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Foreigners trying to be Japanese?

kisu

後輩
4 May 2003
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What do the japanese people think of foreengers who act and try to look japanese?

Because I have (for the past few years) adopted the Gothic Lolita style and when I go to Japan I do not want to have to change that.

Do you think they will make fun of me for it? OR will they be so amazed (good way)?

I read somewhere that they like foreigners to be well....foreign...will they accept me? or look down on me for this ^^?

:eek: thanks~

~kisu
 
Here is a thread I sort of started a while ago regarding Dave Spector, the all-Amerikan Japanese wannabe gaijin that all the foreigners in J-land love to hate....


Most people in Japan (who are foreigners) think he is a sell-out to the stereotype of what the Japanese think a gaijin ought to look like and act like...

and many of the Japanese folks think he's strange because he tries to emulate being what a Japanese thinks a gaijin ought to look and behave like...

he does make the rounds on the J-tv circuit as the know-it-all reference source of everything American (probably the reason why so many foreigners, especially Americans, despise him so)

I dunno...why not just be yourself? Being another Spector-clone is not what Japan needs now.....if you wanna be a Gothic Lolita, then expect what you get over there...if you're worried about people looking down on you, then either learn to steel your feelings against feeling that way, or simply don't dress that way so you needn't worry about such things, to begin with...

basically, if you're worried about what others think of you, then don't try to stand out in the crowd in Japan...the less visible you are, the less you need to worry, since you'll be invisible amongst the throng and crowds of downtown Tokyo or wherever you end up at...at least that's my take on it....
 
Don't be a 'Cheerleader'

I could talk forever about all the people I've met who feel as if they are/need to be Japanese when they aren't already. It seems as Japan itself has one hell of a first impression on people. Once its endless possibilities strike someone, they fall head over heels, much as any would when put in place smaller than California with a population of 90% hot girls (5% older people and 5% business dudes for the girl readers.) I remember one time in particular where I stood in front of the Hachiko statue in 2001. Another American walked aimlessly amongst random Japanese people and said, "Watashi no name was Steve desu, hajimemashite!" at that point, I hung my head, realizing that people represented the foreigner population in Japan milk-man with a cart of goods way past the expiration date. Now, I'm not going to write what is acceptable behaviour because, in all honesty, their behaviour is a lot more (acceptable) than mine. Still, I feel everyone needs to examine themselves. Obviously, it's a given that your a 'cheerleader' in the sense of you have already taken quite a bit of interest in Japan. Now, this is perfectly fine. However, most foreigners take their interest in an obsession-like fashion, buying box-sets of anime, listening to JPOP (Japanese Pop Music), eating Japanese food religiously and more than likely wishing/already they/are lived/living in Japan and/or wanting/already marriage/married to someone who is Japanese, now for those who aren't already ritualistically tied up in such bad-habits I really want to discuss why it'd benefit you more greatly to step on home base more times than you do first.

When I've read posts, messages, and emails from people, it seems everyone is in a hurry to learn Japanese, be fluent, impress Japanese, wait for a second, and impress Japanese people? Yeah, exactly, it's not just language, the majority of people with interests in Japan mostly want a piece of it, they figure ways to impress mainly Japanese girls, but I'm constantly confused over nebulous theories people feed themselves with, one in which I hear too often that if a person can speak Japanese and/are fluent, then they will have a better chance with Japanese girls, success in Japan, etc. etc. Still, my opinion on foreigners speaking Japanese (example: steve, which I mentioned earlier) has the equivalent powers of impressing another as clown boots, it's too much, it's "out of the norm," and most of the time, it's quite comical even with fluency. A favorite quote of mine is,

"...Seeing that you speak Japanese, they will wag their heads and smile condescendingly and admit to each other that you are really quite intelligent -- much as we would do in the presence of a pig or an ape of somewhat unusual attainments." Basil Hall Chamberlain, 1904.

I agree with this, mostly because I've noticed it first-hand, but it's not only speaking Japanese, which leads to this. It's when the foreigners begin to act as if they are Japanese, wherein speaking Japanese plays a large role in the act itself. I need to constantly remind others that the majority of Japan is fixated on western society. Let me remind you again. Japan would NOT be fixated on western society if western society was fixated on Japan, so grasp a sense of reality for a moment and think about it.

Haven't you ever known someone who wished/wanted to be exactly like you so much so that they'd mimic your every move daily? Haven't you ever had a co-worker that copied your way of doing things? Haven't you ever had someone of the opposite sex obsess over you to the point that they'd leave eight-hundred-thousand messages on your voicemail a day?

I've come in contact with all three of those types on countless occasions, all of which eventually led to my own de-affiliation with those (types) who had been so caught up in me and/or my way of doing things. In those situations and also more so in the case of Japan, it's as if the old saying, "..just act yourself and people will like you for who you are" has reasonable importance for once, and this is what I recommend to everyone who is a foreigner travelling abroad to Japan, be yourself, this will lead to a better overall experience, keep in mind speaking Japanese and showing interest for Japan itself is never discouraged. Still, with every action, there is a reaction. Let yourself be the judge of your own behaviour, as would someone addicted to cigarettes knows not to smoke ten cigarettes at a time.


Josh
 
well, yea. i am being myself and I don't care what peopel will think, just curious as to the japanese peoples views on that.

Its not that im trying to be japanese, just that im really interested in it, especially the clothing style. but as that is being myself it will seem liek i am trying to be japanese, see? no doing it to impress them.

here its very unique and strange, but there it will be alot more normal and stuff so...

*cannot speak well with expressing* can you understand me?

-_-U

~kisu
 
Gothic / Lolita isnt a Japanese style.....it's origins are from Europe..... (-_-; )
 
Originally posted by Gaki
Gothic / Lolita isn't a Japanese style.....it's origins are from Europe..... (-_-; )

Yeah but if you check out how many gothic girls are in Harajuku you'd then assume otherwise.

Here is a video clip of the crowds and crowds of gothic girls in Yoyogi Park (Harajuku) one Sunday night.


Good luck on your trip Kisu, I'm sure you'll fit in.

Josh
 
Like Josh says, if you seen the folks in Harajuku, then it takes gothic-look to a whole new level....kinda scary, too....works well for halloween, but it's not even celebrated in J-land...at least not the way the folks in Amerika do....but even in the US of A of late it's not celebrated like in the old days... :(

Harajuku is a world unto itself....and the peepo just get stranger with time..... :D first it was the 50's look, now it's the gothic or cosplay....what's next?
 
I just wanted to say excellent post (Don't be a Cheerleader)above, Josh. I completely agree with everything you said. It is the way I've been feeling about those "cheerleader" types for a long time now...
 
I don't see that the desire to achieve fluency in Japanese necessarily has anything to do with being a cheerleader, though. At least for myself, I'm more or less just interested in communicating with some great friends, reading the literature, learning the history and basically enjoying the challenge of it all.
 
No, I don't think you're a cheerleader either, Elizabeth, because you know a lot about the Japanese way of thinking and their mentality as well as the language and many other things.

I think what irritates me are people who think everything Japanese is SO cool that they don't really see the negative aspects of the culture(and of course I'm not saying only Japanese culture has negative aspects)--and not only negative aspects, but just the complexity of the culture. They are just thinking "Anime! Cool! J-pop! Cool! Video games! Cool! Everything's cute!" or "Geisha! Nice! Everyone's so polite! Nice! Kimono! Beautiful!" To me, they are just scratching the surface. They have no idea why the Japanese are all so seemingly polite. They have no idea about the social pressures that both male and female in Japan have to endure, and even though they might not admit it, they rely heavily on stereotypes of the culture that the West has portrayed in movies or in subjective texts.

I have known people so obsessed with a culture that they have married into it, only to be disappointed later, because it wasn't what they thought it was.

As I've said before, I didn't know much about Japanese culture before I met my husband. Before I met him, I just assumed that all Japanese males were chauvinistic jerks who supressed their women. Now, I believe anyone who thinks that is just simply scratching the surface of Japanese culture and is relying too heavily on stereotypes and just has a too narrow view.

There is much more to Japanese culture than anime, J-pop, manga, and geisha. After you've lived with a Japanese person 24/7 for years and have actually had the desire to know and learn what makes them do the things they do and say the things they say(or more like don't say), can you begin know Japanese culture--that's my opinion, anyway.
 
But what about the ppl who are 'fanatics' about Japan? Aren't you necessarily telling them that they stop being themselves, aka loving Japan, and act more western? I mean I get your point and all, but it's a sticky topic.
 
Originally posted by Carolgirl00
But what about the ppl who are 'fanatics' about Japan? Aren't you necessarily telling them that they stop being themselves, aka loving Japan, and act more western? I mean I get your point and all, but it's a sticky topic.

No, I'm not telling them to be more "western". What is being "western" anyway? I'm just saying that sometimes people get too caught up in the "coolness" of it all and they lose sight of reality. It is really difficult to explain here.
 
Originally posted by kirei_na_me
No, I'm not telling them to be more "western". What is being "western" anyway? I'm just saying that sometimes people get too caught up in the "coolness" of it all and they lose sight of reality. It is really difficult to explain here.
Yeah, I agree completely. Certainly some people's innate personality and inclinations are more in line with the Japanese way of thinking and maybe that is what keeps them interested, but it really is odd to think of acting Western if that is where and how you were raised. I can pretty much guarantee you'll be seriously misunderstood and in for a lot of turmoil trying to pretend to be Asian in mainstream America. As Josh said initially you can't ever really go wrong in just being yourself. I know a lot of Japanese who appreciate the US for that very reason in fact ;).
 
Originally posted by Elizabeth
Yeah, I agree completely. Certainly some people's innate personality and inclinations are more in line with the Japanese way of thinking and maybe that is what keeps them interested, but it really is odd to think of acting Western if that is where and how you were raised. I can pretty much guarantee you'll be seriously misunderstood and in for a lot of turmoil trying to pretend to be Asian in mainstream America. As Josh said initially you can't ever really go wrong in just being yourself. I know a lot of Japanese who appreciate the US for that very reason in fact ;).

Definitely.
 
Good Books !

There are a lot of great books that delve into the underbelly of Japanese life.
"The Japanese Have A Word For It" by Boy'e Lafayette De Mente seems to explain a lot about the past and it's effect on Japan today.
I just started reading it yesterday and can't put it down. I think you have to go into Japan's history to really know it today!

Frank
 
I have that same book, Frank. My mom bought it for me a couple of years ago. It's interesting, isn't it? I've read several books by foreigners about the Japanese. I read so many that my Japanese friend decided to send me books by Japanese about the Japanese. It's very enlightening to read both sides and compare.

You're definitely right. You need to know a lot of the history of the Japanese in order to understand them, because it's still a big part of who they are, I think.
 
methinks there is a difference between peepo who know and understand a nation's language and culture and those peepo who merely attempt to grab attention for themselves because of their obsession in showing everybody how much they assume they know (aka Spector) and love to do it in the media so the rest of us must suffer watching them make fools of themselves...and give another notch up for the gullible J-folks who believe all gaijin are like that.... :D
 
Originally posted by kirei_na_me
I have that same book, Frank. My mom bought it for me a couple of years ago. It's interesting, isn't it? I've read several books by foreigners about the Japanese. I read so many that my Japanese friend decided to send me books by Japanese about the Japanese. It's very enlightening to read both sides and compare.

You're definitely right. You need to know a lot of the history of the Japanese in order to understand them, because it's still a big part of who they are, I think.

Knowing the history of Japan to understand the Japanese is one way.....another way is to just go down to Harajuku, or Shibuya, watch how the young folks are down there, acknowledge that many of them have no clue what they are doing and also know they are trying very hard to be unique by copying everybody else in that district (which probably is one of the underlying problems in current Japan with brand names and fashion trends that change by the week or by the minute or second) and you come to realize that the media driven J-folks are being manipulated by the unseen men and women that run the advertisment of the products...meaning that all the history learned about J-land is moot because multimedia Japan is now a hybrid of forced consumer capitalism :D

yeah, an oversimplification of Japan these days....
knowing the history of Japan helps....but watching the peepo is far more informative in the fad driven japan of today.... :D
 
I personally believe you cant understand another race.

And by imitating your most likely more confused then they are..
 
Originally posted by Gaki
I personally believe you cant understand another race.

I don't know about that since race is a questionable qualifier these days. But that is for a different thread.

Re: Cheerleading / Interests in Japan. There is a difference between modifying your behavior because you want to "become Japanese" something I don't think anyone can do, and behaving differently because it help smooth interactions in your work environment / community. One indicates obsession, and the other a natural response to a different environment. One can certianly behave in a Japanese way without becoming Japanese or denying their own feelings or behaviors. Lets not forget that. For example;

While I have lived in Osaka, I now work in a small village office in Kochi. Sure, I could swagger around like any tourist American, be loud, not aspire to learn Japanese and honestly no one would have a problem with it. After all, I am just being American as expected. All that is well and good until there is a problem or you have an issue to work out (opening a bank account, getting a drivers license, dealing with the landlord). When I have to go into contract negotiations for the next employment cycle, how far do you think I would get waving a dictionary around and speaking English as if to a monkey? How far would I get if I didn't show respect to the section boss in a way he understood/expected? Not very far is the answer. If there was a serious problem, what style of conflict resolution do I need to know how to use? The Japanese one. Work relations in Japan don't stop at 5pm. Going out drinking or to parties, things relax more (in my already relaxed office) but, and this might freak some people out, I still know my place and how to behave. Do I have to? Probably not, but Japan is not a place used to different ways of doing things. Until it is, the only real choice for foreigners is to try and play by the rules. Japan's rules. Everyone knows I am the American, and I don't want to be Japanese.

I wouldn't be able to have the quality of life I want unless 1) I can use Japanese to as high a level as possible and 2) at least make an effort to adapt to basic social norms of behavior. Doing both reduces stress for me an the person I am interacting with (especially if we don't know each other). It takes a very cold person to enjoy, or condone cultural indifference, by stressing someone out by demanding they speak English or constantly putting people on edge by brash behavior. The debate really comes down to is who bears the largest onus to adapt. The Japanese? To a small extent a better appreciation of different cultural norms would help, but after all foreigners made the choice to come to Japan to live and work. Why
should they expect to replicate their lives in a place with very different norms and rules (of course all this applies more to long-term residents, not to folks on vacation, though they could use some sensitivity lessons sometimes).

If attempting to play by a different set of rules that the ones mama taught me makes me "trying to be Japanese," then I am guilty. But I don't deny my American-ness (whatever that is) and I don't act Japanese in the US. That would be just as stupid as demanding everyone conform to my American-ness in Japan. I simply choose to express my American-ness in a way Japanese people will understand (using Japanese, conforming to expected rules of rhetoric, discourse, and social interaction). It is always easier to spread some internationalization to trusted friends than nervous strangers.

Okay, I have rambled on long enough. Yes, by all means, be yourself, but being yourself doesn't give you license to run willy-nilly over common courtesy. On the flip side, obsession and denial of the bad things in a culture is equally repulsive (IMHO). But, after all, When in Rome... You will never really be a Roman, but you won't get thrown to the lions either. -M
 
Originally posted by Mandylion
One indicates obsession, and the other a natural response to a different environment. One can certianly behave in a Japanese way without becoming Japanese or denying their own feelings or behaviors. Lets not forget that.

excellant post Mandylion!! Totally agree with everything you said.

There definately has to be a balance - while we don't go around pretending to be something we're not, it's in our best interests to fit in as much as possible.

I love Japanese culture, but I am not trying to be Japanese. I know there are negative aspects to Japan (and anywhere) but I like to be a positive person, not someone who delights in debating the negative side of the Japanese people and culture.
If other gaijin look down on me for trying to adopt some Japanese ways in order in fit , so be it - rather that than be the stupid foreigners who don't bother to learn the language, culture or just complain constantly.

To be genuinely interested in Japan certainly helps living here, and I can't imagine how difficult it would be to be married to a Japanese without being interested in the language and culture!
 
hmm... clam chowder is really kicking

i had a friend who was really impressed by Dave Spector
i remember it particularily because he showed me some pictures of him as a child and whatever
and bragged about him a bit "he said he always wanted to come to Japan, so he taught hmself Japanese"
although he lived here in America, dude (friend) was a nationalist, or maybe he was just frustrated with America
he also said the movie "Rising Sun" was completely true in describing "American/Japanese relations"
yeah, especially the edited parts
yah, that book is nice too, wish i had read it (and paid attention) from the beginning, my life might have been easier in that regard...
 
Re: hmm... clam chowder is really kicking

Originally posted by budd
i had a friend who was really impressed by Dave Spector
i remember it particularily because he showed me some pictures of him as a child and whatever
and bragged about him a bit "he said he always wanted to come to Japan, so he taught hmself Japanese"
although he lived here in America, dude (friend) was a nationalist, or maybe he was just frustrated with America
he also said the movie "Rising Sun" was completely true in describing "American/Japanese relations"
yeah, especially the edited parts
yah, that book is nice too, wish i had read it (and paid attention) from the beginning, my life might have been easier in that regard...

I mean 'Rising Sun' was a good movie and all but seriously, couldn't they have shown a naked Japanese girl and not just caucasians for crying out loud?! I remember when I was like 13, that movie hit the Showtime/Cinamax pay-cable channels, my family couldn't afford it so I went over to my friends house and watched it, anyways to make a long story short I've ate full meals off of my girlfriends and now at the grocery store I almost always ask for a paper-bag.


Josh

 
"Impressed by Spector?"
i mentioned it because he is a native Japanese
 
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Impressed by Spector? well, to each their own.....I will say his nihongo is quite good, but then some of his other antics is less so... :D
 
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