As a child I had more opportunities to be exposed to foreigners, because I took English lessons from a young age and had ability to talk to them. But there is one certain group I never got close. It is Filipino people and now I want to think back why it was so.
I spent my childhood in a small city called Maizuru, in Kyoto. It is a small port town, the only attraction being fishery. The population consists of mostly elderly people, but also men in national defence force. Many young people do not find it exciting to live there and there are not too many job opportunities. So, there are many ‘snack bars’ for men and many Philippine girls working there. Japanese people living in Maizuru quickly assumed that she works for a snack bar when they see a Philippine girl. Also, the town did not get many foreigners from other nationalities, so the society was rather conservative. The reason that those women chose to come to Maizuru is no doubt that they found a job opportunity—demand, and also existing Filipino society that they can fall back on. I feel really bad that the demand is created because of the public service job.
When I think back, I never had or tried to have contact with Filipino people when I lived there. There was one ‘hafu’ Filipino girl in my school, but I never talked to her or felt curious about her background, probably because I heard that her mother worked at a snack bar. However, I was eager to talk to Brazilian girls and Swiss girls at school.
I guess we see people of their social status, their job and those types of ‘labels’ rather than what they are or what they think. I was aware of those labels as a child already. Still today, we label people quickly when we see them in Japan, even if their home country doesn’t mean what they are. Now that I am older and wiser, I know not to see people from a biased view point.
By Kumi Nakamura