Japan has a weird mixture of foreigners. Unlike the west, where a foreign face is normal. Japan is still pretty homogeneous. In a country of 127million there are only 2.5million immigrants.
There are generally a few types of foreigner,
- The perpetual gap-yearer who flits around “experiencing the world”
- The otaku who resides exclusively at home or in the maid cafes of Akihabara,
- The guy who was ignored back home who has found a fountain of eternal women who are willing to overlook his clammy sweaty hands and back hair because he is “foreign”
- The integrator, a foreigner who tries their upmost to avoid foreign contract carving out a Christopher Columbus like experience in some remote corner and getting deep on obscure Japanese facts,
- The forgot-to-leaves, came with nothing in mind and ended up trapped due to the easy life, high pay (for generally doing the work of a department store Santa) and cheap living.
- The Uncle Tom, NO ONE UNDERSTANDS JAPAN LIKE I DO!
This last category is the one that is most depressing. This person refuses to acknowledge anything wrong with the country. They hate other gaijin for reminding them of that they are. They are essencialy the apologists. Any critisim that is voiced is shot down with “if you dont like it leave”. In their eyes Japan can do no wrong. Everything about Japan is beautiful and better than anywhere else; “if you cant see it, you just don’t get Japan like I do”.
I’m mainly talking about white men. White men have never had the experience of being a minority or feeling powerless. Since time immemorial the white man has had complete power of every aspect of the world. He has never been discriminated against. This man then comes to Japan and is suddenly not top dog. This being new and terrifying he finds that to survive he has to ingratiate himself within the local population and separate himself from the “gaijin” pack. This is where the idea of the Uncle Tom Gaijin comes in.
Here is an example of the kind of gaijin on gaijin hate that is normal in Japan.
Stop acting like a foreigner. You know. Those kinds. The ones that don’t shut up in the train or the elevator. The ones that don’t remove their shoes before entering someone’s house. The obnoxious frat boys on vacation lurking around the Nishi-Azabu crossing. Simply put, you’re in another’s country, so mind your damn manners.
…Do you ever cringe when you see foreigners clustered in a big group, looking around like they don’t know what’s going on? Me too. The only thing that sticks out more than a sore thumb is an entire hand of sore fingers, so whenever you can, take advantage of the fact that in this country—um, Japan, right?—you can actually hang out with Japanese people. You’ll be less noticeable while at the same time improving your Japanese language ability.
That quote is taken from the biggest English magazine in Japan, Metropolis. It basically says is OK to be foreign but you MUST give up everything that makes you who you are and JUST FIT IN!
I have two examples of people who fit this group.
He had met his Japanese wife in Australia where he had been a hotel manager. When his wife gave birth they decided to relocate to Japan just outside Tokyo. He was a teacher at the same large English school as me and was bitter. He had been there for around 5 years and thought himself high enough up the food chain to tell us other (younger, newer) teachers what to do and how to act in Japan. He at first refused to speak to us instead going through the school receptionist in his much superior Japanese (with an Australian accent of course). It was not until he heard me speaking Japanese on the phone that he started to treat me as an equal. I was invited to a BBQ at his HOUSE that he BOUGHT (his emphasis) where I was told it was fun because there would be no loud gaijin to ruin the fun. I was also chastised for living in Tokyo as I was excluding myself from experiencing the true Japan of the countryside. This guy felt he was close to management and had the same authority as our supervisor. This all came shattering down when the company went bankrupt and he was sold off like the rest of us.
Another man (of course), this one English. He had arrived on a tourist visa and within 6 months had met his Japanese girlfriend and gotten married. He was very pro-Japan (which is a good thing) but to the point of ridiculousness. Japanese curry was “a lot better than the muck you get in England” (any English man that dismisses the perfect British curry clearly has no taste). Japanese bread (which bizarrely contains milk) was delicious, Japanese beer was fantastic (there he was right) Foreign girls look ridiculous in kimono, Futons are more comfortable than beds, and when I mentioned I hated the tatami (floor mats) in my apartment he looked as if I had shot at the emperor.
Those guys were not bad people they just wanted to fit in and they thought that by denying everything they were was how to do it. There are two big foreign stars in Japan, Thane Camus and Dave Spector. they have both made their careers on playing the foreigner and being a novelty. The amount of hate and jealousy directed at them on the big Gaijin forums is ridiculous. People seem to be so angry that they have been made mainstream while they have been looked over. The idea of how much gaijin hate other gaijin is a hot topic that gets people very heated. We are a broad bunch of people that all came here for different reasons. The only thing that connects us is the shared experience of Living in Japan.
I’m not suggesting that we make friends with every foreigner we see but it would make our lives a lot better if we didn’t try to undermine and top down any every gaijin we met. Just because someone is having the same experience as you doesn’t make it any less unique or special.