Lighten up, Loco

I’ve been doing some thinking…a lot of thinking, actually. For the most part I’ve focused my blog on Japanese people, culture, customs and idiosyncrasies, and the highs and lows of living among them, as well as the effect of xenophobia on the soul. What I have ignored to a large degree is the issue of other people living here who also have a significant effect on ones experience here: other foreigners.

I’ve touched on it several times. I’ve discussed why avoiding gaijin is in your best interest but in that post I focused primarily on the haters. The hex that Japan tends to put people under has long since worn off of these folks (assuming they had been enchanted in the first place) and they have become like dope fiends after the dope is all gone, only once it’s gone- this spell- it’s gone. And there’s no methadone to replace it with. Most turn angry. Angry and bitter! Angry at the people still under the spell (high) or in the process of being spellbound, angry at the people they hold responsible for putting the spell on them (the Japanese mostly), and angry at themselves for being weak enough to be taken in by what amounts to an obvious delusion. Some were that way already and just reverted to form.

Yep, I said it before and I’ll say it again: Avoid them!

But there are other types of foreigners here, and sometimes they’re just as relentless as the haters.  I won’t try to categorize them because in the end I’ll just look like a fool because no one fits nicely into any category, not even Japanese people. So, for the purpose of this entry, I will focus primarily on why they have given me pause- these others.

Yes, just like on that island on “Lost” we have us some “Others” here, too.

“Lighten up, Loco!” says one of these others. “We’re all in this together.”

“Stop behaving like a petulant child,” says another other. “That’s  so old hat.”

You are the problem!” says yet another other. “Japanese fear of you is warranted. You’re creepy!”

Some of the comments were in response to entries like those under “acts of retaliation” or any entry in which I express any negative thoughts about Japan or Japanese people, or, god forbid, retaliate in anyway. The responses seem to be designed to make me feel ashamed of myself, like somehow I should know better (I guess due to my 5 year tenure here or the aptitude or potential for good thoughts and deeds I’ve demonstrated in other posts I’ve written, or because I come from another planet where tolerance for impertinence and irreverence and inhumane treatment is a virtue), chastising me for behaving and responding as I do to Japanese disrespectful behavior. Some of them are just hate-filled because, well, let’s face it, some people are just fucking hateful.

Some of them seem to be pushing towards enrollment in the Kneel and Suck it like a Good Gaijin and Stop your Miserable Complaining Already College of New Hat Thinking.  Their school motto is: Japanese, regardless of their behavior, are not the problem at all! You, and pissing moaning malcontents like you, are the Problem. My retaliating and, in some cases, my very presence here is the problem and if  it weren’t for gaijin like me, gaijin like them would be 10 times better off…so I should join their ranks or, better yet, go home.

The other option is the Whisper Words of Wisdom, let the Japanese be University. Their school motto, which has a similar goal but slightly different tone as the other, is: Passive Aggression and Patient Positivity Produces Incremental Improvements…they maintain that by accepting life as it comes, and loving Japan as it is regardless is the only way…and if you don’t agree you should go back to your den of multiculturalism, or whatever rock you slithered out from under, and leave Japan to us significantly wiser folk who’ve managed to survive here for decades, without going Loco- thank you very much…

I ain’t mad at either of them, really. They both make good, if not, great points, and I value their feedback. I’m serious, I really do. And if you read my responses (and I do try to respond to everyone…I rarely censor unless it’s just noise or nonsense or blatant lies I’ll have no part  in distributing) you know that I take my time and try to be as thoughtful and thorough as I feel the comment is due.

But, sometimes…

There are foreigners here (no names…you know who you are) whose comments have lead me to believe that they think of Japan and Japanese as a country, people and culture to be protected, the way parents protect children…like they’re some kind of child race, or mentally challenged people. The benefit of the doubt is extended a little further for them due to their lack of exposure to the outside world (whatever the fuck that means in this day and age). Their inexperience with dealing with westerners entitles them to commit all kinds of indiscretions and transgressions…all excusable under the umbrella of inherent ignorance. An umbrella hoisted and held by some of the foreigners here.

And, if they feel that way, then what does that make me? That parent who spanks or slaps his children in the supermarket? The guy who walks through the streets with his mentally challenged daughter on a leash? The Special Ed teacher who kicks his students in the gut when they get out of hand? Yep…that’s the tone of some of the responses. I should be ashamed of myself. I’m almost criminal.

If my child acts out in the supermarket…you know what? I might pop him upside the head. My moms sure as hell did… And I learned.  I won’t spoil my children and I won’t spoil the Japanese, either, by pretending their ignorance is ok because they live on a tiny island cut off from the rest of the world by the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan….because it simply isn’t true. Not anymore. They need to stop trying to convince me that that is a valid excuse for treating me like a creature devoid of feelings.

And the foreigners here who echo that malarkey, who buy that baka banashi (drivel) need to cut that shit out, too.

Trust me…I understand…I live here, too. I know how you feel.  Day after day after day, you hear the same shit and pretty soon they wear you down, and you give in to the preponderance of ignorance around you. It’s overwhelming. You start to say shit like ‘They are a homogeneous people’ and ‘they are  unaccustomed to foreigners’ and blah blah blah fucking blah  and you really start to believe that these are valid excuses for dehumanizing foreigners… simply because 10000 Japanese have told you so.

On my blog I try to illustrate to the best of my ability what it is like for (and in no particular order): 1) a black man in Japan 2) A New Yorker in japan 3) A foreigner in japan.

I think the experience of being a foreigner in Japan is shared by every foreigner here, to some extent. I think being a black foreigner has a significant impact on that experience causing it to be much more, well, let’s just say it’s a different type of intensity than the experience of some other racial designations. And, I think being from New York, that multicultural den of dens, an environment almost antithetical to the one I currently live in, is also significant.  These factors are at the heart of most of my entries.

But, not at the heart of the responses.

Firstly, I need to point out some things that may or may not be obvious. If they are please forgive me.

While the above has happened to me a number of times in New York, it is a regular occurrence in Japan, both men and women, on streets, in shops, elevators, trains, anywhere and everywhere, at least 9 or 10 times a day, without fail. In fact, if it doesn’t happen I’m shocked and I wonder if nihonjin are sleeping on the job. But, I’ve de-sensitized myself as much as one can to such behavior. If you’ve never experienced it then you have no idea the rage that shoots through you, to be insulted and humiliated in that way… like adrenalin on adrenalin. Nor would you know the effort required to suppress it, to keep yourself from taking the offender by the neck and squeezing until they are quite dead…(mild exaggeration) The fact that I don’t is a testament to my good will towards man, even Japanese, and that highly coveted benefit of the doubt that I’m so often accused of not extending to Japanese people though i receive it rarely from them. It is a reward in itself, like surviving water boarding without giving up the location of your family and friends that your torturers wanted so desperately to retrieve so that they could go and kill them all.

But, make  no mistake about it, it is still an ordeal. Every friggin time!

I know some of you are (still) saying / thinking: get over it! or Focus on the good things. Or why don’t you just ignore them? They’re just ignorant. They don’t mean anything by it. Why don’t you just go back home if it’s so bad? Well, what would you tell that guy in the video? Why don’t you stop riding elevators with white people? Why don’t you move to another city where that kind of thing doesn’t go on? Where would that be? Where is this place where I can live without dealing with this?

No, like that pseudo-PSA, and like Richard Pryor, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and many others, I tend to deal with serious issues utilizing humor. Moreover, as I’ve mentioned in previous post, I’ve decided to draw the proverbial line in the sand, right here in Asia.

However, not to disregard my readers who appreciate my giving them a prospective of Japan that isn’t devoid of the darker side of life here, I’ve decided to lighten up a little.  Yes, I hate winter, and maybe that’s as much a part of the reason I’ve been feeling really blue and especially sensitive lately as the atrocious behavior of the natives here, and in the spirit of the rapidly approaching spring and the Cherry blossoms that accompany it, I will endeavor to write lighter and brighter entries and keep my venom to a minimum.

…but I’ll never kneel and suck it (-:


49 Responses to “Lighten up, Loco”

  1. March 6, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Actually, Loco, you may be talking about the same people at different stages of their stay in Japan.

    A lot of people (including me) believe that there are four (could be more) stages to living in Japan.

    1. The honeymoon
    Japan is the greatest place on Earth and Japanese people Are Just So Cool! They do things so much better than we do back home. The food is great. And they are oh, so, polite. Why I never hear anyone utter a cross word. (Forgetting, of course, that you can’t understand 99% of what is going on around you. I love this place!

    2. Frustration
    You start to notice that accomplishing even simple things becomes almost impossible. No one in this damn country seems to have an ounce of common sense. And things are so illogical and childish! I hate this place!

    3. Understanding
    Sure things are different, but a lot of it makes sense. I have some very good friends who are Japanese, and that I can handle some of the language. Yeah, there are things that still frustrate me, but it’s not that bad. The States? Nice place to go shopping, but who wants to live there? Living in Japan’s OK.

    4. Acclimation
    Japan is a place, just like any other place, with good, bad, beautiful, and ugly. I live here.

    • March 6, 2009 at 4:30 pm

      Thanks Chmura-san, Yes you broke down the stages quite well. I think my stage 3 differed (assuming I’ve finished it…maybe I’m still there) a little from yours though. And it’s having an affect on my stage 4 (or how my stage 4 will be). But I suspect it will eventually look pretty similar…
      Thanks as always for the shout!!!


  2. March 6, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    As for your video above, how would you know how the woman reacts when there are no black men on the elevator if you are black?

    • March 6, 2009 at 4:24 pm

      Good question! I think…
      Well…actually I’m not sure I understand the question…
      You mean, maybe she reacts to everyone the same way or do you mean when she is alone does she behave like someone is scheming on robbing her?


  3. 5 alexmat
    March 6, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    “…but I’ll never kneel and suck it (-:”

    Good for you dude! I’ve been reading your blog off and on for a while now, but this entry is the first one I feel like I need to comment on and give you some support. I understand the blend in argument and I think it is the more practical solution (generally speaking) to the problem of ignorance. But I’m like you, in that, I can’t swallow shit even if it is the most practical thing to do in a situation. Life is too short for that. Keep on keeping it real and forget all that bitter “practical” advice or you might not want to look at yourself in the mirror after a while.

    Here is a quote that kept running through my head while I was reading this post:

    “There is no greater impotence in all the world like knowing you are right and that the wave of the world is wrong, yet the wave crashes upon you.” –Norman Mailer

    • March 6, 2009 at 4:32 pm

      WoW!! I’m at a loss! Thank you for the encouragement…God knows I need it!!!
      And the quote…Mailer nailed it didn’t he?


  4. March 6, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    I have only been here a little over a month and sometimes it just gets old – especially when you know it is better at home (yes, my grass is greener in VA partly because there is grass there ha ha) – but that doesn’t mean you throw in the towel – it just means you FEEL like throwing in the towel. 😎

    • March 6, 2009 at 10:30 pm

      Hi Reason2 (-:
      Thanks for the shout as always!
      No, no towel throwing just yet…just a pause for the cause (-: The cause being sanity preservation and what not LOL
      Spring is in the air and in Japan it’s an especially beautiful time…not a good time to be dark. Here comes the sun and I say it’s alright! (-;


  5. 9 Qcue
    March 6, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    There are many racial terrorist on sites like Youtube. When you view their profile page it is usually outside America in Europe, Australia, sometimes China, and some place else etc……so to all my fellow black people “Abroad isn’t so different from the USA”, we are nationally dispised, “revolted”……….!

    • March 6, 2009 at 10:44 pm

      Hey Qcue-san, thanks for the shout.

      Well, I’m still trying to give the Japanese the benefit of the doubt. i mean, if you’re equally afraid, spiteful and creepy towards everyone and everything then you can hardly call it racism…just, I dunno, cowardice. But sometimes (actually all the time but I’m trying to be nice)…I certainly feel the revulsion in the air.
      Syouganai jan
      There have always been and will always be ignorant people in the world. I’d much prefer them on youtube than NOT sitting in the seat next to me LOL…Though there’s definitely a lynch mob mentality here at least the Japanese haven’t taken to lynching (as far as I know) at least not in the American way in the “good” ole days. They lynch you with a thousand paper cuts, apologizing the whole while, claiming they had no idea “foreigners” didn’t like this kind of thing…

      damn, I’m supposed to be trying to lighten up…

      Disclaimer for you “others” (of course i don’t mean all Japanese…once you get to know them they are the salt of the earth and the kindest sweetest people on god’s green planet, blah blah blah) as if…


  6. 11 Qcue
    March 6, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    I apologize for my comment above after reading it sounded like a rant. What I was trying to express is black people have a bad reputation worldwide. I have no negative intentions. I am and will remain a regular reader of this blog. It would help if you would delete this comment and the one above…….sayonara

  7. 12 ItAintEazy
    March 6, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Yeah, don’t ever (EVER) kneel and suck it. If some other jokers like to validate that sort of ignorance, then all they did was to give the rest of us reasonable people the license to smack the bullshit out of them. It should be simple, does an average Nihonjin like being alienated and feared over his race/outsiderness? If not, then they shouldn’t be doing that to others. Too bad human nature is rarely that altruistic. I’m just saying, don’t ever let up what you’re doing. People might say you are negative, you give me and the rest of us out there who might be planning on making a trip some valuable information. Sure there are a lot of good stuff to be had in Kawaiiland, but there’s no excuse to cover up the dark sides either.

  8. March 7, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Re: The lady in the elevator

    What I meant was, maybe the woman would react in the same defensive manner whenever any guy, regardless of color, gets on the elevator while she is alone.

    Anyway, your video somehow reminded me of this one….


  9. March 7, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Have you tried saying something to the people on the elevator? You could say “Good afternoon”,or “Hey” or even “Don’t worry. I’m not going to take your bag.” (I favor the last one.) That would leave them thinking – whether they have further negative thoughts, or an enlightenment, you won’t know.
    I’m white. I’ve experienced discrimination here, no doubt far less often than you. Once, I sat next to an elderly couple on a Tokyo train. They soon both moved to a different seat. After considering the possible reasons, I concluded they moved because I was a not Japanese. So, I moved too, and grabbed a hand strap and stood over them.

    • March 8, 2009 at 10:27 am

      Thanks Mark!!!

      “Don’t worry…I won’t kill you!!!” “Don’t worry, I won’t rape you!” Don’t worry I won’t kidnap your children!” “Don’t worry! I won’t touch you!” I’d be saying don’t worry all friggin day in Japan!
      That’s funny! I could write a post about that.
      You were joking right?


      PS: (“After considering the possible reasons”) LOL

  10. March 8, 2009 at 10:53 am

    >“Don’t worry…I won’t kill you!!!” “Don’t worry, I won’t rape you!” Don’t worry I won’t kidnap your children!” “Don’t worry! I won’t touch you!” I’d be saying don’t worry all friggin day in Japan! That’s funny! I could write a post about that.You were joking right? Loco PS: (”After considering the possible reasons”) LOL

    I was serious. As the scenario begins,you could say something. You could even say “Hey, that’s a nice bag.” That would really have them scared. But it is indeed sad that you would have to say something at all,or perform some action, to decrease the tension the other person might be feeling.

    On the other hand, is it possible you are reading more into what transpires?
    As Freud is believed to have said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

  11. March 8, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    Interesting post Loco. I admire your frankness when approaching topics like this and your detailing of the intense feelings felt being an outsider in another culture. You do seem to be doing some soul-searching too, but I can’t help but feel the irony in the post. You appear to be dishing out payment in a way not unlike you are being treated…

    People reacting to black people in a certain way is justifiable. There, I said it. But only justifiable in the sense that we can explain *why* people react as they do – not in the sense that what they do is right.

    I can imagine it completely sucks for you, but the fact is, black people are painted with ganster images, among other things. Blame Hollywood or the rough suburbs in America, but there is an image attached. Just like there is an image attached to British guys as being ‘gentlemen’ (or more recently, drunken hooligans), and as the Japanese as modest. Yes, we should fight it. Yes, should educate people as to why it’s wrong (or right), and for sure, you will feel discrimated and unfairly done-by when the girl in the elevator clutches her bag. But simply brandishing it as racism and then trying to dish-out comeuppance isn’t going to help. The guy in the video is, in my opinion, wrong for scaring the woman. All he has done has perpetuate a stereotype, and he knows it.

    Likewise, you talk about the ‘Japanese’ being this and the ‘Japanese’ doing that, which is stereotyping according to race. Racism. Hence the irony. I admit, in order to address cultural differences, we do need to generalise peoples to an extent and find patterns, but we should be very, very careful when doing so. Nobody, no matter how they might delude themselves (and believe me, I do try), can examine things in a purely objective manner. Hence, nobody really has the right to say anything about a people as fact, although I know you are aware of this.

    So what is it I want to say? I think that you and I still have a long way to go before we can even be close to understanding Japanese people, and even ourselves or our own cultures. We each have different ways of dealing with situations based heavily on our upbringing, too, and as you know, I disagree with the way you deal with some of the situations you encounter. I feel as though you are trying to fight fire with fire (like in the bar encouter last time) and end up categorising people just a little too much in your blog posts.

    But then again, I also appreciate that you are trying to write in a humourous way, which usually requires a little exaggeration. Unfortunately, playing with stereotypes of nations and peoples is very sensitive, and I feel that you do overstep the line on occasion.

    • March 8, 2009 at 12:44 pm

      Thanks Mike. I try to be frank and search my soul when I write, and it’s nice when that’s recognized (-:
      I guess I do overstep the line sometimes don’t I?
      I try to make it very clear that I don’t mean every Japanese person but invariably someone will say I am generalizing about Japanese. Syouganai.
      “People reacting to black people in a certain way is justifiable. There, I said it. But only justifiable in the sense that we can explain *why* people react as they do – not in the sense that what they do is right.”
      WHY, if there are as many positive images available as there are negative images? Why? It’s a choice, I say again. I’m sure if Japanese people(or people the world over)have turned on the news for the past year or two the predominate story involving a black person would be about Barack Obama. If he’s someone that justifies their reactions to black people in general than it is a truly hopeless situation in Japan and perhaps the world…But I refuse to believe that or to accept your premise that it is justified. Sorry Mike…You can’t get away with that one! That’s some racist bullshit and I’m sorry you feel that way! There I’ve said it.
      And you’re right…it does suck. But not just for me. The worst part is that their behavior (those Japanese who actively participate in the behavior under discussion-geez) is the first revolution in a cycle of hate and animosity that will continue until further notice. I came here with no animosity towards Japanese people whatsoever. But now….
      Are my feeling justified? Some would say yes, some no… Have I contributed to this cycle? Occasionally, yes. Not as much as some others but I have been known to “retaliate.” When you find yourself the blunt of unprovoked attacks, yeah, sometimes you retaliate. You say the attack is justified because I’m black and some actor shot some other actor with a fake gun in a movie, or two drug dealers killed each other (and several innocent bystanders) in a hail of gunfire in a Los Angeles neighborhood…. I don’t know what to say to that…

      I hope I have a long way to go to understanding Japanese people and culture, but Mike-San, I am beginning to think I really don’t have that far to go at all.
      If I overstep the line it’s usually because I feel like I’m being stepped on, and yes sometimes I might react rather strongly. Ningen dayo! Gomen ne


  12. March 8, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Haha, I thought that might stir something up. ^^;. Not that I’m teasing you, I take racism very seriously. I just think many people brandish the term around these days without knowing what it means.

    I don’t think I’m being racist in saying what I have said. What I have said applies to all peoples. Every culture is stereotyped and invariably everybody will hold (often latent) attitudes towards different people. These attitudes they hold are (one of) the reasons people react as they do to people different from themselves. If that is what you want to call racism, fine, but don’t be as quick to blame people if those attitudes are conditioned (i.e. unconcious compared to concious). In other words, our stereotypes are often *not* a choice.

    Barack Obama can surely help to change the stereotypes. But he will just provide another idea for people to latch onto. If, through him, people begin to think black people are great speakers and highly motivational, it will be just another stereotype (albeit good for black people). Yes, there are good and bad stereotypes, but the media often likes to promote the bad ones, and as human beings we do seem to remember bad news better than good news. A defense mechanism perhaps? If they started publishing only good news, I think beliefs would change though.

    My point is that wherever you go you will find stereotypes and encounter people with deeply rooted beliefs. I don’t agree with British war veterans about their ideas that the Japanese are evil, because I never experienced what they did, but I certainly can say that their beliefs have justification. Perhaps that is the wrong word to use though… How about, they have a good basis for their beliefs?

    I fear to go to London these days. Many hooded youths (not necessarily all black, although many are) have been involved in knife attacks in recent years. I feel that I have a good basis for my being cautious around hooded black youths in London. Would you disagree? Am I being racist for my caution?

    • March 8, 2009 at 6:55 pm

      Hey Mike, no, I figured you were trying to get a rise outta me. It’s all good!
      I’m glad you want to take it seriously but I don’t believe you can…
      Until you experience it it’s just this obscure thing like telekinesis or the Loch Ness Monster. One of those “Sure it’s a possibility it’s real but it ain’t for me” kind of things….or maybe you’re in Japan and have gotten a whiff of it and put that together with some wikipedia and a few Youtube videos and think you know what it is now and so you’ve become some kind of authority on it. But, you’re not.
      Not to say I am either. hell, like you said, many people brandish the term…I try not to be a brandisher (is that a word???). I realize that there are many other “isms” and “phobias” out there that are not necessarily associated with racism.
      Yes, people buy into stereotypes. All Chinese know Kung Fu, all Puerto Ricans come from big families, all Irish are drunks, all British / English are snobs, all black people have guns (you’d be shocked if I told you how many people here have asked me if I have a gun) etc etc etc…
      BUT, anyone with half a fucking brain knows that they’re bullshit. If you’re Chinese you know what they’re saying and you know many people who don’t know Kung Fu. In fact you don’t know anyone who knows Kung FU. ETC ETC ETC. I don’t have a gun. I’ve never had a gun accept when Uncle Sam handed me an M16 and said shoot that silhouette 500 yards away (which I did with a Sharpshooter’s accuracy) and though I know people who’ve had guns (my brothers included) the vast majority of the people I know have never even seen a gun except on a cop’s holster. And in America the vast majority of the gun owners are not black…they’re white!
      So, the stereotypes, I think, are spread and believed by people who want to believe negative shit about other people or want to disparage other people (for some reason…usually out of fear exhibited through racism or some kind of superiority or inferiority complex) or they’re just stupid or lazy.
      Apparently you have the same deeply rooted nonsense in England (I am Loco’s utter lack of surprise) (-;
      A hood is fashion now, mate. HipHop died and was reborn as mainstream Urban culture and fashion. Wake up and smell the fashion magazines. Even Japanese youth wear hoods…are you running from / cautious of them too? If not then I submit the hood is irrelevant. It’s the black skin beneath and yes I would disagree…you do not have a good basis for being cautious of black youths in hoods. Your caution is racially motivated. You must not know how many police officers have used what you just said as justification for shoot first/apologize later slayings of black kids in America? If you did you’d ask me to edit your comment quickly. Or maybe the cops in England pull the same shit and you agree they are “justified” in shooting first?
      …you know, just being cautious and what not.

      Anyway, this is turning into another post, isn’t it?

      And this topic is irksome and wearisome…and I’m supposed to be lightening up! Fuck (-;


  13. March 8, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    At first I wasn’t sure where you were going with this post but, after reading and thinking about it a bit, I completely agree with what you’re saying. Although I’ve not had people react quite the same way around me as you’ve mentioned here, there is a fair bit of tension in the room whenever I walk into a “Japanese-Only” place … which seems to be every Coffee Shop that is *not* named Starbucks or Dotour….

    Don’t ever give up, and don’t ever “kneel and suck it”. There’s room in this country for everybody (and moreso now that all the natives are working themselves to death faster than ever).

    • March 8, 2009 at 6:16 pm

      Thanks for the shout, Jason! (-:
      I even raise fur in Starbucks…you’re lucky!!!

      Don’t worry, I ain’t giving up the ghost yet

      LOCO LOL

  14. March 8, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Oh I know you will not throw in the towel – you might throw it at someone but you will definitely not throw it in! LOL

  15. 28 JN
    March 8, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    After reading your blog, here are my thoughts:

    1. As a woman, I am always slightly nervous about being in an elevator alone with one man. Color doesn’t matter. What matters is whether he appears physically stronger than me.

    2. Every encounter a Japanese has with you, in which nothing horrible happens helps erode whatever stereotype is making them fearful of you — whether it’s because you are black, because you are a gaijin, or because you are taller than any of them. So by being you (reasonable person that you are), you are helping solve this problem bit by bit. Maybe the Japanese are like people where I live in the US — they don’t encounter black people very often, but they see news and movies and unconsciously unwittingly absorb negative stereotypes.

    3. I get the “Oh,no, it’s a gaijin!” reaction as well. You can see it when you go to a store and all the cashiers are free and they have the “Please don’t come to my register” look on their face. And I’m a harmless-looking 40+ year old white woman. I think they are afraid that I won’t understand them, or that they’ll have to dredge up the English they forgot from high school.

    4. Don’t just brush it off, but don’t let it eat you up either! You don’t have to sit next to a racist jerk (if he/ she wants to stand, let them!) and you don’t have to let him/her drive you to an early grave. And it’s YOUR blog — vent if you want to!

    • March 8, 2009 at 9:28 pm

      Thanks JN for taking the time to write so much
      I agree with some of what you said.
      Do you think the man is going to rape or rob or molest you? Does
      Actually If all I got was a oh no it’s a gaijin reaction I would be soooo happy here. “Oh no” is as good as it gets. I get, “please don’t rob rape or kill or worse yet touch me” That gets a little uh…well…anyway, you got to be there. Next time you see a black guy on the train try to check out the behavior of the Japanese around him. maybe you might catch what I’m talking about. Then come back and report if you have time. I’d love to hear your impression.
      You should check out some more of my blog…and let me know what you think
      Thanks again for reading and responding
      It’s good to know that my writing inspires such thoughtfulness (-;


  16. 30 Bored in Kanagawa
    March 8, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    Loco you are spot on with your assessment of the situation here in Japan as a black man. Just to clear the air from my last post I only focused on Americans because outside of Japanese we were the only none Yamato’s at the meetings. As you know by now I like to handle things in my own way (not necessarily unique) but mine none-the-less. I’m also a black American living in Japan for 8 years now (wow time has passed) and according to Edward Chmura there are 4 stages we outsiders go through here in Japan.

    I will introduce the 5th stage which I’m currently a member of:

    Bored in Kanagawa is a country black guy for Montgomery, Alabama (home of civil rights for the uninitiated) and I have decided to be just that and nothing else. I must admit the first 4 stages are something that I have experienced at one time or another, however, not necessarily in that order. When I first moved here I tried my damnedest (told I was country) to be the good little Gaigin, but I realized that nothing will change the attitude of the indoctrinated closet racist mindset of the average Japanese. After a few years of dealing with it it dawned on me that I should just simply be myself in all situations and F*ck the rest! Not shit my life completely changed here more friends and good credit[ imagine that] 😉 Now I just walk around as what I am and I could give a F*ck less how I’m viewed by the hater, because that’s what they are no matter how you try to frame it1

    Which brings me to this:

    You’re gonna be a shining star, with fancy clothes, and fancy car-ars.
    And then you’ll see, you’re gonna go far.
    Cause everyone knows, just who you are-are.
    So live your life, ay ay ay.
    You Steady Chasin that paper.
    Just live your life (Oh! ), ay ay ay.
    Ain’t got no time for no haters
    Just live your life (Ay! ), ay ay ay.
    No telling where it’ll take ya.
    Just live your life (Oh! ), ay ay ay.
    Cause I’m a paper chaser.
    Just living my life (ay), my life (oh), my life (ay), my life (oh)
    Just living my life (ay), my life (oh), my life (ay), my life (oh)
    Just living my life

    Loco, let’s grab a beer someday in my little gaigin bubble

  17. 32 ItAintEazy
    March 8, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    That is some good advice, Bored. And hell, I like to think that when I’m myself I don’t end up showing my ass, and I’m too grown to be wearing hip-hop clothes, so if the little fuckers want to discriminate based on what they saw on Empty-Vee or something, nothing I can do about it, and getting pissed won’t help much either.

  18. 34 Aka Gaijin
    March 8, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    I responded to another journal entry stating that my experience in Japan is different from yours. But something reminded me of discrimination that I dealt with in America (not just “Opie” and “Carrot Top” jokes).

    I’m a devout motorcyclist, and am still a contributing member of the American Motorcyclist Association. A popular saying in motorcycle circles is “That 1% give the other 99% a bad name”. If you don’t know what I mean, think about that Harley nut that wakes up whole neighborhoods by revving his engine at 2 AM. Maybe it’s that guy on the crotch rocket who scared the hell out of your Mom by racing past her car at 150 MPH. Could just be that group of bikers who intimidate anybody going to your local 7-11.

    Point being, I don’t do that stuff (well, when I go 150 MPH, I look for open road (-; ). Nobody that I know does. But does that stop lawmakers from considering RE-GOD-DAMNED-DICULOUS laws. No! They point at the 1% and tell us to get them in shape.

    I’m sure that devout “non-terrorist” Muslims deal with similar issues. An image of any group develops with or without your help.

    Sorry. I know it’s your blog, but I felt like venting a little before bed.

    • March 8, 2009 at 10:09 pm

      Vent away baby, it’s all good!
      You’re a regular contributor…you earned your stripes!!
      Don’t ever say I don’t take care of mine heheh

  19. 36 JN
    March 8, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    Just watched the embedded video and LMAO! Even though the guy was talking about her the whole time, the woman was surprised and acted like he was some punk (of any race/nationality/ethnicity) with a gun was holding her up. Heh.

  20. 37 Chilling Frog
    March 8, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    First time on your blog, interesting stuff here, thank you.

    (English is not my mother tongue so… well… you know… expressing complex ideas, using long sentences and stuff…)

    Your post reminded me of a few questions I asked myself before coming to Japan. Will I like the Japanese people ? What about the cultural differences… This kind of stuff.
    Actually it didn’t take that much thinking before I realized that it would be pretty much the same as in my country, and that this kind of question were, to some extent, non-senses.

    I figured that here most of the people would seem stupid and ignorant to me (and I would look stupid and ignorant to a bunch of them), and that I would hang out only with a very small minority of them, exactly like it has always been for me in my country, and pretty much everywhere else I’ve been to… In the end, I guess we’re just more used to our fellow compatriot ignorance than we are to the Japanese one. Straight to step 4 for me, the only “bearable” step.

    So apart from some necessary adaptation to the local decency, I’ve just been living my life here, being the same as I’ve ever been. And it’s not that bad after all.

    Plus, as someone already pointed out, from the moment you start your point by “the Japanese something” you pretty much ruin it. It’s a double-edged sword, don’t forget that if you say “the Japanese”, you have to accept the someone else says “the gaijin(s)”… Sounds pretty dull stated this way, I know, but you get the idea (and read my mother tongue disclaimer once again).

    This being said, I have to admit that the stupidest things I’ve heard or seen in my life, happened in Japan.

    • March 8, 2009 at 11:26 pm

      what is your mother tongue cuz your English ain’t bad at all (-;
      thanks for the shout
      please keep coming back and keep chilling and keep living your life!
      (as opposed to living someone else’s? suicide?)

  21. March 8, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    I understand where you are coming from. If you want to compare time spent in Japan and experience of things like this, with your 5 year tenure and whatnot, you are the clear winner. But I have been in Japan for a fair amount of time, both as a student and working, pretty much travelled the length of the country and studied the culture for 4 years at university, so my thoughts are not just fuelled by a couple of wikipedia articles or random youtube videos. I have experienced discrimination as a foreigner, felt bad, got angry and drilled the Japanese with questions about all sorts of foreigner-related topics. I have also frequently been branded as American because I am a white, English-speaking male and have had people avoid sitting next to me on trains (etc etc). That said, I am not an authority on things Japanese and I can only speak from my own persepctives, just like you, so I will avoid getting into a battle about who has the right to make a serious comment, because neither of us do.

    I think we are fundamentally disagreeing on this point:

    “BUT, anyone with half a fucking brain knows that they’re bullshit.”

    I’m sorry, but I think you give people more credit than they deserve. Many people do not know or care about what stereotypes they hold. You hold stereotypes as well, most of them likely unrealised, and you seem to (rightly) have built up angst from the countless times you have felt discrimination, so I think you’re not looking at things with a clear head. But I feel that you are looking for discrimination. I might suppose that you feel so self-concious about the colour of yor skin that you will inevitably feel everything is directed towards it. And being an outsider in Japan, you compound this by looking at yourself as a foreigner and therefore predisposing yourself to feel racism. And not just you, pretty much every foreigner (myself included) does it, unwittingly. So many things that are actually not intended to be racist (the girl talking to you in English at the bar) are taken as being racist. It’s a vicious circle.

    “So, the stereotypes, I think, are spread and believed by people who want to believe negative shit about other people or want to disparage other people (for some reason…usually out of fear exhibited through racism or some kind of superiority or inferiority complex) or they’re just stupid or lazy.”

    Just as a note, the hood statement was to give you the image I have. I know other youths wear hoods and I know it is a fashion, but my image is heavily associated with black youths and danger. You can slap me until I’m purple and tell me otherwise, but that image will not go away easily, and I am quite justified in holding it, because many youths today who do commit crimes and go for the ‘rough’ image wear hooded jackets. That’s part of the ‘fashion’, if you will, though you are right to say it is changing, slowly.

    So, the quote above. Again, I disagree. I don’t *want* to believe negative ‘shit’ or disparage other people, but I inevitably do for my own safety. I don’t feel superior to black people; I do my best not to discriminate against them, but if I see a group of black youths walking around London’s quieter streets at night, I will rightly feel scared. I will likely avoid them. Yes, my motivation is in part to do with the colour of their skin, but I am not avoiding them so as to discriminate against them because they are black. I don’t walk to the other side willingly in order to make them feel bad. I do it for my own safety. There is a big difference.

    Your point about policemen is also off the mark. Firstly, British policemen do not carry guns (although there are special units that do). That isn’t to say they haven’t done the shoot first, ask later thing too though. I’m sure they have. Secondly, I did not say anything to imply harming other people because of your own fear is justified. Cops shooting black youths in America first and asking questions later is a terrible thing and goes to show just how important it is to try and get rid of stereotypes and misguided fears.

    So, if I met you in Japan, would I walk on the other side of the street? No. I would treat you like any other normal human being. I might chat to you in a bar or say hello if the opportunity arose. But if I met a group of black youths in a quiet street at night, would I avoid them? Yes. Is the reason the colour of their skin? Yes, in the sense that it is part of a conditioned image. I’m not happy about holding this image and I know it is unpleasant for the receiver, but until you convince me that I have no need to fear groups of black youths on the quiet, dark streets of London, I will continue to hold it. Calling me racist and trying to taint me isn’t going to help much. I also fear groups of white youths (with a slightly different image), so maybe I am racist towards white people as well.

    Like I said, I take equality very seriously, and I will fight against racism and discrimination of all types. Sometimes I may overlook things and make mistakes like any human being, but I think your categorising me as racist with people who have never even considered why they hold the images they do or why they treat people as they do is severely misguided.

    • March 9, 2009 at 12:34 am

      I didn’t want to disparage you…like I said, this topic is irksome. And, honestly, I don’t know if you are racist or not and it doesn’t matter really.
      Just to clear up a few things. I do not think that the GUY in the restaurant (why does everybody think it’s a girl???) was symbolic of Japanese racism. I don’t think the majority of the things that SOME Japanese do is racism. And I haven’t claimed it. I think whenever I say something with an unhappy tone or complaint laced some readers assume that I’m riffing about racism even though the word is never said. The waiter in the restaurant simply got on my nerves. He was presumptuous, not racist.
      If you think it is safer to walk across the street if you see black youths in London or Japan or anywhere else then that’s your call…you can call it conditioning if you want to but that just sounds like you’re shifting the responsibility for your actions from yourself to your environment or upbringing or society…But…I don’t know. I guess we all do that sometimes. I’m no sociologist so what the fuck do i know.
      But, you know what Mike, this is the kind of give and take that has placed the country I love (America) on the path to true greatness and so, in the spirit of unity and peace and love (and lightening up) calling you a racist was probably misguided and ill-advised and I regret doing so. This is actually too complex an issue for the finger pointing. Maybe your joke earlier got under my skin (no pun intended) and made me think that you find humor in this situation, belittling me somehow…wouldn’t be the first time a foreigner came on my blog and did so. Sometimes I do find the humor too, but recently I haven’t. Which is why I wrote this post in the first place. I feel like I need to lighten up and decompress.

      And I’m glad you wouldn’t walk on the other side of the street if you ran into me in a dark alley….

  22. March 9, 2009 at 12:56 am

    Sorry, I thought it was a guy in the bar incident. in the spirit of lightening up, I’m sorry too for having a dig at you. These are sensitive issues.

    I know these things must get to you (they did to me too), and everybody needs to blow off steam from time to time (to save from going Loco). Debating racism always leads to me having a greater understanding of different cultures and their feelings, so I’m glad we had this clash. If we can grow as human beings because of it, all the better 🙂

    I hope life in Japan becomes pleasant and enjoyable for both of us, because my future in the country is at stake too. But definitely, lightening up and trying to avoid judging situations as ‘we’ and ‘them’ can only be a good thing. And if next time the other person demonstrates lack of tact and apparent racism, try engaging them in this serious debate like we have just done. One thing I have found is that people (not just the Japanese) tend to respond better when you make them think about their actions, rather than telling them they are wrong (hansei, in Japanese).

    Catch you later!

  23. March 9, 2009 at 10:22 am

    nope, not a guy in a bar…

    I don’t think we are talking about the same things so I don’t think you can talk about the things bothering me currently as having bothered you at some point in the past. You have not and cannot experience what I exoerience here because you are not a black. Sorry, I have to clarify that point. Discrimination you experience, I’m sure’ but the kind of fear reaction I receive…if you received it as well, there’s no way you could be nonchalant and about it. When someone tranfers their wallet aor purse way from you looking at you like “I know what you’re up to you thieving bastard” this conversation would have had an entirely different foundation and tone. Japanese do not treat you the way they treat me. It’s a fact.
    That said, yes I agree hansei is probably best.

    Not if I catch you first (-;


  24. 43 Bored in Kanagawa
    March 9, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Thank’s EZ & Loco.

  25. March 10, 2009 at 8:14 am

    Loco, thanks again for your blog and your willingness to accept almost any comments. There really is no excuse for inhuman behavior. All people deserve respect.

    And for those foreigners who think white foreigners are treated the same in Japan as black or asian foreigners, you need to remove your head from your ass and observe the world a little more carefully. There is no comparison.

    What I like about your blog is your ability to see and discuss the good and the bad about your experiences in Japan. And, remember, spring is just around the corner.

  26. March 10, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Jared, as always, thank you for the shout…
    yes, today is a nice one, and I suspect there many nice ones to come.
    I will lighten up but I won’t be ignoring the bad side, don’t worry. I’m on it!!

    Loko lite (the low calorie blog)

  27. March 10, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    Following up Edward Chmura’s first comment:


    This was a post on a now defunct blog called The Westerner’s Fear of the Neonsign. Not sure if it’s complete, but this is the longest version I was able to find floating around the net. It’s worth a read.

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Please know that this blog is my original writing and may not be reproduced in any way without the expressed written permission of the author (that's me!) Thanks!

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