View Full Version : An Asian Englishman in Japan
Maybe it's pre-departure nerves but I'd really appreciate any advice on the issue.
See I'm planning to move to Japan this summer, I'm English though my family are originally from Sri Lanka [island below India]. I was just wondering what the general feeling is towards other Asians [basically those who are dark skinned] amongst the Japanese, especially the girls. Not that im planning to go to Japan just to pick up girls, that&#30196; not it at all.
In England race or colour has never been an issue with any of the girls ive dated apart from the one non white girl [Asian] ive been out with. Also in the past couple of years Ive done a fair bit of travelling around Thailand, Vietnam etc... So i can kind of imagine what to expect. However I'd really like to know what your points of view are, on what the Japanese might think of An Asian Englishman in Japan, in terms of general attitude
Post Edited (02-27-04 01:09)
2004-02-26, 01:37 PM
At the risk of sounding annoying,
I`d have to ask you if picking up girls is not part of your motivation whatsoever, why would you be worried about the female reaction? (especially the girls, as you put it, and you did mention them a lot in your post).
Anyway, depending on your persona, you should be doing ok in Japan. Just be ready for some inspections, as there are quite a lot of Sri Lankan overstayers here, and my classmates have told me they (despite having legal visas) got a little bit more attention than warranted. You are from England, but not many police officers will think that far before stopping anyone for a spot check.
Cheers for ya message. Point taken you're probably right, that shouldnt be a major concern of mine- I was just intrigued. However I didnft just mean in terms of girls I also meant the general attitude of Japanese public to those people of a darker complexion. In the past couple of years whilst on my backpacking around Asia ive often encountered mild racism because people didnft realise I was English and treated me different to my friends that I was travelling with who were all white. Its nothing that fazes me, I feel im above that. I just wanted to know what Japanese people think of other Asians. Ive heard and this maybe wrong but many Japanese donft consider themselves as Asians, in a similar way to the British who donft associate themselves with continental Europe. Is this true?
Seriously thanks for replying I had no idea there's a substantial amount of sri lankans in Japan. Hope I didnft offend
Post Edited (02-27-04 00:06)
2004-02-27, 12:02 AM
With many of my adult students in the past I have asked them why they feel that crime is on the rise in Japan. All of them, even the really well educated ones have told me it's foreigners. Not the plan jane white ones, but the "other Asians" as they call it. Them, and the people from middle east.
I'm not sure how people act towards other Asians, but this is the opinion of the Japanese people I've asked.
2004-02-27, 12:12 AM
Im not of a dark complexion myself so I couldnt tell you with any great authority or personal experience, but my general belief is that in a sense, anyone who is not Japanese is treated as an outsider, as a 'gaijin' and by definition will be treated differently. That said, because of historical events, the strong influence of America in the media and society and due to the Second world war, the teaching of British American and Australian English in the conversation schools, whiteor European people tend to get dealt a fairly favorable hand as 'guests' in Japan. I know a few non-whites in Japan, including some Sri Lankan, Chinese and Malaysian students at my university and I think their biggest complaint is the difficulty in making friends with japanese. Chinese as far as I know receive a fairly rough time as many Japanese now associate them with being criminals and belonging to gangs. There was a fairly gruesome murder of a family here a few months ago and it was committed by some Chinese students. this may in part be due to a language barrier but in Japan, they also tend to be a bit insular and 'island mentality' and not that interested in foreign cultures nor in mixing with people from Asian cultures that much. Its not really malicious, but more benign neglect, and lack of awareness of dealing with other cultures. As far as I know many Asians working in Japan tend to be in fairly working class professions, in laboring, factory work, and its possible that Japanese also look down on them a bit as they are usually involved in the 3 K (Kitanai (dirty) Kitsui (hard) and kiken (dangerous) ) kinds of jobs.
Dark skinned people are not all that common in Japan, and as the other poster mentioned, its quite possible that as an Asian you may be stopped once too often by the police, followed around in shops, or even be refused entry to certain establishments due to language barrier etc. However I dont think you should experience too many real problems here- its not really malicious but I think there are some underlying fears about foreigners and lack of knowledge about dealing with other races and cultures.
mr squirrel & paulh
first of all thanks for your honesty!! had no idea it was such a serious issue. this may sound stupid but how come there are so many foreigners [asian/middle east] in japan? do they come over as students, refugees ???. also could i ask do you think if i was a teacher over there would i be given less respect especially by staff and the kids because of my skin colour?
Post Edited (02-27-04 00:23)
2004-02-27, 12:57 AM
That's Miss Squirrel to you!
I'm definately not an expert, it's just something that I noticed. I only know one guy with dark skin from India, and I know he really dislikes it here, but one thing is the food (for him).
I work with two guys who are Japanese-American/Canadian, and they do not seem to encounter any problems, but I haven't exactely grilled them on their situations.
I've discussed with some of my Japanese students about Japanese culture, one told me that he didn't believe that gaijin could ever 100% be accepted here. And as paulh said, it would be more difficult for other asians, not just dark skinned one. I also agree that it probably won't be a major problem, but something a little more under the surface.
Even when I was in Toronto my Japanese teacher was describing to me how disgusting the eating habits of the Chinese are.
I have one student that is Korean, and the first thing my (very sweet) manager said to me was "so and so is from Korea!". These things seem important here.
That being said, when people realize you are a native English speaker, your "status" might go up a notch, but still lower than white gaijins, who, might be highest on the food chain.
I hate to be a b*tch, or to scare you or to sound like a bigot. This is just some things I've noticed. I honestly have to say though, and I will get killed for this I know, but when I see a big group of dark-skinned guys (not black, but Indian, Sri Lankin, etc) I feel bad for them. I think that they might have had a harder time here than here than white people. Also black people (I've read) seem to have some sort of cool status (its on one of the other threads, I really have no idea). Which may or may not put other Asians (and middle easterners) on the bottom of the food chain.
I don't know- what do other people think? I am definately no expert.
2004-02-27, 01:02 AM
And I totally didn't answer your question. As an ESL teacher, appearance plays a BIG role. I'm the first female to work at my company in ages, and I'm okaylooking, and ex students are apparently re-joining to get the "hot gaijin chick" as their teacher. It's demeaning, and definately says that you will be judged on your appearance on some level. I assume that would include skin color.
"hot" squirrel lady
Thanks again donft worry you havenft put me off at all. Ive experienced similar sorts of things in Singapore and Malaysia. However their attitude always dramatically changed once they found out that I was English and had money to spend. I suppose there arenft too many dark skinned English teachers in Japan at the moment. I know itfs going to be harsh at times but to be honest im looking forward to it. I understand what you mean about groups of dark skinned lads not integrating, however hopefully I wonft fall into that catergory. I know it wont be easy but I canft let little things like that put me off, right? Back home in London most of my mates are white, I have a couple of Asian friends but race doesnft even come into it. One of the perks of living in a truly multicultural city. I just hope when im in Japan Ifll be accepted with in the white gaijin community with same status as any other native English teacher. Not as a poor Asian student fleeing his homeland trying to do better for himself and his family.....
Post Edited (02-27-04 02:16)
2004-02-27, 10:01 AM
I can't imagine other gaijin caring about what you look like. Most gaijin aren't coming from a homogeious society like the one here. But here is a perfect example of what I am talking about:
2004-02-27, 02:31 PM
I can probably explain the gist of what happened to you in Malaysia/Singapore.
Most of the Indian immigrants there fall into the "hard labor" category (mainly from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka), so people will tend to assume that you are one of them. There are also quite a lot of well-heeled IT field people though.
As you can see for yourself, you seemed to have fallen into the same "blanket statement" trap when you said: "Not as a poor Asian student fleeing his homeland trying to do better for himself and his family.....". I have a Chinese friend from China whose parents work for the banking industry in Japan, She lives in a 800 000 yen per month apartment.
And sorry to say, but..
As long as you are not white, you are not likely to be "accepted with in the white gaijin community with same status as any other native English teacher." As long as the status quo remains, this is one phenomenon that is hard to change. (And I myself would like it very much to be changed.)
2004-02-27, 02:44 PM
I might add, (and this came up on this forum a few weeks ago) there is no such thing as a white gaijin community in japan (as Trip Hop succintly put it, its like the cartoon asterix living in a fortified camp with a drawbridge and a moat, keeping all the Gauls in and the Romans out). Gaijin or foreigners here do not live in gated communities and just mix with other foreigners and go home to a foreign enclave like they do in Beijing, lest they contaminate the locals.
the closest you will come to a gaijin or expat community is everyone going down to the bars for expats on friday nights.
Not only that, you can no more be white than I can become Sri Lankan or Indian. Sofia Gandhi may be born in Italy, live all her life in India, but she is still a non-Indian foreigner to most Indians there and people for better or worse, will judge you by your appearance.
2004-02-27, 02:57 PM
While we are on the topic
I suggest you see the movie "My Big Fat Greek wedding" when a WASP white boy with stuffy conservative parent gets engaged to a modern Greek-American woman with died in the wool Greek orthodox father straight from Athens and her extended family. Great commentary on what happens when two westernised but different culture collide and deals with race, culture, religion etc.
2004-02-28, 12:00 PM
my apologies if I came across as a bit racially insulting in my last post-that wasnt my intention but I hope you can get the gist of what I was saying.
I dont think 'being accepted' by other whites living here is the issue- they are not the 'enemy' or have to worry about so much. You will just be seen as as another foreigner all in this adventure together, like a caucasian, Japanese nisei, and African or someone from Brazil. I dont judge my friends by the colour of the their skin but by their personality etc. I think the bigger issue, as has been pointed out, is how people are perceived and treated by the majority Japanese population. They will likely see you as a dark-skinned Indian/Asian first, and a British citizen second. I am from New Zealand and i get called an American all the time, as white = American. You learn to deal with it.
Post Edited (05-20-04 14:05)