Japanese society

Old Jun 26th, 2002, 09:07 PM
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Japanese society

I have a somewhat uncomfortable question that I need to ask. I am planning to visit my (non-Japanese) boyfriend in Japan over Christmas. Originally we had planned to go to Thailand but because of the season we may be unable to get flights there. So I may be staying in Tokyo for at least a week, possibly more. He will be at work during the day and I will be tooling around by myself. My question is this: I have read and heard many horror stories about discrimination against foreigners in Japan: segregated restaurants and baths, inability to get train tickets, general shunning. Is alot of this media overkill or should I be prepared to be shunned as I explore things? I find the prospect anxiety- provoking. If there are such attitudes, are they worse for non-whites? I'm of Indian origin.

On a more cheerful note, the information provided here is amazing, and makes me really want to see as much of Japan as I can.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Old Jun 26th, 2002, 11:22 PM
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I look as gaijin as can be and have travelled to japan many times over the last 20 years and never once had anything but nice treatment, much nicer on average than in any other country, including the US. On top of that, my husband is of japanese ancestry, and our kids are therefore mixed. Only once did a little farmer type grandma squeal and say something like "your girls aren't Japanese or American".
don't expect anything but courtesy and friendliness, and you'll most likely get it. Have fun!
Old Jun 27th, 2002, 12:07 AM
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Don't worry Seema. Most Japanese are very nice, kind, helpful etc.. towards foreigners/tourist.

Old Jun 27th, 2002, 12:19 AM
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Bonjour Seema,

Like Lcuy, I've only encountered nice treatment in Japan over the last 20 years, and I'm half African, so looking very, very, gaijin to the Japanese. Only a couple of time have I met some xenophobia, in the form of a drunk at a yakitori counter, muttering comments about how there were more and more "baka gaijin" (stupid foreigners) in his favorite watering hole, only to shut up very quickly and go home as soon as I looked at him a bit hard, and even quicker if I said a word in Japanese ("Stupid foreigner who don't know the language and customs ? how many languages do you speak, my friend, and would you be able to order food in a restaurant in my country ?"). I've never, ever been refused entry or service anywhere, even in the remotest places !

I've noticed how the media like to exaggerate all the negative aspects of Japanese society. Here in Europe too, we have a couple of correspondents who have made it a specialty to gleefuly report every little negative events, and particularities and make it as if this was an everyday occurence, thus conveying the idea of a very xenophobic society.

There is some "segregation" towards foreign residents, mostly in areas where they are perceived as being potential disruptors of "harmony" in the community (read = where they might raise a fuss over the pricing or admission policy, nudity in public baths, size of things, general cultural differences, ).

There are places where foreigners are barred entry (mostly semi-private bars and clubs in shady areas, onsen (public baths). This is due in part to the general inability of the Japanese to express themselves in any other language than theirs, thus a fear of losing face, a kind of xenophobia (they have a stereotyped view of foreigners, exactly as we tend to have one of them), the fact that it is considered rather rude to refuse or demand something directly, therefore they prefer avoiding all interactions rather than having to face an argument, etc.

As a tourist or short term resident, you won't be affected by this.
Old Jun 27th, 2002, 07:57 AM
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It has been over 10 yrs since I went to Japan so it must really have changed. I remember taxi drivers, restaurants, etc shunning us. I was with someone who spoke Japanese. We went to one store and spoke English. In Japanese, they were cursing Americans.

Not that it was all bad. There were MANY incredible nice people and it was a great trip.

Old Jun 27th, 2002, 06:38 PM
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Thank you for your responses. I guess I just needed to hear some positive feedback.
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