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An interesting story of an American in Yamagata

Mandylion

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Not to knock her, as what she has done is a great achievement, but I would like to see people down-play "the more Japanese than a Japanese" comments. No matter how out of hand the comments are, to me it smacks of Nihonjinron / "we Japanese" syndrome only with a slight twist. Because she is not a loud, pushy, free-wheeling American woman like on TV, but wears kimono and runs a ryokan we can say she is "more Japanese that a Japanese?" When did Japan corner the market on hospitality, hard work, self-sacrifice? Can they just not think of something else to say?

Do people react to her (and other foreigners who live a long time in Japan) because Japanese in general often don't concieve of cultural assimilation as a normal thing? I study kyudo (Japanese archery) and people say the same things about me. I doubt any Japanese person who went to the US and learned how to rope cattle would get the same type of comments.

Just curious, but are there similar sayings in other countries? More Canadian than a Canadian, more French than a Frenchman, More American that an American? I sure haven't heard them...
 

Golgo_13

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But why not just accept it as a compliment? I'm sure she would, after all, she's in Japan and trying to live a Japanese lifestyle. If a Japanese were to come to the U.S. and attempt to compliment an American by saying he or she has "Japanese" qualities, it would be wrong. Same as if a white American went to Japan and said a certain Japanese has Christian values.

"I doubt any Japanese person who went to the US and learned how to rope cattle would get the same type of comments." No, but he might be said to have "Christian" qualities for someone who is not a Christian. He would definitely be looked upon as an oddity, like the Japanese guy who went to Spain to become a Matador.

It's unfair to compare Japan to the U.S. because Japan is an ethnically homogeneous society whereas the U.S. has people of different races and ethnicities, thus there is no pressure to conform in the U.S. and therefore no truly "American" way to behave.

Of course Japan does not have a monoploy on hospitality, hard work, self-sacrifice . Besides, being "more Japanese than a Japanese" isn't only about hospitality, hard work, self-sacrifice anyway. It's also about appreciation of history and tradition, among many other subtle qualities. One could be very hospitable, hard-working, and self-sacrifcing but still not be considered to have "Japanese" qualities.

"Can they just not think of something else to say?"

I'm sure there are many other complimentary things they have said about her. It's just a brief internet news article.
 

Mandylion

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Originally posted by Golgo_13
If a Japanese were to come to the U.S. and attempt to compliment an American by saying he or she has "Japanese" qualities, it would be wrong. Same as if a white American went to Japan and said a certain Japanese has Christian values.

I don't see the difference between that and "more Japanese than a Japanese. Why does it matter by whom or where such comments are made? They still strike me as slightly backhanded compliments. Could you please explain it a little better for me?

Originally posted by Golgo_13
"I doubt any Japanese person who went to the US and learned how to rope cattle would get the same type of comments." No, but he might be said to have "Christian" qualities for someone who is not a Christian. He would definitely be looked upon as an oddity, like the Japanese guy who went to Spain to become a Matador.

Originally posted by Golgo_13
"It's unfair to compare Japan to the U.S. because Japan is an ethnically homogeneous society whereas the U.S. has people of different races and ethnicities, thus there is no pressure to conform in the U.S. and therefore no truly "American" way to behave.

First, I would say Japan is not as ethnically homogeneous as you state. While not on the level of the US as far as diversity goes, there are considerable populations of Korean, Chinese, and other Asian and S.E. Asian peoples. I would also say that any pressure to act Japanese is less than one would find in the the US, precisely because no one expects you either can or want to (you will be going home soon, right? etc). The government also assumes they don't want to or can't adapt by not allowing children of ex-pats born in Japan citizenship, and making the naturalization process quite long and time consuming (I know, there are other reasons behind this too.)

As for acting "American" while we might not be able to put a finger on what that is, Japanese people who have lived a long time in the US and then return to Japan certainly seem to behave differently from the viewpoint of other Japanese (so I have heard). The change might not be from some overt, act-American-or-else pressure, but something was in their new environment that allowed or influenced the change. Granted acting American is a nebulous concept, but in my experience it is there. I'll let you know what I pick up on after my trip to the US over the holidays...I'll also ask some folks in my office what they think "acting American is." I think a lot of how you decided to adapt to a new place is what you expect that place to be before you even leave home.

Also it would be interesting to talk to parents of second and third generation immigrants and see if they think their children/grandchildren are somehow Americanized.

Originally posted by Golgo_13
"I'm sure there are many other complimentary things they have said about her. It's just a brief internet news article.

Yes, it was a brief Internet article and she strikes me as a very nice person, I was commenting more on the "more Japanese than Japanese" than comments directed at the lady.

Good discussion. There have been a dearth of them recently... :)
 
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