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  • Japan Times HAVE YOUR SAY column solely devoted to the May 1 JBC column on “Microaggressions”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on May 22nd, 2012

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    Hi Blog. The Japan Times today devoted its entire community page column section to reader responses regarding my May 1, 2012 Just Be Cause column on “Microaggressions“. (And yes, most listed were actually quite positive.) I think that’s plenty today for a blog entry. Have a read starting from and feel free to comment on them below (if you wish to comment on the article itself on, go here).  And yes, the old column once again got put back in the JT Online Top Ten Most Read Stories! Thanks for reading and commenting, everyone! Arudou Debito

    18 Responses to “Japan Times HAVE YOUR SAY column solely devoted to the May 1 JBC column on “Microaggressions””

    1. Charuzu Says:

      The comments were quite interesting, in that they reminded me of the types of microaggressions that gays face routinely, in Japan, and elsewhere.

      The regular suggestions that we have certain skills or behaviours in which we are all experts, and other behaviours which we are unable to master is quite familiar to most gays.

      And, having discussed this with J gay friends, they report the same to be true in Japan as well.

      As such, it is interesting to read about the frustration that is held about the issue, with the commenters not realising that the issue is broader than microaggression towards NJ.

      I think that if progress is to be made on this set of issues, that common cause must be found by NJs with all those in Japan who are marginalised in Japan.

      And, the incorrect view must be removed from many NJs that Japan is a place in which anti-gay attitudes are rare, because it is not a nation that has had a dominant Christianity past.

    2. Jim Di Griz Says:


      It’s interesting to read. The letters in support of your article quote similar instances of micro-aggression to those you explain in the article, whereas the critics (who ‘used to live in Japan’, or ‘have been (been!) to Japan several times’) make a personal attack on you, with at least two asking why you don’t ‘go home’ (clearly not realizing that you are Japanese!). Fools.

    3. Fight Back Says:

      Gotta agree with Jim. The positive responses resonated much more strongly with me than the ad homonym attacks of the apologists (most likely stalker site acolytes using false names).

      The overall response shows that these microaggressions DO exist and are a source of great personal stress and discomfort for NJ. In the war for hearts and minds against the apologist lobby, surely you have struck a mighty blow Debito, with the apologist arguments struck down and falling by the wayside one by one.

    4. tokyoguy Says:

      I think its true about microagressions towards gay people and other minorities, you will find microagressions everywhere even against japanese. Im sure we have all been guilty of a microagression at one time or another. This article was great for so many people including me for articulating and identifying the problem. I think people are scared to speak up about this for fear of upsetting japanese friends. I have friends who I know are good people at heart but constantly slip into these microagressions without knowing it, If we can articulate this to people or explain how it makes us feel then Japan will be a happier place to live. Of course Japan has so many other pressing problems right now like the economy, fukushima cleanup, tsunami recovery etc etc that I expect microagressions towards NJ or gays is way down on the “to do” list even if we did communicate this problem more effectively to the general public.
      On the gay issue did anyone hear that on a TV show discussing gay marriage following Obama’s support for it, Takeshi Kitano made a comment comparing homosexuality to beastiality, his argument basically said if we allow gay marriage what next allow people to marry animals. Hardly an original but still highly offensive.

    5. giantpanda Says:

      Well, Japanese only became legally able to marry non-Japanese in 1873* so maybe the same argument was made back then…

      — We’ve gotten off track on the treatment-of-gays tangent. I’ll draw it to a close here.

    6. Olaf Says:

      Here is my take on Microaggression

    7. Vincent Says:

      OK, I’m convinced. I was outside my house when a young man in a neck tie with a stack of envelopes approached. I was sure he was going to try and sell me something, but no. He was looking for an address he couldn’t find and he asked me, in plain ordinary polite Japanese, where the address was. I told him, he said he understood, he ran away, passed me as ran back to the main street after having found the place, and thanked me. He never once alluded my being a foreigner, he never once tried to speak in English. He was in a hurry and approached me as he would have approached anyone else. I gushed with pleasure at this because it was such an ordinary everyday thing. Microagression must be the standard, or else I wouldn’t have felt so pleased.

      — Yup. After a while, I felt just as pleased when I got handed a packet of tissues on the street without incident (I have been refused several times because the handers-out said “our boss told us not to give them to foreigners because they don’t understand Japanese and aren’t likely to be our customers”). It really, really grinds one down, and after awhile normalizes the being-treated-as-abnormal treatment (even when it’s not constant — you begin to expect it and give less mental weight to the times it doesn’t happen). One shouldn’t feel the need to be so grateful just for being treated as normal. But, as you point out, the fact that you do is indicative.

    8. Devin Lenda Says:

      Glad you’re doing what you are Debito.

      Some thoughts on your J/NJ distinction —;postID=7905316232524155815

      — Permission not granted to see the site. Rectify?

    9. Devin Lenda Says:

    10. Mark Hunter Says:

      Devin. Best explanation of the topic I’ve read! Where have you been hiding?

    11. Anonymous Says:

      I found 3 gems, the first one is especially relevant to your Microaggressions article:

      “For our Japanese readers : Things you should not say to Westerners”
      Written by Maciamo on 4 April 2005

      “Discrimination in Japan”
      Written by Maciamo on 5 June 2004

      “Foreign criminality in Japan”
      Written by Maciamo on 15 June 2004

    12. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Anonymous #11

      Those are interesting links. Thank you. Not in Japanese anywhere?

    13. Anonymous Says:

      Yeah, Maciamo should have written that article “for Japanese readers” in Japanese. :)
      That article seems quite related to Debito’s article about Microaggression in Japan.
      Anyway, I’m quite impressed with his balanced, honest perspective, just like Debito’s.
      I guess I’m kinda’ plugging this person who wrote about Microaggressions in Japan.

      And here’s a writer who lived in Japan for 23 years who wrote about Microaggressions:

      Anyway, please excuse the diversion folks, back to the regularly scheduled television program. :)

    14. Kermit Says:

      I read your article some time ago, but I think that the term microaggressions is not exactly spot on. Aggressiveness on on a small scale it is not. What you are speaking of, I would call the art of being rude politely. Being (sometimes incredibly)rude but finessing it so that it does not appear that way. A surface affability and general niceness that disguises hidden resentment. When I was new to Japan, I once had a Japanese man in a bar ask me why I had such a big nose. An extremely rude question, but looking at his smiling face, I could only think that he didn’t realize what an insulting question that was to a foreigner. My joking reply? “I have a talent for it.” At which, still smiling, he asked me, “Don’t you know that only dogs have big noses?” Would this be termed a microaggression? I think not. He was being intentionally rude, but hiding his intent. The man in question maybe stepped over the line into outright rudeness, but I’m not sure that Japanese bystanders would take it that way. He was immune to the charge of rudeness because he kept his hostility hidden. It was just another one of those oops moments of mock ignorance that really fools no one, but must be taken good-naturedly because that was the manner in which it was given.

      — I think Microaggressions are less intentional, done unconsciously. Your example as you say is different from that.

    15. Kermit Says:

      That is a good point. Maybe my example was not the best. Perhaps you are speaking of the attitude taken towards NJ where they are treated as children who do not know better and are in need of a little friendly guidance. When I first came to Japan, I don’t know how often I heard the complaint that Japanese are TOO kind to foreigners. I believe the growing consensus is that this has to end. That ignorance is no excuse and NJ can no longer flout the rules. The problem is that in Japan rules are disregarded all the time, especially by those in positions of prestige. There is that same unconscious double standard that you see in most forms of discrimination. Those on the inside are given a leeway that those on the outside are not. And life for a NJ has become one of constant pressure to conform to rules that NJ don’t even apply to themselves.

      The other day, I was chastised on the bus home by this nasty middle aged man. My crime? I had my left leg draped over my right leg. It was a near empty bus. Nobody was even close to me, as Japanese in general avoid sitting next to foreigners. Must admit I kicked up a bit of a fracas. Uncomfortable looks from all around, and the two or three passengers opposite to him, who were every bit as guilty as I was, quietly uncrossed their legs. Perhaps this is more like what you would call a microaggression. But to me there was nothing “micro” about the experience.

      — No, that’s real aggression. Please read up on Dr. Sue’s definition and application of it, referred to in my column.

    16. Flyjin Says:

      Kermit, why didn’t you ask him why you (and the others) cannot sit like that? And ask him (as I do) “OK, how would you suggest I sit?”. Don’t just accept negative criticism. If he wants to lecture you in “correct behavior in Japan he can damn well explain what IS correct behavior, don’t keep us guessing (and constantly chastised for mistakes.) If you have the guts for it you could also ask rhetorical questions to the rest of the bus, like “What does everyone else think?”

      Quite often these oyaji do not want to give any positive advice, they are just venting on you, the foreigner.

    17. Kermit Says:

      If anything, I reacted more strongly than was wise. Of course, I refused to uncross my legs and told him to mind his own business. At this he said that I was a 「じゃま」 a “nuisance,” or “in the way.” To which I asked,”Who am I bothering?” Told him flat out that this was racial discrimination, for no other reason than for the shock effect. Got the reaction I was looking for. He flinched and was coldly silent until the time I got to my stop, legs still crossed, and I got off the bus.

      I do not regret confronting the man, or even losing my temper with him. I do wish that I had expressed myself better. The question I have to ask is whether those other passengers on the bus left with a positive or a negative impression of me. I would say probably negative. You know more than I do the tide a NJ is up against in this country when he or she complains about discriminatory behavior. Most Japanese simply do no believe that it exists.

    18. Kermit Says:

      In my earlier post I had a brain fart. I meant to say, “And life for a NJ has become one of constant pressure to conform to rules that JAPANESE don’t even apply to themselves.” NJ (I just say foreigners.) have always been judged more harshly, but treated with grudging tolerance. Maybe its only me, but the longer I live in Japan, the more claustrophobic I become, I can just feel the walls contracting around me.

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