FARRAH: In late-August, an ALT friend of mine from Kansai told me about this event that was happening in Hamamatsu, called, “Gaijin Day”. Amused and slightly offended by the wording, she was actually interested in coming all the way down to my neck of the woods to attend it. The flyer for the event went viral in many expat groups on social media, and posts were flooded with comments about the title of the event. I figured that the organizers chose to call this event “Gaijin Day” to get lots of attention, and they did.
At first I thought that it would merely be a spectacle of foreigners flying into Japan to perform. But when I looked at the list, it was a bunch of people who were sansei/yonsei, Japanese people of mixed-heritage who lived in the Tokai region. I was immediately offended by the name of the event at that point. This is my fifth year living in Hamamatsu, and I’ve done extensive ethnographic research on Brazilian and Peruvian immigrant communities since November of last year. I know that referring to such an established part of the Japanese diaspora as merely “gaijin” was inaccurate and disrespectful. The worst part of all was that the Hamamatsu City Government and HICE Center (Hamamatsu Foundation for International Communication and Exchange) were the main sponsors for the event. […]
COMMENT FROM DEBITO: First, it is disappointing that the site of Gaijin no Hi is Hamamatsu. Given Hamamatsu’s special history with NJ residents (particularly its very progressive Hamamatsu Sengen of 2001), using exclusionary language such as “Gaijin” (given its history as an epithet as well; see below) feels truly, as Farrah put it, regressive. Have they also learned nothing from the Toyoda Sengen of 2004 and Yokkaichi Sengen of 2006? Second, about that word Gaijin. As I’ve argued before, it’s essentially a radicalized epithet with “othering” dynamics similar to “nigger”. My arguments for that are in my Japan Times columns here, here, and here. Bad form, Hamamatsu. You should know better by now. And if not by now, how much will it take? That’s the power of Embedded Racism: It even overcomes history.