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View Poll Results: How do you feel when a Japanese calls you "gaijin" ?

Voters
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  • "You are an outsider and will never belong to Japanese society" (exclusion)

    17 29.31%
  • "You are an outsider, ignorant of Japanese ways" (cultural ignorance)

    17 29.31%
  • "You are different from us ! Hahaha !" (childish differentiation)

    12 20.69%
  • "You are not Japanese, but I am" (opposition)

    13 22.41%
  • "You are not a Japanese national" (on the passport)

    11 18.97%
  • "You are not an ethnic Japanese" (different looks)

    13 22.41%
  • "Wow ! You are better than me !" (awe)

    8 13.79%
  • Don't know

    10 17.24%
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Thread: What connotation does the term "gaijin" have for you ?

  1. #176
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CC1 View Post
    I understood you...it is like calling someone black when you know that they are a person!
    "Black" is a person ? I thought it was an adjective of colour !

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  2. #177
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gaijinalways View Post
    Obviously most of the foreigners living in Japan don't, in other words they would prefer to be called by name (if known to the speaker) or by nationality (again if known) or even by occupation as another alternative. Or simply "Sir" or "Madam" if you are in a public place being served by someone.
    Very well said.

  3. #178
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by leonmarino View Post
    I might not make a difference to you, but I know more people that rather not use the word "gaijin", and prefer to use "gaikoku no hito" or "gaikoku no kata"..
    It doesn't make much difference because it is just an "esthetic" change, and I care much more about the "form", just the mindset behind the word. The Japanese could even say something like "their great and honourable majesty the Gaijins", or otherwise embellish it in flattering language, their mind still works in a despicable "black-and-white" manner (the Japanese vs the others). It bothers me because it is a primitive way of thinking; not because the term "gaijin" itself is offensive, but because it is the only word they know to describe someone who is not like them.

    Do not misunderstand me, I am as annoyed at people in my own country who call all foreigners and foreign-looking people by the term "foreigner". I just don't know anybody who does it. The French are the French. The Germans are the Germans. The Japanese are the Japanese. If we want to stress that someone is a foreigner, we will still distinguish tourists from (short- or long-term) residents from immigrants from refugees, etc. We also distinguish them by ethnic group, language, religion and many other criteria. It isn't necessary to mention all criteria at the same time. It all depends on the situation. Who would ask an Indian tourists "How do you foreigners celebrate the New Year ?" It is shocking because in the mind of the speakers an Indian, a Senegalese, an Irish, a Peruvian or a Korean are all the same, and all celebrate New Year the same way. This is extremely disrespectful to the person you are talking to not to do the slightest effort to try to understand where the person is from, or that not all the world is alike outside one's country.

  4. #179
    Regular Member misa.j's Avatar
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    I read somewhere that the word "gaijin" is becoming more of a taboo word and disappearing from newspapers and tv broadcast. I don't have any source to back that up, though.

    This is a very interesting discussion to me. Now, I realize how commonly it is used; 5 out of 11 people whom my husband met personaly, including my close friends, said 'gaijin wa blah, blah, blah'. They sure didn't use it with negative connotation, but it made both of my husband and me uncomfortable.
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    We also distinguish them by ethnic group, language, religion and many other criteria.
    I'm not sure how many, even educated Japanese people, are familiar with those terms. I have to confess that I wasn't until I came to the US.
    Education, I think, is the key for the Japanese who use the word deliberately to emphasize the fact that someone is non-Japanese, that there are better words if they really need to make a distinction on people from different backgrounds.

  5. #180
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    It doesn't make much difference because it is just an "esthetic" change, and I care much more about the "form", just the mindset behind the word. The Japanese could even say something like "their great and honourable majesty the Gaijins", or otherwise embellish it in flattering language, their mind still works in a despicable "black-and-white" manner (emphasis added by leonmarino) (the Japanese vs the others). It bothers me because it is a primitive way of thinking; not because the term "gaijin" itself is offensive, but because it is the only word they know to describe someone who is not like them.
    But.. Who's generalizing who? I mean not all Japanese are like that. Sure, it is true that most of them are, and don't get me wrong, three weeks in Japan last August was enough discrimination for me for a while, but I think that there are also people whose mindset is changing, and as Japan is (hopefully) internationalizing further this culture of us vs. them will decrease.
    It will never disappear though, of that I am sure. But let us not be hypocrites. We are all human beings and subject to the same psychological processes. There is this thing called the in-group bias which basically makes us discriminate and perceive ourselves, or the group we beliong to, better than others. In the case of multi-ethnic groups or people like some European countries and the US, this black-and-white behavior seems to be less significant. However, you do consider your group ("the open-minded people" or "the non-black-and-white-thinking people") better than "the Japanese".
    The people of a land in isolation.. Can they help it that they think it this black-and-white manner? Education is important in this point, because if you've always been told (or at least never have been told the opposite) that foreigners are different than "us islanders", how can you know what is true?
    It is very easy to say "ow, them Japanese are racist" or whatever, but Japan is very young with respect to its international role (140 years since the Meiji Restoration), and it will take some time until "us" and "them" are on the same level. All of us on this forum will probably never see that day.
    Let us not "despise" Japanese people for their (in our eyes) crooked views. All we can do is communicate, teach, learn and motivate; despising them and considering them "different" is no better than any other racist view.
    Last edited by leonmarino; Sep 30, 2006 at 16:04. Reason: adding emphasis didn't work first time

  6. #181
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    Quote Originally Posted by leonmarino View Post
    Let us not "despise" Japanese people for their (in our eyes) crooked views. All we can do is communicate, teach, learn and motivate; despising them and considering them "different" is no better than any other racist view.
    Who do you mean by "us" and "our"? (BTW, good to see you posting again, leonmarino!)

  7. #182
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mikawa Ossan View Post
    Who do you mean by "us" and "our"? (BTW, good to see you posting again, leonmarino!)
    "Us" and "our" are.. Anyone who feels being addressed by this post really.

    And yeah, this is my first post on a subject other than food, English/Japanese and chit-chat in a long while!!

  8. #183
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    us vs. them
    I guess the vs. in the above is what Prof. Yoro calls "Baka no Kabe".
    The book is interesting to read. The wall is not only among Japanese, but so far I am happy to live here, for the word, "hate crime", is not common here, no matter how many times I hear Japan is such a racist country or whatever.

  9. #184
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    Quote Originally Posted by pipokun View Post
    I guess the vs. in the above is what Prof. Yoro calls "Baka no Kabe".
    The book is interesting to read. The wall is not only among Japanese, but so far I am happy to live here, for the word, "hate crime", is not common here, no matter how many times I hear Japan is such a racist country or whatever.
    Amen to that!

  10. #185
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pipokun View Post
    I guess the vs. in the above is what Prof. Yoro calls "Baka no Kabe".
    The book is interesting to read. The wall is not only among Japanese, but so far I am happy to live here, for the word, "hate crime", is not common here, no matter how many times I hear Japan is such a racist country or whatever.
    I suppose that once you repeat something enough times to someone there is a point when they will finally understand what you mean, so I do not dispair. I will repeat it one more time for you : racism is not just about violence. It's a state of mind.

  11. #186
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by misa.j View Post
    I'm not sure how many, even educated Japanese people, are familiar with those terms. I have to confess that I wasn't until I came to the US.
    Do you mean that most Japanese do not automatically categorise people by ethnic group, language, religion in their head ? This would confirm that the way they express themselves ("gaijin, blabla") indeed macthes the way they see people. No distinctions !

  12. #187
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by leonmarino View Post
    But.. Who's generalizing who? I mean not all Japanese are like that.
    I never said that either. When I do not say "all" it means "most", by default.
    It will never disappear though, of that I am sure.
    If only it could be limited to a small minority of people, I would already be very happy.

    But let us not be hypocrites. We are all human beings and subject to the same psychological processes.
    I won't debate this in detail, but each brain works in its own fairly unique way. We can also categorise brain types according to their acidity/alcalinity, sensitivity to each kind of neurotransmitter (serotonin, adrenaline, etc.), and in many other ways. But what matters most in this case (differentiating between "foreigners") is certainly just a matter of education.

    In the case of multi-ethnic groups or people like some European countries and the US, this black-and-white behavior seems to be less significant.
    I am not sure about that. I felt that people from some less multi-ethnic European countries differentiated people even more accurately than many Americans, because some differentiation may be politically incorrect in the US.

    However, you do consider your group ("the open-minded people" or "the non-black-and-white-thinking people") better than "the Japanese".
    The people of a land in isolation.
    I what way is Japan more a " land in isolation" than Scandinavian countries, which have never been invaded or occupied by non-Scandinavians, and are more genetically homogenous than the Japanese (keep in mind that the Japanese are hybrid Korean-Ainu) ? No, it is a matter of education, not isolation or ethnic homogeneity.

    It is very easy to say "ow, them Japanese are racist" or whatever, but Japan is very young with respect to its international role (140 years since the Meiji Restoration)
    Really ? Are you aware that Japan continued to trade with Korea, China and the Netherlands during the 250 years or so of seclusion ? What is more, Japan was not closed to the world before the Edo period, and even imported most of its culture from China. No, Japan does not lack international experience more than, again, Scandinavia, or Ireland.

  13. #188
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post

    most Japanese do not automatically categorise people by ethnic group, language, religion in their head ? This would confirm that the way they express themselves ("gaijin, blabla") indeed macthes the way they see people. No distinctions !


    I rummaged through a few old threads yesterday,coincidently stumbled upon one post written by Jref tutor NANGI simply truthful replied his people only know distinction between Japanese and NON-Japanese not gaijin's ethnic background or nationality.

    It's Japanese deep rooted clannishness mentality ( group-mentality ) NOT Japan's isolation for their xenophobia toward " outsiders ".Aren't Japanese since Meiji Restoration indoctrinated at very young age,Japan is part of Western World and Nihonjins are NOT related to East Asian ethnicity rather a " token " member in the European Race category ?

  14. #189
    Regular Member misa.j's Avatar
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    I found an interesting article on Japan's multicultural education written by a professor at Tokyo University. The article ilustrates how Japanese schools are struggling finding ways to teach multi-ethnic culture in classrooms. http://www.newhorizons.org/strategie...shigematsu.htm

  15. #190
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    I don't know about the situation in Scandinavia, but a quick browse through Google made me find a lot of articles of saying how racist people of Sweden are. So if it's right that Sweden is/was as isolated as Japan, this might confirm there's a correlation between a country's isolation and the "racist" mindset of the people.

    Anyway, am I correct when I say you're saying that education is the key to people's understanding of other cultures? I seriously doubt Japanese are told through the educational system that us foreigners are bad folk.

    It is all about social interaction; interaction breeds understanding. When I was younger, I met many Japanese people who met a foreigner for the first time in their lives!! For us Dutchies that is something unthinkable, a people so homogeneous and isolated. Even though the number of foreigners in Japan is rising, it is nothing compared to many European countries, of that I am sure.

    People are also inclined to make the fundamental attribution error; if one foreigner commits a crime, or less extreme, is impolite to the Japanese, he is labeled as impolite and a criminal. This is not a Japanese trait, but a human trait. In Holland many people in the big cities are racist against Turkish and Maroccan people. These people are immigrants, often of lower class, and people of lower classes, no matter what cultural background they have, are more inclined to criminal activity. But people not knowing this fail to see that as many Dutch people of lower classes commit crime, and blame the foreign population for all crime. That is how racism works.

    So in a land where there are so little foreigners, and where people make the same judgmental error everyone makes, it seems only natural that they wish to consider themselves different to foreigners. Again, I am not saying that I am in favor of racism, but I can understand it from a historical and societal point of view.

    Sure, anti-discriminatory education might work, but its effect is often blown away if someone is hurt, mentally or physically, by a member of another ethnic group. In a land where rules, honour and everything is highly appreciated, someone from "outside" can easily, unintendedly project a bad image.

  16. #191
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post

    Are you aware that Japan continued to trade with Korea,China and the Netherlands during the 250 years or so of seclusion.No,Japan does not lack international experience.


    Japan had full exposure to Western modern culture and people between 1840's-1940's.Any Japanese TV doramas with story background for this time period often reflect adaptation of Western cultural aspects was welcomed by native population in many facets of Japanese society.I've seen B & W photos and old newsreel footage clips of European-imitation-looking high ranking Japanese military officers and Japanese noblemen sported " whisker " appeared before cheerful Japanese crowd.Yeah,those big bearded European-imitation-looking Japanese men rode in imported-European-stagecoach acted like silly puppeteer FAKE-Western old dudes.

    Funny argument,Japanese aren't comfortable with " the people " they've imitated and emulated for 150 years.
    Last edited by ricecake; Sep 30, 2006 at 13:31.

  17. #192
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    racism is not just about violence. It's a state of mind.
    Hopefully people will read this and let it sink into their heads.

    Unfortunately many fine people who would never consider themselves to be racist in any way shape or form also have racist tendencies from within their own "mind-set". In a manner of speaking, myself included here, I think everyone, here on this board, as well as throughout the world have racist tendencies within themselves. It's just a matter of whether or not they "choose" to let those tendencies manifest themselves through their thoughts or actions.

    And that is something that practically no amount of "talking", educating, or therapy will change until the person themself is truly aware that it exists within themselves.

    Otherwise one just ends up repeatedly beating their heads into a wall trying to explain it or like talking to your doorknob.

  18. #193
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    Thumbs up

    Hopefully people will read this and let it sink into their heads.
    Yes, it is. I quite agree with you.

  19. #194
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    Good point Alt, and one that hardly excuses the Japanese from the amount of us and them thinking they engage in. Sadly, many foreigners that live here work harder at defending this kind of attitude than some of the Japanese (of course, many Japanese don't seem to think about it much, at least in my opinion).
    Last edited by gaijinalways; Sep 30, 2006 at 21:28.

  20. #195
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    I just don't get it. Why you care what some Japanese think of you if it's not in your best light? Why you care if they call you gajin? So what? That really bother you and if so why? Inferiority complez or illusions of granduer? And leave my spelling out of this!

    Some ya'll seem just a bit too sensitive.

  21. #196
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tyshepp View Post
    I just don't get it. Why you care what some Japanese think of you if it's not in your best light? Why you care if they call you gajin? So what? That really bother you and if so why? Inferiority complez or illusions of granduer? And leave my spelling out of this!
    Some ya'll seem just a bit too sensitive.
    See imo that's part of the problem, many people that come here have not or never been exposed to being on the receiving end of any racial discrimination and it is an eye opener for them.

    They end up putting the "blame" for the discrimination on the Japanese people when whether or not they are aware of it they have been the ones that may have been subconsciously been discriminating against others.

    When the shoe is one the "other" foot it puts them in an uncomfortable position that they have probably never been in before, hence the need to find fault with "all" Japanese as being guilty of racism against "foreigners"

    In fact there is racism against many foreigners here in Japan, yet in my experience it is those that "allow" themselves to be victimized that end up being the ones that ***** the most.

  22. #197
    Danshaku Elizabeth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tyshepp View Post
    I just don't get it. Why you care what some Japanese think of you if it's not in your best light? Why you care if they call you gajin? So what? That really bother you and if so why? Inferiority complez or illusions of granduer? And leave my spelling out of this!
    Some ya'll seem just a bit too sensitive.
    I agree in a sense that discrimination is definately not only limited to gaijins, even natives that are considered different or not conforming to the expectations of how a Japanese should behave can easily experience discrimination everyday, depending on their circumstances. The foreigner issue is only one small aspect of a much larger mindset....although it's obviously going to be a focal point on a
    forum by, for and often about, them.

  23. #198
    puzzled gaijin
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    Talking

    I am still wondering though what is the best way to try to modify this mindset. Of course, education, setting a good example, and exposing people to others outside their group may change things, but I would say overall the government in Japan doesn't support these efforts much. If anything, the government line seems to encourage keeping the status quo, basically ignoring that there is any problem in dealing with non-Japanese in Japan.

    Of course, not all of us are inclined or want to be social activists, but there is a fine line between tolerance and submission. The problem for many of us is that we have decide if it's worth the effort, especially for those staying here longer and having to deal with what I like to call unfair `umbrella labeling and grouping`.
    Last edited by gaijinalways; Oct 1, 2006 at 01:11. Reason: typos

  24. #199
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elizabeth View Post
    I agree in a sense that discrimination is definately not only limited to gaijins, even natives that are considered different or not conforming to the expectations of how a Japanese should behave can easily experience discrimination everyday, depending on their circumstances.
    You are talking about two different problems :

    1) discrimination by Japanese against Japanese (e.g. to force them to conform)
    2) discrimination about non-Japanese

    However, if I remember well, this thread is about neither of them. It is about the meaning of the term "gaijin". Let's not muddle up everything. I personally do not see discrimination in the use of the term "gaiijn". I disaprove of it because it underlies a primitive way of thinking (lack of differentiation), and I feel that this in itself is offensive because being called a "gaiijn" is no better than being associated with a group of identical clones that make the non-Japanese world in the mind of the Japanese using and abusing of the term "gaijin". I am a strong individualist, and someone who likes to give as accurate categories as possible to the group of people I am referring to.

    Another (related) reason that I dislike the word "gaijn" is that it reminds me of the utter ignorance of the world (cultures, religions, geography, history...) of most of the Japanese I met. For instance I was asked such absurdities as :

    - what is the currency of South America ? When I asked which country, my Japanese interlocutor was surprised that all South American countries didn't have the same currency.

    - all the assumptions that North America and Europe were one homogenous culture.

    - In an English textbook exercise, my university-educated student thought that Argentina was in Eastern Europe.

    - people who claim to be Buddhist and can't even tell me what branch of Buddhism they belong to, and visibly don't have any knowledge of Buddhism.

    - people who think that the Amazon is in India, or that it is a synonym for jungle.

    - hundreds of other examples...

    Hearing the word gaijin strongly reminds me of the serious general knowledge mess-up in the mind of so many Japanese, and it makes me want to puke. So I certainly do not want it to be used to refer to me.

  25. #200
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alt View Post
    See imo that's part of the problem, many people that come here have not or never been exposed to being on the receiving end of any racial discrimination and it is an eye opener for them.
    You may be right, but I have another problem with it. Here in Belgium, and in many other European countries (e.g. Netherlands, as leonmarino said it), discrimination or racism is normally directed at a national, ethnic or religious group that is held responsible for a lot of crimes and problems in the country. For instance, it cannot be denied that the Moroccans in Belgium cause much more trouble than any other group, and indeed 1/3 of people in Belgian jails are Moroccans (which is completely disproportionate to their number, but nevertheless a fact). As leonmarino said, these groups are typically lower-class. I would even say that before living in Brussels (where more than half of the Moroccans in the country live), I thought of them as "lower class", but now I see them as "underclass" because their social level (weath, education, manners...) is so much lower than the Belgian lower class.

    What I mean by this is that in Belgium or Europe in general, people discriminate or hold racist feelings for justified reasons against a very specific group, NOT all foreigners, and not even all Muslims. I would say that it is mainly directed at male Moroccans, in Belgium, as we very rarely hear of women causing troubles, do not speak with such a strong accent on purpose, do not provoke or commit vandalism or crimes, and in consequence they also tend to get better jobs. So far the only Morrocan people which I have met working for Belgian or international companies (shops, real estate, etc.) were all women.

    The problem I have with the Japanese is that they do not differentiate foreigners by national, ethnic, linguistic or religious groups, and just put everyone under the term "gaijin". They are especially good at that when reporting crimes in the news, or when blaming "gaijin" for the woes of Japan. If they directed their anger at a particular group with facts to support their claims, I would not mind. What I cannot accept is that :

    1) they associate me with lower-class economic immigrants. I was told by one of my English-school employers, while negotiating the salary, that "foreigners come to Japan to make easy money because Japan is a rich country". I automatically replied that my country had a higher living standard and higher salaries than Japan, as did most Western countries (see article).

    2) they discriminate against people who belong to an equal or higher social class, are equally or better educated than them, equally rich or richer than them, etc.

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