The Homogeneous versus The Homo Sapiens: Conversation 3/5/09

Student: I read your blog about the empty seat on the train. Is it fiction? I can’t believe it.

Me: Can’t believe what?

Student: Is it true?

Me: Well…I guess it does sound incredible. I’ve gotten used to it, though.

Student: You seem tired.

Me: Some days are rougher than others

Student: I really can’t believe it! I’m so sorry…

Me: No, no, don’t be sorry. It’s, uh…well, that’s just the way it is.

Student: I think it’s probably because of the media.

Me: Is it? I don’t watch the news here.

Student: The news always says black people are criminals.

Me: Yeah, I’ve heard about that.

Student: Especially soldiers. Like those soldiers in Okinawa, always doing crime.

Me: Always? What kind of crimes?

Student: Raping girls.

Me: There are a lot of rapes in Okinawa?

Student: Not a lot of rapes. But a lot of news though.

Me: That’s why Japanese people in Yokohama are afraid of me, you think?

Student: Probably. Japanese people believe the news.

Me: Do Japanese men think I’m going to rape them, too?

Student: (LOL) I don’t know…that’s funny.

Me: I guess so…Are Chikan (subway perverts) discussed on the news?

Student: Yes. Many stories about Chikan.

Me: 100% of them are Japanese men.  Why aren’t women afraid of  Japanese men?

Student: Ee! I don’t know. Never thought about that. Maybe they are.

Me: But they sit next to them and stand next to them…

Student: Yeah, well…

Me: And the media shows good images of black people too, don’t they? Sometimes?

Student: Good images?

Me: Yeah, you know, like…I don’t know, Barack Obama, Stevie Wonder, Oprah Winfrey, what’s that Enka singing guy’s name Jello or something? People like that?

Student: Yes. Je-ro…He’s very popular. Stevie Wonder too…and of course Barack Obama…

Me: Then Japanese actually choose to trust the negative images over the positive ones?

Student: Well, I don’t know…seems so.

Me: Yeah, well, anyway, media in America isn’t so great, either.

Student: (looking perplexed) Also, we are homo…homo…

Me: Homogeneous

Student: Right! That’s right! Japan is a homogeneous country.

Me: Yep. Japan is homogeneous. I have a question? If we are all homo sapiens, what difference does homogeneous make?

Student: Homo sapien?

Me: Modern day human beings

Student: Oh.

Me: UnlessJapanese think that human beings are like dogs, with different breeds…like Japanese are Chihuahuas and blacks are pit bulls and whites are poodles, that kind of thing… or maybe they don’t consider other people human beings…onlly Japanese are human.

Student: Ee! Everybody is human, of course.

Me: Do you mean just biologically, or mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well?

Student:  All the same.

Me: Then Homogeneous means nothing. We all eat, drink, breathe, fart, rape, steal, kill, lie, cheat…We all, or at least most people love their children, want a good life, work hard and…well, you know what I mean…

Student: Yes.

Me: If I treated you like a leper would it bother you?

Student: Leper?

Me: Hmmm….like a diseased person. Someone to be avoided at all cost.

Student: It would bother me…

Me: So it’s safe to assume that if we are both human then it will bother me, too.

Student: Uhh…yes?

Me: So, if Japanese know that what they are doing will bother me they either aren’t aware of what they’re doing, trying to be offensive, or don’t give a damn how I feel. That’s my conclusion. And if they aren’t aware they need to be made aware. And if they’re trying to be offensive then…I really don’t know what to say to that. And if they don’t care about my feelings at all then,well….

Student: I understand. I can imagine how it must feel.

Me: Sorry, I don’t like to say such things but that’s what was on my mind.

Student: I think most of Japanese don’t know what they do.

Me: Really?

Student: I don’t know. I think so. We are…We’re not…

Me:…used to foreigners?

Student: Yes, that’s right.

Me:  Ok

Student: So…well…

Me: Are you used to foreigners?

Students: A little.

Me: Would you sit next to a foreigner on the train?

Student: Of course.

Me: So if you can do it, then it can be done.

Student: Yes, but most people are not like me…

Me: This is true. You are rare in Japan. You work for a foreign company and use English everyday…

Student: Sou desu ne

Me: Ok…well, syouganai ne. (nothing can be done about it) Let’s start the lesson.


19 Responses to “The Homogeneous versus The Homo Sapiens: Conversation 3/5/09”

  1. 1 ItAintEazy
    March 6, 2009 at 11:15 am

    You and that knowledge of yours. If these otherwise decent human beings are exposed to this logic, but still don’t or refuse to get it, then really, what else can you say? Really, your half of the conversation should be framed and put in every train over there.

  2. 3 cooledskin
    March 6, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    It’s crazy to hear that person using the exact same logic that every other Japanese person you talk about uses. Why don’t they just come out and say “I guess we’re racist”? Oh well. I suppose it’s not my problem…

    And over here, we’re pretty bad with the natives. people are afraid of them, and cross the street so as not to have to deal with them. Everyone assumes a native is drunk or high, and ready to steal something or beat you up at the drop of a hat. They get upset when natives are granted new privileges (“Those Indians get too much money from the government! They need a hand up, not a hand out!”) and refuse to acknowledge the role of whites in placing native in a structurally disadvantaged position (“That was a long time ago, they can’t keep using that as an excuse!” or “So what? That’s not MY fault. My ancestors immigrated in the 70s!”).

    But anybody from my part of Canada would read your stories and get offended on your behalf. People are so hypocritical, eh? I’m probably not exception. I try not to, but sometimes I get scared, too. :/

  3. 4 Riyuu
    March 8, 2009 at 4:39 am

    Nice post up, makes sense and I think you planted a good “thought” “logic” whatever you wish to call it into the students mind that may or may not be talked about with his/her friends and family, if the topic arises hopefully into a positive one.

    My question that I always wondered about this is, do all foreigners think every single Japanese person is racist the more other foreigners hear stories about things like this? and if so why do the people visiting or working in Japan go there or stay there if the people are such horrible?

    I am a Japanese Canadian and I’ve heard my share of rants about this from foreigners, and there really isn’t much I can say since I don’t have 1 set answer, so instead what I did was talk to my Japanese friends and students at my college about this and I heard a few interesting answers (not saying they are right, I’m just bringing it to this discussion).

    One girl said, how are we suppose to feel if someone from another country came into your own country (Japan) and started judging the people there because they are naturally not use to foreigners?
    A example she gave was if someone from another country came in to Canada lets say, and started judging everyone there because they are naturally not use to certain situations/people/etc, what would you think and say about that person that has just insulted your people because the country that he/she just arrived in is not like the one he/she has come from?

    Basically I think in a simpler form what she wanted to say was, someone coming into your own country and saying “ok you guys are all racist because your not accepting me, MY country is diverse so we’re fine and dandy, but your country isn’t diverse and treat me differently so, you are racist!”

    Another thing that came up was (and I’ve heard my relative back in Japan say a similar thing )is that Japanese people think foreigners have this pompous attitude where they would show up to a different country and instead of understand and listen to that countries culture, customs, or social situations, and adapt, instead they bark loudly at the whole thing and verbally attack if they bump into something they don’t agree with.

    Some foreigners may have this “this is how I think about it, and this is how its going to be, your wrong I’m right and that’s how it is” type thing , which to Japanese people just makes them want to avoid people like that altogether (whether this be true or not) its better safe then sorry so even though they know Not every foreigner is like that, they don’t know who is, so its easier for them to just avoid them altogether (plus they can’t speak english) most of the time.

    There were more things talked about but those 2 things stood out so I am posting it here, please don’t attack the messenger as I understand where both sides are coming from.

    • March 8, 2009 at 10:19 am

      Hi Riyuu, thanks a lot for the long thoughtful response.
      First off, not to attack the messenger at all, but the questions you ask initially is the way nihonjin here ask and think about things. From my prospective you answered your question by the way you asked it. Any question that begins “Do foreigners think” is in itself a biased way to think creating an “us versus them” dynamic that I suspect will never change with Japanese (even if they are part Canadian) or with most people for that matter.
      And I can’t answer that question because I don’t know what “foreigners” think. I only know what I think (and some of my crazy friends…and oh yeah, my family…sometimes)
      But I will tell you what I think. I don’t think every single Japanese is racist. I don’t even think they are all cowards and xenophobic. In fact, I refuse to think that any entire race is anything.
      I used to think all white people were evil. I’m serious. I thought they were devil-spawned created for destruction. Why? Because there were quite a few of them going around doing really evil shit in America (if you know your American history not to mention World History) It was easy to make the argument they were, and many black people did. And since I didn’t know too many white people personally, I assumed the ones I knew (who were just regular people no better or eviler than anyone else) were exceptions to the rule or would eventually become evil fucks too. But, you know what? After a while that kind of ignorance just doesn’t hold water. You read and you grow and you learn and you study and you experience humanity, and eventually you come to the understanding that all people are capable of good shit and evil shit. So, there’s no way in hell I’d ever think all Japanese are racist.

      By the way, what the hell does naturally not used to them mean????Humans are humans…are Japanese not used to humans? Are Japanese some alien race from another planet? Or do they think that “foreigners” are from some other planet? If the foreigner is Korean or Chinese and keeps their mouths shut they don’t have these problems, so it’s not about “foreigners” is it?

      If Japanese dehumanize foreigners because, let’s say, foreigners (The American Government in this case) dehumanized Japanese by dropping two atomic bombs on her and fire bombing several cities killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people, then I’d be like Now THAT’S a good reason to treat foreigners like shit and I’d respect that a LOT more than this bullshit about “we’re not used to YOUR type!



  4. 6 Riyuu
    March 8, 2009 at 5:22 am

    Sorry for the double post, but by the way I just read your “lighten up, loco” after I wrote my previous comment, as you mentioned both sides have good points, I’ve also had foreigners rage at me over and over again and THAT alone has gotten to me, and yes I do see and hear situations that Japanese people do and say that also makes me think “why do you do that?, That’s what makes foreigners think what they think about you guys” *face palm* thing.

    Either or it would be nice to see things naturally smooth out, but to everyone visiting Japan one thing I would like to say is, people Always have a choice, whatever it may be, if something is just poisoning you then you have the choice to either go back home, or endure it, but trying to change society is hard, just like the saying “you can’t change people, you can only change yourself” and this applies to Both sides, to Japanese people and to the foreigners that are visiting.

  5. 7 Riyuu
    March 8, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Thanks for the reply Locohama,

    When I said they are not use to foreigners I meant exactly that, nothing more nothing less, no underlying hidden meaning nor did I say it to excuse how the state of things are with Japanese peoples attitudes towards foreigners or their ignorance.

    But it is not far off from what you said, they do feel like foreigners are different that’s why obviously this is happening , you may already know this but I will clarify in detail a bit more, one thing I know for a fact is they don’t know how to act or respond to foreigners, its like a reflex, where they just freeze and they don’t know what to do when it should be common sense.

    Instead they just walk away or ignore or whatever it may be, each person might have their own reasons other than being xenophobic like, they’ve never had the chance or rather been in a situation to really talk to and get to know foreigners, that’s why I said the student you spoke to now has something to think about and hopefully spread to other xenophobic Japanese people.

    Yes the only way to get rid of ignorance is as you stated, to discuss and to think and to experience and to immerse oneself in all sorts of situations and peoples if it sounded like I’m arguing that I apologize, I for one want Japanese people to overcome this xenophobic tendency, I don’t like seeing foreigners treated as they are, nor do I like seeing Japanese people being labeled as ignorant and something derogatory aswell.

    We as a people need a forum or youtube video or something to pass how the foreigners are feeling to the ignorant Japanese people, make them think, and if there was a forum where both Japanese and foreigners can really talk to each other and atleast get to know and learn more then I think thats a start, right now I don’t see too many places, sites, or settings where both sides can really talk to each other.


    • March 8, 2009 at 11:30 am

      Thanks again for the response, Richard-san,

      Don’t mind me. I’m just itching for a fight sometimes (-; Must be my aggressive nature. lmao
      However my faculties for higher reason are always intact.
      And I agree…A forum where these things could be discussed and ideas can be shared would be ideal. My buddy Sora has a blog and he discusses many of these type issues. It’s in Japanese mostly so i have a hard time following it unfortunately )-; But he invites all races to come and contribute to the conversation. You might want to check him out (-;

      Thanks again and I feel free to comment on anything you read anytime. I love thoughtful comments (-:


  6. 9 Aka Gaijin
    March 8, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    When I was getting ready to leave America, all of my friends said that my red hair would get lots of attention in Japan. It only took 4 months to learn that I’m seen as either blond or brown haired. Some make a distinction and say orange, but it’s been shocking to see how little reaction I get here. At least in Germany I was treated like a local. Maybe it’s the number of red haired anime characters…

    Anyway, I only mention this because my experience sounds like it’s 180% from yours. Maybe it’s different here in Kyushu. But then again, I had zero problems in Osaka, Hiroshima, and even Tottori (When it comes to sand dunes , we’re ichiban!!!).

    I’m inclined to give some blame to the American movie industry. Even I would get a little nervous standing next to Chris Tucker after watching him yell at Jackie Chan in “Rush Hour”.

    Then again, there’s the shows that I catch on Japanese TV that seem to be a reel of “Cops” and Fox News highlights with Kanji subtitles. They don’t paint a pretty picture of any foreigner, but I don’t catch any flack for the white criminals of America.

    Hmm… I doubt anybody will ever be able to make a reasonable conclusion about this dynamic until it’s a thing of the past. 20/20 hindsight is probably the only way humanity will truly understand international sociology. Dare to dream.

  7. 11 Aka Gaijin
    March 8, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    If Chris Tucker yells “DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE WORDS COMING OUT OF MY MOUTH” I’m gonna flinch. Then again, I can hear a dog whistle, and I avoid live concerts if I don’t have earplugs.

  8. 13 Aka Gaijin
    March 8, 2009 at 10:11 pm


    Have a good evening Loco (-:

  9. 15 Riyuu
    March 9, 2009 at 12:11 am

    Hello Aka,

    I’m glad to hear that your personal experience hasn’t been horrible and I sincerely hope it stays that way.

    Loco, thanks for that link you gave me, I went through a few of the posts and it is interesting to see its not just one topic but many topics regarding relations among international people, I will frequent the site and join the discussion, thanks again.



  10. 17 Jimichan
    March 9, 2009 at 12:11 am

    I have to agree with Aka. I’m white, 6’4″, 225 lb’s, and obviously STICK OUT in Japan, and I’ve never had any trouble. I’ve been all over, Hokkaido to the Ryukyu’s. Sure, there was one time that an old guy coming out of a restaurant after an obviously very alcoholic lunch muttered “beast,” (in Japanese, of course, one of the worst “curse” words I’ve heard here) when i walked by. I understood that he was obviously old enough to remember when the emperor was still a god, and had reason to feel that way. I bowed, and in my best keigo, apologized. You should have seen his reaction! A little scared, a little ashamed, a little hilarious! Then there was the time some high school boys were talking about me on the train, you know, speculating about the size of my “thing” and all. When my stop came, I just walked up to them, towered over them, and very politely excused myself, as this was my stop. Again in keigo. The image of their jaws dropping still makes me smile.
    Then again, I’ve seen other gaijin who don’t seem to have a clue! Wake up, people! There are reasons that people seem to shun you. If you know how to act, you can fit in (up to a point) wherever you go.

  11. 19 Bored in Kanagawa
    March 9, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Ok, here I go again with my drunken rants, the Japanese are xenophobic period! However, there is a reason for this, at least according to my point of view. Case in point has anyone ever noticed when Japanese travel they tend to prefer group tours? By doing this they have very little interaction with the local populace and return home with limited knowledge of the country they choose to visit. I also believe bushido plays a very big part in this society even to this day. By saying that I mean the Japanese only respect power and powerful people, anything perceived as weak is shunned and never to be respected. As blacks we have to deal with negative stereotypes, pseudo science, and one-sided revisionist historical accounts. All this leads the Japanese to have a clear abhorrence too us as a people which is wrong, however it does exist.

    I will give you a case in point: When I decided to marry my wife, we decided that both families needed to accept our decision. My family was supportive, but my wife’s family was completely against it. Her father actually said he would never meet me and he would not want a BLACK GRANDSON! What did I do you may ask? I told my wife to tell her father that I would visit his home on a particular date and if he didn’t want me there to call the police or make me leave! He choose neither the former nor the latter, he instead called his brother whom could speak English. Now we are ask thick as thieves!

    Something else that is important to know is Japanese Americans are cool as fuck! They completely understand their history and even have a museum in the Little Tokyo section of Little Tokyo. I took my wife there after my mom moved to L.A. and she was utterly shocked at how the Japanese were treated. It goes without saying that the Japanese education system is extremely slated and revised to keep the local population ignorant and xenophobic. Don’t believe me? Goggle who created the LDP who have been in power almost uninterrupted for over 60 years.

    I agree with Loco when he says that we would never classify all Japanese as racist, but they have to understand the difference in how they are treated abroad and how they treat us domestically.

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