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Racism in Japan


15 Jul 2003
Its my first time posting at Japan Forum so forgive me if I've misunderstood anything.

I wanted to ask about some of the posts I've seen in this forum which to me seem like blatant and quite frightening racism on the part of the Japanese authorities. Foreigners being blamed for crime etc.

Anyone from the UK will probably understand my shock at it. Racism in the UK is an arrestable offence with dire consequences. But it seems that in Japan theres government endorsed racism!!

Please tell me this isn't true because if it is I'm not sure I want to continue learning the language or the culture anymore.
This forum often looks at the more sensational/adverse aspects of living in Japan. Would you be really interested in reading about the funny show I saw on TV or the conversation I had with my neighbor? It might be nice once in awhile, but lets face it, we all like to blow off a little steam. Please don't give up your studies yet!!

Some government policies are quite backwards and often not in favor of non-Japanese residents. However, it is important to look at the whole picture when forming a view of Japan. In three plus years of living in Japan, in both the cities and small villages, I can count for you on one hand the times I have felt discriminated against. Interestingly enough, all of those times were living in the big city, but I digress.

Looking back, I feel racism in Japan is no worse than racism in other places, it just manifest itself differently. There are many unique challenges to life in Japan that can create situations where one may feel discriminated against because of cultural misinterpretation/unfamiliarity or language problems. Often times dealing with government officials in Japan is just plain difficult and confusing. You may feel you are being singled out, but sometimes the frustration comes from the opaque and time consuming bureaucratic process. I think part of the problem in dealing with officials is that they really don't know what to do with you. Japan still has a very small immigrant population, and contact with foreigners is still a fairly unique event, especially for a desk-strapped public employee.

I'm not trying to cover over Japan's problems or excuse them. Heck, I could produce a laundry list if need be. Racism does exist in Japan and some of it is due to insensitive government practices. However, I would really urge you to take some time and look at other aspects of Japan. If there is still nothing there you like, call it quits. But don't let a bunch of internet chat make up your mind for you.

Is racism against people pf African descent the same or worse than that of other "foreigners" in Japan (though all racism is bad). I've just heard in some places that all non-japanese people are looked at as foreigners (and not treated with repsect because of this), and in others that caucasian foreigners are better treated than ones of other backgrounds. Can anybody tell me their opinions on this?
Racism in Japan

I guess Japanese are real racist..
I have been hearing lots of people complaining..
They don't like foreigners but they travel too...
When will all these stuff stop!!!
people are becoming more a more DEVLISH
My teacher that lived there for a year that was caucasian said he was treated with a lot of respect and comfort. But I'm not really sure if Japanese people are really racist. I guess I would just have to go there myself to find out._. But I have to agree with Mandylion on this._.
They are many people's views on how racist japan is, and you will hear many different story's its a fact of life you'll only hear one side of the story for one person. So the only truely way to find out is to go your self . I feel on the topic of racism you just see for your self, you should take note of what people say, but just go see for your self. Thats what i feel anyways
I am, nor sure Japanese are really racist. Lot's of them suffer from both a complex of superiority and inferiority. They are very concerned about their image abroad, tend to copy a lot of the West and find their reference there, but they also tend to look down on other Asians, especially older adults. Nowadays, young people have a better relationship with Koreans, and even know a few Japanese-Korean couples among my friends.

But some Japanese believe they are superior to any country and would call foreigner barbarians, because they are more affluent and their land is safer, the food better, etc. That is, of course, not always true... Once again, it is the older generation truer, maybe because they express their feelings more freely and aggressively than young people.
The experience I had in Japan ( I just got back 3 days ago) was that everyone was conciderate towards all of our exchange students, and we had African Americans as well as European decent in our group. I guess I never had a situation where I was discriminated or any of the people in the group. One time though, when my sister was in Japan, she was sitting on a street bench, when an older Japanese man came toward her and started shouting about WWII. She understood, but it was still freaky. Some people in Japan are just like that, same as with any other country. Every country has some racists or people who don't like someone else.
But thats not gonna stop me from visiting Japan. No matter where you go not every singe person is gonna like you. But you'll just have to learn to live with it.
It's not that Japanese are racist, a lot are unwilling to accept change. Like the Americans arriving in Japan in the 1860s was not welcomed. But nowadays, it really depends upon what the situation is.

Koreans and Japanese (in general) have not gotten along because each thinks the other is inferior or whatever. But when they get together, they realize that the other side isn't that bad. I know I went through that with a 1/2 Japanese/Korean girl. But I've had more negative experiences with Koreans than good. I'm not saying all Koreans are bad, just the ones I've met have been very confrontational about me being Japanese and how my ancestors raped and killed their ancestors and that I should pay. Anyway, that kind of **** pisses me off...excuse me.

I dunno, we're weird as a group of people. We're considerate towards others, but at the same time we can stand behind a great amount of prejudice towards people. we're weird that way :p
man i don't really understand this people who hate others for some reason just like that coz they are white/black muslem/cristian etc.

This is not gonna stop me from visiting japan and learn their culture and language 😄
i am of indian origin and living in britain, and went on a high school exchange to osaka in july, expecting to be met with hostility, but it was totally not like that. in fact, i felt that i was treated with more respect than my white partners. i don't know if this was just because i went to osaka, where people are said to be more down to earth than other japanese. is it different in other parts of japan??
Just to compare... in Germany, it's that way that south-east Germany (Bavaria) is thought of to be very old-fashioned, intolerant, a bit racist as well... in France its the south-east as well if I'm right because of the masses of immigrants that enter France at that part.
My Cop Story:

I'm riding my bike down the road one evening.

Coming up the road the other way are a group of policemen- maybe 15 of them- and they've got flashlights and they're obviously on some sort of training mission or traffic detail... I don't know.

Anyway, as I get near them the lead cop orders me to stop, which I do, pulling onto the footpath.

He orders: "Passport!"

At this point ALL the other cops SURROUND me and start shining their flashlights on me- what the hell?!?

I don't have my passport, but I give him my gaijin card.

He says: "You've got a Japanese wife."

I tell him: "I'm divorced now."

He says: "You got married so you could stay in Japan, didn't you?"

I'm thinking: right! I left my beautiful country so I can live in Japan and put up with the smog, the summer humidy etc etc......

Wisely, instead of verbalising any of that, I tell him: "That's got nothing to do with anything. I have a 3-year Working Visa now, see?"

I get asked: "Is this your biclycle?"

"Yes," and I show him the registration.

I get looked up and down, flashlights going all over the bike & me, then I get an "Okay" to move on.

Which I did.

So....................... what the hell was all THAT about?!? :(
Hmmm... a few of ya have lived in Japan for a long time & know alot better than me... but I must say that when I went over for a month there around Christmas time... I didn't experience anything that I would call "racism"... I also found that I could walk around the streets at night & actually felt totally safe... (I was with my Japanese girlfriend all the time though & could have been just happy deluding myself!)...
I must add though that we never went to any "clubs" at night...
& I hear that that's where ya might find yourself getting into a bit of trouble... especially if you're alone... I think that's the thing... if you're with some Japanese friends you'll be fine.... but maybe it's not such a good idea to wander around at night on your own... but then again... in what country *is* it safe to do that?
Ninja Rock Star... "ouch!".. that's a pretty sad story!...
I *could* add a little story of my own with a little crying face like that.... that *really* made me think twice about my opinion of the Japanese people...but I like to hope that my sad little story.. (that I'm not gonna go into for various reasons)... was just *one* person's stupid way of looking at things...
I found 99% of people over there to be friendly & helpful!...
you'll always get the few that are close minded anywhere ya go!
Anyone thinking of going there.... *GO!*.. it is an *amazing* place! - the festivals are *incredible!* & be sure to check out the countryside in Japan as well!... *sooo* beautiful!*... don't let people's bad experiences put ya off! - that month I spent in Japan was *the* best month of my life so far! Ganbatte Kudasai!
Rock on Dadio. You hit the whole issue right on the head perfectly. And to some other people, Japan may suck because of the little things and experiences that turn them off, but if you shrug it off and keep on having the time of your life, you will truly love Japan for all it's worth.

And my experience in Japan has literally been the best time of my life.
true Sgt. Wang, it depends on what you call racism as well- the little (less than daily) bickerings are to be ignored- cause its everywhere the same in the whole world...and it only depends on outer apearance (chinese dont encounter it in japan but on a second level)- and i also have to say: i personally always have had good experiences w the police: once i lost my saifu(ツ催?窶「z) the officer even lend me money!!-

BUT i also heard otherwise eg from a friend who said that in car accidents its always the fault of the foreigner...well anyway try to go to some backwater inaka town-like somewhere in the touhoku region and watch the "imo neechans"(sorry for the lack of political correctness) eyes nearly fall out at seeing you walking by- that funs just worth all the discrimination in the world! (meaning:always take it easy!)
I was in Japan in April and I must say that, even when walking around the streets after midnight, I felt much safer in Tokyo than I could ever feel in the UK.

Most Japanese are ultra helpful. When I was looking for a record store in Osaka, one man that worked in a department store took me about half a mile down the road just to show me where the record shop was!! This degree of help would never be found in Britain.

More than being discriminated against you will be the centre of attention.
One time my father, who is an avid coin collector, talked to one of my friend's grandfathers. He then asked about the currency in Japan, because he was interested in it, and my friend's grandfather started to give him information and they talked back and forth. Then when he was done looking, the man told him he could have some very old Japanese coins and this extremely rare 20,000 yen prototype that hasn't even been released yet. It was extremely generous, and it was just because my father was interested in the currency. Another reason how Japanese people are extremely courteous.
And to some other people, Japan may suck because of the little things and experiences that turn them off, but if you shrug it off and keep on having the time of your life, you will truly love Japan for all it's worth.
Ok i totaly agree whit that but you can't tell me that there isn't something really wrong in japaneese people. I don't really think that j people are rasist but pls tell me how could you say someone is a criminal only coz he is a foreigner. This is the most stupid think i ever heard. Is this really happening in japan ???

Anyway i still like Japan 😄
Uhh.........I think you got the wrong quote in your reply. I wasn't the one that had the crappy experience, I was the one who was defending Japan. For the main part I have no idea what you are talking about. Sorry!
Osiris said:
It's my first time posting at Japan Forum, so forgive me if I've misunderstood anything.

I wanted to ask about some of the posts I've seen in this forum, which seems like blatant and quite frightening racism on the part of the Japanese authorities. Foreigners being blamed for crime etc.

Anyone from the UK will probably understand my shock at it. Racism in the UK is an arrestable offence with dire consequences. But it seems that in Japan there's government-endorsed racism!!

Please tell me this isn't true because if it is, I'm not sure I want to continue learning the language or the culture anymore.

the reason this thread was started reveals more about the foreigners in japan than it does about the Japanese

I see you're from the UK, like me. It's nice to think we have laws against racism in the UK. I'm sure they have some in japan too, I don't read Japanese though so I have to go by what others tell me....like most people who talk about racism in Japan.

Japan is no more racist than ANYWHERE on earth. they don't have such a politically correct vocabulary, but then I don't believe they are quite aggressively racist as some western countries are...Europe, the u.s., Australia etc

From personal experience, japan is the friendliest place I have EVER been to. if you are thinking of not coming here or ditching your studies because of some internet message board, I urge you to ignore all you read

It's a peculiar thing about japan that westerners feel they can wax lyrical about all that is wrong with it. There is plenty of stuff that is wrong with it but no different from anywhere else. Just look at this forum and all the threads about all kinds of weird stuff. The worst racism I have encountered in japan is from the westerners against their hosts. Whilst still expecting them to pay them well and sort out all their needs.

Some of them should try being Asian in their own countries. Then they would find out about racism. And as your from the UK and so shocked by racism...have you opened a copy of the sun or the daily mail recently??
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