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View Poll Results: How should Japanese deal with foreigners ?

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  • They should assume that they can't understand Japanese and use gestures

    4 2.76%
  • They should first ask them whether they can speak Japanese (either in Japanese or in English)

    92 63.45%
  • They should address them in Japanese and only use gestures or speak more slowly if the person doesn't understand

    49 33.79%
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Thread: Should all Japanese directly address foreigners in Japanese ?

  1. #101
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leroy_Brown
    If I see an Asian person in the U.S., I'm going to speak English to him/her.

    What's the big deal?

    Why should foreigners get special treatment in Japan? If you're going to live in Japan, you should learn the language.

    Besides, there are many foreigners, I assume, in Japan who don't speak English either, so why should the Japanese sweat over what language they should speak to foreigners?
    From the tone of your post, it seems that you are disagreeing with the purpose of this thread. However it is exactly how I and many of the people who voted at the poll, see it.

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  2. #102
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jt_
    I can't describe how terrible this made me feel. I had never experienced (and never thought I would have to experience) a group of adults being so absolutely and completely petrified of me. It made me feel ill and I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible, but I thought it would be rude to just walk out of the shop, so I sat down and ate anyway. Still, I was really too shaken to enjoy my meal at all. Once they found out that I spoke some Japanese (though this was quite a while ago and my Japanese wasn't at the level that it is now), they relaxed a little bit, but this didn't really help. I mean, I felt miserable -- mostly because of what I felt like I had done to these people. I felt like I had ruined their evening just by my deciding to try out this place's okonomiyaki. They had been eating, drinking, and having a good time, until my presence sent the whole place into a panic.
    This has also happened to me a few times. After the first time, I said to myself that I had been unlucky, and gave it another try, but the same happened again and again in this kind of places. So now I have decided not go to to such places (izakaya, okonomiyaki, oden, etc.) by myself. The only kind of bar-like restaurant I found it was ok to go alone in Japan are ramen-ya, kaiten-zushi, or chains like Tenya (tendon), Yoshinoya, etc.

    This is probably to me the biggest downside to living or being in Japan. I don't like making people uncomfortable, and I don't like drawing attention to myself, but simply by virtue of my mere _presence_ as a foreigner, I very often can't help but do just that. This frustrates me a bit.
    Well, now you understand why I post thread like this.

    I think epigene is right, though, that the only thing that can be done about the situation is to give it time. Wait until foreigners in Japan (and Japanese-speaking foreigners in particular), international marriages and the like become more common, and as foreigners become less "unusual", then people will gradually open up to them.
    I am bit pessimistic about the prospect for the future. The situation may indeed change as more foreigners learn Japanese, more Japanese speak English, etc. but the image of the foreigners may only change in areas with a high-density of foreigners like Central Tokyo. I think it will take longer for it to change in rural areas or less cosmopolitan cities or suburbs. Then there is always this Japanese attitude of the "soto vs uchi" which doesn't facilitate the integration of foreigners.

  3. #103
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lexico
    (2) It looks like foreigners coming to Japan preferred to speak their own language while in Japan. The quickly modernizing Japan's leaders seemed to have devloped a way to ease the process by telling their people to "always address foreigners in their language, not Japanese."
    Let me disagree with that. As you said in point (1) : English Rules ! I have never seen a Japanese trying to address a person who was visibly Italian, South American, Chinese or Indian in their own language. In my case, I have never been addressed in French rather than English even by my wife's friends who knew I spoke French (but also English and Japanese, so maybe that's why). The main reason is that most Japanese just can't speak any other language than English. But even when they can, they tend to suppose that all foreigners (Westerners at least) speak English anyway - probably because many Europeans do, and many Singaporians, Malaysians, HKers, etc also do - but many also don't !

  4. #104
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by epigene
    My son and daughter (two years apart) attended a local junior high school and went on school trips to Kyoto in their second year at the school. In both cases, they were given assignment by their English teacher (different teachers) to grab any foreigner (i.e., Western-looking) strolling around in Kyoto/Nara and speak to them in English!
    Ah that's why those school kids asked me all those questions about how I liked the city when I was in Nara ! I thought they were asking Japanese people too (I think I talked to them in Japanese anyway). If I was the director of the school I would fire the teacher(s) for teaching kids that any foreign-looking person speaks English. Combining the population of Western countries (Europe, Russia, North America, Australia, NZ), there are about 960 million people, and only about 400 million live in English-speaking countries (but probably 1/3 of those are not native speakers). So only about 30 to 40% of Westerners are in fact native English speakers (and again why not address them in French, German, Italian, Spanish, etc. ?).

  5. #105
    相変わらず不束者です epigene's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Ah that's why those school kids asked me all those questions about how I liked the city when I was in Nara ! I thought they were asking Japanese people too (I think I talked to them in Japanese anyway). If I was the director of the school I would fire the teacher(s) for teaching kids that any foreign-looking person speaks English. Combining the population of Western countries (Europe, Russia, North America, Australia, NZ), there are about 960 million people, and only about 400 million live in English-speaking countries (but probably 1/3 of those are not native speakers). So only about 30 to 40% of Westerners are in fact native English speakers (and again why not address them in French, German, Italian, Spanish, etc. ?).
    I understand your complaint perfectly. After seeing countless bizarre episodes, I have become resigned to the situation and actually find them amusing.

    I think most Japanese think that if they speak English, they will be able to communicate with most everybody! (Japanese assumption: All foreigners speak English in addition to their respective native languages.)

    When I worked at an office, I was forced to handle every foreign caller, including Europeans and Russians who did not speak English!!

  6. #106
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by epigene
    I understand your complaint perfectly. After seeing countless bizarre episodes, I have become resigned to the situation and actually find them amusing.
    Well I don't mind answering the kids' question at all. What angers me is the ideas they are inculcated by the teachers (read : Ministry of Education) from a young age. I am appalled that people in charge at the government should tell teachers nationwide to brainwash children with such prejudiced views.

    When I worked at an office, I was forced to handle every foreign caller, including Europeans and Russians who did not speak English!!
    I want to cry too, hearing such things...

  7. #107
    Danshaku Elizabeth's Avatar
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    I am bit pessimistic about the prospect for the future. The situation may indeed change as more foreigners learn Japanese, more Japanese speak English, etc. but the image of the foreigners may only change in areas with a high-density of foreigners like Central Tokyo. I think it will take longer for it to change in rural areas or less cosmopolitan cities or suburbs. Then there is always this Japanese attitude of the "soto vs uchi" which doesn't facilitate the integration of foreigners.
    And even in Central Tokyo I've heard even Koreans and Chinese born and raised in Japan, speaking only Japanese, are treated with extreme prejudice and disregard....much worse than the relative 'hospitality' Europeans and Americans are accorded. So the poll options are a unrealistic and limited not only regarding Japanese English skills but strains of assimilation and accomodation in more outlying areas. And even in Tokyo and other major centers, far from insisting on English or simple Japanese you find some people obviously unused to foreigners who apparently don't even understand how to simplify their speech and who repeat the same explanations over and over in natural language until it becomes a silly game of who gets more exhausted first...

  8. #108
    Regular Member quiet sunshine's Avatar
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    I found an interesting topic which is a little similar to Maciamo's experience, in that topic, the foreigner in China felt puzzled about why Chinese didn't talk back at him in Chinese. I'd like to post the link here, but I don't know if it's a proper way, if it is not, please delete my post.
    Here's the link:http://bbs.chinadaily.com.cn/forumpo...l?toppid=28296

  9. #109
    Chukchi Salmon lexico's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jt_
    I remember vividly. There was only one empty seat at the table (it was one of those shops with a bar-like seating style). All of the (Japanese) customers turned around to face the door, stared at me with a petrified expression, and then almost immediately started turning to each other saying things like "Oh no, I can't sit next to him! I don't know English!" "You got good English grades in high school! You sit next to him!" "No, no, no -- you're taking English conversation classes, aren't you? You sit next to him!"...I don't like making people uncomfortable, and I don't like drawing attention to myself, but simply by virtue of my mere _presence_ as a foreigner.
    What you say reminds me of when I boarded a plane among a few new passengers at Soko Airport (San Francisco) originating from some small city in central US. The plane was half full, all caucasian looking, and they looked rather homogenous as I recall.

    As I began wiggling my way to my seat, I couldn't fail to notice the many pairs of eyes turning towards me. I am not much of a spectacle either this way or that, so I was a bit surprised, but I pretended that I didn't notice them lest they should feel embarassed. They almost immediatedly turned their eyes the other way as if they had found something else interesting.

    Since this all happened simultaneously and in a forced manner, I understood that it was my Asian feature that grabbed their curiosity. Plain courtesy dictating, "don't stare at people; it's rude." Innocent eyes don't lie, and one little child about the age of 5 stared at me as long as he could for about 10-15 seconds savoring every moment of my visage. I sat alone laughing to myself, wishing them a pleasant flight.
    Similar scenes could be seen in the Korean setting some yrs ago (before 1990's), and they usually involved people getting all excited about having to deal with a foreigner. It was more of an unusual experience that they enjoyed more than feared.

    Now it is definitely a thing of the past. Not many people are either very afraid or hyperconscious of dealing with a foreinger. There are many Koreans fluent in foreign languages, and the same goes for foreigners in Korea. It is always amusing to see a foreigner on TV speaking spanking fluent Korean, but there are so many of them. It's quite natural to see Koreans speak an assortment of foreign languages. There's no governing rule if you're coming this way.

    EDIT: I asked my children and nephew in 7th, 4th, and 2nd grade, if they were instructed to address a foreigner in any particular language or manner. They said they don't remember being taught anything in that line. As far as I remember, I don't remember anything myself. This should be only natural. If the majority could not speak a foreign language, it would not make sense forcing them to. If many of them spoke some foreign language, it would still make no sense in telling everyone to speak either English, Japanese, Chinese, or other, because everybody's different. Korean schools don't bother with that problem letting each individual do what seems right at the moment.
    Last edited by lexico; Feb 25, 2005 at 00:12.
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  10. #110
    Chukchi Salmon lexico's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Let me disagree with that. As you said in point (1) : English Rules ! I have never seen a Japanese trying to address a person who was visibly Italian, South American, Chinese or Indian in their own language. In my case, I have never been addressed in French rather than English even by my wife's friends who knew I spoke French (but also English and Japanese, so maybe that's why).
    Yes, that is noticeably one of the weak links in my argument which still makes me wonder. Before the end of WWII, it was French that ruled ! President Wilson's delegates to the league of nations (?) had to rely on French speaking secretaries to handle international meetings. Also many techincal terms in medicine, law, philosophy, chemistry seem to derive from German.

    There must have been Japanese scholars and translators fluent in these languages. There were great westernising movements via Dutch and Portuguese earlier. What happened to those traditions in Japan ? That's really something that I would like to know. When did Japan become English dominated regarding foreign languages and foreigners ? Captain Perry's expedition ?

    Why do we not hear much of the Japanese bilinguals or polyglots which must exist somewhere (Yes, on the forum we have misa.j and epigene, but there should be more.) Is it another aspect of Japanese culture to excercise extreme modesty and keep silent ? Is the pressure to confrom so strong in Japan ?
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    The main reason is that most Japanese just can't speak any other language than English. But even when they can, they tend to suppose that all foreigners (Westerners at least) speak English anyway - probably because many Europeans do, and many Singaporians, Malaysians, HKers, etc also do - but many also don't !
    I've heard that, too, and you are probably right in pointing that out. I think knowing why and how this uniform perception is being perpetuated is crucial to the solution. It may turn out that the king isn't naked after all, but all too well dressed. I really don't know what to think of this strange phenomenon???
    Last edited by lexico; Feb 24, 2005 at 15:19.

  11. #111
    Regular Member -Yu-'s Avatar
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    I haven't read all of what is written here, it seems to take a lot of time,,,,

    Anyway, I just want to say this


    Why Japanese people do not speak Japanese to a foreigner looking person, I think this is partly because of the attitude of some English-speaking people in Japan. For example in Yokosuka there are tons of Americans due to the location of their Military bases/residences. When I was in a live-performing place with my friend, there were many western-looking people, from the accent of their language, I think they were all American, plus it's natural they were there. There was a guy by himself and looked kind of bored before live performance started. He was trying to speak to Japanese ( he can speak only Eglish), but they refused to do, the common way, saying something noone would understand, smiling for no reason and slowly going away from him. When he came to me, I responsed to him in English and we started conversation which I didn't really feel like doing at the time cause I was with a friend who can't understand English. After talking for about 10 to 15 minutes or something I politely said " I'm sorry, I'm with my friend now, so I should stop talking with you" so we stopped. I'm saying he could see I was with a friend and he couldn't understand English since he was silent.


    After some bands finished, one band informed us of where and where their next live would be in Japanese, then some american guys started screaming "TRANSLATION!!!", I honestly didn't really like their attitude, as if they deserved to have a translater everytime they needed.

    I think, this kind of atiitude makes Japanese feel responsibe to be able to speak English.Well, it can be conversed, English-speaking people see Japanese always trying to speak English, this fact indulges them?What do you think?

  12. #112
    相変わらず不束者です epigene's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lexico
    There must have been Japanese scholars and translators fluent in these languages. There were great westernising movements via Dutch and Portuguese earlier. What happened to those traditions in Japan ? That's really something that I would like to know. When did Japan become English dominated regarding foreign languages and foreigners ? Captain Perry's expedition ?
    I can't speak for all Japanese, but I think Western heritage via the Dutch and Portuguese is now remote memory. Perry is just a name in history books. (He didn't bring high-tech things with him, just demonstration of power by firing canons from his ships.)
    For the middle-aged and elderly, the greatest impact was defeat in WWII. You can find a very accurate observation of how the Japanese saw the Americans in the postwar years in John Dowers' "Embracing Defeat." I have heard of episodes almost identical to what was written in the book from my relatives and other Japanese I have known in person. The impact of American wealth was immense--Hersheys chocolate bars, chewing gum, ice cream, American pop music and Hollywood movies.

    My mother learned to pronounce English by singing Doris Day songs. My husband said he thought all American women looked like either Elizabeth Taylor or Marilyn Monroe. With more than four years of hunger and destitute living, the Japanese were certainly overwhelmed by the Americans. Also because General Douglas MacArthur was a "benevolent" ruler, the Japanese embraced American occupation eagerly. The drive to work and build the economy most probably stems from the desire to live like the Americans. That was so with my parents and many others. See, there was no significant European presence there. To the Japanese, the world consisted of "the Americans and us." Combined with the insular tendency of the country, I think it's pretty natural for the Japanese to be what they turned out to be.

    As jt_san mentioned, we hope to see more open-mindedness in the younger generations, as they get more information and see more of the rest of the world.

    Quote Originally Posted by lexico
    Why do we not hear much of the Japanese bilinguals or polyglots which must exist somewhere (Yes, on the forum we have misa.j and epigene, but there should be more.) Is it another aspect of Japanese culture to excercise extreme modesty and keep silent ? Is the pressure to confrom so strong in Japan ?
    I think it's not a very deeply important issue. In Japan, people with advanced language skills are in great demand and are very busy. (I myself should be working right now but got addicted to this forum. ) I have a lot of bilingual friends and co-workers, but they're not modest or conforming--just too busy!! I would never have posted here if it weren't for a Google search I did for my research into the rising popularity of Japanese anime and manga. I wasn't really interested in discussing Japanese affairs until now. I got hooked to the interesting people here! (I minimize this window when someone approaches me. )

  13. #113
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by -Yu-
    ... For example in Yokosuka there are tons of Americans due to the location of their Military bases/residences. When I was in a live-performing place with my friend, there were many western-looking people, from the accent of their language, I think they were all American, plus it's natural they were there.
    ...
    After some bands finished, one band informed us of where and where their next live would be in Japanese, then some american guys started screaming "TRANSLATION!!!", I honestly didn't really like their attitude, as if they deserved to have a translater everytime they needed.
    Thanks for sharing this with us, Yu.

    I think Japanese shouldn't feel responsible to translate for foreigners, especially those "GI Joes" you mentioned that behave like in occupied land (and certainly believe that Japan is still occupied, or otherwise they wouldn't be there). I am pretty annoyed that a bunch of US soldiers should set the standard of the "typical Westerner" in Japan, because these people usually (there are exceptions, though) share little in common with people genuinely interested in Japan and its culture. The first difference being their reluctance to learn Japanese.

  14. #114
    Where I'm Supposed to Be kirei_na_me's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Thanks for sharing this with us, Yu.

    I think Japanese shouldn't feel responsible to translate for foreigners, especially those "GI Joes" you mentioned that behave like in occupied land (and certainly believe that Japan is still occupied, or otherwise they wouldn't be there). I am pretty annoyed that a bunch of US soldiers should set the standard of the "typical Westerner" in Japan, because these people usually (there are exceptions, though) share little in common with people genuinely interested in Japan and its culture. The first difference being their reluctance to learn Japanese.
    Yeah, and a lot of those same guys expect to get a Japanese gf/wife.
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  15. #115
    Junior Member DoctorP's Avatar
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    Well, that goes along with them having the belief that all people love Americans and anything American! Understand that the American male typically doesn't mature quite as well as other males...not quite sure why this is, but we tend to stay pretty immature for quite a long time (yes I said WE!). There are exceptions, but as a whole, once they move away from home...many tend to "cut loose" for a period. For some this is 6 months to a year...for others it may be 30 years! Either way, many people form their opinions on what they see and assume that everyone is like that

  16. #116
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by epigene
    For the middle-aged and elderly, the greatest impact was defeat in WWII. You can find a very accurate observation of how the Japanese saw the Americans in the postwar years in John Dowers' "Embracing Defeat." I have heard of episodes almost identical to what was written in the book from my relatives and other Japanese I have known in person. The impact of American wealth was immense--Hersheys chocolate bars, chewing gum, ice cream, American pop music and Hollywood movies.

    My mother learned to pronounce English by singing Doris Day songs. My husband said he thought all American women looked like either Elizabeth Taylor or Marilyn Monroe. With more than four years of hunger and destitute living, the Japanese were certainly overwhelmed by the Americans. Also because General Douglas MacArthur was a "benevolent" ruler, the Japanese embraced American occupation eagerly. The drive to work and build the economy most probably stems from the desire to live like the Americans. That was so with my parents and many others.
    Very interesting explanation, Epigene !

    Indeed, the American influence in the aftermath of WWII was tremendous, and there was little European presence (as Europe needed to be rebuilt too).
    But that was a few decades ago. Nowadays there are more European residents than American ones in Japan, and as there are much less European companies in Japan (due to the restrictons until recently, which did not apply to the US), there are also less expats, and thus a higher percentage of people who come to Japan for the culture and people rather than just business. Maybe it's time for Japanese to start differentiate not only tourists from residents, but primarily "cultural residents" from primarily "business residents", whatever country they come from.

  17. #117
    TAN Hiroyuki Nagashima's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jt_

    I can't describe how terrible this made me feel. I had never experienced (and never thought I would have to experience) a group of adults being so absolutely and completely petrified of me. It made me feel ill and I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible, but I thought it would be rude to just walk out of the shop, so I sat down and ate anyway. Still, I was really too shaken to enjoy my meal at all. Once they found out that I spoke some Japanese (though this was quite a while ago and my Japanese wasn't at the level that it is now), they relaxed a little bit, but this didn't really help. I mean, I felt miserable -- mostly because of what I felt like I had done to these people. I felt like I had ruined their evening just by my deciding to try out this place's okonomiyaki. They had been eating, drinking, and having a good time, until my presence sent the whole place into a panic.
    When I traveled in Germany, I had a similar experience.
    When I traveled in the German southeast on a motorcycle in 1995.
    The salesclerk solidified with the visitor who was in the shop where I entered in a supermarket.
    The others
    When I camped in the suburbs of Berlin, it was surrounded by children.
    They did a gesture to insult an Asian.
    I introduce myself with the machine which I translate for German
    They were surprised very much.
    They looked in me for curiosity the next day.
    It was interesting experience.

  18. #118
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    Quote Originally Posted by epigene
    My daughter is more energetic and chose another alternative. She made sure she was the first to spot a foreigner, ran to the person, apologize and inform him/her that her classmates will soon come to flood the person with silly questions and ask his/her permission. This succeeded, and the tourists told her they had fun answering the questions! (This is followed by "20 Questions" toward her (reverse of what Pachipro-san described in his post)--oh, you speak English very well! Where did you learn to speak...etc., etc.
    That's cute. And very considerate of your daughter.

    "classmates will soon come to flood the person with silly questions"

    like "Is this a pen?" LOL!

    Only problem is, again, what if you run into Gaijin-san who doesn't speak English? WHose problem does it become then?

  19. #119
    Offender of all religions Emoni's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leroy_Brown
    If I see an Asian person in the U.S., I'm going to speak English to him/her.

    What's the big deal?

    Why should foreigners get special treatment in Japan? If you're going to live in Japan, you should learn the language.

    Besides, there are many foreigners, I assume, in Japan who don't speak English either, so why should the Japanese sweat over what language they should speak to foreigners?
    Agreed. You're other point of not every foreigner speaking English is also true. I'm signed up for a study abroad program to Japan, and the program includes international students throughout the world... which of course counts non-english speakers.

    As for the requirement of speaking Japanese to live in Japan, I think it just makes common sense. You are going to be severely limiting yourself and creating a lot of problems if you don't learn the language of the country you live in. Of course you can go to the subject of the requirement of speaking English in America, but really it gets down to personal oppertunities. If you don't speak the language you are going to hinder yourself a great deal when there are just too many benefits to learning the language of the country you are in.

    I'm not sure what to expect in Japan when I/if I go. I expect a mix of people who may assume I speak English (if they speak it as well) and those who will quickly find out how limited my Japanese is. I will be going to Japan mostly to raise my language skill so I will welcome those trying to speak Japanese with me, and I hope they will have lots of patience! (I'm trying! It's not an easy language to learn though!) It will be especially interesting using Japanese to communicate as between other international students who I don't expect speak much English. There is a lot I can only expect.
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  20. #120
    相変わらず不束者です epigene's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Very interesting explanation, Epigene !

    Indeed, the American influence in the aftermath of WWII was tremendous, and there was little European presence (as Europe needed to be rebuilt too).
    But that was a few decades ago. Nowadays there are more European residents than American ones in Japan, and as there are much less European companies in Japan (due to the restrictons until recently, which did not apply to the US), there are also less expats, and thus a higher percentage of people who come to Japan for the culture and people rather than just business. Maybe it's time for Japanese to start differentiate not only tourists from residents, but primarily "cultural residents" from primarily "business residents", whatever country they come from.
    Maciamo-san, it comes back again to the sense of inferiority that developed from this experience. The people who are now in their sixties and fifties grew up seeing all of this in action--through personal experiences, through the media, through their parents (and schoolteachers) who displayed their awe toward the Americans. PM Koizumi is in that generation. Many in the position of leadership today belong to this generation.

    This hangup was represented by the term 戦後.
    Although a prime minister (Ikeda Hayato, I think) claimed many decades ago that the "postwar period" is already over fpr the Japanese. It is still ingrained in the Japanese psyche of the older generations. Today, the pursuit of American style of life has evolved into the pursuit of American (and European) quality of life (in social welfare, infrastructure, etc.). Japan still walks with dregs of "sengo" hanging from its back. That is why I have hopes for the younger generations who have less, if any, memory of that.

    As for the growing number of "cultural" residents you have pointed out, you may notice more because you are European--that is, you can identify the nationality of a Western-looking person in most cases because of your experience and knowledge. To many Japanese, all Westerners look American/British/Canadian. I'm pretty sure quite a lot of Japanese can't even distinguish between English and other European languages because their brains start to malfunction in front of foreigners!

    Plus, as I mentioned earlier, I don't see so many as you claim, living every day within my radius of activity (except through work).

  21. #121
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by epigene
    Plus, as I mentioned earlier, I don't see so many as you claim, living every day within my radius of activity (except through work).
    I don't often meet Westerners ("see" yes, but "talk to", rarely) in Japan, but it's usually easy to tell from the facial expression, features, style, etc. where they are from. Can't miss an Italian for example. Among the Westerners I have talked to, there were more Europeans and Australians than Americans.

  22. #122
    相変わらず不束者です epigene's Avatar
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    Hummm...

    Maciamo-san, I myself can't tell the difference between an Italian and an Italian American (or British and American of English blood) from appearance only...

    If you really can tell, it probably is based on your extensive intercultural experience, which you assume as a given. I can tell the difference between a Japanese and Japanese American but am not that familiar with people of European ancestry...

    Because I have more intercultural experience than my relations and the ordinary Japanese I meet on a daily basis, I'm certain most Japanese can't tell the nationality of Westerners.

  23. #123
    Chukchi Salmon lexico's Avatar
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    Epigene & Maciamo-sans!

    Reading your posts have taught me so much about what is going on in Japan.
    I should probably have to go there myself and spend some time there to get a real feel of it, but I'm getting a pretty good idea of the varied experiences that I'll get.

    Face recognition that you are discussing seems to be highly influenced by experience and culture. I've noticed new arrivals from Asia to the US have a hard time telling non-Asian people apart unless they met the same person quite frequently. Eventhough my wife spent 7 years in the US, she still says this person looks like that person which I cannot agree, but that's because her vision has not been taught to distinguish them. She studied graphic arts, so it's not her vision that's causing her inability.

    On another note, the "sengo" psychology that you mentioned, and all the details of it including the hyper-reaction to the Western-looking foreigner might take some time to lessen and to eventually disappear. Are there any art forms that deal with the "sengo" physchology regarding foreigners?

    Theatre, film, comedy, manga; these things seem to be possible art forms to express (or to seriously make fun of) the uncomfortableness and foreignness of dealing with a Westerner, which might be quite effective at raising awareness of the problem. If they can amuse and make people laugh, we are one step closer to a rational solution. Are you aware of any ?

  24. #124
    Chukchi Salmon lexico's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hiroyuki Nagashima
    When I traveled in Germany, I had a similar experience.
    When I traveled in the German southeast on a motorcycle in 1995.
    The salesclerk solidified with the visitor who was in the shop where I entered in a supermarket.
    The others
    When I camped in the suburbs of Berlin, it was surrounded by children.
    They did a gesture to insult an Asian.
    I introduce myself with the machine which I translate for German
    They were surprised very much.
    They looked in me for curiosity the next day.
    It was interesting experience.
    What you say is a real interesting story.
    I had a good laugh, and learned something, too.
    It appears that those children wanted to connect with an Asian-looking person by saying their children's natural sign of hello=friendly insult!
    And I liked part when they came to you the next day because they wanted to know.
    It's not all bad, and you seemed to have taken it all with good humor!
    My wife's aunt lives in Germany.
    I can only imagine what she's been thru in some remote parts of the country.
    Thanks for sharing your experience.
    I'm amused when I think those German children will keep thinking that all Japanese people a serious bikers, carry a machine translator, friendly, and extrmemely patient and understanding, which is partially true!!
    You are a brave man!!
    Last edited by lexico; Feb 25, 2005 at 18:42.

  25. #125
    Regular Member TheKansaiKid's Avatar
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    I think a lot of people here are too sensitive

    I don't mind how I'm approached while overseas wether it be in the native tongue or English. I have blonde hair and blue eyes, generally Japanese think I will not understand them if they talk to me in Japanese and from the foreigners I met while in Japan I would say that was a fair assumption. Some guy I met at a Styx concert in Osaka said to me "ya I've been here 4 years now and have a pretty good handle on the language" then I heard him order a beer in Japanese and it sounded closer to English than Japanese his pronounciation was horrific and he thought himself fluent. Does it hurt my feelings a bit when I ask a question in Japanese and am answered in English well maybe a bit but hey that person spent a lot of time studying English they want to use it. Is it rude? I think rude is in the heart of the partyinvolved. If they honestly are just trying to do their best to communicate with you, I think a good round of charades now and then is entertaining. I will always bend over backwards to think higher of a person then try to assign them negative traits like; rude, ignorant, backward, prejudiced. I hope others give me the same consderation when I inadvertantly do something they don't like.

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