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  1. #1
    JREF Resident Alien Pachipro's Avatar
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    Fluent Foreigners Now Accepted In Japan!

    Take this with a grain of salt as it was intended.

    日本語 わかりますか (Do you understand Japanese?)

    Let's imagine for a minute that we entered the “Twilight Zone” and we all woke up tomorrow morning and Japan was everything a few immersed gaijin desired. (Lexico's poll, in another thread, would then show a majority selecting "with dignity and respect".)

    Now we were finally accepted as part of the Japanese culture with no discrimination or hypocrisy whatsoever. The law now states in Japan that all gaijin are to be first asked if they understand Japanese and if they do, they are to be treated as a resident equal.

    Upon hearing our fluent Japanese, all Japanese would bow to us and would know not to use silly sign language like we were monkeys or be flustered or embarrassed when they first encounter us. If they stepped on our foot in a supermarket, they would first ask "日本語 わかりますか?" (Do you understand Japanese?) If we were fluent, they would treat us as they would any normal Japanese person and would reply, “すみません 外国人さま”(I’m sorry most honorable foreigner.)

    Even the Japanese police would be required to first ask all gaijin riding their bicycles, in Japanese, "日本語 わかりますか?" (Do you understand Japanese?) and upon hearing our fluent Japanese, they would bow to us and wave us on our way without checking the registration number on our bicycle or asking for our gaijin card as, since we spoke fluent Japanese, we were to be treated as any normal Japanese and couldn’t possibly have stolen a bicycle or be in the country illegally.

    Upon entering a restaurant, bar, dry cleaners etc., we would first be greeted with “Welcome.” We would then be asked the question "日本語 わかりますか?" (Do you understand Japanese?) And, hearing that we did understand the language, we would be treated as a normal Japanese person. No sign language or shyness at all from the Japanese as after all, we are fluent in their language, know their culture and history, and deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect as any Japanese person.

    However, because we are gaijin and hate redundancy, the Japanese would be informed NEVER to welcome us again into their place of business should we exit and return within a few minutes or hours. Heck, why not ever say “welcome” to us ever again as they should already know us and they know how much foreigners dislike them acting like robots.

    When we first meet Japanese people, they would be required by law, to first ask us “Do you understand Japanese?” Upon hearing our fluency, they would know NEVER to ask us if we could use chopsticks, like Japanese food, sleep in a futon, etc. because it would be assumed that since we are fluent, we must do all things a Japanese person does. And they would know how much a foreigner hates to hear those questions if they are fluent

    They would be told NEVER to ask a fluent gaijin if we like natto or ikura, or can eat sushi, or enjoy the Japanese bath because we probably do and they wouldn’t want to offend the honorable fluent gaijin as they were probably asked that question by someone else, somewhere, sometime. They would just take it for granted that we probably do, even though not all Japanese like all things Japanese. But, heaven forbid, they would not want to make the fluent honorable gaijin irate lest we come to disparage Japan and her customs.

    They would be informed that if the honorable gaijin looks lost or confused and, if they are fluent, to never offer ones assistance, especially if they have a map in hand. If we do ask for directions in fluent Japanese they would be informed to just reply with, “You are fluent, find it yourself,” as they might offend us otherwise.

    The Japanese people would also be required to first ask a gaijin’s country of origin before they ask us if we have such and such in “America”. Even though the majority of Japanese people have only interacted with Americans and it was Americans who occupied Japan after the war and gave them their constitution, and it was America who paid to rebuild Japan, and it is Americans who constitute the largest majority of gaijin in Japan, they should not offend other people from another country by assuming they were American.

    However, if the gaijin in question was not fluent, the Japanese could do as they please as the gaijin would not know the difference anyway and probably wouldn’t mind having those questions asked or be offered assistance. He might even welcome it and the chance to make a new acquaintance and maybe learn something new.

    Even if this were the law in Japan, some immersed gaijin would still say something like, “The Japanese do not speak to us and are just patronizing us.” They might even say, “The Japanese are not interested in us as they do not even ask us if we like their culture and food. They don’t even want to know why we are there and why we have lived in Japan so long. Therefore, they must hate gaijin and must secretly want us out of their country. The Japanese are discriminatory against gaijin!”

    Sound inane? I thought so. What kind of country would Japan be if this was the way it was? A better place for immersed foreigners to live? I think not as someone, somewhere would complain about this also. I think it would be a boring place and it would be very difficult to meet new people as the only thing a Japanese can now ask you is your name and country of origin. Can you imagine what it would be like if the Japanese were not allowed to ask you why you like Japan, the food, customs, etc, just because you were fluent and may become irate? How many people would you meet or make friends with? Not many.

    Personally, as a fluent gaijin, I like Japan just the way it is. Sure there is room for improvement, but that will come in time. Heck, even if it doesn’t come as fast as I want it, it is not my country, I am not Japanese, and why would I want to criticize another country’s customs and culture when I am their guest even though I may not agree with some of them? Sure some constructive criticism is acceptable, and even encouraged. But to completely expect a country to change overnight or to disparage their customs and the way they act is going a little bit too far I think.

    Besides, it is too much fun being an immersed foreigner in Japan. We can pretend we don’t know the language to see what people are really saying about us. If we feign ignorance at first, and pretend that we don’t know the language, we can tell if a person really likes us for who we are or if they are just patronizing us just because we are a foreigner. This is especially useful when meeting new people. It is also useful when walking into a strange establishment as we can understand what the people are saying about us as to whether they want us there or not. If we screw up on their customs we can just say, “I didn’t know,” and we are usually forgiven. This can come in handy in some situations.

    Being totally accepted in Japanese culture would require me to act, think, and be Japanese to the core. That I do not want as I totally enjoy being the henna gaijin (strange foreigner) and thinking for myself. I enjoy meeting new people, walking into new establishments and don’t mind answering the usual “20 questions” all foreigners, fluent or not, are asked time and time again, sometimes from the same people, although this is rare.

    When in Japan, I usually walk into an establishment as if I belonged there and start speaking Japanese as would any indigenous customer. Upon hearing my Japanese, the transaction continues as normal as if I were a Japanese person whether it be in a post office, supermarket, department store, bar, or bank. And in 30 years, not one Japanese has ever used sign language while speaking to me and I have interacted with a countless number of them. When they hear that I can speak their language they are usually relieved, don’t treat me any different, and I have made numerous friends because of it.

    Japan can be a wonderful country if you are a fluent foreigner. Enjoy it!
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  2. #2
    Hullu RockLee's Avatar
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    good post !! I think indeed if u are fluent things happen more natural without all the signlanguage ! And if they wouldn't be able to talk to us japan would suck to the core
    ~ Parempi hullu kuin tylsä - Better crazy than boring ~
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    Banned Mike Cash's Avatar
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    The premise has a huge flaw.

    Starting off encounters by asking "日本語 わかりますか?" would be discriminatory. At the very least, it is certainly not the way I prefer my encounters to get started. I prefer that people just speak to me under the assumption that I do speak Japanese.

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    Hullu RockLee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikecash
    The premise has a huge flaw.

    Starting off encounters by asking "日本語 わかりますか?" would be discriminatory. At the very least, it is certainly not the way I prefer my encounters to get started. I prefer that people just speak to me under the assumption that I do speak Japanese.
    He talked about that as if it would be that way Mike...not that it actually is so

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    Banned Mike Cash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RockLee
    He talked about that as if it would be that way Mike...not that it actually is so
    Did you not see the word "would" in my reply?

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    Hullu RockLee's Avatar
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    yeah but u started about the premise...It's with itention he stated that I think...

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    Japaustralian jieshi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikecash
    The premise has a huge flaw.

    Starting off encounters by asking "日本語 わかりますか?" would be discriminatory. At the very least, it is certainly not the way I prefer my encounters to get started. I prefer that people just speak to me under the assumption that I do speak Japanese.
    I agree with uncle frank, only problem is that I am nowhere near fluent yet (probably not even basic conversational)
    When it comes down to it the art and sport of Kendo is a question, "I'm going to hit you in the head with a stick, but can you hit me first?" - Me

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    Banned Mike Cash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jieshi
    I agree with uncle frank, only problem is that I am nowhere near fluent yet (probably not even basic conversational)
    This is the second reply to me which mentioned "Uncle Frank" in a manner which can be read in such a way that it appears you have me confused with Frank.

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    I jump to conclusions mad pierrot's Avatar
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    This is the second reply to me which mentioned "Uncle Frank" in a manner which can be read in such a way that it appears you have me confused with Frank.
    Frank, why would anyone confuse you with Mike?

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    Banned Mike Cash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mad pierrot
    Frank, why would anyone confuse you with Mike?
    I always try to be frank, but I have never tried being Frank. Maybe I should look into it.....

  11. #11
    Chukchi Salmon lexico's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jieshi
    I agree with uncle frank, only problem is that I am nowhere near fluent yet (probably not even basic conversational)
    Note how Jeishi used the lower case frank. It is synonymous to Uncle as a proper noun; in fact why don't we let all the youngsters call the elders frank as of today as a term of endearment? Wouldn't you agree uncle frank?
    Z: The fish in the water are happy.
    H: How do you know ? You're not fish.
    Z: How do you know I don't ? You're not me.
    H: True I am not you, and I cannot know. Likewise, I know you're not, therefore I know you don't.
    Z: You asked me how I knew implying you knew I knew. In fact I saw some fish, strolling down by the Hao River, all jolly and gay.

    --Zhuangzi

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikecash
    Starting off encounters by asking "日本語 わかりますか?" would be discriminatory. At the very least, it is certainly not the way I prefer my encounters to get started. I prefer that people just speak to me under the assumption that I do speak Japanese.
    That may just be a cultural preference, but I tend to agree with you. Usually in Western countries people (anybody, from a supermarket cashier to a bank manager) assume that any person in their country understands their language, and only ask "can you understand English/French/Italian..." if they see that the person doesn't reply and looks confused.

    This is not due to the fact that Western countries are more cosmopolitan, as many Japanese I told this about wanted to believe. I when all around Europe with my wife, and even in shops in rural areas (near my parents' home) where they never see any non-Caucasian, people didn't ask her whether she could understand but just talked as if she was a local. When we went to Europe last month, I intentionally send her alone to the cashier, and observed from a distance, to see whether they would address her differently as the locals. They didn't. Nobody looked at her strangely, made gesture or spoke differently (even more slowly). It would be nice if the Japanes ehad the decency to do the same, and only wonder about one's language abilities if they don't seem to understand.

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    Great post Pachipro!! You make some great points.

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    Where I'm Supposed to Be kirei_na_me's Avatar
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    "Premise" kind of means a proposition (loosely, an idea). Using the word "premise" to refer to Pachipro's hypothetical situation shows that mikecash understood it was just that(a hypothetical situation).
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    Chukchi Salmon lexico's Avatar
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    As an outside observer, I'd like to offer several minor points if that didn't offend anyone entrenched on either side of the gaijin camp regarding how the Japanese public should treat gaijins in general, and the fully immersed gaijins in particular.

    First, by presenting this bold assumption as a possible scenario some time in the future, we are finally able to discuss the problems arising when people from different cultures meet in greater detail. This is one step closer to the solution of the problem however unsatisfactory it may be. Therefore it would help to define the intermediate and transitory nature of Pachipro's proposition (let's call it PachiProposition No. 001) before we discuss the flaws or shortcomings of it; which brings me to the second point.

    Second, the Japanese general public do not seem to be aware of the "irritation" their "naiive" hospitality is causing the gaijins. They are not aware that their lack of individual attention is vastly dehumanising for people from the Americas, and even more so for people from European nations who value their invidivualtiy with utmost value. PachiProposition 001 assumes that Japanese society as a whole has become aware of the seriousness of the problem, AND that they have come to a major decision to break away from their comfortable ways (of at least 1400 years) and to make a truly serious effort to make the fine distinction between fully acculturated gaijin and those who are just passing through for some sightseeing.

    Third, because this new way, or requirement, of having to treat all gaijins in general with individual attention, the Japanese will have to bear more psychological stress from the simple fact that they have to worry about not stepping on each and every gaijin they happen to meet randomly each day. Not stepping on a gaijin's feet figuratively could become adequate cause for indigestion, insomnia, schizzophrenia, ucler, hypertension, loss of appetite, loss of hair, miscarriage, and even premature death in extreme cases. The national health care system would have to go through a major restructuring to accomodate the increase in psychological or pschosomatic symptoms, which would increase the yearly budget, forcing the revenue service to demand higher income tax to cover the difference in expenditure. All for the well being of the Japan loving gaijins.

    Fourth, having a law is not everything. To make it work, a full fledged social program has to get rolling to educate the average citizen from kindergarten to college to the grandmas and grandpas who are likely to meet a gaijin sooner or later. To make the program work, the Ministry of Education / Culture would have to write up a curriculum for all age groups of Japan. The level of awareness, the quality of understanding, and amount of work and funds that is required by Pachiproposition 001 is nothing small.

    I've only touched upon several things I noticed from an outsider's viewpoint; there should be more to say on this proposition, and much more to think and discuss as to how this proposition that seems farfetched now can become reality in this zone as in the twilight zone. The proposition may become unnecessary if Japan is capable of making the quantum jump from the insular mindset to the cosmopolitan, as it has done in the technological field since the first year of Meiji. But what would be more sincere and appropriate for the Japanese than making it a legal requirement?

    I would like to invite propositions as to how the final stage of Japanese cultural transfromation should be regarding the currently uncomfortable state of gaijin affairs. What can Japan to do make life in Japan more equitable and humane for you?
    Last edited by lexico; Feb 11, 2005 at 00:33. Reason: type-o

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    Where I'm Supposed to Be kirei_na_me's Avatar
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    I was going to comment on that, but I thought maybe I was reading something wrong. I think you've been mistaken as Frank a few times now, mike. You're such an impostor.

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    Banned Mike Cash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kirei_na_me
    I was going to comment on that, but I thought maybe I was reading something wrong. I think you've been mistaken as Frank a few times now, mike. You're such an impostor.
    It's easy to tell us apart. We're both decrepit, but I'm the crotchety one.

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    Where I'm Supposed to Be kirei_na_me's Avatar
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    Yes, that...and you don't use smilies and lots of punctuation....

    Or maybe that goes under the crotchetiness?

  19. #19
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pachipro
    If we were fluent, they would treat us as they would any normal Japanese person and would reply, “すみません 外国人さま”(I’m sorry most honorable foreigner.)
    I don't ask to be called gaikokujin-sama. I prefer noting at all than anything with "gaikokujin" that emphasize our being "soto" (from outside), and therefore not part of the group, eventhough we live and work in Japan, are married there, and know better Japan than most other countries in the world (including the USA in my case - which makes me all the more annoyed when I asked by Japanese people who know me "how things are in America").

    Even the Japanese police would be required to first ask all gaijin riding their bicycles, in Japanese, "日本語 わかりますか?" (Do you understand Japanese?) and upon hearing our fluent Japanese, they would bow to us and wave us on our way without checking the registration number on our bicycle or asking for our gaijin card as, since we spoke fluent Japanese, we were to be treated as any normal Japanese and couldn’t possibly have stolen a bicycle or be in the country illegally.
    Are you kidding ? They always ask me that. And half of the time if they bother asking more questions, they wonder how I speak so well Japanese and ask me if I have been in Japan for over 10 years (very unlikely at my age). That gives me all the more contempt toward them, as they think it takes over 10 years to learn their "difficult and unique language" and because they first decided to stop me and check my bike because I was a foreigner (and therefore a potential thief in their mind, as all foreigners are poor, which is why Japan only now ranks 17th in GDP/capita at PPP, behind almost all Western countries).

    However, because we are gaijin and hate redundancy, the Japanese would be informed NEVER to welcome us again into their place of business should we exit and return within a few minutes or hours. Heck, why not ever say “welcome” to us ever again as they should already know us and they know how much foreigners dislike them acting like robots.
    Watch out that "irasshaimase" doesn't mean "welcome" (which is "yokoso"), but more like "hello" in English.

    I would prefer if they'd avoid saying "irasshaimase" twice the same day. It's normal to greet people everytime you see them, but not the same day. The Japanese know that very well, as they use "ohaiyo gozaimasu" with people they meet for the first time that day, even if it is in the evening. What's more, you can't expect shop attendants to remember all the people they have seen in their life, but in the same day it is possible. What annoys me most is when I am the only foreigner to enter a cafe, if I pass a few times in front of the counter because I am looking for someone, they keep saying "irasshaimase" everytime I pass, really like robots. I would expect them to remember me within 10 seconds, except if they are mentally retarded.

    When we first meet Japanese people, they would be required by law, to first ask us “Do you understand Japanese?” Upon hearing our fluency, they would know NEVER to ask us if we could use chopsticks, like Japanese food, sleep in a futon, etc. because it would be assumed that since we are fluent, we must do all things a Japanese person does. And they would know how much a foreigner hates to hear those questions if they are fluent

    They would be told NEVER to ask a fluent gaijin if we like natto or ikura, or can eat sushi, or enjoy the Japanese bath because we probably do and they wouldn’t want to offend the honorable fluent gaijin as they were probably asked that question by someone else, somewhere, sometime.
    I am looking forward to that.


    They would be informed that if the honorable gaijin looks lost or confused and, if they are fluent, to never offer ones assistance, especially if they have a map in hand.
    I think this should be a rule (at least a moral one) in any country: "Don't offer help to someone unless they ask you for it, except if you want to offend them". This rule may only apply to men, as women are known for their poor abilities to read map or find their way.

    If we do ask for directions in fluent Japanese they would be informed to just reply with, “You are fluent, find it yourself,” as they might offend us otherwise.
    Now that doesn't make sense.

    The Japanese people would also be required to first ask a gaijin’s country of origin before they ask us if we have such and such in “America”.
    That should be a law, and there should be penalties for all infractions.

    Even though the majority of Japanese people have only interacted with Americans and it was Americans who occupied Japan after the war and gave them their constitution, and it was America who paid to rebuild Japan, and it is Americans who constitute the largest majority of gaijin in Japan, they should not offend other people from another country by assuming they were American.
    What are you saying here ? According to the Japan Statistical Yearbook, among the registered foreigners in Japan, there are 57,000 Europeans, 47,000 Americans, 12,000 Canadians and 11,500 Australians. That means that out of a total of 127,500 Westerners, 37% (a bit more than a third) are Americans. The chances are the highest that if a Japanese meets a Westerner in Japan, they will be European.

    But what irritates me most, is that many of the Japanese who know me, and know excatly where I am from, and to whom I explained the big difference of mentality between Europeans and Americans (eg. regarding religion, education, lifestyle...) still ask me sometime later "if Americans do this or that". For example, this week again I was asked by someone who's known me for over 2 years "but isn't Valentine's Day different in America and Japan ?", to which I replied that "yes, in all Western countries it was different from Japan).

    Even if this were the law in Japan, some immersed gaijin would still say something like, “The Japanese do not speak to us and are just patronizing us.”
    Certainly not. We would just have the same kind of conversation as they have between them, or discuss more interesting and less evident differences between our countries (such as the legal system, the education system, politics, the way business is done, etc.).

    They might even say, “The Japanese are not interested in us as they do not even ask us if we like their culture and food.
    Would you react like that ? I wouldn't. Do you ask Japanese coming to your country whether they like this or that typical food without knowing if they have tried it ? I would only ask them more general questions such as "Is there anything you cannot eat ?" (some meat, any allegries, etc.) if I invite them to eat at home. But otherwise, not even the French would ask (all) their Japanese acquaintances if they can eat frogs and snails. It just doesn't matter, and you don't want to make them look stupid if they can't.

    Sound inane? I thought so. What kind of country would Japan be if this was the way it was? A better place for immersed foreigners to live? I think not as someone, somewhere would complain about this also.
    I have lived in 7 countries and travelled to over 30 countries (sometimes as long as 5 months, also I don't consider it "living" there) in my life, but nowhere more than in Japan have I been repeatedly asked stupid, irrelevant, offending or self-evident questions. As I mentioned above, I quite disagree with your opinion regarding your conclusion of this post. But we come from different countries and cultures, and as I started realising in other threads, Americans (and Australians) are in fact very similar to the Japanese in many respects, especially all things related to their "insularity" and little knowledge of the "rest of the world". So it may not bother you that the Japanese are like this, but for me it's quite unnerving.

    I think it would be a boring place and it would be very difficult to meet new people as the only thing a Japanese can now ask you is your name and country of origin.
    That's not true. You can start a conversation in a thousand different ways. In most cases when I was asked those dumb questions, we were already well into a conversation. Sometimes it just broke it down, as it made me think that the person I was talking to was not more intelligent than the others.

    Can you imagine what it would be like if the Japanese were not allowed to ask you why you like Japan, the food, customs, etc, just because you were fluent and may become irate?
    I don't mind being asked it this way (why do you like Japan), but not the stereotypical fixed questions that make us feel like they are testing our ability to appreciate their uniqueness (can you eat natto ? can you sleep on a Japanese futon ? can you read kanji ? can you use chopsticks ? can you drink Japanese sake ? can you blablabla...). I am not again discussing cultural differences. Their approach is just wrong. They only ask these questions to try to prove that their country/culture is unique and in some way superior. Very condesceding and offending. If you can't feel it, then you should try to go deeper in their mind and find their motivation in asking the question, as I usually do.

    Heck, even if it doesn’t come as fast as I want it, it is not my country, I am not Japanese, and why would I want to criticize another country’s customs and culture when I am their guest even though I may not agree with some of them?
    I pity this kind of mentality. There is nothing wrong in criticising any place or any system or culture in the world the same way as you would do it with your own. As I mentioned in other threads, Americans tend to lack self-criticism, and therefore often have difficulties accepting criticism from outside (as seen with the anti-French reactions before the Iraq War or on this very forum in the Bush-related threads). I have no problems with others criticising my country or culture, as long as they can do it based on logical arguments and facts (not just untamed emotions). I also think it is a service done to other countries/cultures to point out what we think is a problem, especially if that concerns their dealing with foreigners (the topic of this thread with the Japanese).


    Besides, it is too much fun being an immersed foreigner in Japan. We can pretend we don’t know the language to see what people are really saying about us.
    Well, that's not always fun to see ow prejudiced they can be.

    If we feign ignorance at first, and pretend that we don’t know the language, we can tell if a person really likes us for who we are or if they are just patronizing us just because we are a foreigner.
    I think it's a bit more complex than that. This will only tell you if the person is completely set against foreigners in general (=racist) or not. But there are many people (esp. in Japan) that will not openly express their negative feelings in public, especially in front of a foreigner. So you'll have to dig a bit more to know whether the persons you meet really like you for who you are or not.

    If we screw up on their customs we can just say, “I didn’t know,” and we are usually forgiven. This can come in handy in some situations.
    This works in any country, regardless of the language. Many Americans "screw up with the local customs" when they come to Britain, but may be forigiven because they are foreigners, even is the culture is related and the language basically the same.

    Being totally accepted in Japanese culture would require me to act, think, and be Japanese to the core. That I do not want as I totally enjoy being the henna gaijin (strange foreigner) and thinking for myself.
    Well, that is you, but I don't wish to be seen as a "henna gaijin" at all.

    I enjoy meeting new people, walking into new establishments and don’t mind answering the usual “20 questions” all foreigners, fluent or not, are asked time and time again, sometimes from the same people, although this is rare.
    I usually don't like wasting my time with shallow people. There are too many people in this world to meet in one's lifetime, and I'd prefer to choose those with whom I can share something in common or have an interesting conversation. This does not include anybody who might think that all Westerners must be Americans, or that only Japan can possibly have 4 seasons.

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    JREF Resident Alien Pachipro's Avatar
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    Smile

    Chill out, Maciamo. That post was intended to be a "fantasy" reality; a joke. It was not intended to be dissertation on how foreigners should be treated in Japan or how I would want it to be. I had to laugh to myself at your answers as you seem to have taken me seriously. That was not my intention.

    I was taking the opposite side of your arguments with a little intended humour. Sorry if I offended anybody.

    At first I thought your feelings were intended to be a "devil's advocate" position to get some serious discussion started. But, I have spent many hours going through the numerous archives of posts on this website and now realize that you are dead serious on your views of how the Japanese treat foreigners with their "stupid questions", getting asked for your "gaijin card", etc. Although I may disagree with your feelings regarding these things and your wanting to change Japanese thinking, you, and others, are CORRECT in everything you say.

    As I've mentioned before, my relationship with Japan and the Japanese spans 32 consecutive years with the first 16 actually living there starting when I was 18. I have lived in a dinky 2DK apartment (after being turned down 2 or 3 times prior), have worked for two Japanese companies in Japan (not teaching English), taught for various schools while in university in Japan, before finally owning my own English School for the last 4 of those years in Japan with no problem finding a 3LDK mansion to rent. I have also been VP of Sales & Marketing for a Japanese company for my first 8 years here in the states. And I visit yearly.

    Therefore, I have experienced everything, and maybe some, that you are experiencing now. I know exactly what you are going through because I have "been there, done that, experienced that, thought that, and felt that." Living in Japan is, and for the most part will always be, a "love-hate" relationship for foreigners. Myself included.

    If I remember correctly, I think you mentioned that you are living in Japan for 3.5 years now. Everything you are saying and feeling has been said and felt by foreigners for the past 30 years and probably back to the end of the war and probably even further than that. Nothing has changed. Nothing. Not one single thing, and I don't think it ever will. I used to think, "Maybe if this guy (you) lives there long enough he'll see that nothing will change and just learn to go with the flow without getting so irritated and upset over it. Maybe he'll just learn to like Japan for what it is rather than what it should or could be." I have come to the conclusion that, regardless of how long you live there, your views will not change. In a way I feel for you because I have seen it really drive people from Japan with a venom rarely seen. I know a few foreigners who still live in Japan more that 10 years, but still despise it while enjoying other aspects of the culture. Are they wrong? No. Some just need to vent once in a while lest it drive them nuts. However, if I felt as one of my friends do, I would be out of there in a heartbeat as all he does is ***** and moan anymore. He says he'd like to leave, but feels he is just too old to find decent employment in the states. (He's over 50.) I really feel for him.

    As LEXICO said:
    "the Japanese general public do not seem to be aware of the "irritation" their "naiive" hospitality is causing the gaijins. They are not aware that their lack of individual attention is vastly dehumanising for people from the Americas, and even more so for people from European nations who value their invidivualtiy with utmost value."
    They either don't care or don't want to listen to what the foreigner is saying. Maybe they block it out as they, subconciously don't want to believe it. Maybe, deep inside the Japanese mind is the universal feeling that they still feel they are superior. I don't know and frankly, I don't care anymore. Japan is Japan and will always be Japan then, now, and long after I am gone.

    Example: I've seen extremely popular, fluent "tarento" being interviewed on serious "roundtable" discussion programs on TV in the 80's concerning the plight of foreigners living and working in Japan. And you know what? They all mentioned the same exact things you, me, and practically every foreigner, fluent or not, in Japan is saying. They expressed their irritation at the complexities of being a foreigner in Japan from being stared and pointed at, to being asked for their gaijin card for no reason other than they were foreigners, to the 20 question routine from all Japanese even when their face and name were known all over Japan! And any Japanese who watched TV knew they were fluent, have lived in Japan for more than 5 years, could eat sushi & use chopsticks, etc.!! All the interviewer and panel said was "Ah soo desuka. Naruhodo." Still nothing changed. And again, personally, I don't think it ever will. If theses nationally popular foreigners couldn't change it who could?

    You, Maciamo, however, have spoke with more passion and research on the subject than anyone I have ever encountered. I commend you for that. And if anyone can change it, maybe it's you! Seriously. Have you ever given it any serious thought?

    Have you written your feelings to the English language dailies or Japanese language dailies in Japan? Maybe someone can pull some strings and you can get interviewed on a serious TV show. Maybe you should seriously consider working for the UN on their Human Rights program or something. (I am not being sarcastic either.) With your passion on the subject maybe you can make a change for all foreigners living in Japan. That is if you really want to.

    As for me, I am visiting Japan again on Feb 24th for a week or so. I know I may be asked for my passport, asked again if I can eat sushi & use chopsticks, not be heard when I speak Japanese, be stared at etc., but I don't care as I know I will have a wonderful experience as I always do.

    I will play pachinko, visit an onsen, enjoy singing enka, enjoy the visits to out of the way izakayas and akachochins with my Japanese friends, shopping in a supermarket, bentos on the train, watching TV and laughing at the gaijins in commercials etc, etc. and begin seriously looking for an area we want to settle in permanently in the not too distant future. Yes, for all it's "flaws", I do intend on retiring there and living out the remainder of my days in Japan. Maybe my epithat will read in Japanese:

    "In Case Your Wondering, Yes, I could eat sushi, use chopsticks, enjoyed an ofuro, slept in futons, played pachinko, ate gyuudon...... Thank you for allowing me to experince and enjoy your culture."

  21. #21
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Thanks for your reply, Pachipro. Actually your idea of contacting the UN's Human Rights Body has caught my attention. I am probably not going to work for them, but we could write a letter explaining the problems.

    The main issue is "discrimination toward foreigners due to the government's education system that teach all the Japanese that Japan is unique (in a superior way) and that it (often unconsciously) affects the behaviour of the Japanese in a negative way toward foreigners, so that they keep asking the same "government-inculcated" prejudiced questions that can be offending to foreign residents. That will be difficult to be taken seriously when they have to deal with torture and genocides in other countries, so I should add all the discrimination problems related to the police, admission to onsen/hotels/apartements, etc.

    Shall we make a petition so as to have more influence when we submit it to the UN ?

  22. #22
    JREF Resident Alien Pachipro's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Actually your idea of contacting the UN's Human Rights Body has caught my attention. I am probably not going to work for them, but we could write a letter explaining the problems.

    The main issue is "discrimination toward foreigners due to the government's education system that teach all the Japanese that Japan is unique (in a superior way) and that it (often unconsciously) affects the behaviour of the Japanese in a negative way toward foreigners, so that they keep asking the same "government-inculcated" prejudiced questions that can be offending to foreign residents. That will be difficult to be taken seriously when they have to deal with torture and genocides in other countries, so I should add all the discrimination problems related to the police, admission to onsen/hotels/apartements, etc.
    The key point here is "government's education system" and "government-inculcated". That's where we must begin if at all possible. You obviously are much more articulate than I, but I would support you 100% in anything you decide to do. With the massive amount of intelligent, frank discussion in these forums on this subject, I'm sure we could come up with quite a few people here, plus the people you and the others know, to support us.

    Some years back, my wife and I came up with the following solution we thought about persuing when we return to Japan if we ever had the opportunity. It was actually a fantasy, but I'm beginning to believe, with enough support, it might just become a reality.

    What we, and I'm sure others there, would like to see is a government sposored program on NHK 1 (not 3), and simulcast on NHK radio about this subject. Once a particular topic is covered, it could be acted out with fluent foreigners. It would be an ongoing series that would never be cancelled, only updated.

    Example: The scene is in a restaurant with friends or co-workers. Everyone knows the foreigner well and knows he/she has lived in Japan a while and can speak, read, and write Japanese, let's say, fair.

    Everyone begins to place their order while reading from the menu. When it's the foreigners turn, he/she orders from the menu. Two women (or men, or the boss) then exclaim, "Maa, Nihongo ga joozu desu ne, "nani-nani"-san. sugoii!"

    A little bubble appears over the foreigners head in Japanese with their face showing their true feelings: "Oh no here we go again. You *****, that's 3 times this year you asked the same question and you know damn well I can speak Japanese. I speak it to you whenever we talk on the phone, whenever we go out. I can see this is going to be another one of "those" nights. Next they're going to compliment me on my reading ability and use of chopsticks again. Why did I agree to come here? And why do the Japanese people continue doing this?"

    Nani-nani-san then forces a smile and says with a slight nod of the head, "Domo."

    Cut to the roundtable discussion group discussing why the foreigner was upset even though they didn't show it with both sides giving their viewpoint.

    Cut to a well known newscaster or serious host then explaining to the viewers why the foreigner is upset and not pleased and that this is not just an isolated case. It happens every minute of every day of every hour in Japan and gives Japan a bad reputation to the outside world and foreigners. The 'caster then goes on to explain the subtle nuances to the audience and then a completely different scene is acted out asking normal questions anyone would ask an aquaintance or friend in a similar situation.

    Of course, the above scenario is only a simple example, but different scenes could be acted out as you also mentioned above. The possibilities are endless and this forum could be used as an example with it's huge bease of foreign members.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Shall we make a petition so as to have more influence when we submit it to the UN ?
    Why not give it a shot? I'm for it. Anyone have any connections?

  23. #23
    Five times to Japan. ArmandV's Avatar
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    Lightbulb The U.N.? Here's another idea.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pachipro

    Why not give it a shot? I'm for it. Anyone have any connections?

    I seriously doubt that the U.N. would be interested in this, to be honest (I could be wrong). But rather than go over Japan's head, why not contact the Japanese government first? Then you can work up from there.

    Maybe a petition or letter-writing campaign to the Consul General would be a good place to start. The Consul General of Japan in the United States may be contacted at:

    Hon. Yoshio Nomoto, Consul General of Japan
    350 South Grand Avenue, Suite 1700
    Los Angeles, CA 90071
    Telephone: (213) 617-6700

  24. #24
    Chukchi Salmon lexico's Avatar
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    Whatever works,...

    I'm all for it. UN, Embassies, Consular Offices, Japanese Government, Parties, TV Stations, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, anything that will solve this problem...it can be a showcase of prblem solving cultural conflicts. btw isn't UN responsible for lowering international conflicts?

    Here's Embassies of the World.

  25. #25
    Five times to Japan. ArmandV's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lexico
    btw isn't UN responsible for lowering international conflicts?

    [/url]

    In theory, yes.

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