Farrah on Hamamatsu’s city-sponsored “Gaijin Day” event: Problematic wording and execution, esp. given the history of Hamamatsu, and who attended.


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Hi Blog.  I didn’t want to bring this up until after the event was over, but check out this poster for “Gaijin Day”, sponsored by enough people (including the City of Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture) to make it normal and unproblematized.

Source:  https://www.hamamatsucastle.com/がいじんの日-the-gaijin-day-2018/ (bigger scanned reproduction below)

Some people did see a problem, and one, Farrah, reported what happened there to Debito.org.  My comment follows hers.


From: Farrah
Subject: Comments – Gaijin Festival
Date: September 2, 2018
To: debito@debito.org

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.

Hamamatsu has the highest immigrant population in Japan (22,260 immigrant residents as of July 2017), with the highest Brazilian population in the entire country. Actually, the population was almost double in Japan before 2007, but the Japanese government offered cash payments to nikkeijin to leave Japan permanently to reduce the immigrant population. From 2009-2010, they were offered around ¥300,000 per worker and ¥200,000 per dependent willing to leave Japan. About 20,000 nikkeijin took the offer, with the amount of Brazilian and Peruvian immigrants shrinking by more than 87,000 combined. The permanent leave requirement was reduced to three years, with many former residents coming back for employment in Hamamatsu and the Tokai region. This change in the permanent leave policy may be in response to the fact that Japan’s population is declining (with the elderly population increasing), leaving the country dependent on immigrant workers.

“To serve as a viable solution for Japan’s aging, immigrants would need to make up at least 10 percent of the overall population by some estimates—an unfeasibly large number by most accounts given the strong preference that remains for ethnic and cultural homogeneity and the public backlash that would likely ensue.” (Council of Europe)

This city should be an example of what living in a diverse and multicultural society would look like for the rest of Japan. However, there is little intercultural inclusion or integration between these communities. Most of these immigrants are not ALTs or eikaiwa teachers. They are Brazilian, Peruvian, Filipino, Indonesian, and Chinese people with mixed Japanese heritage. Many of them work in factories for car/train parts and in tea-picking farms. To call these long-term residents with Japanese grandparents (at least) “gaijin” is incredibly disturbing.

When I would read comments that supported the idea of referring to the performers as “gaijin”, I realized that majority of these people, Japanese and non-Japanese, were unaware about the legacy and the history of immigrant Japanese communities. Many of these people were born and raised in Japan, and many of them speak Japanese. I teach at a public high school with a lot of students from these communities, and majority of them speak Japanese as native speakers and have never went to their parents’/grandparents’ “home” countries. Their main cultural identity and mentality is Japanese, and yet they’re labeled as “gaijin” simply because they have a multicultural and multiethnic background. Why does having another culture to be proud of cancel their eligibility to be “Japanese”?

When I shared the flyer with my own comments on Facebook, I received over 100 responses from friends and acquaintances alike. I noticed that the non-Japanese people who disagreed with the idea of sansei/yonsei being labeled as “gaijin” as harmful were white Americans, Canadians, and Australians. They’re not minorities in their own countries, and in the end, they can always be reassured that they belong to their home countries without such backlash. They are completely desensitized and inexperienced with the concept of carrying a politicized multicultural identity because they never had to experience it in their home countries. I am first-generation American, and my parents are also immigrants. I have more personal experience being a minority in my own home country. I am constantly questioned about my identity by white Americans (and even by Japanese people at times), despite the fact that I was born and raised in the US and speak in English as a native speaker. When you’re a person of color or a minority in the place where you were born and raised, you face lots of scrutiny and oppression on your identity.

After holding many interviews with families and talking to my students about these issues in my research (as well as casual conversations), I have learned that being labeled as a “gaijin” as a mixed-race Japanese resident in Japan can be harmful to their self-image and identity. Majority of them have told me that even in Brazil and Peru, locals perceive them as “Japanese”, so they feel that they cannot fit into either country. The US may have their problems with racism, prejudice, and discrimination, but at least there are many support systems and articles out there that can reassure that minorities do belong. Japan does not have the same kind of representation or support for sansei/yonsei members in their society.

I actually attended the “Gaijin Day” event later on. It was located next to Hamamatsu Station, so it was inevitable to attend it anyways. As I thought, the vendors were all Brazilian and Peruvian, and they spoke to me in Japanese with little hesitation. There were also cell phone companies targeting Brazilian and Peruvian residents, holding up signs in Japanese, Portuguese, and English. Two individuals hosted the event: A full-Japanese radio host from Hamamatsu, and a Brazilian-Japanese performer who lived in Nagoya. Majority of the people in the audience were also Brazilian, but did not live in Hamamatsu. Some of what the hosts said irked me at times. “Today, we are all gaijin!” “Why do you have all these signs in Japanese? The Brazilians can’t read them!” I felt that the way the event was commenced also re-enforced stereotypes and constantly misused/over-used the term, “gaijin”. Most of my Filipino, Brazilian, and Peruvian friends refused to attend because of the naming of the event. “If I go there, I’m saying it’s okay to call me ‘gaijin’ even though I pay the same taxes and have a Japanese last name.”

The event was coordinated by two Brazilian men in their 40s, who came to Japan later in their adulthood. I tried to politely ask them about why they decided to call this event, “Gaijin Day”, but they immediately asked me about my heritage and said that it was not an issue to them because they identify themselves as “gaijin”. My yonsei and Japanese friends also received the same harsh responses when they tried to discuss the issue over the phone; it was as if the decision to label their community as “gaijin” was an autocratic decision with the concept of the sansei/yonsei population as a monolith. There was not a survey available to express my opinion at the event, either.

While I do understand that some residents from these communities, especially nikkei residents, mainly identify as “gaijin”, many of them also refuse to adhere to the label, especially newer generations of yonsei residents in Japan. Unlike the organizers of this event, many of them were born and raised in Japan, and plan to live here for the rest of their life. And yet, they are being labeled as “gaijin” by other people, not by choice. The idea behind language reclamation (taking back a slur/derogatory term and using it positively) does not function with this event because there is little to reclaim. The idea that mixed-race sansei/yonsei are legitimate Japanese people isn’t even established in the mainstream, and it’s under the assumption that every single person in the diaspora views themselves as non-Japanese, which is far from the truth.

Here is the main problem: when you decide to publicize a huge event that profits off of how diverse and multicultural your city is, the last thing you should do is use language that excludes the community that makes it special. Brazilian and Peruvian residents are already discriminated against a lot by Japanese locals in Hamamatsu. Japanese peers, teachers, and authority figures constantly tell them that they are “gaijin”. The reason why some older Brazilian and Peruvian residents especially have a hard time learning Japanese is because they are not really given much government support, and because the Japanese community does not welcome them as equals. The city government only recently created programs to help mixed-race residents learn Japanese a few years ago.

Imagine being a yonsei child who was born and raised in Japan, mainly speaks Japanese, and attends a Japanese public school (where students might call you “gaijin” if you can’t pass as Japanese or if you have a non-Japanese name). You come to a huge event that refers to you and everyone in your community as a “gaijin”. How are you supposed to feel?

Some may argue that this is a sign of progress; you’re supporting local businesses and performers who are sansei/yonsei. However, I see it as very regressive and problematic to a huge degree. They are remotely far from being “gaijin”, and you’re promoting the multicultural communities here at their own expense by reminding them that they’re not fully Japanese. They are a legitimate part of the Japanese diaspora and Japan itself. I think the Japanese diaspora seems to be the only one in the world where many people claim that possessing any other heritage/culture automatically makes you not Japanese at all.

On the signs of the event, the slogan is, “The Gaijin Day: We live in Japan together!”

Yes, you can live in Japan together, but you will always be separate. You will always be classed as non-Japanese. Having any heritage or culture mixed in will cancel out your Japanese identity. That’s the message that you are sending to the mixed-race residents here, especially to the younger generations. And that’s a very toxic message to send.  Farrah.





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?  (I guess not; but surely the Japanese officials behind this weren’t similarly bribed to leave Japan in 2009?!)

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.  Dr. Debito Arudou

The poster in higher resolution (click to expand):

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28 comments on “Farrah on Hamamatsu’s city-sponsored “Gaijin Day” event: Problematic wording and execution, esp. given the history of Hamamatsu, and who attended.

  • Can you imagine the international response to any city anywhere holding a ‘Nigger Day’, or a ‘Jew Day’?
    Even more so is the sad state of the international media that hasn’t picked this racist event up; such is the level of normalization of Japan’s institutional racism.
    This event sadly proves that Japanese society is closer to ‘Dejima’ mentality than it is to embracing the UN Convention on Human Rights.
    All the activism, all the effort, it’s all wasted. Right here is the proof that we’re all back to square one on this issue. How depressing.

  • If you live in, virtually, any country in the world people will try to make sure you speak their language.
    If you live in Japan people will always try to practice their English with you, or at worst, their katakana.

    Integration between Japanese and foreigners is something that is frown upon and you can see it even in the poster, the ひらがな sprinkled all over the places, as if foreigners don’t deserve the right (and responsibility) to be fluent in Japanese just like everyone else.

    You’re welcome to come, you’re welcome to stay as long as you stay in your preassigned class.

    I long for the day when the media will refer to people with their name only and drop all the 日本人・外国人 classification.

  • How can / should this particular case of embedded racism start being un-embedded?

    For example, for 2019, if the event were re-branded (e.g. 混合遺産の日), awareness raised among Hamamatsu City Government and the HICE Center, and the promotional material updated accordingly, would this constitute a desired outcome?

  • @ Debito, “Gaijin. As I’ve argued before, it’s essentially a radicalized epithet with “othering” dynamics similar to “nigger”. ”

    Not according to Anna and co. at the Beeb. Seriously someone should forward this news to them.

    But as she has already”weasel- fielded” my query by saying Gaijin isnt the same as “Jap” (her words), I think Dr. Debito should contact her directly in no uncertain terms and tell her that no, Gaijin is a radicalized epithet with “othering” dynamics similar to “nigger”.

  • This is Japan’s huge loss: “Having any heritage or culture mixed in will cancel out your Japanese identity. ”

    Imagine the huge loss of manpower for every “halfu” who feels alienated.

    Unlike the British Commonwealth, or even the Chinese diaspora, Japan has no such overseas brother countries or communities that would support them,
    (Unless you count The Nihau Incident, which was more of an exercise in shame and betrayal…
    “the Haradas knew the Niihauans regarded them as more Japanese than Hawaiian, they kept what Nishikaichi had said to themselves. That was the beginning of a sell-out that would cost them–as well as the nation–dearly.
    .http://www.historynet.com/the-niihau-incident.htm )

    • Brooks Slaybaugh says:

      It has even happened to my Japanese wife who has naturally pale skin, I guess more than the average Japanese person.
      She has been asked in she is Russian. It must be a bit odd for other Japanese to question whether she is a “real” Japanese person, because she does not look the “right” way.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    When you see the community in which local residents and public school teachers blatantly call Japanese of diverse cultural heritage as “gaijin,” it’s not just right. Seems like organizers and city officials who sponsored the event took this opportunity to sell out multi-ethnic, multi-cultural heritage by framing their “diversity” as cultural heritage permanently “remote” and unassimilable to the heart of Japanese soil. It’s this kind of epithet that produces a false belief that Japanese with mixed-cultural heritage or “haafu”(bi-racial) will never be able to assimilate to their mainstream culture.

    Detractors and pro-Japan apologists love to use this kind of fallacy to argue against any politics of diversity or identity. Typically, they use skin-color as a prime indicator to give a rough judgment on one’s ability to assimilate to host culture or not. Never mind that some native Japanese (Wajin) would have difficulty assimilating into their mainstream society due to its distinctively complex and fragmented cultural environment. It’s never been a part of conversation because life experience in foreign country–no matter how long you live outside your home country — is always endogenous. If you are not visible, it never comes out of your skin (Only exception may be when you speak a language of your adopted culture most of the time.) So, you are fine. Please, stay out of our business. It matters only when you are seen as “visible.” Really? Nope. It’s not that simple. But, detractors always try to make us believe that issues of identity and race in Japan only matters to visible minorities.

    Selling out diversity in this manner does nothing but pandering to an imaginary construction of
    Japalagos island. Hamamatsu city deserves better than that.

  • anyone who argues that gaijin is an innocent description of a forienger is not connected or immersed in Japanese culture.
    If you have ever experienced a Japanese call the authorities on you for anything, you will soon find them using the word gaijin to describe you.
    Yes, gaijin is a word used to humiliate, alienate and discriminate against us NJ

    • A couple of other usages I have experienced, oddly both in Kawasaki (a progressively governed city with a decidely unprogressive populace IMHO).
      “Hey, that person really looks like a foreigner” to which I replied, well, yes I am.
      And “Her abusive boyfriend is worse than a foreigner” (gaijin yori saiyaku”- to which it was hurriedly explained away that they meant “other foreigners” not me!)
      So there also seems to be a kind of social league table of behavior, and if a Japanese behaves badly they are “worse than a foreigner” ??

      I am still trying to get what the first comment means though I was sometimes compared to Japanese idols who looked like foreigners (Caucasians), maybe a back handed compliment. Anyone else had this experience?
      So you are a cool foreigner if you look like a Japanese who looks a bit like a foreigner…..rrrriiiight.

    • “a Japanese call the authorities on you for anything”, akin to the schoolyard fallback “I’m telling on you (if you do not do what I want)”.
      The sole power otherwise oppressed at lower rungs of Japanese society given to them in the Abe zeitgeist, the power to “lord it over the gaijin”.
      At least they arent “Gaijin yori saiyaku” in their own minds. They still have their membership in the Japanese “club”.

  • https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2008/08/05/issues/once-a-gaijin-always-a-gaijin



    According to the 日本国語大辞典 (Nihon Kokugo Dai Jiten) which is the Japanese equivalent of the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest citation for the word 外人 (gaijin) is circa 995 AD.

    The earliest citation for 外国人 (gaikokojin) is 1859, which is 864 years after the earliest citation for 外人 (gaijin) so without a time machine it would be impossible for the word gaijin to have been derived from the word gaikokujin.

    (Hat tip to wikipedia editor Bendono, Nov. 13th 2010 https://archive.is/RoXoB)

    From the earliest 995 AD citation the word gaijin has always been a very derogatory term, since it originally meant “a person who is not born in this village: an eternal outsider who can never be trusted, a person who should be treated as a hostile enemy and thus if conveniently possible should be refused help such as food or lodging.”

    In the present-day the word gaijin remains a very derogatory term, since it currently means “a person who is not racially-pure-Japanese: an eternal outsider who can never be trusted, a person who should be treated as a hostile enemy and thus if conveniently possible should be refused help such as food or lodging.”

    As shown in Japan’s present-day usage, gaijin is currently a racial epithet since it refers to race, not birthplace, not culture, not nationality: only race. And even worse, it specifically refers to racial purity.

    Japan currently uses the gaijin label to describe all people who are “not racially-pure-Japanese”, even if 3 out of 4 grandparents were “racially-pure-Japanese”, even if one was born in Japan and raised in Japanese culture, even if one is a citizen of Japan.

    If 2 grandparents were “racially-pure-Japanese” the fact that the other 2 grandparents were “not racially pure Japanese” means the unfortunate ハーフ (half gaijin, 50% gaijin) is thus labelled as a gaijin.

    If 3 grandparents were “racially pure Japanese” the fact that the other 1 grandparent was “not racially-pure-Japanese” means the unfortunate クォーター (quarter gaijin, 25% gaijin) is still thus labelled as a gaijin.

    The “one drop” rule applies here, so even “racially-pure-Japanese” who happen to be cursed with embarrassingly curly-hair, and/or freckles, and/or green eyes, still vehemently deny the possibility of even one great-great-great-great-great-grandparent having been a gaijin, since to admit that possibility would be admitting the possibility of personally being 0.78125% gaijin, a scary thought for any “racially-pure-Japanese” person who knows that being labelled a gaijin, however slight the percentage, would decrease their chances of equal treatment in Japan.

    (Which is truly ironic, since the original inhabitants of Japan were curly-haired blue-eyed whites from Russia who settled Japan from the north 50,000 years ago, whites who were then overrun by the invading asians from China/Korea 10,000 years ago, thus over the past 10,000 years the original Japan whites were eventually blended into the “mainly asian appearance, only slight white appearance” remaining Ainu of today, the Ainu who modern Japan only begrudgingly quite recently agreed to pretend to consider, along with those dark Ryūkyū folks who originally settled southern Japan, as supposedly finally being added into the “Japanese” category, but the fact remains that the majority of Japan’s relatively late-arriving “Yamato a.k.a. Wajin a.k.a. racially-pure-Japanese” today still don’t really consider those original Japan inhabitant light Ainu & dark Ryūkyū to be “racially-pure-Japanese”. How ironic.)

    Anyway, all citizens of Japan should be called Japanese, regardless of race, but Japan continues to label all people who appear to be “not racially-pure-Japanese” as gaijin.

    And Japan continuing to label all people who appear to be “not racially-pure-Japanese” as gaikokujin is also a racial epithet, even if it is a relatively nicer one.

    Still think gaijin and even gaikokujin are not derogatory racial epithets?

    Try this test: find a “racially-pure-Japanese” person who speaks Japanese but who is NOT a citizen of Japan, call them a gaijin, and even call them the relatively PC term gaikokujin. Watch how mad the person (who is not a citizen of Japan) becomes about being called a gaijin. Watch how they vehemently deny being a gaikokujin. But hey Mr. Suzuki, Japan claims that gaijin is just a friendly casual abbreviation of gaikokujin, and Japan claims that gaikokujin simply means a person who is not a citizen of Japan. Why are you getting so mad about being labelled a gaikokujin, Suzuki-san? C’mon my gaikokujin friend Suzuki-san, calm down. I’m the citizen of Japan, even though I’m white, so I’m the 日本人 at this table, and you are not a citizen of Japan, so you are the 外人 / 外国人 at this table. Hey, why are you so angrily denying the fact that you are a gaikokujin Mr. Suzuki? Why are you walking away shouting obscenities, my gaikokujin friend Suzuki-san? Is it because “racially-pure-Japanese” people don’t want to be labelled gaijin or gaikokjin, even if they lack citizenship of Japan?

    Yep, it turns out, as Debito.org has been saying for decades, the label gaijin/gaikokujin are both derogatory racial epithets in modern Japanese language, and that modern Japanese culture continues to discriminate against all people labelled gaijin/gaikokujin, and nobody (not even Mr. Suzuki) wants to be put into that second-class sub-human sub-Japanese category.

    The only time the term gaikokujin should even come up is when a person who is not a citizen of Japan goes to immigration to renew their visa (or their permission-to-live in Japan) status.

    Look, if the person has Japanese citizenship, Japan should simply call the person Japanese.

    If the person has Japanese citizenship, and IF (big IF) the person asks for their race or previous nationality or ancestors’ race or ancestors’ nationality to be proudly mentioned, then Japan should simply call the person ブラジル系日本人 (Brazilian-Japanese) or アメリカ系日本人 (American-Japanese) etc.

    And regardless of the person’s citizenship, if the person’s nationality or race is irrelevant to the person’s actions, Japan should simply call the person すみすさん (Smith-san) = Family name followed by san, as Japan properly does to “racially-pure-Japanese”.

    Notice katakana “foreign marking” about names (or even things, for that matter) is not good. Hiragana for all “foreign” names, or even better, self-chosen Kanji ateji, is needed, to end the “foreign, star-of-David marking” which katakana perpetuates.

    Bottom line, the Hamamatsu “gaijin” festival shows that Japan has still not learned to stop using the derogatory racial epithet “gaijin”, and even if they had used the relatively nicer racial epithet “gaikokujin” the fact remains that some of those people in the photos have Japanese citizenship, thus Japan still is continuing to wrongly label Japanese citizens who are “not racially-pure-Japanese” as “racially-foreign-people”.

    • It’s nice to see I’m not the only one who has realized the rule of “write ‘foreign’ names in katakana” is racist. It took me a while to come around to it, but now I write names in hiragana. No more 長音符 either. I don’t mind the “foreign” label being applied to words, so “boat” in katakana is fine as far as I’m concerned, but towards people that sort of intentional, unnecessary distinction constitutes discrimination.

      This, incidentally, is another way of weeding out racists. You’d be surprised how many people can’t deal with the notion of writing your name the same as everyone else’s.

      — My favorite kaizen sushi shop in Sapporo had a couple of clerks who had a nasty habit, when things got busy, of writing my surname in katakana (even when everyone else’s surname was written in hiragana, never kanji) on the entranceway’s reservation roster. I would then call the manager, express my displeasure of being gaijinized like this, and say I’m not coming back for a month (when my appearances were on a weekly basis; their sushi was addictive). The problem was solved for the most part, but later on just out of reflex we’d get another clerk katakanizing me, and then I would repeat process. It took about six months, but eventually the practice ceased. But the “othering” was that embedded.

  • — Debito here. Here’s a comment from Debito.org Reader XY who commented directly via email; forwarding with permission:

    Hi Debito:

    I wanted to delve further into “Gaijin Day”, but not on debito.org as my comments could be interpreted as being too abrasive.

    That said, it is extremely unfortunate that we’re bemoaning 「がいじんの 日」 because IMO we should *instead* be celebrating 「混合遺産の日」 (or something similar).

    Alas, this is not the case. Why not?

    In my view, “Gaijin Day” came about because of a lack of activism, specifically actively shaping the narrative about ethnic and cultural diversity in Hamamatsu. And because of this, two Brazilian men in their 40s arrived on the scene, lumped people with multicultural backgrounds (including themselves!) into a single “gaijin” bucket, and in so doing did an massive disservice toward all Japanese people of mixed-heritage.

    So yes, shame on Hamamatsu City Government and the HICE Center, and whoever else supported “Gaijin Day”, because of all places, one would think that Hamamatsu should have known better by now.

    But I believe we can only damn Hamamatsu so far. To quote the oft-cited financial fine print, ‘past performance is not an indicator of future outcomes’ — ultimately, I believe that it is the responsibility of the people of Hamamatsu to curate and raise awareness of the legacy and history of immigrant Japanese communities in Hamamatsu, not Hamamatsu City Government or the HICE Center.

    And so I am rather dismayed that Farrah, who has lived in Hamamatsu for five years and is extremely knowledgeable about Brazilian and Peruvian immigrant communities, has been all but oblivious about “Gaijin Day”. I may well be wrong, but I do not believe Farrah would have found out about “Gaijin Day” at the eleventh hour from a friend (in Kansai!) had he / she been doing something to raise awareness of the plight of Japanese people of mixed-heritage in Hamamatsu.

    In any case, while it certainly would have taken effort on the part of Farrah and others to shape the narrative about ethnic and cultural diversity in Hamamatsu, this task is now made much more difficult due to the existence of “Gaijin Day” and its founders.

    Personally, rather than blog about “Gaijin Day 2019” in approximately a year from now, I’d like for you to be able to blog about how “Gaijin Day” got with something more suitable. Although I am not in Japan, I’d like to know what I can do to help realize this outcome. Sincerely, XY

    • I don’t want to accuse XY of victim blaming, so I’ll just leave that idea.
      But I don’t think we should be putting the responsibility for this on the people of Hamamatsu. Whilst it would indeed seem reasonable to do so *in any other country*, this is Japan, and Japan’s top-down, defer to your ‘betters’, vested interests, opaque decision making processes make it an unreasonable request IMHO.
      Japan neither encourages, supports, welcomes, nor has a history of developing ‘bottom up/grass roots’ decision making. What would the ‘erai hito’ do if people were encouraged to think for themselves?
      Unrealistic expectations by XY I fear.

      • Like Farrah states, two Brazilian guys in their 40s managed to get “Gaijin Day” off the ground, and they obviously didn’t do so by starting a grass roots movement. So how did they convince the Hamamatsu City Government and the HICE Center to get behind their event? A slick PowerPoint presentation? Wining and dining? Bribes?

        My point is that whatever technique(s) these guys used to launch “Gaijin Day” off the drawing board and into reality needs be considered as activism in Japan.

        Maybe I was wrong — maybe “Gaijin Day” came about because of a lack of imagination regarding what activism in Japan needs to be.

        In any case, “Gajin Day” needs to cease being a thing full stop. Why? Because I fear that it could end up growing legs and spreading — like “Japanese Only” signs.

        In fact, one could argue that “Gaijin Day” is the opposite of “Japanese Only” — the latter is racial discrimination by exclusion (‘You don’t look Japanese, so even if you’re a citizen, you’re not automatically allowed into our onsen.’) whereas the former is racial discrimination by *inclusion* (‘You don’t look Japanese, so even if you’re a sansei/yonsei, you’re automatically a gaijin in our event).

  • I think when you enter the Japan game, you should understand that there are default positions and beliefs that the Japanese people have that will not change. one is that if your not Japanese, your a gaijin, and will be treated differently. If you understand this, you are not going to be set up for depression or other mental issues, well perhaps some PTSD if your a long term resident, but this is how I deal with day to day life in Japan. When I enter an establishment I say “may the gaikokujin enter this establishment? Usually the answer is yes. May the gaikoujin be seated here? May the gaikokujin order? So this clown act does get old, but I never feel bad anymore. Thoughts?

    — So you’ve surrendered yourself to second-class status. It’s a strategy, but no guarantee of escape from mental illness.

  • Debito san,

    Thank you for your reply, and as always, your attention to NJ suffering.
    Its just a conclusion I have accepted; Ive tried all the other coping strategies, but none have worked. You can escape to some disconnected employment like expat status and all is bliss or immerse yourself in the culture, as is always reccomended by those who are not aware of what that involves.
    I say to each his own…(is there a latin phrase for that?) If one says Japan is so great, I never argue with him/her. But, every long term gaikokujin Ive ever encountered has always came to the same conclusions as me. Thanks for your comment!

  • Thank you again to Dr Debto for publishing news of this latest throwback to the 19th century nonsense that passes for 21st century life in Japan all too often.
    Not only does the Hamamatsu local government embarass itself by such actions – this and other incidents reflect the Japanese insecurity about ethnic origins. And not only those of non Japanese.
    An academic writer whose name I forget pointed out that countries tend to define their national identities by qualities they lack.
    Hence the British emphasis on ‘Fair play’ while its Empire was engaged in adventurism and exploitation around the world as one example.
    Japan insists officially and unofficially that it is an ‘Island Nation’ and therefore uniquely homogenous and entitled to maintain its ‘exceptionalism’ while in fact Japan is an archipelago – made up of different islands.
    Along with the different islands are different ethnic groups – and the number of different dialects reflect the diverse origins of what are collectively called the Japanese people.
    On the other hand a country such as the Republic of Ireland is truly part of an island nation, by genetic,linguistic, cultural and historical factors has always been far more homogenous than Japan yet is truly part of the interconnected 21st century unlike Japan.
    The only way to deal with the Japanese delusion of the right to assign an outsider’s low status to new citizens, residents and people who do not fit into a category of Japanese-ness that actually has never existed in genetic, linguistic and regional fact, is to shame Japan.
    Publicly. Use the media, send emails with photos of the ‘Gaijin’ and ‘No gaijin/foreigner’ signs and this latest stupidity in Hamamatsu for a start to the non Japanese media.

    • Oldbutnotobselete says:

      Reality Check, With regard to your statement, ” On the other hand a country such as the Republic of Ireland is truly part of an island nation, by genetic,linguistic, cultural and historical factors has always been far more homogenous than Japan……….”.
      Please read the following…….www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-42311403
      Here in the British Isles we’re all a bit Irish, and a bit Viking. I digress.

    • Baudrillard says:

      Hence the British emphasis on ‘Fair play’ is a bit of a generalisation! “Benign Neglect” (or in the case of India, not so benign) is equally relevant

  • Dr Debito, I’ll just quickly reply to oldbutnotobselete quickly as I know the main focus is Japan and not the Rep of Ireland.
    Oldbut….I am very aware of those studies. My point is the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland constitute an island. Not an archipelago like Japan.
    Recent genetic studies on haplogroups – populations who come from a common ancestor on the patrilineal or matrilineal line – and associated haplotypes demonstrate that the population of Ireland was relatively isolated for a thousand years and more.
    What became the predominant Gaelic culture was willingly adopted by the relatively small number of Vikings and later the relatively small number of Norman English who came to subdue the Irish and ended up adopting their culture.
    The different islands that became Japan had many different languages called ‘dialects’ now to cover the fact that so many different languages mean different ethnicities. Likewise serious genetic studies on the Japanese reveal significant genetic diversity.
    This is hardly surprising but apparently in 2018 it’s still not part of any education system in Japan. There are plenty of historically homogenous peoples both genetically and culturally in the contemporary world who do not hide behind the excuses that Japan makes for perpetuating myths, stereotypes and bad science.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    According to this JT article;

    The Japanese emcee at the event declared ‘We are all gaijin!’. I wonder if he reached that conclusion after being turned down for a job, denied an apartment, or access to services and welfare? Nope, thought not. Vacuous and patronizing comment by a Japanese at an event designed to pander to fears and fetishes of ‘the other’ that are held by genuinely ignorant Japanese members of society.

    • From the article:

      “In the end, HICE didn’t support the word ‘gaijin’ and there are two opinions regarding this word in the foreign community — especially for Brazilians,” Kikuyama concluded.

      So despite its misgivings, HICE still supported the event?! What am I missing here?

      Next, the part about there being two opinions regarding the use of ‘gaijin’ is telling — one *might* argue that the use of ‘gaijin’ inside Brazil is not unacceptable, but inside Japan I don’t see how the same argument can be made.

      Lastly, regarding how “it [the word ‘gaijin’] could be a good opportunity for foreigners living in Japan to discuss about it”, there’s nothing to discuss — it’s tantamount to saying that the word ‘ni**er’ could be a good opportunity for blacks living in America to discuss’!!

      If ‘foreigners living in Japan’ should be discussing anything, it’s how to say ‘sayonara’ to Gaijin Day!

    • Loverilakkuma says:

      I read that JT article too. I think the editor asked Farrah to provide an abbreviated version of her initial essay, since it’s bit lengthy (1,777 words). I still don’t know who made an ultimate decision on naming (HICE reps or the city sponsor?), but there’s no doubt that cultural ignorance of wording breeds an inherently bigoted view toward diversity.


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