Attitude towards foreigners in Japan – Racism in Japan

This blog was running a poll on this subject. The question was;

‘Do you think Japanese people are fairly good to Foreigners?’

78% of the visitors to this blog responded that Japanese people are fairly good to foreign people.

21% of the visitors said ‘To some extent’ Japanese people are good

Only 1% of the visitors told that Japanese people are not good to foreign people.

What I conclude from the poll and along with my 10 months living experience in Japan is Japanese people are really good to foreigners.

Almost 95% of the visitors to this blog are foreigners. Foreigners themselves say that they do not face any kind of discrimination in public in Japan compared to many other countries. Many times the fear of Japanese people to talk in English is misinterpreted as aversion towards foreigners.

My own experience says I have not faced any discrimination till now. I used to commute the heavily crowded Toei trains and Tozai line trains in the morning and evenings. Literally the people are sand-witched. Had any of the Japanese man or woman or child showed any kind of dislike towards a foreigner at their face or action, I could have sensed it.

Reading through some Forums for foreigners, I had gone through many statements that they have faced discrimination in Japan. Some of the foreign people said, Japanese people are racists. In one discussion, when I commented that it may be due to the English speaking fear of Japanese people and told my own experience during the past months, I got the answer that ‘Jayaprakash is the lucky Indian’, who have not faced any discrimination till now in Japan.

I really don’t know on what basis some foreigners who lived in Japan say that Japanese people discriminated them. I have written in this blog on June that I used to attend a physiotherapy course for the disc prolapse and sciatic pain. 5 days a week I continued the course for 3 months and now continuing 2 days a week.

The clinic I have been going is having only Japanese staff and nurses. They do not speak English and I am not fluent in Japanese. I am the only foreigner patient visiting the clinic as far as I know. As part of the treatment, the doctor and the medical staff have to touch the body. I have not seen any kind of negative attitude towards me from any of them. In fact, they treat me as if I am a Japanese and exchange all kinds of wishing words in Japanese while I enter the clinic and leaving the clinic after treatment.

Coming out of the clinic, I used to enter the nearby convenient store (kombini in Japanese!) to buy snacks and juice. Instead of discrimination, I have seen the little sales girls who show interest to receive money from a foreigner!. That was really surprising to me when I thought of the bad experiences narrated in the websites and forums on discrimination of foreigners in Japan.

Frankly and very truly I can say, I have not faced any kind of discrimination or racism in Japan.

To mention one more warm relationship I have with my hairdresser Takagawa san, who runs his Hairdressing saloon near Toyocho. Every month I visit his saloon. He knows my choice in the Indian hair style. Only once for the first time in March 2008, I explained in my broken Japanese to him about my hair style. He do not ask me every month about the way my hair should look like. He knows. He talks in Japanese while dressing my hair. I could catch 20% of his words and the remaining portions I correlate and guess. The communication is all about an understanding between two people, not really all about language!

Some day, it will be time for Takagawa-san and his wife to take snacks and traditional Japanese food. All the time they have invited me to join with them. One day, Mrs. Takagawasan gave me a set of traditional Japanese food. At first, I hesitated to receive it from them. To be frank, it was due to my fear of getting discriminated from Japanese people as read in the forums and websites. They insisted me to take their food and I obeyed.

Having been passed through many incidents of life in Japan and mingled with Japanese people, if I am true to my heart, I can not say that ‘I face discrimination in Japan’. I am really sorry that I could not join that group of foreigners who likes to announce to the rest of the world that Japanese people discriminate foreigners.

For those who say Japanese people discriminate foreigners, I do not have any advice or do not know what you mean by discrimination. But think before announcing to the world: Is it only to catch the attention of public, because discrimination is an issue in your own country? So, you want to declare to the rest of the world that Japanese people are also not free from that devilish nature in the mind like your own country men?

Share:

21 thoughts on “Attitude towards foreigners in Japan – Racism in Japan

  1. I am from Nepali background and lived in Japan for around 2 Years but didn’t come across any act which I could possible call as racism and discrimination. If I get a chance, I would like to live in Japan. Of course sometime people are indifferent to you but it comes totally out of their busy schedule. Their are friendly, polite, ready to help anytime. If there are some people who think Japanese are racist, they have to visit country like Australia, America and most of the countries in Europe. I lived in Australia for 2 Years and many years in Europe and America. They say Asians are barbarian, Indians and Chinese stinks and its done overtly. Forget about the normal citizen, you can hear the racist comments made by Government Official all the time. Just like someone in this post said, White thinks they are superior and in any country where they go unnoticed they claim those country to be racist as they are not used to it. But its time to face it. Not everyone gets noticed everywhere. People are way to busy in Japan and normally they don’t have time to spare on strangers. Actually, Australian who work 4 hours, drinks 8 hours but still are indifferent and when they do notice you, they catch you will negative remarks are the true RACIST. After travelling to the different part of the world. Color only matters in Europe, America (not south) and Australia. In Asia wheresoever you go, people are friendly and always eager to help.

    1. Hi Rohit,

      Thanks for sharing your experience and opinion. As a person who had traveled in Australia and Japan, you can compare from your real life experience. What I feel is that people discriminate based on skin color, race, or on a number of other factors. It is common among us to find or look into what is uncommon in others. Very few people see the similarities. Our education system is also based on teaching children how to find differences such as the ‘odd one out’.

  2. Hello sir
    I am in Indian boy and I want to ask that if in future i want to settle where i should go
    South Korea or Japan which is the best place for me(indian- black skin

    1. Hi Negi,

      Since I have experience in living in Japan, I would comment about Japan only. Japan is a nice place. I have some Korean friends. They are also good. Basically, our experience with other people to great extent depends on our attitude and approach. There are good and bad people in every country.

  3. Hey jay

    It doesn’t hurt that you are fair and rather pleasant looking.

    But I think people should just go home ( China India etc) instead of expecting others to be accommodating of one.

    1. Hi Anonymous, It is known to many foreigners here that Japanese discrimination is not really based on skin color. They have their own traditional reasons and criteria for discriminations. Skin based discrimination may also exist in Japan, but to the public life, it is not well manifested. I have come across some experienced people, who say in Japan too, dark color skin is perceived as inferior to fair skin.

      Then, in this period of glabalization, people have to move across borders for the sake of business. It is not a solution to simply going back to China or India!

  4. I don’t think that japanese people are bad or anything else, it is just that some foreigners do not respect the japanese way of life.
    I eally wish to continu my studies there and stay THERE.

  5. As a half-black, half-white brazilian, I’ve experienced both sides of the coin when it comes these tense questions. So by my personal experience, I would certainly affirm that racism would have a lot to do with intentions. I know people who have been to Tokyo and some nearby cities and have endured quite a few unpleasent situatios, because they tried to play japanese. They speaked the language very well, and knew a lot about their daily rituals. It seemed to bother. On the other hand, I’ve read in many places that japanese people seem to be most receptive to those who try to blend. I’ve never been to Japan because of questions like this. I am a huge admirer of japanese culture, and probably am too afraid to face rejection on the vey country I take most of my references. And there is the skin color issue. I have no clue how a latin american half-black person would be treated. A nice japanese lady once told my boyfriend that, specially in tokyo, the situation is a bit worse. For her, the big cities represent more of a battlefield than an invivibility alternative.

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences and concerns. Surely, Japanese people put that barrier, We and You. You can never be part of We, that is for sure. As far as you are a foreigner, they respect you as a foreigner. After all, why we should act like Japanese? The fact that we are foreigners must be kept in mind while dealing with Japanese people. You can come to Japan and enjoy the places. Indeed, Japan is a nice place to see and experience.

  6. I encountered your blog by accident and felt I should add some comments.

    As Japan is one of the most visibly homogenous societies in the world, most people have little understanding of life in most multi-ethnic societies. Certainly racism exists everywhere in the world, and almost always it comes from a minority of the population. “Racism” is simply treating another person differently because of the ethnic group a person belongs to. In these terms, most Japanese nationals will agree that most foreigners face discrimination on a routine basis. Of course, most of this discrimination is subtle and often unconscious. More than most nations, Japan is perhaps, the most guilty of blatantly ignoring outsiders, which over the years becomes tiring and stressful, and accounts for quite a bit of misunderstanding.

    On the other hand, in my 16 years of experience in Japan, I have not encountered anybody of any ethnicity, who has been here a few years or more, and hasn’t experienced blatant, overt discrimination. Like anywhere, discriminatory attitudes depend upon a person’s international experience, education, income level, etc. Japan is a nation of individuals, and certainly everyone has different perspectives and preferences and certainly not everyone is nice (Japan has it’s criminals, serial killers, etc). I have run into Japanese people who have openly admitted that they “hate” Chinese people, Brazilians, Peruvians, Americans, Australians, etc. I have a Japanese-Canadian friend who was insulted in Kobe, to his surprise, for being “nisei”.

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      Thanks for sharing your experience and views on discrimination and racism in Japan. I understand the above comment is also from you. As I stated in replies to above comments, it may be too immature for me to say racism do not exist in Japan. The thing is that I haven’t come across it so far. That does not mean that racism does not exist here. Probably, I need to live here some more years and travel extensively to meet with that unpleasant guy (lol).

  7. I encountered your blog by accident and felt I should add some comments.

    As Japan is one of the most visibly homogenous societies in the world, most people have little understanding of life in most multi-ethnic societies, or the racial and cultural sensitivity that expected in other parts of the world. Certainly racism exists everywhere in the world, and almost always it comes from a minority of the population. “Racism” (by legal definition) is simply treating another person differently because of the ethnic group a person belongs to. In these terms, most Japanese nationals will agree that most foreigners face discrimination on a routine basis. Of course, most of this discrimination is subtle and often unconscious. Far more than most nations, Japan is perhaps, the most guilty of blatantly ignoring outsiders, which over the years becomes tiring and stressful, and accounts for quite a bit of misunderstanding.

    On the other hand, in my 16 years of experience in Japan, I have not encountered anybody of any ethnicity, who has been here a few years or more, and hasn’t experienced blatant, overt discrimination. Like anywhere, discriminatory attitudes depend upon a person’s international experience, education, income level, etc. Japan is a nation of individuals, and certainly everyone has different perspectives and preferences and certainly not everyone is nice (Japan has it’s criminals, serial killers, etc). I have run into Japanese people who have openly admitted that they “hate” Chinese people, Brazilians, Peruvians, Americans, Australians, etc. I have a Japanese-Canadian friend who was insulted in Kobe, to his surprise, for being “nisei”. Whether a person resents Caucasians because they are perceived to be “all rich and are stealing Japanese girls”, or avoid Indians “because they all smell of curry”, they are equally prejudiced statements. Over time, you realize that much of the overt discrimination is actually passive-aggressive, and that native Japanese are simply much more polite to other Japanese.

    Discrimination in Japan is technically unconstitutional, but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. I’m not surprised that highly educated professionals, or people in service jobs, who could be fired for overt discrimination, provided you with equitable treatment, but I guarantee there are people in other parts of Japan who will eventually treat you with hostility.

  8. There are indeed undertones of racism (or rather, xenophobia) that exist in Japan today, particularly among the older nationals. But to say that it doesn’t exist whatsoever because it hasn’t happened to you is ignorant.
    The meaning of Gaijin is “outside person”. I believe this attitude is due to an inherent sense of group solidarity, with roots in traditional values. They are wonderful people; polite, curious. But there is definitely a distinction between “we” and “they”. Slowly it is changing, especially as young people have a desire to travel abroad.

    1. Hi Anonymous,
      Respect your views and opinion. The time may show me with more experience. Who knows I will not come across some racist here in Japan too? Racists are there in every country and to be frank, I was not trying to deny existence of racism in Japan.

  9. Hi Jay, This is Warner. Do you remember me? We met at Geneva long before.

    Happy to see your Japan blog. Hope you do well in Japan. Write more and excite all of us!

    cheers

  10. I’m an Indian(from Haryana) and have been living in Canada for quite sometime. There’s one thing I’ve noticed that us South Asians face extreme amounts of hate and racism from white canadians. My Uncle living in US tells the same story about the behaviour towards South Asians and other minorities in america. Now here’s an interesting thing my cousin told me (he moved to Japan from US couple of years ago). He told me why white gaijins complain the most about things such as racism or discrimination in Japan. There are 2 reasons for this:
    1: They are too used to being the ‘top dogs’ in their own contries where they lived an ‘over-privileged’ life compared to the minorities. (they may or may not be racists themselves) They come to Japan and as soon as they realize that the Japanese people are not ‘kissing their ass’, they start complaining and whining that Japanese people are racists. Its shocking, I know.
    2: The second reason why whites complain about racism in Japan is because they want to tell the whole world that ‘they are not the only people on the planet who are racists’.
    Some of them complain that the word Gaijin is racist towards them. I can’t think of anything that is wrong with it. It just means foreigner and is a million times less offensive than the words whites use towards minorities(including Japanese) here in North america.

    And by the way, I love your Blog. I would love to move to a country like Japan in the future.

    1. Hi anonymous,

      I have to agree with you when your experience speaks out. Racism, that Indians or any other dark skin people face in European or American countries is more severe. I think Japanese people have some kind of friendly attitude towards Indians. Skin color of Indians also varies a lot. Some are brown, some are black, some are wheatish and still we see many Indians with pink color. Some Indians look like Iranians or other people from the Middle East Asia, while some are more like Mongolians. India being a multi-racial country have unity in all these diversities.

      One of the reasons for special consideration towards Indian people may be due to the fact that there are very few Indians in Japan. Almost all of them are highly skilled engineers or scientists.

      I could not find sufficient reasons from my own experiences to align with those foreigners living in Japan who always say about Japanese discrimination and still enjoying their stay in Japan.

  11. It does happen, but I’ve also enjoyed the same type of experiences as you; relying on a familiar hair stylist, and going through months of physical therapy with a Japanese trainer. Well said

    1. Hi Turner, Thanks for sharing your experience. Contrary to the anti-Japanese propaganda, discrimination towards foreigners is not significant in Japan. This is what my life experiences say. Thanks once again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *