To Be “Japanese”

I think that many Japanese people tend to distinguish between Japanese and so-called Gaijin. As Japan is consisted by 98% of japanese people and almost all people in Japan speak japanese as a first language. Some people sometimes insist that japan is a racially homogeneous nation, which is not true. And the rest of the people in Japan are mainly from Korea or China, so it’s hard to figure out that they are not Japanese unless they speak. However when we see those who seem to be from Europe or Africa, we say “oh there is a gaijin over there”, even though they have been officially allowed to live in Japan or were born in Japan.

To be recognized as a Japanese, we have to look like Japanese or eastern Asian. For example, Bobby Ologon is one of the most famous gaijin in Japan. He’s lived in Japan for many years, speaks Japanese very well, has a citizenship and his real name is Konda Bobby. However when he show up on the TV, we see him as a gaijin and nobody treats him as a Japanese.

What about Hafu? The most famous Hafu is probably Becky. She is actually from kanagawa and one of her parents is British. she is the same as other japanese people except for having a british parent, however many Japanese would think she is a bit different. Is it because she is a Hafu? That’s not true. Rie Miyazawa, for example, Is also a Hafu of Japanese and Dutch parents, but we would’t think she is different at all. We even think she is an actress who represents Japan. The difference between Becky and Rie Miyazawa is only their looks. Becky doesn’t have Asian tastes, but Rie Miyazawa does.

I do think that many Japanese tend to judge others from how they look. Japanese usually feel relieved by acting just like the same as others, and we tend to dislike those who stand out.  I think this way of thinking is a bad heritage from our ancestors. This idea could lead to bullying or discrimination. We could hurt their identities.We have to get rid of this way of thinking to create a better society.

by Yuya Kuori

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6 thoughts on “To Be “Japanese”

  1. I also think that Japan is a country that has difficulties in accepting differences. In my personal experience, I think Japanese are a bit afraid of getting close to those who have a non-Japanese appearance because many Japanese think that they must speak in English with them and since they are not confident with their English, they try not to get close to foreigners. Another thing is that, as you mentioned, there are not many foreigners in Japan, so they are not familiar with how to deal with foreigners. I have a non-Asian look, so not many people come near me. However, once they get to know me, they find out that I’m Japanese in the inside and eventually see me more Japanese than a foreigner. So I think that Japanese need to be more familiar with foreigners in order to get rid of the image of foreigners=English or foreigners=scary. If they get used to foreigners, I think foreigners will be able to live more comfortably in Japan.

  2. I agree with your opinion that Japanese tend to dislike those who stands out. When I was in high school, I felt that there was an atmosphere that prevents from pronouncing English correctly in classes of English. That is, we tend to stay in the realm of Japanglish (katakana English) to avoid standing out. In Japan, humbleness is seen as virtue just like a proverb “The nail sticking out gets hammered down” but I think we need to acquire a sense of “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” to adapt internationalization.

  3. I agree. I think that wearing the same uniform in middle schools and high schools are related to make us think that way. Also, we can’t dye our hair and we take the same classes as everyone at the same time. Therefore, we were taught to be the same like others for a long time. That’s why, our education and environment are deeply related to it.

  4. i also think the japanese society should accept more differences. probably many students in international relation department of ritsumeikan think that way. but it is doubtful if general mainstream japanese people can get rid of stereotypes against foreigners and fully accept different ways of life style, thinking, and acting. i sometimes feel like its just impossible for japan to be ‘globalized’. they just can’t do it. it is not just because of the mentality of japanese people, but also because of the government and the social structure.

  5. I got interested in this blog topic. You mainly focus on looks non Japanese have, and insist that Japanese have to stop their judgements based on looks. However, I think, it is natural that we do so. Moreover, that we could accept all kind of people in the same way is somewhat strange. And I think we should not connect directly with the looks problem and the discrimination and bullying. Taking into account the fact that we have various different looks, ideas,and factors, we should respect each other.

  6. I also agree with your idea. We tend to separate non-Japanese people from us just they look differently. The reason why we cannot accept the difference lies in the lack of education on culture. We have few opportunities to learn about cultural differences in elementally school, junior high school, and high school. Even though we spend much time studying English, we just learn language. If we can make educational system which offers children more opportunities to learn about cultural differences, we can make situation which we can understand the difference.

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