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Help Close encounter of the third kind

misternada

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I often go for a run in the park, there are small paths in wooden area, today a woman started to freak out at my sight and went against the wire mesh along the path in panic.

Seeing that I felt upset and I could not refrain to shout "hey, the war is over, you idiot, piece of ****, please don't come here ever" in my best Japanese which is quite good actually.
Nonetheless to say the lady flew in panic in the opposite direction and I went my way. Please not this happened around Tokyo not some remote prefecture.

Wonder how many people experience these kind of things, what do you thing of my reaction and if I could have problem with the law here for things like these.
 

bentenmusume

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Literally the only time anything at all like this happened to me was when I was studying abroad in Osaka about twenty years ago. A middle-aged man crossed the street when he saw me and just started shouting at me randomly. I had only been studying Japanese for like a year and a half at the time and thus wasn't able to process all, or even most, of what he was saying (outside of a 帰れ here and a 出ていけ there) but needless to say it freaked me out quite a bit.

I've been living in Japan for fifteen years now (Kansai for three years, Tokyo for twelve), and nothing remotely like it has ever happened to me since. I don't think this sort of experience is typical of anywhere in Japan (let alone Tokyo with its considerable population of non-Japanese residents), and think that on the off chance you're unfortunate enough to encounter it again, it's probably best to just walk away and leave things alone, as it's quite possible the person in question was/is mentally disturbed. (In retrospect, that was probably the case with the man in Osaka, though at the time, needless to say, I wasn't thinking quite that clearly.)

In any event, I doubt there's ever much to be gained from escalating or initiating a confrontation.

(edited for clarity)
 

nice gaijin

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Could you tell us how you phrased yourself, in Japanese?

Is it possible that you startled her? I would've probably apologized, as if she were in fact reacting out of fear to my foreignness it may have put her at ease that 1) I actually speak Japanese, and 2) my response was polite and culturally appropriate, and 3) I gave her the benefit of the doubt, instead of assuming that she was acting out of racism. By responding the way you did, you've only cemented her supposed fear and suspicion of foreigners as mean or scary... So forgive me for not patting you on the back for your ambassadorship.

Personally I've seen the uyoku tooling around in their black vans, but otherwise any time I was looked at or treated with suspicion it's been immediately dissolved when I open my mouth and at least sound like I belong there. I don't think my Japanese is too great, but by studying phonology I've managed to reduce my accent to the point that people are put at ease. Honestly, I may have felt more like I stood out as a foreigner when I first visited in 2005, but with each subsequent visit, I see more and more foreigners, integrating on a variety of levels, and it's an increasingly diverse city that no longer makes me feel like I stand out in any way for my gaijin-ness. Looking back at your previous posts from a few years ago, it seems to me like you've built this expectation up in your head, and you're looking for validation both in the way you perceive yourself to be treated, and in the shared experience of being the victim of prejudice in Japan. Perhaps you just need to travel a bit and take a break, since you yourself seem to be looking for confirmation bias in the way people treat you.
 

misternada

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Well, I often run there, some people just go their way, some people say hello, some look down, some are startled and stop,
here she looked like she tried to escape in the wood in panic if that was not for the fence, her reaction seemed way off,
which prompt me to say "大丈夫ですよ。戦争が終わったんだよ。" then I added "バカ!クズ!もうこっち来ないでね。"
not the best thing to say but it really came out naturally out of surprise by her reaction.

And by the way, the way I look is quite conventional, I could pass for a Mormon missionary.

I have been in Japan for a bit longer than bentenmusume but that kind of things happen to me on a regular basis, you might be right about that expectation up in my head, I was not paying much attention to those things when I was younger than I do now.

Here are some other examples that happened to me in the last year.

I was walking up a street with a couple of foreigners who came to Japan on vacation for a week or two, we were in Shibuya, there was a salaryman walking by and on seeing us said something like damn foreigners in Japanese and make a face that express disdain. The people I was with did not seem to notice it, so I just ignore it myself, but I feel that I am aware of the Japanese feeling towards foreigners because I understand what they say and also I am aware of their usual attitude and the different attitude they can have towards foreigner, where I feel people who just visit Japan cannot notice it.

I got on a lift in a place about one hours from Tokyo, there are a couple of mothers carrying a baby, one of them is crying, next stop a old lady get in the lift, she start talking to the crying baby and say he is crying because there is a foreigner in the lift, the mother seemed a bit embarrassed, then she start ranting about foreigners, I was caught off guard and because of the kids I did not say anything.

Also I have noticed that when my wife is with me it can cause issue as some clerk go out of their way to interact with her instead of me, that happened recently when I went to a home center, actually I went there once alone, made some custom order, the staff the friendly and all, next time I go there with my wife, the cashier was a older woman, she asked questions to my wife, such as "do you need a bag for this", I replied to everything, I am the one who pay, she go out of her way to give the receipt to and change to my wife, my wife told her to give it to me, I smiled and took it, I was a bit speechless, later I asked my wife about it and she though it was weird as well, so she called the shop and complained to the manager. I've notice that at some Sushi places as well, where you have to call the staff to count the plates, if I go there alone they give me the tab in my hand, but if I go to my wife they go out of the way to give her the tab, once she look the other way around and I look at the staff and then she put the tab on the table, a bit weird.
 

mdchachi

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Your experiences really sound bizarre. Especially the park incident. Maybe she thought you were running towards her in order to ask her directions and of course that would be terrifying. 😄
Of course the shop thing is "normal." If I had an Asian-looking friend who can't speak a lick of Japanese, the staff are more likely to address him or her.
I don't deny that the xenophobia and racism and simple ignorance is there but still nothing compared the good old USA.
 

nice gaijin

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Well, I often run there, some people just go their way, some people say hello, some look down, some are startled and stop,
here she looked like she tried to escape in the wood in panic if that was not for the fence, her reaction seemed way off,
which prompt me to say "大丈夫ですよ。戦争が終わったんだよ。" then I added "バカ!クズ!もうこっち来ないでね。"
not the best thing to say but it really came out naturally out of surprise by her reaction.
It makes me sad that that was your natural reaction; it was incredibly rude. You seem to be proud of your long tenure in Japan, but you don't seem to have learned much at all about how to handle this form of ignorance.

You know, you can look at all these experiences and choose to grasp at the way it all has affected YOU, cumulatively, and take it out on people for expressing their xenophobia or prejudice. I know that it can be tiresome; I had been stopped on a bicycle multiple times in the same week, on the same bike, by the SAME COPS... But being a good example can quickly smash those misconceptions, showing people that foreigners aren't monsters or invaders like they think, and helping melt the ice blocks in their own heart. While you're so focused on how this impacts you, you don't have to consider the experiences they may have had that have led them to have this reaction to you. I can imagine all sorts of reasons, and while none of them excuse their behavior, it at least explains it a little, and makes it easier to respond with kindness and empathy. It's easy to forget that the lady in the elevator has no idea what you've been through, or how many other times you heard racist remarks, so you can turn all your frustration toward her in that moment and say something like "the baby is probably crying cause they have a racist neighbor," and make her feel terrible and insulted, and leave her not with the impression that "oh, I shouldn't judge a book by its cover, foreigners aren't really so scary." or even "oh, foreigners can speak Japanese too, I should probably watch what I say in public." By responding in anger and turning the hard feelings you have for all the injustices you feel towards them, you are blowing an arctic blast that will further harden their own bad impressions of you and everyone you represent. Consider the excellent commencement speech "This is Water," by the late David Foster Wallace:


We can easily pass the buck and say that yeah, at least it's not [insert other racist place], cause the casual racism you've encountered does pale in comparison to what people elsewhere go through on a daily basis... because it's all VALID, just also relative and subjective; someone else's racism isn't about you at all, but all you have control over is how YOU deal with the situation. And so far it looks like you've dealt with it poorly.

I'll reiterate, you should consider taking a vacation.
 

Mark of Zorro

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Its not PC but it has to be said: a far greater number of women (but nowhere near a majority) than men are positively neurotic. I chalk it up partly to women so often being chosen and bred for their beauty rather than their psychological stability, but there are other factors as well, such as what sort of behavior from them is tolerated by society ie. how they are raised by both family and society. But of course, I wasn't there at the park, so judging that particular woman is even more difficult than it would be if I had been there....and judging people usually is difficult. There are many who think otherwise though and seem to think they have some special skill at mind reading and the general motive for whatever is generally decided to be bigotry/racism. How self-important.

So anyway, yeah, it just sounds to me like the woman in the park was a bit nuts and is most likely not fit to be a representative of 1) women in general 2) Japanese people 3) how anyone here feels about the war or 4) anybody at all.

That said, I completely understand the reaction and sentiments with regard to someone going loony at your appearance as a non-Asian in Japan.....the sub-conscious takes over in such situations. Without some sort of dedicated training that's the way its always going to be.

Wonder how many people experience these kind of things

I think its impossible for anyone to live here for a few months and not have at least one bizarre experience of a crazy, rude, bigoted, racist and/or confused person. But its also easy for people to forget that that applies everywhere on Earth and so, is not in itself representative of Japan. Its just the form it takes that makes it really seem representative of Japan, and I suppose it is a bit representative the words such people chose, their behavior patterns and the excuses they make trying to explain their subconscious reactions as some intelligent and conscious reaction (of which it is usually neither). And those often take the form of "Japanese ways are superior to yours". But its just a cover for their nuttiness/stupidity.

if I could have problem with the law here for things like these.

What you said won't be a problem but some Japanese moonbat reporting you to police for nothing can certainly be a problem as the police are always looking for some trouble situation (real or imagined) to inject their busy body selves into. And the moonbat being Japanese and you being foreign will only heighten their pursing even the craziest of investigations. That bigotry is real and common by my experience.

A personal (and annoying) experience I had one time is that I was cleaning up the back inside of my car (under the hatchback) one evening outside my small apartment building when the young neighbor lady walked by to access the stairs next to my parking space. I said "kombanwa" while barely looking at her and she said nothing but then ran up the stairs ran to her apartment (you could hear the pounding feet) and then slammed her door shut and locked it. Just plain infuriating. If she thought I was going to grab her, smack her around and rape her....well a stunt like that is what makes me think about doing it. Treat me like that despite being a guy that would be first in line to protect her from whatever and what is the point of me being that guy?? Might as well enjoy the perks of being the bad guy if I am to suffer the scorn regardless.
 

Majestic

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Shouting "the war is over" at a Japanese person isn't the edgy, in-your-face comment that you think it is. Its just a random burst of hostility. And, judging from your other post on the board, allow me to suggest that the problem is as much with your reaction to perceived insults as it is with the so-called micro-aggressions themselves. Maybe she was genuinely astonished, or even frightened of seeing a foreigner. Your sudden burst of emotion and rudeness isn't going to go far in helping her overcome her prejudice. And, in fact, some out-of-the blue comment about a war, coupled with actual, personal, insults is going to convince her that foreigners are to be feared. Why not just pass by and say "sumimasen" and be on your way? Why this urge to do the most gaijin of gaijin things and try to "get revenge" for some perceived slight?

My Japanese is pretty good, JLPT1 and translator's certificate and all that, but I don't insist that everyone speak Japanese with me. In fact, with each passing day I realize how poor my Japanese actually is. And I can tell that yours isn't as good as you think it is either. The sooner you come to peace with this, the better your life will be. If I'm on the phone or the internet, and I have a choice between Japanese and English, I choose English because its my native tongue. If the English of the person (or the site) on the other end isn't sufficient to get the information I want, I switch to Japanese. If the person on the other end wants to speak English, or insists on speaking English, that is OK with me. The constant need to "mount" the other person to show or prove that you have Japanese chops is something that needs to be discarded as quickly as possible. What it is is an insecurity about your own Japanese. You feel your Japanese ability is being insulted, and so to right the perceived insult you demand that the other person acknowledge your Japanese ability. It's a mug's game. And lashing out not only puts you in the penalty box for the duration of the game, it leaves an indelible mark on you as someone who just doesn't get Japanese at all, despite being able to say a few phrases.
 

Mark of Zorro

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misternada, I see a lot of people digging into you for your reaction to her reaction, treating you as if a better reaction from you would have accomplished something of worth. Of course I was not there but even if your post about the park is halfway accurate, I find it rather rich to blame you. A reaction to you jogging in the park is completely separate from your reaction to a woman running herself into a fence in terror at the sight of you. Your reaction to her is excusable as a normal human being. Her reaction to you is only excusable if she is a certified mental case....and as such, there is no curing her from your end of this deal.
 

bentenmusume

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It's hard for me to judge the true nature of the original situation, as I wasn't there and we're only hearing one side of the story. (To misternada: Mind you, this doesn't mean that I doubt the accuracy or veracity of your account, just that I don't feel too comfortable extrapolating too much about how extreme her reaction was as compared to your response.)

I will say this: I've found that these sort of experiences and encounters have happened to me less and less as I've spent more time here and gotten more comfortable with the language and culture. This is not to say that subtle racism and microaggressions and whatnot do not exist in Japan at all (they most certainly do, and in the case of the latter, they are not targeted solely toward foreigners), but extreme, outward displays of hate, fear, or hostility are not something I encounter regularly (or, at all, really) these days.

Thinking back, I have to agree with Majestic when he says that these things happen more often when you're (consciously or unconsciously) "looking for them". I do remember a time when I was younger and more self-conscious and insecure about my language ability and my place in Japan (and honestly, more self-conscious in general), and there was probably a degree to which I had a chip on my shoulder and this underlying feeling (not overpowering, but just something that was there beneath the surface) that I was being judged, ostracized or what-have-you. When you're carrying that feeling with you, it's "easier" to see the world through that prism, and that can, at times, become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

(Again, I'm not saying that things didn't happen as you say they did, or trying to "defend" some woman I don't know. She could indeed have been mentally disturbed or deathly afraid of foreigners for some ungodly reason. In that case, I would have to agree that confronting her in an intimidating way probably isn't the best way to resolve the situation. If you felt the need to say anything or convince her that you were a good person who speaks Japanese, a gentle どうかされました? or 大丈夫ですか? would probably be more effective.)

Majestic said:
My Japanese is pretty good, JLPT1 and translator's certificate and all that, but I don't insist that everyone speak Japanese with me. In fact, with each passing day I realize how poor my Japanese actually is. And I can tell that yours isn't as good as you think it is either. The sooner you come to peace with this, the better your life will be. If I'm on the phone or the internet, and I have a choice between Japanese and English, I choose English because its my native tongue. If the English of the person (or the site) on the other end isn't sufficient to get the information I want, I switch to Japanese. If the person on the other end wants to speak English, or insists on speaking English, that is OK with me. The constant need to "mount" the other person to show or prove that you have Japanese chops is something that needs to be discarded as quickly as possible.
I also agree wholeheartedly with Majestic with the idea of "leaving your ego at the door", so to speak, when it comes to Japanese ability.

That said, I can't quite get behind every sentiment here (especially the bolded ones). I don't see a need to default to English just because it's my native tongue, nor to entertain every Japanese person who wants to practice their English on me. I have no need to "mount people" to prove my chops, and am more than happy to converse in English with friends or acquaintances who are clearly interested and/or invested in the language, but if somebody refuses to acknowledge that I can function as an educated adult using their language, I will (diplomatically, of course) stand my ground.

It's not about "mounting" the other person or having some burning need to "prove my chops", but rather just about expecting a certain level of respect as a human being. I've found that if I'm confident, polite, and friendly about it, 99% of people are perfectly happy to talk to me (even when I'm in the company of my wife or Japanese friends), and this has gone a long way towards helping me take the aforementioned chip off my shoulder, as I know that the occasional ******* is the exception rather than the rule.
 

Majestic

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If I've given the impression that I think all foreigners should be complacent eikaiwa targets, I think I have not communicated my thoughts very well. What I mean is that I think if we see all of these awkward English exchanges as challenges to our dignity (or, something having to do with respect) we inadvertently give fertile ground to cancer that is the chip on our shoulder.

The thing is; if your Japanese is good, people are usually very happy to speak in Japanese. If people think their English is better than my Japanese, I'm perfectly happy to speak in English as they wish. I don't feel disrespected at all. I don't feel the need to have my self-worth validated through my Japanese prowess (such that it is).

For the original poster, I am imagining a scene in a park where he is running along the path, and some presumably older Japanese person rushes to the chain-link fence to get out of the way. Is it out of fear? Is it fear of the "foreigner", or is it the fear of getting run over? Is the person's mobility compromised and therefore needs a few extra steps to maneuver quickly? Has the person had a bad experience at the park before? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I do think that calling the person "garbage" is over the top.
 

nice gaijin

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all we have his his description of what the lady in the park did, and a transcript of what he told her. The "This is Water Talk" encourages us to use our imaginations to better empathize with people around us regardless of how accurate those musings may be. Ultimately it doesn't really matter why someone acts a certain way, but whether we can engage in non-complementary action.

I stand by everything I said, particularly that "someone else's racism isn't about you at all, but all you have control over is how YOU deal with the situation."
 

Lothor

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Thank you all for your replies, it is always interesting to see what other people think.
As for me went to run today as well, there were a lot of people and nobody freak out this time, so I guess I looked less scary today :unsure::unsure: :unsure:
Thanks for starting the interesting thread and being prepared to experience a bit of criticism!
Regarding people wanting to deal with your Japanese wife rather than you, keep at it: you're doing the right thing by insisting that you deal with it. Be aware of your body language so that you're making it clear that you are the person that the store clerk has to deal with. Once they've accepted that, the clerk will generally do their best in my experience.
 

nice gaijin

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Thank you all for your replies, it is always interesting to see what other people think.
As for me went to run today as well, there were a lot of people and nobody freak out this time, so I guess I looked less scary today :unsure::unsure: :unsure:
I appreciate your openness to hearing our opinions; you could have easily gotten defensive or upset over the way we came down on you, but instead of being combative you showed receptiveness. I think if you approach your potentially frustrating dealings with Japanese people with the same grace, you'll find things will naturally go much smoother.

This all just reminded me: back when I lived in Beijing, in our small expat community we'd have what we called "Bad China Days," which were just days when dealing with the absolute bonkers way we thought things were done in the city were just too much, and we'd be on edge and looking for some excuse to lose our temper with some cab driver or street vendor or little old lady getting in our way on the street. Everyone had a different approach to dealing with their Bad China Days, if we made it through with no major blowups we'd need to vent our frustration over a beer with a fellow foreigner who could commiserate with us, which in a way is what you've been doing the few times you started a thread here. I think part of the pointedness of my response to you came from looking at your post history and seeing that you came here only to vent about your "Bad Japan Days," because we don't know anything else about you. We hope you stick around and participate in other ways :)
 

Davey

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I agree that replying to her like that wasn't the smartest move but we all have our thoughts how we are sometimes being treated as foreigners here in Japan. Can you or not control yourself is the question. Something you just have to accept if living here in my opinion... Fight for it is another option and things might change but if you don't like how people treat you... It's up to you to stay or not.

One of my experience was that I sat at a food court and this lady in her 50s came to me and started talking... How she talked was a bit strange so told her my name was John (sorry just a name that popped up). She reached out for a handshake so politely I tried to shake her hand but instead of that she tried to kiss my hand.... Pulled my hand back but she decided to sit next to me. She kept talking about various things... But when I told her I was busy she got upset and kicked the chair. She then started to talk about my hair (when it gets long it gets a bit curly) ... You got curly hair... You must be GAY!!! I just laughed inside and went back to work... Told my co-worker from Wales who met her after that... She just told her to F#ck off....

Guess no matter where you live you will always have some people like that...
 

Mark of Zorro

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I don't know the answers to these questions, but I do think that calling the person "garbage" is over the top.

Have I been sneak edited?

I am pretty sure I used the word "garbage" somewhere but I am pretty sure I did not say a person was garbage, rather a reaction was. But I don't see the word in my posts here. Hmmm.

But I ask again; have I been sneak edited? I want to know and then we can go from there.
 

mdchachi

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Have I been sneak edited?

I am pretty sure I used the word "garbage" somewhere but I am pretty sure I did not say a person was garbage, rather a reaction was. But I don't see the word in my posts here. Hmmm.

But I ask again; have I been sneak edited? I want to know and then we can go from there.
No edits in this thread but why do you ask? Majestic’s comment was to the OP not you.
 

bentenmusume

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I believe Majestic was referring to the OP calling the woman クズ in Japanese as he described in his follow-up post.

That said, I'd also like to echo the sentiment that I respect the OP quite a bit for being genuinely receptive to taking all the opinions expressed here to heart. That sort of willingness to engage in self-reflection and discussion can (sadly) be rare on the internet (and even in real life) these days, and it's always a pleasure to see it.
 

nice gaijin

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One of my experience was that I sat at a food court and this lady in her 50s came to me and started talking... How she talked was a bit strange so told her my name was John (sorry just a name that popped up). She reached out for a handshake so politely I tried to shake her hand but instead of that she tried to kiss my hand.... Pulled my hand back but she decided to sit next to me. She kept talking about various things... But when I told her I was busy she got upset and kicked the chair. She then started to talk about my hair (when it gets long it gets a bit curly) ... You got curly hair... You must be GAY!!! I just laughed inside and went back to work... Told my co-worker from Wales who met her after that... She just told her to F#ck off....

Guess no matter where you live you will always have some people like that...
Sounds like you got a taste of what a lot of women go through when they find themselves in the sights of a thirsty dude, and try to politely extricate themselves from the unwanted attention. That's quite a strange experience to have when you flip the script like that!
 

bentenmusume

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Davey said:
How she talked was a bit strange so told her my name was John (sorry just a name that popped up).
Apology accepted, but if I ever get a call or email from a strange older woman out of the blue, I'm holding you personally responsible.;)
 
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