Don’t sell your soul (or your identity) for Japan

Ah, Japan.

Love it and hate it at times. Not the country, of course, but the society.

Now when I say/write all this, I will be crucified for some points. Not by Japanese people, they couldn’t care less, but by fellow foreigners. They’re the type who sell their soul and often give up their own identity for the culture in which they’re living.

It’s common.

Many foreigners arrive here and decide to forget who they are and where they’ve come from in order to fully embrace the Japanese experience. I get that, I really do. I understand that they want to live the way Japanese people do because they’re here now, not their native country, but let me just point out one BIG FUCKING DIFFERENCE.


And they never will be, no matter how much time, effort and lifeblood they put in here.

Japanese culture and society will never accept you for being Japanese. This is reality and something that some naive people need to hear early on and time and time again for it to sink in. Some people realise this weeks after they arrive. Some people never realise it despite living here for 20 or more years. Japanese society and it’s people will want you to be foreign sometimes and to use it for all it’s worth and at other times, they want you to be Japanese and fit in because that’s what makes them feel comfortable.

Question is: does it make YOU comfortable? Are you comfortable switching between two identities (one real and one fake/adopted) in order to fit in?

Me? Nope, not anymore.

I’m a foreigner here, obviously, but I refuse to be like so many other foreigners who sugarcoat stuff. I’m Australian, we don’t do that.

But at one point, I did.

I didn’t want to change my identity; I’m always going to be an Aussie and fucking proud of it, but I did want to try and make my life a little more comfortable by being adaptable. There’s nothing wrong with that, but sometimes you find you lose vital parts of who you are because it’s easier than rocking the boat.

One thing I picked up very early on was to avoid conflict. The thing is though, sometimes you need conflict in order to change a situation for the better. Japanese society is very rigid and conservative and the society is very much based on hierarchy. Us Aussies, we don’t believe in that. Sure, we’ll give someone respect if they deserve it, but not just because they’re older or more experienced. If you fuck up, we’ll call you out on it no matter who you are.

I’ve done a lot of things here that I would never have done in Australia. By this, I don’t mean eating horse meat or drinking sake in a local festival. I mean stuff that compromised who I am essentially as a person and an Aussie, simply because I thought I should try to blend in.

Sure, sometimes you should. But you know what I’ve learned? I’ve come to see that you can’t blend in and why should you? You’re not Japanese, you’re you. And that uniqueness is special and no one can ever take it away from you.

Foreigners, don’t ever let a country change you so much that you forget who you are and where you’ve come from. In the end you need to be true to yourself and not suppress who you are to stay somewhere. If you do, it will just make you sick and miserable. If a place and it’s people are no longer making you happy, change your situation. Leave before you become a bitter shell of your former self.

Be who you, not who you’re being told to be.



One thought on “Don’t sell your soul (or your identity) for Japan

  1. “Sure, we’ll give someone respect if they deserve it, but not just because they’re older or more experienced. If you fuck up, we’ll call you out on it no matter who you are.”

    Obviously I am Asian (not Japanese though) and my parents have always told me to respect my elders…even when I want to call someone out on their shit, I can’t get it out if they’re my elder, it feels too wrong! :-/


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