Positive and negative impacts of jiko sekinin

by Masanori Takino

Jiko sekinin, in other words, “self-responsibility” is one of the most complicated and arguable terms. In Japanese society, jiko sekinin can be seen as common sense. Many people think that jiko sekinin is natural and correct. However, jiko sekinin is a form of pressure for some people, therefore there should be some negative opinions. This paper will show the both, positive and negative impact of jiko sekinin

Jiko sekinin can flourish abilities. Jiko sekinin can enhance the responsibility for what the people do or will do. Simply imagine a Japanese workplace. A worker will have two feelings, depending on the situation. The first situation is that when workers could do the work well. If workers succeed in their work, the boss might praise them. It would make the workers motivated for the work and feel more responsibility for their work. The second situation is that when workers would make mistakes or fail. Of course, worker are human beings, they do not always perform well. They will be scolded by their boss, and would feel that they have to accomplish their work properly. There might be a sense of self-responsibility for the workers to the work at which they failed. Those two situations of the workplace give a chance to grow a sense of self-responsibility, jiko sekinin.

Jiko sekinin sometimes can break people’s lives. Too much responsibility can make people feel stress. We Japanese people are really proud, or have a feeling of obligation. If we fail to do something, we might be disappointed in ourselves. When a person is a charge of some important tasks, they will get a sense of mission and a self-responsibility for the works. This feeling sometimes can be the pressure for some people. Moreover, too much pressure might lead to hikikomori for some people because they lose their confidence in themselves or escape from the fact that they failed to do something. Therefore, jiko sekinin occasionally affect badly for people.

It is really difficult to argue about jiko sekinin. The self-responsibility, of course, can enrich people’s lives. However, sometimes there are negative effects for some people. We cannot make clear decision for whether or not jiko sekinin is significant for our lives. It is depending on what the individual people think, and feel. However, in Japanese society, or if you will be employed in the future, jiko sekinin is necessary, because you always must have the responsibility for what you do.

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Immigrants, Refugees, and Precarious Japan

Japanese painting depicting a group of Portugu...

Japanese painting depicting a group of Portuguese foreigners (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Yuki Sakurai

Nowadays the world is globalizing more and more as time passes, so it is easier than before for people to go abroad or move to somewhere in the world. However, there are some issues in order to live comfortably and at the same level as local people. I am going to refer to those problems. After that, I would like to relate their problems with Anne Allison’s opinion in her book, Precarious Japan.

We call people who leave their home country and enter another country for the purpose of living or working there, immigrants. However, as I mentioned above, there are a lot of problems related to immigration, such as lacking equal rights and status. In Japan as well that is true. Foreigners who work and live in Japan have difficult issues except for some. For example, “3K” work (dangerous, dirty, and hard jobs), low salaries, discrimination, and sometimes illegal arrivals who come to Japan for the purpose of working.

Moreover, I think that most Japanese people do not really consider foreign workers’ problems. Especially, the 3K problem is extremely serious and it may infringe on human rights. However, according to a survey y the Japanese government about what people think about foreigners engaging in dangerous jobs that Japanese dislike to do, 30.7 percent of Japanese think that although it is not good, there is no other choice to do so, and 33.9 percent of Japanese think it is really favorable if foreign workers want to do so. Only 31.2 percent of Japanese think the idea is wrong. Also, foreigners who work in Japan sometimes cannot get statuses and rights at the same level as Japanese people. Despite of that foreigners all are living and working same as Japanese, there is somewhat divides.

Recently in Japan, people are more likely to feel apprehensive about the precariousness of current Japanese society, as Anne Allison says in her book. Due to something difficult including the big earthquake in the east of Japan, now there are a number of Japanese refugees as well in Japan. The whole of this society is unstable, so that means it is more precarious for foreigners. What is worse, it seems that Japanese government is now planning to accept more and more foreigner workers as a big workforce towards the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. We have to pay more attention to the serious issues about treatment of foreign workers, and seriously improve them so as to treat them equally. Also, in this global world, people have to reconsider refugees who come from all over the world.

References

Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Japanese Government Report http://www8.cao.go.jp/survey/h12/gaikoku/

Yahoo News!外国人労働者受け入れ拡大か?その背景と問題とは?http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20140130-00000013-wordleaf-bus_all

 

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Path Forward

JaPan kaNto

JaPan kaNto (Photo credit: ~Alia~)

by Jea Jeongmin

Modern Japanese society faces lots of difficulties. The decline in marriage and birth rates causes an aging society, and the rise of “hikikomori” and suicide have been recent social problems. If this goes on, the number of unattended deaths will be increasing. Also, the rate of working-age population who will have to support the Japanese economy will decrease and we will not be able to afford the social welfare expense and sustention of finance.

In addition, all people in Japan should have equal rights, such as right to vote or to get employed. For example, foreign people in Japan do not have the right to vote in elections. Also, historically, there has been some social discrimination against permanent Korean residents in Japan in terms of getting a job or housing. When Japanese people found out the fact that Korean people apply for a job or house, they reject Korean people for no reason. Nowadays, however, the situation has been getting better compared to the past. However, this historical evidence remains in Japanese society and they feel that they have been discriminated by Japanese society.

As mentioned above, there are so many social issues in Japan that must be solved to make the future better. When it comes to who will be able to solve these serious issues and change the darker Japanese society, it would be the Japanese government. As for aging society, the reason why Japanese society turned into aging is because percentage of unmarried people is increasing and birth rate is decreasing. What the government has to do to solve this problem is establish a social security system like a system of childcare leave. Japanese government must realize the fact that Japanese economy will fall into a decline if the aging society progresses. In order to stop the recession in the future, Japanese government needs money to establish the social system so that Japanese government should increase the tax more as they are doing right now. Then, Japanese government uses money in an appropriate way, that is, establishing great social welfare system to rebuilt the Japanese economy.

In addition, in terms of having equal rights, foreign people should have the right to vote so that a number of immigration will be increasing in the future in Japan. Foreign workers will be necessary in Japan because young population will be decreasing. If foreign people realize the fact that Japan is acceptable country without having to naturalize, there will be possibility that more foreign people will come to Japan to work.

In conclusion, in order to get economy better from these present problems in Japan, Japanese government leads from the front and take some actions.

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Struggling to live in Japan on minimum wage

Anonymous student post

If I earn the minimum wage in the future, living in Japan would make me feel “ikizurasa”. As Anne Allison describes in Precarious Japan, one male contract worker is spending a hard life. He sleeps in Shinjuku station while wearing his suits. He works hard from early morning to night, but his income is very low and precarious, going from 300,000 to 105,000 yen.The temperature at night is very cold and severe for him.

Moreover, she describes how difficult it is for poor people to live in Japan. The “net café refugee” who are in other words “drifting poor” are mainly flexible or irregular workers. If they work hard from morning to night, they can earn only for one day living. Every day they just repeat this cycle. It means that they can not escape from this poverty cycle. To make matters worse, they tend to buy food which is bad for their health such as hamburger because they do not have money, so they are at risk of being sick. However, once they become sick, it means their life will end. They do not contract life insurance, so they can not go to hospital and they will be people who just wait for death.

Another aspect of earning the minimum wage is the lost identity and “ibasho”. Now I have an “ibasho” as university students by paying a large amount of money to the university, and now I have an identity from being surrounded by friends, studying subjects I am interested in, and so on. However, if I earn just the minimum wage in the future, my life will be completely changed. As I mentioned previously, there is a possibility of becoming a “net café refugee” or “homeless”. It could be said that I would not be surrounded by friends (If there are some friends, they are socially disadvantaged such as less education) or I would not buy clothes for making me fashionable, and so on. It means that it comes to be impossible for me to understand who I am and I can not stay sane. Where is my dignity? How can I live in Japan from now on?

In fact this is not my imagination but reality, and some people are forced to live in these situations. We do not usually think about people in poverty, so reading Allison’s book was a great opportunity to think about them. I became interested in helping them through volunteering, and I think this is very important thing.

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Jiko sekinin? Ringing an alarm about the country

by Minami Ichiji

“Jiko sekinin” (individual responsibility) is a word one hears a lot in Japanese society. Although, as Anne Allison (2013) points out, “Japan is at war caused by the deregulation and restructuring that have been acted as government policies”. According to Allison, “Yuasa (cofounder of the Reverse Poverty Network) sees poverty as a form of war.” Also, she says “it is a war that the state and society is waging by endangering and not fulfilling its commitment to the people-that of ensuring the right to a “healthy and culturally basic existence” that all citizens are entitled to under Article 25 of the constitution.”

After the end of the bubble economy, the Japanese government made much of a few corporations abandoning a large majority of workers. Allison explains as follows:

aligning with (and protecting) big business, privatizing more and more of (what once were) government services under the banner of “individual responsibility” (“jiko sekinin”), and investing too little in social programs, including welfare (for, but not only, the newly flexible labor force with low wages).

She criticizes severely. I am of the same mind that they must protect workers in more weak position from an impact of economic decline. Certainly, when “jiko sekinin” is used in punishing me for my wrong doing, we need to bring up the idea. But, that applies under serious mistake.

“Nevertheless these workers are accused of been lazy with few support,” from Akagi Tomohiro’s work, which Allison quotes (2013). The wrong policies are the main factor, so rather than some person who is driving forward might be punished “under the banner of “individual responsibility” (jiko sekinin)” (Allison 2013). Despite that, according to Allison (2013), Akagi says “lacking will and contributing to the lowering of the GDP” person is accused of.

In fact, the disparity between people succeeding in receiving full welfare and those who are denied or displaced is becoming bigger with continuous deregulation and restructuring. I agree with Allison’s thought that a situation that increasing number of youths engaging in irregular work is precarious as a crisis. They feel superfluous, they regard themselves as what could be replaced. Furitā or irregular work (hiseikikoyou) leads to but not only material poverty also an absence of affirming oneself. Allison states, “Japan was slipping into mud.” She rings an alarm about the country that is transforming into the land where an ordinary person could be the net café refugee.

If there were those who persist in raising the GDP, they should bring a measure that could gain confidence into effect. What the most important is supporting people to get a decent work and giving a full welfare, regardless of an employment pattern.

References

Allison, Anne. (2013). Precarious Japan. (pp.35,47,51-52) Durham, London : Duke University Press.

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Jiko Sekinin: cold-blooded responsibility

by Marina Furuichi

First of all, I need to think of the meaning of “jiko sekinin”. In a Japanese dictionary, there are two meanings: to have responsibility for one’s own behavior and to have responsibility for only own fault. We often use this word in various situations, in accordance with the situation.

Now, I think there are some pros and cons of “jiko sekinin”. First, I’m going to state pros of “jiko sekinin”. I think that people aren’t allowed to pass things back to someone when people use the word. In other words, we must make up our mind to have responsibility for our own behavior. In Precarious Japan, Anne Allison says:

Related to this, others see in hikikomori a rejection of the dictum to be independent (jiritsu)-becoming stronger in today’s atmosphere of jiko sekinin (individual responsibility).

In this context, I think that having consciousness that we must have responsibility for our own behavior leads us to be independent. This is good point. On the other hand, there are some cons. One is the case in which people who should be responsible for others uses the word “jiko sekinin” to avoid one’s own responsibility. Another bad point is this: people who have power use the word as an excuse to ridicule some people who are weak.

Now, I think that “jiko sekinin” is used to justify “muen shakai” (society in which individuals are isolated and have weak personal links between each other). There is a following reason. Recently, I often see some people those who insist that they are unrelated to other who fail or are in trouble using the word “jiko sekinin”. I feel that they are very cold-blooded persons. Japan has precarious environment such as “muen shakai” because there are such people. Anne Allison says:

Basically, these are: aligning with (and protecting) big business, privatizing more and more of (what once were) government services under the banner of “individual responsibility” (jiko sekinin) and investing too little in social programs, including welfare (for, but not only, the newly flexible labor force with low wages).

Today, there are some people who don’t get enough wages to live sufficiently in Japan. Most of them work at part-time jobs or are non-regular workers. They have a lot of problems. However, the Japanese government doesn’t save such people because they think it is “jiko sekinin”. I think that we never simply say that everything is “jiko sekinin”. We should not say that because it is possible that we may abandon some people those who have problem they can’t solve by their own ability before we realize it.

Reference

Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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Ibasho as a lifeline to maintain our lives

Michael Ende - Momo

Michael Ende – Momo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Natsuki Shinmei

In this blog post, I would like to write about what I felt and thought through reading Allison’s book, and show what I hope for my future.

In Japanese society, we have a lot of inequality. Employment conditions are different between men and women. Different names are given to workers depending on their situation; sarari-man, furi-ta, NEETkasha ningen, and so on. The working style has changed from life-long jobs and a family-based model to a more flexible and unstable model. Because of fast-aging Japanese society, younger generations are not sure how much welfare pension insurance they will be able to receive.

Despite the fact that we are flowing in a precarious and unequal age, one thing which is equally given to everyone is “time”. Whether you are rich or poor, you have 24 hours each day. However, as I go on reading, I thought even “time” is eaten by someone in this society. For example, company men (kaisha ningen), who work too much and devote their personal time like evening, weekends, and leisure time to their company, seem to live their time less. In addition, according to Asahi newspaper (2014, April 28), Japanese female high school students spend 6.4 hours on average using a smart phone each day (this number is three times as much as that of seven years ago). They are facing its small screen for one-fourth of a day. I feel it is becoming true what happened in “Momo,” written by Michael Ende; the grey gentlemen steals the time of humans.

When I think about myself, I can say that I am living my time. I am studying what I want to, and I have friends and family, whom I feel comfortable being with. Therefore, I feel it can be said that having your time is often related to being at ibasho. Abe (2011) says that ibasho is a lifeline (inochi-zuna) to maintain people’s lives, and people who you trust in are there. When you imagine your ibasho, you should come up with several places or spaces. You may imagine your family, school, working place, your room or favorite café. Abe (2011) indicates this shows that you have various kinds of “you”, and “you” differ depending on ibasho. He also says that you are consisted of multifaceted “you” and supported by ibasho, maintaining your life in relationship with other people.

In conclusion, I want to make person-to-person relationships with people I have met and I will meet, and cherish my ibasho as a space I can be myself. Though precarious facts are shown in Allison’s book and some of them may happen to me,

ibasho would be my lifeline to survive this age.

References

Abe. M. (2011). Ibasho no shakaigaku [Sociology of Ibasho]. Japan. Nihon Keizai shinbun press.

Allison. A. (2013) Precarious Japan. Duke University Press.

Tenohira no sumaho [Smart phone on the palm] (2014.April 28). Asahi newspaper.

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Avoiding becoming a Christmas cake

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Yuri Muramatsu

In the future, living in Japanese society may become much more severe. As Allison mentioned in her book, Japan has a lot of issues that have huge effects on our future.

First of all, Allison argued that Japanese became muen shakai (relation less society). I have some anxiety for this muen shakai situation. There is possibility that I will suffer a solitary death. I also have suspicions about Japan’s society.

First, I do not want to get married if I am over 25 years old. If I would be a “Christmas cake,” I would abandon some hope for marriage. In my opinion, I cannot be a mother if I am over 25 years old because it is difficult to raise children.

There are two main reasons. The age of 25 years and over is the important age to stabilize the position in the company that the time to be entrusted with important tasks. I do not want to miss this chance. Moreover, if I get married after the age of 25, I will give birth after the age of 26. This means I would have to take a maternity leave after 26, and that I would go back to company after 27 or over. However, taking maternity leave is difficult sometimes. This is the second reason. If I married someone over 25 years old, I would not have a chance to have children. I cannot believe this system.

In addition, it is unfair that the men should work and earn money while women should protect the family. Allison indicates that Japanese people tend to make this style of family. Women should be housewives and men should work and earn money. On the other hand, I want to continue working all through my life, even if the company tries to cut me because I am a woman.

I would like to get a job that has relationship with the Japanese social insurance system. I think Japan faces ikizurasa (difficulty of living) now, so I am happy if I could relieve this feeling. I believe that social insurance system can change Japan. Japanese society does not have a good system to support people in need. This situation directly connects ikizurasa.

That is why I want to get a job that can be changing the severe situation of Japan. Many people feel ikizurasa. I do not want to be a housewife but at the same time I would like to cherish human relationships to prevent falling into a muen shakai situation. I think my ibasho will be my local town, friends and work.

Although Japanese society may getting more worse in the future, I want to fight against an unfair society and rebuild a new system. At the same time I try to value opportunities for communication.

 

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Colorism and Discrimination in Japan’s Marriage Scene

Kiyohara no Natsuno (清原夏野) was a Japanese Heia...

Kiyohara no Natsuno (清原夏野) was a Japanese Heian era courtier and bureaucrat.This picture was drawn by Kikuchi Yosai(菊池容斎) who was a painter in Japan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Seimu Yamashita

The concept of “white supremacy” has spread almost everywhere around the world, along with colonization. This concept of deeming lighter skin as better has been problematized since it contains aspects of racial discrimination, compared to other physical traits, such as height. This paper will deal with colorism, which can be a form of racial discrimination, but is simply discrimination according to skin color. It is not common to find a distinct lighter skin color preference or privilege in Japan like that in India, possibly because of its mostly homogeneous population. However, a preference for a fair complexion as a form of beauty still exists in Japan. This paper will address colorism in Japan by looking at Japan’s marriage scene, which is assumed to have a clear connection with colorism. This paper will analyze how Japan’s marriage scene relates to the concept of white supremacy, addressing how fair complexions are preferred over other skin colors, and treated as a trait of beauty in women.

The first part of this essay will describe the history of fair skin as a beauty trait in Japan. The second part of essay will explain Japan’s marriage scene, and the role fair complexions play in the shifting scene. The third part of the essay will describe how there is still a preference for fair skin in modern Japanese society. Finally, a conclusion will be drawn by comparing the situation of the preference for fair complexions in Japan with other multi-racial countries.

It is crucial to know the origin of the preference for fair skin in Japan. White skin is actually a traditional concept of beauty, with the notion of fair complexions as beautiful in Japan started in the Heian Era, from 794AD to 1192AD (Graham-Diaz, 2001). The reason for the preference of fair skin back then is quite different from today. The lifestyles of rich, noble women who were considered sophisticated and classy during the Heian Era consisted of just staying indoors in their residence without going outside, waiting for the men to be back. In this era, it was semi-dark inside the residence even during the daytime and there was not enough light at night thus women needed to have extremely white complexions, so that the face would stand out and be attractive in such environment where there is not enough light. That is why the tradition of putting powder on their face to make it look white began. White powder thus became a common make-up to look beautiful in the Heian Era. However, the trend of applying heavy make-up on the face did not last long, and died out after the Heian period. It was in the Edo era (1603AD to 1868AD) that such make-up became popular again. This style of make-up still remains in Japan on maiko and geisha who are now symbolic of the traditional city of Kyoto (Graham-Diaz, 2001). Although the standard of other physical preferences in Japan differed in different times of history, women with fair complexion have been always preferred, not just during the Heian and Edo periods.

In this second part the focus will shift to Japan’s marriage scene, which is a great scene to view the preference of fair complexions even through the many shifts and changes over time. In Japan, there have been two types of marriage: arranged marriage s and love marriages. Although more than 90 percent of today’s marriages in Japan are love marriages, arranged marriages were more common until a few decades ago. Data show that the shift of the percentage from arranged marriages to love marriages in Japan has been dramatic. Arranged marriages accounted for nearly 70% in the 1930s, but the proportion of love marriages gradually increased, whilst arranged marriage decreased relatively. The number of love marriages surpassed the number of arranged marriages only recently in the 1960s (National Social Security, Population Problem Research Center, n.d.).

The traditional Japanese style arranged marriage is called miai. In the process of miai, a written profile with a picture called tsurigaki is used as a marriage resume that helps find a marriage partner (Hendry, 1981). A person who wants to get married gives his/her tsurigaki to a matchmaker. The matchmaker tries to find a good partner for them either from other tsurigaki he or she has or from tsurigaki other matchmakers have. The matchmakers pass the tsurigaki to the potential couple, and if they are interested, they can arrange a meeting.

In miai, there has been racial, class, and genetic discrimination. The most common discrimination was against members of the Burakumin. A matchmaker requires candidates to submit a family history to prove that they are not a member of the Burakumin. Many Zainichi Koreans were also discriminated against for being non-pure Japanese. Members of the Ainu, an indigenous people in Hokkaido were usually avoided as well. As a genetic discrimination, descendants of hibakusha, those who were exposed to radiation from the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were avoided since there were stories of possibilities of rare diseases (Uchida, 2002). Due to such discrimination, those people could not even have the opportunity for having miai.

There was also a preference for women with a fair complexion; however, this did not mean people of darker complexions could not participate in miai. The existence of a preference for a white skin was because of its beauty, and a belief that can be seen from an Japanese old proverb: 色の白いは七難隠す, which literally means a fair complexion hides faults (Old Proverb Dictionary, n.d.). It is basically saying that as long as a woman has fair skin, she can be forgiven for her faults. Thus even if a woman’s other features are not considered beautiful, having a fair complexion is the most important in determining her beauty.

This third part will address a preference for a fair skin in modern Japanese society. As stated in the introduction, it is not really common to feel and find white supremacy recent days in Japan. As can be seen by the explanation of white skin as form of traditional beauty, this may be because white skin is not associated with Europeans or being a different race. It only means having a fair complexion compare to everyone else in society who are mostly Japanese. As the form of marriage shifted to love marriage and people desperately look for love, the online matching site became popular in Japan (Tokuhiro, 2010). Getting deeper into the online world, more casual version of matching site, online dating sites also appeared. People especially young generation use the site to meet new people. On the website, they make profile for other people to look at. Thus, modern days tsurigaki is online and more casual. Same as a miai picture, a picture is important for the profile to give good impression on both matching site and online dating site.

Recently, girls use apps to edit their photos to make them more attractive. For example, they make their face look whiter and make their eyes bigger. Another type of edited photo that is used for profile is purikura. Purikura is a type of photo that is popular among girls in Japan.

Purikura automatically edits the people to look prettier. For example, it makes eyes bigger, makes legs longer, and sharpens chin and nose. The most obvious change purikura makes is the skin. It makes skin look brighter and whiter. Those effects of purikura reflect a physical preference for women. Hence, recently in Japan, we can acknowledge the existence of a fair complexion for women by looking at technology.

In conclusion, the form of marriage has shifted from arranged marriage to love marriage in Japan. Comparing to the marriage scene for example, in India, Japan’s preference in fair complexion seems to not be as prominent, but still exists. This may be because it is a relatively homogenous society, so everyone has a similar level of skin colour, whereas in India, there are different races that have differences in complexions. In Japan, the concept of white skin as beautiful has existed since the Heian period in the 1st century, and still exists today as can be seen in the purikura machines that automatically make girls have features that they believe are beautiful. The marriage scene reflected how women’s beauty were determined only by how fair their skin was, and how having darker skin put a woman at a disadvantage of being wanted as a bride, which in the end, is not so different to the discrimination in a country like India.

References

  1. Graham-Diaz, N. (2001). Make-Up of Geisha and Maiko. Immortal Geisha. Retrieved January 4, 2014, from http://www.immortalgeisha.com/makeup_01.php
  2. Hendry, J. (1981). Marriage in changing Japan: community and society. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
  3. National Social Security, Population Problem Research Center. (n.d.) Basic research for trends in births. Retrieved December 23, 2013 from http://www8.cao.go.jp/shoushi/whitepaper/w-2009/21webhonpen/html/i1112000.html
  4. Old Proverb Dictionary. (n.d.). Ironoshiroiwa shichinan kakusu(A fair complexion hides faults). Retrieved January 4, 2014, from http://kotowaza-allguide.com/i/iroshiroishichinankakusu.html
  5. Tokuhiro, Y. (2010). Marriage in contemporary Japan. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
  6. Uchida, T. (2002, October 26). Research Institute about discrimination in marriage. Buraku Liberation and Human Rights Research Institute. Retrieved January 3, 2014, from http://blhrri.org/kenkyu/project/kekkon/kekkon_0002.html
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“Gaijin” to Japanese: What Japanese Often Expect from Foreigners

by Satona Kato

comediansTerry Kawashima argues that people have a consciousness about race, and this consciousness depends on their background. We can see this by comparing various ways of thinking about shojo manga characters by Western people and Japanese people.

In Japan, many people put the people who are not Asian (Japanese, Korean, Chinese, South East Asian) into one category called “gaijin”. Many Japanese people do not think about the country where the “gaijin” were born. Furthermore, they tend to stereotype that sort of people have specific skills. In Japan, some of the people who are unilaterally labeled as “gaijin” have experiences that they are wounded or feel alienated, especially the people who are multiracial or who were born and grown up in Japan.

As you know, in Japan, multiracial models on TV have been popular. Recently, multiracial comedians become popular as well. They do not act like fashion models. They make people laugh by talking the story about the incident happened around them only because they are multiracial. First, Japanese are surprised that they can speak fluent Japanese and cannot speak English or another foreign language. Japanese also laugh at the characteristics the multiracial comedians share with other Japanese.

They had had many troubles and unique experiences which happened just because they are “hafu.” If we listen to their stories, we can know how hafu people are treated by Japanese. For example, Anthony, he is one of the ‘hafu comedians’. He is American and Japanese. People laugh at the fact that his hometown is Tokyo and his father managed a Sushi shop. He has knowledge about sushi because his home is sushi shop, but when he goes to a sushi shop, the master of sushi shop offered him ‘California roll’ and he was surprised. He has had other interesting experiences. He is bad at English, and when he was an elementary school student, he decided to go to English conversation school. On his first day of English conversation school, when he entered the classroom, other students misinterpreted him as an English teacher and they said “Hello, how are you?” to him.

I want to tell you about one more ‘half comedian’, Ueno Yukio. He was laughed at because of his obvious Japanese name. He is Brazilian and Japanese. When he plays soccer, the opposing team judged Yukio was a good soccer player by his appearance and many defenseman surrounded him. The opportunities to watch TV programs in which many ‘half comedians’ gather and talk about the things often happen around them are increasing. According to them, following things often happen: 

  • are judged to be foreign people
  • are often stopped by the police 
  • are asked by Japanese to sing foreign songs 
  • are laughed at by Japanese when they sing Japanese songs
  • are often expected to have high athletic ability
  • have difficulty getting a part time job
  • are invited to BBQ parties or Halloween parties
  • are called ‘Bob’ or ‘Michel’ 
  • are treated as tourists everywhere

Of course their nationality is Japanese and most of their hometown is Japan. Why they are laughed? Why do Japanese people stereotype their abilities? When Japanese look at people who look like “gaijin’’, Japanese often expect some specific skills because they have some assumptions. They think that people who have white, black, or other foreign appearance have foreign names and can speak foreign languages, and cannot speak Japanese at all.

It is true that hafu people are not a majority in Japan and many Japanese have little familiarity with thinking about race. That’s why people have expectations about the skills hafu people have. If hafu do not have these skills, Japanese laugh at them and hafu are unilaterally discouraged.