The problem with Western men in Japan

No, I won’t say anything here, because this article written by a white foreign male in Japan says everything and more.

The quote in the third last paragraph is classic and the second last paragraph says everything white, Western women know here about white, Western men. Too much baggage! Women deal with it, men run away.

 

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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.

THEY ARE NOT JAPANESE.

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.

 

The Youth of Japan

Last Sunday Japanese people took to the polls in a snap election called by the Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe. You can read countless stories on The Japan Times website, as well as every other major newspaper, online or in print.

Despite winning again, according to statistics, 51% were dissatisfied with him. Why then, would they vote him in again?

Some say that it’s because there wasn’t a lot of other choice, but to be honest, isn’t this always the way with politicians and elections no matter which country you’re in?

What I found most fascinating though is that unlike my native country of Australia, voting is not compulsory and with the typhoon and rain last weekend, many people simply did not go to vote.

Secondly, many young people both in the media and ones I spoke to said there was no point: 2/3 of the population are over 60 and as the majority of them are conservative voters, there was no chance of anyone else but Abe winning the election.

I am watching with interest and wondering what will happen when all those old people finally die and the population of Japan has the decreasing youth who will be in charge of the country.

Knowing a lot of the radical students who are already breaking tradition in Japan, I think the future will be very different indeed. I suspect that people like Abe will be cast aside for new blood that will restructure the face of Japan. Many older people wish that Japan was more like it used to be, but like everything in life, you can’t go back. The youth of Japan, with their fascination with foreigners and the Western ways and ideas of life will change Japan in the end. Sure, Japanese culture will still be there, but it will never be what it used to be.

Prime Minister Abe has his work cut out for him.

 

Being creative is sometimes the hardest thing to do

I am going to confess something; something that bothered me for a very long time, but that I eventually faced and overcame. I hope that by sharing this example I can help other people who may be scared, to face their fears and realize, that forgiving ourselves is sometimes far more important than being forgiven by others.

Ten years ago I was living in Tokyo as a freshly graduated student who was unsure what she really wanted to do in life. I was teaching English part-time and writing in any free time I had. I enjoyed reading ‘Metropolis,’ which was and still is, the largest English publication in Japan. I was particularly interested in the last page, which was entitled, ‘The Last Word.’ This was usually written by a gaijin English teacher who wrote about their experiences in Japan and what they did or didn’t like or what they found strange or interesting.

As a writer I decided to give it a go for myself and when I’d finished I asked my two housemates to sit down while I read it to them. I wanted to know what their opinion was and whether they thought it was good enough to publish.

When I finished reading it I looked up to find two people staring at me intently. I wasn’t sure how to react. Did they hate it?

My Scottish housemate grinned and said, “I love it! It’s hilarious!” My other Canadian housemate was not so enthusiastic. “Seriously? You think all that?”

“Well it’s not to be taken seriously!” I said. “It’s just a joke. I’m an Aussie, we pay out on people all the time, but we don’t really mean it. If we really, really meant it, we wouldn’t say anything.”

I knew I was trying to justify what I’d written. In my heart of hearts I knew it sounded offensive. Really offensive. I sounded like a stereotypical gaijin know-it-all… the type that today, I stay as far away as possible from.

Despite my Canadian housemates feelings, I submitted the piece and was thrilled when the magazine agreed to publish it. My joy was short-lived.

On the day it was published I stupidly decided to read people’s opinions about it on the website. Most of them consisted of telling me if I didn’t like it here, I should go back to Australia. Funnily enough, all of the comments were from foreigners. No Japanese person seemed to be offended and I even received congratulations from my hairdresser who had read the piece and said he thought it was really funny and well written.

Admittedly, when I read the piece years later I cringed initially, but after re-reading it many times I realized just how young I was and how immature my writing was at that stage. People say that good writing or art should make people uncomfortable and cause a reaction; I’m not so sure. Yes, it certainly caused a reaction, but it was one that embarrassed me and one that offended many, many people. That was never my intention.

Whatever the case, I was so depressed and stressed by what I’d written that in the end I decided the critics were right. I loved Japan, but I felt after what I’d written, I had no right to stay there. Like a dog with its tail between its legs, I left. I never told anybody that that was the real reason; I made up an excuse about being sick and going back to Australia.

This situation haunted me for years. I stopped writing because I was scared that anything I wrote was going to be offensive or hurt someone and I didn’t want to do that. I felt that writing had also hurt me and caused me to be vulnerable. I didn’t want anything to do with it.

Just the other day I was reading Brené Brown’s book, ‘Daring Greatly,’ and I came across the term, ‘creativity scar.’ It refers to a specific incident where a creative person (artist, writer etc.) is told they aren’t any good at their chosen craft. I wasn’t specifically told I wasn’t good, but because I had hurt so many people with what I’d written (rather than someone who likes writing to make people feel good or to think about something, which is what I want), I figured the best thing was not to write at all. That way I would never hurt anyone again; stupid thinking and totally irrational, but understandable given the circumstances.

Many years later I spoke to a friend about it and said that I’d been thinking about moving back to Japan. I confessed what had happened and told her that I was scared the government wouldn’t grant me a visa because I’d offended so many people in the country. I was shocked when she laughed. “Oh you silly thing! You think people even remember that?! You’re being super paranoid! No one cares, move on!”

So I did. I started writing again and I got my new visa.

And my friend was right. I What I learned was that I was the only one who still remembered it. I was the one who was beating myself up about it, when everyone else had either forgotten or moved on from it a long, long time ago. We are always harder on ourselves than anyone else can ever be. Don’t forget that. Instead, forgive yourself, you’re only human.