Sunday, June 28, 2009

Racism in Japan

A story from a black student in Japan got me thinking. After meeting my future father-in-law in a Shibuya Department Store, I became engaged to his daughter. This was in early 1960 when intermarriage, even to an Asian was frowned upon. My future in-laws not only approved of me, but loved me, as I did them. After 47 years of marriage and now living back in the United States, I have seen the racism in Japan lessen, as it has in the U.S.

I had read about 1 year ago in a blog that a young male white foreigner (gaigokujin) complained of racism. He was still living in Tokyo after several years. I could never understand why he was still living in Japan if the racism was so blatant and widespread as he stated. I think it was his own inadequacies and, maybe, egocentrism that caused his problems; the old chip on the shoulder syndrome!

When I was first in Japan there was racism, especially against the blacks who were stationed there in the U.S. Military. This racism was from both the white Americans and the Japanese; but this abated over the years. My wife and I still travel a lot to Japan and have very good friends, all Japanese. We have never seen an overt act of racism. Of course, her family, who all state I am not an American, but Japanese are never outwardly ashamed of me and I always feel accepted. Our other friends are from Japanese people who were either working in the U.S. or from introductions to Japanese while we visited. Some of these friends work in offices and stores and some are in managerial positions, salarymen or own their own companies. My wife and I are comfortable with any and all.

I still struggle with the Japanese language and wish I had done more to improve it when I was young and it was easier to learn new things. While I can get around Tokyo by myself, it is a struggle to speak and understand people who I am with for long periods of time.

If you or any of the other students or truly interested in Japan and plan to stay or visit often, I suggest you learn conversational Japanese now.

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