Japanese Ethnocentricism

Japanese Ethnocentricism

Written by sonicsuns

Topics: Everything, Tips

Today I’ll be talking about Japanese Ethnocentricism, which is basically a euphemism for Japanese Racism (assuming that “Asian” is more than one race). But, uh…I didn’t wanna be rude.
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/And let’s just note that discrimination is often difficult to measure. And furthermore, discrimination is not unique to Japan.
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/Anyway, here are some of the things I heard before I got here:
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  1. The Japanese see themselves as superior to all foreigners.
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  3. The Japanese have mental ranks for various types of foreigners. The highest-ranking foreigners are white people who speak fluent English. The lowest-ranking foreigners are Koreans (North or South doesn’t matter). All Asians (except the Japanese themselves, of course) rank lower than non-Asians.
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  5. The feeling is mutual. Other Asians (Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese) dislike the Japanese. In fact, Asians in general dislike other Asians, (except the Asians from their own country).
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  7. White people and the English language are considered “cool”. That’s why you see so many ads with a bit of English, or company names written in English letters, etc.. But just because this stuff is “cool” doesn’t change the basic Japanese sense of superiority.
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  9. Japanese people living in Tokyo (where the number of foreigners is higher) are more tolerant than Japanese people living elsewhere, particularly the countryside.
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  11. The Japanese are unfailingly polite, and thus must express their discrimination with subtlety. No one will outright say “You’re inferior because you’re an X”, but they might be less likely to hire you, etc.. I’ve been told that while it’s easy for a foreigner to make Japanese acquaintances, it’s hard to make any true friends.
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  13. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived here, or how well you speak Japanese, or even if you attain Japanese citizenship. You’re still a foreigner, and you still face discrimination.
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/Now, the question is this: How much of all that is true?
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/And the answer is: I’m not really sure.
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/(A couple of random notes: First, if other Asians are biased against the Japanese, then they might overestimate the amount of Japanese bias towards them, and vice-versa. Second, I’m told that the reason the Asians hate each other stems from warfare, for instance in 1920 the Japanese conquered Korea, and they’re pissed that they had to give it back after World War 2. Though, if World War 2 is the issue, you’d think they’d really hate the Americans, ’cause of, ya know, the atomic bombs. But apparently…I don’t really know, guys. I don’t get it.)
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/Let’s hear from some sources:
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  1. A Chinese friend of mine says he faced discrimination at his part-time job. They didn’t give him enough training, and then blamed him for not knowing how to do stuff.
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  3. That same Chinese friend has accompanied me inside a Japanese home multiple times to help teach English to a Japanese middle-school student. There was no apparent discrimination, and he offered no complaints after the fact.
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  5. In America, I met a guy running a booth for a foreign exchange service. He told me that it’s hard to make any real friends among the Japanese.
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  7. A friend of mine who has been here for years confirms the previous point. He says he hangs around with Japanese people all the time, but in several years he’s made only 2 or 3 real friends.
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  9. Tim Ferriss, a famous American author who speaks fluent Japanese, says that the Japanese are not biased against foreigners, and that if they seem rude to you it’s probably because you were rude to them first. (For instance, expecting them to understand English)
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  11. None of my Korean friends have complained to me about discrimination, though I haven’t really asked about it.
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  13. The New York Times documents extremist Japanese who hate koreans.
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  15. I saw one study that showed Japanese people have fewer friends on social networking sites. One person says the results could suggest “a culture that embraces fewer but closer friendships”. In which case, maybe difficulty making Japanese friends is less because you’re a foreigner and more because that just the way friendships work around here.
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/What about my personal experience? First let’s make a few notes:
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  1. I’m probably not the best person to judge, because I don’t always pick up on subtle social cues. It’s possible I’ve experienced discrimination and didn’t realize it.
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  3. Due to my circumstances (i.e. most of the people on my floor are foreigners), I’ve spent more time with foreigners that native Japanese
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  5. I’ve only been here since April, so clearly I’m not an expert
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/And here’s my experience: (wow this post has a lot of lists in it…)
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  1. No one has ever been overtly rude to me.
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  3. Little kids tend to stare at me, possibly because I’m the first white guy they’ve ever seen in person. But the kids don’t get nasty, so it doesn’t bother me.
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  5. There’s a Japanese lady who sells yakitori (a sort of meat-on-a-stick) from a stall on the street. She and I have had several conversations (with me stumbling though my Japanese the whole time) and she shows no reluctance to talk to me
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  7. As mentioned above, I teach English to a middle-school student inside her home. Her family has always been welcoming.
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  9. I met a native Japanese guy at a party, and we immediately got along. I missed the last train home, so he offered me his room (even though there was a Common Room I could’ve slept in). He slept on the floor, and let me use his bed. The next morning, he bought me breakfast.
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/So, personally, I haven’t experienced much (or any) racism. But that’s just me.
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/I guess the lesson is this: There are 127 million people in this country, and if you keep your eyes open I’m sure you’ll find someone to be friends with.
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/Image credit: williamcho

  • Gutharius

    Perhaps, like in America, there is a certain part of the Japanese populace that is more prone to this behavior. Like a “red neck” Japanese, if you will. I would think most urban populations around the world would be more tolerant to others much like they are here. But you never now. Nice post tho.

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