Unfair Advantages for Non-Japanese?

Tokyo-based game developer James Kay

by Robert Moorehead

A headline in today’s Japan Times boldly claims that “expat game developers have an unfair advantage in Japan.” The writer, Brian Ashcraft, interviews expats who develop apps for the iPhone, and notes their optimism for the potential riches available in this industry. So where’s the unfair advantage for expats, and the implied discrimination against the Japanese?

Submitting apps for the iPhone requires navigating the site iTunes Connect, which is in English. This is more difficult for developers who have a limited English skills. And that’s unfair? Is Apple discriminating against non-English speakers? Are Japanese developers languishing due to their limited English skills? Are English-speaking expats unfairly stealing work from Japanese developers?

We’ll never know, as the article isn’t even about this. Rather, it’s a puff piece about a few expat app developers who live and work in Japan. I used to write similar “life of a foreigner” articles for the Chubu Weekly back in the mid-1990s. Since such articles are rather boring (my own articles included), the Japan Times editors spiced it up with a sensationalist headline claiming unfair advantages for expats.

But why print such a headline? The Japan Times publishes in English, thus its readership is heavily skewed toward the expat communities. But are these readers looking for signs of their superiority, or to have their pillows fluffed by the local English rag? What other unfair advantages do expats have? Perhaps this could be part of a series of articles, each with a sensationalist headline, on the unfair glories that expats reap in Japan and around the globe. Next up, Peruvians have an unfair advantage over Japanese when it comes to reading and writing in Spanish.

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