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Showing posts with label The Japan Times. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Japan Times. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

To Be Or Not To Be A Gaijin - That Is The Question

Every once in a while I come across a news topic where I am unsure about where I stand.

Usually things are pretty back or white, but in this case I thing there are shades of grey mixed in.

Published October 7, 2018 in The Japan Times Community section, Farrah Hasnain wrote about a so-called “The Gaijin Day” held in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka-ken in Japan.

Of note, is that Hasnain is an American of Pakistani descent… IE, she notes it because she feels this enables her to know what it already feels like to be an outsider. I’m not saying she’s wrong, by the way.

Even back home in the U.S., despite how Americanized she might be, others see her as something other than American first. It's probably a color thing.

However, I don’t think she helps that view, as she calls herself “a first-generation Pakistani-American”. But I do understand her point.

I was born in England, to parents born in India, and we moved to Canada when I was three-years old. I identify myself ONLY as Canadian. Or maybe as a writer. Or Andrew. I do NOT identify myself as a hyphen-Canadian.

My opinion is: pick one.

Others, of course will disagree, usually with racist or prejudicial comments. They tend to hide behind some anonymous name. Why? If they are so correct in their righteousness, why hide? Because even they know that North American society (for example) finds such thoughts abhorrent.

Which takes me to Hasnain’s op-id piece in The Japan Times.

You should READ it first, and then come back here.

Of course, the article uses many Japanese terms without providing an explanation, but I’m sure you get the gist. If not, here it is:

No matter how many generations you may have in living here (Japan)… regardless if your great-great-great grandparents came here 150 years ago, you, despite being born in Japan, are not really Japanese.

You are not a pure-blood Japanese. You have gaijin blood, therefore you can never - EVER be Japanese.

This is the exact same argument held by yahoos in North America (for example).

Despite the Euro-centric belief system some (a few, really) North Americans maintain about their rights in the new world of North America, even they aren’t the pure-blood Americans. Those would be the true aboriginal peoples of North America.

Anyhow… I digress.

Let’s look at the Japanese word “gaijin”.

Some people call this an ugly word, others don’t. And it’s not simply a matter of non-Japanese versus Japanese.

Gaijin translates (old school) to “outsider”, and refers to a “foreigner”.

But what is a foreigner to the Japanese?

Sure it could be a Dutch person, or a Portuguese person, or anyone from another country.

But in reality… the term gaijin has been in existence for centuries and centuries.

It actually refers to any person from another town.

Back in the of days of feudal and pre-feudal Japan, towns and villages were very close-knit… and travel between towns and villages was something not done very often.

When it was, that person was a “gaijin”. Yes… Japanese called each other gaijin. They literally were an “outsider” to a town or village or community.

Obviously, such commentary about strangers traveling from one town to another is no longer cause for one set of Japanese to call another Japanese person an “outsider”. Right?

Well… op-ed writer Hasnain said that The Gaijin Day festival was not about having foreign artists come in to take part, but rather it mostly involved “sansei” and “yonsei" - third and fourth-generation Japanese.

Hasnain correctly took offense at the fact that the show’s organizers called third- and fourth-generation Japanese folk “gaijin” or foreigners/outsiders.

However… WHY did these sansei and yonsei decide to take part in The Gaijin Day festival?

If it was sooooooo offensive, why would they have participated? Was it just another paycheck, and the realization that no matter what they do or how long they have been in Japan, they will never be anything other than a sansei or yonsei or gaijin… and never accepted as being Japanese.

Have they become resigned to their “fate”?

These people were born in Japan, and thus should be considered Japanese citizens, or at the very least “Japanese” regardless of their ancestry.

By that same token, any person whose family came over from England to North America four generations-plus ago could NOT be considered to be American or Canadian.

So why is Japan allowed to get away with such blatant “racism”?

Japan actually seems to care what a person’s bloodline is. If there is any hint of gaijin ancestry, that person - and its heirs - are considered to be non-pure blood.

For those of you who enjoyed the Harry Potter books and movies, that is akin to calling someone a half-blood, or a muggle.

Let’s use the term “muggle” hereafter when referring to the non-pureblood Japanese.

Japan—again, I know this isn’t the viewpoint of EVERY single Japanese person—does like to consider itself pure Japanese, ergo any dilution of genetic material via cross-breeding that results in a muggle, is simply not Japanese.

Anyone with a semblance of knowledge of WWII might also recognize the same thoughts from Nazi Germany. The Aryan master race race... blonde, blue-eyed, Teutonic. But, on the negative side, God help you if you had even a tinge of Jewish blood in you.

Jewish blood. Isn't being Jewish a religion? Perhaps I should have said "Hebrew" blood. Then again, Nazi Germany had a hate on for jews (Juden), and used that term rather than Hebrew.  

In Japan, and that whole muggle-thing.... it takes its pureblood/muggleblood thing quite seriously.

The country has a reasonably large Korean-descent base of population… with people having come over generations ago from the mainland... and regardless of the fact that those people have been in Japan for centuries, Japan still prefers to refer to them as “Korean” rather than Japanese.

At what point in time does an immigrant or a muggle actually become Japanese?

Sure their passport may indicate they are Japanese, but society does not recognize them as such, despite the official status.

It’s as though the entire Japanese society has got behind and accepts that unless one is a pure-blood Japanese person, everything else is simply not “real Japanese”.

If I married Noboko, and we had a child born in Japan, would he/she be considered Japanese? Yes. Officially. But unofficially, the Japanese would point at the heritage consumed by the father (me), and label the child as a hafu (half).

The implication is there. My child is a half-breed.

The point isn’t whether or not that is “technically” correct, the point is that such terms are politically incorrect. Or at least they are in places not called Japan.

Not everyone thinks this way in Japan, as I have pointed out - and the best example I can give is one related to myself.

It’s 1990, and I’m part of the second year of JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme participants.

Even though it’s the second year, 1990 Japan is hardly new to the concept of people from outside of Japan visiting or living in its country. It’s something that has been going on for at least 150 years and more.

However, I understand that outside of the main cities and towns around major ports, the inland cities, towns and villages may have little experience with contact between themselves and the “outside” world.

Look… even in parts of Northern Canada, I’m sure there are enclaves where they have never met an Asian person before. I can’t guarantee that, but it is possible even in 2018.

Anyhow… I had just arrived in Japan, in my home rural city of Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken… it was early August 1990 and during the o-bon matsuri (Celebration of the Dead festival, essentially).

A city local was talking to my OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) boss Hanazaki-san (Mr. Hanazaki), and he in passing referred to me as the “gaijin-no sensei”… the foreigner/outsider teacher.

That's Mr. Hanazki and myself in the photo at the top. I have better photos, but for some reason, I like this one the best.

Hanzaki-san stopped him in mid-speech and corrected him, say that I was NOT a “gaijin-no sensei”, but was simply “Andrew-sensei”.

If THAT doesn't scream respect, I have no idea what does. Hanzaki-san went out of his way - and this is 1990 - to refer to me as a teacher named Andrew, and not as some foreigner teacher.

That person who uttered the slight, bowed and apologized to Hanazaki-san and then to me - even though I wasn’t really involved in the conversation… I just happened to be nearby.

I don’t think that man meant to be insulting. I don’t believe he meant “gaijin” as an insult. He was just using the common vernacular for someone who wasn’t Japanese.

But… does that excuse his ignorance in the matter? For Hanazaki-san, it did not.

Why refer to someone as being a foreigner or outsider? That was his point!

Just refer to them by name and title - as one would any Japanese teacher.

I will refrain from stating that in Japan a teacher would still be referred to by their SURNAME and the job title, but the Japanese realize we foreigners (and we are foreigners, though you don’t get to call us as such) prefer to be called by our FIRST name rather than the Japanese standard of SURNAME.

Now… while many a non-Japanese person has taken great delight in calling another foreign person “gaijin”… it is done much the same way that the gay community has captured the word “fag”, or how some segments of the American Black community uses the word “nigger”…. it’s a case of where the community might use such terms themselves, but Buddha help anyone outside the community using it.

Although I should state that the term “gaijin” does NOT carry anywhere near the same weight as those other terms.

But that’s just the person visiting there.

What about the long-term foreigner making Japan a home? What about the person with one Japanese parent and one non-Japanese parent? What about those non-Japanese who have become Japanese citizens (like ex-sumo star Konishiki)? What about those second-, third-, fourth-, etc-generation Japanese who are Japanese but for the fact that their ancestral birthplace isn’t Japan?

It’s completely effing ridiculous.

The Japanese, when it suits them, have this belief of divine origin.

They came from somewhere, to the islands of Japan.

The Japanese religion of Buddhism… comes from China and Korea, and before that India. It’s alphabet and social customs were derived from China (and bits of Korea). It’s current Constitution was created by the U.S. (after WWII - though this IS something Japan wants to alter).

But none of that matters, as the pure-blood Japanese have figured out a way to show where they are all derived from.

Those that aren’t, are muggles.

And yet… there were such forward-think people such as my boss Mr. Hanazaki (gods, I’m probably the same age now as he was then)… who was quite willing to buck Japanese tradition to be more… worldly.

Perhaps one day, Japan and its populace will simply do away with the term "gaijin". Why loop anyone whom they consider non-Japanese under the term gaijin? Why not refer to him/her as that"Canadian" or Australian, etc.

Look... we all do it... using physical descriptors when talking about people.

Where's Suzie? Oh, she's there beside that fat Black girl. Why use the descriptor of Black or fat? We could simply say she's the one wearing a green tee shirt and jeans. Why use a physical descriptor?

Gaijin. I didn't mind being called a gaijin when I was living in Ohtawara-shi back in 1990-1993. I figured that eventually the term would fall out of favor in Japan. I didn't need to be angry or upset with the term.

Noboko, Takako, Kurita-san, Hanazaki-san, Kanemaru-san, Suzuki-san... and so many others... they never referred to us JET participants as "gaijin".

We were Jefu-kun, Mashu-kun, Andoryu-kun... terms of endearment by our girlfriends/wife, or just Jeff, Matthew and Andrew to the friends, or Jeff-sensei, Matthew-sensei or Andrew-sensei to the locals we encountered. 

I still did get upset, however, as I realized the most of the Japanese people I knew, although they had no problem with our "foreigness", did have an issue with people of Korean descent.

It's funny. I would think that the Japanese people who have Korean ancestry would be the ones who would be most upset.

Somewhere I am still sometimes a gaijin,
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, September 3, 2017

My Commentary On Japan Times Article: How a love of Japan led me to stop dating its women

I recently read an opinion piece by Damian Flanagan via a special to The Japan Times.

In his article, Damien writes about how a love of Japan led him to stop dating Japanese women.

The thought process behind it is, that he felt that by having a Japanese girlfriend, he would get bored with learning about Japan, and conversely, how how his desire to learn more about Japan would eventually sour him on whatever current Japanese girlfriend he had.

You can read the article HERE

Go on and read it. I’ll wait.

Dee-da-dee-da-de-da-da-dee-dah… the girl from Ipanema goes walking, and…

You’re back? Lovely.

So…that was Damien’s opinion, and I applaud his bravery in saying so, even though I think he was wrong.

Not wrong in the sense that no… he shouldn’t have given up on Japanese women, but rather a “Dude, WTF?!” kind of wrongness.

Granted Damien knows himself batter than any one of us—at least his thoughtfully crafted article makes one believe so—MY opinion of his opinion is that things need not be so black or white.

I think Japanese, there for I can not date Japanese lest I get bored
is a stupid reason for his dating choices.

I have no issue with Damien enjoying his dates with Korean, Filipino, Chinese, Thai and Nepalese women, or his jaunt into western ideals with a Canadian, American or like his current squeeze—an Australian woman.

I slept with a couple of Thai women at the same time, but aside from my time with the many women of Japan, that was it for Asia.

That was not by choice. However.

Neither was my desire to “hook up” with Japanese women.

I never gave a crap where a woman was from, and not so much about size or looks…  I cared about a few things… namely: intelligence… I wanted someone who was as intelligent as me or more so.

I wanted someone of good moral fiber, which doesn’t mean she needed to be a saint or a nun, but rather someone that everyone could agree upon was a decent and/or nice person.

Lastly, she had to like me and all my quirks. We all have’em. I’m not even sure what all mine are… but certainly writing and the desire to write is one of them.

Oh… a good sense of humor is a must. I’m not saying she needs to be cracking one-liners as we are undressing or guffawing at my stupid “dad” jokes over dinner, but enough to pretty much get where I’m coming from.

I also admit I’m not overly thrilled by the high-pitched girlie voice, and might consider that as something that could get on my nerves sooner rather than later… I own up to that. 

I do not give a crap where anyone is from or what race they are or even what religion they choose to participate or not participate in. I’m not overly concerned about too much or too little height, but, I admit that there probably is a limit to my non-concerns… though I don’t know, as I have not yet found it.

Oh yeah… sex. I’d prefer to have it, and dammit, I prefer people who are open about their sexual fun.

Yup… I have slept around… did a fair bit of it in Japan… in much the same way that Damian freely admitted he couldn’t believe some gorgeous Japan woman wanted to marry his geeky butt, neither I couldn’t believe that stuff was happening to me.

But I don’t merely look upon it as the fact that Japanese women want to date foreign guys - otherwise every foreign guy would be getting laid everyday of the week, and that just ain’t happening either back in 1990-1993 when I was in Japan, or certainly not now in 2017 when it appears as though Japanese people are more than ever simply not interested in having sex.

Geez… ya leave the country for a single generation and the whole thing goes to hell in a hand-basket.

While I am sure this is the pot calling the kettle black, Damian seems immature.

Pronounced im-mah-tour, as I attempt to take the moral high road.

I never wanted to go to Japan. But, once there, I immediately dated someone non-Japanese… not because of any reason, but simply because I found some I liked and who liked me. Until she didn’t… and then she did… and then she didn’t… and then she did…. and then she didn’t.  

But once that was all over with, I didn’t seek out new life or new civilizations… I just kind enjoyed my life in Japan while I pondered just what the fug was wrong with me and if I was destined to die alone, unmourned, unloved…

I dated other women… but again… some were western, some were Japanese… but at ZERO instance did I ever seek out a dating partner based on where she was from.

Being a shy, geeky virgin before arriving in Japan, I would have prematurely cum in my pants if a woman actually sought me out to talk. I never did, of course, because no woman ever came up to me to talk.

But that was Canada. In Japan, I got to be the real me… a shy, geeky virgin pretending to be confident.

I found it came easily… no not the pre-mature ejaculation. Ever, in fact…. it was just a turn of speech used to make what I hoped was a humorous point.

No… the confidence thing… as such… I asked out zero women—less one— in my entire time in Japan, but was asked out by over 50 women (guesstimate), with awesome physical contact from nearly 40 of them.

Bragging? Yeah. I am. So what? I’m making a point. If you want me to truly brag I can tell you everyone’s names and what they liked and how often they liked it.

Right. I’m just making a point.

And just so you know, I never dated another Japanese woman after I left Japan… but did date a lot of eastern European women, because Toronto had a huge influx back in the mid-1990s.

To me, that simply means playing the cards you are dealt.

Anyhow… I wasn’t kidding about not asking anyone out in Japan. Except one. The woman I saw, fell immediately in love with—you just know, dammit… that sudden involuntary intake of breath… the need to immediately write love poetry as the entire world stops around you as realize art imitates life:

You're just too good to be true
I can't take my eyes off you
You'd be like heaven to touch
I wanna hold you so much
At long last love has arrived
And I thank God I'm alive
You're just too good to be true
Can't take my eyes off you

That’s the opening stanza of the Franki Valli song: Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.

My love poetry written moments after I saw her was a haiku:

Her beautiful eyes
Seem to hypnotize my soul
Capturing my heart.
Andrew Joseph, 1993

You just know… and so… even though I knew right then and there that I wanted to marry that woman, not once did I ever think “I want to marry that Japanese woman.”

Yup… she was Japanese, but it’s not like it was something that defined her or me. She was a woman. That’s what mattered.

Her Japanessness did define me—at least while I was there and whenever I write about her in this blog—but her being and looking Asian had no bearing on who I am or who she was.

It was love at first sight. And yes, I believe it happens all the time, to paraphrase The Beatles.  

That’s why I think that while Damian’s opinion on Japan and Japanese women is correct (because one’s opinion is always correct), BUT the contents of the opinion itself does NOT have to be correct.

It’s why I feel comfortable in allowing Damian his opinion, just as one can allow a neo-Nazi his opinion… but I can feel and state that the contents of said opinion are incorrect or do not jibe with my own beliefs.

Despite Damian’s age (I’m guessing 30's or 40s), his thought process makes him seem... immature.

Not wanting to date Japanese woman because he fears it will interfere with his love of Japan is… wow…

I don’t want to say “stupid”, but come on, dude…

It’s like a guy saying he only wants to date a blonde… or will only date an Asian redhead with big boobs.

Yeah, the latter was an ideal I spouted I wanted to sleep with, but it was always me doing a misogynistic joke. And no, I wasn't buying anyone hair dye and a boob job… she had to be all natural.

Obviously I wasn’t serious, because as far as I know, my ideal combination does not exist in nature. Maybe she does… but then it would be my luck that she wouldn’t want to have anything to do with me. That and the fact (in no particular order) I’m older, married, heavier and… well… the list continues…

How sad… to refuse to date a blonde or a brunette or someone whom society deems too heavy or too tall… you could be ignoring the absolute LOVE of your life!

You can’t seek out your ideal man or woman! At least not if you desire love.

Love finds you… slaps you in the face with a white kid glove, the world slows down, you get dizzy from sucking in that little breath of air… as you suck in your gut… and Cupid’s poison arrow is shot through your heart…

While I hope Damian’s Australian significant other is his love of his life (Siri on my phone is female Australian voice, because I find that a sexy accent) … by casting aside people based solely on looks, Damien might have cast aside someone who might have been even better for him.

Casting aside women based on Race just so you can feel sure you won’t get bored studying about Japan… that’s fugged.

Love and do what you will.
From St. Augustine's Sermon on the First Epistle of John 4:4-12

Damian… having a Japanese girlfriend or wife does not preclude you from having fun learning about Japan.

The two are not inclusive. Heck… I haven’t even been to Japan in 24 years and yet I can still write about it in an effective manner. I hope. 

All I can say is this… Damian, while I respect your brave opinion… sometimes you can have your cake and eat it, too.

Andrew “I want another piece” Joseph
PS: I named my second rottweiler Damien (slightly different spelling), after the kid in the Omen movies, and where I first saw the rottweiler dogs...