differently whether the person is Japanese or foreign.

As for showing that you speak well Japanese, I did it, as I sometimes go and buy my bento with my wife, and talk a lot to her (and quite fast by Japanese standard), so that the staff clearly sees that I can speak Japanese. But if I am with my wife, they tend to be more courteous and even smile. If I come back the next day alone, immediately they treat me as if they had never seen me befor, avoiding to smile just for me (not for the Japanese customers present), and speaking differently, with visibly less politeness. That is not only in one particular shop, but neither is it in all shops. I'd say it's about half of them. In some places they actually like to see foreigners and ask me many questions about me or my country. Still, half of the Japanese I meet in everyday life having bad feelings toward foreigners (even good customers) is bothering enough.

quiet sunshine
Jan 30, 2005, 13:17
I think that this is not only typical of the Japanese, but all (South-) East Asians. To illustrate, throughout China's history, people's loyalties could shift easily from the losing to the winning side, because they didn't fight for a cause or principle (including religion), but for more down-to-earth reasons such as food, money or power.

About the "influenceable" and "rational judgement", i'd like to write down some of my feelings. In some popular Chinese bbs, I can feel the radical emotion strongly. Some people's words are even rude and uncivil. Not everything under the name nationalism or patriotism is correct, I think, sometimes too nationalistic seems parochial. I don't know if it has relation with our education system, but i remembered when I was a teenager I knew nothing and cared about nothing except study. Teachers like to see this phenomenon I guess, and they never taught us thinking independently. That's just my personal exprience and feeling, things may have been changing.

mad pierrot
Jan 30, 2005, 14:41
when it comes to dealing with foreigners. (In general.)

I think it mostly has to do with cultural elitism. Now, before everyone starts jumping all over me for saying this, keep in mind exactly what I said. I didn't say other cultures aren't guilty of this as well, or that this is the most horrible thing in the world.

My case in point: The types of questions I get asked. Because of my job, I travel frequently and come into contact with new groups of people all the time. The most common type of questions I get asked by students, (encouraged by the teachers) are "what Japanese things can't you do" kind of questions. I think everyone who has been to Japan has heard these kind of questions, but my point is that most Japanese people are only interested in hearing about what makes Japan unique. This can then lead to the attitude that Japan, and by extension Japanese people are better than foreigners. What bothers me the most is that this attitude is encouraged by teachers. By itself, this is mostly harmless, but coupled with xenophobia it can potentially be troublesome.

For example: Police starting to single out foreigners. A friend of mine living in the nieghboring town has been hassled twice by cops, just walking down the road at night. I've been stopped twice riding my bike, and asked to show ID and submitted to a variety of questions for as far as I could tell, no good reason. (This is a town of 2,000 people...)

Of course, this is an extreme example. Otherwise, it's just mostly annoying when people who have known me for two years treat me like I'm mentally retarded. It's annoying as hell when a school you've been to 20 times still thinks you can't use hashi, eat fish, read a menu, sit seiza, or do anything else that a foreigner stereotypically can't.

And, as long as I'm on a rant.... ;)

Man, it drives me nuts when I'm asked, "Do you have this in America?" when it's something obviously not from Japan. Especially words, like "virus."
(Rolls eyes.....)
I've compiled a list of things I've been asked if are in America....
1. 4 seasons
2. convenience stores
3. Disney Land
4. Snoop and Winnie the Pooh
The list goes on.....

Now, of all the problems in the world today, these are fairly insignificant, and I know I'm nit-picking. I love Japan and I've had wonderful experiences here. Just because I'm criticizing doesn't mean I'm Japan bashing, but this is something that needs to change.

Also, I want to back up what Ewok said. Ironically, I didn't notice most of these issues until I ended up living in the countryside. In Osaka, most of it went by unnoticed.

Mike Cash
Jan 30, 2005, 15:01
when it comes to dealing with foreigners. (In general.)





Of course, this is an extreme example. Otherwise, it's just mostly annoying when people who have known me for two years treat me like I'm mentally retarded.

I have long maintained that the greatest unfairness about Japan is that while foreigners are often treated like idiots, idiots are never treated like foreigners.

mad pierrot
Jan 30, 2005, 15:51
I have long maintained that the greatest unfairness about Japan is that while foreigners are often treated like idiots, idiots are never treated like foreigners.

:D :D :D

Good stuff. The question is, how do idiot foreigners get treated?

Maciamo
Jan 30, 2005, 17:46
Thanks for your explanation, Mad pierrot. That is exactly how I feel about the treatment of foreigners in Japan. There doesn't seem to be any difference at all between central Tokyo and rural Wakayama. Japanese are the same regarding their attitude to foreigners everywhere (as far as I know, from hearing stories from people living al around Japan).

The solution I have found to the "being treated like a retarded" situations is to make them feel as if they are the one to have asked an utterly stupid question, so as to culpabilize them on their ignorance and hope they don't reiterate (even with someone else) later.

For example, if they ask me if there are 4 seasons in my country, I smile and ask them whether they don't know that all European countries had four seasons (and I think to myself "haven't you learn about geography and worldwide climates at school to ask such dumb questions ?").

When somebody is surprised that I like sushi, I have to explain to them that (according to our polls (http://www.wa-pedia.com/polls.shtml)), sushi is the favourite Japanese food of more than half of the foreigners, and that indeed, the most common type of Japanese restaurants in Western countries is sushi bars.

When I explained my irritation to such questions to my wife, and asked her why even her friends (who know how long I have been in Japan, etc.) ask me the "can you use chopsticks and eat sushi" questions, she replied that "they were just trying to be nice". "So", I continued, "why are they doubting my ability to use chopsticks just because I am a foreigner. That's very insulting, not really what I'd call 'trying to be nice'." She claimed not to have thought about that before. Anyway, that doesn't help improve my opinion that the vast majority of the Japanese, as polite as they may be, are shallow and act in a stereotypical manner, as if they were all robots using an identical programming.

But what I find the most shocking is when Japanese think that they invented everything they use, see or hear in everyday life in Japan, when in fact so many things are Western. In the same way as Mad Pierrot explained how some Japanese don't seem to know that Winnie the Pooh is English and not Japanese, many Japanese think that many Western things are originally Japanese (but are not). Here are a few examples that spring to mind :

- New Year's cards (nengajo). I heard so many times "In Japan, we have a tradition of sending greeting cards for the New Year; what about your country ?". In fact, the Japanese copied the Western tradition of Xmas and New Year wishes. Even the date of the 1st January as the New Year is from the Western Calendar (since late Roman times, as Janus was the 'Roman god of presided over doors and beginnings', and marking the beginning of the year). The traditional Japanese New Year was not on 01/01, and it is still not on 1 Jan. in China, Thailand, India, etc. where they keep celebrating their own traditional New Year.

- many famous pieces of music used in Japanese TV (esp. commercials) are in fact classical music from Europe, or traditional folk or military music from Europe or the USA. An incredible amount of music on Japanese TV is not Japanese, but as they often rearranged them, sometimes with Japanese lyrics, many Japanese think that this or that music is Japanese. For example my wife thought that "Jupiter" (from Gustav Holst' Planets) was Japanese music, when it's some 100 year-old English music.

Harvey
Jan 30, 2005, 19:11
- Japanese do travel a lot - for short periods, though, and rarely attempting to learn about the local culture apart from the food.


This is so true :lol:



You can also play the: "I'm sorry but I don't have my glasses with me so can't read the display. Therefore could you please repeat the total amount due; speaking in clear, precise, and suitably honorific Japanese" game with the high school reji-girls at the local JUSCO (it's a favorite personal pastime!)


Hahaha, if I didn't already wear glasses, I would try that one out! Maybe I'll just tell them my eyes are bad with them on anyway. Hilarious!



It's annoying as hell when a school you've been to 20 times still thinks you can't use hashi, eat fish, read a menu, sit seiza, or do anything else that a foreigner stereotypically can't.


Preach on! I HATE It when you've been talking with people for like an hour over dinner, in Japanese, and then it finally comes out, ohh you are so good with chopsticks!

What the heck!! Why the heck would you expect that someone who has learned conversational Japanese could not use chopsticks!! Unbelievable. Even babies figure out how to eat before they can speak....

I love you guys.

Hey check out the book ダーリングは外国人。 It is written by the Japanese wife of a German guy. It's in most bookstores in Japan now and selling quite well. I think it does a good job at explaining to the Japanese the types of things that well..

tick us off.

quiet sunshine
Jan 30, 2005, 19:30
Man, it drives me nuts when I'm asked, "Do you have this in America?" when it's something obviously not from Japan. Especially words, like "virus."
(Rolls eyes.....)
I've compiled a list of things I've been asked if are in America....
1. 4 seasons
2. convenience stores
3. Disney Land
4. Snoop and Winnie the Pooh
The list goes on.....
Your posts are sooo long! The examples are really funny, I can't help laughing... :lol: can't believe who will ask those questions?

Ewok85
Jan 30, 2005, 21:22
Wait until you let out "yeah, we have four seasons but its the opposite in Australia, when its summer in Japan its winter in Australia", call me mad but hardly anyone I met in Japan can get their head around that one... :D

ragedaddy
Jan 31, 2005, 07:05
Man, it drives me nuts when I'm asked, "Do you have this in America?" when it's something obviously not from Japan. Especially words, like "virus."
(Rolls eyes.....)
I've compiled a list of things I've been asked if are in America....
1. 4 seasons
2. convenience stores
3. Disney Land
4. Snoop and Winnie the Pooh
The list goes on.....

Yeah, here goes the strangest thing I have ever heard a Japanese ask a foreigner, it comes from one of my buddy's homestay Brother.... Do all Americans own a gun, and have you ever shot someone? I have been asked that a couple times as well, if all Americans carry around guns. That is utterly lunacy at it's finest. I know a lot of US news that makes it to Japan is related to violence, murder, and other negative aspects, but to contemplate that everyone in the US has guns is ludicrous.

I agree with Maciamo's point to a certain extent. When I was living in Tokyo I noticed too that many of the tenins' would give the formal greetings to Japanese customers, but when it came to me I'm lucky that I got a Doumo. However, it seemed like the majority of these people who displayed the lack of politeness to me tended to be older. Although, there have been many times where younger aged workers would actually be polite to me as they would to any other Japanese person. I remember this one time when older guy rang my stuff up, and after I received it I told him "arigatou gozaimasu," and the guy forced out a muttered "doumo." Therefore, with my experience I have noticed younger people are likely to be more respectful than older generations. This is what I gathered from living there, but who knows that's just my opinion.

I think that some reasons of people asking me like, "You can actually use chop sticks," or "You can speak Japanese," comes from the fact that there are many Japanese who have never been exposed much to Western cultures. In my opinion, it seems that some people tend to be a little more "Naive," than ignorant. It may seem insulting to Westerners, but I think there are Japanese people that have never fathomed the concept of Westerners actually being able to do such tasks.

lexico
Jan 31, 2005, 07:27
However, it seemed like the majority of these people who displayed the lack of politeness to me tended to be older. Although, there have been many times where younger aged workers would actually be polite to me as they would to any other Japanese person......Therefore, with my experience I have noticed younger people are likely to be more respectful than older generations.Very interesting you say that, ragedaddy.
I've been wondering:
Why are most of the Japanese I've met in school so cheerful, polite, easy to get along, mature, (mutually) respectful, and absolutely without obvious prejudice, whereas quite a few of the aged people I've met are often rude, illogical, stubborn, and "child like."

Your observation solves some of my long-held mystery about the strange differences I've seen.

But then again, young American's were so much more natural and friendly than some of my older neighbors who seemed starkly prejudiced if not racist.

EDIT: seemed shoud be acted

Pachipro
Jan 31, 2005, 07:58
Am I missing something here or has something drastically changed in Japan? I have never felt the way some of you do in my 16 years living there and my yearly visits. Like Maciamo, I rarely met any foreigners, save for a few friends and none of my Japanese friends spoke a lick of English.

Sure, I get frustated sometimes over the "20 question" routine I get over, and over, and over again, but I've become accustomed to it. This is Japan after all and you are going to get it again and again. Get used to it.

Here are my thoughts on the subject:


For example, no later than today, as I was queuing at the supermarket cashier, the careless woman in front of me walked back and stepped on my foot. She first started a typical "ahh, suuumimaseeen !", but as she turned and saw that I was not Japanese, her voice faded before she finished her "sumimasen" and she just walked away with a strange look on her face. This has happened to me times and again.

Why was she "careless"? Isn't that a mistake that ALL people, regardless of race make? She started to apologize, but when she saw that you were a foreigner, she probably became flustered and was at a loss for words. She assumed that you didn't speak Japanese and she didn't speak another language and she more than likely, became embarrassed and didn't know what to do. That "strange look on her face" as you put it was, more than likely embarrassment. It will happen to you again and again.


First, when I mentioned that to my wife or some Japanese friends, I heard "excuses" such as "they think you don't understand Japanese because you are a foreigner", or the like. But these are really just (prejudiced) excuses.
They are right. Why must they always be "prejudiced" excuses? Why must you assume that because she was probably flustered that their excuses to you were prejudiced? And why do you think they are "excuses"? They are probably telling you the truth.


At the place near my house where I usually buy my bento, and have been going for 3 years, the staff (you should know m by then), still hardly says anything to me and when they have run out of one kind of bento, make signs crossing fingers and speaking in strange Japanese as if I couldn't understand. They have heard me speak fluent Japanese with my wife, and could not possibly not remember me, but still act in such prejudiced ways (while I always speak Japanese with my Japanese friends, and the have no problem understanding me at all).
Have you tried addressing them first like, "Good morning. Nice day today isn't it? I hope it doesn't rain today." Do you have a conversation with them everytime you go in there? I did at the places I used to frequent for dinner and such and I was always treated the same as other Japanese customers. I never felt any different. And here again you say they "...still act in such prejudiced ways." Again the word prejudice pops in. Why?


The worst is when those kind of shop's staff thank the previous (Japanese) customer with "arigoto gozaimaashitaaa, mata okoshi kudasaimaseee" then when it is my turn, they just don't say anything or mumble a quick and dry "arigato gozaimass" as if they were angry.
Again, why assume that if they don't say anything or mumble a quick arrigato that they may be angry or treating you different? Can it not be that they are shy or flustered when it comes to dealing with foreigners? Again, why not engage them in conversation each and every time?


This week again, as I was riding my bike at lunchtime in crowded central Tokyo, a police car stopped with the policeman rushing toward me and asking if that was my bicycle and checked the registration number. There were other bicycles around, so my intentionally stop me for no reason. That is very embarassing in front of hundreds of people (and made me come late to my appointment, as it took a few minutes).
Look, you are a foreigner in Japan, and like myself, you will be stopped now and again on your bicycle and asked for proof of ownership, etc. Foreigners, as well as Japanese, are known to steal bicycles. Hell, I even stole one out of frustration one night when no cab refused to pick me up. I will post that story shortly. Why assume that because they stopped you they were prejudice? It's their job to stop foreigners on bicycles. It never bothered me when I found out why they stopped me. It's just a fact of life there for foreigners.


The policeman was also surprised that I spoke so well Japanese and asked me if I had lived for over 10 years in Japan. Again that is very prejudiced to think that foreigners can't speak decent Japanese just after a few years's stay (or maybe because he couldn't do the same in English).
Again, I am just amazed that you use the word prejudice again. Why assume that because he asked you if lived there over 10 years that he is prejudiced? Can't you say "I think it's very prejudiced..." instead of "..that is very prejudiced.." Why make a blanket statement like that? He is more than likely surprised and impressed, as the Japanese find that any foreigner who can speak their language fluently must have lived in Japan a very long time as the Japanese themselves find it very difficult for them to learn a foreign language. When the police stopped me and found out that I also was fluent, I was usually treated with respect and I never felt that they were prejudiced just because they asked me how long I lived in Japan.


But taking things a step further, I'd like to say that the attitude of many Japanese toward foreigners is very different from the one they use between themselves. When the "foreigner" is a "customer/guest" (kyaku-san) and people treat him/her even better than they would treat a Japanese, with lots of blatant flattery (sometimes annoyingly so, like the fake expression of amazement at how well a gaijin can use chopsticks or eat sushi - which in fact conceals a deep-rooted cultural prejudice that foreigners are inferior to Japanese).
Here we go again with a blanket statement of "-which in fact conceals a deep-rooted cultural prejudice that foreigners are inferior to Japanese." Do you know this to be a fact? Or are you just assuming again? Can't you understand and accept that the Japanese will always flatter you with your use of chopsticks, or the fact that you eat sushi, or sleep on a futon, or can speak Japanese and read kanji? They are genuinely impressed because most foreigners DON"T or CAN'T. It is not a "fake expression of amazement". It is real. Sure it can be annoying, but I came to accept the fact that it will happen again and again and again and again. Just because they do it, it does not mean they are prejudice unless you know something I don't.


But when the foreigner is not a "kyaku-san" or reluctantly so (esp. in small shops), we can see how this was really hypocrisy, as this time the gaijin is treated like a weird animal and not even like a standard Japanese customer.
Another blanket statement. It is not hypocrisy. You may want to feel like you were treated like some weird animal, but I am sure you did not receive the same treatment in all stores in your own country, just I do not here. I may have been treated with a little aloofness now and then in a Japanese store, but I did not feel like I was a weird animal. I knew it to be out of frustration or embarrassment at not being able to speak the foreigners language.

One chooses to feel how one wants to feel and if one wants to feel like one is always being prejudiced against, or being treated like some weird animal, or that no one likes you because one is a foreigner, then that is one's right. But take it from me, with over 30 years experience with Japan and the Japanese, I think you are way off the mark with your blanket observations and statements as I have never felt the way you do. Don't get me wrong here, in some instances I was angry, or upset, or thought "Oh no, here we go again with the praise and questions." But I have learned to understand why and accepted it without thinking that the Japanese are prejudice or hypocrits, because in my opinion they are not. Sure you have your typical few who do not like foreigners under any circumstance, but it is the same in any country I think.

How do I know this? Because I have many Japanese friends who do not speak English and have never been to a foreign country and have asked numerous Japanese over and over again why are they are so amazed at foreigners who know their language and customs. Why are we always praised for our use of chopsticks and such? Why is it that some Japanese refuse to acknowledge in a store that we are speaking Japanese and the answer is always the same: "We are so impressed when a foreigner learns our language and customs that we must say something as it is very difficult for us to do the same. (Translation:mental block) We sometimes are so tuned in to the fact that 99% of the foreigners that we do meet (which is not often) cannot speak Japanese that we sometimes do not hear that they are speaking Japanese. (Mental block again) If we encounter one, we become so embarrassed, shy, or flustered, that we do not know what to do so we say nothing or something real quick and leave." Thus the lady who stepped on your foot, the policeman who was surprised at your Japanese, the constant praise you get for something as so simple as using chopsticks.

Me, I've learned to live with it and go with the flow because I know it will happen again. Just look at the "gaijin tarento" on TV. They get the same questions and praise.

You run a great place here Maciamo and my hat is off to you, but I do hope you come to look at Japan and the Japanese like a glass of water that is half full instead of half empty.

JustJosh
Jan 31, 2005, 08:16
Maybe you just look shifty?

Maciamo
Jan 31, 2005, 11:53
Therefore, with my experience I have noticed younger people are likely to be more respectful than older generations.

That is true to a certain extend, but there are also older people polite and respectful to foreigners (esp. if they have had contacts with other foreigners before), and young people that are downright racists (I have had a few yakuza-like men shouting at me in the streets as I was quietly riding my bicyle). I have also noticed than young teenagers and especially children tend to be more insulting toward foreigners. It is not that they stare, point their finger and giggle (like bad-mannered children do all around the world), but listenning to their remarks, you can see how their parents or environment has already instilled them prejudice against foreigners.

For example, the other day a 10-year-old or so boy was near my house when I came back home (I think his grandmother lives in that street), but he kept looking at me with suspicious eyes and followed me till my doorsteps. He asked 2 or 3 times with a contemptful voice "nani shiteru no ?" ("what are you doing here ?"). So, as I was going to open my door, I turned to him and replied politely "koko ni sundeimasu" ("I live here"), and he just said in a surprised and still suspicious way "nihongo dekiru no ?" ("oh, can you speak Japanese ?") and he ran away. I could feel that he was not the kind of boy happy to me a foreigner, but at the contrary looked at me as if I was a criminal.


I think that some reasons of people asking me like, "You can actually use chop sticks," or "You can speak Japanese," comes from the fact that there are many Japanese who have never been exposed much to Western cultures.

That's not true. It's impossible not to be exposed to Western culture everyday in Japan. Most movies at the theatre and many movies and series on TV are Western (while there are virtually no Japanese or Asian movies showing in Western countries). There are so many Westerners in Tokyo that it is impossible to take the subway without seeing one. Then with tens of thousands of NOVA, AEON, GEOS and other language schools where teachers are all native speakers (so foreigners), and millions of Japanese attending these classes (even if just a few times), there is a much higher chance that the average Japanese has already met, talked to or at least observed Westerners on TV many times, rather than the average Westerner having met a Japanese (except those living near very touristical spots).


In my opinion, it seems that some people tend to be a little more "Naive," than ignorant. It may seem insulting to Westerners, but I think there are Japanese people that have never fathomed the concept of Westerners actually being able to do such tasks.

These are fake excuses. I know many Japanese people who have lived in Western countries and still ask such dumb questions. Even the Japanese who were introduced to me by a Western friend (and thus having at least one Western friend) still ask these routine questions. Maybe its' just a custom of greeting foreigners in Japan to ask them if they can eat natto or sushi and if they can, try to ask for other kind of food until there is one sort of Japanese food the foreigner cannot eat. But I can feel that they want to be unique and want the "foreigner" to appear inferior for not being able to do such simple everyday things as eating such or such food, using chopsticks or reading kanji (when in fact many Japanese are not very proficient themselves).

Last week, as I was substituting a group English class and reading an English/Japanese article, a 50ish woman seemed very surprised that I could read the kanji for such "difficult" terms as pledge (公約), catastrophe (大災害) or refugee (難民), although these are all pretty basic kanji. When I hesitated for the first kanji of a word (援助資金 : relief fund), she said "aah, anshin shita yo !" ("aah, I feel better now !") as she just couldn't accept the fact that a foreigner could read Japanese after staying only 3 years in Japan. I could feel that deep inside this person wanted to feel like the Japanese were superior to the rest of the world. It didn't help when she proudly said a few minutes later that, "the news on TV said that Australia had pledged the largest relief fund for the Tsunami victims, but in fact it was Japan that had already donated the highest sum so far, and that Japan was the biggest donor in the world". I had to correct her that it was actually the EU (but she didn't seem very happy by that truth).

PopCulturePooka
Jan 31, 2005, 18:53
Can't you understand and accept that the Japanese will always flatter you with your use of chopsticks, or the fact that you eat sushi, or sleep on a futon, or can speak Japanese and read kanji? They are genuinely impressed because most foreigners DON"T or CAN'T.
Oh bollocks!

I have met scads of westerners that use chopsticks. My 70 year old quite conservative grandmother can use chopsticks.
Almost every foreigner in Japan I've met eats Sushi and can sleep on a single matress on the floor.
Its plain ignorance to be shocked, amazed or even complimentry to assume we can't. In fact its downright insulting, its an assumption that we aren't as good as them in some respects.

And in terms of language, my father has been here two days and can say 'sumimasen'. Yet for some Japanese that would be enough for them to start laying on the over done compliments about how good his Japanese is.

Its patronising.

Anyway I have a tale I've told before.

Being a poor eigo sensei living alone I hit the local Lawsons konbini for my dinner bento about two or three times a week. During holidays I go more than that. Have done this for a year. Heck even had a friendly chat or two with one of the young guys there and tried to get the number of one of the girls.

So theres an older women who works there most nights.
She serves me a lot.
And EVERY time she serves me, she wont speak a word except to ask if I want it heated and EVERY time she uses gestures to ask if I want a fork, and EVERY time I ask that I instead want chopsticks (in Japanese).
This dance has been danced for a year. I'm a fairly obvious gaijin with big punk spiked hair and occasionally flashy clothes.

Yet she always asks if I want a fork.

Stupdity.

When I worked high volume retail I served scads more customers than she would and managed to remember regular customers and some small facts about them.

Maciamo
Jan 31, 2005, 19:28
I have met scads of westerners that use chopsticks. My 70 year old quite conservative grandmother can use chopsticks.
Almost every foreigner in Japan I've met eats Sushi and can sleep on a single matress on the floor.
Its plain ignorance to be shocked, amazed or even complimentry to assume we can't. In fact its downright insulting, its an assumption that we aren't as good as them in some respects.

Same for me. I don't know anyone who has lived in Japan and still can't use chopsticks.


And in terms of language, my father has been here two days and can say 'sumimasen'. Yet for some Japanese that would be enough for them to start laying on the over done compliments about how good his Japanese is.

It's only natural. I learnt hiragana and katakana in a week.


So theres an older women who works there most nights.
She serves me a lot.
And EVERY time she serves me, she wont speak a word except to ask if I want it heated and EVERY time she uses gestures to ask if I want a fork, and EVERY time I ask that I instead want chopsticks (in Japanese).

I know. Same with me, and not only at combini. Even at the dry cleaning, local cafes, etc.

Ewok85
Jan 31, 2005, 19:59
I have also noticed than young teenagers and especially children tend to be more insulting toward foreigners. It is not that they stare, point their finger and giggle (like bad-mannered children do all around the world), but listenning to their remarks, you can see how their parents or environment has already instilled them prejudice against foreigners.

...and the other stuff...

This is a mixed bag, you can be sitting on a train and some young child will sit and stare at you (and I'll make faces back, its only fair :p) and thats OK, I can definitely understand it in Pookas case. Then you have the ones that ask slighty strange questions to their parents who give stranger answers back.

I helped teach 9-12 year old children a martial art and they have to be the most open and unassuming Japanese I've ever met (2nd being university students from a medical university, great people, would love to meet them all again). Apart from an initial "oh, you speak japanese" it was on, they'd just let loose with their favorite tv shows, what had happened at school that day, all the latest playground goss, and afterwards their parents would say Hi and they soon knew me and accepted me as just another person in the group, no assumptions, no special treatment, no strange questions.

I guess if you look hard enough you'll find something, but otherwise you'll just be stuck in a crappy loop...

Maciamo
Jan 31, 2005, 20:56
I helped teach 9-12 year old children a martial art and they have to be the most open and unassuming Japanese I've ever met (2nd being university students from a medical university, great people, would love to meet them all again). Apart from an initial "oh, you speak japanese" it was on, they'd just let loose with their favorite tv shows, what had happened at school that day, all the latest playground goss, and afterwards their parents would say Hi and they soon knew me and accepted me as just another person in the group, no assumptions, no special treatment, no strange questions.

I guess if you look hard enough you'll find something, but otherwise you'll just be stuck in a crappy loop...

I have met kids as you describe, but so far they have been a minority of the younger Japanese (under 15) I have met. What surprises me is that such kids would come at me and say strange things in the street (or make comments about "gaijin"to their friends/parents assuming I can't understand what they say).

mad pierrot
Jan 31, 2005, 21:06
@Pachipro

In respect to the "blanket statements" that have been made, I urge you to look over the post again and look at the disclaimers! I don't think the half empty/half full argument is the point here; rather, it's the way Japanese people in general react towards cultural outsiders. When I first came to Japan, I spent a year living in Osaka. And, like it's been said, I was subject to the same inane questions as every other foreigner. It didn't piss me off. It never has. It might get annoying once and awhile, but obviously it hasn't driven me to hysterics. It has made me more interested in why Japanese people perceive foreigners as being so. I'm simply curious as to the underlying social aspects of this. Again, this isn't just groundless complaining, but rather a critique in general. Calling all sociologists...

I wasn't going to post this next story originally, but I think it's relevant now.

I've been living in a small town in Wakayama now for about two years. The people here are always nice to me, and incredibly friendly. Consequently, I've done my best to take part in the community, volunteering with people, visiting my neighbors, etc. I have never known such great people. Example: When I was sick during Christmas, EVERYBODY took care of me. My neighbors brought me hot soup, took me to the hospital, my boss brought me TONS of food, people were always calling to see how I was doing. Those were the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. My neighbors even came over and did my dishes. (The tried to clean my whole house, but I stopped them. :) )

That's the good story. Next comes the bad one. The bad reflects quite negatively on these same people, but it makes a valid point. Not sure if I'll post it yet.

Pachipro
Feb 1, 2005, 08:22
Man, it drives me nuts when I'm asked, "Do you have this in America?" when it's something obviously not from Japan. Especially words, like "virus."
(Rolls eyes.....)
I've compiled a list of things I've been asked if are in America....
1. 4 seasons
2. convenience stores
3. Disney Land
4. Snoop and Winnie the Pooh
The list goes on.....


But what I find the most shocking is when Japanese think that they invented everything they use, see or hear in everyday life in Japan, when in fact so many things are Western. In the same way as Mad Pierrot explained how some Japanese don't seem to know that Winnie the Pooh is English and not Japanese, many Japanese think that many Western things are originally Japanese (but are not).

Let's reverse this. Is it not the same in America and Europe? Don't most, especially the younger generation, feel that most everything they see was invented in their own country?

My wife and I have been asked similar things here in the states. It's always hot in Japan isn't it? Do you have TV's, satellite TV, highways, CD players, etc. Most people assume that Japan is still a third world country. They are ignorant of the fact that Japan is a modern, industrialized country much like the US or Europe. Heck, most Americans don't even know that a large majority of what they perceive to be American products are in fact foreign. Shell oil and Toyota come to mind. They, mostly the younger ones, are shocked when they find out that Shell is in fact Dutch, and Toyota is a Japanese company. A few even assume that "Cup of Noodle" is an American invented product. Much the same as in Japan with your observations above. It must be the same all over and I don't think it is unique to Japan.

Does it bother my wife and annoy her that, after 16 years in the states, she is asked similar things by Americans? (She's even asked often if she eats meat!) No, she just tries to educate them and has come to understand that a majority of people are not taught about Japan. It's a sad but true fact.

Therefore, while in Japan as "educators" why not try and educate the Japanese rather than being annoyed to the point of irritation? After 30 years experience, I do not think it is going to change. Those questions will come time and time again until someone educates them. So far, I don't think it is going to be the educational institutions.

Personally, I enjoyed answering the "stupid and dumb" questions over and over and over again, after laughing out loud first, as it was an opportunity to teach somebody something they didn't already know. Afterwards, I'm sure they would not ask that question again of a foreigner as now they were enlightened. I used to love watching the kids, Junior and High, and even some college students', faces light up with shock, disbelief, and surprise when they were informed that Disneyland is not Japanese, Snoopy was born in America, and the "Circle K" and "7-11" combinis are American among other answers. I think I remember reading somewhere that "7-11" is now owned by Ito Yokkado.

I used to answer in Japanese, "Of course I can eat with chopsticks, eat sushi, sleep in a futon, cook my own rice, etc. etc. I've lived here for 16 years!" My polite answer to their "dumb" question kind of humbled some of them and I'm sure they felt awkward asking that question.

Don't get me wrong here, I was just as annoyed during my early years in Japan as some of you to the point of wanting to scream at the top of my lungs, "What! Are you all a bunch of idiots! Are we all nothing but talking dogs to you people, here for your amusement?" But I learned to study, observe, and learn from the Japanese people and culture and why they acted in this way. I asked many questions of the Japanese. Soon, my thinking slowly turned 180 degrees and it no longer irritated me as I learned that, no matter what, the Japanese are basically not prejudiced, xenophobic, or have an underlying dislike of all foreigners. They are just a curious island people who were taught that they, their history, and their ways are unique to the rest of the world and any foreigner that adapts, or tries to adapt, is the most curious and unique of all. Answering "dumb" questions, I hope, helped set the record straight with those I came in contact with.

Therefore, I looked at myself as a kind of unofficial "cultural ambassador" as it was obvious that no one else was going to educate them.

Shooter452
Feb 1, 2005, 08:32
:D :D :D

Good stuff. The question is, how do idiot foreigners get treated?

With compassion and patience, at least on Okinawa. And we have given them cause to show both.

I have to admit Maciamo, I have never experienced this walking the streets of Naha, or any other town on Okinawa. Of course, they may be more accustomed to the presence of gaijin on their streets because of the greater density of US military personnel, dependants, and even tourists than the residents of Tokyo experience. Except during the brief periods of political madness that seem to sweep the island about once each year, the Ryukyan people are the most patient, forgiving, and tolerant I have ever known...perhaps because we have compelled them to endure and tolerate so much foolishness, I dunno.

Maciamo
Feb 1, 2005, 11:15
Let's reverse this. Is it not the same in America and Europe? Don't most, especially the younger generation, feel that most everything they see was invented in their own country?

That must be only in the States. Americans however have better reasons to be confused, as many famous people moved to the States and become American (eg. Einstein), or some famous companies from other countries are bought up by big US multinational (eg. Belgian chocolate Godiva is now American).


My wife and I have been asked similar things here in the states. It's always hot in Japan isn't it? Do you have TV's, satellite TV, highways, CD players, etc. Most people assume that Japan is still a third world country.

Again, that must be only in the US. Most Europeans see Japan as a resolutely modern country. The first things that spring to mind to a European about Japan is technology, electronics, robots, futuristic cars and video games - well before the traditional culture. But it was such a shock for me to see how backward Japan actually was in so many respect (socially, politically, architecturally...) and I had no idea, that I feel it a duty to make the world (or my fellow Europeans) know about it. On my first day in Tokyo, I thought I had arrived in Bangkok (where I have been, so I can compare).

Maciamo
Feb 1, 2005, 11:19
Heck, most Americans don't even know that a large majority of what they perceive to be American products are in fact foreign. Shell oil and Toyota come to mind. They, mostly the younger ones, are shocked when they find out that Shell is in fact Dutch, and Toyota is a Japanese company.

What ! Is there people in the States who think that Toyota is American !! :mad: That doesn't improve my image of the average American, I can assure you !

And FYI, Shell is half-British, not 100% Dutch.

mad pierrot
Feb 1, 2005, 12:29
Let's reverse this. Is it not the same in America and Europe? Don't most, especially the younger generation, feel that most everything they see was invented in their own country?

First, you must not have read my first post. To quote myself:
I didn't say other cultures aren't guilty of this as well,


Therefore, while in Japan as "educators" why not try and educate the Japanese rather than being annoyed to the point of irritation? After 30 years experience, I do not think it is going to change. Those questions will come time and time again until someone educates them. So far, I don't think it is going to be the educational institutions.

Who said I wasn't? :) You're missing my point; I'm not bashing their behavior. Japanese people react uniquely to people from outside their culture. And yes, every culture does this, in different ways, as I've already said.


Japanese are basically not prejudiced, xenophobic, or have an underlying dislike of all foreigners.

Would you deny that Japanese society has xenophobic tendencies? Again, I think you've misconstued what I've been saying as a personal attack on Japanese people.


Most people assume that Japan is still a third world country.

I'll have to disagree here. Even some of the poorly educated kids I knew from the city know that Japan is industrialized.


Here's an interesting example to talk about: Today I was having lunch at a school I've been teaching at for 2 years. The teachers sitting next to me where having a discussion about the Bush regime and it's policies with North Korea. As they were speculating about the US government, I politely offered some comments on my perceptions. (In Japanese.) And, (I'm not joking) the response I got from the Kocho Sensei was "Do you have ka-re in America?"
(We were eating curry udon for lunch today....)

Does this strike you as strange? I can guarantee you this kind of thing happens frequently. And I'm not ragingly bitter about it. I smiled, told him yes and went on to have a nice lunch. Is it wrong for me to want to hear other's speculations on this kind of behavior?

Maciamo
Feb 1, 2005, 13:07
Who said I wasn't? :) You're missing my point; I'm not bashing their behavior. Japanese people react uniquely to people from outside their culture. And yes, every culture does this, in different ways, as I've already said.
...
Would you deny that Japanese society has xenophobic tendencies? Again, I think you've misconstued what I've been saying as a personal attack on Japanese people.
...
Here's an interesting example to talk about: Today I was having lunch at a school I've been teaching at for 2 years. The teachers sitting next to me where having a discussion about the Bush regime and it's policies with North Korea. As they were speculating about the US government, I politely offered some comments on my perceptions. (In Japanese.) And, (I'm not joking) the response I got from the Kocho Sensei was "Do you have ka-re in America?"
(We were eating curry udon for lunch today....)

Does this strike you as strange? I can guarantee you this kind of thing happens frequently. And I'm not ragingly bitter about it. I smiled, told him yes and went on to have a nice lunch. Is it wrong for me to want to hear other's speculations on this kind of behavior?

Again, I completely endorse Mad Pierrot's comments. I feel the exact the way (but I am not in the mood to put it so eloquently today). Thanks again.

Maciamo
Feb 1, 2005, 14:13
Personally, I enjoyed answering the "stupid and dumb" questions over and over and over again, after laughing out loud first, as it was an opportunity to teach somebody something they didn't already know.

I used to enjoy it too at teh beginning, but after one or two years it's getting tiring to be asked always exactly the same routine questions by 90% of the new people you meet. Rather than answering, I try to make them reflect a bit about the meaning of their question. For example, if someone ask me if "my country has four seasons like Japan", I reply one of the following :
- But I thought Japan had 5 seasons, with the tsyu (rainy season)
- But seasons aren't the same everywhere in Japan. Look Okinawa doesn't have seasons (or just wet and dry).
- Oh, my country has 6 seasons : cold & dry, cold & wet, cool & dry, cool & wet, warm & dry and warm & wet. What about Japan ?
- Which part of my country are you referring to ?
- Sometimes I feel that Japan doesn't really have seasons, as the sun sets as early as 6:30pm in summer and 5pm in winter, while in my country it sets at 10pm in summer and 4pm in winter (and doesn't rise before 8 or 9am in winter).
- Do you know any European country that doesn't have 4 seasons ?


Afterwards, I'm sure they would not ask that question again of a foreigner as now they were enlightened.

I have experienced a few times that the same person asked me twice a dumb question a few weeks later. I usually don't forget what I was asked by some particular person, especially if it struck me as dumb, or on the contrary, intelligent.


I used to answer in Japanese, "Of course I can eat with chopsticks, eat sushi, sleep in a futon, cook my own rice, etc. etc. I've lived here for 16 years!" My polite answer to their "dumb" question kind of humbled some of them and I'm sure they felt awkward asking that question.

Well, I hope it didn't take you 16 years to get use to that. Rather than saying how long I have been in Japan to explain that I can do these things, I say that I could already do them before coming to Japan, as most people can.

For the "can you eat this or that food" questions, I always return the question, and it appears that quite a few Japanese cannot eat either sushi (about 10%) or natto (about 50%). If they ask me about food (yes, I can eat sushi, uni, tofu and hijiki, but I don't like natto), I also ask them if they can eat frogs, snails, kangaroo, ostrich, venison, rabbit (oh, kawaisooo !), turkey, lamb, goat, crocodile or fried insects. I can eat all of them. I have asked about 30 Japanese about these, and usually they can't eat most or any of them. Who is laughing now ?

Pachipro
Feb 1, 2005, 23:09
Well, this thread has generated some good, decent discussion which I enjoy very much. No one here is bashing Japan, there is just a difference of opinion as to why we feel Japanese are more hypocritical with foreigners. To continue going "Point-Counterpoint" would be just rehashing the same opinions.

I clicked on the link "Big Daikon" that Mad Pierrot (thank you Mad Pierrot) recently posted in another thread and came across a thesis by a Phd that seems to answer the question of why foreigners feel discriminated and not accepted in Japan regardless of their knowledge of the Japanese language and culture. This guy said much of what I was trying to say, but I was not as articulate as he. His theory, I think, is well founded. I am posting parts as a new thread to generate some discussion and that maybe more will read it. It's too bad that he never finished the book he was going to write as his site has been dead since May, 2002. I would've loved to read the rest of his thesis.

Maciamo
Feb 1, 2005, 23:18
I clicked on the link "Big Daikon" that Mad Pierrot (thank you Mad Pierrot) recently posted in another thread and came across a thesis by a Phd that seems to answer the question of why foreigners feel discriminated and not accepted in Japan regardless of their knowledge of the Japanese language and culture.

I thought that article had been written by Damon of Japan.box.sk (his site was quite successful but eventually shut down for some reasons). Either "Dan E. Vez" is a pseudonym (very likely actually), or he "borrowed" that article for his site (or was it somebody else who posted it ?).

kirei_na_me
Feb 1, 2005, 23:35
I'll have to disagree here. Even some of the poorly educated kids I knew from the city know that Japan is industrialized.

Yeah, same here. I live in the South and most of the "rednecks" around here know enough to know that Japan is known for their highly advanced "gadgets" and also know that it's a wealthy country.

And as far as not knowing brands like Toyota, Sony, Panasonic, etc., are not Japanese, that just doesn't happen around here. The most countrified, backwoods, uneducated person around here is bound to say something like "those Jap brands ain't no better than ours". It's not very nice, but they do know where they originated.

Everybody around here gets my husband to help them with anything electronic. Why? Because he's Japanese, of course. How's that for stereotyping? :p


Here's an interesting example to talk about: Today I was having lunch at a school I've been teaching at for 2 years. The teachers sitting next to me where having a discussion about the Bush regime and it's policies with North Korea. As they were speculating about the US government, I politely offered some comments on my perceptions. (In Japanese.) And, (I'm not joking) the response I got from the Kocho Sensei was "Do you have ka-re in America?"
(We were eating curry udon for lunch today....)

Reminds me of the time I was talking to a couple of female Japanese friends about the American soldier(s) and the rape controversy(ies) in Okinawa. I was trying to ask their feelings on the matter, and I got a very shocking remark from one of them. I won't say what it was, but it really took me by surprise, and in a very bad way.

Pachipro
Feb 1, 2005, 23:37
I don't know Maciamo, I followed the links to his site and it does seem that he indeed wrote it, but like I said, that site, although still active, has not been updated since May 2002. He supposidly returned to Japan at that time. Regardless, his theory does seem valid to me.

Pachipro
Feb 3, 2005, 02:31
I live here in the South also. Nashville, TN. We had a friend over last weekend and were watching the football game on TV. This friend asks my wife if they have football in Japan. He then asks if they have baseball and other such sports! This guy is not uneducated, but why ask a question like that? It just shows one's ignorance. I challenge anyone to ask your average American to point out Japan on a blank map and more than two thirds will be unable to do so. Granted not ALL americans feel or think the way I replied above, but quite a few of them, and I do mean the younger ones do. One of my nephews and a couple of aquaintences thought that Sony and Panasonic were American companies. Call themm dumb if you want, but they have a college degree! Apparently the educational instutions are lacking somewhat. Meet enough people and you will come across those that don't know some of the things I listed. Maybe I've travelled too much and met too many people as a truck driver, I don't know. But more than a few Americans are pretty ignorant when it comes to foreign countries and products. Same as in Japan.

Maciamo
Feb 3, 2005, 09:53
Call them dumb if you want, but they have a college degree! Apparently the educational instutions are lacking somewhat.

A college degree is not what makes a person intelligent. There are plenty of dumb people with a college degree (and some who don't but are intelligent). I guess anybody motivated and hard-working enough can get a college degree if they tried.

Japanese acyually understand that a degree is just a worthless piece of paper. When a company recruits, they don't look at how well people performed at university/college, nor even what they have studied. What matters most is the name of the university/college, which is often in turn linked to the primary and secondary one has studied at (eg. entering Keio primary school almost guarantees you to enter and graduate from the prestigious Keio University). And what does determine who enters such elite schools first ? Money ! Japanese often claimed to be a class-less society, but it's so similar to the elitist "public schools & Oxbridge" system in the UK. Americans also often think they don't have social classes, which I never understood as the social-economic differences between US citizens are among the biggest in the world. I think the reason is that both Americans and Japanese are not aware of their own class system. That may be one important similarities between them.


Meet enough people and you will come across those that don't know some of the things I listed. Maybe I've travelled too much and met too many people as a truck driver, I don't know. But more than a few Americans are pretty ignorant when it comes to foreign countries and products. Same as in Japan.

I am starting to see more and more similarities between Japan and the US. Of course, Japan was partially modelled on the US after WWII, but does that explain the generally poor common knowledge and world knowledge, and the narrow range of intellectual interests of both the average American and Japanese ? I would like to add the Australians in the list too. What is the similarity between these three countries ? They are isolated and have a strong sense of their own (national) identity.

We could also argue that they all have a pretty short history. In fact the history of the US and Australia is the same as that of Europe before the first colonists arrived (the natives had no writing system, so no history in the technical sense of the term). In the same way Japan only got its writing system in the 6th century AD (well over 1000 years after Europe and over 3000 years after the Egypt or Babylon). But what makes me consider that Japan has a relatively "new country" is the fact that the concept of Modern Japan as a nation only came with Meiji - before each region felt as different countries, with their own dialects. In contrast the US defined itslef as a nation in the modern sense 100 years earlier.

ArmandV
Feb 3, 2005, 11:40
What ! Is there people in the States who think that Toyota is American !! :mad: That doesn't improve my image of the average American, I can assure you !




While we were touring Japan last summer, a Japanese person asked one of our tour members if we have McDonalds in America. :-)

Some there may think that McDonalds originated in Japan.

ragedaddy
Feb 3, 2005, 14:52
That's not true. It's impossible not to be exposed to Western culture everyday in Japan. Most movies at the theatre and many movies and series on TV are Western (while there are virtually no Japanese or Asian movies showing in Western countries). There are so many Westerners in Tokyo that it is impossible to take the subway without seeing one. Then with tens of thousands of NOVA, AEON, GEOS and other language schools where teachers are all native speakers (so foreigners), and millions of Japanese attending these classes (even if just a few times), there is a much higher chance that the average Japanese has already met, talked to or at least observed Westerners on TV many times, rather than the average Westerner having met a Japanese (except those living near very touristical spots).

First, the exposure that A japanese person gets from a Western Movie or TV program would not tell them much at all about Western culture. In fact, these would create many more stereotypes and generalizations due to the fact that these movies and shows don't even come close to accurately portraying the West. Now that I think about it, no wonder some Japanese people ask Americans if they all carry guns, because you can see it in several movies guns, violence, drugs. How are they to know that this isn't all hyped up and is not the typical scenario in the West. It would be absolutely foolish to say that the Japanese can get a good sense of Western culture from these shows.

You think that seeing foreigners on the street and in subways tell a Japanese person anything about who that person is, or what there culture is like? Even the English teachers at NOVA or where ever they go through the lesson, and that's about it. They don't focus all their lessons on the Western culture. The only way that you are going to learn about the Western culture from these people is to sit down with them and have an in depth chat about it.


These are fake excuses. I know many Japanese people who have lived in Western countries and still ask such dumb questions. Even the Japanese who were introduced to me by a Western friend (and thus having at least one Western friend) still ask these routine questions. Maybe its' just a custom of greeting foreigners in Japan to ask them if they can eat natto or sushi and if they can, try to ask for other kind of food until there is one sort of Japanese food the foreigner cannot eat. But I can feel that they want to be unique and want the "foreigner" to appear inferior for not being able to do such simple everyday things as eating such or such food, using chopsticks or reading kanji (when in fact many Japanese are not very proficient themselves).

These are not necessarily fake excuses, because I have met people who do not know much about the Western culture, nor have that much interest in such a thing. What ever happened to the golden rule "There aren't any stupid questions." If you have no idea about a subject and you are inquisitive about it, then by all means the person should ask. At times I get frustrated with the stuff myself, but then I have to tell myself they really want to know, so I better clarify what they are asking.

Maciamo
Feb 3, 2005, 16:46
First, the exposure that A japanese person gets from a Western Movie or TV program would not tell them much at all about Western culture. In fact, these would create many more stereotypes and generalizations due to the fact that these movies and shows don't even come close to accurately portraying the West. Now that I think about it, no wonder some Japanese people ask Americans if they all carry guns, because you can see it in several movies guns, violence, drugs.

Hey, adults are big enough to discern between fictional action movies and fanastic ones like Harry Potter, or those actually depicting real life like many romance or "true stories" do. Do you believe that all Japanese are samurai because you watch a Kurosawa movie ?


You think that seeing foreigners on the street and in subways tell a Japanese person anything about who that person is, or what there culture is like?

Observing people is a good start. Certainly better than never have seen a foreigner before. There are also higher chances of interaction, like asking one's way, etc. Small things, but that counts.


Even the English teachers at NOVA or where ever they go through the lesson, and that's about it. They don't focus all their lessons on the Western culture. The only way that you are going to learn about the Western culture from these people is to sit down with them and have an in depth chat about it.

Almost all my English lessons include telling my students about Western (well at least one particular country)'s culture, making comparison with Japan, or just explain the difference of system, lifetsyle, mentality or whatever. How can you teach a language without teaching the culture where it comes from with it ?


What ever happened to the golden rule "There aren't any stupid questions."

Whose golden rule is that ? I mean, from time to time it's ok, but when 9 people out of 10 that you meet ask you almost only stupid questions all the time (I have had such days in Japan, although not everyday of course), there is a limit to one's patience.


If you have no idea about a subject and you are inquisitive about it, then by all means the person should ask.

Do you sincerely believe that the vast majoriy of the Japanese do not know that European countries have four seasons, that McDonald and Disney are American, or that we have New Year greetings card in Western countries too (because it originated there) ? And what does difference does it make whether I (one particular foreigner, maybe completely different from the others) can eat this or that food or not, that it is such a ritual question ?

Vinylhoer
Feb 7, 2005, 07:22
Hey, adults are big enough to discern between fictional action movies and fanastic ones like Harry Potter, or those actually depicting real life like many romance or "true stories" do. Do you believe that all Japanese are samurai because you watch a Kurosawa movie ??I think it isn't always easy to discern between fiction and reality in films. There are of course some obvious things (like the samurai thing you mention), but usually the things where the wrong ideas originate are the little details. That could for instance be a subtle 'joke' in an American film of which only Americans will know it is a 'joke'. Foreigners might take this seriously and a wrong image is created.

I think every country has it's own customs and the people are aware of that. If I notice a foreigner eating some typically Dutch food that's, usually a nice way to start a conversation with that person. So maybe those dumb questions are just used by Japanese people as an opening to start a conversation. Maybe they already know that you have McDonalds in America, but if that's one of the few things they know about America that might be the only opening they have to start a conversation.

Maciamo
Feb 7, 2005, 11:23
I think every country has it's own customs and the people are aware of that. If I notice a foreigner eating some typically Dutch food that's, usually a nice way to start a conversation with that person. So maybe those dumb questions are just used by Japanese people as an opening to start a conversation. Maybe they already know that you have McDonalds in America, but if that's one of the few things they know about America that might be the only opening they have to start a conversation.

Except if the "foreigner" they address is not American ! Unfortunately, some Japanese (I'd say 10 to 20%) tend to assume that any Westerner is American. Some people in the street (especially in rural areas) just shout "hey America !" when they see a Westerner. But the worse is that many Japanese still don't make the difference even when they know that the person they are talking to is NOT American. How many times have I not been asked "Do you have this in America ?" or "How would Americans do ?", when the speakers knew very well I was not American. Sometimes I gets so much on my nerves that I just reply to my Japanese interlocutor "well, who do you Chinese do ?". I was perticularily shocked that some Japanese I had known for 2 years (and met regularily) would still consider me as an American. Then you have those who say "what about America ?", then realise their mistake and say "well, I mean in Europe".

den4
Feb 9, 2005, 14:36
tons of 7-11 on the west coast...
I don't know about Europe, but I believe that the Japanese folks that ask the "stupid" questions would not do so if it was in their native language...ok...most of the people...and even the bright intelligent ones I believe have this severe "complex" when it comes to dealing with the "gaijin" that even though in more calm rational times they would not behave that way, when it comes to dealing with foreigners, their "complex" that is typified by a past NOVA commercial of having all of the nihonjin turning into "rocks" when confronted by a foreigner explains the rather irrational nature of the questions.
The reason I say this, and for those that know me here know that I know nothing so probably shouldn't stick my neck out with this explanation, but from my own personal observations, I often wondered why the Japanese ask these dumb-*** questions when it comes to foreigners...whether it was based on prejudice, racism, or just out and out irrational "gaijin complex" that makes one person behave ultra extroverted around foreigners and another to clam up tighter than the shellfish...

The advantage (or disadvantage) I had to learn some of this is that because all of my ancestors came from the land of the rising Engrish, the one thing they always told me when they found out I was amelikajin was that I look like a Japanese, so they weren't intimidated by my appearance. This, of course, had the negative side-effect that many times people thought I was a complete idiot when I didn't understand what one of them was saying to me. But one learns to live with one's handicaps... :D
In the ideal world, I agree that the Japanese would do better if they stopped looking upon foreigners with awe or shock-horror...but since that ain't gonna happen any time soon, it's probably best to just "accept" the fact that in the long run, you aren't going to change their ideas or views of foreigners...the only thing you can change is how they perceive you...and also how you perceive them...and also how you perceive how they perceive you...
Since you're practically a native speaker there, it goes without saying that you know the history and the current trends probably better than I would, (alternatively, if you are not practically a native speaker, then get into practice so you can be! :D ),but the one thing I did learn in Japan was that nobody forced us to go there or live there or put up with the nightmares or joys that one can find there, so if the complaints become too unbearable, then it naturally goes that nobody is forcing anybody to stay there, either...but it is obvious that you find the stay there far outweighs the negatives, so that is why you stay...and that should be reason enough to also just learn to accept things for what they are, and if you have the ability to change one or two people to get out of their gaijin complex, then that should be the goal, rather than stressing out on why the people ask the stupid questions....
It is very easy to focus on the negative aspects of living in Japan...but the challenge is how are you going to break that cycle of stupid question asking or their clamming up when they encounter you? Or your own frustrations with their constantly saying, "Gee you use that chopstick very well..."
Be proactive....the next time somebody says that to you, find an opportunity when they are using a spoon or a knife and fork at an elegant spaghetti restaurant, and smile, kindly and say, "Gee, Sato-san (or whomever it happens to be) you really use that fork very well..."
It's really all about perception...and how one perceives others perceiving us...and how well you take advantage of that perception to better your own situation...or not... :D
This has been a generalized statement not directed at any one person but to everybody or nobody as you wish to perceive it... :D

Maciamo
Feb 9, 2005, 21:23
I don't know about Europe, but I believe that the Japanese folks that ask the "stupid" questions would not do so if it was in their native language...

So how comes I am asked the same questions in Japanese, and even by people I have known for some time (who may ask again and again, several kind of strange questions) and who visibly feel comfortable with me ?

Regarding the "4 seasons" question, my wife said that they were taught at school that Japan was almost unique for having 4 seasons. I just can't believe it. I was taught that countries with temperate climates, like in Europe, most of North America and North-East Asia, Argentina, Chile, Southern Australia, N-Z, etc. have 4 seasons. But I understand the educational gap when I was told that not everybody in Japan has geography classes at school if they don't choose it as an option. In comparison, everyone in most European countries and regions have 6 years of compulsory geography/geology/geopolitics (and history) classes. Maybe that is the only reason why there is such a gap of "common knowledge". On this point of view, the US and Japan are quite similar, but Japan's case is even worse, whatever they say about Japan having a harder education system than the US.

Additionally, as I said I find some questions or remarks insulting (the chopsticks or "nihongo jozu desu ne" said apparently only to beginners who mix all their words up). Today, there was a TV programme about the Korean community in Tokyo. They went to a Korean grocery shop with the camera, and when the Korean owner (probably Japan-born) said "konnichiwa" the Tv staff replied "oh nihongo kozu desu ne !". The poor guy had just said "hello", so how could they know ? What's more it's not the kind of things they should say to long-term resident (as he was, as a business owner), who could very welll have been born and raised in Japan like so many other Koreans. I find this utterly insulting and condescending from the Japanese. Just because he is a foreigner the Japanese presuppose that he can't speak Japanese (well). The fact that this happened on TV (and not the only time) shows how the Japanese do not mind being patronizing with foreigners. And as the guy looked Japanese and lived in Japan, it wasn't even because of any gaijin-complex or whatever.

den4
Feb 10, 2005, 00:23
So how comes I am asked the same questions in Japanese, and even by people I have known for some time (who may ask again and again, several kind of strange questions) and who visibly feel comfortable with me ?
There are no doubt some people that may appear visibly comfortable with the foreigner, such as yourself, but are you really sure about that? Have you ever asked the person to consider what they are saying? Well, chances are that you have done so, and if your comments are of any indications, the answers you received weren't satisfactory, yes? Perhaps if you reversed the trend by asking them bizarre questions might job some reactions, but then chances are you'd only get referred to as the weird gaijin, so that may not work either. I suppose it's best to find the nihonjin that are on the same level as you are, conversationally, and ignore the others except for basic salutations....
Chances are good, however, that the persons in question you are referring to have never really considered what their questions indicate, if they are weird, strange, offensive or whatever...it might be good to inform them of this, if you have a mind to do so...but then, depending on the person, it could also be a waste of time.....I've dealt with folks here, in the Great US of A who when dealing with things they are familiar with can talk on an even keel, but try to explain something they are not familiar with, they also begin asking or commenting in a rather naive way...but to each their own....I do get annoyed when I still meet people who think that Japanese people all are geishas and samurais and can't figure out how they make them Toyotas and Nissans.... :D
But then, the reverse is true, when I get asked by the Japanese if folks in the backwater state of Oregon still have cowboy and Indian wars...
otagaisama desu :D

Pachipro
Feb 10, 2005, 02:09
....their "complex" that is typified by a past NOVA commercial of having all of the nihonjin turning into "rocks" when confronted by a foreigner explains the rather irrational nature of the questions.
This further exacerbates the problem foreigners are having in Japan when a Japanese company like NOVA, uses to their advantage, that national complex to increase their student population. This doesn't help as, 30 years later, nothing has changed and, at this pace, I'll be long gone if it does. The only good thing is that there will always be employment for English teachers in Japan.


It is very easy to focus on the negative aspects of living in Japan...but the challenge is how are you going to break that cycle of stupid question asking or their clamming up when they encounter you? Or your own frustrations with their constantly saying, "Gee you use that chopstick very well..."
Each foreigner living in Japan will have to come to grips with this on their own, in their own way. I've seen it eat up some foreigners to the point of them having to leave the country because they couldn't cope with the difference in culture and attitude.

I've said this before and I'll say it again, don't get me wrong here, I was just as annoyed during my early years in Japan as some of you to the point of wanting to scream at the top of my lungs, "What? Are you all a bunch of idiots! Are we all nothing but talking dogs to you people, here for your amusement?" But I learned to study, observe, and learn from the Japanese people and culture and why they acted in this way. I asked many questions of the Japanese and learned why they think the way they do. Soon, my thinking slowly turned 180 degrees and it no longer irritated me as I learned that, no matter what, the Japanese are basically not prejudiced, xenophobic, or have an underlying dislike of all foreigners. They are just a curious island people who are being taught that they, their history, and their ways are unique to the rest of the world and any foreigner that adapts, or tries to adapt, is the most curious and unique of all. Answering "dumb" questions, I hope, helped set the record straight with those I came in contact with.

ArmandV
Feb 10, 2005, 03:03
As irritated some of us may get over repeated questions from the Japanese population, they may get as equally irritated by some inane questions some of us foreigners may ask of them.

After my first trip, people back home kept asking, "Did you sleep on the floor?" My stock answer was, "No, I slept on a futon." Inane questions from fellow countrymen may be just as irritating to us. Some people never bother to leave their fishbowls to experience other countries and their cultures for themselves as many of us had. I guess it is part of our cross to bear as world travelers.

Pachipro
Feb 10, 2005, 03:07
You are quite correct ArmandV as I tried to explain in a previous post. I agree with you in that, like you, I prefer to make the world my backyard while others prefer to make their world their back yard. I think I read that somewhere once.

ArmandV
Feb 10, 2005, 03:09
I prefer to make the world my backyard while others prefer to make their world their back yard.


Thanks! I'll have to remember this one!

den4
Feb 10, 2005, 06:21
the problems become when the borders between the yards become merged or confused.... :D

Maciamo
Feb 10, 2005, 11:12
But I learned to study, observe, and learn from the Japanese people and culture and why they acted in this way. I asked many questions of the Japanese and learned why they think the way they do. Soon, my thinking slowly turned 180 degrees and it no longer irritated me as I learned that, no matter what, the Japanese are basically not prejudiced, xenophobic, or have an underlying dislike of all foreigners. They are just a curious island people who are being taught that they, their history, and their ways are unique to the rest of the world and any foreigner that adapts, or tries to adapt, is the most curious and unique of all.

I am not sure it makes me feel better to know that they are being taught (=lied to) that their country is unique about such things as having 4 seasons (when not all parts of Japan doesn't even have them). After all, by whom are they being taught ? By other Japanese, by tens of thousands of school teachers, by their parents or by society as a whole. So how do you distinguish the person who is taught and the one who teaches others ?

What I don't understand is how naive they can be in the first place to believe all that nonsense that is taught to them. Keeping with the example of the 4 seasons, how can they not know that Europe or most of North America has 4 seasons, when most Japanese know Vivaldi's 4 seasons (why would have it been named like that 300 years ago if the 4 seasons were unique to Japan ?) or don't they see in Western movies or in the news on TV that it is cold and snowing in winter and that people go skiing (not a Japanese invention!), but that all the flowers forcedly bloom again in spring and that people are in t-shirt in summer and go to the beach. Don't they see like in their own JTB travel agencies that there are "autumn leaves" (koyo) tours in Canada, New England, Norway, etc. Don't they know there are cherry trees outside Japan, when they mostly eat imported American cherries, and eat German cakes like "Black Forest" with German black cherries ? I may still forgive them for not knowing that Northern Europe has more distinct seasons than Japan because of its higher latitude, and that summer days are much longer (like 17h of daylight) and winter days much shorter (about 7h of daylight).

Maciamo
Feb 10, 2005, 11:31
As irritated some of us may get over repeated questions from the Japanese population, they may get as equally irritated by some inane questions some of us foreigners may ask of them.

After my first trip, people back home kept asking, "Did you sleep on the floor?" My stock answer was, "No, I slept on a futon." Inane questions from fellow countrymen may be just as irritating to us. Some people never bother to leave their fishbowls to experience other countries and their cultures for themselves as many of us had. I guess it is part of our cross to bear as world travelers.

This may be due to the fact that you are from the States. I went back home this January and met about 20 relatives and friends I hadn't seen for 4 or 5 years (before I came to Japan), and not a single one of them, not even the children or the elderly, asked me a stupid question. They asked how was life in Japan, what I did there, or asked me to explain about the writing system, etc. But no questions related to samurai, geisha, sleeping on the floor, and not even a single question about food I think (and certainly no stupid questions to my wife about her ability to eat European food).

den4
Feb 10, 2005, 15:21
This may be due to the fact that you are from the States. I went back home this January and met about 20 relatives and friends I hadn't seen for 4 or 5 years (before I came to Japan), and not a single one of them, not even the children or the elderly, asked me a stupid question. They asked how was life in Japan, what I did there, or asked me to explain about the writing system, etc. But no questions related to samurai, geisha, sleeping on the floor, and not even a single question about food I think (and certainly no stupid questions to my wife about her ability to eat European food).

Consider yourself a fortunate person to have family and friends that are as enlightened as they are (at least from the way you describe them)...alternatively, if things continue to trouble you there in grand ol' Nippon, then it sounds like you need another vacation away from the land of the rising engrish, so you can weigh the benefits or penalties of living there...

Having said that, there have been many times when the Japanese folks I talked with also wonder why they need to explain everything to us foreigners. If we understand the language as well as we think we do, then, they ask, why do we need to ask them to explain the reasons for why the things are the way they are...can't we just figure it out by the nuance of the way things are spoken? I have heard their frustration over this as well...that we tend to think too much in binary that we forget there are other ways of thinking about things that we may not be used to, or completely ignore, because we have become so set in our ways...

An example is the word Kan that I hear many times, referring to that elusive "intuition" that is so prevalent in J-society...take two Japanese and if one of them is a bit out of sorts, without really expressing an explanation on how they are feeling, they can "nantonaku" figure out that something is up...even though the reason for their condition or situation or feelings are not verbally expressed in any way that be explainable in a word or two in English...

While I do agree that there are many people that do ask stupid questions, I still feel that this comes from that innate combination of unprepared awkwardness and the ultra wanting to avoid embarrassment plus irrational panic mode thinking that most Japanese people tend to have when dealing with people that speak in English...this may also be true with other languages...but I think English is the major culprit...

Perhaps it is time for you to try an experiment...in the great tradition of Eddie Murphy and make-up for films like "Black like Me," or in Eddie Murphy's parody, for Saturday Night Live's "White like me..." perhaps it is time for you to try and fathom what life is like for a Japanese person by becoming one...you obviously have the linguistics down, so all you need is the proper make-up and some coaching from your friends and Japanese peers, and see what it is like to be Japanese...and see if you can gain some inner insights into what Japan is like from the Japanese perspective, and see for yourself how the typical Japanese person is treated vs. say the foreigner...You'll have to set aside your western logical thinking style, as well, if you intend to blend in with the surroundings...but perhaps this will be the only way you can get some first hand information on things that continue to trouble you there...

it is merely an idea... :wave:

jt_
Feb 10, 2005, 16:16
An example is the word Kan that I hear many times, referring to that elusive "intuition" that is so prevalent in J-society...take two Japanese and if one of them is a bit out of sorts, without really expressing an explanation on how they are feeling, they can "nantonaku" figure out that something is up...even though the reason for their condition or situation or feelings are not verbally expressed in any way that be explainable in a word or two in English...This is a really fascinating discussion which unfortunately I don't have enough time to comment fully on, but for now I just want to say in reference to the above: I personally don't buy this idea that there's some mystical intuition that is possessed uniquely by the Japanese. I think this basically just comes from the fact that since many Japanese are taught (trained?) to keep certain feelings to themselves, trying to figure out how other people are feeling without being explicitly told becomes both a virtue and even a necessity.

On the other hand, someone from a culture where people are more open with their feelings will be accustomed to people telling them straight out how they're feeling, or when something is amiss, and therefore won't be consciously going around trying to "read" people and figure out what they're hiding (or at least not showing) all the time.

Also, the idea that there are feelings that can't be expressed in Japanese as directly as they could be in English for example is silly (I know this isn't necessarily exactly what you were saying, but I think there are some native Japanese speakers who might try to argue this) -- people may think this is so because they don't say these things, but of course it's possible to be explicit and direct in Japanese -- people just don't do it. It's cultural, not linguistic.

But anyway, I think the mystical Japanese intuition or "kan" is just basically a skill for "reading" people that's born out of the necessity of doing so in a society where people are hesitant (or to some extent, even taught/trained not to) speak their mind.

PopCulturePooka
Feb 10, 2005, 16:43
This may be due to the fact that you are from the States. I went back home this January and met about 20 relatives and friends I hadn't seen for 4 or 5 years (before I came to Japan), and not a single one of them, not even the children or the elderly, asked me a stupid question. They asked how was life in Japan, what I did there, or asked me to explain about the writing system, etc. But no questions related to samurai, geisha, sleeping on the floor, and not even a single question about food I think (and certainly no stupid questions to my wife about her ability to eat European food).
You're lucky.
Been back home 5 days, barely met anyone again yet but already the idiotic questions have started.

'Did you eat raw fish?'
'Did you buy schoolgirls panties?'
'Did you see Godzilla?'

Maciamo
Feb 10, 2005, 18:49
An example is the word Kan that I hear many times, referring to that elusive "intuition" that is so prevalent in J-society...take two Japanese and if one of them is a bit out of sorts, without really expressing an explanation on how they are feeling, they can "nantonaku" figure out that something is up...even though the reason for their condition or situation or feelings are not verbally expressed in any way that be explainable in a word or two in English...

I agree with everything JT has commented on this. Again, I feel very much that your point of view is basically an "American vs Japanese", which doesn't take into consideration all the cultures of Europe.

Many North Europeans have as difficult, and I'd say sometimes more difficult, than the Japanese to express their feelings. Personally, there are several people in my family who will never say how they feel, and one really needs to be a fine psychologist or have a lot of intuition to understand their feelings. Sometimes I am like that too (but much less than, say, my father), and my wife, with all her "cultural training" from the Japanese society and in spite of the fact that women are more intuitive, usually has a very hard time to figure out how I feel or what I think. I, on the contrary, can read her mind like a book and often tell her how she feels better than she can herself (she is often surprised by my intuition), thanks to the cultural environment in which I grew up, which I think requires much more "mind-reading" than in Japan.

As I said earlier, when my family came to Japan, they first impression was that the Japanese were very extroverted people, which they likened to the Italians. I think it says a lot about how much more reserved than the Japanese Northern Europeans (British, Dutch, Belgians, Scandinavians, and even Germans) can be. But it is also a fact that the Americans, Australians or Italians are even more extroverted than the Japanese. I think the main difference is that the Japanese are not very concerned about exactitude. They often express in words how they feel (kaze hiita kamo! guai ga warui! atsui! samui! tsukareta! kirei! sugoi! kawaii! uso! shinjirarenai!), but rarely bother to analyse carefully the causes of their feelings, as I would do. Rather than saying "onaka ga itai" (very vague), I'd say "i ga itai" or "chou ga itai" or "chinzou ga itai" or "kihou ga itai" depending on where it actually aches. But there is some truth that the Japanes language also lacks accuracy. There is no difference between "ache" and "hurt", or even between "leg" and "foot" in Japanese. For a person like me who would rather complain of a pain in the quadriceps (in the thigh) or in the calf or shin or ankle rather than just the "leg", one may understand that I find the Japanese unbelievably inaccurate in everyday life. I somewhat pity Japanese doctors, who have to hear their patients say "onaka itai" rather than tell them directly which part of their abdomen aches.

Maciamo
Feb 10, 2005, 19:04
You're lucky.
Been back home 5 days, barely met anyone again yet but already the idiotic questions have started.

'Did you eat raw fish?'
'Did you buy schoolgirls panties?'
'Did you see Godzilla?'

I don't think I am "lucky". My family and friends are like everybody else in the Benelux, France or England. I think it's just a cultural difference. The people I met last month were not particularily interested in Japan and so had little knowledge about it, but didn't show it or tried to learn by asking explanations rather than start from an erroneous statement or absurd question. It's not just in the culture to ask stupid questions or display one's ignorance or prejudices. I have few direct experiences with American people, but when I was in Australia, I was confronted to the same kind of dumb questions ("Is Belgium a part of Denmark ?", instead of a more appropriate "Where exactly is Belgium located ?"), or especially prejudiced remarks (like "all the Germans are nazi", or "French people are good at making perfume because they stink") as in Japan. From what I read on this forum, I think the "average" Americans are pretty much like the "average" Australians, that is as ignorant as the Japanese but without the naiveness, respect and desire to learn about "foreign countries".

PopCulturePooka
Feb 10, 2005, 21:31
Heh we could go tit for tat.
I could post a list of incredibly idiotic questions asked by Europeans about Australia.
There was an email circualted a few years ago about the very subject in fact.

Lets look at some choice ones:

Q: Does it ever get windy in Australia? I have never seen it rain
on TV, so how do the plants grow? (UK)


Q: Which direction should I drive - Perth to Darwin or Darwin to
Perth - to avoid driving with the sun in my eyes? (Germany)


Q: I want to walk from Perth to Sydney - can I follow the
railroad tracks? (Sweden)


Q: Is it safe to run around in the bushes in Australia? (Sweden)


Q: It is imperative that I find the names and addresses of places
to contact for a stuffed porpoise. (Italy)


Q: Do you have perfume in Australia? (France)


Q: Can I wear high heels in Australia? (UK)


Q: Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia? (France)


Q: Are there supermarkets in Sydney and is milk available all
year round? (Germany)


These are some questions asked by tourists planning to come to Australia to see the Sydney olympics 5 years ago.

Pachipro
Feb 10, 2005, 22:38
After all, by whom are they being taught ? By other Japanese, by tens of thousands of school teachers, by their parents or by society as a whole.
The answer is yes, and yes, and yes. As is agreed, the Japanese are a very naieve people and believe, without question, everything that is told to them by their parents, teachers, and the media/government who start the whole process. We all agree that, with the group mentality thinking, no one dare question authority, even if he/she knows otherwise, lest the "protruding nail get hammered down.

Let's take one example of this mindset from the mid '70's that I often use because it is so absurd. European Rossingnoll(sp?), a manufactuer of very high quality skis, I think wanted Japan to lower the tariff or increase imports or something like that. Anyway the Japanese government refused saying that, get ready for this, the snow in Japan was different than the snow in other countries and Japanese ski companies use special materials in their skis to account for this which foreign companies do not. Thus no competition and Japanese ski manufacturers could collude and set high prices for their skis because the materials were superior.

This was said by the government, reported in the media, which in turn the teachers probably taught their students and no one questioned it except the foreign media. Thus, some unlucky foreigner in Japan probably was told this by one of his students or friends and came to the conclusion that the Japanese are ignorant rather than naieve.

Something like this was even said about their rice to stave off foreign imports and protect the rice farmers. Thus, the Japanese pay more for their rice than any country in the world. There are numerous other examples.


So how do you distinguish the person who is taught and the one who teaches others ?
You can't. Unless the government stops setting the rules, and the Japanese people, as a whole, start questioning authority and stop swallowing hook, line and sinker everything that they are taught or hear in the media, foreigners will always be asked absurd questions about their countries by them.

Pachipro
Feb 10, 2005, 22:56
FirstHousePooka: Excellent post. This shows that people from all countries are ignorant, to some extent, about other countries and cultures not just Americans, Australians, or Japanese, to name a few. My wife's best friend, who is married to a British gentlemen, came across the same absurd questions from some of her inlaws and her husbands friends. I don't care where one goes in the world, someone intelligent will ask an absurd question about a foreigners country, neh?

ArmandV
Feb 10, 2005, 23:06
FirstHousePooka: Excellent post. This shows that people from all countries are ignorant, to some extent, about other countries and cultures not just Americans, Australians, or Japanese, to name a few. My wife's best friend, who is married to a British gentlemen, came across the same absurd questions from some of her inlaws and her husbands friends. I don't care where one goes in the world, someone intelligent will ask an absurd question about a foreigners country, neh?


Exactly!

I would categorize the questions/questioners three ways:

1. Influenced by stereotypes. :p
2. Totally ignorant. :p
3. Inquiring minds want to know. :-)

jt_
Feb 11, 2005, 00:42
Maciamo, I agree with many of the things you say here, but I was just curious about this one point about the vagueness of the Japanese language:


Rather than saying "onaka ga itai" (very vague), I'd say "i ga itai" or "chou ga itai" or "chinzou ga itai" or "kihou ga itai" depending on where it actually aches. But there is some truth that the Japanes language also lacks accuracy. There is no difference between "ache" and "hurt", or even between "leg" and "foot" in Japanese. For a person like me who would rather complain of a pain in the quadriceps (in the thigh) or in the calf or shin or ankle rather than just the "leg", one may understand that I find the Japanese unbelievably inaccurate in everyday life. I somewhat pity Japanese doctors, who have to hear their patients say "onaka itai" rather than tell them directly which part of their abdomen aches.I find this really interesting. I can't speak for any the European languages you may speak, but at least in American English (the only language I'm qualified to comment on), nobody makes the distinction between "i" and "chou" when talking about a stomachache. Of course, the words exist, and one can talk about e.g. one's intestines if one so chooses, but a typical English speaker is just going to say "I have a stomachache" or "My stomach hurts". (And again, I'm not sure that the typical English speaker will make a distinction between "ache" and "hurt" there... At least in this case, I would consider them synonymous. "Cramp" might be different, though)

In fact, it was only after going to Japan that I learned to distinguish the two in my speech, when I would mention offhand to my fiancee that my stomach hurts and she would ask me to clarify so she would know what type of medicine to give me (I had never really taken medicine for stomach aches before, anyway, but...). I always found this to be an example where the Japanese language and speakers of it were much more precise about something than native speakers of my own language. I mean, you can point to a word like "ashi" covering both the leg and the foot, but then you can just as easily point to something else like all the seasonal words for rain that exist in Japanese. To an English speaker, rain is just rain and a (rain)storm is just a rain(storm), but in Japanese you get words like 'yuudachi' that refer to specific types of rain that come during specific times of the year. It just seems to me that it goes both ways.

But I think most importantly is to distinguish between what people can say and what they do. Just simply having more unique nouns to refer to certain things, for example, doesn't mean that a language is inherently "more precise" because there are other ways to be specific about what you're saying. Likewise, what people choose to say (itai! omoshiroi! sugoi! kawaii!) does not reflect all that they're capable of saying. If a Japanese speaker says "Kawaii!" about something that you don't find cute at all, you can go ahead and ask them "Doko ga?" without having to worry about them exploding from a lack of linguistic ability to express the specific characteristics of cuteness.

The way I see it, it's very possible to be vague and evasive in English and to be precise and blunt in Japanese -- all it takes is an individual speaker choosing to do so.

nurizeko
Feb 11, 2005, 02:26
i learned to use chopsticks at a chinese resturaunt when i was 10-11.

my japanese girlfriend was suprised that A) i had chopsticks at my house, with the rest of my cutlery, B) that i knew how to use them.

she did though try and show me the "proper" way to use them * i can only assume chinese hold chopsticks only slightly differently from japanese because i could use them quite easily and comfortably the way i know, but she was showing me a slightly different way*.

what i think is a good thing to point out is that my g/f was ussually more suprised about the fact japanese culture was so well integrated into british and western culture, when it appears japan knows very little of britain.

ive known how to say konnichiwa since i was 8, and ive known of japan vaguely since i was 8, ive been more aware of japan and its culture since i was 13-14, and ive been pretty well educated on the subject of japan since i was 16.

i agree, japan, or britain, you will find people who know little outside of their own country, in britain these are the majority of the working class, and just extremely mentally idle at school.

in japan its simply the fact that japan provides an enviroment, and personality for japanese, that they dont feel any major need to know, they dont seem to appriciate the idea of learning about themselves and everything beyond purely for the persute of knowledge like education in the west, i agree with the idea that they simply appriciate the simple pleasures in life.


with me ive always been good at geography, biology, keen on history, and learning everything i could get my hands on and assimilate fast enough, now im no genius, far from it, but ive always been very aware that there's a world beyond the borders of my country, and i couldnt conceive being the knid of person who wouldnt by nature, want to learn about it. i like to feel i have a wisdom.

my japanese girlfriend though, is at university, something i would be hard pressed to acheive in my country let alone japans education system, it obviously instills a work ethic of really working hard for what you want, but it seems to completely fail in igniting that LOVE of learning, that desire which makes a student WANT to come to school/college/uni just to descover something new.

in japan i get the impression its simply a part of the routine of life, something that must be done.



saying that i hope my comments havnt been to harsh or anything, i know that theres alot of japanese who genuinly look beyond the simple routine of their lives, and their country, i know this because my girlfriend is one of them, and i have read about many examples of japanese men and women who are looking outward because looknig inward isnt satisfying them.

i also get the impression its getting to the stage where more and more japanese are starting to take a genuine interest in the world outside of japan, but i must admit, stories of cold attitudes of some japanese and the phenomena of japanese only signs at shops and bussiness' is quite worrying, and suffice to say i will have to really think hard before i considor living in japan.

so thats my 2 cents in a long boring rant =)

Pachipro
Feb 11, 2005, 02:52
jt: I was sitting here compiling an answer to the same quote and you seemed to have it said it better than I was attempting. Well said and I think you are quite correct. When I went to a doctor in Japan and said "onaka ga itai" (lit. My stomach hurts), for example, I was usually asked to explain more in depth and what exactly I was feeling and where it precisly was. When I went to the hospital to complain of a three day long headache, the doctors insisted that I precisly tell them exactly what I was feeling, where exactly the pain was, what type of pain it was, before they would give me a CAT scan. The dentist was the same way. He usually wanted to know all the details before he would even x-ray my teeth.


...but i must admit, stories of cold attitudes of some japanese and the phenomena of japanese only signs at shops and bussiness' is quite worrying, and suffice to say i will have to really think hard before i considor living in japan.

Welcome nurizeko, there is alot of info here. Keep reading. The phenomena of "Japanese Only" signs is indeed quite rare and found usually around the large US military bases or bars and such that don't want to allow people in with an alternate lifestyle, whether they be Japanese or foreigner. You will find a few threads here that show signs of refusal to people with tattoos, earrings, etc. and this holds for both Japanese and foreigner alike. No need to think hard about living in Japan because of this. Alot of what you will read on these threads is foreigners just venting their frustrations at some of the things people who live and work there actually experience. Alot of them, although they may be letting off some frustrational steam, so to speak, still enjoy living there or they wouldn't be there. It's what you make of it that's important

Elizabeth
Feb 11, 2005, 03:55
But I think most importantly is to distinguish between what people can say and what they do. Just simply having more unique nouns to refer to certain things, for example, doesn't mean that a language is inherently "more precise" because there are other ways to be specific about what you're saying. Likewise, what people choose to say (itai! omoshiroi! sugoi! kawaii!) does not reflect all that they're capable of saying. If a Japanese speaker says "Kawaii!" about something that you don't find cute at all, you can go ahead and ask them "Doko ga?" without having to worry about them exploding from a lack of linguistic ability to express the specific characteristics of cuteness.
And it isn't only bodily functions and nouns. Quite clearly most people don't make sentences in line with the first below example because it would sound overtly harsh and pretentious, although arguably more specific. It's beyond dispute that the language itself is fully capable of minute distinctions relating to nearly every concept imaginable -- anyone who has ever as much as glanced through a kanji dictionary, in print or online, should be well versed in the numbers, if I had to hazard a guess I'd say the total was greater than in English. It's just so self-evident the whole discussion puzzles me every time....:?

先日 電話で日本人の友人と話した時に、新宿のいくつ かの小さい本屋さんがやくざによって支配 を有される かもしれないと思ったと言及しました。
 
>>先日、電話で日本人の友人と話した時に、新宿のい くつかの小さな書店がやくざの所有になるかもしれない と聞きました.

ajm
Feb 11, 2005, 04:47
I may still forgive them for not knowing that Northern Europe has more distinct seasons than Japan because of its higher latitude, and that summer days are much longer (like 17h of daylight) and winter days much shorter (about 7h of daylight).

7 h would be nice. Just a couple of hours north from where I live the sun doesn't rise at all for a part of the year (and doesn't set at all for a part of the summer).

On-topic: during two weeks in Japan, I was asked five times what language we speak in Finland. Three of the the people asking appeared to assume it was English.

lexico
Feb 11, 2005, 08:42
I appreciate you observation of how the Japanese people cultivate a high level of work ethic while failing to discover any joy in learning. I just have a couple of questions because I think your observations are quite relevant to the topic.
what i think is a good thing to point out is that my g/f was ussually more suprised about the fact japanese culture was so well integrated into british and western culture, when it appears japan knows very little of britain.
ive known how to say konnichiwa since i was 8, and ive known of japan vaguely since i was 8, ive been more aware of japan and its culture since i was 13-14, and ive been pretty well educated on the subject of japan since i was 16.
i agree, japan, or britain, you will find people who know little outside of their own country, in britain these are the majority of the working class, and just extremely mentally idle at school.Japan, as far as I know, has been doing the greatest amount of translation of written material from other languages. I've also heard that the recent movement to adopt English as the second (?) official language of Japan was at least partially due to the immense translation work required to keep up with all the overseas publications which has been steadily increasing. But isn't it strange, with all those translated books, that not too many people were reading any? Is there a strong divide between the highly motivated academics and those outside the research fields? If so, is there any way to explain this clear cut division?

in japan its simply the fact that japan provides an enviroment, and personality for japanese, that they dont feel any major need to know, they dont seem to appriciate the idea of learning about themselves and everything beyond purely for the persute of knowledge like education in the west, i agree with the idea that they simply appriciate the simple pleasures in life.
with me ive always been good at geography, biology, keen on history, and learning everything i could get my hands on and assimilate fast enough, now im no genius, far from it, but ive always been very aware that there's a world beyond the borders of my country, and i couldnt conceive being the knid of person who wouldnt by nature, want to learn about it. i like to feel i have a wisdom.
my japanese girlfriend though, is at university, something i would be hard pressed to acheive in my country let alone japans education system, it obviously instills a work ethic of really working hard for what you want, but it seems to completely fail in igniting that LOVE of learning, that desire which makes a student WANT to come to school/college/uni just to descover something new.
in japan i get the impression its simply a part of the routine of life, something that must be done......
The tendency that you find in the Japanese people are not unique; in fact those are the things that Koreans and the Chinese are constantly criticizing themselves with. Emphasis on rote memory as opposed to creativity, overly heated competiton for grades while neglecting the learning process, strong motivation for worldly success not equalled by a high level of understanding or ability to communicate. Yet isn't it again strange that the more industrialized and culturally advanced Japanese should do so much worse in common sense and knowledge than the otherwise relatively backward Koreans or Chinese?

Another factor that may have relevance is that while Korea and China had been turned upside down, inside out, by the struggle between the republicans and the communists, whereas Japan never had such a major struggle. When all opposition to the mainstream powers that be were crushed swiftly and effectively, any abberation from the accepted norm, that must have instilled a strong sense of fear, defeatism, or even fatalism that whatever they(the average citizen) do, it just can't be helped. Did you sense anything that might explain this mysterious lack of intellectual interest?

Maciamo
Feb 11, 2005, 09:37
Heh we could go tit for tat.
I could post a list of incredibly idiotic questions asked by Europeans about Australia.

That's a "best of" gathered by some organization, right ? I was talking about most people (at least one out of three) I have encountered in 5 months in Australia.

What's more some of the questions you cited are not that stupid :


Q: I want to walk from Perth to Sydney - can I follow the
railroad tracks? (Sweden)

The question was "Is that safe to do that ?" or "Is it better to walk along the road" or even "Do I risk being stung by scorpions and spiders on this 4000km journey ?".


Q: Is it safe to run around in the bushes in Australia? (Sweden)

Same here. Australia has more deadly creatures that almost any other country on earth. It has 4 of the top 10 most venemous snakes, 2 deadly spiders and lots of pretty bad others too, deadly scorpions, octopus, jalley fish, sea snakes, sharks, sea-water crocodiles, and even boxing red kangaroo that can crush you under their heavy body while making 10m long bounds.
I think under such circumstances, and when you come from a country where the most dangerous animal you'd encounter is a dog or a wasp, it is imperative to get informed before walking (alone) in the bush/outback.


Q: Do you have perfume in Australia? (France)

As a French speaker, I know that the intended question was "Is there perfumes made in Australia?" (i.e. Australian brands)


Q: Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia? (France)

That also struck me as strange that there should be people wearing Santa (Claus) clothes with the beard and hat when it's 40'C. But the question was maybe simply "Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia?", because maybe people don't in France, Belgium, etc. due to its blatant association with evil Christianity. :p

Maciamo
Feb 11, 2005, 10:05
I find this really interesting. I can't speak for any the European languages you may speak, but at least in American English (the only language I'm qualified to comment on), nobody makes the distinction between "i" and "chou" when talking about a stomachache.

I guess this has to do with my speaking French, as French speakers tend to be very accurate about such things. Of course some people will just say "I have a stomachache", but there are many other terms used in French even by children on a daily basis to describe the kind of stomachache (colic, abdominal cramp..). In fact I understand why most English speakers do not make the difference between "onaka" and "i". It's simply because the word "stomach" has both meanings and the words for "onaka" are seldom used (belly, tummy. abdomen), as they sound either too childish or too formal.


To an English speaker, rain is just rain and a (rain)storm is just a rain(storm), but in Japanese you get words like 'yuudachi' that refer to specific types of rain that come during specific times of the year.

Well, maybe Americans do not care much about the weather, but British people are among the most accurate people in the world to describe it. Do you often use the words "drizzle" (light rain), "sleet" (snow-rain), "shower", "mist", "fog", or say that it is "pelting down (with rain)", "pouring (with rain)", "raing cats and dogs", "coming down in buckets". etc. ? Do you differentiate between a storm, rainstorm, thunderstorm, windstorm, tropical storm, tempest, cyclone (South Asia), typhoon (East Asia), hurricane (America), squall, blizzard ? Because I do. I will never say it's raining when it is actually "drizzling". So I use the word "kirisame" in Japanese, and the Japanese are usually surprised I know that word, as they rarely use it themselves. The only few days of sleet we had in Tokyo, I hear people saying "yuki ga futteru !", when they should in fact say "mizore ga futteru", as it isn't proper snow. I was raised like that - it isn't just me who is picky about it.


The way I see it, it's very possible to be vague and evasive in English and to be precise and blunt in Japanese -- all it takes is an individual speaker choosing to do so.

Yes, I know. That is why I prefer to say that the Japanese are inaccurate, rather than the language (although it can also be for a few things).

PopCulturePooka
Feb 11, 2005, 10:17
How about the British girl that I was chatting to one night that didn't believe I was Australian as there aren't computers in Australia?

Or myBritish room-mate at NOVA who was astounded that Australians drove cars?


That's a "best of" gathered by some organization, right ? I was talking about most people (at least one out of three) I have encountered in 5 months in Australia.I'll agree that AUstralia has its share of uncultured idiots if you agree Europe does. :p


What's more some of the questions you cited are not that stupid :I'd beg to differ.



The question was "Is that safe to do that ?" or "Is it better to walk along the road" or even "Do I risk being stung by scorpions and spiders on this 4000km journey ?". I doubt that. Very much. Iread it that the idgit that asked had no idea about Australias size and geography and expected the walk to be an easy few dayer. You know, geographic idiocy?




Same here. Australia has more deadly creatures that almost any other country on earth. It has 4 of the top 10 most venemous snakes, 2 deadly spiders and lots of pretty bad others too, deadly scorpions, octopus, jalley fish, sea snakes, sharks, sea-water crocodiles, and even boxing red kangaroo that can crush you under their heavy body while making 10m long bounds.Ah a stereotype! Fact is someone dying by snake, shark, spider etc is enough to make a news article. A bite is.
A question like this is the child of believing stereotype stories.


I think under such circumstances, and when you come from a country where the most dangerous animal you'd encounter is a dog or a wasp, it is imperative to get informed before walking (alone) in the bush/outback.Most dangerous animal I've ever encountered is a Jellyfish.
I've seen redback spiders, they met my shoe.

OH this DOES remind me of a tale of Europeans acting idiotically.
A group of European tourists where holidaying in the Northern Territory, where there ARE crocs (never been there). A bunch of the bright sparks decided to go for a midnight swim. Without a guide. They get too a river that was heavily signed in multiple languages that it was dangerous because of craocodiles.
So what do they do?
Get naked and start swimming.
In the moonlight in the waters theres floating people, some with plae skin that stands out in moonlight.

A croc had a good meal that night.

Because they thought they were too good to take notice of signs, warnings and hotel policy.

Reminder: They were European. Not Japanese or American. I know there were defiantely Brits and Germans in the group.




As a French speaker, I know that the intended question was "Is there perfumes made in Australia?" (i.e. Australian brands) So if you defend this question as a translation issue, can people therefore defend some of the idiotic Japanese questions as a translation issue?

Plus even if she was asking if theres perfumes made in Australia isn't that showing culutral ignorance, believing that Australia CANT make perfume for some reason? It was Australian wine after all that made the French nervous.




That also struck me as strange that there should be people wearing Santa (Claus) clothes with the beard and hat when it's 40'C.
Hey look, now YOU are showing the cultural and geographic ignorance. Most Australians dont live in the areas that hit 40 degrees, even in Summer.

Even where I am, the Average Summer temp is 33. Tokyo got worse in Summer.


But the question was maybe simply "Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia?", because maybe people don't in France, Belgium, etc. due to its blatant association with evil Christianity. :pStill, how is 'Do you have 7/11 in Australia?' any worse?

Elizabeth
Feb 11, 2005, 10:32
Yes, I know. That is why I prefer to say that the Japanese are inaccurate, rather than the language (although it can also be for a few things).
Yeah, even when I ask for corrections to professional correspondence the response might well be prefaced with a

詳しい事情はわかりませんが、日本語だったらこんな感 じでしょう。

I guess it's just one of those things that you can orient yourself to in return for the wonderful hospitality and loyal, lifelong friendships of the people or not.... :cool:

Maciamo
Feb 11, 2005, 13:03
i learned to use chopsticks at a chinese resturaunt when i was 10-11.

Yes, there are so many Chinese restaurants everywhere in Europe that it's hard not to have tried eating with chopsticks for an average European (except those who refuse categorically to try). That is partly why I am so offended that ALL the Japanese feel the need to ask or exclaim "oh you can use chopsticks!" when they see it done.


she did though try and show me the "proper" way to use them * i can only assume chinese hold chopsticks only slightly differently from japanese because i could use them quite easily and comfortably the way i know, but she was showing me a slightly different way*.

In my case, I have often praised for using my chopsticks in a very Japanese manner, which many Japanese (including my wife and mother-in-law) can't. I can't actually understand how so many Japanese (like 1/3 of those I have met and eaten with) can't use their chopsticks properly (and sometimes their fork and knive too, but only if you consider strict Western etiquette). What's difficult in holding two chopsticks ?


what i think is a good thing to point out is that my g/f was ussually more suprised about the fact japanese culture was so well integrated into british and western culture, when it appears japan knows very little of britain.

Exactly. I feel that the average Europeans know much more about Japan(or that of other major countries) than the average Japanese about Europe. They don't even know we have 4 seasons in Europe and most couldn't name all European (even just EU) countries ! :mad:


i agree, japan, or britain, you will find people who know little outside of their own country, in britain these are the majority of the working class, and just extremely mentally idle at school.

Again, that's just how I see it. People who make very stupid remarks about some "distant country" are usually working class people. That is almot in the definition of working/lower class that they should be ignorant and uneducated (as classes do not depend so much on money as on education in the broader sense of the term). In the States, they call the lower classes "rednecks", but that's just another word for the same thing. :p Unfortunately, I've found that many so-called "middle-class" or even "upper-class" (eg GW Bush) Americans can be quite ignorant about anything that is not American... (again, same for the Aussies and Japanese, basically all the very isolated nations that do not feel the need to learn about the rest of the world).


in japan its simply the fact that japan provides an enviroment, and personality for japanese, that they dont feel any major need to know, they dont seem to appriciate the idea of learning about themselves and everything beyond purely for the persute of knowledge like education in the west, i agree with the idea that they simply appriciate the simple pleasures in life.

That is exactly how I feel about it. That is why I created a thread called Is Japan an intellectual country ? (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=2453)


my japanese girlfriend though, is at university, something i would be hard pressed to acheive in my country let alone japans education system, it obviously instills a work ethic of really working hard for what you want, but it seems to completely fail in igniting that LOVE of learning, that desire which makes a student WANT to come to school/college/uni just to descover something new.
in japan i get the impression its simply a part of the routine of life, something that must be done.


This is totally true. I have asked many Japanese about this (90% of my Japanese acquaintances are university graduates), and very very few people in Japan (was I told) choose what they study at university because they like it, but almost always in consideration of their future job. No, in fact, rather than the subject it is the university itself (the name value) that is important in Japan. Even studying history, as long as it is a famous university, the person will get a good job (also regardless of their results, as long as they graduate). I have rarely met Japanese people genuinely interested in learning things like history, geography, philosophy, sciences, politics, economy or languages just for the pleasure of learning, although this kind of people are quite common in Europe (again much less in the States and Australia from my experience). I have met so many Japanese who wanted to learn English, (or French or Italian...), but only a tiny fraction of them do it for a love for the language itself (generally those who speak the more fluently). As a teacher, when I ask new students why they want to learn English, they answer is typically "for business" or "to travel" or "tp talk to 'foreigners'" (no kidding, as if all foreigners spoke English :sorry: ). So that is always in view of something practical , very rarely due to a thirst for knowledge or the love of the language itself. I have learnt 7 languages (without counting dozens which I just overviewed a bit), but it was never because I needed to for a practical reason. It was always for myself, and because of my thirst for knowledge. It's very difficult to keep one's motivation to learn otherwise, and I guess that is why the Japanese (and Americans and Australians) have seem to have so much harder learning foreign languages than Europeans.

Maciamo
Feb 11, 2005, 13:15
Ah a stereotype! Fact is someone dying by snake, shark, spider etc is enough to make a news article. A bite is.
A question like this is the child of believing stereotype stories.

Alright, there are antivenoms readily available at the local doctor's, but what if you are walking through the desert or rainforest alone ?


Plus even if she was asking if theres perfumes made in Australia isn't that showing culutral ignorance, believing that Australia CANT make perfume for some reason? It was Australian wine after all that made the French nervous.

Alright, but are there any famous brand of Aussie perfume ?


Hey look, now YOU are showing the cultural and geographic ignorance. Most Australians dont live in the areas that hit 40 degrees, even in Summer.

I went all around Australia in 1998 (January to June). I was told that summer was one of the hottest and dryest in a long time (no rain for about 3 months in the Victoria and NSW and severe water shortage). But I can clearly remeber that the temperature reached 40'C several times. I some parts of Australia (between Adelaine and Alice Springs, forgot the name), the temperature reach over 50'C in summer, making it one of the hottest place in the world.

Maciamo
Feb 11, 2005, 14:00
On-topic: during two weeks in Japan, I was asked five times what language we speak in Finland. Three of the the people asking appeared to assume it was English.

I was asked a good dozen times if the language of Belgium was "berugi-go" (as if such as thing existed or they had actually heard of it :rolleyes: ) and whether Dutch and German were the same language. Sometimes it's hard to make them believe that the UK has 6 official languages (2 of which are extinct, but yet) or that not all Spaniards speak Spanish as their mother-tongue, but also Catalan, Valencian, Galician, Basque... The fact is most Japanese don't even know the major offcial languages spoken in European countries (sometimes not even the countries :rolleyes: ).

PopCulturePooka
Feb 11, 2005, 14:25
Alright, there are antivenoms readily available at the local doctor's, but what if you are walking through the desert or rainforest alone ? If you're walking through areas of desert or rainforest alone, beyond parks set out for easy day hikes, then frankly you are a fudging idiot and deserve to be tron to shreads by rabid dropbears.
Especially the desert. What kind of nincinpoop walks through a desert alone?




Alright, but are there any famous brand of Aussie perfume ?Within Australia yes.

But again, I disagree with your interpretation of the question.
My interpretation is that the asker was an idiot with the perception that Australia is a backwater.



I went all around Australia in 1998 (January to June). I was told that summer was one of the hottest and dryest in a long time (no rain for about 3 months in the Victoria and NSW and severe water shortage). Rural. The drought.

Most of Australia, and most its population (more than 60%) are urban, living within 3 hours of a coastline, which wasn't as badly affected if at all. But of course you already know that I hope. Youd also know that 80% of Australians live within 3 hours of EASTERN or Southern coast coast between RockHampton and Adelaide. You know that though.

But I can clearly remeber that the temperature reached 40'C several times.Where exactly. What was the population density of the area? Was it a remote country town? Or a city?

I some parts of Australia (between Adelaine and Alice Springs, forgot the name), the temperature reach over 50'C in summer, making it one of the hottest place in the world.Yeah its called the desert. Very remote area. Gurantee that most Australians have never ever set foot anywhere near there. But you're enlightened enough about Australia to also know that right?

And come on. Your Santa suit argument is weak anyway. What off Airconditioned chopping centres? Or the places where even a Summer day is a comfortable high 20's?

For someone so enlightened about the world, arguing that Euro's know more than anyone else, you seem quite ignorant of the fact that a place as large as all of Europe (or larger) can have an enourmous range of temperatures across it on the same day.

Maciamo
Feb 11, 2005, 14:52
Yeah its called the desert. Very remote area. Gurantee that most Australians have never ever set foot anywhere near there. But you're enlightened enough about Australia to also know that right?

And come on. Your Santa suit argument is weak anyway. What off Airconditioned chopping centres? Or the places where even a Summer day is a comfortable high 20's?

So, are you saying that there are no people disguised in Santa Claus in rural areas or outside shopping centres ? Not sure, I wasn't there for Xmas.


For someone so enlightened about the world, arguing that Euro's know more than anyone else, you seem quite ignorant of the fact that a place as large as all of Europe (or larger) can have an enourmous range of temperatures across it on the same day.

Anyway, does it matter much that the temperature is 33'C or 40'C for the Santa Claus argument ? I heard the Aussie Santa wear shorts and short-sleeves (just heard, pls confirm). I don't care whether Australians celebrate Xmas or not because I am not Christian and don't celebrate Xmas. I was just trying to explain that for a European Xmas is associated with cold weather, snow and short days (when people are depressed because it gets dark at 4 or 5pm and therefore need all the illuminations).

I don't understand why you get so irritated about it. But I also noticed while in Oz that Australians tend to get upset easily once we compare (even neutrally) their country with another one. I got people angry at me for saying such things as "oh the magpies are so big and scary here (Oz is really a different world)", "oh, people do respect the speed limit on the motorway here (but usually not in Europe)", or even "or trees are so tall here (that's nice)". Never understood why they felt it was negative criticism. It must be a national complex. A bit like the Japanese with their attitude to foreigners.

den4
Feb 11, 2005, 15:09
:(
now it seems the dialogue has turned to Are Europeans more hostile towards Aussies?

from my standpoint, looks like people are people, making the same faulty judgments about others while keeping their own position pristine...

some great observations, but I don't see the hypocrisy towards foreigners...more like a disagreement on value judgments...

nurizeko
Feb 11, 2005, 20:08
my g/f once asked me what language they speak in finland *she seemed she wanted to move there lol* and i said "finnish".....poor dear she got confused (i wonder why?).


heh, hopefulyl with more foreigners entering japan, japan will slowly come out its shell, i have to say theres definatly more japanese who arnt like typical japanese as there once was in my opinion.

Bramicus
May 3, 2005, 07:40
So theres an older women who works there most nights. And EVERY time she serves me, she wont speak a word except to ask if I want it heated and EVERY time she uses gestures to ask if I want a fork ... I'm a fairly obvious gaijin with big punk spiked hair and occasionally flashy clothes.
Yikes! If you look like that I don't think I'd want to talk to you either! And I'd also wonder if you were going to eat with a fork -- instead of with your hands! ;-)

Okay, so I'm just kidding. But seriously, if you look that different, is it that surprising that you are treated differently? You might be treated differently in many parts of western countries as well.

Bramicus
May 3, 2005, 07:46
Hey, not all Westerners like sushi -- I don't.

One important thing to remember when considering this entire subject is that Japan is a country that is almost completely unicultural -- that is, the vast, vast majority of Japanese citizens are ethnic Japanese who share a common culture.

So it really should come as no surprise that their reaction to "gaijin" is going to be very different to those of us who come from Western countries, most of which comprise a number of different cultures living together. In America, or instance, we are really an amalgam of over a hundred different cultures, all mixed together and living with one another. Of course we're going to be more comfortable speaking and dealing with different cultures -- wer'e much more used to it in our daily lives.

deadhippo
May 3, 2005, 11:23
well well im new to this forum but i can see that maciamo, you have many issues
and i dont mean just regarding japan
ive also read your statement explaining youre not just negative about japan
but from your posts i can tell that you are angry
ive been living here for 3.5 years or so and to be honest i havent had so may issues as you
of course i live in yokohama not tokyo but i actually feel they are friendler in tokyo then in yokohama
what i mean by friendlier is that they smile more and occasionally try to speak english to me because im a foreigner
misguided as that may be i still appreciate it
i cant say i havent had ant bad experiences but i definitely havent had enough to rant on for many pages about it
of course im still praised for my chopstick ability which is very amusing but i always thought that it was a conversation filler
and when someone doesnt reply i always imagine they are struggling for an answer in english which often they are, sometimes not maybe, because they are trying to be friendly,
to be honest the only people who have been really rude to me are the customs officers at the airport but that has been true for me pretty much anywhere ive been apart from nz

perhaps its not because you are a foreigner and im not trying to offend you or anyone by saying this but maybe its because you are you that these things happen
maybe, just maybe you have a strong odor
or maybe your facial expression, gestures or posture scares or offends them
maybe they picked up on your air of superiority and thought too themselves 気持ち悪い

regarding some things i feel many japanese people are very sensitive, so maybe you possess some characteristics that they fine discomforting

disclaimer: this is not really my opinion about you as i wouldnt think to imagine that i could know you after reading just a few posts

Bramicus
May 3, 2005, 23:50
I've wondered the same types of things as you, deadhippo.

Reading this entire thread makes me wonder how much of this apparent animosity toward foreigners (especially among older Japanese) is actually related to the offended person's age, dress, looks, or attitude, rather than the fact that he's a foreigner. I would think that a great many older Japanese are likely to be traditional and conservative, and may not like speaking to those whom their conservative values make them think of as punksters, ruffians, impolite youths, or just plain slobs, because of their looks. Or, perhaps because they are younger than the shopkeepers they're speaking to and are not speaking with the proper deferential attitude.

Is there any older Westerner who has spent some time in Japan, is fluent in Japanese, and can tell us his or her experiences as to how the Japanese treat him or her when he or she appears as a well-dressed, conservative, polite businessman or businesswoman? Then we may have a better idea of how real this supposed "hypocrisy" is.

PopCulturePooka
May 3, 2005, 23:59
Yikes! If you look like that I don't think I'd want to talk to you either! And I'd also wonder if you were going to eat with a fork -- instead of with your hands! ;-) There was a sexy lil punk girl with flaming red hair (which then went to half black half red) who worked there. A few of the guys who worked there also had wild hair.
A good lot of the time I went there with undne hair. Basically just flat down or parted in the middle.
Occasionally in my work clothes (suit and tie).
No matter what the dumb old broad would offer a fork.


Okay, so I'm just kidding. But seriously, if you look that different, is it that surprising that you are treated differently? You might be treated differently in many parts of western countries as well.
Sounds like you advocate piss-poor customer service to those who look different.

Bramicus
May 4, 2005, 00:30
Sounds like you advocate piss-poor customer service to those who look different.

C'mon, you know better. I'm not advocating bad service based on appearance; I'm just saying that the phenomenon you're complaining about may be about appearance, something that could happen to you in other countries of the world as well -- including Western countries -- and not be merely the consequence of your being a foreigner in Japan.

PopCulturePooka
May 4, 2005, 00:46
C'mon, you know better. I'm not advocating bad service based on appearance; I'm just saying that the phenomenon you're complaining about may be about appearance, something that could happen to you in other countries of the world as well -- including Western countries -- and not be merely the consequence of your being a foreigner in Japan.
I never had any trouble about my hair in other shops anywhere else.
heck I took that hair style to work. To NOVA. Where I taught old housewives and salarymen.

She would also never understand her when I asked for cigarettes in Japanese. Always a dumb blank look. Yet I was a master at buying smokes. Every other shop assistant evrywhere else knew what I asked straight up. Just her. Even in that shop the other assitants knew exactly the first time I asked.
She was, by all natural semblance... a twit.

Bramicus
May 4, 2005, 01:19
I never had any trouble about my hair in other shops anywhere else. She would also never understand her when I asked for cigarettes in Japanese. Always a dumb blank look. She was, by all natural semblance... a twit.

Oh, I think I understand now: you're not saying this is a typical Japanese attitude; it's just this one particular individual! :)

Maciamo
May 4, 2005, 12:04
Reading this entire thread makes me wonder how much of this apparent animosity toward foreigners (especially among older Japanese) is actually related to the offended person's age, dress, looks, or attitude, rather than the fact that he's a foreigner. I would think that a great many older Japanese are likely to be traditional and conservative, and may not like speaking to those whom their conservative values make them think of as punksters, ruffians, impolite youths, or just plain slobs, because of their looks. Or, perhaps because they are younger than the shopkeepers they're speaking to and are not speaking with the proper deferential attitude.

I understand your point, and would have said the same if I had to reply to a similar argument to mine without having experienced these things myself. However my looks or attitude probably have nothing to do with that (except if they don't like tall, blue-eyed people wearing suits and behaving more courteously than many older Japanese). Many foreigners think that the Japanese are all polite, respectful and well-mannred people. In my case, I find that many Japanese over the age of 50 to be rude, noisy and disrespectful. Again this may be due to 1) my socio-economic background, and 2) the fact that I am more sensitive than most people, whatever the country.


Is there any older Westerner who has spent some time in Japan, is fluent in Japanese, and can tell us his or her experiences as to how the Japanese treat him or her when he or she appears as a well-dressed, conservative, polite businessman or businesswoman? Then we may have a better idea of how real this supposed "hypocrisy" is.

My way of dressing is quite conservative (more than some American politicians), I look older than my age, I am fluent in japanese and have now been for almost 4 years in Japan. In fact, I am usually well treated in companies, airports, government offices, etc. The problem that I have is almost exclusively with the lower classes and old people (old, lower-class women being the worst, as there is the cultural difference, gender difference, age gap and socio-economic gap).

But as I said here (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showpost.php?p=200547&postcount=135), 20% of the people in Japan are over 60, and my shitamachi neighbourhood has a much higher proportion than average. That is probably the root of the problem. The funny thing is that I tend to have a good contact with elderly people in my country. But the old Japanese around here are really the worst you could find.

Maciamo
May 4, 2005, 12:21
One important thing to remember when considering this entire subject is that Japan is a country that is almost completely unicultural -- that is, the vast, vast majority of Japanese citizens are ethnic Japanese who share a common culture.

So it really should come as no surprise that their reaction to "gaijin" is going to be very different to those of us who come from Western countries, most of which comprise a number of different cultures living together. In America, or instance, we are really an amalgam of over a hundred different cultures, all mixed together and living with one another. Of course we're going to be more comfortable speaking and dealing with different cultures -- wer'e much more used to it in our daily lives.

Typical American reaction. However, I am not American. I am not used to living in an ethnically diverse country. I come from the European countryside where 99.9% of the people are white and speak the local language as native speakers, where traditions are even more deeply rooted than in Japan, a place where one is new to the region if their family arrived less than 100 years ago.

Compare this with central Tokyo (where 1 to 5% of the people are foreigners, depending on the area) where I have encountered these odd behaviours of the locals. Again, when my wife went to visit my family in this "ethnically pure and traditional" countryside, where many people have probably never talked to a Japanese, nobody made any fuss or treated her as a strange thing, or was less polite or overly polite, or asked her if she ate raw fish or if she could eat snails and rabbit, or whatever of the "special treatment for foreigner" thing so common in Japan. My complaint is quite simple: "Why can't Japanese treat all foreigners just as human beings instead of labelling them as "gaijin" and acting different from their usual behaviour between themselves ?

Bramicus
May 4, 2005, 23:37
Very interesting, Maciamo! (What country are you from, anyway?) I don't doubt what you say. It's a very diverse world, and I suppose different cultures have many different attitudes that will be difficult and uncomfortable for visitors are not familiar with that attitude. Interesting, really. On the other hand,one shouldn't expect all individuals and society to share the same basic characteristics, and conversely, shouldn't let the bad manners or strange behavior that one sometimes -- or even frequently -- encounters in a society color your opinion of everyone in that society. (Not that I'm saying you are -- you're just giving your observations of some people, I understand that.)

I suppose the only thing to do about those situations, if you want to stay in that country, is learn to live with them, learn to not let them get you mad or upset, and develop coping situations, preferably incorporating humor into one's reaction.

You are correct in discerning that I have not yet visited Japan. It will be very interesting to see and experience all these things myself, and I'm sure I will find it very helpful to have read all these observations by people like you, beforehand. Thank you! :)

Yasha631
Jun 16, 2005, 17:21
Do you think that with younger generations, the prejiduce towards foreigners will decrease? In studying American history and etc, I've noticed that trend. People get more and more used to diversity for many reasons. Perhaps that's just the direction of society, and sometimes it's because kids stop listening to the stereo types their crazy grandparents spout out. Especially with the teenage fads involving English words interjected randomly places, it seems that with upcoming generations, the questions about the foods you can't eat would be less frequent... at least a little, right?

lexico
Jun 16, 2005, 17:48
Do you think that with younger generations, the prejiduce towards foreigners will decrease?

In studying American history and etc, I've noticed that trend. People get more and more used to diversity for many reasons.

Perhaps that's just the direction of society, and sometimes it's because kids stop listening to the stereo types their crazy grandparents spout out. Good observation that I totally agree with.
As for kids stopping listenting to grandparents; there seem to be two factors.
Nuclear families don't get to see much of grandparents except for the holidays, and kids just don't have the time or patience for 'crazy' family lectures calling for racial discrimination.
This btw seems to be a global trend ! :D
But what about the 'sane' calls for 'racial tolerance and acceptance' ?
What if these grandparents' calls go neglected ?
I remember someone saying, "It all starts from within the family."
Here's to more power to the enlighetened grandparents, and to the equally tolerant grandchildren ! :wave:

SenkoGC017
Dec 14, 2005, 08:18
Well I stumbled onto this forum :p while I was looking for sources for my paper. I wanted to write about the Japanese language and how it shows the Japanese mindset. I read quite alot of comments already and so I suppose I can assume my experience is different. I only spent one year in Japan and now am back in America. I was an exchange student, lived under three host families, and attended a private school.

Yet I just wanted to give my two cents :cool: in since I've felt alot of the things everyone here has felt. Plus I lived in the same city as two other Europeans and often we've discussed *cough* (complained:relief: ) about the Japanese people.Sometimes our complaints were immature and other times they were valid.

I noticed they were more irritated about stupid questions than I was. This is probably because I am not a native born American, but instead was born in Philippines and went to America when I was 6 years old. I understand the stupid questions foreigners can ask. I could understand the traditions and the the mindset of Asians. Afterall I was raised under a filipino household. However there is no denying that I was still American at heart and there were times that I couldn't just accept all the differences and I just found the comments annoying and patronizing. Compliments too lightly given are rather demeaning. When I got complimented on something so simple, I couldn't help but start thinking of some of them as children. Despite the fact that I am a foreigner, I am still a minor and as adults I expected more maturity out of them. I don't really know how to explain. :okashii: And really these complaints are only one side of the story because we all have a certain affection for the country.

But there are things that should change. The school system for one. The place I went to already specialized in high school. Alot of my classmates knew what they were going to be yet they either hated, sucked at, or were indifferent to the subject they are specializing in. A middle school student is too young to already have her path narrowed. Japan needs a more liberal education. I can't believe so many students hated to learn. As a student, I understand school can be torture, but to hate learning itself is just wrong. How could so many of my fellow classmates have been deprived of the desire to learn? My classmates went to school for so long even on Saturdays and afterschool on Tuesdays and then cram school, but they still had difficulty knowing the material. The Japanese education system and perhaps the whole economy has a problem with making efficient use of hardwork. Instead of just hamering things into the students brains, maybe they should try a better and more enjoyable method to learning.

Oh and yes my friend also got stopped by the police though me and the other guy just laughed at him. :wave: He looked japanese so we doubted it was because of the whole being foreigner thing.

Coming to Japan made me realize why the Aztecs thought the Spaniards were gods. The degree of strangeness of akwardness that a japanese person will exhibit does depend on how foreign you look. I was neither white nor did I have asian features. From the back of my head I looked japanese :wave: hehe. That made it easier for alot of people to come up to me and talk normally. For my other friend with his pale skin and SHOCK curly light hair, he received plenty of stares even from old ladies which was funny, but the japanese people were more distant with him. Though he did have the advantage in some cases cause of the shock factor. (Ofcourse we did not take advantage of that:blush: )Technically since he was the white guy in the group, me and my friend understood, that in japan, he is cooler. In that respects we can joke about it but there are times where it is disturbing like their potrayal of black people. My own home country- Philippines is just as guilty of such ignorant potrayals. That can only change with better communication and representation of certain groups to another.

I believe Japan, Philippines, America, and any other country can only progress and become more humane and understanding to oneanother. My host sister once said that Japan is like America from before in terms of mindset. Every country was at one point just as naive about other cultures. But Japan will get used to the diverse world we live in. Ultimately we will all learn to just be normal to one another.

And in the end I really thought Japanese people were so funny and at times cute in their naive ways. To find myself more mature than college students or adults was both disappointing and humorous. Questions or stares on a bad day ticked me off at times but usually they were pretty funny. Maybe it was because we were young and we found it amusing to observe or to complain about it. Afterall we all found certain flaws in all our cultures from European to America and as friends were frank in our criticism. Yet all our flaws and that of Japan is what makes the world both interesting and irritating and ultimately just the place I've laughed, cried, and simply lived in.

Mikawa Ossan
Dec 14, 2005, 16:18
Thanks for sharing your thoughts! It's very refreshing to hear views from non-white foreigners in Japan!
When I got complimented on something so simple, I couldn't help but start thinking of some of them as children. Despite the fact that I am a foreigner, I am still a minor and as adults I expected more maturity out of them.

And in the end I really thought Japanese people were so funny and at times cute in their naive ways. To find myself more mature than college students or adults was both disappointing and humorous.
I suppose it depends on how you define maturity and naivetee. I felt similar to you a long time ago. Now I have a different outlook. You might want to consider that in certain aspects, maturity is defined differently in Japan than in the US.


Afterall we all found certain flaws in all our cultures from European to America and as friends were frank in our criticism. Yet all our flaws and that of Japan is what makes the world both interesting and irritating and ultimately just the place I've laughed, cried, and simply lived in.
Thank you!

Maciamo
Dec 14, 2005, 20:59
Hi and welcome to the forum SengoGC017 ! :wave:

You start on the forum with a very interesting first post. Thanks for the contribution. :)


The Japanese education system and perhaps the whole economy has a problem with making efficient use of hardwork.

That is also how I felt about it. In other words it is a problem of productivity. That is why the Japanese are seen as very hard working, and many of them spend hours in cram schools after school, and work till very late at night by international standard, but in the end are not more knowledgeable and do not produce more money per capita than in other developed countries.

Gaijin 06
Dec 14, 2005, 21:43
Yes, there are so many Chinese restaurants everywhere in Europe that it's hard not to have tried eating with chopsticks for an average European (except those who refuse categorically to try). That is partly why I am so offended that ALL the Japanese feel the need to ask or exclaim "oh you can use chopsticks!" when they see it done.


Hasn't happened to me once yet. Either the Japanese who I meet are different to the ones you meet, or .......

Gaijin 06
Dec 14, 2005, 21:46
On the other hand, I've been asked by plenty of Westerners what raw fish tastes like.

SenkoGC017
Dec 15, 2005, 06:19
I suppose it depends on how you define maturity and naivetee. I felt similar to you a long time ago. Now I have a different outlook. You might want to consider that in certain aspects, maturity is defined differently in Japan than in the US.




Yeah, I know that having spent only a limited amount of time there, that I probably am wrong in certain areas or left before I could fully accept certain things. However I got the idea of me being more mature than alot of Japanese people from a Japanese college friend of mind. She kept mistaking me as someone in her age group or older. As a japanese person she has her own standards of what being mature means and it seemed I fit the bill in that sense. Alot of times I felt like I was the adult in the relationship and I had to be the one to play the role of sempai.

However you are right that maturity is defined differently in Japan than in the U.S. My outward actions aren't what makes me mature. Instead it is my thoughts and viewpoints on certain things that matters. In Japan, it was the opposite. The cover defined the individual.

Also in America most everyone has a dream already for their future. We have our goals and our plans for it. That's when we become mature as high school students. My American classmates usually have this conviction of what they want to do with their lives or what purpose they what to gear their future towards. I didn't get that feeling in Japan and I know that the lack of intellectual pursuits of those I met did affect my opinion on their maturity level.

The lack of decision making skills alot of them have also made them seem less mature to me. In America, one's ability to decide for themselves and live on their own are pivotal to their growth. It's what defines us and me. Since these ideas of maturity are so essential in my own self-definition, I can't help but apply it on others as a standard.

And yeah I know it is different for all cultures, but that will be something I will learn and not just know after I grow more mature in my own culture's eyes.

JerseyBoy
Jan 7, 2006, 14:00
This is a very interesting thread. There are many observations, opinions, and perspectives expressed here. I would like to comment on a few items mentioned in this thread. Mind you, these are the very generalized opinions and individual mileage may vary.

1. There are always some people in each and every country who have shut off outside world and are happy to live in his/her own conclave.

2. In general, lower working class is not known for higher education and worldly knowledge. (there are always exceptions as there are knowledgeable people in the lower working class). If you evaluate the culture or country based on its lower working class (I am using this term very loosely), the outcome is going to be less than stellar.

3. Like other forum members mentioned, Japanese people tend not to express his/her mind freely so as not to deviate from the social norm/expectations. For example, the Japanese language tends to incorporate some ambiguity as you can change "Do (positive)" or "Do Not (negative)" at the end of the sentence by evaluating how the other party is responding to you.

4. Reading the other party's mind is considered a necessity and virtue to be socially functional in Japan. It's difficult to coax what's in his/her mind as you cannot solely count on what he/she says; facial expressions, tone of voice, and such can convey more meaning and accurate thoughts and can aide you with better understanding of what the other party is really thinking.

5. I also feel some Japanese are not comfortable with people who are from different cultural backgrounds or countries. Shima-guni (island nation) mentality still dies hard.

6. Those so-called compliments (you can speak Japanese, you can use chop sticks, you can sleep on futon, and etc) can be part of the cultural expectation as "Odateru (complimenting or sucking up)" is considered a good thing to some extent. Odateru has a bad connotation; so it is more like "Kuchi-ga-umai (good with words)" in this context.

7. Once we start doing which nationality asks most stupidest and dumbest questions imaginable, the contest will be a draw among all the humanity on earth. There are always some people in each culture and country who has no clue about even asking a question, let along understanding and accepting there are other cultures and other perspectives, because they lack knowledge or education or they are simply intellectually challenged (PC speaking here).

8. Like any other people, Japanese will keep some thoughts/opinions to themselves or their inner circle and some to be broadcasted to the general public. Since many Japanese do not say what they are really thinking (this is good and bad as you don't want to say anything which comes to your mind) so that they don't break the social norms, I feel the appearance of ambiguity can be put in the spot light.

9. In general, the Japanese value consensus building and prefer fitting in the mold the Japanese society shapes. There is a saying "Deru kugi wa utareru (The nail which sticks out will be hammered in)" in Japan. I think this psyche is getting weaker and less prominent as the Japanese have to be more progressive, excel at what they do, compete more with other people in this global economy we are in, and become more individualistic. But, I feel it is still there deep down. I think this national psyche somewhat contributes to the general unease with foreigners (who are of course from other countries which are different from Japan) among Japanese people.

10. I believe the topic of 4 seasons the previous posters mentioned can be misunderstanding and misinterpretation by some Japanese people. When I was a student in Japan (up to high school and one year in college), I was taught and studied the world geography including climate conditions in each geographical regions (and more, of course). I used to memorize all of the names/locations of the major nations/their capitals along with other high lights of each country when I was in junior/high school years. I believe Japanese textbooks may have over-simplified this topic by comparing the Japanese climate with the world at large (which includes the tropical weathers and all). People tend to have selective memory and will always remember the easiest and simplest things even after years of no use (it is quite rare for people to brush up on their geography, math, science, history, and other subjects after they are done with formal education). I think the "four seasons" misconception by Japanese some forum members met can be one of those cases.

11. Some Japanese people still consider their mother tongue (Japanese) as un-crackable code which can be understood only among their follow countrymen/women. I also think the Japanese education system portrays Japanese language as complex compared to other Western languages (it's possible this is to drum up the national pride by looking down on other countries/cultures). Of course, learning Japanese is not harder than any other new languages you may decide to study; any language people speak can be learned. I work at a Japanese subsidiary company in USA and I came across with situations where Japanese transplants (managers transfered from Japan for 2 to 10 year assignments in the foreign countries) do a quick surveillance on the people working in that office to know who speaks/understands Japanese. In general, most of the local hires do not speak nor understand Japanese; so they are able to freely express their thoughts in Japanese, which oftentimes are Japan-centric in nature. But, there are some awkward moments when some local hires understand Japanese and those managers are a little taken aback.

pipokun
Jan 7, 2006, 18:16
I should have found and joined this forum earlier...

Maciamo
Jan 8, 2006, 06:51
Hasn't happened to me once yet. Either the Japanese who I meet are different to the ones you meet, or .......

Or you ask a fork and a knife when you eat out. :p Or you don't eat out in Japanese restaurants with Japanese people ? :blush:

Maciamo
Jan 8, 2006, 07:24
Very good post, JerseyBoy ! :cool: I agree with most of your points. I would just like to comment on a few things.



4. Reading the other party's mind is considered a necessity and virtue to be socially functional in Japan. It's difficult to coax what's in his/her mind as you cannot solely count on what he/she says; facial expressions, tone of voice, and such can convey more meaning and accurate thoughts and can aide you with better understanding of what the other party is really thinking.

I agree here too. And in fact, this is mostly why I came to believe that most of the Japanese I've met were nationalists under shy appearances, who believed that their country or culture is superior, from the way they asked me "those questions". When you feel genuine astonishment from your Japanese counterpart when you let them know that depsite of only being a mere Westerner you have managed the great skill of mastering chopsticks although you have only been a few years in Japan, carries the deepest sense of superiority I think someone could be able to express while staying perfectly polite and innocent-looking.


7. Once we start doing which nationality asks most stupidest and dumbest questions imaginable, the contest will be a draw among all the humanity on earth.

I disagree here. Small (non-island) and rich countries, like Luxembourg, have a clear advantadge over bigger countries, in that most people are usually well-educated, and all people will have been abroad, and thus not have this "we vs foreigners" approach, which is the basis of many of my complaints about the Japanese.


8. Like any other people, Japanese will keep some thoughts/opinions to themselves or their inner circle and some to be broadcasted to the general public. Since many Japanese do not say what they are really thinking (this is good and bad as you don't want to say anything which comes to your mind) so that they don't break the social norms, I feel the appearance of ambiguity can be put in the spot light.

Then, they should learn to express their feelings more openely when dealing with people of other cultures who expect them to speak out their mind. I rather believe that many people lack real personal opinions, because they lack critical thinking. In any culture, people with less critical abilities tend to lack personal opinions.



When I was a student in Japan (up to high school and one year in college), I was taught and studied the world geography including climate conditions in each geographical regions (and more, of course). I used to memorize all of the names/locations of the major nations/their capitals along with other high lights of each country when I was in junior/high school years. I believe Japanese textbooks may have over-simplified this topic by comparing the Japanese climate with the world at large (which includes the tropical weathers and all). People tend to have selective memory and will always remember the easiest and simplest things even after years of no use (it is quite rare for people to brush up on their geography, math, science, history, and other subjects after they are done with formal education).

They must be a really bad (even pathologic) memory if when fresh out of university or back from a trip to Europe or North America, or from watching a movie set in Europe or North America, they have already forgotten that snowy winters, budding springs, hot summers on the beach and red-leaves autumn exist on these continents too. The only fact that they know the names of the 4 seasons (not 3, not 5) seasons in English should be enough to give them a clue about British weather.


11. Some Japanese people still consider their mother tongue (Japanese) as un-crackable code which can be understood only among their follow countrymen/women. I also think the Japanese education system portrays Japanese language as complex compared to other Western languages (it's possible this is to drum up the national pride by looking down on other countries/cultures).

I also think that the Japanese education system tries to portray Japanese as difficult, from my inquiries about it. And visibly most Japanese have a much better memory for this than for their geography. It seems that selective memory in Japan always works better with anything that make Japan and Japanese people feel superior (even if childishly so, like for the seasons) to other countries. I always like to remind any Japanese that take a bit too much pride in their "difficult language", than the kanji and half of its vocabulary come from China, and that Japanese grammar is almost shockingly simplistic for speakers of Latin languages (less for English speakers, but still fairly easy in comparison). When they try to deny this (and a few have, believe me - especially men), I question them on the 6 ways of expressing the future in English, the 3 conditionals, 3 perfect tenses, etc. and how they would render that into English, as they no equivalent exist in Japanese.

It's not that I want to make them feel inferior (neither English nor Chinese is my mother tongue, after all), but they just piss me off when they try to demonstrate all the time that Japan is oh superior to the rest of the world - especially for things like language, for which I have a deep interest, and when I hear the nonsense they can utter sometimes.:okashii:

JerseyBoy
Jan 8, 2006, 12:22
I would like to add some comments.


I disagree here. Small (non-island) and rich countries, like Luxembourg, have a clear advantage over bigger countries, in that most people are usually well-educated, and all people will have been abroad, and thus not have this "we vs foreigners" approach, which is the basis of many of my complaints about the Japanese.

I should have added a few more conditional sentences in my post. I did not mean the actual head counts on this matter; I am rather referring to the fact there are always some blatantly close-minded (or uneducated) people in each country. I agree the small and wealthy country has higher percentage of well educated populace compared to larger countries, rich or poor. With a larger country, there would be more bad apples.


Then, they should learn to express their feelings more openly when dealing with people of other cultures who expect them to speak out their mind. I rather believe that many people lack real personal opinions, because they lack critical thinking. In any culture, people with less critical abilities tend to lack personal opinions.

I agree with your comment. The current Japanese education system does not emphasize critical thinking. The typical class rooms in Japan are usually one way street from a teacher to students, not much going the other way around. Students typically take in (or are encouraged to take in) what they were told by a teacher. Debating with teachers on subject matters is not encouraged in general.

I have an exposure to both Japanese and USA education systems; so, comparing both, I can tell, form my experience, the higher education system in USA encourages critical thinking and debating subject matters with teachers/professors. Proficient debating & critical thinking skills will be very important to express your thoughts clearly and convincingly to other parties, especially if the other parties are from different cultures or countries. I feel the Japanese education system does not equip its students with this important communication skill which is a prerequisite for their voices/opinions/ideas to be heard on the world stage. It is foolish or reckless to count on other people to read your minds or between the lines (this type of communication will often cause misunderstanding between people especially if the parties involved are from different cultures or backgrounds).

Because of those reasons among others, I feel some Japanese people are afraid to engage in critical thinking and debates with people from other cultures because they know they are not ready for the prime time.


They must be a really bad (even pathologic) memory if when fresh out of university or back from a trip to Europe or North America, or from watching a movie set in Europe or North America, they have already forgotten that snowy winters, budding springs, hot summers on the beach and red-leaves autumn exist on these continents too. The only fact that they know the names of the 4 seasons (not 3, not 5) seasons in English should be enough to give them a clue about British weather.

Yes, that beats me too. If someone on this forum is currently attending Japanese junior or high school, please look up the geography text book on Japanese and world climate to see what it says. I am curious to see what it says on this.


When they try to deny this (and a few have, believe me - especially men), I question them on the 6 ways of expressing the future in English, the 3 conditionals, 3 perfect tenses, etc. and how they would render that into English, as they no equivalent exist in Japanese.

I think those Japanese have not learned foreign languages themselves (taking English classes in Junior and high school in Japan does not count as learning English in a practical sense). I think the education systems and Japanese media have been portraying Japanese as a complex language for decades and if you grow up with that constant conditioning, it is possible you will accept it as a fact (instead of unfounded theory or myth). As more foreign nationals start speaking Japanese, I think this self perpetuated myth will be put to rest.

Gaijin 06
Jan 8, 2006, 14:49
Or you ask a fork and a knife when you eat out. :p Or you don't eat out in Japanese restaurants with Japanese people ? :blush:

Wrong, and wrong as normal.

I still think complementing a gaijin on their "chopstick skills" is more likely to be an ice breaker to start a conversation/break a silence rather than anything malicious and it's pretty silly to get worked up about such a little thing.

Maciamo
Jan 13, 2006, 00:52
Wrong, and wrong as normal.

Sorry, my joke was wrong. You visibly don't understand the use of smileys...:okashii:

Gaijin 06
Jan 13, 2006, 09:27
Sorry, my joke was wrong. You visibly don't understand the use of smileys...:okashii:

Appending a smiley onto a statement doesn't make it funny to me.

What were you actually trying to say in your post?

Child_prey
Jan 23, 2006, 23:39
when it comes to dealing with foreigners. (In general.)
Man, it drives me nuts when I'm asked, "Do you have this in America?" when it's something obviously not from Japan. Especially words, like "virus."
(Rolls eyes.....)
I've compiled a list of things I've been asked if are in America....
1. 4 seasons
2. convenience stores
3. Disney Land
4. Snoop and Winnie the Pooh
The list goes on.....


*falls down on the floor laughing*

mimichan17
Sep 29, 2007, 08:52
I challenge anyone to ask your average American to point out Japan on a blank map and more than two thirds will be unable to do so. Granted not ALL americans feel or think the way I replied above, but quite a few of them, and I do mean the younger ones do. :auch:

That is NOT true. In all honesty, I have to say that elderly americans are far more ignorant to japanese and all it has to offer.

Example:
My grandfather is 56, and believes that japanese STOLE american technology to make cars, and that toyota is american. He's not stupid, just uneducated. But, ask anyone in my highschool, and they know japanese are advanced. Sorry, but whatever kids you've talked to must be "special".:okashii:

I didn't start getting interested in japanese seriously until this year, but I knew that pokemon was japanese, as well as my beloved cup ramen. I have known it since pokemon came out on WB(Warner Bros. channel), and I was only... oh, 10 or so back then.

Dogen Z
Sep 29, 2007, 17:05
IMO some westerners have a problem with this because of their overly strict perspective of truth and non-truth (or lying, if prefer). However, Japanese don't consider lying a bad thing in consideration of the other person's well being. (This is probably the crux of your argument.) Rather than being "honest" and contentious, Japanese would rather be "false" and keep a harmonious relationship. Both ways can cause problems for society but which way is better? Who knows.

See this article: http://sfgate.com/columnists/morford/

tokapi
Sep 29, 2007, 17:26
Possibly,these 2 links can answer OP's question

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honne

http://www.mynippon.com/RomanceNews0201/story12.htm

GodEmperorLeto
Sep 30, 2007, 00:11
IMO some westerners have a problem with this because of their overly strict perspective of truth and non-truth (or lying, if prefer). However, Japanese don't consider lying a bad thing in consideration of the other person's well being. (This is probably the crux of your argument.) Rather than being "honest" and contentious, Japanese would rather be "false" and keep a harmonious relationship. Both ways can cause problems for society but which way is better? Who knows.
See this article: http://sfgate.com/columnists/morford/

Honne and tatemae contributed to the general populace's attitude toward militarization during the early 20th century. These concepts are antithetical to democratic sentiment. A democracy, or at least a democratically inclined republic, must have contention. Without it, people become sheep.

The new generation's difficulty with these concepts is endemic of larger cultural change. They are trying to strike a balance between this aspect of their culture and the need to have strong feelings about politics and foreign policy. At some point, Japanese society may shrug off the old concepts altogether, relegating them to the past. Somehow, though, I doubt it.

SouthernBelle82
Sep 30, 2007, 03:46
I feel bad for you and it must be atough situation. Don't feel bad though because I think in general Americans are the same way with foreigners. They have their own sterotypes and whatnot. Sometimes they're true and sometimes they're not. Maybe with the person at the store you should just one day go in there to buy what you need and than talk to him in Japanese and just be polite and ask how they're doing etc and the basic common polite things. And with the police it seems they go to the person who is the most "out of place" person whether by their actions, looks etc. Even though it may make you feel bad you also have to remember their jobs but definitley speak Japanese to them too since you seem to be fine in it. :) I hope some of this works for you! Just my friendly advice.

Dogen Z
Sep 30, 2007, 09:32
Honne and tatemae contributed to the general populace's attitude toward militarization during the early 20th century. These concepts are antithetical to democratic sentiment. A democracy, or at least a democratically inclined republic, must have contention. Without it, people become sheep.
The new generation's difficulty with these concepts is endemic of larger cultural change. They are trying to strike a balance between this aspect of their culture and the need to have strong feelings about politics and foreign policy. At some point, Japanese society may shrug off the old concepts altogether, relegating them to the past. Somehow, though, I doubt it.

I don't think most Japanese want the freewheeling, individualistic democracy that the U.S. has. They seem to prefer a more cooperative, peaceful social order. Thinking that the individual is more important than society is considered immature and selfish. Moreover, one person's version of "truth" may not be the same as another's (I'm sure my version of the truth is not the same as Bush's). In such a case, wouldn't it be better to preserve an outward working relationship rather than taking a hard line position and destroy that relationship only to find out later that the belief was wrong.

This kind of thinking can be very frustrating to westerners (believe me I know...you can call me Mr. Wagamama) but it is the way Japan works, IMO.

GodEmperorLeto
Oct 2, 2007, 00:41
Don't feel bad though because I think in general Americans are the same way with foreigners.

Japan doesn't have an ACLU that can further political agendas by helping foreigners hassled by cops sue for "profiling" and discrimination. Nor are there gigantic protests for "illegal immigrant" rights. Japanese treatment of foreigners is a heck of a lot more consistent that the Americans. In Japan and America, you'll have people treating foreigners like crap. In America, though, there are a hundred ways to scream out your displeasure, and get a lot of journalists, lawyers, and liberal pundits on your side.

wendygirljp
Oct 4, 2007, 08:48
It does appear that cultural perception seems to be colored by age. For what I see, the younger the average message sender, the quicker one is to call "prejudice", instead of realizing cultural differentiation and relativity.

Yes, one can find sites on youtube, for example, which shows the "overwhelming hatred" of foreigners in Japan. Nothing like taking a small minority of acts/situations and making them the norm.

Like in any group, the 3% rule applies - 3% of the group are the radicals and make 97% of the noise. This also goes with those posting here, of course.

Japan, like ANYWHERE, has its great points and "not so great" points. It depends on which you prefer to see and which you may filter out. Please do not let your fears get in the way of your perceiving people accurately.

gaijinalways
Oct 4, 2007, 14:08
For what I see, the younger the average message sender, the quicker one is to call "prejudice", instead of realizing cultural differentiation and relativity.

Interesting statement. So since Japan signed the UN agreement and they still haven't (some time later)made any discrimination law(s) that is because;

discrimination is not a big problem here (stated by one elder politician)

we're still studying the problem (and waiting for the comfort women to die too:okashii:)

HIS was charging higher prices for foreigners


Like in any group, the 3% rule applies - 3% of the group are the radicals and make 97% of the noise. This also goes with those posting here, of course.

I challenge the 3% rule:okashii:. I can count a much larger percentage of people who at best are just ignorant or will tell you they can't trust Chinese, black people, etc. When you ask when they have dealt with such a person, they quite often answer never, my grandfather, etc.. told me about them or even better, all Japnese know that. Amazing what they 'all' must know!:blush:

Alucardqueen
Jul 21, 2008, 16:42
I'm really glad I found this site! Like many other people I always dreamed about going to Japan so I wanted to learn more about it so as not to look foolish when I did go. I was under the impression that they were a nice helpful clean and high-tech people. Although most of them do sound to be all of those things. Really I should have thought more clearly about it. They are like another people after all; they have their faults to just like we all do.

I didn’t think they were racist though? How sad...I feel almost as if I should not go if they hate people like me or my country...:( It doesn’t help that I'm female, sounds like from what was said earlier in this forum that they don’t have high aspirations for women either...so really not looking good for a little white female that wants to live there someday. Didn’t someone say earlier that they don't like democracy on top of it? Hmmm...Maybe, not sure. I’m still gunna try and go there though despite it all! What does everyone else think about it?
:bluush:

P.S.I apologize if anything I said was rude or out of line. I don't mean to hurt anyone of course! I just wanted some answers. Sorry.

Otenba
Jul 21, 2008, 20:34
Maciamo, what I missed in your post is how you treat and talk to the Japanese people you describe. Because, although I have only spent 6 or 7 weeks in total in Japan, I cannot confirm this for people I have actually interacted with (by which I mean, talked to with more than the few words you say at the conbini and proving that I'm capable of conversation - which "Hai, onegaishimasu" in reply to "Atatamemasuka?" is not sufficient for).

As for the happy "thanks and come again", isn't it just as much as a programmed line as the happy "Next is... Yokohama! Yokohama!"? That recorded voice sounds so happy everytime, it makes me want to cry tears of joy. Still, it's fake and the voice lady can't be that happy about a train approaching a station..?
Who knows, maybe the less fake-enthousiastic phrases (thanks, bye, welcome,..) toward foreigners are because the Japanese simply don't expect you to understand them anyways or maybe, and they might jus be right, they don't think shopkeepers are as friendly in your own country. I mean, here in Belgium, more than a friendly "Bye" isn't to be expected either. Or maybe it's because they think they may be free drop the fake happiness in front of a foreigner who wouldn't expect it anyways?
Whichever it is, don't take it negatively. Japanese = humans. And humans like to put a wall between themselves and others, and maybe the Japanese make just a bit thicker walls. Many walls can be broken or climbed over though.

As for Japanese treating me "coldly" or like the case of the women who stepped on your foot... Yeah, maybe they don't expect me to understand Japanese anyways.
But when I say "Nihongo de ii 'ssuyo" or when I apply typical Japanese gestures to small things like "Suimasen!" + head bow, they get quite genuinely happy and that was often, in my experience, the beginning of a looooooooong conversation, taking each-other home, treating each-other to meals and more.
You haven't mentioned much about taking the initiative in speaking Japanese to any of the people you said treated you coldly. One Japanese guy I met in Osaka told me he had at first been afraid to talk to me because he thought I might not understand him and even send him for a walk. But once he realized we could speak Japanese, which I initiated, he spent the rest of my time in Osaka with me.
To sum it up, the Japanese that I took the initiative in showing that my conversation skills were beyond tourist level, have all dropped the keigo quite quickly and we were all soon chattering like long-time friends about the most private of things.

Look, when I go to Israel, shame on me, I can't speak Hebrew. If someone there addresses me in Hebrew or very poor English, I don't know what to reply cause I don't know what they said anyways. As sorry as I may be in such cases, conversation's over. No mutual comprehension = no communication, it's as simple as that, and many, many Japanese people don't expect you to speak much of their language and have little confidence in their own English skills, so they may avoid conversations they deem hopeless for lack of understanding one-another.
So in short, the conversations I had with Japanese people after breaking some ice, were among the greatest I ever had. Making them feel at ease and like they don't have to put on an act, is a good thing, just don't be explicit about it.

I apply the rule: if they don't smell of evil/false niceness, don't search for any. Be nice and take the chat as far as they let you, and if they start quieting down, you probably went too far, but if they can't stop talking and listening to you, you're doing great. Believe in kindness when it's offered to you.
Maybe the Japanese are said to be two-faced but unless I smell this two-facedness, which I am capable of, I want to take their friendliness to be genuine. Why look for negativity when it's not flying in your face?

alantin
Jul 22, 2008, 00:39
It is funny how many japanese react to foreigners. I see it as a sign of that they aren't really used to seeing them. The first time I saw a chinese guy (or a black guy or an arab or what ever..) I must have stared at them like many japanese stared at me in Japan.
I too got annoyed at all the standard questions pretty fast but I really remember some hilarious scenes too.

A kind on a street pointed me with his finger and shouted "amerika-jin, amerika-jin", I said "chigau! Finrando-jin da!", but he just kept shouting that. In the end I pointed him with my finger and yelled "nihon-jin, nihon-jin". It became a yelling contest!
That felt really strange! :D


Btw: How about answering "okagesama de. Sochira koso, ohashi ojouzu desu ne" when getting complimented on your skill with the hashi for the n'th time! :blush:

Otenba
Jul 22, 2008, 00:52
LOL @ that anecdote! Reminds me of a dude in Akita City:
"Amerikajin desuka?"
"Ano, berugiijin desu."
"Berugii? Minnesota no?"
Oh my... Yes, Belgium so is in Minnesota.

One occasion of VERY!! quickly broken ice was the 5th of this month in Yokosuka, before Kubozuka's party. Most Japanese I manage to break some ice with, do stay polite despite becoming more sincere, but one dude asked me why I won't just go and address THE Yosuke Kubozuka, and I said:
"Hanashikaketaikedo, nanka yuukidasenakute..."
("I wanna address him, but I don't have the courage")
"Teretenno?"
("You shy?")
"...un..."
("Yup")
And he yelled (and smacked me): "Kawaii toko annja, kono yaro!"
("You can be cute after all, you bastard!")
That was HILARIOUS! It may be rude for Japanese standards, but I just love this kind of familiarity. I hate running into ice all the time and he mercilessly smashed it with a sledgehammer :cool:

But that's something I noticed about the local reggae scene. They seem to be a lot warmer and sociable than the people I met at eg Visual Kei or other rock events. At reggae events, people tend to try and drag me along for a drink and stuff, while at VK events, I find myself stared at, but never talked to. Reggae. One luv. LOL.

As for remarks like the hashi thing, I think they're funny but I've had my jokes misunderstood and taken as offensive many times, so I try to stay serious or make only jokes totally unrelated to the person I'm talking to.
Like, I was talking to that girl/woman, and she mentioned Kubozuka liked fishing and she liked it too, but wouldn't eat the fish, just enjoy catching it. I said, half-kidding: "Tada no sakanagoroshi jan" and she flinched and apologized. Didn't mean for her to take it that harshly.

uchimizu
Jul 24, 2008, 22:36
I would completly agree with you. Most japanese people are afraid of speaking to foreigners who do not speak japanese. However, I also had great conversation with Japanese people, and some people met at random actually became real friends.



Look, when I go to Israel, shame on me, I can't speak Hebrew. If someone there addresses me in Hebrew or very poor English, I don't know what to reply cause I don't know what they said anyways. As sorry as I may be in such cases, conversation's over. No mutual comprehension = no communication, it's as simple as that, and many, many Japanese people don't expect you to speak much of their language and have little confidence in their own English skills, so they may avoid conversations they deem hopeless for lack of understanding one-another.
So in short, the conversations I had with Japanese people after breaking some ice, were among the greatest I ever had. Making them feel at ease and like they don't have to put on an act, is a good thing, just don't be explicit about it.
I apply the rule: if they don't smell of evil/false niceness, don't search for any. Be nice and take the chat as far as they let you, and if they start quieting down, you probably went too far, but if they can't stop talking and listening to you, you're doing great. Believe in kindness when it's offered to you.

uchimizu
Jul 24, 2008, 22:43
I would add to this that perception of discrimination really depends from your personal context, and how secure you feel about your position in Japan.

I remember that when I was in a delicate situation at my job in Tokyo, I really saw discrimination everywhere (having the impression people were looking at me strangely in the subway ...). Then, I moved back to Europe, and came back to Japan as a tourist, and I felt much more relaxed. At that time, I did not feel there was discrimination anywhere.

Anyways, just my 5 cents...


It does appear that cultural perception seems to be colored by age. For what I see, the younger the average message sender, the quicker one is to call "prejudice", instead of realizing cultural differentiation and relativity.
Yes, one can find sites on youtube, for example, which shows the "overwhelming hatred" of foreigners in Japan. Nothing like taking a small minority of acts/situations and making them the norm.
Like in any group, the 3% rule applies - 3% of the group are the radicals and make 97% of the noise. This also goes with those posting here, of course.
Japan, like ANYWHERE, has its great points and "not so great" points. It depends on which you prefer to see and which you may filter out. Please do not let your fears get in the way of your perceiving people accurately.

Otenba
Jul 24, 2008, 22:45
That's what I've been trying to say all the time, but since I haven't spent half a life time in Japan, everyone tells me I'm beeing fooled, all Japanese people who I thought became friends or at least nice contacts truly hate me and only act politely and so on and so on...

Oh well, does it matter? No. My gut feeling is all that matters and my gut feeling tells me my relations are just fine.

FrustratedDave
Jul 25, 2008, 00:00
I would completly agree with you. Most japanese people are afraid of speaking to foreigners who do not speak japanese. However, I also had great conversation with Japanese people, and some people met at random actually became real friends.
And that is where it ends , at conversations. You really need to be on the same level as someone else before you can be accepted as part of the group. Of corse it is not impossible but it takes avery long time gain someones trust.

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 11, 2008, 01:00
You all find it hard as a man in Japan but you try being a foreign wife of a Japanese man! That's even worse.

Just to clarify, i started learning Japanes ein year 8 in high school (when i was 13) and maintained an interest right up until now. I completed a 1 year diploma and then went to university for 4 years with Japanese language and culture as my major. So i am by no means ignorant of Japanese culture and customs. I also speak very good Japanese. I also studied up on all the little do's and don'ts before i went to Japan with my husband so as not to embarrass him nor make a fool of myself.

Someone on this thread mentioned that women in Japan are not treated very highly. Boy is that an understatement! My husband's family all knew my study history and knew i could speak Japanese very well, but when they wanted to know something about me, they always ask my husband about it, not to me, even when i am there in front of them. He asks me, and in some instances i have replied directly to them, but they still wait for my husband to give them the answer! The last time we went to Japan and this happened again i got so angry at my husband and told him that basically, in my eyes, he wasn't supporting me very well. He should say to them "well, she speaks and understands Japanese well, so why don't you ask her, not me?" but he said to say that would be very impolite, especially as they are older members of his family. Well hello but i'm his family too!

At other times we have visited his former colleagues and most of the time they ignore me. I have only experienced one time where the guy engaged in conversation (in japanese) with me. They talk about me like i don't exist. I also was expected to stay at home with the in-laws while my husband went out for drinks with his friends. In my country (australia) wives go out with their husbands for drinks with the friends, we don't get shut away in the closet at home like a hermit.

I also hate the thing in Japan where when you sit next to someone on the train, they get up and move. My husband says it's because i'm non-japanese and they can't speak english and they are afraid i might speak to them and they won't be able to understand or respond. Is it really that scary?? I've sat next to Chinese people or non-Australians in china, and i didn't feel scared even though i don't speak chinese! Just because i sit next to someone doesn't mean i want to talk to them. What kind of weirdo do you take me for? I'm no stalker!

I have a lot of criticisms of Japanese people and not only in Japan. Especially when they come to my country i feel very annoyed. They seem very rude, especially in supermarkets, they do not say excuse me when they want to get past, they just squeeze past me, and if they knock me or step on my toe, they never say sorry. They might not speak english, even if they don't, would it hurt to just acknowledge you stepped on my toe? I don't think it's so hard.

I also find alot of Japanese tourists, especially when travelling to tourist destinations ignore the rules either because they can't understand, or they just can't be bothered and are too busy talking. I was on the ferry to rottnest island and the captain told us explicitly to stay seated until the ferry had docked. As soon as the ferry was near to docking all the Japanese stood up and rushed to the exits, but because the ferry was still rocking some of them fell over and hurt themselves, then blamed the ferry people, when in fact it was their fault because they didn't listen. There are so many instances like this, and i'm not out to get the Japanese, because half my family are Japanese now, and i'm married to one, but i guess i just am more aware of how annoying and ignorant these people are. God forbid if i ever have to live in Japan, which is likely, as my husband is the first and only son (meaning he has to look after his parents)! I know that i would hate living in Japan full-time. They are so backwards. With all their technological advances, my mother in law doesn't even have a bath/shower or even an oven!

Anyways, that's my rant. But you guys have it easy. At least they are speaking to you if even only about chopsticks! I get totally ignored!

FrustratedDave
Oct 11, 2008, 09:14
You all find it hard as a man in Japan but you try being a foreign wife of a Japanese man! That's even worse.
Just to clarify, i started learning Japanes ein year 8 in high school (when i was 13) and maintained an interest right up until now. I completed a 1 year diploma and then went to university for 4 years with Japanese language and culture as my major. So i am by no means ignorant of Japanese culture and customs. I also speak very good Japanese. I also studied up on all the little do's and don'ts before i went to Japan with my husband so as not to embarrass him nor make a fool of myself.
Someone on this thread mentioned that women in Japan are not treated very highly. Boy is that an understatement! My husband's family all knew my study history and knew i could speak Japanese very well, but when they wanted to know something about me, they always ask my husband about it, not to me, even when i am there in front of them. He asks me, and in some instances i have replied directly to them, but they still wait for my husband to give them the answer! The last time we went to Japan and this happened again i got so angry at my husband and told him that basically, in my eyes, he wasn't supporting me very well. He should say to them "well, she speaks and understands Japanese well, so why don't you ask her, not me?" but he said to say that would be very impolite, especially as they are older members of his family. Well hello but i'm his family too!
At other times we have visited his former colleagues and most of the time they ignore me. I have only experienced one time where the guy engaged in conversation (in japanese) with me. They talk about me like i don't exist. I also was expected to stay at home with the in-laws while my husband went out for drinks with his friends. In my country (australia) wives go out with their husbands for drinks with the friends, we don't get shut away in the closet at home like a hermit.
I also hate the thing in Japan where when you sit next to someone on the train, they get up and move. My husband says it's because i'm non-japanese and they can't speak english and they are afraid i might speak to them and they won't be able to understand or respond. Is it really that scary?? I've sat next to Chinese people or non-Australians in china, and i didn't feel scared even though i don't speak chinese! Just because i sit next to someone doesn't mean i want to talk to them. What kind of weirdo do you take me for? I'm no stalker!
I have a lot of criticisms of Japanese people and not only in Japan. Especially when they come to my country i feel very annoyed. They seem very rude, especially in supermarkets, they do not say excuse me when they want to get past, they just squeeze past me, and if they knock me or step on my toe, they never say sorry. They might not speak english, even if they don't, would it hurt to just acknowledge you stepped on my toe? I don't think it's so hard.
I also find alot of Japanese tourists, especially when travelling to tourist destinations ignore the rules either because they can't understand, or they just can't be bothered and are too busy talking. I was on the ferry to rottnest island and the captain told us explicitly to stay seated until the ferry had docked. As soon as the ferry was near to docking all the Japanese stood up and rushed to the exits, but because the ferry was still rocking some of them fell over and hurt themselves, then blamed the ferry people, when in fact it was their fault because they didn't listen. There are so many instances like this, and i'm not out to get the Japanese, because half my family are Japanese now, and i'm married to one, but i guess i just am more aware of how annoying and ignorant these people are. God forbid if i ever have to live in Japan, which is likely, as my husband is the first and only son (meaning he has to look after his parents)! I know that i would hate living in Japan full-time. They are so backwards. With all their technological advances, my mother in law doesn't even have a bath/shower or even an oven!
Anyways, that's my rant. But you guys have it easy. At least they are speaking to you if even only about chopsticks! I get totally ignored!
Male or female, things are difficult for any foriegner living in Japan in a situation like you described.

All I can say is you have a lot to learn. You can study the culture all you want and still not even come close to understanding it. It doesn't sound like you want to even try to be accepted in this culture, but if you do you need to throw out all of your values and what you think is common sense that you have been taught up until now and start all over. If not you will always have things that bother you.

As for your family not speaking dirrectly to you, I don't know the situation and how good your Japanese is ,but I can understand why they are speaking to through your husband. The reason is most likely b/c they are asking your husband about you and not actually asking you, so if this is the case it will have nothing to do with your ability to speak Japanese well. And if you are just meeting them for the first few times it wouldn't matter if you told them you were Japanese in a previous life, they will always be hesitant to ask you b/c unlike you most people here will shy away from awkward situations and naturaly go the route that they feel comfortable with. Once they become more comfortable with you they will speak to you in their own good time Again this has nothing to do with you. But you sound like a typical foriegner who always thinks it is about ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME and has no patience. That is another thing, if you are being aggitated in front of them they will read you like a book and be less inclined to want to address you, which you will have to realise that it may be your fault in the end.

Anyway, for your many years of study on Japanese culture you seem to be show quite a lack of understanding on your part, maybe you will find my advise helpful or just a kick in the face, I will leave it up to you.

ASHIKAGA
Oct 11, 2008, 11:50
Mrs. Azuma, I understand your frustration regarding your husband's family members not addressing you directly. Although I agree with FrustratedDave about his family not being used to dealing with non-Japanese or just being shy, I really think your husband should say something to them, or at least give you a better explanation why especially when he knows his wife is annoyed and offended by their actions. There was another thread talking about this very issue (Japanese people not addressing foreigners directly when they are accompanied by Japanese) and it seems like a common behavior among some Japanese people.

Another thing is, some Japanese families, especially old, traditional ones tend to take their time warming up to ANY newcomers to their family no matter if they are foreigners or Japanese. It has to be one of the biggest complaints Japanese wives have about their marriages : not being accepted/approved by their families in law. I really hope by moving to Japan, getting to know your new family better and having them do the same about you, you will have a better relationship/understanding about each other. I just want you to know not every Japanese families are like that and older folks tend to take longer to warm up to someone who is very different from them. Having said that, I don't think you should "keep quiet" about how you feel. I believe it is very important for your husband's family to know how their actions (intended or not) make you feel. The question is how to go about it.

Now, about the Japanese tourists abroad.... I guess you could say the same thing about tourists from many different countries. It has a lot to do with the fact they are traveling in groups (and Japanese tourists tend to do that a lot), I think. Poeple in groups tend to do things that they would not do individually, no?

Lastly, what does all this have to do with Japanese being hypocritical with foreigners?

becki_kanou
Oct 11, 2008, 13:14
Azuma_fujin
While I agree that the situation you describe sounds quite frustrating, I think you are wrong in believing it to be typical.

I'm also a foreign woman married to a Japanese man, and my husband's family have always spoken directly to me and in the same natural way that they speak to each other. Perhaps your husband's family is very conservative or traditional?

Although I have experienced what you describe from his co-workers, I usually just give them a big smile and say 「日本語が話せるから直接聞いていいですよ!」After that they usually speak directly to me.

Chidoriashi
Oct 12, 2008, 10:31
Azuma> While I can understand some of your situations, I must say too, that it is going to take some patience on your part, and a greater effort to understand things from a Japanese point of view. I have lived here over 4 years now, and lots of stuff annoys me ,but if I let everything that annoys me here run my life I would have left a long time ago. You are going to have to learn to brush it off, and not take offense every time someone questions your ability to eat with chopsticks.. (just an example).

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 13, 2008, 14:49
Male or female, things are difficult for any foriegner living in Japan in a situation like you described.
All I can say is you have a lot to learn. You can study the culture all you want and still not even come close to understanding it. It doesn't sound like you want to even try to be accepted in this culture, but if you do you need to throw out all of your values and what you think is common sense that you have been taught up until now and start all over. If not you will always have things that bother you.
As for your family not speaking dirrectly to you, I don't know the situation and how good your Japanese is ,but I can understand why they are speaking to through your husband. The reason is most likely b/c they are asking your husband about you and not actually asking you, so if this is the case it will have nothing to do with your ability to speak Japanese well. And if you are just meeting them for the first few times it wouldn't matter if you told them you were Japanese in a previous life, they will always be hesitant to ask you b/c unlike you most people here will shy away from awkward situations and naturaly go the route that they feel comfortable with. Once they become more comfortable with you they will speak to you in their own good time Again this has nothing to do with you. But you sound like a typical foriegner who always thinks it is about ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME, ME and has no patience. That is another thing, if you are being aggitated in front of them they will read you like a book and be less inclined to want to address you, which you will have to realise that it may be your fault in the end.
Anyway, for your many years of study on Japanese culture you seem to be show quite a lack of understanding on your part, maybe you will find my advise helpful or just a kick in the face, I will leave it up to you.
Firstly, i was talking about foreign wives of Japanese, not just "any" foreigner.
Secondly, having been married to a Japanese man for 6 years and spending a good chunk of time lbetween both countries, i'm pretty sure i understand a great deal.
Don't judge me frustrated dave. I am expressing my experiences and you come on here and judge me, yet you know nothing about my life.
You think you understand why my family is speaking through my husband, well they still do it, and this is 6 years later, having lived in Japan for some time every year. If that's not rudeness i don't know what is. I'm not some naive little girl, i'm a 30 year old woman who has ALOT of experience around Japanese people. They were not asking about me they were asking my husband "ask kelly what she thinks about such and such" instead of asking me directly.
"I sound like a typical foreigner?", sorry but i'm not a foreigner, i'm a family member. And just to clarify, i get on with my mother and father in law very well, in fact we speak on the phone every week and they often want to talk to me INSTEAD of their own son. So before you go judging people you should get the facts. If i was an unlikeable, just another irritating foreigner, do you think they would have accepted me like this? I don't think so. If i was all about me me me, do you think they would want to have anything to do with me? I don't think so! In fact i got a note from them about two weeks ago thanking me for everything i had done for them over the years and for always thinking about them so much.
Your comments are not a kick in the face or education because i don't need either. I think it's just another comment by a small-minded insecure individual who feels the need to pick on other people's situations to make themselves feel better.
As you're a man you would have no idea what it's like to be a woman in japan, let alone a foreign wife, so you can see it objectively but not subjectively so you really have no idea the emotional side of what i am talking about.
However, i have quite a few friends in Japan who are aussie/american women married to japanese guys and they all have the same problems as me, so either we are just a bunch of whingeing ignoramases, or the phenomenon is real.

FrustratedDave
Oct 14, 2008, 00:04
Firstly, i was talking about foreign wives of Japanese, not just "any" foreigner.
Secondly, having been married to a Japanese man for 6 years and spending a good chunk of time lbetween both countries, i'm pretty sure i understand a great deal.
Yes I am sure you think you do too. Just like when I had been in Japan for 6 years straight, I knew everything about everything b/c I was so experienced. Now a further 9 years down the track I am not so sure I know a lot about Japan and the way people act and its culture, But I sure do know a lot more than when I was here after only six years. All I can say is that I am not so arrogant to think I know how someone from another country should act or how other person should act full stop. And how long was that chunck of time...? I am betting it was not that long... And just b/c you are married to a Japanese person does not automatically make you savy on that persons culture, another arogant statement.


Don't judge me frustrated dave. I am expressing my experiences and you come on here and judge me, yet you know nothing about my life.
You think you understand why my family is speaking through my husband, well they still do it, and this is 6 years later, having lived in Japan for some time every year. If that's not rudeness i don't know what is. I'm not some naive little girl, i'm a 30 year old woman who has ALOT of experience around Japanese people. They were not asking about me they were asking my husband "ask kelly what she thinks about such and such" instead of asking me directly. I am sorry, it just sounds like you have not had much face time with your family, which I stated earlier that I did not know how long you had to get to know your family so I would would not consider that being judgmental, that is just how you came across. And if you think that them asking your husband about what you think is being rude then I think you have married into the wrong nationality, I have know my family and lived in a house that is connected to theirs for about 15 years now and I still have them ask my wife what I want half the time and the other half they ask me.(maybe I should expect them to ask me all the time, I mean thats what I think should happen so that is the way they should act b/c I am always right...:okashii: BTW, I don't really think that way, I was just trying to be sarcastic) And I refuse to believe that they have never once had a general conversation with you to your face if you say that they talk to you on the phone.



"I sound like a typical foreigner?", sorry but i'm not a foreigner, i'm a family member.
Wow... thats a great way to look at it... why did I not think of that... But the sad fact is that you sound like all the other whinging foriegners who can't get a reasonable grasp on the way things tick here in Japan. Those who do usually end up leading a relatively stress free life , while those who don't could never live here and usually go home with a bad taste in their mouth b/c that failed to connect with the fact that their cultural values are completely different to the cultural values of most Japanese.


And just to clarify, i get on with my mother and father in law very well, in fact we speak on the phone every week and they often want to talk to me INSTEAD of their own son.
So things are not as bad as you are making them out to be... That is a relief, and here I thought they would not talk to you without going through your husband first.


So before you go judging people you should get the facts. If i was an unlikeable, just another irritating foreigner, do you think they would have accepted me like this? I don't think so. If i was all about me me me, do you think they would want to have anything to do with me? I don't think so! In fact i got a note from them about two weeks ago thanking me for everything i had done for them over the years and for always thinking about them so much.
I don't follow... you said they were being rude to you by not acting as if you were part of their family, but yet they go to the trouble to write you a letter thanking you for all the things you have done over the years. To me this shows them accepting you as part of the family. You need to accept the fact that most people find indirect communication easier than face to face commuication. It sounds like that there are still things that your inlaws are finding difficult to become accustomed to when it comes to commuicating with you face to face(that is if you are telling the whole story), b/c I don't see them as people who have not accepted them into your family. You need to learn how to show some patience and forgiveness , b/c it could take them another six years for them to be confortable with those aspects. But what it comes down to is differing cultures and people being thrown together and everyone is doing the best they can with what they have.


Your comments are not a kick in the face or education because i don't need either. I think it's just another comment by a small-minded insecure individual who feels the need to pick on other people's situations to make themselves feel better.
LOL A typical statment from someone who is all of the above. Why are you so angry at the world? And I don't need to make light of other peoples situations to make me feel better, b/c I have two beautiful kids and a wife that I love with all my heart and that is all I need in this world to make me happy.


As you're a man you would have no idea what it's like to be a woman in japan, let alone a foreign wife, so you can see it objectively but not subjectively so you really have no idea the emotional side of what i am talking about. Yep... you just about summed it up, I will remmember to tell the other 4 mixed marrige families with forigner wives that I have regular contact with over the last 15 years to read your post. One couple has been married for 29 years this december, but nah... she knows nothing about living in Japan for nearly 40 years and being married to Japanese man.


However, i have quite a few friends in Japan who are aussie/american women married to japanese guys and they all have the same problems as me, so either we are just a bunch of whingeing ignoramases, or the phenomenon is real. I won't put it how you desricbed , but if they feel like you do then I guess they are some more people who are unable to grasp the way some things work here.

Pachipro
Oct 14, 2008, 05:55
As I am not a foreign woman, I have no understanding how they feel at their treatment in Japan so I can only give my own opinion. It is rare to read of a foreign woman who is completely happy after marrying a Japanese male as most are very frustrated.

The question that comes to my mind first, Azuma_Fujin, is, if you were so educated about Japanese culture and life then why would you have married in the first place knowing full well the cultural ramifications? Did you expect your husband to magically change from a Japanese into a foreigner and his family to do likewise to meet your expectations? Of course yopu probably didn't, but it sure sounds that way.

It seems you are not willing to be flexible and, because you are a foreigner you expect all Japanese to treat you as you would be treated in your home country by your own people. Well it just does not work that way as you have to come to understand.

In your own blog you stated your disgust (and severe lack of understanding of Japanese culture) at your father-in-law, mother-in-law, and your husband being served in a restaurant before you and that your father-in-law started eating before anyone else and that you did not understand why he was served first even at family meals. You even stated that you would never allow him to do that if he came to visit you. Well, if you did that you would be severely insulting them as well as your husband. Why would you want to do that? To prove a point?

If you knew anything about Japanese culture, you would know that is a custom and tradition that the elder male is ALWAYS served first. Whether you like it or not, it is the way it is so, being married to a Japanese you should understand that or why would anyone marry a Japanese in the first place especially when they claim to know all about the culture and then complain about it afterwards?

Since you are on such great terms with your in-laws on the phone and such, why not speak directly to them and express your frustration? You could help educate them about your culture. Maybe they'll understand, maybe they won't, but it would sure would help in the long run.

In these types of international marriages one must be flexible and understanding no matter how much they may disagree with it.

In my own marriage, my Japanese wife is very independent and is not at all subservient to me here in the states. We are equals and I would not have it any other way. However, when we return to Japan to visit the in-laws, she completely changes and becomes the subservient wife where I am served first and she even pours my beer for me! Once, when my glass was empty, her mother said to her, "His glass is empty! Fill it!" or, when I wake up, she is expected to drop everything and serve me my breakfast! and she complies. Afterwards we laugh about it, but like she says, in front of her parents, she is expected to comply with the customs.

Even when just the two of us went to a hot springs resort once, and the meal was being served in our room, it was I who was served first, even though I am a foreigner. Once, when I was in the onsen before dinner, the maid said "We'll wait for the 'master' to come back before serving the meal. Again, we had a good laugh over this and always do.

Neither of us agree with it but, as you said on your own blog, in your own words, "there is a great saying that 'when in Rome, do as the Romans do', which I love. I just think it exemplifies what going to another country is all about."

Therefore, I believe that you should live by those words which you believe in and not be so upset when in Japan that the elders, including your husband gets served first. Also, since your husband is the eldest and is expected to take care of his parents you may have to move back there as you also mentioned in your blog and, without a complete understanding of the culture, I do not see your marriage lasting too long if you are not flexible and understanding.

The role of a daughter-in-law, especially a foreign one, in Japan is not a great one, but a little understanding, patience and acceptance on your part and the willingness of your husband to teach his parents about the foreign culture he married into, as well as their understanding, may help to make your marriage and living in/visiting Japan a more enjoyable experience. You do't have to become Japanese, nor am I suggesting that, but there must be a meeting point of the culture and customs somewhere or you will just drive yourself crazy and be perpetually frustrated. Good luck!

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 14, 2008, 13:58
Pachipro, i just want to reply to you first, yes i believe in when in rome do as the romans do, so my father-in-law when he comes here should wait until everyone is served before starting to eat, that is the way it is done here, or in my family at least, and around my friends houses.

Secondly, i am not inflexible, in fact i do go along with everything when i'm in Japan, because the in-laws said "when you go home, we have to stay here, if you don't do it, we will be outed socially", so yeah, i go along with it all, however, it doesn't mean i can't complain about it later does it? Frustrated dave comments about me being an ignorant foreigner and i'm not, i do understand the culture, but on here i'm just venting about their culture and expressing my complaints.

I love my husband and the reason i married him even when i knew what their culture was like was because i love him, not his race, not his culture, you can't choose someone's race when you choose the person you will fall in love with can you? His personality is the thing i was drawn to, and colour of skin, nationality etc has nothing to do with it.

To frustrated dave, when i was talking about the family that wouldn't talk directly to me, i was talking about the father-in-law's sister and the sisters daughters family. As i said i get along very well with the mother and father-in-law and at times can be closer to okaasan than my own mother in australia.

Pachipro, i know what you mean about how everything changes once you get to japan, when my husband gets to narita, his personality totally changes and he becomes bossy, and he gets treated like a king. It's only when we're back in our rooms that he changes to normal. At first that behaviour was unnerving for me, as it seemed like jekyl and hyde, but my husband reassured me that it was just as annoying for him. He loves australia and he loves the free life and the way of life and going back to japan is a nightmare for him because he has many obligations to fulfil while he is there. The only reason we go back is for his friends and family, if they didn't live there he would never go back as he's not exactly in love with japan.

When i talked about Japanese coming here and being rude, it was my husband that first noticed it and said it to me, and he always says "bloody rude japanese". He feels he has to be a model japanese citizen here so people have a good view of Japanese people, because he sees so many rude japanese that bring our expectations down. We have had japanese homestay and sharemates even while we were married and his main target was to educate them because some of them had never been overseas before and were not used to anyone else's culture or even aware that culture was different.

When my husband is saying "bloody japanese" and he is one, that is the eye opener for me. We have alot of tourists coming to where i live, all nationalities and in fact because i spend alot of time in the city i see alot, and i don't really have a problem with any of them, they're all friendly and seem to be aware of our culture.

Don't get me wrong, i have many many female japanese friends and a few male ones, and i love them to bits, i don't have anything against japanese, in fact there is alot i love about japan too, but since this is a forum, i just expected i could express my views/opinions/complaints to fellow experiencers here.

Pachipro thank you for your comments, i enjoyed reading them. :)

pipokun
Oct 14, 2008, 19:02
...
Secondly, i am not inflexible
...


If I were you, a flexible and gifted multi-lingual person, I would use my ranting power in the J-E language section here. I am sure that many people, esp., English speakers, greatly appreciate your power here.

Chidoriashi
Oct 14, 2008, 20:09
I know that i would hate living in Japan full-time. They are so backwards. With all their technological advances, my mother in law doesn't even have a bath/shower or even an oven!


Azuma> It's comments like these that are leading people to believe you are ignorant to Japanese culture. Anybody who has spent some time here would know that Japanese typically don't have ovens like in the west. Why? because it is not something that typically plays a big role in Japanese cooking. I would think you would know that. Anyway, this shows that you are judging them from your own cultural context. They don't do things like I do so that makes them backwards... You cannot possibly hope to get along well in Japan with that attitude.

And saying that Japan is so technologically advanced sounds like a fairly ignorant foreigners stereotypical image of Japan.

Well it is fine to rant about your problems, all foreigners have them here, but like I said before, a little patience and trying to see things from a Japanese point of view would help you a lot I think.

Pachipro
Oct 15, 2008, 01:59
Azuma_Fujin, there is a woman on JREF who has been a member for many years by the name of kirei_na_me (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/member.php?u=733) who has been married to a Japanese man for about ten years now and has two children. Although she has never been to Japan she received a visit from her husbands parents about three years ago and explained her anxiousness at their visit and what the outcome was. She also has posted on the various frustrations she has felt in being married to a Japanese man. I think you should click on the link and explore some of her posts. It may offer insight and I believe you will have a lot in common with her. Maybe she will post a comment on this thread if she sees it.

There is also another person married to a Japanese man by the name of Goldiegirl (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/member.php?u=23948) who has also expressed her feelings in various threads. Athough she has not been on in a while, she will probably post if she sees this thread. We sure do need more threads/posts dealing with foreign womens' feelings, frustrations, happiness, etc, in being married to Japanese men as it would be educational for all I believe as we all know too well the foreign male perspective. I believe you will have alot in common with both women.



Pachipro, i just want to reply to you first, yes i believe in when in rome do as the romans do, so my father-in-law when he comes here should wait until everyone is served before starting to eat, that is the way it is done here, or in my family at least, and around my friends houses.

I agree to an extent in that they should follow the custom of the country they are visiting, but can they? Are they flexible enough to comply and do they understand the phrase "When in Rome...." or is that just a western concept? And why shoud they be expected to when they are visiting a "family member"?

In my own case, my in-laws never visited the US as my father-in-law passed away about 13 years ago and he so much wanted to visit and my mother-in-law will never visit alone. However, were they to visit I wouldn't change anything and we would eat at the table as is expected in this country, but I would also have the option of accomidating them in the manner they were comfortable with if the need arose and that would be eating at the coffee table on the floor and putting mattresses on the floor if it made them more comfortable to sleep. And of course the father would always be served first because I am a member of their family and will abide by the custom regardless of where I am living.

On the other hand, when I got married in Japan, my mother visited for the wedding and she, being a large woman, could not possibly be comfortable on the floor eating or taking a Japanese bath, so we accomidated her by giving her our bed and we ate at the kitchen table where she was more comfortable. My wife did not insist that she conform to Japanese custom because "When in Rome...." and my mother, being the elder, was served first by my wife.

Also, when my mother visited the in-laws home after the marriage, they went out of their way to see that she was treated as she would be in her own country by moving their kitchen table and chairs into the six mat room (which really looked awkward and out of place) so she could be comfortable. They did not insist that she eat on the floor and eat Japanese food as they served her the food she was accustomed to. I really respected them for going out of their way to ensure that my mother was comfortable and, honestly, I never expected it as I warned my mother to be prepared to eat on the floor as that was they way they did it in their house. I was quite shocked to see the kitchen table set up in that room with chairs and all! Also, being the guest, she was served first and my father-in-law even poured her beer which really took me by surprise! My mother was treated like a queen by my in-laws and I had to take a step back and admire and respect them for what they did as it was a complete surprise and totally unexpected.

Now, had I been married to a different Japanese woman would the outcome have been the same? I honestly don't know. I can only relate what I have experienced as it may have completely different with another woman and her family.

This may be an isolated case, but I don't know. My in-laws knew no English and nothing of western culture save for what they learned in the short time from my wife and I. However, with translation on our part, they all had a wonderful time and really bonded. I even had to express my surprise to my own mother when she said, "I thought you said I had to eat on the floor!"

The point here, I guess, is flexibility in treating people as a member of the family no matter what country you are residing in; from both sides. And, since you mentioned that you are a member of their family now, I believe you should treat them with the respect of a family member even if that means serving the father first and having the option of them eating and sleeping on the floor if that is what they are more comfortable with. Besides, if you did that when they visited you, they, as well as your husband, may just have a newfound respect for you in that you treated them as family members and not as foreigners visiting a foreign country and house. That, I believe, would do wonders in cementing your relationship I would hope. But who knows? No two families are alike and what worked for me and the way my mother was treated, may be a whole different story for another. I just wanted to share my own experience from both sides.



...however, it doesn't mean i can't complain about it later does it?

Of couse you can complain. We all do it including myself. It's an outlet and there are many here who will understand where you are coming from including myself. Lord knows, I've done my fair share of complaining, then and now.



I love my husband and the reason i married him even when i knew what their culture was like was because i love him, not his race, not his culture, you can't choose someone's race when you choose the person you will fall in love with can you? His personality is the thing i was drawn to, and colour of skin, nationality etc has nothing to do with it.
Completely understand and agree, but one must know what they are getting into before one says "I do" I believe, or frustration will abound in the coming months and years.



At first that behaviour was unnerving for me, as it seemed like jekyl and hyde, but my husband reassured me that it was just as annoying for him. He loves australia and he loves the free life and the way of life and going back to japan is a nightmare for him because he has many obligations to fulfil while he is there. The only reason we go back is for his friends and family, if they didn't live there he would never go back as he's not exactly in love with japan.
Same here. My wife completely reverts to being Japanese when she is in Japan not that I really mind it! LOL! Also, since my wife is an only child I KNOW I will go back with her to fulfill the family obligation of taking care of one's parents. There is no choice. I, as well as my wife, resigned ourselves to that fact when we got married even though my wife is far more happier here in the US than in Japan. I even warned my own parents and family ahead of time that I will not be here in the US forever and will return to probably live out the remainder of my life there. Although Japan is not the paradise many foreigners make it out to be, I lived there long enough to understand the culture and language, and the discrimination and frustrations I will face because, like you, I married the person I fell in love with, but I knew what the future held in store for me and accepted it. Besides, I really do enjoy living in Japan even with all its frustrations. Heck, I could enjoy living anywhere as long as I could provide for myself.



When my husband is saying "bloody japanese" and he is one, that is the eye opener for me. We have alot of tourists coming to where i live, all nationalities and in fact because i spend alot of time in the city i see alot, and i don't really have a problem with any of them, they're all friendly and seem to be aware of our culture.
My wife says basically the same thing and she works for a Japanese company here in the US! And I did too when i used to work at the same company. Many a time she has come home cussing the Japanese and their inflexible ways and their failure to understand the culture they are living in and that she is not treated as an equal even though she holds an executive position. She often complains about their lack of the language ability and their unwillingness to adapt. Yes, they are nice and friendly and 'seem' to have an understanding of the culture, but it is their failure to adapt that really gets us.


Don't get me wrong, i have many many female japanese friends and a few male ones, and i love them to bits, i don't have anything against japanese, in fact there is alot i love about japan too, but since this is a forum, i just expected i could express my views/opinions/complaints to fellow experiencers here.
Please feel free to express your views/opinions/complaints here as there are many here who will sympathize with you and share like experiences and frustrations. Also, there are a few who will debate you and hold you to task if they disagree with you as there are many here who have been living in Japan for many years and have much to share and discuss. After all, if we all agreed it wouldn't be a forum now would it?

I hope you stick around and share your opinions.

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 15, 2008, 16:44
Azuma> It's comments like these that are leading people to believe you are ignorant to Japanese culture. Anybody who has spent some time here would know that Japanese typically don't have ovens like in the west. Why? because it is not something that typically plays a big role in Japanese cooking. I would think you would know that. Anyway, this shows that you are judging them from your own cultural context. They don't do things like I do so that makes them backwards... You cannot possibly hope to get along well in Japan with that attitude.
And saying that Japan is so technologically advanced sounds like a fairly ignorant foreigners stereotypical image of Japan.
Well it is fine to rant about your problems, all foreigners have them here, but like I said before, a little patience and trying to see things from a Japanese point of view would help you a lot I think.

Hi chidoriashi,

the reason i said they are so behind is that my mother in law thinks so too, and i agree with her. She wants to be able to make a big roast pork with all the trimmings like i do here, and she laments the fact that she can't have a big oven like we do in her tiny tiny kitchen. It's not an ignorant comment i don't believe, as i've lived in her house that has all the bells and whistles of a modern japanese home, so much more technologically advanced cars, etc, yet stepping into her kitchen is like stepping backward in time and she agrees. She only recently got a bathtub (albeit a blue square plastic one) in her home but you have to stand up in it because it's so small. Instead my father in law prefers to drive 30 mins to the nearest onsen so he can spread out.

I see things from a japanese point of view, i totally agree with everything my mother in law thinks about it, so if you think that is not a japanese point of view, you are wrong. different people have different views.

My mother in law judges her own culture and i was simply agreeing with her. I don't see a problem with that.

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 15, 2008, 16:57
Azuma_Fujin, there is a woman on JREF who has been a member for many years by the name of kirei_na_me who has been married to a Japanese man for about ten years now and has two children. Although she has never been to Japan she received a visit from her husbands parents about three years ago and explained her anxiousness at their visit and what the outcome was. She also has posted on the various frustrations she has felt in being married to a Japanese man. I think you should click on the link and explore some of her posts. It may offer insight and I believe you will have a lot in common with her. Maybe she will post a comment on this thread if she sees it.

There is also another person married to a Japanese man by the name of Goldiegirl who has also expressed her feelings in various threads. Athough she has not been on in a while, she will probably post if she sees this thread. We sure do need more threads/posts dealing with foreign womens' feelings, frustrations, happiness, etc, in being married to Japanese men as it would be educational for all I believe as we all know too well the foreign male perspective. I believe you will have alot in common with both women.

Hi, thanks for that i will seek out their threads.


I agree to an extent in that they should follow the custom of the country they are visiting, but can they? Are they flexible enough to comply and do they understand the phrase "When in Rome...." or is that just a western concept? And why shoud they be expected to when they are visiting a "family member"?

Okay, but my husband was the first person to tell me "when in rome", i had never heard of it before i met him. His family taught it to him, and they made me do the "when in rome" thing even though i'm a "family member" too.

Also, as my husband and myself are a family too, i believe that yes, they get certain breaks when they come here and of course i would not make them do anything too strenuous and i would accomodate them as much as i can, however i do still want them to see what our family lives like, and how the customs are different here. Also, my mum, brother and sisters family are less accomodating, and wouldn't like it if i brought over my husband's family who's father expects to eat first, they think it would be just plain rude to expect everyone to think he was bigger than any of them.

A great thing i've realised is, that when some of my husband's high school friends came to stay with us, they actually preferred to be treated in the aussie way because they learnt something new and had new experiences and memories to take back to japan with them. That being said, they are not family members, but certainly i am fond of them as if they are. I would like my in laws to have such an experience and be able to tell their friends back home "well this is how they do it in australia, weird hey?" or something like that.

I slept on a futon in Japan when i lived with my in laws, i was told what to do and what not to do indirectly (through my husband) from my father in law, i wasn't even allowed to go out by myself even when i was a 26 year old world travelling adult. I bared it. I stayed with it because of my husband, he was between a rock and a hard place, he knew he didn't want to tell his headstrong aussie wife what to do, but how could he disobey his dad? So yeah i went along with it for him, and i might do it again. However, i think there is a limit to how much you can bend before you break, some of it is unhealthy. And that is the same expectations i have for my in laws, there is only one thing i won't bend on, the rest is whatever they would like, i'm going to make it cosy for them.

My mother in law always asks me things she would like me to make and i comply because i think it's going to be cool to show them all the wonderful foods we have here and because she cooked for me when i lived with her time and time again.


Please feel free to express your views/opinions/complaints here as there are many here who will sympathize with you and share like experiences and frustrations. Also, there are a few who will debate you and hold you to task if they disagree with you as there are many here who have been living in Japan for many years and have much to share and discuss. After all, if we all agreed it wouldn't be a forum now would it?

I hope you stick around and share your opinions.

Thankyou, will do. :) I've noticed there are a few people on here who hate the thought of someone saying something negative about japan, but i take the good with the bad, and i'm glad to have someone to share with :)

ASHIKAGA
Oct 15, 2008, 18:20
Mrs. Azuma,

I do not see anything wrong in having negative opinions about Japan and voicing them. I am known to do my share of it. What I think what Chidoriashi and some others are trying to point out is the danger of taking one's experiences with a single family and expressing one's opinions/impressions about that particular family as one's opinions about Japanese family/people in general.

While I agree that the issue of some Japanese people not adressing a foreign born people directly seems to be an experience shared by many, saying things like "Japanese people are so backwards" based on the fact one's mother in law does not have a bath/shower/oven in her house makes me go huh? I have visited many homes (of my friends, relatives, colleagues, etc.) and I have not seen a house without a bathtub unless it is a tiny apartment in a big city for a single person that is only equipped with a shower.

Voicing your frustration about unpleasant treatments you receive from your spouse's family is one thing. Thinking that by being married to a Japanese person and having dealt with his/her parents/family, you think you can start your sentences with "Japanese people are...." without people questioning the level of understanding of Japan on your part, is quite another.

As long as your reason for living in Japan is only because you are married to someone who happens to be Japanese, I think it would be rather difficult for you to experience Japan enough to convince the doubters with "I KNOW Japan.". I suppose you just have to learn to "live with" your annoying family in laws. Figuratively and literally.

Sorry for the long post.

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 15, 2008, 19:04
Just to clarify ashikaga, that is not my point of view with a single family, i had two japanese boyfriends prior to my husband and they both had families that were annoyingly similar. Whether or not that kind of boy has that kind of family, i don't know.

Anyway, whatever you think of me, ignorant, no understanding of japanese culture rah rah, it is my opinion based on my experiences and i am entitled to it. :)

I don't know why you say sorry for the long post you have nothing to be sorry about.

I did not base my comment "japanese people are so backward" on just my mother in law having a bath, i based it on her comment that Japan has so many mod-cons for the house and car but none for the kitchen which i find funny, probably because it's a womans domain? There's another stereotype for you right there but in my experience, it's not exactly easy for the women in Japan, they have alot of crap to deal with that western women would not put up with. But anyway, maybe my mother in law has no idea what she is talking about either...i mean she's not living in the city but in rural hokkaido.

Anyways, i enjoy having a discussion with you. :) I don't see eye-to-eye with everyone on here but if we did it wouldn't be a very interesting discussion now would it.

Have a nice evening. :)

butakun
Oct 15, 2008, 19:18
Speaking of ovens, I find the lack of fish oven in western kitchens very backward. ;-) That's something that can be found in every single Japanese stove set.

Ahega
Oct 15, 2008, 19:35
According to the interior it all comes down to habits, doesn't it? Of course the trend might be changing, but, correct me if I'm wrong here, I don't know any Japanese dish which requires an oven. To the bathtub: taking a bath was/is actually just for relaxing and not for washing, so I think it's just common sense (and economical) that a shower is enough in a household. As I said things, of course, are changing with cultural exchange and so on.

Actually I quiet enjoy reading not only the Japan-is-oh-so-great-stuff. Good or bad it's just based on personal experience, right? As long as it is written reasonable - though I think you can try to formulate your opinion as carefully as you can, there'll always be someone who gets it wrong/ feels offended and stuff.
I, too, know Japanese people who complain pretty much about Japan. But actually it's the first time hearing "Japanese people are so backwards". What I hear most is complaining about the school system and the society.

I'm getting off-topic... sorry~

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 15, 2008, 20:32
Speaking of ovens, I find the lack of fish oven in western kitchens very backward. ;-) That's something that can be found in every single Japanese stove set.

Actually my husband said his mums house does not have a "fish oven" and he doesn't know what one is, so not every japanese household owns one.

Also, Ahega, my in laws house doesn't even have a shower, never did. They always had to go to the local sento for a bath, i'm not sure that they've ever taken a shower, ever.

I know that a bath is only for soaking, so why would you buy a bath that you can't soak in anyway, and have to go to the local onsen in the end? I think it was for appearances, my mother in law did not want to look so far behind us westerners, her son having married one. In the end i couldn't fit in it as i am too tall so it was kind of a waste. No one ever uses it.

I agree Ahega, doesn't matter what we write about experiences, someone will always take offense. But we can't change what our own personal experiences are and what japan means to us. :)

pipokun
Oct 15, 2008, 21:33
Actually my husband said his mums house does not have a "fish oven" and he doesn't know what one is, so not every japanese household owns one.
...


This is just my curiosity, but please ask your husband what he calls the part between the burners in the following picture.
I imagine that he may call it in his dialect, but his answer in Japanese would be highly appreciated.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41sL82Rr65L.jpg

Many thanks in advance.

grapefruit
Oct 15, 2008, 21:33
J
I did not base my comment "japanese people are so backward" on just my mother in law having a bath, i based it on her comment that Japan has so many mod-cons for the house and car but none for the kitchen which i find funny, probably because it's a womans domain?
I love vacuum machines available in Japan. Japanese rice cookers are awesome. Cheap cooking gadgets you can find in 100 yen shops are "advanced" in Japan. But, I don't call the lack or difficulty of getting these items in the US "backward". As far as ordinary Americans are concerned, these items simply do not excite them.



it's not exactly easy for the women in Japan, they have alot of crap to deal with that western women would not put up with.
I cannot agree more. Lots of Japanese women staying in the US express that life in Japan is more restricted and faces more pressure from both men and society simply because they are women.

FrustratedDave
Oct 16, 2008, 09:18
Just to clarify ashikaga, that is not my point of view with a single family, i had two japanese boyfriends prior to my husband and they both had families that were annoyingly similar. Whether or not that kind of boy has that kind of family, i don't know.
Anyway, whatever you think of me, ignorant, no understanding of japanese culture rah rah, it is my opinion based on my experiences and i am entitled to it. :) Look two boyfriends and being married to a Japanese does not mean you are automatically savy on the Japanese culture, and more to the point it seems most of that married time is in Australia so I find it very hard to believe that you have a good understanding on this culture and the way you write things points to that(Not to mention that now after reading your blog I was right on this). Sure you can make statements and oppinions on what you think the majority of Japanese people/families based on these experiences, but I will (and I will only speak for myself) will point out the shortcomings and narrow mindedness of those statements. Also you spoke of me as being quote "small-minded insecure individual" , but I will tell you it takes a bigger person to be able to embrace to completely different cultures and respeck both of them at the same time. And I am afraid I just don't see you doing that , actually you have every right to vent and share your oppinions but your complaints are typical of people who are unable to embrace this culture and I just said so accordingly.


I don't know why you say sorry for the long post you have nothing to be sorry about.
I did not base my comment "japanese people are so backward" on just my mother in law having a bath, i based it on her comment that Japan has so many mod-cons for the house and car but none for the kitchen which i find funny, probably because it's a womans domain?
Quote , "i based it on her comment that Japan has so many mod-cons for the house and car but none for the kitchen which i find funny, probably because it's a womans domain?" .... I can't even begin on this comment on this. Firstly, older houses have older kitchens and Japanese use much more ingenuity when cooking, also food taste is the number one priority and some of the "western" style methods really kill the taste. As I said utter most importance is placed on the taste and not how easy someone can prepare a meal like it is in some western countries. Not to mention that the menu is completely different which requires different tools. That is why you still see many people of their generation using older methods , but it does not neccessarly mean that their kitchens are backwards. I lot of the younger generations have kitchens these days that would put a typical Australian to shame for tricks and convienience. Oh, and my grandmother had the oldest most backward kitchen I have seen up until she died a few years ago, so does that mean that everyone has the same type of ktchen?


Anyway, I am finding it hard to understand your situation b/c your story is changing so much, in one sentence you say you have so much experience but on your blog you say you don't really understand their culture. You said your family does not talk to you dirrect generallizing "family" and on top of that you said "especially as they are older members of his family" which is only natural that I would assume you are talking about you mother and father in law, but it was your father in laws sister and her children which I still believe that you have not had much face time with them and if there was something that you should know is that Japanese people are "SHY" and this can happen from time to time.

So you can choose to take the advise of others here or don't and keep being frustrated with your situation, but the onlt way it is going to change is if YOU make a huge effort to at least understand that things are done differently here and that people are not deliberately trying to offend you. And as for comment quote "they have alot of crap to deal with that western women would not put up with " I have one thing to say, on the surface the women seems subservient here but behind that front women run the household and the majority control almost everything that goes on in the household. Now that is something that most foriegn men would not put up with. It all seems so diiferent to you but different things are regarded important and it all works out in the end, another thing for you to think about.


I know that a bath is only for soaking, so why would you buy a bath that you can't soak in anyway, and have to go to the local onsen in the end? I think it was for appearances, my mother in law did not want to look so far behind us westerners, her son having married one. In the end i couldn't fit in it as i am too tall so it was kind of a waste. No one ever uses it.

Sounds like the old stainless steel type and yes people still use them (however they are rairly sold these days). Is it heated by burning wood ? And is it seperate from the main house? I am getting the feeling that your in-laws are living in a very old house that may have been in the family for a few generations, another thing that you should do some research on, sounds like a great house that you could learn a lot about the way Japanese people used to live.

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 16, 2008, 14:09
Frustrated Dave,

My parents in law do not live in a very old house, if you read my post properly i said it was a blue square tub made from plastic, not stainless steel.

And also, your view of Japanese people is that they only cook tasty Japanese food, well that's what it sounds like on your post. BUT my mother in law and my sister in law often cook pizza, spaghetti bolognese, cookies, cakes, and other stuff, none of which is traditional japanese. And i did state that my mother in law lamented the fact she could not have an oven like we do here because SHE wanted to cook our style of food too! You just pigeonholed japanese women into only cooking one style of food. I made statements on the fact that my mother in law says her kitchen should be bigger and have more convenience objects rather than what i think it should be, and if you are going to totally disregard this fact i have nothing to say to you.

I didn't say i was savvy on japanese culture. When did i ever say that? Don't go getting your knickers in a knot, you obviously know everything about Japanese culture. They should make you an honorary citizen!

I'm not getting into a fight about who knows more, i mean who really cares? And quite frankly i think it's childish of you to come on here and try to brow beat me, but whatever. I don't really care who knows more.

My mother in law seems subservient because she is. She has to get up at 5am every morning to make otoosans lunch. She suffers terribly with depression but otoosan won't let her sleep in. So she gets up in the morning, makes lunch and breakfast and in between we find her napping on the lounge with the broom in her hand because she was forced to do housework even when she doesn't feel like it. If otoosan comes home and there is no dinner he goes to bed without any because he won't make any himself and then he is really angry with okaasan. Right. She's stuck in this crappy place that has no understanding of what depression is like. I do, because i've had it. In fact i had post-traumatic stress disorder after the first time i went to japan. Another story, but, the short of it is, maybe some women are not subservient, but my mother in law is, and i feel so sorry for her, i want to bring them out here so they can live and i can help her have a little bit more freedom. Just a dream, but when they retire i would like to bring them over here to live rather than us going there. So maybe in your perfect world dave women are not subservient, some people are, some people have illnesses that society doesn't deal with very well either.

Pipokun i will ask my husband...when i can tie him down for a moment to get him to look at it! Might take a few days. Will get back to ya. :)

Oh and just to clarify, my mother and sister in law have very small ovens and the cakes are very small, you know those portable ovens they cook like toast in or something, and you open the door and there is one rack? It's less than the size of a small tv.

Genki?
Oct 16, 2008, 14:17
Howdy, I'm new here, and this topic looks interesting so I'll post my first here. I got a little too exited and my post became really loooong. So beware.

OK. Now I warned you.

あずまさん。

I was born and bred in greater Tokyo and went to a boarding school where students were from all over Japan, so I am quite confident that I understand Japanese culture, not just the one around Tokyo but also of different areas, fairly well. And I find that "Men get served first" idea kind of odd. Aren't people, men and women, supposed to wait until "everybody" is served and then have that famous "Itadakimasu" together? At least that was the way my family started dinner and as far as I know all of my friends' families were pretty similar. My dad didn't get to, or wouldn't, eat unless all the kids were at the table. Isn't that the way they do in Japanese TV dramas and such as well? I believe it is.

Also, I've never visited a house without a bath. I mean, bath loving Japanese don't have a bath? in 21st century ? That really IS backwa... eh.. not very advanced. Japanese are usually quite picky about bath (oh, and that high tech toilet seats. You know that.). May be it is because they have a great on-sen around and don't see the need for spending millions of yen on a mediocre bath at home? All the same, not everybody have the luxury of having an on-sen near by so I say that's a special case.

And the oven. Who doesn't like juicy roast pork or lasagna perfectly baked to golden? How would you cook turkey for Christmas without it?? If you ask your mother in-law whether she wants an oven like yours, then the answer sure would be 'Yes'. Or she could even initiate saying "I want one like that" with admiration in her eyes. Oh, I can totally picture that. However, I doubt she even knows how to set the oven’s temperature right. Japanese cooking just doesn't involve oven. It involves a lot of knifes, all very sharp ones, but not an oven. And to be honest with you, I don't see an elder Japanese couple living in Hokkaido having roast pork and lasagna kind of meals very often. They'd soon be hospitalized with acid reflux if they do. Most likely, she told you she wanted an oven half because she wanted to compliment your kitchen.

Plus, if she is a house maker, she could have the seal and the bankbook for her "husband's" bank account (that means she has the power of attorney), and be the primary decision maker on big spendings. I could be completely wrong in your in-laws' specific case, but in general, it is less likely that a Japanese house maker really wants, and needs, a cooking appliance and her husband doesn't let her get it. There is more chance for the quality of her husband’s lunch box to degrade to save up for the oven.

And back to the topic of "men get served first", As I said, I don't know what kind of circumstances you are specifically talking about, but yes Japan do have "Old men first" or "Elders first" rule similar to "Ladies first" in the west. But do you really need to get served first so bad? Imagine, I, a Japanese man, keep my "head-strong" attitude in Australia and insist on taking the best seat before any of the girls in my group gets their seats in a restaurant (because I’m older.), after shoving and blocking bunch of old ladies who are cutting in front of me when getting onto an elevator (because I was there first. Geez what ARE all these people?). How do I look? A complete mannarless jerk! So I wouldn't do it. I do “ladies first”. Why does it bother you so much to do what all western men do? And think about it. It's "Elders first" rule in Japan. So when you get older, you WILL have the priority and that means you look like you are the oldest person in your group. Do you really want that to happen anytime soon?

Again, I could be completely wrong in your case, it could just be you really are surrounded by sexists, judging from what you said like your in-laws don't allow you to go out at night. Or that could be because they really didn’t want to put the foreign young lady in danger by letting her walk around at night. It could be the combination of two or something totally different. I don't exactly know what it is. But at least, this is another look at it from a guy who probably knows Japanese culture a little more than you do.

Cheers,

Genki?
Oct 16, 2008, 14:48
And, Sorry I'm racist, but is there any chance that they are kind of like Korean Japanese?

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 16, 2008, 15:12
Also, I've never visited a house without a bath. I mean, bath loving Japanese don't have a bath? in 21st century ? That really IS backwa... eh.. not very advanced. Japanese are usually quite picky about bath (oh, and that high tech toilet seats. You know that.). May be it is because they have a great on-sen around and don't see the need for spending millions of yen on a mediocre bath at home? All the same, not everybody have the luxury of having an on-sen near by so I say that's a special case.

Hi,
Yes they really don't have a bath or shower, the live in government housing. They live in Hokkaido, and drive to either onsen or sento for a bath. They don't have a shower either, only a laundry where there is a washing machine and the most recent bath that was purchased that is never used.



Japanese cooking just doesn't involve oven. It involves a lot of knifes, all very sharp ones, but not an oven. And to be honest with you, I don't see an elder Japanese couple living in Hokkaido having roast pork and lasagna kind of meals very often.

Then you don't know my inlaws they have different recipes all the time. They love making recipes that i send over if they have the capacity to do so (i usually try to pick recipes they have the utensils for). As a japanese you are kind of pigeonholing japanese into only wanting to cook certain foods.

Might i add my in laws are not elderly, my mother in law is 50 and my father in law is 54. They are not old and decrepit.


Plus, if she is a house maker, she could have the seal and the bankbook for her "husband's" bank account (that means she has the power of attorney), and be the primary decision maker on big spendings. I could be completely wrong in your in-laws' specific case, but in general, it is less likely that a Japanese house maker really wants, and needs, a cooking appliance and her husband doesn't let her get it. There is more chance for the quality of her husband’s lunch box to degrade to save up for the oven.

They don't have the money to buy an oven, nor the space to put it. I would buy them an oven if they had the space to put it somewhere.


But do you really need to get served first so bad?

I don't have to get served first. My arguement is not about getting served first, it's about everyone waiting until everyone else is ready! My point is my father in law has to eat first before anyone else, he has to get served first and start eating immediately before anyone else was served. You yourself said japanese do that, but apparently my family in law is different because they think father in law is the man.


And, Sorry I'm racist, but is there any chance that they are kind of like Korean Japanese?

No, they are pure blood Japanese.

Genki?
Oct 16, 2008, 15:54
OK I can't believe that your "man" doesn't wait for his family. I mean, how thick it he ? Watch TV and you get the idea right? You just don't start eating even if you ARE the BOSS.

And they don't even have a bath? ahh..... again. Japanese don't usually consider this normal. It is rather really unusual.

I'm sorry, but your hus's famliy is rather unusual.

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 16, 2008, 15:57
It's not "my man" it' s my father in law, he obviously thinks he has a right to eat before anyone else. I don't think he is thick.

It's not unusual at all to not have a bath in hokkaido i think, they live in government housing as i said before and all those government houses are the same, with no bath or shower unless one is bought, and i think most people just go 30 minutes drive to the onsen or sento. I've been to some of the neighbours houses and they are pretty much the same.

Genki?
Oct 16, 2008, 16:13
I, as a Japanese man, think it is VERY strange not to have a bath at home ESPECIALLY if you are in Hokkaido. well that's OK I guess, but I just CANT BELIEVE his Father doesn't wait for his family and just start eating, but yea, it's your family, so who am I to say anything about it.

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 16, 2008, 16:17
Of course you are entitle to think what you like. I don't disagree with you on waiting to eat, i'm actually glad someone like you thinks my way! ;)

I thought it was strange at first that they didn't have a bath/shower wash room too...i guess i just got used to the idea.

Even that they have a bath now they never use it...so maybe they are strange....who knows...my mother in law is a jehovah's witness so that could be why...i don't know anything about that religion so i can't say for sure. Maybe thats why my husband doesn't think it's strange either.

Thanks for your input. :)

butakun
Oct 16, 2008, 16:35
Pipokun i will ask my husband...when i can tie him down for a moment to get him to look at it! Might take a few days. Will get back to ya. :)

Oh and just to clarify, my mother and sister in law have very small ovens and the cakes are very small, you know those portable ovens they cook like toast in or something, and you open the door and there is one rack? It's less than the size of a small tv.

Just to clarify what I meant by fish oven. It's indeed what pipokun showed in the pic, and that's not something you buy separately. It's an integral part of standard Japanese stoves. You buy a stove in Japan, you get a fish oven with it. I checked some online stores and I couldn't find any stove that does not have one. So I believe your inlaw's kitchen has one. The reason why I said the lack of one in western kitchens backward (jokingly, mind you) is precisely because western ovens are too big for grilling fish, i.e. yakizakana. My grandpa would go nuts if his kitchen didn't have one.

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 16, 2008, 16:46
Oh ok, no worries. She may have one then, probably does, but she might never use it, i've never seen her use it anyway, maybe hubby hasn't either. It just made me remember something about fish actually. My mother in law never makes sushi or norimaki! She refuses to make it, even when my hubby was a boy she would never make it for him...so i now make it for him whenever he wants, because he missed out as a boy. I thought this was kinda weird as i thought japanese love sushi and maki, as hubby does. It is no real hassle for me actually, i just got a japanese cooking book and followed it until i got it right...can't see why it would be a hassle but i suppose she has her reasons.

Hmmm...i'm going to ask hubby when he gets home tonight...will be back with some info later! And sorry i got you guys mixed up. :)

Chidoriashi
Oct 16, 2008, 17:46
I can't believe that he starts eating before everyone else either. I have met hundreds of Japanese, been in at least 15 different Japanese homes, and never once been in a situation where everyone did not sit down together and say "itadakimasu". So i hope you don't think his behavior is typical, because it is not.

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 16, 2008, 18:16
I have met hundreds of Japanese, been in at least 15 different Japanese homes,

Wow! And there are how many billions living in Japan? Maybe those 15 homes didn't do it. I don't know, i'm just saying. Hubby seems to think it's the normal and in fact he did it when we first met, but then i straightened him out by saying "hey we live in aus we don't do that here" so now he waits for me, or others if we are with other people.


So i hope you don't think his behavior is typical, because it is not.

I would like to think it's not typical behaviour, but i'm not so sure.

undrentide
Oct 16, 2008, 18:30
I can't believe that he starts eating before everyone else either. I have met hundreds of Japanese, been in at least 15 different Japanese homes, and never once been in a situation where everyone did not sit down together and say "itadakimasu". So i hope you don't think his behavior is typical, because it is not.

I don't think it is typical, but I assume OP's family in law is following a very old customs. Maybe 2-3 generations before now, it was more common that a father in a family was regarded as the most important, literally the head of the family, thus sometimes the father (and sometimes his first son as he will be the future head) were served the meal first, and his wife and other children (girls and babies) and the elderies in the family ate after they finished the meal. This is an extreme casem, maybe many families ate together but still men were served first and started first, then other family members followed.
So for the OP's father in law and his wife, it is quite natural that he's always served first and starts eating first.

If OP wants her father in law to start eating after everyone is served, I wonder if she could ask her husband to talk to his father not to while they're visiting OP's home country - I don't know the exact situation but it could be the case that her father in law just does not know it is rude to start eating before everyone is served, as his behaviour is something a matter of course for him.
It seems that OP and their parents in law are in good relationship, then I guess if OP is willing to follow the in law's way whiel she's staying with them, they should be also willing to follow the customs in OP's home country when they're staying there.

It seems that their kitchen and bathroom (and maybe the whole house) seem to be far below the avarage of Japanese houses, but if they simply cannot afford those things, I feel sorry for them, especially the mother in law, it must be very embarassing for her to be pointed out the lack of such facilities.
I might offer her an oven with fish grill as a present, if I were in OP's position, but again this is just an idea, as I really don't know OP or her family in law personally.

To me it does not really look like a "cultural-difference-between-Japan/Australia" issue, because even among Japanese people sometimes people complain about one's partner and/or partner's family because each family has its own culture, something one has been taking granted for can be something quite strange or outrageous for another.

FrustratedDave
Oct 16, 2008, 18:32
Frustrated Dave,
My parents in law do not live in a very old house, if you read my post properly i said it was a blue square tub made from plastic, not stainless steel.
Gotcha, missed that one, your in-laws live in a housing development. I see this a cost issue, not that they don't want one. Am I right?

And also, your view of Japanese people is that they only cook tasty Japanese food, well that's what it sounds like on your post. BUT my mother in law and my sister in law often cook pizza, spaghetti bolognese, cookies, cakes, and other stuff, none of which is traditional japanese. And i did state that my mother in law lamented the fact she could not have an oven like we do here because SHE wanted to cook our style of food too! You just pigeonholed japanese women into only cooking one style of food. I made statements on the fact that my mother in law says her kitchen should be bigger and have more convenience objects rather than what i think it should be, and if you are going to totally disregard this fact i have nothing to say to you. No.... I said Japanese are more creative when cooking meals. I didn't say they didn't like cooking a meatloaf ,Pizza ,spaghetti or cup cakes every now again. But you will find that most people from your parents generation will stick mainly to traditional style cooking most of the time, so no I didn't just pigeonhole all Japanese women into one group. The younger generation as I said in my post earlier is changing quite a bit and ovens are now included in a lot of kitchen packages. You are calling you mother in laws house backward and I am not trying to be rude ,but government housing projects rarely reflect a typical Japanese house, they are built with money in mind and that is it.

I didn't say i was savvy on japanese culture. When did i ever say that? And the statment you made below was to clearly state that you didn't know much about the Japanese culture?

Just to clarify, i started learning Japanes ein year 8 in high school (when i was 13) and maintained an interest right up until now. I completed a 1 year diploma and then went to university for 4 years with Japanese language and culture as my major. So i am by no means ignorant of Japanese culture and customs. I also speak very good Japanese. I also studied up on all the little do's and don'ts before i went to Japan with my husband so as not to embarrass him nor make a fool of myself.
Hmmm... I must be reading your posts wrong, b/c when someone goes to this lenght to say how much they have been involved with the Japnese langauge and culture, you would naturally assume that they were saying that knew a lot about it...




Don't go getting your knickers in a knot, you obviously know everything about Japanese culture. They should make you an honorary citizen! I was not the one who was getting her knickers in a knott... And if you could write a referance for me to become an honorary citizen I would really appreciate it. (sorry ,I just had to say it, your statement was quite funny)

And quite frankly i think it's childish of you to come on here and try to brow beat me, but whatever. I don't really care who knows more. And this is where you are missing the point I was making, you see it as some sort of competition, but I see it as a learning curve ,as in you never stop learning new things while you have an open mind.

My mother in law seems subservient because she is. She has to get up at 5am every morning to make otoosans lunch. She suffers terribly with depression but otoosan won't let her sleep in. So she gets up in the morning, makes lunch and breakfast and in between we find her napping on the lounge with the broom in her hand because she was forced to do housework even when she doesn't feel like it. If otoosan comes home and there is no dinner he goes to bed without any because he won't make any himself and then he is really angry with okaasan. Right. She's stuck in this crappy place that has no understanding of what depression is like. I do, because i've had it. In fact i had post-traumatic stress disorder after the first time i went to japan. Another story, but, the short of it is, maybe some women are not subservient, but my mother in law is, and i feel so sorry for her, i want to bring them out here so they can live and i can help her have a little bit more freedom. Just a dream, but when they retire i would like to bring them over here to live rather than us going there. So maybe in your perfect world dave women are not subservient, some people are, some people have illnesses that society doesn't deal with very well either. Your mother in law may be subservient, but the majority are not. Most women have control over most things that go on in the household.... And please don't try to take that as me saying your mother in law is not subservient.

ASHIKAGA
Oct 16, 2008, 18:33
Alright. Mrs.Azuma's father in law is a mannerless B#&*#$d who doesn't wait until everyone has been served before he starts eating and he and his long suffering wife lives in a crappy house, and Mrs. Azuma is somehow of the opinion that that is the norm in Japan.

I would like to wish much happiness for her and her husband and everyone in her extended family.

Now, let us get back to the topic of this thread, shall we? I don't think it had anything to do with "if a typical Japanese house has a bath in it / if the man of the house should be served first at meals".

Let us all go back to the OP and find out exactly WHAT this thread was about. I have no idea. lol :wave:

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 16, 2008, 18:44
Firstly, can i ask what is OP?

Secondly, Dave i was trying to clarify my background, not say how much i knew about Japan so if i gave you that impression, i am sorry for that, merely i was trying to state that i have an interest in Japan and always have. :) I don't claim to know all there is to know or even understand, hence the reason why i came on here in the first place.

Ok, so i read some things wrong, i apologise for that too.

Ashikaga, yes, i agree with you, lets get off the bath/toilet/fish oven topic, and yes i agree with you on the first comment about father in law yada yada haha.

Undrentide, thanks very much for the info, i didn't know that about 3 generations back, so that was really good to know. Now i can see a little bit about where they are coming from, and yes it's a very good idea to look into buying a fish oven if i find out that they don't have one.

Despite people getting sick of this back and forth i've enjoyed discussing with all of you. :)

I would like to add a comment to this thread to do with the topic. It happened to me on the weekend and i also blogged about it, but have you ever had the experience where a Japanese has called you a gaijin while you've been in your own country? When i pointed this out to a friend who called me a gaijin, and told them they were in fact the gaijin, they said they didn't want to be known as a gaijin because it was too bad, they would prefer being called Japanese. Do you think this is hypocritical of Japanese? To call others a derogatory name but not themselves want to be called it?

If this is not the right place to post i will not go on about it here, but i thought it was worth mentioning.

我妻婦人

undrentide
Oct 16, 2008, 19:32
I would like to add a comment to this thread to do with the topic. It happened to me on the weekend and i also blogged about it, but have you ever had the experience where a Japanese has called you a gaijin while you've been in your own country? When i pointed this out to a friend who called me a gaijin, and told them they were in fact the gaijin, they said they didn't want to be known as a gaijin because it was too bad, they would prefer being called Japanese. Do you think this is hypocritical of Japanese? To call others a derogatory name but not themselves want to be called it?

To most Japanese people, "gaijin/gaikokujin" is not a derogatory terms, it simply means "non-Japanese". (A bit different from the definition of "foreigner") Thus some of the Japanese who are visiting abroad think they are surrounded by "gaijin/gaikokujin". Those people do not think it twice that in a freign country, they are "gaikokujin" to the people from that country.
When this fact is pointed out, some people understand it and laugh the funny remarks they'e made, but there are also some people who cannot see the things from different aspects, like they always measure everything with their own rule, they never imagine that there are diffent measuring rules - inch, cm, sun (this is old Japanese measuring unit), for example.

*Disclaimer: personally I don't think "gaijin" is a derogatory term like "Jap", it means the same as "gaikokujin", it is neutral. If one is offended when the word is used, I assume it comes not from the word it self but rather a situation it is used, or the way the word is used. It is possible to offend people with any word(s).
But since I know there are many people who are offended with the word "gaijin" so I do not use it myself. It is really not worthwhile to use it when I know it may offend someone.

grapefruit
Oct 16, 2008, 20:50
Actually, my father doesn't wait for other family members either.... So, to me, Azuma_Fujin's in-law father does not sound that strange. I can imagine Japanese middle-aged men behaving in this way in private, informal settings (but not on public, formal occasions).



Your mother in law may be subservient, but the majority are not. Most women have control over most things that go on in the household.... And please don't try to take that as me saying your mother in law is not subservient.
Aren't there still Japanese men who want their wives to quit their jobs once they get married? Aren't Japanese women still expected to cook for their family members? So, I am not sure about claiming that most Japanese women have control over most things that go on in the household, especially with Japanese women of 50 years old or above.

becki_kanou
Oct 16, 2008, 23:17
Just to play devil's advocate a bit here, but most of the older generation (50/60) of Japanese women I personally know, have a much better deal than the men. They make the breakfast and lunch in the morning, finish up the housework in the A.M. and then have the rest of the day to relax, play golf, have lunch with friends and take all kinds of fun classes and lessons while their husbands are slaving away at the office all day.

I know this isn't true of all Japanese women, but it seems like they don't get such a raw deal to me. Add to that the fact that they mostly control the finances and make most of the major household decisions and it sounds pretty good. I'm not at all saying that sexism doesn't exist, as it most certainly does, especially in business and the workforce, but I've seen many more かか 天下 type families than 亭主関白 types.

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 17, 2008, 00:03
To most Japanese people, "gaijin/gaikokujin" is not a derogatory terms, it simply means "non-Japanese". (A bit different from the definition of "foreigner") Thus some of the Japanese who are visiting abroad think they are surrounded by "gaijin/gaikokujin". Those people do not think it twice that in a freign country, they are "gaikokujin" to the people from that country.
When this fact is pointed out, some people understand it and laugh the funny remarks they'e made, but there are also some people who cannot see the things from different aspects, like they always measure everything with their own rule, they never imagine that there are diffent measuring rules - inch, cm, sun (this is old Japanese measuring unit), for example.

Yes, i see what you mean and i guess yes i don't really have a problem with the word gaijin but it has been said to me in a derogatory aspect before so i guess that's why i have a problem with it. Also the kanji of of gaijin "outside person" just kind of gets to me because i feel like gaijin means always outside, forever. I would prefer it if they called us "visitors" or "travellers". You know like we call travellers or backpackers instead of foreigners, or just call them by their nationality instead of giving them a group name.

You are right when you say that people sometimes are surprised when they go somewhere and the rules are different. That has happened to me and i've seen it happen to others. It's sometimes funny and sometimes completely frustrating too.

Pachipro
Oct 17, 2008, 01:17
When I mentioned that my father-in-law got served first I failed to mention that this did not mean that he ate first. He always waited for everyone to be at the table and "itadakimasu" was said. However, my father-in-laws' older brother was always served first and he ate first which I found weird. However, they are country folk and, like Azuma_fujin's father-in-law, maybe it is the way it's done in the old home town and the older generation.

I would be curious to learn if any of the "country folk" in Japan still follow this custom where the elder male eats before the rest of the family.


It's not unusual at all to not have a bath in hokkaido
Then it must be old governmental housing as I remember 30 years ago having to seek out an apartment that had a bath as they were rare and most people in the neighborhood went (walked to) the local sento (bath house) for their daily ritual. In fact, an apartment with a flush toilet AND a bath would cost an additional 3-5,000 yen or more per month in rent. It really was a luxury back then. However, there was a certain "togetherness" and comraderie of the daily trip to the local sento where a bath would set you back about 30 - 100 yen. A shower? Almost unheard of even in the 1980's unless you were living in a modern "mansion" (condo) or a newer house that had one built-in with the bath.


I, as a Japanese man, think it is VERY strange not to have a bath at home ESPECIALLY if you are in Hokkaido.
Really? How old are you Genki and did you come from a wealthy family as most wealthy families did have a bath even in the 50's and 60's, but the majority of the general population in the 60's, 70's and early 80's did not have one. It was only after newer houses were built after the economic boom that families started having baths in their houses. Today, it is a given in all new housing.


I don't think it is typical, but I assume OP's family in law is following a very old customs. Maybe 2-3 generations before now, it was more common that a father in a family was regarded as the most important, literally the head of the family, thus sometimes the father (and sometimes his first son as he will be the future head) were served the meal first, and his wife and other children (girls and babies) and the elderies in the family ate after they finished the meal. This is an extreme casem, maybe many families ate together but still men were served first and started first, then other family members followed.

So, for the OP's (OP means "Original Poster") father in law and his wife, it is quite natural that he's always served first and starts eating first.
I believe you are quite correct and I'd still like to know if this custom is still followed today in the country and outer provinces where the old customs may still be followed.

Might i add my in laws are not elderly, my mother in law is 50 and my father in law is 54. They are not old and decrepit.
Heck! I am 54 and I do not feel "old and decrepit". I do even feel "elderly"! Yuck!. However, there is something to be said of, and a warm feeling to be had, when I visit the older homes of my wife's family where there is no bath and we all must go to the local sento. Even though I had an apartment with a bath, I still enjoyed the friendliness of going to the local bath house a couple of times a week and even enjoyed it. I bonded with my neighbors and even made a couple of friends which are still my friends to this very day. They are becoming rarer and rarer these days, but I do miss them.


Just to play devil's advocate a bit here, but most of the older generation (50/60) of Japanese women I personally know, have a much better deal than the men. They make the breakfast and lunch in the morning, finish up the housework in the A.M. and then have the rest of the day to relax, play golf, have lunch with friends and take all kinds of fun classes and lessons while their husbands are slaving away at the office all day.

I know this isn't true of all Japanese women, but it seems like they don't get such a raw deal to me. Add to that the fact that they mostly control the finances and make most of the major household decisions and it sounds pretty good. I'm not at all saying that sexism doesn't exist, as it most certainly does, especially in business and the workforce, but I've seen many more かか 天下 type families than 亭主関白 types.
You are quite correct I believe in your assessment of Japanese housewives as I have heard that on more than one occassion from Japanese housewives. Most have it "made in the shade" so to speak and enjoy their position in Japan as they control everything!


Now, let us get back to the topic of this thread, shall we? I don't think it had anything to do with "if a typical Japanese house has a bath in it / if the man of the house should be served first at meals".
Let us all go back to the OP and find out exactly WHAT this thread was about. I have no idea. lol
Which is, "Are Japanese more hypocritical with foreigners?".

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 17, 2008, 01:50
Then it must be old governmental housing as I remember 30 years ago having to seek out an apartment that had a bath as they were rare and most people in the neighborhood went (walked to) the local sento (bath house) for their daily ritual. In fact, an apartment with a flush toilet AND a bath would cost an additional 3-5,000 yen or more per month in rent. It really was a luxury back then. However, there was a certain "togetherness" and comraderie of the daily trip to the local sento where a bath would set you back about 30 - 100 yen. A shower? Almost unheard of even in the 1980's unless you were living in a modern "mansion" (condo) or a newer house that had one built-in with the bath.

Yes, you are right Pachipro, it is government housing, and it's like a long block of houses, that share a common wall, and they have a little bit of land out the back that is open to the road where there is usually a washing line and a vege patch or a dog house, and the front has a driveway and a shed/storage house. I think it's about 5 "houses" long. It's really not much more than a very small genkan, toilet off to the side (thankfully a flushing one!), a tiny kitchen, a combined dining/living, and 3 small bedrooms. It's all a basic square shape. The sliding door of the living room opens up to the vege patch outside, facing another road. I'm sure the buildings themselves are quite old, although the inside has been kept well and is not shabby. I quite like the communal atmosphere of the living/dining, in that everyone congregates in there when they are not sleeping, so it seems more family oriented than alot of homes i have visited in Australia.

I have fond memories of going to the local sento, every time we go back to japan it's something i look forward to. I love the private baths, they are so deep, when i step in, i have forgotten just how deep it is, and how hot! But the feeling i get when i get out is one i cannot get from any other bath, it's such an amazing feeling. Then afterwards walking out of the sento with hubby and going to the vending machine and getting an ice cold gogo tea. That is one of my favourite times. I agree with you that some of the greatest family moments are around these shared experiences.


Heck! I am 54 and I do not feel "old and decrepit". I do even feel "elderly"!
Sorry, i did not mean to say that you were old and decrepit, just that my parents in law were not old, as i don't consider 50's to be old. My aussie mum is 64 and i still think of her as young. She's certainly not in the elderly category. I guess you're only as old as you feel! ;)


You are quite correct I believe in your assessment of Japanese housewives as I have heard that on more than one occassion from Japanese housewives. Most have it "made in the shade" so to speak and enjoy their position in Japan as they control everything!

I have read of such circumstances. If my mil was not sick as she is, and fil made more money, maybe that would be the case for her too. I guess like everywhere, some people are more privelaged than others. Good luck to the people who have lives like this.

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 17, 2008, 02:04
Hey Pipokun,

I have an answer for you. I asked my husband he said it's called a "grill", i said to him, i thought you said you didn't know what a fish oven was! He said "fish oven?" I thought you said "fish orange!". That just proves what i've been saying all these years is that he never listens to me... haha :) He said it is called a "grill" (not sure the spelling in Japanese guriru?) and the stove is called a "konro" or something.

So yeah...i was wrong! I can't ever remember seeing this before though...so it was new to me. I'm gonna have a look next time we're in Japan. Thanks for the learning curve :)

FrustratedDave
Oct 17, 2008, 08:32
Firstly, can i ask what is OP?
Secondly, Dave i was trying to clarify my background, not say how much i knew about Japan so if i gave you that impression, i am sorry for that, merely i was trying to state that i have an interest in Japan and always have. :) I don't claim to know all there is to know or even understand, hence the reason why i came on here in the first place.
Ok, so i read some things wrong, i apologise for that too.

Hey , I said it straight as I don't have a lot of time to post something that could be more eloquently stated. I apologise for that. But I do hope you keep an open mind on a lot of things that have been said here as it will make your life a lot easier when you understand why somethings are done or said a certain way. I too do not think that the Japanese way of life is best , nor do I think that the western way of life is best, more so they are just different and now understanding that life has become so much more enjoyable.

Ashikaga, yes, i agree with you, lets get off the bath/toilet/fish oven topic, and yes i agree with you on the first comment about father in law yada yada haha.
Undrentide, thanks very much for the info, i didn't know that about 3 generations back, so that was really good to know. Now i can see a little bit about where they are coming from, and yes it's a very good idea to look into buying a fish oven if i find out that they don't have one.
Despite people getting sick of this back and forth i've enjoyed discussing with all of you. :) Sorry , Ashikaga....:p

Genki?
Oct 17, 2008, 13:35
Really? How old are you Genki and did you come from a wealthy family as most wealthy families did have a bath even in the 50's and 60's, but the majority of the general population in the 60's, 70's and early 80's did not have one.
OK, “I can't believe" was an overstatement. I am 37 and I remember there was a sentou around our place when I was a kid around late 70's and early 80's. But of several friends' houses I visited back then, there was only one アパート that didn't have a bath and it was not like they were all rich. Actually the style people take bath have changed around 60's and 70's, so you are right. Back in 50's not many people had baths at home. Most of them went to sentou. But 90% of all homes in Japan have baths today, and it is Hokkaido where temperature can drop way below freezing, and It is not a one room アパート and is 30min drive from the nearest sento. The chance for this kind of place not having a bath today is probably like 1% or less. But they may just like the classic way, and I'm digressing so I'll stop. It was too interesting to not respond to an English speaking guy who has this much insight into the history of the modern Japanese bath.

Genki?
Oct 17, 2008, 13:43
It's interesting that Azuma-san found her husband became bossy telling her what to do as soon as they got to Narita. My girlfriend snapped once in Tokyo saying that I kept telling her what she had to do. We were in a coffee shop in Ginza having a ridiculously expensive pot of tea and when it ran out, she wanted hot water to refill the pot. If you live in Japan long enough, you know you usually don't get refill water for a teapot. And I was sure that this coffee shop was so stuck up and wouldn't do it so I told her I wouldn't ask because they don't do it in Japan. Then she insisted on asking it herself because "it doesn't hurt asking" and I stopped her as asking these out-of-the-rule things to a Japanese could be an embarrassing experience with them making faces and all that.

Then she snapped. According to her, I had been telling her what to do and what not, ever since we got off the plane at Narita. To me it was really obvious that asking was a bad idea, and I was trying to save us from an unpleasant experience, but she didn't/couldn't see all these little untold rules that all Japanese follow, and took it as I was bossing her around. It was like "don't even think about asking for the refill” printed on the wall with the paint only I could see and I couldn't make her believe it was there.

I don't know if Japanese are hypocritical, but there are a lot of inexplicit little rules like this that may explain some of the Japanese's weird behaviors. One of them could be "You ask about 4 seasons when asking how someone's home town's nature is.". Japanese poem have a rule that it must include a word that implicitly specifies one of the 4 seasons and this style of poem dates back to 9th century. We still have these poems written by people from 1000 years ago, and they talk about all the things that happen in the nature and their lives in each season. So “4 seasons” isn’t just talking about weather and temperature and length of daytime, but it is also strongly related to all the changes in nature and other things that happen in each season. Spring is not just weather condition between winter and summer, but it is also cherry blossom, love of cats, abalone, wasabi, clam picking, swallows, and the list goes on. So when Japanese are asking if your country have 4 seasons, they are also asking about these things strongly related to each season as well. It may be rather dumb to expect non-Japanese to understand all this background, but for them “4 seasons” has always been like this and they don’t know other “4 seasons”.

Oh, now I understand why he was so mad. I would go crazy too if everybody I meet asks me if Japan has tornados.

FrustratedDave
Oct 17, 2008, 17:34
Genki , you are a breath of fresh air. Look forward to your post in the future, as I do with a few other people here.:wave:

Pachipro
Oct 18, 2008, 00:49
OK, “I can't believe" was an overstatement. I am 37 and I remember there was a sentou around our place when I was a kid around late 70's and early 80's. But of several friends' houses I visited back then, there was only one アパート that didn't have a bath and it was not like they were all rich. Actually the style people take bath have changed around 60's and 70's, so you are right. Back in 50's not many people had baths at home. Most of them went to sentou. But 90% of all homes in Japan have baths today, and it is Hokkaido where temperature can drop way below freezing, and It is not a one room アパート and is 30min drive from the nearest sento. The chance for this kind of place not having a bath today is probably like 1% or less.
I appreciate your honesty Genki and, as Frustrated Dave said, "You are a breath of fresh air" and I hope you stick around a while and continue posting your views.

However, I did not realize that in Hokkaido and such that the average sento would be a 30 minute drive from one's place as you and Azuma_fujin mentioned, but after thinking about it I guess it would make sense way out in the middle of nowhere and away from a central town. What I don't understand is why these houses were built without a sento in the first place when a public bath was not within walking distance. Does anyone have any insight as to why? As the Japanese are so fond of the bath and cleanliness I would have assumed that all rural houses would have a bath as a necessity. If one didn't have a car or it broke down I guess the family would have to wash up with a wet cloth.

Sounds weird, but I learned something new that I didn't know and will ask my wife about this as her family hails from rural Yamagata prefecture. When we visited her relatives there, although there was no bath in the house, the sento was a 15 walk away.


It was like "don't even think about asking for the refill” printed on the wall with the paint only I could see and I couldn't make her believe it was there.
Very interesting way of putting it. Hope you don't mind if I steal it.

I can understand your frustration with foreigners not knowing the unwritten rules and nuances of Japanese culture as, what may seem normal to them/us and not such a big deal can be a VERY BIG DEAL in Japan. Interesting experience.

Charles Barkley
Oct 18, 2008, 01:00
I saw an ad for a cheap apartment in Tokyo the other day (near Takadanobaba)--3 man a month for a 5畳 room and no bath. I couldn't do it...

Pachipro
Oct 18, 2008, 01:23
I saw an ad for a cheap apartment in Tokyo the other day (near Takadanobaba)--3 man a month for a 5畳 room and no bath. I couldn't do it...
In Tokyo? At 3 man a month? If I were single and not making much money and there was a sento within walking distance I would jump on it to live in Tokyo proper for such a cheap price. Even though it was one room I hope it at least had a small kitchen/area for cooking or I couldn't do it either.

MY apartment 30 years ago was 30 miles from Tokyo, was a 2dk with bath and only cost 3 man a month ($100 back then). I couldn't afford to live in Tokyo. Today that same apartment is going for 38,000 yen per month last time I checked during my visit at New Years time.

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 18, 2008, 19:57
Hey Genki,

I liked reading your response, and i must agree with you with what you wrote that it seems that way, there is alot of unwritten rules that i just don't get. My main questions/irks were "why do you let your father boss me around?" "Why can't i go outside by myself even when YOU suggested it and your father won't let me?", "why is it not okay to read the magazine at the table while your father is cooking?" (because it's such a rare moment in history???), etc etc. Some of the reasons i could guess...but it has seemed so annoying to me a times when in those situations and coming from somewhere where an offer to do housework is an offer of help, not an insult into your ability to do the housework.


What I don't understand is why these houses were built without a sento in the first place when a public bath was not within walking distance. Does anyone have any insight as to why?

Ok, i just had a deep and meaningful with my husband and it seems i was kept in the dark. So i apologise for saying something that has been the wrong thing.

Apparently the nearest onsen is 15 minutes walk away, BUT, no one took me there, hubby included because they assumed i would not want to bathe with others. Instead everytime we go, we go to Obihiro for sento which has "family baths" in that it is separate little baths that two or more can use without mixing with strangers. And i've also just been told that it's also an onsen which hubby says "is a real sento". Grrr. All this time and nobody has asked me, just assumed. Yes, before you say anything the shoe is definitely on the other foot right now!

Sorry for the confusion people, but i have to say, joining this forum has been good for me as it's led me to question quite a lot and get answers to my questions, and if i hadn't, i would still be walking around thinking i know this, when i don't! Certainly an eye opener. :)

Sorry pachipro if i sent you on a wild goose hunt with your wife, my apologies.

Hearing about your girlfriend makes me cringe, but on the other hand, i feel i can sympathise with her "why the hell should it be so hard to get a refill?" As you know i'm still a learner big time, and i can see both points.

FrustratedDave
Oct 18, 2008, 21:08
Hey Genki,
I liked reading your response, and i must agree with you with what you wrote that it seems that way, there is alot of unwritten rules that i just don't get. My main questions/irks were "why do you let your father boss me around?" "Why can't i go outside by myself even when YOU suggested it and your father won't let me?", "why is it not okay to read the magazine at the table while your father is cooking?" (because it's such a rare moment in history???), etc etc. Some of the reasons i could guess...but it has seemed so annoying to me a times when in those situations and coming from somewhere where an offer to do housework is an offer of help, not an insult into your ability to do the housework.
Ok, i just had a deep and meaningful with my husband and it seems i was kept in the dark. So i apologise for saying something that has been the wrong thing.
Apparently the nearest onsen is 15 minutes walk away, BUT, no one took me there, hubby included because they assumed i would not want to bathe with others. Instead everytime we go, we go to Obihiro for sento which has "family baths" in that it is separate little baths that two or more can use without mixing with strangers. And i've also just been told that it's also an onsen which hubby says "is a real sento". Grrr. All this time and nobody has asked me, just assumed. Yes, before you say anything the shoe is definitely on the other foot right now!
Sorry for the confusion people, but i have to say, joining this forum has been good for me as it's led me to question quite a lot and get answers to my questions, and if i hadn't, i would still be walking around thinking i know this, when i don't! Certainly an eye opener. :)
Sorry pachipro if i sent you on a wild goose hunt with your wife, my apologies.
Hearing about your girlfriend makes me cringe, but on the other hand, i feel i can sympathise with her "why the hell should it be so hard to get a refill?" As you know i'm still a learner big time, and i can see both points.

Actually , I am glad you have opened up, b/c it can only get better from here on in. There are a lot of unwritten rules here and some will baffle you for a long time before you can understand them. You need to understand that sometimes offering to do something for someone can be interpreted as a lack of trust or not recognizing their ability to do a certain thing, and not be taken as that you are only trying to help. Most people will never let you know if they have been offended by you even if you did not know that you have offended them. It is sort of a catch 22.
Myself, I have offended someone before onlt to realize that I did 8 years down the track, I then appologised to them and we have been so much closer since then.

Things can be taken in completely different ways , and just one wrong word can dismantle all the trust we have gained with that person. (and they we not let you know it either) I swear the Japanese society invented teleapathy, b/c you need to know what someone is thinking without saying a word that direectly relates to what you are trying to say. Subtle hints are to most people a dirrect kick in face, where as most western societies need you to spell it out for someone to get the point. (I think we can be so obtuse in some circustances in western societies)

But, once you understand some of these things (no-one expects you to understand them all) you will have such a more fulling life as Japanese people can be , I don't know the english word but Japanese are "心が熱い".

As for your family assuming stuff about you, it can be hard to ask someone what they want to do and in Japanese you never ask someone what they "want" to do, it is more like what "shall" we do. So them( your family) not asking you can be quite normal. Anyway I have babbled long enough , but I am so pleased you have taken the approch you have taken.

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 19, 2008, 02:23
Hey Dave,

Thanks for your response.


You need to understand that sometimes offering to do something for someone can be interpreted as a lack of trust or not recognizing their ability to do a certain thing

I'll say! It's really hard to get used to. I find i have to catch myself alot, being that i don't live there, i just don't get used to not saying some things. I'm the kind of person that always offers help to someone, it's my nature, not something that i think about, but when in Japan, i have to think about it, lest i stuff up and make someone else feel bad.


it can be hard to ask someone what they want to do and in Japanese you never ask someone what they "want" to do, it is more like what "shall" we do

I see what you mean. And so if you didn't want to do something would it be ok to say "lets not"? Or would that still be rude? I'm always direct with my husband, but i don't really know the protocol for saying no when i'm in Japan. I have said it to hubby before and he's passed on the message, but how do i actually say it myself? I would like to be able to express myself directly without treading on someone's toes but without playing chinese whispers in my husbands ear!

Genki?
Oct 19, 2008, 03:25
Genki , you are a breath of fresh air. Look forward to your post in the future, as I do with a few other people here.:wave:
Thank you Dave, I’ll stick around for a bit. I only hang out with Japanese people in Japan, so looking at Japan from English part of my brain is pretty interesting. I really didn’t realize why Maciamo was so frustrated with people asking him about 4 seasons all the time, but as I was typing my own post, it came to me. It could be annoying to me too if the question was something like “does your country have snow?” .….Wait, no if it’s “snow” I can start talking about skiing and stuff which I love to, so snow is OK, then again, “tornado” is boring.


What I don't understand is why these houses were built without a sento in the first place when a public bath was not within walking distance.
I remember there were some news about the trend of sentos closing down all over Japan at some time in the past, probably in the mid 80’s. It became more common to take bath at home rather than going to sentos, and they could no longer sustain their business. The sento around our placed closed down in the early 80’s too, and I bet there was one very close to Azuma-san’s in-low parents’ place before.



Very interesting way of putting it. Hope you don't mind if I steal it.

I’d be proud of myself if I see it somewhere on the net in the future.



I can understand your frustration with foreigners not knowing the unwritten rules and nuances of Japanese culture as, what may seem normal to them/us and not such a big deal can be a VERY BIG DEAL in Japan. Interesting experience.
She understood after I explained it to her that they care about this pot of tea so much they probably brew it with specially selected water at precisely calculated temperature for what they think is the optimal length of time (well for $15 a pot, they’d better.), and so asking “hey why don’t you casually put some more tap water here. It doesn’t cost you anything anyway right?” was an insult to their diligence. But I couldn’t explain all that in several seconds and this kind of situations occurred way too often. So yes, it was somewhat frustrating.

Now we are more cautious though. I try to let my girlfriend learn things the hard way, and she tries not to think I am telling her what to do when we are in Japan. We are going to Tokyo next week, so we’ll see how much we grew up.


I saw an ad for a cheap apartment in Tokyo the other day (near Takadanobaba)--3 man a month for a 5畳 room and no bath. I couldn't do it...
There is one of the best schools in Japan at Takadanobaba (Waseda University) so the main target for the room is probably those poor students. It’s nice to know that even if I go back to Tokyo I still have cheap places to live, but I don’t want to live like a college student neither if I don’t have to.

Genki?
Oct 19, 2008, 04:39
"why is it not okay to read the magazine at the table while your father is cooking?"
It sounds like you offered to help, and he took it as an insult, and still he doesn’t like you to read magazines around him?? Your father in-law really puzzles me too. “because it's such a rare moment in history” might actually just be. I need more details to have any idea of what he really wanted if that’s ever possible. Some Japanese men, especially the ones in the north, speak very little and rarely express their feelings, so it is sometimes very hard to guess what they want even for me. I probably understand why he doesn’t let you walk around though. Most likely he thinks girls walking around at night is not safe, so it doesn’t matter who asks. You might think it is your own safety and it’s your own responsibility, but Japanese parents tend to treat their children, including in-laws, well, like their children, even after they became adults, especially when they are under their parents’ roof. “As long as you are under my roof, you follow my rules” literally means that in Japan. I presume that they said not much about “your” rule when they were under “your” roof. Even I, 37years old male, sometimes avoid staying at my parents place because they, more like my mother in my case, could be really nosy and bossy. So I understand the frustration.

Genki?
Oct 19, 2008, 05:00
and saying "no" is a tricky one 'cause Japanese just don't say it very often, but "I'd rather not." with a sorry facial expression whould probably work just fine.

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 20, 2008, 12:41
Genki, he wouldn't let me out alone in the day time. I should have clarified that. If it was at night i could have seen why, but in broad day light? I just needed some "me" time, alone, so i wanted to just go for a bit of a walk round the block, and i wasn't allowed. I also wasn't allowed to catch the train to Obihiro by myself in the day, even though hubby said it was fine, i know my way, can read the signs blah blah...

Genki?
Oct 20, 2008, 14:06
Genki, he wouldn't let me out alone in the day time.
Wow in the day time? he is, eh, hardcore old man to say the least.I'm still a little bit confused though. Do they make you stay at their place or do they flip and scream things like "xxxx(your husband name here) !! anata isshoni itterasshai!!!" and make your husband go with you? Former is very strange. Japanese girls don't get that kind of treatments ether. If it's later, I can see that happen. They can't see they are limiting your freedom.
I need to get on the plane to Narita in 7 hours, so I may not be able to respond to you for a while like 2 weeks. But I just found that I missed some of your posts here and I'll try to check them in Tokyo if I can.
I might have some cultural conflicts with my girlfriend to talk to you guys about when I come back. Later.

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 20, 2008, 14:30
Ok no worries, have fun :) Thanks for your help by the way.

Just for clarification, no they don't make my husband go with me. If he doesn't want to go out, then i can't go out, coz he'll tell me "sure, go out if you want", then fatherinlaw will go "no she's not to go out by herself", so then i can't go anywhere. If he goes out without me, i'm stuck in the house coz i can't go out for a walk even. So then i have to sit there with okaasan while she naps on the lounge when she's supposed to be doing housework, then sometimes she nicks up to the supa on her mamachari, so i'm stuck in the house by myself, actually locked in would be a better word.

Oh yeah...let us know if you have any cultural hiccups :)

Ahega
Oct 21, 2008, 15:05
Maybe I've missed it in a post, but have you asked your hubby why his father won't let you go out by yourself?

I don't know if this would help or not, but how about joining your mother-in-law for shopping, offer help with some duties outside so they'd be able to see that you can manage the world outside their house very well on your own.
Your father-in-law really puzzles me. This can be terribly wrong but it kinda seems as if he doesn't want anybody to see that your staying with them (sorry if you consider this thought as offending, but it just crossed my mind)

Pachipro
Oct 22, 2008, 01:10
Genki, he wouldn't let me out alone in the day time. I should have clarified that. If it was at night i could have seen why, but in broad day light? I just needed some "me" time, alone, so i wanted to just go for a bit of a walk round the block, and i wasn't allowed. I also wasn't allowed to catch the train to Obihiro by myself in the day, even though hubby said it was fine, i know my way, can read the signs blah blah...

Now, IMO, this is just going a little overboard if you ask me. I mean, you have bent over backwards to suit their needs and understand their culture, but hey, they have to do a little bending over backwards and understand your culture also! It's a two way street when it comes to international marriages and if it were me (and I'm not a woman so easy for me to say) I'd put my foot down in that you are an adult, you know what you are doing and YOU ARE NOT Japanese! So if you desire a little "me time" to walk around the neighborhood or take the train to do a little shopping, then they should respect that as you are not Japanese and your husband should respect that also and stand up for his wife to his parents in the long run.

If they insist on you doing that, then I would completly change my thinking on if and when your in-laws ever visited Australia. If they insisted on you acting as a traditional Japanese woman while in Japan, then I would insist on them acting like Australians while they are in Australia and that includes the father not eating first, but waiting for all others to eat together. I know it sounds like a contradiction and hypocritical, but they should not be putting those restrictions on someone who is not of Japanese origin if they are not willing to abide by restrictions placed on them while being in a foreign country.

There has to be some give and take in all relationships, especially international ones, but it seems to me they are doing all the taking while not giving anything. Hell, I know few Japanese women who wouldn't put of with those kind of restrictions in modern society and I wouldn't blame them one bit. My wife comes to mind. She may do it out of respect during a visit, but I can guarantee it would not last long if she settled there permanently.

Am I out of line in my thinking here or have I had too much to drink?

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 22, 2008, 18:06
Ahega, to answer your question, my husband said it was because there was a serial killer lose, just kills anyone, randomly, but this was last year, and i've been going to Japan for 5 years... so i can't really see the logic. The serial killer wasn't around for the 4 years previous, so it kind of seems like a convenient excuse to me.

Pachipro, you are not out of line at all. I agree with you. I've actually thought that next year when we go back i'm going to put my foot down. I'm sick of being told what to do by his father. I mean, regardless of who they are in relation to us, my husband and i are married, and have been for nearly 6 years, i'm sure we are capable of deciding between ourselves what we can do. Oh yeah, and my husband's sister sometimes comes over, she is 2 years younger than me, and she is allowed to go out by herself. She lives in her own place about 30 minutes drive away. It seems like because i'm not Japanese i can't be trusted to go out by myself. It's so weird. I've travelled to singapore by myself, and my own mother was worried, but she didn't stop me going. While i stayed with a friends family in Singapore, they cared what happened but they didn't stop me going out and having a walk around the block and having a look.

I mean for me, when i am staying in Hokkaido, there are so many scenic places, and even the houses, i never get sick of looking at because they are so different from what we have in perth. So, i like going for a walk around the block and seeing the different houses etc. It's not a big deal for me. It's like if they had a dog i would walk it.

I'm really determined to get to the bottom of this, seeing as it doesn't seem to be normal. I mean, from the posters reactions on here, they seem like it's not normal. So when i go back i'm definitely going to try to get them to see my point of view. It's not like i'm a first-time visitor to Japan or anything. While i don't live there, i think i know their locality pretty well.

ASHIKAGA
Oct 23, 2008, 11:01
A serial killer on the loose???? Your story gets better and better...lol

I thought your hubby's family sounded wacky but now it sounds like he is not too far off himself.

Are you sure you want to continue on with this thread? The longer it goes on, the more I am convinced the whole thing has been what this exactly sounds like... a story.

FrustratedDave
Oct 23, 2008, 11:12
A serial killer on the loose???? Your story gets better and better...lol
I thought your hubby's family sounded wacky but now it sounds like he is not too far off himself.
Are you sure you want to continue on with this thread? The longer it goes on, the more I am convinced the whole thing has been what this exactly sounds like... a story.
LOL.... I am inclined to agree.:cool:

Could be a research project for a 15 drama series?

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 23, 2008, 13:40
If only it was a story, no it's my life and what i am experiencing. You have never experienced something like this, no reason to shoot it down in flames as a "story".

Yes, a serial killer on the loose. So hard to believe? I think it was the beginning of this year in Japan that there was a random killer on the loose and it made major headlines on the news. The guy that was on the loose in Hokkaido, just randomly attacked people too, whenever he felt like it. I'm not sticking up for my in-laws but i saw the article in the local newspaper.

Believe whatever you want, but my life is not a story. I don't have the inclination or the time to get on here and write false stuff. I came here to share my experience and maybe get abit of help with my problems. Frustrated dave was the one who said i had a narrow-minded view, i shouldn't lump all Japanese together, so why are you? (i mean you don't want to believe there are some wacky Japanese that won't let their daughter in law go out...just because you've never heard of it before, that is kind of narrow-minded in my view).

ASHIKAGA
Oct 23, 2008, 14:34
You had mentioned that your father-in-law would not let you go out alone in your post a while back, yet you only brought up the reason behind it NOW?
Hmmm.... sorry, I'm not buying it.
A serial killer in Hokkaido? Wow. How many did s/he kill? I am surprised it did not make the national news.

Chidoriashi
Oct 23, 2008, 14:44
I agree, mass killers and serial killers always make the news in Japan.. (well i guess i cannot prove that..) but still it seems strange to think otherwise.

Azuma_Fujin
Oct 23, 2008, 14:53
Well, whatever, i don't really care. I brought it up because it came up. However the serial killer is not the problem because it happened after i had experienced those problems. If you're going to yap on about my timing in bringing it up, you can be picky all you like.

I find that alot that goes on in the backwaters of japan are not necessarily big news in Japan, especially in tokachi. It's not some high buzz event, it's just a guy who killed people that were out and about.

Even the girl that died from the biggest fireworks in tokachi, i don't think it was on the news (as a consequence they cancelled the fireworks for a few years).

The fact is, we were not talking about serial killers, we were discussing about Japanese people, so whether or not you believe or not believe, is beside the point.

yersinya
Nov 21, 2008, 06:10
I agree with an older post mentioning that some Japanese people are so proud of "their" inventions (though they're only "Japanized" versions of western ideas, e.g. famous songs and cartoon characters like winnie the pooh) and technical development that they feel like the most superior and advanced country in the world.
My friend from Poland was asked if she wasn't surprised by the light turning on automatically upon walking into the toilet cubicle in our dorm! I mean, wow, what do they think about Europe? Do they think that Europe is that old-fashioned as it is shown in some anime or manga? ^^#
Of course, they are more advanced in computer technology but most of them are mentally unstable and immature. Being completely ignorant toward other cultures.

FrustratedDave
Nov 21, 2008, 07:46
Of course, they are more advanced in computer technology but most of them are mentally unstable and immature. Being completely ignorant toward other cultures.
Most of the Japanese are mentaly unstable? :okashii: And I suppose you would be the leading authority of mental illness in Japan? And haven't the Japanese done well for themselves for being mentaly unstable? Looks like there is one more person we can add to the mentaly unstable list ,can't we Yersinya?


You remind me of this girl.

http://jp.youtube.com/watch?v=lj3iNxZ8Dww

yersinya
Nov 21, 2008, 13:50
Looks like there is one more person we can add to the mentaly unstable list ,can't we Yersinya?

Oh yeah, FrustratedDave:p



Most of the Japanese are mentaly unstable? :okashii: And I suppose you would be the leading authority of mental illness in Japan? And haven't the Japanese done well for themselves for being mentaly unstable?
I don't mean that they're lunatics or retards. With mentally unstable I mean prone to pressure and public opinion. Ever since I'm attanding the university in Japan there have been 2 suicides among Japanese students. Sorry, but this is not normal to me. The authority and local news papers tried to hide the cases to prevent copy cats.
As I said how others think of you is very important. So important that you're supposed to hide how you really feel so that no one thinks bad about you.
There's even one Japanese saying which supports my observations: 顔で笑って、心で泣く。

pipokun
Nov 21, 2008, 18:37
...
The authority and local news papers tried to hide the cases to prevent copy cats.
...


I don't know what you are trying to say, but as far as I know, it (hiding or whatever you might call) is an effective way, empirically proven in some countries incl. European nations, to prevent suicide.

Of course, I am fully aware that there still remains tons of stupid media here who want to be a profiler.

Kanye
Nov 22, 2008, 01:50
I've never seen so much discussion about Japanese behavior! Wow, intriguing

Pachipro
Jan 22, 2009, 01:01
I've never seen so much discussion about Japanese behavior! Wow, intriguing
Keep reading and you will discover more. After all this is a forum about Japan.

Uchite
Jan 24, 2009, 19:45
I think that the bottom line is that you are a Gaijin. You always will be no matter how much you try to be accepted as a Nihonjin. Don't worry about it and just accept things as the way they are. There is nothing in the world you can do to change it. However, by learning Japanese and trying to conform with Japan's social niceties and social customs, you are doing all you can.

Pachipro
Jan 29, 2009, 00:16
I think that the bottom line is that you are a Gaijin. You always will be no matter how much you try to be accepted as a Nihonjin. Don't worry about it and just accept things as the way they are. There is nothing in the world you can do to change it. However, by learning Japanese and trying to conform with Japan's social niceties and social customs, you are doing all you can.
Very well said Uchite! You can live there for 50 years and they will still see you as a Gaijin no matter how fluent you are or how well you understand the culture, or even if you become a citizen. Once one accepts that fact, no matter how insane it may be to us "outsiders", their life in Japan will be that much easier and fulfilling. Just go with the flow. I don't mean you have to be a doormat, but just understand the Japanese thinking on this subject and their culture and the reasons why they act the way they do and do not take it as an insult.

maushan3
Feb 3, 2009, 08:45
I think that the bottom line is that you are a Gaijin. You always will be no matter how much you try to be accepted as a Nihonjin. Don't worry about it and just accept things as the way they are. There is nothing in the world you can do to change it. However, by learning Japanese and trying to conform with Japan's social niceties and social customs, you are doing all you can.

I can reassure you all that this is hard-core truth. Just accept it the way it is and you'll be living a very fulfilling life in Japan. And, in my opinion, there's nothing wrong with being the foreigner. In fact, one gets a lot of perks from it, whereas, while being treated like a Japanese one will live like one and, trust me, the Japanese lifestyle and culture is not one that can be easily accostumed to.

Mauricio

FrustratedDave
Feb 3, 2009, 09:06
I can reassure you all that this is hard-core truth. Just accept it the way it is and you'll be living a very fulfilling life in Japan. And, in my opinion, there's nothing wrong with being the foreigner. In fact, one gets a lot of perks from it, whereas, while being treated like a Japanese one will live like one and, trust me, the Japanese lifestyle and culture is not one that can be easily accostumed to.
Mauricio
But being accepted as a foriegner and being thought of as a foriegner is two completely different things. Let me explain, although people may always see you as a foriegner you will still be required to act in a way that conforms to the typical unwritten rules of society if you really want to be accepted as an equal. Contrary to the beleif of some, although people may still look upon you as a foriegner(I emphasize the word look as in you appearance) you can be thought of as an equal. There is a misconception among some people that you will always be treated as a forieger when the reality is that if you show people around you that you are abiding by the Japanese way of life in regards to the way things are said and done here you can be show the same respect that any other typical Japanese person may receive.

How ever if you choose the "I am a foreigner, so a may as well act like one" attitude, it will be very likely that that most people will take you at face value. If you don't mind that then sure you can still have a great life in Japan, I suppose it is comes done to what you value in life.

maushan3
Feb 3, 2009, 09:50
But being accepted as a foriegner and being thought of as a foriegner is two completely different things. Let me explain, although people may always see you as a foriegner you will still be required to act in a way that conforms to the typical unwritten rules of society if you really want to be accepted as an equal. Contrary to the beleif of some, although people may still look upon you as a foriegner(I emphasize the word look as in you appearance) you can be thought of as an equal. There is a misconception among some people that you will always be treated as a forieger when the reality is that if you show people around you that you are abiding by the Japanese way of life in regards to the way things are said and done here you can be show the same respect that any other typical Japanese person may receive.
How ever if you choose the "I am a foreigner, so a may as well act like one" attitude, it will be very likely that that most people will take you at face value. If you don't mind that then sure you can still have a great life in Japan, I suppose it is comes done to what you value in life.

I appreciate your response to my comment.

I know exactly what you're talking about and I know what you mean as I lived 1 year in Japan surrounded 95% of the time by Japanese people so I know exactly how foreigners are portrayed and what to do if one behaves like a typical rawdy foreigner.

What I meant is that one won't be accepted as a Japanese person no matter how hard one tries, but that doesn't mean to just do whatever you want. I mean that one can be respectful and abide by the rules and still live happily and have Japanese as well as gaijin friends (or only gaijin friends!). One can follow every rule and try as hard and they'll certainly apreciate it and show you their support and that will help ALOT in living in Japan but they won't accept you as one of their own.

Mauricio

FrustratedDave
Feb 3, 2009, 14:15
What I meant is that one won't be accepted as a Japanese person no matter how hard one tries, but that doesn't mean to just do whatever you want. I mean that one can be respectful and abide by the rules and still live happily and have Japanese as well as gaijin friends (or only gaijin friends!). One can follow every rule and try as hard and they'll certainly apreciate it and show you their support and that will help ALOT in living in Japan but they won't accept you as one of their own.
Mauricio
You are right , you may never be thought of as Japanese purely for the fact of your appearance, but it is certainly possible to be thought of as "one of their own" as you put it. You certainly won't be thought of in that manner from strangers, but your close freinds and family and even some not so close friends will or should I say have a good chance of being thought of that way. But this may take decades to acheive, what I am saying is that it is not impossible.

caster51
Feb 3, 2009, 20:15
an interesting blog
http://love-me.cc/blog/yado/kamesei/index.php

Is he still an outsider?

maushan3
Feb 4, 2009, 08:56
You are right , you may never be thought of as Japanese purely for the fact of your appearance, but it is certainly possible to be thought of as "one of their own" as you put it. You certainly won't be thought of in that manner from strangers, but your close freinds and family and even some not so close friends will or should I say have a good chance of being thought of that way. But this may take decades to acheive, what I am saying is that it is not impossible.

(Don't take this in any wrong way whatsoever)

It is not impossible. In fact, only things like flying, etc. are impossible. It might take decades to achieve, that's a long run and hopefully not many people are in the business of hoping and trying for decades to fit in with a certain group, in this case, the Japanese.

I'm just saying if you want to live there, great, enjoy it but don't expect to be one of their own. I, for one, am not interested in changing my way of things just to have a chance to fit in. Just, be friendly, respect them and
their customs and one'll be good.

Mauricio

Karakuri
Oct 18, 2009, 20:14
"The solution I have found to the "being treated like a retarded" situations is to make them feel as if they are the one to have asked an utterly stupid question, so as to culpabilize them on their ignorance and hope they don't reiterate (even with someone else) later."

I'd like to do that. xD But can a woman do this without being judged as "difficult" and "overbearing"?

Oh, I'm just going to cross my fingers and hope I can find the more non-conformist Japanese out there. There have to heaps of them, somewhere.

Scalemx
Nov 9, 2009, 00:25
Okay, I think I have read most of the stuff online here and I do have some points to add:
possible things to consider:
-Japanese people like to have the 'correct' reaction to people. The right mode of speech, the right place to sit at a table, the right way to address people, they would like to say the right things. This means that they have tons of (travel) books, which for example tell you the rules on where to sit at a European table or on a European couch as a visitor. While in my country and family, there are no rules for who sits where, this book's explanation will set the mind of Japanese visitors at ease.

-The same thing applies to encountering a foreigner. Rather than just being themselves, they are either too embarrassed, because they have no idea what to say or ask, or they have heard or been told by someone else, which questions are good to ask. They will almost all behave in a similar way, because they read it in a magazine or book or they heard it from someone else. The asking for the 4 seasons is a popular one. In summer Japanese people say a thousand times it's hot. Everyone can feel it's hot, they are not stating something, they are just being polite and saying something. So when a Japanese cashier is ignoring you, she is just hoping that by saying as little as possible, she will have done the right job.

-They say you are good at eating with chopsticks or good at Japanese, because they want to be polite. They are not judging your ability or being amazed by it. (unless they say it repeatedly and then it is because they compare you to how long children take to learn to eat with chopsticks. Even then, they are still most likely just being polite)

-Also if they talk to your boyfriend or girlfriend instead of you, it is most likely because they don't want to offend you if you don't speak Japanese. They want to be polite. For them it would be much better if they could be amazed at you being smart and speaking Japanese in the end, rather than having you not being able to reply because they made assumptions.

An example of the above 'sample conversation with a foreigner tourist', which most Japanese people know is:
-You:Hey, nice to meet you.
-Japanese:Nice to meet you too.
-Japanese: How has your stay in Japan so far?/Are you enjoying yourself in Japan?

In standard Japanese this would be something like:
-はじめまして
-はじめまして
-今まで日本はどうでしたか/日本は楽しいですか

The reason that I know this is a standard question is because what you encounter instead from time to time is this one:
-はじめまして
-はじめまして
-どう?/楽しい?

They assume because of context you will know that they are talking about you being in Japan. They assume you will be able to answer, because it is a standard situation.

The point I don't like:
-I am not American or English, my native language is not English. There is no such thing as: 'foreigners like this'. There are many kinds of foreigners. I usually counter this assumption by saying: Japanese and Chinese are also the same then?

Anyway, there are of course racist Japanese, but the majority would in my opinion be shy, scared to not be respectful enough, holding onto strict false guidelines.

If a person in a wheelchair or a movie star would enter your shop, you may react differently to them than to the average customer. Regardless whether they would like to be treated the same or not. It is hypocritical as the title of the topic says, but are the intentions really that bad?