The definition of “Gaijin” according to Tokyu Hands Nov 17, 2008


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Hi Blog.  Writing to you from Nagoya, had a lovely evening with Andrew, Michael, and John eating spicy tebasaki, and a great discussion with all manner of labor union activists at Nagoya University before that.  Next stop, documentary SOUR STRAWBERRIES showings tomorrow at Shiga University and Osaka at the Blarney Stone.  Stop by and see this truly excellent movie, and snap up a DVD and a book (never had such a successful selling tour:  Nearly 50 DVDs, nearly 40 books!)

Meanwhile, let me do a quick one for tonight, with the definition of “gaijin” not according to me (a la my Japan Times columns), but rather according to the marketplace.  Here’s a photo sent in by an alert shopper, from Tokyu Hands November 17, 2008:

Very funny.  Note what makes a prototypical “gaijin” by Japanese marketing standards:  blue eyes, big nose, cleft chin, and outgoing manner.  Not to mention English-speaking.  Yep, we’re all like that.

Anyone for buying some bucked-tooth Lennon-glasses to portray Asians in the same manner?  Naw, that would get you in trouble with the anti-defamation leagues overseas.  Seems to me we need leagues like that over here…  Arudou Debito in Nagoya

25 comments on “The definition of “Gaijin” according to Tokyu Hands Nov 17, 2008

  • I saw that once before in a Kobe Tokyu Hands. I honestly thought about buying it as some kind of meta-Halloween costume, since I am one of those CRAZY foreigners who is not a blue-eyed blonde.

  • They are for sale at Amazon as well:ジグ-6028-ハロー外人さん/dp/B000EI1QPQ/

    Sales ranks:
    54,022 (in the toys category)

    Also check out:ジグ-6084-ハナメガネ外人さん/dp/B000EHVVG6/
    — and —ジグ-6156-黒ヒゲ外人さん/dp/B000EHXR2W/

    To give some context, they also make banana pants:ジグ-1418-バナナぱんつ/dp/B000EI1QR4/

    Sales rank for banana pants is is about 13,000 (in toys category).

    All of this stuff is apparently targeted at 6 year olds. Not sure Banana pants would go over well in America or even Europe, especially for first graders.

    To see more go here:ジグ

  • I’m not very surprised. I’ve seen comedians use the nose and a yellow wig to depict foreigners since I’ve come to Japan some years ago. I’ve been to Tokyu Hands-this floor(party goods) is full of tasteless stuff anyway.
    Speaking of gaijin depiction, have you seen this “owarai konbi”? They were on the TV yesterday too,though I’ve seen them several times before. What do you think of that kind of gaijin depiction? I think they should be banned from public appearances until they come out with something less racist.

  • Several years ago (this is when I was a teenager…so I am talking several years) a joke 日本人 costume in the United States including buck teeth and glasses with slanted eyes was available at a novelty shop. Rightfully so many Asian Americans (not only Japanese) complained. This actually made the newspaper in the San Francisco Bay Area (having a very large Asian American…mostly Chinese..popilatino) and nearly all the folks supported the complaintents unanimously. The costumes disappeared. Unfortunately in Japan I believe if foreigners complain about this issue there will be little, if no support from the Japanese and no action will be taken. Heck even the dude from Australia would not complain. Guess this is the difference between a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society (the U.S.) and a homgeneous mono-cultural robotic society like Japan.

    Do not think this will ever change. Would love to be proven wrong though!

    Anyway I feel much more sorry for the Japanese that feel a need to wear this than I do for us foreigners. Perhaps we should resurrect the old Japanese costume referenced above in Japan….wonder how that would fly? haha

  • I actually bought a pair of those in Osaka and wore them on the train pretending like nothing was going on.

    Man that was so funny.

  • Lame lame lame…and this is coming from a blond-haired, blue-eyed, big-nosed American. Ask a Japanese about Africa and South East Asia in regards to “foreigners” and be ready for some “huh?”, “what do you mean?”, “you silly foreigner asking these silly questions”.

  • Curtis Revis says:

    The party disguise is tasteless, as tasteless as a buck-toothed Lennon-glassed disguise to depict a Japanese person. Some people who’ve grown up in Japan will say that people are overly sensitive about the depiction, that it’s just for fun and no one would take this as a serious, racial stereotype–and they’d be right, to a certain point. What is at issue here is not necessarily the depiction but the propagation of an image that reflects certain (negative) expectations and does not reflect actual reality.

    Now, are the connotations of this image negative? Is “outgoing” a negative characteristic? No, not usually. The problem, then, is that in Japanese culture, the blond-hair, blue-eyed person is assumed to be outgoing and, if they are not actually (as I myself am not), then they are viewed as “strange” or, worse, suffer negative feedback from, say, students, who expect the foreigner to be outgoing and friendly at all times. The problem is compounded by the fact that people indoctrinated in Japan have the stereotype about themselves that they are “shy” and, so, different from non-Japanese. This problem can become harmful to those children born and raised in Japan who do have “foreign” physical features that lead some people to assume they should be outgoing (or violent, criminal, etc.) when, in fact, they might actually be shy–and thus leading to a judgment of “hen” or strange based solely on the observer’s preconceived ideas and not on the individual themselves. So, the image of outgoing is not harmless, though I would not jump to the conclusion that it intends harm; it does not, however, contribute to a more understanding, flexible, open culture. So, instead of banning it or simply just getting outraged about it, we should be educating people about the negative effects of such images.

    By casting non-Japanese as always outgoing, blond-haired and blue-eyed, the image of the pure Japanese (which is somehow viewed as being composed of diametrically opposite characteristics)is reinforced and strengthened, lending a sense of purity and power to the self-image. In this way, the Self is defined and reinforced by the perceived Other; thus, the Japanese image of “Japanese” is threatened by the dissolution of the “non-Japanese,” creating angst within the individual. It is natural to want to limit this angst, and so we should not be surprised by stereotypes; they occur in all cultures. But that doesn’t mean we should accept them or judge all actions against them as “reactionary,” as the previous post by “Sam” seems to imply.

    For all people from other countries visiting or living in Japan, and for those Japanese with marked “non-Japanese” physical features, I am sorry to say that the stereotypes continue. I have lived in Japan for 9 years now and am raising a blond-haired, brown-eyed kid in their midst. I would prefer that as much as possible, people’s reactions to my son are based mostly on his individual actions and characteristics, not on people’s preconceived ideas. That should be the goal in any culture aspiring to be “international.” Sadly, I feel Japan, and other countries, have a long way to go in this. Limiting these images or simply educating people about their negative consequences would be a step in the right direction; accepting and ignoring them won’t do anything.

  • GiantPanda says:

    Yeah Owarikombi – making fun of foreigners who have gone to the trouble to learn your language – not cool.

    It wasn’t until I came to Japan and had to function in a non-native language that I realised how cruel and hurtful it can be to make fun of people’s accents and way of speaking. It’s like a smack in the face to someone who is really working hard to speak your language and communicate with you.

    It cuts both ways however… think really hard the next time you mock some honest sarariman’s Engrish…

  • Well I dont think anyone is that bothered about this, but to be fair no-one is saying ALL gaijin look like this.

    It is a bit like if I was a clown and I complained about a clown costume that depicts the clown as having greenhair and spiral design bowtie, when I have orange hair and stripey tie.

    I guess they could say ‘hakujin’ instead if you want to be pedantic about it.

    I care about racism and stereotyping, but the line I draw is above this.

  • There are actually a lot of “Asian” props available at American costume stores, like Asian mustache, Coolie, etc.

  • Andrew Smallacombe says:

    Don’t be surprised. Mizkan had an ad on TV featuring Tunnels doing the blond wig, fake nose and fake accent about 20 years ago.
    Less than 5 years ago, the “Enjoy CM” crowd had an animated ad featuring the eyes, nose and accent.

    I’m curious to see the ad from Eastern Europe that the Japanese embassy put an end to. What did they find so offensive?

  • Debito, I posted this pic to you perhaps a year ago. I’ve hated that thing since I spotted it at Don Quixote in 2004. Then again, they also sell bald caps with round glasses and what would be surely deemed a racist depiction of “Asian” eyes in U.S. They’re all in the party section, which has always confused me. I must not be getting invited to the awesome costume parties…

    What I really resent is eikaiwa advertising. It’s nothing but the pastiest, most bleached-out Caucasians (blonde and blue-eyed 90% of the time) doing the silliest damn things ever. They really spread the message that we love to make HUGE gestures, especially giant THUMBS UP! HAHA! ENGLISH!

    For further irritance, refer to this lovely KDDI commercial –

    Of course, being “complimented” can be just as pathetic –

    Tested on speaking, then kanji, then asked what they love about Japan. Seems to be a pattern here…

  • In the early ’80’s my family and I visited a local Japanese restaurant for dinner. We entered and were summarily directed to leave with the admonishment that the restaurant was Japanese only. Heretofore, I had never experienced anything like this . With my Japanese wife on my arm, I had enjoyed unlimited access to all things Japanese that I encountered. As I stood there with my two sons who were thankfully too young to realize what had happened, I felt frozen and unable to speak. Feelings of rage and contempt boiled up as I struggled to contain them. In the end we just left quietly. We did not discuss it. I felt empathy and sadness for my wife who was undoubtedly experiencing feelings of deep humiliation. After all these years, I have difficulty writing about it without experiencing discomfort. I lived in Japan for another ten plus years but my view of Japanese society had been permanently altered. Person’s who trivialize and dismiss examples of Japanese racial intolerance do not speak for me.

    — People who experience true discrimination and disempowerment really get hit hard. That very moment of refusal can be a life-changing experience. Thanks for sharing it.

  • They’re selling another version (‘better’, if you will) at Loft, the last time I saw the set was at Loft in Shinsaibashi, Osaka.

  • John Tysome says:

    Do they include a false chin? What about eye brows? And what are you supposed to do for hair? Kick back with your own? Wear some kind of hat?

    I agree with everyone, this disguise is surely preposterous, and I shall not be recommending it to any of my friends.

    That sir, is market economics (another invention of the ‘white man’).

  • I think some Japanese people might say that the motives behind the big-nosed blonde gaijin and the buck-toothed Lennon glasses Japanese are different, since many Japanese people seem to think that having a large nose, blue eyes and blonde hair is ‘cool’, whereas probably nobody in the world thinks that having buck teeth and milk bottle bottoms is in the least bit desirable. The man in the picture isn’t technically ugly (although the effect of the fake nose might be).

    While I don’t think it is malicious, however, it is unsophisticated, ignorant and, on the whole, pretty sad. Clearly the brainchild of somebody who has a very limited experience of the world and little knowledge of it. A pointer, I think, to the poverty of the education system.

    Getting turned away from a restaurant, on the other hand, is preposterous and a clear example of downright nastiness in action.

  • Could someone not make up a “Japanese” costume as described above and take it to Tokyo Hands management and ask them if they’d like to stock it in the store?

  • People need to laugh more.

    And I’m a gaijin with a big nose and blue eyes… not too unlike that cartooned fool on the Party Joke packaging.

    And yes, I get pissed off at what I see as a lot of ignorant racist bullshit in this country. But not this. This doesn’t affect me. It kinda makes me laugh.

  • ellydishes says:

    Hmm, I saw this either at Don Qui or Tokyu Hands, but honestly it never occurred to me to get angry about it, I thought it was sort of hilarious.

    I really feel for people who are sharing stories of being turned away at a Japanese-only establishment (and experience I haven’t yet had) but I typically have felt that 99% of my experiences in Japan people have been ridiculously excited to meet me for no better reason than me being an American.

    Plus, I think there is something hilarious about that “TV Blond” look, with the WAY too white teeth, the fake-looking hair, and the chin-by-Zeus. I think it’s more a parody of that sort of TV creature… which we parody in America, too.

    — But as we said, try parodying the buck-teeth Lennon-glasses look in the US and see where that gets you with the Asian ADFLs. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

  • samuel welsh says:

    Gaijins differ a lot brown hair black hair red hair and blond.
    As well as indians ,middle eastern people and other asisan people and europeans.
    Sterotypes are foolish

  • Karmo Tharn says:

    Hiring Practices, Class Allocation and Color Politics; The State of English Teaching at Japanese Universities

    I wish to draw attention to practices in university English departments in Japan, which are by their very nature counter-productive and often harmful to the acquisition of English as a foreign language in Japan. . I have been a university instructor for the past 4 years and have taught English in Japan for the past 12 years. I also have a T.E.S.L. certificate and a Masters in Applied Linguistics. This article is meant for the public, at large and for administrators of university English departments in the hope that they will make a sincere effort to improve their administrative practices with a view towards benefiting students. The arguments below will apply more to universities where English is offered as a required course, but does not exclude universities where it is offered as an elective. Naturally, I understand that many of the practices mentioned below are common in many industries throughout Japan, which makes them no less harmful, but my focus is the university industry.

    Over the past few years, there have been a dearth of stories in the news regarding how consumer products (i.e., beef, housing, etc.) have been misrepresented to the public, often at the consumers’ expense. Companies, motivated by profit, substituted low quality for high quality products, while charging premium prices. There have also been stories of public figures misrepresenting their educational backgrounds. It should come as no surprise that this practice is also going on in most of Japan’s private university English departments. What makes the practice particularly heinous is that most universities are entrusted with the education of Japan’s young adults and therefore with Japan’s future. And, considering that English is considered the lingua franca of the modern world, at present, the implications of receiving an English language education that is inferior in quality to what is paid for is a serious concern

    To understand this situation one must remember that most of the English teaching industry in Japan is based on the NOVA (now defunct) model. As most professional EFL instructors are aware, NOVA was not an educational institution. It was primarily a business. One must also remember that most universities in Japan (some 1700 institutions) are private. Over the past decade, rather than making an effort to make education in Japan more international by having more tenured foreign instructors, the university industry has opted to have more part-time Japanese and foreign instructors.

    As most part-time workers well know, this means no benefits, no bonuses, no professional development and very little job security, only an hourly wage. In fact, for the past five years, some Japanese universities (e.g., Meijigakuen, Meisei, etc.) have actually resorted to using dispatch companies (e.g., D.I.L.A., Westgate, etc.) to find their instructors. Using dispatch companies basically means that the instructor does not receive any pay during university holidays. Instructors also have no control over which classes they will teach from year to year and sometimes, not even the number of classes, which directly affects their income. The main problem with treating English language education as a business is that both the education and the welfare of the students are not primary concerns, and therefore both suffer.

    How does one become a EFL instructor at a Japanese university? Well, many Japanese university administrators cannot speak English and in my experience, view the whole hiring process as just too much trouble. Consequently, most instructors are hired because they are acquainted with an instructor who is working at a particular university.
    The cronyism (i.e., favoritism shown to friends and associates) demonstrated at most universities in Japan almost certainly reduces intellectual debate and hampers institutional growth. Thus, guaranteeing a lower general standard of English education for students

    Basically, as long as the person “looks” the part, they can become a university English instructor in Japan. Background checks are almost never carried out. In the past, foreign “professors” have been found not to even have undergraduate degrees. In one particular case, one degree was photocopied and the name changed for up to five people. The general public has no idea how some foreign “teachers” enjoy taking advantage of the laziness and incompetence of the administrations of some English language departments. In addition to some instructors having no Master’s degree, which is a prerequisite for having a university teaching job in the West and some instructors have Masters, which are not language or teaching related. But, are, nevertheless, teaching language courses or are teaching classes unrelated to their Masters (e.g., MBAs teaching conversation and writing classes).

    Once a person becomes a university instructor, there are no quality controls in place regarding their teaching. In language schools and some vocational schools (two-year colleges), most instructors are observed and given advice to improve their teaching. University instructors are not observed. The only quality control governing the classroom practices of university instructors are the student surveys that they are required to conduct towards the end of their courses.

    Regardless of education and experience, at some universities, once an instructor starts there, they are placed at the bottom of the list for promotion or advancement; a practice which ignores the internationally recognized principle of being able to transfer experience from job to job as long as one remains in the same profession. In short, this means that a highly educated instructor with better education and more experience than another instructor has FEWER advancement opportunities and may teach less classes, and consequently be paid less than a more junior instructor. (While working for Tokai University, the director of the Foreign Language department promised me more than 6 classes/wk. At the end of my first year, I began to ask for exactly that. At the beginning of my second year, not only did I not receive them but found that an instructor with less than half my experience and no Masters had been given the 2 extra classes I was asking for.) The savings incurred by this practice is minimal to universities, but incalculable to students.

    The implications of having instructors who are, in a word, unqualified are obvious. Garbage in. Garbage out. The calculation is a simple one; when learning anything, would you prefer to be taught by someone who has no experience or training or someone who has? Make no mistake, being able to speak a language and being able to teach it, are two completely different things. It is difficult for students to undo the poor instruction they receive from uncommitted instructors. The poor hiring and class allocation practices of most Japanese universities, directly results in students graduating with very little or no communicative competence in the English language. And, if universities, private or public, are not willing to uphold standards in the recruitment of their instructors, why should students bother to obtain an education given by substandard institutions with substandard practices? And, why should parents pay for such poor quality instruction (and, by extension, the salaries of the administrators who create the problem in the first place)? It seems more than a little hypocritical to ask students to adhere to university standards, when the university itself isn’t adhering to any.

    With regard to color politics, over the past decade school boards have been censored for only hiring “blonde-haired, blue-eyed teachers”. A top-ranking executive of the now defunct NOVA also admitted in an interview that the company would routinely turn away qualified applicants who were non-Caucasian. Why do the majority of the Japanese people seem to prefer white-skinned, blonde-haired people as English teachers? Simple. Somewhere, along the way, the thinking that Caucasians are better than non-whites, seems to have become a permanent feature of the Japanese mindset. And, of course, the majority of the Japanese people like looking at their pretty eyes; a fact that should hardly matter in a university setting. In my experience, linguistic imperialism still reigns supreme (i.e., the mistaken conception that only white-skinned individuals speak proper English and only they are able to properly teach it) in Japan.

    Linguistic imperialism openly ignores the fact that most of the individuals that speak English as a first and second language are non-Caucasian (And, that most of the people the Japanese are likely to speak English with, will also be non-Caucasian). In my 4 years as a university EFL instructor, I have never met another male, black, brown or yellow (with the exception of Japanese English instructors, of course; at Tokai, out of approximately 70 instructors, I was the only one), North American, university EFL instructor. In my entire career in Japan, I have met only eight non-white teachers of English in the Kanto area (most are no longer in Japan).

    The two black, female university teachers I met, during my career, were basically pathetic attempts to appear politically correct (i.e., tokenism). . I had no doubt that they were fully qualified, but they were being used by their institutions to show to the outside world that the institution was racially tolerant, ethnically diverse and progressive; a situation which is far removed from the truth and quite similar to the plight of colored people in the workforces of Western industrialized nations some thirty years ago. You see, in Japan, since there are no enforcement procedures in place and the courts turn a blind eye, discrimination in relation to age, sex, marital status and ethnic origin is widespread. A UN ambassador stated the same thing in 2006. In Japan, the unwritten and unspoken convention is to treat people from various countries and ethnicities differently, depending on where they come from and by the color of their skin. Accordingly, Caucasians seem to garner the lion’s share of courtesy and consideration from the Japanese; whether they deserve it or not. This practice is not only racist, but elitist as well

    Why does this situation continue? The truly insidious thing about discrimination and prejudice along ethnic/color lines in Japan is that most Japanese as well as Caucasians are fully aware that it’s happening. The Japanese deny it in order to “save face” and do nothing about it because they seem to believe that it’s the way the world should be. It also bolsters their sense of self-worth to feel superior to another group of people (as if denying opportunity to a group of people denotes superiority). The Caucasians, however, don’t deny it, but go along with the situation because it socially and economically benefits them. The impression I’ve gotten so far to date in Japan is that the contributions of colored people, may be needed, but are certainly not wanted.

    What does this all mean? The real reason why English language education doesn’t work at the university level in Japan is due to the poor attitude towards English acquisition held by administrators of Japanese universities, in other words, poor leadership. This attitude is fueled by the fact that English threatens Japanese cultural identity and is a constant reminder that most of the elements of modern Japanese society are of Western origin. This immature attitude results in English programs being tailored to “Japanese taste”, which, of course, is not the real thing at all. You would also think from observing administrators and their staff that many of them don’t really like their jobs. It should come as no surprise to anyone to know that if any task is approached with a poor attitude, the product of that task will be of poor quality.

    A primary symptom of this poor attitude towards English language acquisition is the lack of standards for the hiring of EFL instructors and class allocation for those instructors. Administrators are not doing the jobs that the parents of students pay them for. Many of these administrators are products of the “relaxed education” policy that was, and still is, popular in Japan. Relaxed education basically provides a way out for students not to strive for excellence and any learning activity that is considered too difficult or too troublesome can then be ignored. Some administrators are also lax in the performance of their duties because no one questions them (a learned, pre-Meiji era mind-set) and it’s simply easy for them to do so. This poor approach to their work ethic provides a reason for students to believe that English is not that important and, consequently, can be given only a passing effort. And, ultimately, you cannot teach people who do not want to be taught. A positive attitude is absolutely necessary.

    The poor attitude towards English language acquisition is characterized by university language department administrators, who are ego-driven, petty, spiteful and narrow-minded. This results in a “divide and conquer” approach to communication, based on power through the use of secrecy and withholding information. Especially information that would place said administration in a negative light. (I was asked to resign from a teaching position at Meikai university after a student attacked me from behind in the classroom. As part of the settlement I had to agree not to pursue any future legal action against the university; the administration actually threatened to blacklist me in the university community, if I didn’t cooperate – an illegal action in Japan. The new director was not a fan.) This approach creates division and doubt rather than understanding and enlightenment, for teachers and the public. Thus, some administrators operate on the basis of “bad faith”, which fosters an atmosphere of distrust. Naturally, most instructors do not give their best effort in this sort of negative environment. Most professional EFL instructors are principled, disciplined individuals, who do not require nor expect to be manipulated by theory X (i.e., top-down, control based) mentalities.

    What can be done? If university administrators working in English language departments are really not interested in working with the English language, they should move on. Students should be put first. Also, more emphasis must be put on substance rather than form. Instructors should be hired and allocated classes exclusively on the basis of experience and education regardless of ethnicity or the color of their skin; in other words, merit-based criteria. If true multicultural awareness is to be achieved, diversity targets must be set and enforced. Hiring instructors who are experienced and educated in language or teaching are preferable to those who do not have those qualities. Instructor qualifications should be posted on university websites, making it easier for verification by the public.

    University administrators must be held accountable for the decisions they make and the one’s they don’t. University administrators should be subject to an annual performance review, based on objective criteria set by a professional body, which would determine their suitability for salary increases and promotion. Pressure should also be put on university administrators by parents to make sure that their children are getting the education they are paying for. At present, the Ministry of education is the only body that has the administrative fiat over Japanese universities. And, far from being trendsetters in society, as they should, most Japanese universities seem to be one of the institutions most resistant to change. Many simply do not change unless the Ministry forces them to.

    As most intelligent people are aware, change is a fact of life, to resist it allows for decay and eventual decline. It remains to be seen whether or not the Japanese public and Japanese universities have the will to be on the forefront of change or if they will allow another generation to suffer because they can’t be bothered to care. The future is in your hands.

    Karmo Tharn

  • Karmo Tharn says:

    Tokai University and Color Politics

    I have been an English instructor in Japan for 12 years. I have worked in every level of the public and private education system in this country and have been a part-time university instructor for the past four years in four institutions. I am an honors graduate from the University of Toronto. I first came to Japan in 1996 with a TESL certificate. Since that time and, while I was working, I managed to obtain a Masters in Applied Linguistics, with a focus on Japanese literature and culture as my thesis. And, I consistently get good reviews from my students.

    You would think that with experience and qualifications like the ones listed above any person in possession of them would have absolutely no problem obtaining long-term, lucrative teaching employment in Japan. Unfortunately, not. The part that I omitted was the fact that I am not Caucasian; I am of Indo-Caribbean descent and I am a male, and not of small stature. Why do I mention this? Simple. These facts have prevented me from obtaining that long-term, lucrative teaching position in Japan.

    Here follows an example from my own experience: I was hired directly by the director of the Foreign Language Department at Tokai University, a S. Tanaka. At that time, I had two years of part-time university teaching experience. I was hired as a replacement for someone who was going to be starting the 2008 academic year. I stated that I was interested in teaching as many classes as I could get. At that time, the director assured me, on two separate occasions, that I would be teaching 6 classes, but probably more. Of course, that was great news. But, not only did this not come to pass, but every 2nd semester, I would receive less than 6 classes and I would have to petition to obtain the minimum. I suppose this was a convenient way to get me not to ask for more.

    I knew that I was not being dealt with honestly when at the beginning of the 2009 academic year, I learned that an instructor (Caucasian; blonde hair, blue eyes) who had less than half my experience as an instructor and, who was lying about the fact that he was undertaking a Masters degree (he told me so himself), was teaching two more classes per week than I was. In December of 2008, I had submitted an open schedule, in hopes of obtaining some extra classes (Tokai has 3 campuses in the Tokyo area). I also wrote to the director, on three separate occasions, of my hope, which he already was aware of. The director decided to ignore me.

    Once the 2009 academic year started, I wrote him again. I then met with the scheduling coordinator and the liaison officer, just to make sure that I was following the proper procedure and to determine who was responsible for class allocation decisions. Turns out it was the director. I wrote the director on two more occasions during the summer of 2009. He also ignored those missives. At the start of the fall semester, he told me that it was impossible for him to give me what I was asking for, even though the other instructor was teaching two LESS classes than he was in the first semester.

    How do I know at all that a part-time teacher can have more than 6 classes? In my first semester working at Tokai, I worked with a senior part-time teacher (Caucasian), who was teaching 18 classes per week. And, he wasn’t even considered to be a very good teacher by students or fellow teachers (perhaps, he was once, but has long since ceased to care). I was told in early 2009 that I had a good job. I was too embarrassed for myself and Tokai university to mention that I was living below the Japanese poverty line. The director, however, was aware of this fact since I told him directly. At the time, I was one of only 2 North American, colored instructors in the English department, the other person being female – out of approximately 70 instructors. And, in my almost 14 years as a EFL instructor in Japan, I have met only eight non-white teachers of English in the Kanto area (most are no longer in Japan).

    The truly insidious thing about discrimination and prejudice along ethnic/color lines in Japan is that most Japanese as well as Caucasians are fully aware that it’s happening. The Japanese deny it in order to “save face” and do nothing about it because they seem to believe that it’s the way the world should be. It also bolsters their sense of self-worth to feel “superior” to another group of people (as if denying opportunity to a group of people denotes superiority). The Caucasians, however, don’t deny it, but go along with the situation because it socially and economically benefits them. Personally, I am writing this now simply because I have been unable to obtain a fair opportunity in Japan as a teacher and like other people of color, I am moving on. The impression I’ve gotten so far to date in Japan, in relation to teaching, is that the contributions of colored people, may be needed, but are certainly not wanted.


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