The 7 Stages of Gaijinhood Revisited

By Michael Gakuran | | Japan | 42 Comments |

After a stunningly shrewd post by Our Man in Japan, a wily Durf left a snarky comment in reply linking to this blog. It’s left me scrambling around doing a bit a soul-searching, so I figured I would tap it out on the computer like my old Livejournal days.

Firstly, be sure to read Mr. Abiko’s blog post above, then these two if you can manage it: How’s Your Japan Blog and The Seven Stages of Gaijinhood. The first rips apart pretty much every Japan-themed blog around and the second is a rather painfully accurate look at the stages many foreigners go through living in Japan. It has brought me to my knees in self-question. Nothing wrong with a hefty dose of humility every now and then, so I thought I’d throw the topic out there and see whose head it turns.

So the graph above is basically what this is all about. The progress – or should we say plunge downwards – of the typical foreigner who comes to live in Japan. Beginning at the lofty heights of the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed visitor, right down the cynical ‘lifer’ with his wealth of knowledge.

For some reason, recently a series of events has been focussing my attention on foreigners and knowledge in Japan. People who loathe to be called ‘Japanophile’ and silently seethe at all the cosplayers dizzy in their deluded Japan-inspired fun. Those long-term residents who exchange banter constantly aiming to one-up one another in their understanding of the country. Or people who think they have acquired enough knowledge of Japan and the world that they suddenly become experts on how to fix the ‘problems’ the country possesses or offer detailed insight into why things are.

It’s a nasty place to find oneself. Not being a native of the country, I’ve always felt a sort of stigma attached to criticising the country, offering suggestions or my opinion. After all, I’m just some guy from the U.K who took a university course and now lives here, right? What possible qualifications could I have for criticising another country and its people? This has been especially pertinent for me because I’m still fresh-faced and young out of University. I’m always torn between wanting to debate as an equal with other people, but held back because some regard age and status as necessary requirements to talk to them. This awkwardness is doubled when that person is another foreigner residing in Japan. Suddenly there’s a charged atmosphere – who knows the most about the country?? Whose theories on Japanese society are actually correct??

It’s not usually an obvious, spoken thing however. It may even not be there at all – perhaps it’s just in my head. But yes, something, something awkward about criticising and debating with people older than me. Something strained about engaging other foreigner residents of Japan about the culture. One-upmanship.

And then comes along this chart. A shrewd window into the stages of a foreigner’s assimilation. Is this process unique to Japan alone, I wonder? Probably not, but it doesn’t stop me beginning to worry. Have I become just another one of those people who think they know and understand Japan and proceed to lecture others and criticise the country? Does a course in clear-thinking and argument give me right to engage on difficult international topics surrounding culture and identity, working habits and lifestyles? Look at him, just strutting along – he’s got it all figured out. I can almost hear the taunts behind my back.

I’m concerned that I may be heading down this road unwittingly. I’m not a teenager any more and the old feigning ignorance and having people educate me on topics in life is no longer acceptable. I’m expected to be an expert on politics and economics and give my opinion with aplomb. If I show even just a hint of weakness of self-doubt I’m labelled as ignorant and stupid. Far better, it would seem, is to spout off some highly opinionated idea quoting a couple of sources than to actually consider whether or not one’s views are balanced and fair. It’s impossible to be completely unbiased when giving one’s opinion, but showing self-doubt and questioning is at least a step in the direction of humility. But there’s that self-doubt again… Show just a glimmer of it and people instantly chop down and claim you don’t know what you are talking about. Give a challenging and controversial opinion and people reprimand you for ‘not understanding’.

Why is everyone so sure of themselves and their opinions?

I’m rambling a little already. Is this a self-questioning post or a rant about the self-assuredness of others? Perhaps I’m already so wrapped up in it that I’m blind to my own folly, pretending that a reasoned and logical approach will prevail above all.

So I ask you, dear reader, what are your experiences when holding discussions with other people? If you happen to live in Japan, what are your opinions of the ‘gaijinhood graph’? Do you feel that you have taken a similar path during your life here?

42 comments on “The 7 Stages of Gaijinhood Revisited
  1. Oldenyouth says:

    Dear Michael,

    You asked “Why is everyone so sure of themselves and their opinions? Well here…I don’t have the absolute answers. In fact, I can’t answer that clearly at all! And even if I answer this query, I’m not really sure if my answer to ya question is the right one – for my answer (of which I believe to be right) can be seen as balderdash by another or even right to some perentage of the populace. Nonetheless, I’ll answer this question…of which I believe is right.

    And the answer is… I don’t know – except that I do know that people believe in themselves and their opinions with great trust simply because that’s what they mostly know. In simple speech, they know because that’s what they know – through their own experience, culture and life story. Once they are accustomed to their own knowledge, these persons act according to their knowledge with confidence. But if some sort of new knowledge (esp. that of a diferent culture) comes afresh to their point in life then yes – Culture shock, disagreements, eyes widened or as the casual dudes say…WTF!

    Now if another sort of culture or knowledge clashes with someone, then either people will accept it…OR…refuse it because people might think that it is NOT right, NOT suitable for their TASTES. Such unsuitable tastes is what makes people feel nauseated…and that is why people in general…feel secure of themselves and their opinions and insecure of other ideas as result. They’re comfy with their own opinions…like a seal that refuses to go out in the open ocean and would rather stay in its cozy lil’ aquarium. This is my take. I like to hear your thoughts about this :p

    Moving on… I can’t really comment much on the Gaijin Graph for I am not a Gaijin…but neither a Japanese. I am Japanese “officially”…but I’ve been livin’ abroad (in both developed and underdeveloped countries) for my entire ageing young life. I’m a half-Japanese lad but when I come to Japan, I am a gaijin. Of course I visisted Japan lots of times in the past…but after living here, my touristy, enthusiastic old self is waning and my pessimism cynical self is growing.  I always rant, ramble and even curse at my own “people” but then I’m reminded by someone very dear to me that I’m still young (even if I’m getting old) and as an ageing youngin’ with not much experience here, it is natural that I act in such a way. But if I let my vanity or temper take the better of me then my life here would suck…so my task is to adapt or…leave. Adapting is my exercise. If I succeed, my pessimism will wane.

    And speaking of the so-called experts…wahey! I happen to be one. And like you, I’m struggling to get on equal grounds with the other so-called “experts” and I find myself rather…pissed…when my knowledge, proposals or even discoveries get unnoticed here. Bah!

    Plus in Japan, I just found out that many people here are educated…so even professionals in certain fields like you and me can have a hard time with some common laymen or housewife here who are educated in good universities (this applies to the majority of Japanese people – not everyone) but know which kind of things we’re talking about. And to professionals like us, we take our fields rather seriously but to the layman or housewife, its just a mere (insert F + ING word here) hobby!

    Right ~ I could go on and on but I’ve written too much. I’ve been looking for people with similar struggles and life stories as I do and well…you’re one of them =) And yes.. I’d like to hear your response and listen to what you have to write :)

    The Old Youth (

    • Gakuranman says:

      I think you’re pretty much correct when you say that people feel secure and cosy with their current thoughts and feelings. Having their beliefs challenged is unnerving and very often not wanted, so the gut reaction is to dismiss the new ideas or challenge them (often with increasingly desperate and nonsensical arguments). I’ve caught myself starting to do this on occasion where something I disagree with presents a challenge. I try my best to remain open to new suggestions though – to amalgamate the new with my existing beliefs and values – but it’s not always possible.

      Sometimes ideas are just going to conflict, and in that case one has to make a decision to cast one aside in favour of the other. This is where logical argument and debate really help, in my opinion, more than a purely emotional reaction to something. Although it does seem true that too much rationalisation can also be a bad thing. Logically refuting another person’s arguments won’t really change their mind unless it connects emotionally to them in some way, but making that emotional connection is suprememly difficult, as you noted. People just aren’t open to changing their feelings on matters.

  2. Suewinski says:

    I lived in Tokyo for 8 years, the longer I lived there, the less I knew. Any statement I could make about the Japanese, the opposite would always be true. that said, I love Japan, and I loved living and working there.

  3. Charlie says:

    Gakuranman, you’re almost there! Once you get to “Acceptance” (the final stage?) your life in Japan will be immeasurably better. The likeability value on your graph will get back to about the same as “eager student”!

  4. The Envoy says:

    Feels like this graph can also be applied to life as a whole…

  5. Hello—Just found your blog tonight via haikyo stuff.

    What I think is interesting is that despite the person’s stage, there remains the desire to know and understand more about the country. An old teacher of mine said of Japan that the longer you stay, the more you want to keep staying.

    I may be taking things a bit far, the graph above sort of marks a person’s development from a child through, say, becoming a university graduate. Aren’t all sophomores “ill-informed activists” about the world and whatever their major is? And maybe it extends to all things people really put themselves into. As someone with about a year of DSLR photography under his belt, I’m sure I could put my dislike of the toy camera fad somewhere in the same analysis.

    My further thoughts just tumbled off the grow-into-a-giant-disorganized-comment cliff, so I’ll edit myself here.

    Thanks for this post!

  6. Japan eats people like us for breakfast.

  7. Fijkus says:

    This seems to be more a case of ‘seeing what you want to see’. There are people who appreciate strong opinion, people who will call out for not being informed, etc. It’s not nearly as black and white as you present it to be. Neither are people, though I’m inclined to hope that they’re basically good.

    It is one of the stereotypes, though.

  8. suffering is optional says:

    Perhaps later on that graph is acceptance and enjoyment. It was for me when I came to Canada as a teenager with little English. Japan is different but at the same time the same. Decision to a self absorbed idiot is a personal one and does not depend on being gaijin, people who come to Japan are really not that special. One does not become a retard by being in Japan, one is a retard to begin with probably.

  9. Alex says:

    That graph is interesting because it’s also the exact same graph when the Y-axis is the amount of books you read and the X-axis is how thick your neck is. The thicker your neck, the fewer books you read, until you get to a point where you say, “Damn, why is my neck so thick? I better read up on it.”(Demetri Martin)

  10. Locohama says:

    Hey Michael, nice post! Thoughtful and thought provoking. Interesting graph. OMIA’s piece? What can you say about that guy…brilliant!
    Well, you know my views. I shamelessly spew them all over my blog. I’m not sure if my experience is represented by that graph though, for I never experienced several of the points on that downward spiral. My graph would probably look more like a heart beat monitor. (-:
    I can identify with what you’re going through as a writer and blogger, and as a fellow writer I empathize completely. I, too, find myself asking serious questions about Japan and the impact living here has not only on others but most importantly on myself.
    I think we can all agree that life for foreiners living in this country has many flavors, both positive and negative, in the extremes, so it is always going to be a challenge to get people to see it differently. I think at my blog I just try to paint as vivid a picture I can of the Japan I see and let people take from it what they may. If they agree, that’s cool, if not, that’s cool too. My main objective is to be honest with myself and maintain some semblance of soundness and integrity. People will respect that whether they agree or not. Is that maturity? Is age a factor in that? I don’t know. I’ve met young people who can and older folks who can not. Myself included at times. But as a writer, and you are on that path as well, it’s essential. Keep your focus there and you’ll be fine, god willing. Post like this show that you’ve got what it takes, cuz it’s a painful process, fraught with discouragement, opposition, self-doubt, dissillusionment, and other not so fun things. What can I tell you? Ganbarimasyou ne! Keep your head up! I’ll do the same (-:

  11. Fantastic post, thanks for putting it out there.
    Sometimes it takes an ‘outsider’ to have a good insight on what is going on. Of course, people are always going to give you a bash – as an Australian living in the UK, the amount of times I have had ‘but you wouldn’t understand, you don’t come from here’ or ‘you don’t understand, that is just how it is done here’ (when actually I know more about the tradition/precedent/truthfulness of what is being talked about than the ‘native’) wears me down. But if anything it is because the Brits are so negative about their own country that they don’t believe you if you say anything positive!

    Do some gaijin get wrapped up in some fantasy about what Japan is, and then spiral down to loathing when the fantasy doesn’t fit the reality? Sure, but that happens everywhere. I think your blog hits a great medium, and I always feel you are writing about something (and photographing it) because it is your passion and inherently interesting regardless of where it is, rather than because it is ‘ooh, Japan, how different and freaky’. So please – continue with the Japan blogging.

  12. Jamaipanese says:

    never lived in Japan or visited there yet but a very interesting read and discussion. As a Japan enthusiast I’ll be sure to remember most of what I have read here and the two posts you linked to.

  13. Kokichi says:

    I have nothing really new to add other than that I feel exactly the way you do. I’ve often wondered if the path this graph depicts (which I too feel is fairly accurate) is applicable to other countries. Do people feel the same way in Korea? France? Is it just a matter of getting used to another culture to the point where you can be as cyncial about it as you are your own, or is Japan special? I’d imagine it’s the former, but I don’t have any evidence to back that up.

    I feel like there are two kinds of Japanese cyncis that I’ve met here. One is the kind going through “phase-two” as the JET community calls it, where everything is beginning to get on the person’s nerves – unnecessarily boring ceremonies, konbini workers speaking in the same annoying voice, the superfulous packaging, having your bags taped at the grocery store. These are the kind of people who, when irritated by something in Japan, will quickly use it as a blanket statement to say that all of Japan sucks because it’s this way.

    The other kind of cyncic is the one that’s cyncial of Japan, but in a constructive way, such as they are of their own country. Little things may get on their nerves sometimes, but they’ve pretty much become numb to them and have accepted them to simply be a difference in culture. What these cynics are upset about are broader systems, such as the archiac educational system, a male- and age-based hierarchal society, the horrible conditions of salarymen and the hardships that puts on their families. I see this kind of cynic to be no different from the same person who (assuming they’re from America) bemoans the fact that we still can’t get gay marriage passed, marijuana is criminalized to a ridiculous level, we seem to be trapped in a perpetual war, etc. This is the kind of cynic I consider myself to be – someone who realizes that the things he or she used to criticize Japan for were minor annoyances when compared to larger social phenomena that *should* be criticized, because without that kind of criticism, those structures will never change.

    Sometimes I worry that when I share my critical opinions about Japan, people think that I’m Japan-bashing. I hate that worry. People don’t think that when you complain about your own government that you’re bashing your own country.

    Anyways, that’s all I had to say. /rantoff

    • Gakuranman says:

      Interesting distinction between critics there! To be honest, I haven’t met anywhere near as many whingers that I expected, but I tend not to hang out with other foreigners a great deal. Constructive criticism definitely seems possible, provided one can keep a level head and appreciate the what the situation is like in other cultures and societies. I guess when expressing criticism, one method that might work is to show both sides of the argument. That way, at least you are demonstrating an appreciation and sensitivity for the other side. it would be difficult to call anyone a ‘Japan-basher’ if they gave their criticism in this context.

  14. Squall789 says:

    haha awesome! you read my blog and a bunch of others, opinions are quite varied it seems.

    I agree with many of the things you stated, all this “Japan bashing” however, I don’t dislike, no matter the country, no matter how good, people will find hundreds of things to bitch about, I live in the UK, and I freely bitch about it, the transport, the common view on other cultures and many more things.
    It’s just normal really, if I was in japan right now, im sure I’d moan about how packed the tube is (this is a seriously common thing to blog about…the “omg it was so busy an old woman almost died today, like everyday!”, this irritates me, the trains are busy…yes…but only as bad as London, perhaps a little worse, during my stay I never experienced it being too bad.).

    I do think that for a few months many people are in “OMG i can buy every cosplay outfit because everystore sells them (soon to realise that you cant just buy these in your average store…)”, then there’s the “I’ll blog about something insane, like the penis festival (basic over used example), as if the UK and the US has NORMAL festivals, the US has HUNDREDS of “eat yourself to death” festivals each year, the UK has cheeserolling, and another thing near conwall where you run down a muddy hill.

    Ontop of this the common “Japanese TV IS INSANE!!!” gets pasted around a lot…I’m still unsure how “strange” a japanese drama is in comparison to an episode of eastenders…or how “mad” a Japanese gameshow is in comparison to Funhouse, or The Cystal maze, sure a bit strange, but if it was boring then whats the point in watching it.

    I’ts true that I’m quite negative on my views about peoples missconceptions of Japan, I am NOT japanese, I am fully british bought up in a Japanese household, this doesnt mean im right, it also doesnt mean my opinions are clever, it just means I whine about things more.

    This was a great article, and all the articles linked inside (and inside of that) were a great read too, I especially liked the posts concerning books published about Japan, and having common names, and people discribing Zen.

    The most hillarious thing of all is…I have a account, however I do have a story behind this:P

    • Squall789 says:

      I should havea dded to this that I do watch a large ammount of Japanese TV, A: its entertaining and B: if I dont then my japanese will get no use at all and il forget it quicker.
      I have been watching Japanese TV since I was around 7 (im 23 now) and I’ve never found it “INSANE”, perhaps at times its a bit odd, but its entertainment, thats the idea, to be over the top at times.

      As a child I watched many old Japanese movies, and yes one of them was Godzilla, even as a child I understood it, and found it entertaining, not funny at all (I mean the early ones…not the flying kick ones), and many people dismiss as a part of “crazy Japan, when at their release date, some of these were very serious movies. They are about as strange as “the beast from 20,000 fathoms” amungst many other famous western old movies of similar styles.

      Just wanted to quickly fix that, I’m sorry my original comment was so long winded, and appears to contain a few spelling and grammer mistakes.

      • Gakuranman says:

        Hey Squall – cheers for your comments and emails on the topic.

        I’m definitely finding that as I live here longer and longer, the amount of stuff that seems strange or wacky is decreasing. I’m occasionally still surprised by things however, but now I’m finding it easier to see them for what they are – unusual manifestations of a very niche part of the culture.

        I’ve written posts on the quirkier aspects of Japan before, and probably will continue to do so from time to time (despite being niche, they are interesting!), but perhaps I have more of a responsibility now to make sure those posts aren’t mistaken for being ‘the’ Japan. The reader, of course, has to be careful about any information they are consuming and judge how reliable the source to be, but as a writer of culture I definitely think I should be doing my part to deliver things in as open and honest way as possible.

  15. CorinnaBeatgirl says:

    Kia ora (hello) Gakuranman from New Zealand!

    I’m not in Japan but have been a lover of Japan and its culture/s for some years now. Firstly I just wanted to say I am totally loving your blogs! Thank you for sharing yourself with us the way you do. I love your honesty, your respect, insightfulness (is that a word??), many things. You are really quite refreshing in a number of ways.
    I haven’t the time right now to post a reply as comprehensive as I would like, but for now I wanted to re-iterate and agree with a particular point that Orchid64 made, about how mature people respect other’s opinions and realise that most opinions are not fact, thus all can have validity.
    I would like to add to that that mature people – meaning, emotionally mature people – do not shame or judge each other for being uncertain, for not knowing, or for being insecure etc. An emotionally mature person recognises that we are not here on this earth to compete with each other about who has the most knowledge, who can put their opinion across with the most conviction and/or force; unless in a situation where you really are competing for some valid purpose. Most human interactions of course are not official competition situations! But there seem to be plenty of people who treat them as if they are. This stems from unresolved psychological issues (very common ones, these), and is actually not a reflection on people who are uncertain, who question before making decisions, or who simply do not know. It is a reflection of the people doing the judging ..
    Alan Watts wrote a famous book called ‘The Wisdom of Insecurity’. I have it but have yet to read it, as the title alone speaks to me so much, I’ve gained untold learning just from that! Many wisdom traditions, including those of Japan, speak of the wisdom of the open mind, the mind that is not over-invested in its own authority and does not seek to prove itself etc.
    In answer to your question ‘Why is everyone so sure of themselves and their opinions?’:
    You’d be surprised at how often the reason for this is because the person has a deeper-held insecurity underneath and has an unconscious need to appear very sure of themselves. It has shocked me during my own exploration of this issue, just how seldom that kind of conviction comes from a place of genuine wisdom.
    Wise people generally will maintain an openness to new information an ideas, even if they have significant knowledge and insight about the topic. You can tell the wise – or, emotionally mature – straight away, from the less wise or less mature.
    I can empathise with your struggles around these matters: I’ve been grappling with the same all my life and am only now beginning to make progress myself. Now how do I do an empathic symbol here … I don’t know if there is one! Will have to suffice with :-)
    P.s – Personally, I really enjoy people sharing feelings and issues honestly and openly if they want to, in whatever form it comes out – ‘rambly’ or otherwise – so I’d welcome any future blogs of yours of this nature :-)

    • Gakuranman says:

      Kia ora! Thanks for the insightful comment Corinna!

      I particularly liked your point about human interactions not being competitions with one-another. Sometimes when having a discussion or debate it’s all too easy to forget this and end of treating the other person like an enemy. I know it’s happened to me on occasion and it can be very difficult to retain composure and see things objectively. Also, your words “the mind does not seek to prove itself” were very telling. I think I feel an underlying pressure in everyday to do exactly this, whether it be just asserting my ideas at work or chatting to people online. The online situation can be especially difficult because we can rarely see or hear the other person and are relying on the form of the words alone – something that leaves for a very misleading conversation at times.

      “Wise people generally will maintain an openness to new information an ideas, even if they have significant knowledge and insight about the topic. You can tell the wise – or, emotionally mature – straight away, from the less wise or less mature.”

      Ahh, I’m reminded of good old Socrates. How often I seem to forget his words: “As for me, all I know is that I know nothing”. I should start beginning my day by repeating this mantra.

      • CorinnaBeatgirl says:

        Thanks for that Michael :)

        Yes I know what you mean about how difficult it is to remember these things in daily life. Competitiveness, superiority, and rationally-dominant ways of being are epidemic in Western and Westernised societies, they’re woven into just about every facet of these societies in one way or another. It’s everywhere. Most of us are raised either with it as a central emphasis at home, or we are conditioned with it during schooling. It’s damn hard not to get pulled into it, with it being near omnipresent!
        The challenge for people like you, me and others like us is to learn how to be comfortable with who and how we are, and grounded or centred in that regardless of our knowledge or intellectual or conversational abilities. It’s an on-going personal growth process to learn and then constantly remind ourselves that our validity as people does not come from these things; it comes, as cliche as some might see it, from who we are inside. Our hearts, souls (if one believes in that), the essence of who we are. And from a fundamental belief that all of us are ok just as we are (provided we’re not hurting anyone, of course ..) and as such, we have nothing to prove.
        A work in progress, for me, and many others I’m sure!!

  16. Kuro says:

    This really had me thinking a lot. Ourmani and Westfearneon’s article ( really hits the spot. It really got me wondering as a Japan blogger what I really want to write about. Also their articles made me realize that I am just a dot in the cosmos of Japan blogsphere, its as if I really did not matter.

    But what had those articles and yours too is that I really want to write abut Japan because that’s what I want to do. I really would like to thank you for writing such a enlightening post.

    I am thinking of doing a post related to this…

    • Gakuranman says:

      Hey Kuro,

      I’d definitely say that writing about your passion is the best way to blog. I love writing about Japan, language learning and more recently, haikyo and exploration. Although it’s a blast to interact with people online and network, I do it mainly just because I enjoy it. I tried writing on a more regular schedule before but found that I got tired and irritated quickly. Although my readers might appreciate a more regular posting, I found the posts lacking in quality.

      Looking forward to seeing your blog!

  17. Ourmaninabiko says:

    Thanks for the link. My advice would be don’t worry too much. Life is to be lived. There’s always some smartass like Our Man to tell you that you are doing it wrong. Or put it another way, the truth is relative. It changes according to whose perspective it is. Also your own perspective changes. This OK. It is called life. And getting older. Chu xxx

  18. Derek Blais says:

    I wasn’t really sure of this post’s direction, but I agree with you. Your chart captures the phases well, too! I don’t see it as “the truth,” but it’s interesting and I’m sure a lot of people have taken this path.

    When talking to other foreigners, I feel the ones most proficient in Japanese (listening & speaking) tend to be the most reliable and non-biased.

    It’s really annoying when a group of foreigners get together and bash Japan on every little issue. If it’s such a bad place, I wonder why they’re still here and not in their wonderful, problem-free homecountry that they once left. Even though some ideas foreigners have could actually improve Japan, bashing Japan or proposing your solutions to a drunken friend at an izakaya will do litte to help the issue.

    I wrote a little bit about different types of foreigners in Japan on my blog
    You should have a read.

    • Gakuranman says:

      Haha, yea, this really was raw, unfiltered blogging. Thank goodness I don’t make a habit of it eh? Nobody would know what I’m talking about :p.

      Interesting point about the speaking Japanese part. It’s been my general experience that proficiency in Japanese usually correlates with good understanding of Japan and a more non-biased attitude too. I have seen a little of the Japan-bashing that can go on between foreigners – even participated myself at times – but I generally try to stay away from those sort of gatherings. It’s usually alcohol-fuelled as well, and I’m not a huge nomikai person myself.

      Will have a read of your post!

  19. Orchid64 says:

    “Whose theories on Japanese society are actually correct??”They all are, but they’re all subjective and apply to describe particular experiences in Japan. One thing foreigners refuse to acknowledge is that each person experiences life (not just in Japan) differently. I have gone out of my way to say that my experiences, thoughts and ideas are subjective and that they are the experiences of me – a blue-eyed, reddish-blond-haired, woman who is currently 46 years old. If you’re a male, dark-haired, Asian, etc, you will not experience Japan as I do. That doesn’t make one of us “right” and the other “wrong”, it just means that our ideas reflect the reality we experience.The really mature people understand that opinions are not facts, and the ones who realize this also allow other people to have their differing opinions and don’t question the validity of them. Life in any culture (again, ANY, not just Japan) is a subjective experience based on who you are, where you live, and the people you interact with. All experiences are valid and factual. All “theories” are real for those who postulate them. The big question isn’t about “true”, “false”, etc. The really big question is why some foreigners believe Japan is so sacred that we cannot have opinions, criticize it, or make suggestions about what we think might be better when such things are applied to every other country, particularly America. As for the gaijinhood graph, it reflects that the person who made it had an axe to grind about certain particular people given the inclusion of certain descriptors, but it also reflects a certain truth about people here, particularly toward the beginning of the graph (not so much toward the middle or end).

    • Gakuranman says:

      Hey Orchid. Good to hear from you again :).

      I think perhaps more what I was getting at was the theories developed as a result of personal experiences. We both have very different lives in Japan and naturally will develop different ideas and interpretations of the country. But do you not feel that sometimes people can develop ‘mistaken’ or ‘misguided’ ideas about Japan? It’s not a clear cut case of having a right or wrong theory, but there do seem to be varying degrees of accuracy and bias among foreigners who have experienced living in Japan. Perhaps I was getting more at that – i.e. how misguided am I in reality? Are my views sound and valid? (etc.)

      Interesting point about some foreigners feeling they cannot criticise Japan for it being ‘too sacred’. I tend to agree with you that we can criticise other countries and make suggestions, but still I harbour a worry that knaws away – am I just some stuck-up foreigner who came to the country thinking he could change things? Do the people around me see me as not trying to adapt to the Japanese way. Is the ‘Japanese way’ the only way people should behave in Japan?

      The graph is of course somebody’s own, personal creation, but I thought it unnervingly accurate. Pretty much everybody experiences the positive culture shock at first, but afterwards as you said, it seems to get questionably more biased. Still, as food for thought, it had me soul-searching a bit. Perhaps that’s an indication I’m still not fully comfortable with myself in Japan. Hmm.

      • Joseph Tame says:

        I very much agree with orchid6.

        I probably have some posts on my site somewhere about the ‘stages of gaijinhood’ – but living in Tokyo these past two years and meeting so many other non-Japanese, all living such different lives and with such different attitudes towards life here made me forget that about these stereotypical stages that I used to believe in. We’re all individuals, we all interpret what we experience in different ways.

        As orchid64 said, the theories are real for those who postulate them. Personally I’d prefer not to constrained by placing myself in any predefined ‘stage’, but instead get on and create my own individual reality.

        One other thing strikes me in this post: you seem to care a lot about what other people think of you. I’ve been trying to give that up for a good few years, and I must say not caring as much as i did does make for a much happier life – I recommend it!

        I also reccomend iPads, but that’s a different story.

        • Gakuranman says:

          Hey Joseph. Thanks for sharing your thoughts :).

          You are probably right that I care a little too much about what people think of me. Maybe I’ll take a leaf our of your book and try to take the views of others with a pinch of salt. Not always easy when I have peers as well informed and culturally aware as many of the folk who have come to live in Japan are!


          • PazutteMi says:

            One blurb. Isn’t it true that the only way to maintain some semblance of openness and objectivity is to question oneself? Particularly something so inherently SUBjective as “gaijin-hood”…??

    • Anonymous says:

      As for the gaijinhood graph, it reflects that the person who made it had an axe to grind about certain particular people given the inclusion of certain descriptors, but it also reflects a certain truth about people here, particularly toward the beginning of the graph (not so much toward the middle or end).

      This is true, and actually the author stopped blogging some time after that post, saying that he (?) didn’t want to see his site spiral downward into some pigeonhole of its own. It’s a shame; that was always fun reading. (The “Cricket Code” post is a classic.)

      • Gakuranman says:

        I was a bit surprised myself to see that the author no longer updated the site. There were some shrewd articles on there and if nothing else it drew a few laughs. Sad to see that they took their theories a bit too seriously. A pigeon-holed blog is better than none at all. Perhaps this post was also me worryingly taking my first step down that path. I have my readers to thank for setting me straight and quelling some of my worries :).

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