The ‘Gaijin’ Debate

By Michael Gakuran | | Japan | 196 Comments |

That perennial debate – is it racist to use the word ‘gaijin’ to refer to foreigners? Here is a summary of the multitude of views out there surrounding this thorny issue and my own humble opinion.

If you’ve spent time reading about things Japanese, you’ll likely have heard of or even used the word ‘gaijin’. In Japanese it’s written as 外人, a shortened form of the word ‘gaikokujin’ (外国人) meaning ‘outside country person’. (Although some argue that this is historically inaccurate, for all intents and purposes, gaijin is used as a shorthand for gaikokujin in modern society). Gaijin is used to refer to people who are not inside the perceived group or situation and is quite common all over Japan, as well as similar words such as gaisha (外車) – foreign cars – or gaika (外貨) – foreign currencies. At the most basic level, calling a foreign person ‘gaijin’ is no different to calling a foreign car ‘gaisha’; we are merely stating the fact that said car is not ‘from around here’. But then, not all words are as neutral as others, and gaijin happens to be one of them.

The word gaijin carries weight. It has energy. It moves people. And most of this energy is, unfortunately, not a good kind of energy. The majority of foreigners get irritated at the use of the word and some of them get angry. Others get so enraged that their blood boils. And then there’s the smaller, yet still undeniably present group of foreigners who claim that gaijin is a perfectly acceptable term to use. There are also those who are undecided, apathetic and perhaps even a small number of people who actually think that gaijin is a good word to use, although I personally have yet to meet any of the latter group. And of course, we mustn’t forget that these are the opinions that foreigners hold about the term – the opinions of the Japanese themselves regarding the use of the word gaijin are another thing to consider altogether.

gaijindebate-2

Source: Japan Times

Such categorisations are always looking for trouble. I can’t claim to have included all types of opinions nor adequately organised them, but they are the general divisions that I’ve come to feel during my time learning about the Japanese language and culture and experience living in the country. From here on out, I’ll look at the two extremes in this debate and hopefully give you a more rounded picture of all sides to this story.

Gaijin alert! Short-stay foreigners


The opinions of the majority, that gaijin is a negative word, come from all sorts of sources, but most of them unfortunately come from clueless foreigners who have caught wind of the gaijin debate and proceed to brand it as outright racism, or those who have lived in Japan for a short time and actually come into contact with the term. But however simplistic a view or culturally misunderstood their ideas are, they are the most indicative of how the word makes most foreigners feel. We are all fresh-faced Japan-newbies at some time or another! The simplest way of understanding the displeasure felt is to consider the archetypal remark:

ああ、外人だ!
Oh! It’s a foreigner!

Usually this is accompanied by pointing, curious gazing and a general commotion. I’ve experienced this sort of reaction on many an occasion: Little children in Japan running up to me, grinning from ear-to-ear and pointing at me, ‘gaijin, gaijin’. Overheard conversations between Japanese people on the train – ‘there were a lot of noisy gaijin at the festival today…’, and so on and so forth. While I’ll readily admit that I was shocked and insulted (especially among the first times I heard it), I’ve come to accept it a little more. I remember vividly though, that definite sickening sensation that swam around inside of me:

That person just pointed out that I’m different from them. How dare they! I’m a human being just like you are, thank you very much…

Well, that’s the family-friendly way of putting it. Unpleasant feelings. Nobody likes to be put on the outside – we thrive socially by building bonds with one another. Labelling somebody as bluntly as the word gaijin does that ‘they are from an outside place and not inside with us’ doesn’t feel good. That’s the typical reaction, anyway. Many short-stay foreigners never get past this nasty feeling, and sadly stories of discrimination, hate and racism seep their way down through stories to influence the next generation of Japanophiles, eager to experience the land of the Rising Sun. So, is this just out-and-out racism? Reading on…

gaijin-punch

Source: Japan Probe

Gaijin is a Racist term!


Activists like Debito Arudou claim that the term gaijin is a racist word. And Debito is no greenhorn – he’s lived and worked in Japan for many years. Here’s what he has to say, in a recent Japan Times article:

1) “Gaijin” strips the world of diversity. Japan’s proportion of the world’s population is a little under 2 percent. In the gaijin binary worldview, you either are a Japanese or you’re not — an “ichi-ro” or a “ze-ro.” Thus you suggest that the remaining 98 percent of the world are outsiders.

2) . . . And always will be. A gaijin is a gaijin any time, any place. The word is even used overseas by traveling/resident Japanese to describe non-Japanese, or rather “foreigners in their own country,” often without any apparent sense of irony or contradiction. Logically, Japanese outside of Japan must be foreigners somewhere, right? Not when everyone else is a gaijin.

Left unchallenged, this rubric encourages dreadful social science, ultimately creating a constellation of “us and them” differences (as opposed to possible similarities) for the ichiro culture vultures to guide their ideological sextants by.

And:

Thus gaijin is a caste. No matter how hard you try to acculturate yourself, become literate and lingual, even make yourself legally inseparable from the putative “naikokujin” (the “inside people,” whoever they are), you’re still “not one of us.”

Moreover, factor in Japan’s increasing number of children of international marriages. Based upon whether or not they look like their foreign parent (again, “gaijin-ppoi”), there are cases where they get treated differently, even adversely, by society. Thus the rubric of gaijin even encourages discrimination against Japan’s own citizens.

Debito also tries to compare the use of the word ‘gaijin’ to refer to foreigners in the same way that the word ‘nigger’ contemptuously refers to black people. Whether or not ‘gaijin’ is an epithet for ‘nigger’ is an issue I will leave alone in this article, as it is not strictly relevant in my opinion. That said, you can view the community responses to Debito’s Japan Times article here.

Debito follows up with a more reasoned reply to that article, again in the Japan Times. Apologies for the long quote, but it contains many useful nuggets of information to bring to the table:

“Gaijin” has the same effect [as using nigger], only more pronounced. Not only do we foreign-looking residents have no hope of hyphenation, we are relegated to a much bigger “continent” (i.e. anyone who doesn’t look Japanese — the vast majority of the world). Again, this kind of rhetoric, however unconscious or unintended, divides our public into “insider and outsider,” and never the twain shall meet.

I for one want the hyphen. I’m a Japanese. An American-Japanese, an “Amerika-kei Nihonjin.” After years of “outsiderdom,” I want my Japanese status acknowledged. But I don’t want my roots denied either. Being called essentially a “foreign-Japanese” would lack something. So why not acknowledge, even celebrate, our diversity?

Words like “gaijin” don’t allow for that. They are relics of a simplistic time, when people argued with a straight face that Japan was monocultural and monoethnic. Untrue. There’s plenty of scholarly research debunking that. Even our government this year formally recognized Hokkaido’s aboriginal Ainu as an indigenous people.

Moreover, as more non-Japanese reside here, marry, procreate and bring the best of their societies into the mix, change is inevitable. Why make us deny an essential part of our identity by forcing us to be viewed as an outsider on a daily basis? Intentional or not, that’s what the word “gaijin” does.

The ace in the hole in this debate: I’m not the only one advocating that the word “gaijin” is obsolete. Japan’s media has reached the same conclusion and officially declared it a word unfit for broadcast. Don’t agree with me? Talk to the TV.

So if you really must draw attention to somebody’s roots, and you can’t hyphenate or tell their nationality or ethnicity, use “gaikokujin.” It’s a different rubric, and at least there are ways to stop being one.

So these, in a nutshell, are the basic arguments for considering gaijin as a racist term:

  • Using the word gaijin strips a person of his or her cultural diversity, which we as human beings have the right to hold
  • Gaijin causes people (especially foreigners) to feel hurt, therefore we should refrain from using it
  • The Japanese media refrains from using gaijin, suggesting that the term isn’t fit to use, so neither should we use it
  • The first statement is very debatable, so I’ll leave that for another time, suffice to say that I think Debito does have a valid point. The second statement is true, based on the mountain of displeasure voiced by unhappy foreigners. The third statement is certainly in support of outlawing the term gaijin, but isn’t exactly a strong argument in itself. Just because the media thinks it is wrong, so should we? That said, in reality if companies refrain from using the word because they fear upsetting people or harming their business, it does give good reason to consider the issue seriously.

    charismaman2

    Source: The East.co.jp

    We are Gaijin – Deal with it!


    One popular response to the ‘gaijin is a racist term’ debate is that usually made by foreigners who have lived in Japan for a long period of time. They claim they have come to accept the use of the term. Sometimes an air of conceit creeps into their remarks, suggesting that they have successfully ‘crossed over’ and integrated enough not to be worried by the word anymore. Mere Japan-newbies who cry racism for being called gaijin are just irritating and don’t understand the culture, they say.

    Others suggest, quite free of vanity, that: ‘once a foreigner, always a foreigner’ – that it is futile fighting against the use of the word and that we should just accept the fact that we are ‘blue-eyed, blond-haired’ and will always stand out.

    Anna Kunnecke, long time resident of Japan, gives us her opinions on the topic over at Jibtv:

    But some foreigners take umbrage at being called an outsider.

    We are not outsiders! they proclaim. We are foreigners! They have decided that the term gaijin is derogatory and condescending. To all those who feel this way, I would like to say,

    “Welcome to the party. Get over yourself already.”

    I would say it nicely, probably, but deep down I’d be rolling my eyes.

    Foreigners work themselves into a warm lather over this! They get their feelings so very hurt! Personally I think that there other things more deserving of this level of wrathful attention: discriminatory immigration practices, lack of oversight for law enforcement, and the creepy political speeches broadcast at deafening volume on the streets. But being called a gaijin?

    “Hello, my name is Anna, and I’m a gaijin. ”

    That’s what we are. We’re outsiders. We look different, we talk different, and we come from anywhere other than Japan–in short, we are anything and everything EXCEPT Japanese. And that’s the fundamental division here, not just as it applies to foreigners but in every layer of society and language. Uchi and soto, inner and outer, literally means inside the house and outside the house. Us and them. In or out. This is not a beautifully multicultural society where each gorgeous hue is just one facet of a wonderfully refracted prism. That’s not how it works here. It’s one or the other: Honne and tatemae, what’s thought privately vs. what’s said publicly, and ne’er the twin shall meet.

    You can rail against it all you want. In fact, here’s a megaphone; feel free to take your place out on the street. But be warned: you’ll identify yourself as someone who really doesn’t get it. In other words, you’ll identify yourself as an outsider. Hello there, gaijin.

    Some very valid points. She is certainly right about terms like ‘uchi’ and ‘soto’ permeating deep into Japanese society, irrespective of foreigners, and about the fact that the situation is unlikely to change anytime soon. A certain level of acceptance by any foreigner who wants to exist harmoniously in Japan is required. If every time the term gaijin was innocently used a foreigner kicked up a fuss, there’d be no end to the uproar.

    She also seems very sure of her non-Japaneseness, which is admirable, in a sense. A strong affinity to one’s own mother-country, culture and background (Anna’s introduction):

    Every time I leave Japan I mourn it; every time I come back I have to get a new visa.

    Because no matter how deeply I may feel rooted here, I’m just a guest. I’m an intimate outsider. I have blue eyes, pale skin, and when I open my mouth I sound like a local. Sometimes that freaks out the actual locals.

    But I love having one foot in each world: my education is western, my thinking is feminist, my aesthetic sense is wafuu, and my cooking is bad in any culture. That’s okay. In that funny space in between, I’m home.

    The argument:

  • We (as foreigners) are actually outsiders, so we shouldn’t take issue with the word gaijin which states that we are. There are more pertinent examples of racism in Japan to deal with.
  • I have to wonder… I’m not so sure we can just write the word gaijin off the map like this. Yes, foreigners may actually be what the word gaijin labels them to be, but there is so much more to it than that. The feelings of people have to be considered, as well as differing uses of the word. Also, the fact that there may well be more serious issues that constitute definite racism in Japan doesn’t mean that the gaijin problem becomes obsolete or something which we should just accept.

    gaijin-humour

    Flickr Goemon

    A Charged Word: My Personal View


    Perhaps, given enough time, most foreigners should be able to come to terms with the use of gaijin and not fret over it so much? Perhaps I have not yet reached that stage? Perhaps I am kidding myself thinking that I can integrate into Japanese society to the extent that I do not feel like a complete outsider..?

    I am fairly sure that I will never fully be able to exist in Japan as one of the invisible masses. This is obvious; with the majority of Japanese society being made up of Japanese people (around 98%), I stick out like a sore thumb. There’s no changing that, and I will inevitably always be stared at, called gaijin and treated in a manner different to people that look like native Japanese people. Even if my Japanese becomes indistinguishable from a native’s, I change my name and have plastic surgery such that I looked and sounded like a Japanese person, I’m sure there would still be cultural clues that give me away. I don’t have issue with this, or at the very least hope that I can learn not to have issue with it.

    What I have issue with is that, quite simply, the word gaijin makes people feel bad. Whether or not it is a racist term is indeed open to debate. One can argue that, linguistically, gaijin is akin to calling someone ‘nigger’, that it strips people of their cultural diversity or that gaijin is a word indicative of Japanese culture and therefore we as foreigners should just accept it. But all those lines of argument miss the fundamental point that gaijin is a loaded word, and not just a word that a few people feel bad by, one that causes a great deal of ill sentiment. They also neglect to seriously consider (although Debito does make a point in one of his articles) that perhaps it is not so much the word gaijin that is at fault, but the context and intonation in which it is uttered.

    There are many cases where the word gaijin is used entirely innocently, without ill-intent or malice. There are also times when the word is used much in the same derogatory way that ‘nigger’ or ‘jap’ is used in English. Educating foreigners about Japanese culture, the meaning of the word gaijin, the different contexts one might encounter this word in and also the varying accents, intonations and modes-of-speech that could affect the nuance of the word are all crucial to understanding it. Learning to recognise when the term is being used in a racist manner and when it is being used in a neutral manner or product of Japanese culture should help to alleviate some of the stress and misunderstanding this word burdens us with. Merely saying ‘get used to it’ or crying ‘racism’ doesn’t, in my humble opinion, address the crux of the problem. I think that we would do better to shift our focus to educating people rather than arguing whether or not gaijin is a racist term.

    Your thoughts?

    196 comments on “The ‘Gaijin’ Debate
    1. personally i see nothing wrong with the word, nothing wrong with pointing out that someone is different, what hurts me is the thought that one may never be accepted as a member of a community no matter how much they contribute, to me we are the sum of our deeds and the content of our heart not our skin color or language or country of birth, i plan on going there in the near future and am somewhat disheartened by this

    2. Vicky_slakoth says:

      Isn’t gaijin just a Japanese equivalent to half cast.
      I mean, I know many half cast and they do not get offended by this despite it being a massive generalization. 
      And it could be used as a racial slur  but it isn’t meant to be used that way.

      I feel ok with gaijin because it’s a way of describing someone you know nothing about.
      In the West we’re exposed to other nationalities on a daily basis so can identify them without much trouble. 
      Except when you see someone who is half cast. Would you really make the guess that they were Cuban-American or British-Portuguese or so many other combinations they might be?
      I wouldn’t, I’d save the embarrassment and describe them as half cast.

    3. Ruth says:

      Nit-pick: it’s “for all intents and purposes”, not “for all intensive purposes”.

    4. Tokcso says:

      「外人」でも「foreigner」でも一緒。うまく使用できる場合がごく限られている気がする。どんどん国際化していく世の中では「うち」と「外」とは何か、また「異なる人」ってどこまで異なって意味があるのか、こういった所がポイントではないかと思う。英語の「foreigner」という言葉に「分からない」「面倒見てあげないといけない」と言ったニューアンスもある。従ってなるべく観光客以外には使わないようにしている(これはまず皆がそうしているとはとても言えないが)。昔だったら見て判断してもほとんどそれで正しかったかもしれないが、現代の日本は違って日本語、日本文化などをよく勉強し日本社会になじみ、完全に「外」とは言い切れない外人たくさんいる。日本にとって、その変化が良いことで大切にしたいのならもっと効果的な表現を探しても良いのではないか?

      但し書き:書き言葉が苦手で耳に障る言い方、無礼な言い方でもあったらお許し下さい。

    5. PazutteMi says:

      Forgive me for diving in in the middle here. But this response is dead on. Gaijin is a description of what we appear NOT to be. In a sea of black, three blond heads, only one of which is a natural blond -gaijin is the obvious choice. Those times when the designation is no more or less than “NOT one of us” …then I think it is counterproductive. Inherent to the word ‘outsider’ is an assumption of lack of understanding which therefore necessitates extra care. (Really if you were one of us you would understand…) Yes, I believe the word takes away status. More than. This is utterly misleading. Japan is very much a group focused society. And any manner of thinking which is exclusive (in this instance exclusive of the non-Japanese world) cannot but have a significant impact.

      I don’t consider non-Japanese a race, nor do I really feel Other is a group so I have never really seen Gaijin as a racist term. But describing people in terms of what they are not is of extremely limited use. And when those people constitute the rest of the world, of which one wants to be and integral part, well…I cannot help thinking that the biggest issue with the term ‘Gaijin’ is that Japan loses out by its use.

      Drawing on my good ol’ US inaka background where we have ‘come-heres’ and locals, I’d say 来人 (cover your navel!! ahem) or some similarly derived word might be useful.

      **I will say: twice I remember being offended by the term -the first time was in Arizona and a group of Japanese tourists delicately pointed to me and said “あの外人に聞いてみる?” …that rather irked, even if I did understand, lol. The second -I was in my favorite bar visiting with the owner/bartender and the young woman beside me said “外人がああやって日本語喋ってると気持ちわる〜イ!I confess I did not like being ‘kimochiwarui’ But I think both of these point to the inherent mental pitfalls in designating presumed non-Japanese as ‘Other’. It’s simply not effective grouping.

    6. Gakuranman says:

      Nothing wrong with old posts! This is a classic topic that never ceases to interest people, so comment away!

      Completed agree with you on not shouting about the word and making racist claims, as I’ve mentioned.

      With the community/group comment, I was working on the idea that ‘gaijin’ takes away much more status than it gives. I’m aware that logically speaking an outsider group is still a group. But when someone calls themselves an American, it’s a positive, inclusive statement (for most people :p). Much the same way as all blue-hatted people and tall people are in positive groups. However, I’ve always felt that ‘gaijin’ hinted at a lack of real group. A symbolic dumping outside of everyone not part of the Japanese group. “Hey there! We’re the Japanese and you are the others”. How many people are happy at being thrown into the ‘others’ group, really?

      I’m not for a second saying the word doesn’t have its uses, or equivalents though. I’ve been using the terms ‘foreigner’ and ‘non-Japanese’ all throughout this article and they too are symbolic lumpings of people into an outsider group. There clearly is a need for the word in language.

      My main point is that, where possible, it would seem to be a better choice to reinforce inclusion in a group than exclusion. Rather than saying ‘This is Mike, and he’s a foreigner’, it would be better to say ‘This is Mike, and he is British / living near Nagoya / likes cheese’ (etc.) We wouldn’t usually say ‘This is Mike, and he doesn’t live near Nagoya’ for example (athough stating dislike of cheese might be important for lactose intolerant people!)

      I get where you’re coming from about avoiding racial minefields though. It’s a whole lot of hassle for a meagre amount of political correctness. I’m simply advocating that there are quite often other and far more inclusive, warm and cuddly ways of distinguishing people than by use of the word ‘gaijin’.

      Thanks for getting me thinking on a Friday afternoon ^^.

    7. Anonymous says:

      Human beings like the idea of being in communities or groups, which is why we must eradicate this term that is an indication of membership status in a community or group? That just doesn’t stand on its own, logically.

      “Gaijin” is a term that indicates membership: you’re a member of the set of people who are not Japanese, at least to look at. I don’t think it’s a healthy thing to treat race-based physical characteristics as a minefield that must be tiptoed around in the way that gets suggested in these discussions. Again, it’s all in the intent, not in the words: if I’m one white guy in a sea of Asians and I get identified as “the white guy,” it isn’t a racist hate incident. It’s the easiest and quickest way to pick me out of the group.

      Anyway, I do feel that over time Japanese language will shift to make room for more nuance and variation in the national racial landscape. I just don’t think shouting about a word that’s rarely used with ill intent is a particularly productive way to nudge things in that direction, linguistically speaking.

      (I realized after making my comments that most of what’s here was written a year ago—sorry for stirring an old pot!)

    8. Gakuranman says:

      Hey Durf. Thanks for the input!

      It’s a fair point. Any word can be used with venom and malice, exactly as you say. I’m in agreement that, as words go, ‘gaijin’ is for the most part just descriptive, but it still seems to operate in those middle grounds between words that are deemed normal and those that are thought to be outright racist terms. ‘Jap’ could be thought of as just a descriptive term in some sense – and conveniently shortened too – but in my experience the majority of people that use it do so for negative purposes and the word has become stigmatised. I’m still of the opinion that ‘gaijin’ has a dose of this stigmatism too, however descriptive its original use was meant to be.

      I think I mentioned it when chatting about the topic on Twitter the other day, but when describing someone in a crowd I reckon it’s better to use descriptive terms like you noted above: あの背の高い人 or あのブルーのシャツの人. It’s slightly more long-winded and clumsy, but I think that it’s the way things will eventually have to turn. It’s unlikely that Japanese society will retain its simple distinction of ‘them’ and us’ if it continues opening up to people from other countries. When that happens, it won’t be practical to call everyone who doesn’t look like a full-blooded Japanese person ‘gaijin’. There will be too much ambiguity. Best to get into good habits early, I reckon.

      As for ‘gaijin’ being another fact about individual preference… Hmm… That is tricky. I’m tempted to think that it’s not. I don’t go and introduce myself saying ‘I’m Mike, from the UK, like snowboarding and cheese. I don’t like the word gaijin, personally.’ For sure, my dislike is a preference rather than based on an ingrained racist fact in the word, but it doesn’t mean it’s personal to me alone. I’m no expert on human characteristics, but I tend to think that human beings like to be part of communities or groups. The word ‘gaijin’ strikes right at the heart of that notion by literally saying you are a non-member. That’s one reason why I feel the word is not soley based on selfish, individual preference. I think the the fear of group exclusion could be something ingrained in all people, even though many may have learnt to overcome it and get used to the term.

    9. Anonymous says:

      That said, it is undeniable that ‘gaijin’ is used in racist or derogatory contexts as well as purely neutral or even well-meaning ones.

      So is “Amerika-jin,” and even “Amerika no kata.” The racism and derogation can be conveyed entirely by the venom in a person’s voice or the angry glare on his face and are not an inherent part of the word “gaijin,” which is nothing more than a label.

      When a person I’ve never met resorts to the term to describe me neutrally, as in to point me out in a crowd, I don’t freak out because that person didn’t use my nationality or my name instead. I don’t walk around with an American flag on my hat or a nametag on my chest, and as such “gaijin” is just a descriptive term that can come in handy to point out the tall guy of European descent. I don’t see a reason to react any differently as I would to a person who said あの背の高い人 or あのブルーのシャツの人.

      People in the comments here are writing “the term robs me of my individuality,” which I really don’t get. Your individual details are yours to share with others—your name, your hometown, your occupation, whatever. To get upset with a stranger whom you have yet to tell “my name is Peter, I’m from California and now I live in Koganei and I’m a translator and I have a daughter and my favorite Japanese macrobrew is Yebisu” because they used a particular label that is descriptive, is accurate, and springs immediately to mind no matter how little they know about you just misses the point of labeling entirely.

      Some people do get upset when they hear the term used. You know what? That’s another fact about those people as individuals that they need to share with others if they want it to be known. If you hate being called “gaijin,” by all means let folks know it upsets you. Over time they will all stop calling you this. It’ll be because they actually know you as an individual—that guy who doesn’t like being called “gaijin”—and not because they’ve learned a valuable lesson about the magical power inherent in that g-word, though.

    10. Anonymous says:

      If you could point us to some of those non-Japanese who defend discrimination in Japan that would be very interesting.

    11. Gakuranman says:

      *Nods. I think clarifying the lack of direct connection to nigger and other racist terms is truly important. I think I mentioned in my article that I would like to see the debate move more in a direction of education rather than the old lobbing back-and-forth or the racist tennis ball.

      That said, it is undeniable that ‘gaijin’ is used in racist or derogatory contexts as well as purely neutral or even well-meaning ones. I don’t think that it is a clear-cut case of foreigners coming to Japan and trying to force the Japanese to change their own language through misunderstanding. I still find the term distasteful despite having thought long and hard about its origins and real meaning. Culture and language are always in flux, too. A good word/phrase can become tainted overnight by some horrific event (BP being the most recent example) and the unfortunate result is that it is very difficult to free such terms from the emotions attached for a long time afterwards. I’d hazard a guess that educating people about possible negative interpretations of the word and how to avoid them would be easier than trying to change the feelings of affected parties. I can empathise with you about people who always think bad things are being said though. I often wondered myself when I hear complaints from foreigners who had an empty seat next to them on the train, and so forth. There is a definite need for enlightening both sides in this debate :).

    12. Anonymous says:

      The real problem at the heart of this debate for me, is the fact that there are a not insignificant number of foreigners who believe that the word “gaijin” is a linguistic equivalent of “ni**er”, where frankly, no such equivalent exists in Japanese, at least as a racial epithet (equivalents exist for blind and deaf people, but actual taunt words for other races, like we have so many of just don’t exist).

      I guess my concern is that by bowing to the lowest denominator of people who are needlessly and ignorantly offended by the term and making it taboo, we are creating something that didn’t exist in Japanese before. We are actually turning the perfectly ordinary every day word for “foreigners” into a word for “ni**er” where there was no vocabulary in the language for doing so before.

      Some people make such a big deal of trying to eliminate these words from English, and yet here we are in Japan, inadvertently adding racist taunts to the Japanese language through our own misguided desire to impose political correctness where it is not needed.

      Personally, as a foreigner, I prefer to try to educate other foreigners how to interpret gaijin correctly, than to educate Japanese that they need to accommodate thin skinned foreigners that will misunderstand their perfectly correct and plain Japanese. I guess like Crowbeak says, there are some people who just have a mindset where they presume that people are saying bad things about them behind their back when they don’t understand a language. To my mind, such people have to change their mindset, or not travel. Why an entire country should change its language to accommodate such people is beyond me.

    13. Gakuranman says:

      Very good point! Understanding works both ways :).

    14. Anonymous says:

      While it’s undoubtedly a good thing for the Japanese to be aware of the impact their words have, it’s still a good idea to encourage foreigners not to take offense where none is meant, too.

    15. Gakuranman says:

      Thanks for the additional info Hiko :). I see your point about mindlessly correcting people about the use of the word ‘gaijin’ and agree with you that technically it is just another shorthand word in Japanese. I don’t think ‘gaijin’ is on the same level as ‘Jap’ or other terms that are largely used with racist connotations, but the word just causes too many negative reactions, even when used innocently or ‘correctly’.

      I think perhaps you are overlooking just how upsetting many people find it. New Zealanders don’t get offended (as far as I know) when people call them Kiwis, but many foreigners get upset at being referred to as ‘gaijin’. There’s no rationalising it – it’s an emotional reaction. For that reason, in the right situation (KY!), I will always try to warn people that use of the word can cause unhappiness and that it is best avoided where possible. I’ve been surprised time and time again at how many Japanese people didn’t even know foreigners get upset at its use, so I certainly feel informing them of the situation is a good thing.

    16. Anonymous says:

      I put my opinion on this on a recent vid by Claytonian on this subject:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAbZ1JO8SVQ

      Instead of concisely and insightfully extracting the essence of our debate, I will instead lazily and careless slap in a cut and paste of our posts, and pretend that the subject is adequately responded to, having once again asserted my own rightfulness on the subject :)

      Enjoy

      ——————————
      Hikosaemon
      If gaijin is used without ill intent, I have no problem with it whatsoever. Japanese has thousands of words correctly said with more than 2 kanji that Japanese customarily boil down to kanji for convenience. I cringe seeing foreigners “correcting” Japanese to use the full term correctly – it looks arrogant like we are demanding they use a full title for us, and ignorant, given that the people who often seem to get most upset about this issue barely speak Japanese.

      claytonian
      @Hikosaemon I see your point. I have a hypothetical for you because I’m curious:

      If a person asked you, a New Zealander, that (as far as I know correct me if I’m wrong) sees no problem with shortening Japanese to Jap, to not shorten it, would you think they were arrogant or ignorant?

      Hikosaemon
      @claytonian People only say Jap with racist intent. People say gaijin with the intent of identifying a person who is not Japanese. Just like the tens of thousands of other terms that are redacted in Japanese to 2 kanji.

      99.9% of the time, the word gaijin is used purely descriptively – it’s ignorant to read the mere shortening of gaikokujin to gaijin as being inherently racist, and correcting someone to say gaikokujin would be like you correcting someone to call you Claytonian and not Clay.

      Hikosaemon
      @claytonian If you called me a Kiwi, and I said “that’s NEW ZEALANDER thank you very much”, I’m sure I would seem petty and 偉そう. I think that’s how gaijins come across trying to force well intentioned Japanese to add syllables to words make them demonstrate more respect.

      claytonian
      @Hikosaemon ha ha I swear I’ve never bothered to correct a native on either my name or my social designation, unless I was teasing a girlfriend :D

      Hikosaemon
      @claytonian That’s my point. I think people correcting people to say “gaikokujin” comes off exactly the same as making someone say your full name or adding “esquire” or something. It just comes off as petty most of the time.

    17. Tomomi says:

      I guess this is too late a response, and I have not read all the posts yet, but I thought I will leave what I felt anyway.
      Warning: I won't be talking much about the term itself.
      I'll say this is an issue inevitable if a country is on the way to become a multi-cultural society. Most of the fluent English speakers/writers must have experienced one of the English-speaking countries that are categorised as developed, most of the time already consisting of people from many racial/cultural backgrounds.
      I myself being a Japanese graduated from an Australian University, I in Japan sometimes feel almost embarassed for the low awareness of what I feel is an international standard… but then, that is not a thing exclusive to Japan- I was in India for a month, and there it was just an accepted fact that foreigners gather attention, that people stareat non-Indian-looking people without even imagining that that can be offending. My Anglo-Australian friends who've been to China as exchange students told me they had the same sort of experiences… just like my other friends who've been to Japan as exchange students.
      And I must say, you may feel descriminated or prejudiced, but if you are a white 'gaijin', most of the time its only associated with curiosity, while if you're non-white, that is often not the case… I sensed this both as a Japanese in Japan, and also as an Asian in India. During my stay in India, I used to say “I'm from Australia” for sense of security…

      Anyway, what I really want to say is: you might be aware so often Japanese media and people say things like “Japanese people are…” in either arrogant or embarrassed term. As a resident of Japanese, it may be just too natural to talk about how Japanese are compared to the rest of the world. But I feel, most of the time this kind of discussion comes out from those who only know Japan and just another country, or those who were informed by such people. I would not say 'gaijin' is not a racist term. But discussing it as if Japan is a particularly peculiar country is… well, 何か違うんじゃないかな。

    18. Akira-san says:

      Not really. Tell me which nation is the most technologically advanced in the world?
      Yes, there are more of us 外人 then Japanese, but that doesn't mean ANYBODY runs OR rules the world.

      The Japanese are definitely NOT followers…

    19. Akira-san says:

      Not really. Tell me which nation is the most technologically advanced in the world?
      Yes, there are more of us 外人 then Japanese, but that doesn't mean ANYBODY runs OR rules the world.

      The Japanese are definitely NOT followers…

    20. Jonathan says:

      No-one seems to make the essential point that the 'gaijin' versus 'nihonjin' contrast is philosophically untenable. By tacking the name of their country onto the word for 'person', Japanese call themselves 'Japan-persons'. 'Gaijin', on the other hand, are not accorded a country–they are just dismissed as being from 'outside'. I.e., Japanese people using the derogative term 'gaijin' are not prepared to take the trouble to assign another human being a country.
      A second, and just as valid, point is that the Japanese are a mixture of Korean, Mongolian, Manchurian, and Ainu (and this oversimplifies the reality)–with the Korean and Ainu strains being very strong. (How else to account for the truncated, poorly-proportioned bodies with misshapen limbs, and the male hairiness than to assume a large Ainu contingent? The linguistic evidence is also strong.) In short, the misuse of the blanket term 'gaijin' may be no more than a reflection of Japanese insecurity about their own racial origins.
      Finally, what of other northeast Asians who can look perfectly 'Japanese'? The most 'classically Japanese'-looking woman (with the Tamatsu-zuka Kofun wall-paintings in mind) I have ever seen was a Chinese stewardess on China Airlines. The extremely popular young actor Kimura Takuya is in fact Korean. He is accepted by the mass of TV viewers, but the LDP government for long maintained a policy of denial of basic rights to Korean nationals resident in Japan–the co-called 'zai-Nichi' people.
      Finally, I agree completely with Mr Debito. The hyphen is essential, and so are voting rights for long-term residents of foreign nationality who speak, read, and write Japanese fluently. If you can be a Japanese-American, surely you can also be an American-Japanese!!

    21. danielshi says:

      Apologies for this long quote from the article but it's all important to context:

      “This is obvious; with the majority of Japanese society being made up of Japanese people (around 98%), I stick out like a sore thumb. […] Even if my Japanese becomes indistinguishable from a native’s, I change my name and have plastic surgery such that I looked and sounded like a Japanese person”

      I would like to bring attention to the fact that you have used “Japanese people” to refer to people of Japanese blood.

      This is how “Japanese people” use the term “Japanese”, and they don't think of “Japanese” as being a person who has Japanese citizenship. In America things are different of course, but that's just one of the cultural differences that exist between the countries. It's not that American society is more “advanced”, as some seem (mostly American people) seem to understand it; it's simply different.

      I believe that understanding this idea is absolutely essential to integrating in Japan and it is a type of thinking that Debito seems to have missed out on during his many years in Japan.

      Personally I use the word gaijin all the time, and my Japanese friends all use it. I really don't find it any more offensive than the word “foreigner”, which has *exactly* the same meaning (a person who is foreign: from outside). Some of my Japanese friends use “jap” to refer to themselves, which I found a little strange at first, but as mentioned in the article it really comes down to intonation: it's not what you say it's how you say it.

    22. Great post! Very well written with lots of research on the many sides of the issue. Personally, I was offended the first time I was called a Gaijin on the metro, but I came to understand that the word can mean different things coming from different people and in different contexts. I’m not going to get mad at some little kid for calling me a gaijin, of course, because do they fully understand all the meanings that word can have? No, of course not.

      That being said, there are lots of English words thrown around in Japan that maybe people should explain to them in further detail. Listening to Japanese hip hop, I have heard the N word thrown about on many occasions and it actually makes me a little uncomfortable because I know they don’t understand the long, bitter, historic context of that term…It’s use in Japanese Hip Hop is more of a US Rap-Copycat, or so I believe (someone can feel free to give me a little more light on this because I’m not 100% on that.)

      Maybe it’s just because I’m an anthropologist that I force myself to move on quickly if I think I’m being insulted. Certainly the issue is not a simple debate and I think exploring it with this kind of discussion is a good way of talking about it. As always, the meanings of words shift and change with time, space and context….which is why I never went into a linguistics sub-field because the complicated effects of these things is a bit too overwhelming for me as a researcher! lol.

      “Perhaps I have not yet reached that stage? Perhaps I am kidding myself thinking that I can integrate into Japanese society to the extent that I do not feel like a complete outsider..?” – I know exactly what you mean…

    23. Great post! Very well written with lots of research on the many sides of the issue. Personally, I was offended the first time I was called a Gaijin on the metro, but I came to understand that the word can mean different things coming from different people and in different contexts. I’m not going to get mad at some little kid for calling me a gaijin, of course, because do they fully understand all the meanings that word can have? No, of course not.

      That being said, there are lots of English words thrown around in Japan that maybe people should explain to them in further detail. Listening to Japanese hip hop, I have heard the N word thrown about on many occasions and it actually makes me a little uncomfortable because I know they don’t understand the long, bitter, historic context of that term…It’s use in Japanese Hip Hop is more of a US Rap-Copycat, or so I believe (someone can feel free to give me a little more light on this because I’m not 100% on that.)

      Maybe it’s just because I’m an anthropologist that I force myself to move on quickly if I think I’m being insulted. Certainly the issue is not a simple debate and I think exploring it with this kind of discussion is a good way of talking about it. As always, the meanings of words shift and change with time, space and context….which is why I never went into a linguistics sub-field because the complicated effects of these things is a bit too overwhelming for me as a researcher! lol.

      “Perhaps I have not yet reached that stage? Perhaps I am kidding myself thinking that I can integrate into Japanese society to the extent that I do not feel like a complete outsider..?” – I know exactly what you mean…

    24. Eugen R. says:

      All the same goes to the hebrew/jiddisch word ‘goy’ (=non-Jewish). It is inevitable in societies that were closed for a long time. I know one: I don’t like being an outsider and/or have too much attention.

    25. Eugen R. says:

      All the same goes to the hebrew/jiddisch word ‘goy’ (=non-Jewish). It is inevitable in societies that were closed for a long time. I know one: I don’t like being an outsider and/or have too much attention.

    26. Hello, newbie here! Great post & blog in general!

      I agree with whoever said that there is a debate only because people come from different backgrounds, and thus interpret things differently.

      Unlike a lot of the other foreigners I’ve met at this the start of my first year in Japan as an ALT, I have already been an immigrant once. I was a Permanent Resident Alien of the U.S. for over 10 years before deciding to take American citizenship. As such, I was already used to being a foreigner. I think that’s why, if people were to call me “gaijin” (now that I think of it, I haven’t been called gaijin much, to my knowledge) it wouldn’t bother me as long as the person saying it was not trying to be malicious. Although I did think it was rather ironic when someone said to someone else, “Oh, it’s a gaikokujin!” at the Catholic church I go to. Even if deities transcend nation states, the setting made the comment seem really funny!

      Peace.

    27. Hello, newbie here! Great post & blog in general!

      I agree with whoever said that there is a debate only because people come from different backgrounds, and thus interpret things differently.

      Unlike a lot of the other foreigners I’ve met at this the start of my first year in Japan as an ALT, I have already been an immigrant once. I was a Permanent Resident Alien of the U.S. for over 10 years before deciding to take American citizenship. As such, I was already used to being a foreigner. I think that’s why, if people were to call me “gaijin” (now that I think of it, I haven’t been called gaijin much, to my knowledge) it wouldn’t bother me as long as the person saying it was not trying to be malicious. Although I did think it was rather ironic when someone said to someone else, “Oh, it’s a gaikokujin!” at the Catholic church I go to. Even if deities transcend nation states, the setting made the comment seem really funny!

      Peace.

    28. hoihoi says:

      Gaijin is Gaijin. it means foreigner
      most Japanese does not know what foreigner is talkng about ” gaijin word”
      I think if you hate gaijin word, why dont foreigner try to complain in japanese.
      There is not a meaning even if you argue with people understanding English on the sly..
      that is way it is called Gaijin.
      disucuss with majority of the Japanese in Japanese

      • Kyarochan says:

        @Intricate The field was part of the problem, yes. Modern history. Most were science bods. The university was in a certain southern city famed for its tonkotsu ramen.

        @hoihoi 個人的には「外人」という言葉は別に問題ではないのですが、その言葉に深く結び付いている固定観念は毎日毎日直面すると面倒くさくなります。

    29. hoihoi says:

      Gaijin is Gaijin. it means foreigner
      most Japanese does not know what foreigner is talkng about ” gaijin word”
      I think if you hate gaijin word, why dont foreigner try to complain in japanese.
      There is not a meaning even if you argue with people understanding English on the sly..
      that is way it is called Gaijin.
      disucuss with majority of the Japanese in Japanese

      • Kyarochan says:

        @Intricate The field was part of the problem, yes. Modern history. Most were science bods. The university was in a certain southern city famed for its tonkotsu ramen.

        @hoihoi 個人的には「外人」という言葉は別に問題ではないのですが、その言葉に深く結び付いている固定観念は毎日毎日直面すると面倒くさくなります。

    30. The Envoy says:

      I won’t bother writing a long comment on this. All I have say is that I agree with some of the comments here that it is all a matter of context in which the word “gaijin” is used. And that some racism, physical differentiation is present in every country, like it or not, be it the US of A, or Japan, or in African countries, or in “diversity loving” Britain or “multicultural” Malaysia. It’s a fact of life. Deal with it somehow, or go to a place where you are more comfortable.

    31. The Envoy says:

      I won’t bother writing a long comment on this. All I have say is that I agree with some of the comments here that it is all a matter of context in which the word “gaijin” is used. And that some racism, physical differentiation is present in every country, like it or not, be it the US of A, or Japan, or in African countries, or in “diversity loving” Britain or “multicultural” Malaysia. It’s a fact of life. Deal with it somehow, or go to a place where you are more comfortable.

    32. Tokyo Joe says:

      End of the day – gaijin run/rule the world – Japs don’t. They are merely followers.

    33. Tokyo Joe says:

      End of the day – gaijin run/rule the world – Japs don’t. They are merely followers.

    34. Connor says:

      This was a terrible post and the biases shameful.

      Debitou is trying to make the country better for immigrants to live in while those who accept the term only seem to want to ingratiate themselves. What’s more, saying that it’s “just the way things are” is short-sighted; no society can resist change, and a society as ingrained with the concept of impermanence as Japan’s is is no exception. Hopefully things will change for the better before their aging and barren populace dies out completely.

    35. Connor says:

      This was a terrible post and the biases shameful.

      Debitou is trying to make the country better for immigrants to live in while those who accept the term only seem to want to ingratiate themselves. What’s more, saying that it’s “just the way things are” is short-sighted; no society can resist change, and a society as ingrained with the concept of impermanence as Japan’s is is no exception. Hopefully things will change for the better before their aging and barren populace dies out completely.

    36. Kyaro says:

      I lived in Japan for 4 years and am, after a long hard slog, a fluent Japanese speaker. The first two years were spent in a small town, where I encountered the gaijin-celebrity phenomenon, the pointing, the assumptions, the chopstick questions… and put up with it, because I considered it part of my role to show people that “gaijin” could adapt, could learn, and also because the people I met were generally not well travelled.

      The second period was spent at a certain former imperial university, and it was here that I hit a deeper vein of stereotyping. Although I had JLPT level 1 and was researching Japanese history, it was assumed that I was there to prove the inferiority of Japanese culture and the superiority of my own. I was always asked for the “Western” opinion on given topics, not my own. These were people who would pride themselves on knowing not to use terms like “gaijin”, but the nihonjinron tendency was inescapable. Fed up, I left – my complaints were ignored in favour of a blanket screen of “oh, must be culture shock”.

      I guess what I’m saying is, words can be used in ignorance, with no real prejudice and preconceptions behind them, or not used despite the existence of those preconceptions. Give me small-town curiosity every time.

      • Intricate says:

        I wonder if it had to do with the field you were in. For instance, would it be different in say an engineering field?

        Anyway, I can totally imagine why you were fed up with it.

        (Which imperial uni was it btw? just out of curiosity)

    37. Kyaro says:

      I lived in Japan for 4 years and am, after a long hard slog, a fluent Japanese speaker. The first two years were spent in a small town, where I encountered the gaijin-celebrity phenomenon, the pointing, the assumptions, the chopstick questions… and put up with it, because I considered it part of my role to show people that “gaijin” could adapt, could learn, and also because the people I met were generally not well travelled.

      The second period was spent at a certain former imperial university, and it was here that I hit a deeper vein of stereotyping. Although I had JLPT level 1 and was researching Japanese history, it was assumed that I was there to prove the inferiority of Japanese culture and the superiority of my own. I was always asked for the “Western” opinion on given topics, not my own. These were people who would pride themselves on knowing not to use terms like “gaijin”, but the nihonjinron tendency was inescapable. Fed up, I left – my complaints were ignored in favour of a blanket screen of “oh, must be culture shock”.

      I guess what I’m saying is, words can be used in ignorance, with no real prejudice and preconceptions behind them, or not used despite the existence of those preconceptions. Give me small-town curiosity every time.

      • Intricate says:

        I wonder if it had to do with the field you were in. For instance, would it be different in say an engineering field?

        Anyway, I can totally imagine why you were fed up with it.

        (Which imperial uni was it btw? just out of curiosity)

    38. Nino says:

      @Intricate, the link you posted about ‘nigger’, I don’t know if you fully read what it says, so I’ll post here:

      “From the earliest usage it was “the term that carries with it all the obloquy and contempt and rejection which whites have inflicted on blacks” [cited in Gowers, 1965]. But as black inferiority was at one time a near universal assumption in Eng.-speaking lands, the word in some cases could be used without deliberate insult.”

      You see? In some cases. So mostly it was a racist term and indicated the white superiority towards blacks. Can you say that originally ‘gaijin’ meant Japanese superiority towards foreigners? You can’t. I don’t know why you have to make up stuff to prove your wrong point.. whoa.. some people… And to conclude, all I’m talking about is the comparison between gaijin and nigger. I didn’t say there’s no racism in Japan. But let’s put things into perspective. You can leave Japan, but don’t think if you go abroad, that it’s any better. In fact, you’ll probably see that Japanese are not that racist after all. I recommend you to live a while in the West. It’s not any better, in fact, some parts can be much worse.

      • Intricate says:

        I never denied that nigger is more racist than gaijin but I am not trying to compare them in degrees of racist value, I am merely pointing out they belong to the same group of -bad- words.

        And no, gaijin did not mean superiority over foreigners, but at a point it did, and until very recent times the general public view as supported by the Japanese government was like that. (it is written in several general history books)

        And if you would’ve read my comments you would know I’m a Dutch person living in Holland. I just happen to have read a lot about Japanese history (hence my knowledge of the Japanese superiority issue, it’s not made up).
        And I have also said that I plan to leave Holland because I feel the racism here is far more severe than in Japan, or Asia for that matter. But my understanding of Japan and Asia goes much further beyond reading books and having visited the country, so I know what I’m talking about.

        I’m curious though, why did you think I was living in Japan anyway?

        • matt says:

          All very very interesting. I teach elementary school kids who routinely gawp and point “gaijin, gaijin!” Clearly they learn this is an appropriate behaviour from somewhere very early on, the cultural milieu of their parents and TV most likely. But there is no malice in it. As adults, I assume they just don’t think about it and continue as they always have. Which makes me for the context argument I guess, with caveats.

          That said, making fun of foreigners on the basis of physical characteristics has not become unacceptable in this country. Watch お笑い from time to time and you see exactly what I mean.

          For us, we can separate the good and bad usages of gaijin, take offence to some of it and see some as innocent. The average Japanese doesn’t make this distinction, doesn’t think about the effect of the word on its target.

          You have to conclude that this lack of consideration reflects the continuation of a very strong Japanese-outsider split that is unlikely to be broken in the foreseeable future. What this means in practice is that foreigners in Japan should stand up for different but equal. Only when it lapses to different and unequal is there a problem.

    39. Nino says:

      @Intricate, the link you posted about ‘nigger’, I don’t know if you fully read what it says, so I’ll post here:

      “From the earliest usage it was “the term that carries with it all the obloquy and contempt and rejection which whites have inflicted on blacks” [cited in Gowers, 1965]. But as black inferiority was at one time a near universal assumption in Eng.-speaking lands, the word in some cases could be used without deliberate insult.”

      You see? In some cases. So mostly it was a racist term and indicated the white superiority towards blacks. Can you say that originally ‘gaijin’ meant Japanese superiority towards foreigners? You can’t. I don’t know why you have to make up stuff to prove your wrong point.. whoa.. some people… And to conclude, all I’m talking about is the comparison between gaijin and nigger. I didn’t say there’s no racism in Japan. But let’s put things into perspective. You can leave Japan, but don’t think if you go abroad, that it’s any better. In fact, you’ll probably see that Japanese are not that racist after all. I recommend you to live a while in the West. It’s not any better, in fact, some parts can be much worse.

      • Intricate says:

        I never denied that nigger is more racist than gaijin but I am not trying to compare them in degrees of racist value, I am merely pointing out they belong to the same group of -bad- words.

        And no, gaijin did not mean superiority over foreigners, but at a point it did, and until very recent times the general public view as supported by the Japanese government was like that. (it is written in several general history books)

        And if you would’ve read my comments you would know I’m a Dutch person living in Holland. I just happen to have read a lot about Japanese history (hence my knowledge of the Japanese superiority issue, it’s not made up).
        And I have also said that I plan to leave Holland because I feel the racism here is far more severe than in Japan, or Asia for that matter. But my understanding of Japan and Asia goes much further beyond reading books and having visited the country, so I know what I’m talking about.

        I’m curious though, why did you think I was living in Japan anyway?

        • matt says:

          All very very interesting. I teach elementary school kids who routinely gawp and point “gaijin, gaijin!” Clearly they learn this is an appropriate behaviour from somewhere very early on, the cultural milieu of their parents and TV most likely. But there is no malice in it. As adults, I assume they just don’t think about it and continue as they always have. Which makes me for the context argument I guess, with caveats.

          That said, making fun of foreigners on the basis of physical characteristics has not become unacceptable in this country. Watch お笑い from time to time and you see exactly what I mean.

          For us, we can separate the good and bad usages of gaijin, take offence to some of it and see some as innocent. The average Japanese doesn’t make this distinction, doesn’t think about the effect of the word on its target.

          You have to conclude that this lack of consideration reflects the continuation of a very strong Japanese-outsider split that is unlikely to be broken in the foreseeable future. What this means in practice is that foreigners in Japan should stand up for different but equal. Only when it lapses to different and unequal is there a problem.

    40. Nino says:

      @Intricate, I’m expecting your apology! Clearly most of the people have proven your theory wrong, yet you still keep rambling about it like you’re the centre of the universe. You say: “Alex, yeah you are right that it is not a very laden term right now. But it will change.”

      We’re not talking what might happen! We’re talking about now and about how some ppl (like you) have the nerve to say that ‘gaijin’ is an epithet for ‘nigger’. Didn’t you understand what i was saying? You need to go to the origin of the word and history that surrounds it. Gaijin clearly wasn’t a priori racist, but just descriptive like ‘foreigner’. That’s not racist. Every language has these terms. While ‘nigger’ is in it’s core racist, because it was created in a purely racist environment. Gaijin may become racist in recent times and again, as people told you, it’s not always racist. If a white person says ‘nigger’ to an African American, it’s always racist. There’s no doubts, no discussions, no interpretations. Can you follow me now?

      I’m really wasting my time here… Again, to clarify, ‘gaijin’ can be racist, it’s not always racist, not every Japanese who use it, is racist, not every context is racist. While ‘nigger’ used by White ppl is ALWAYS racist. That’s why you can’t put these two words in the same level. And when you realized that, you had to say: it might be as bad in the future. How about: I’m sorry, people, I was wrong, I appologize?

      I don’t want to insult anyone, but I am sick of people who make a big fuss out of nothing! Nobody forces you to be in Japan, if you feel you are racially discriminated. I am White European btw.

      • Intricate says:

        @ nino:
        If one was to group words according to category, both ‘gaijin’ and ‘nigger’ would fall under ‘racist’, like the words ‘Turk’ and ‘Moroccan’ in my language, as they are used as racist terms as well, even though they are actual nationalities.

        And you keep saying nigger was created as a racist word, but I have already proven to you that it is -not the case-. That, in fact, the word was -purely descriptive at first-.

        As for the word nigger in modern times, it is not racist when used towards another black American if you are one yourself, as I have -already- told you.

        You should read my comments better (and my links) before you try to counter what I say because up until now you have said -nothing- to do so.
        The only thing I have seen coming from you are angry comments that basically say I’m wrong, without any sort of valid argument supporting why I would be.

        And to top it off, you admitted you are a white European, so you probably have no idea what racism actually is like (i.e. you don’t have experience of being racially discriminated, please tell me if I’m wrong). I, on the other hand, -have- been discriminated, and I can tell you it’s no fun, but I must also say that in my case I feel it wasn’t too much of a problem, not even worth to complain about. (i.e. compared to the extreme example of the untouchables I gave)

    41. Nino says:

      @Intricate, I’m expecting your apology! Clearly most of the people have proven your theory wrong, yet you still keep rambling about it like you’re the centre of the universe. You say: “Alex, yeah you are right that it is not a very laden term right now. But it will change.”

      We’re not talking what might happen! We’re talking about now and about how some ppl (like you) have the nerve to say that ‘gaijin’ is an epithet for ‘nigger’. Didn’t you understand what i was saying? You need to go to the origin of the word and history that surrounds it. Gaijin clearly wasn’t a priori racist, but just descriptive like ‘foreigner’. That’s not racist. Every language has these terms. While ‘nigger’ is in it’s core racist, because it was created in a purely racist environment. Gaijin may become racist in recent times and again, as people told you, it’s not always racist. If a white person says ‘nigger’ to an African American, it’s always racist. There’s no doubts, no discussions, no interpretations. Can you follow me now?

      I’m really wasting my time here… Again, to clarify, ‘gaijin’ can be racist, it’s not always racist, not every Japanese who use it, is racist, not every context is racist. While ‘nigger’ used by White ppl is ALWAYS racist. That’s why you can’t put these two words in the same level. And when you realized that, you had to say: it might be as bad in the future. How about: I’m sorry, people, I was wrong, I appologize?

      I don’t want to insult anyone, but I am sick of people who make a big fuss out of nothing! Nobody forces you to be in Japan, if you feel you are racially discriminated. I am White European btw.

      • Intricate says:

        @ nino:
        If one was to group words according to category, both ‘gaijin’ and ‘nigger’ would fall under ‘racist’, like the words ‘Turk’ and ‘Moroccan’ in my language, as they are used as racist terms as well, even though they are actual nationalities.

        And you keep saying nigger was created as a racist word, but I have already proven to you that it is -not the case-. That, in fact, the word was -purely descriptive at first-.

        As for the word nigger in modern times, it is not racist when used towards another black American if you are one yourself, as I have -already- told you.

        You should read my comments better (and my links) before you try to counter what I say because up until now you have said -nothing- to do so.
        The only thing I have seen coming from you are angry comments that basically say I’m wrong, without any sort of valid argument supporting why I would be.

        And to top it off, you admitted you are a white European, so you probably have no idea what racism actually is like (i.e. you don’t have experience of being racially discriminated, please tell me if I’m wrong). I, on the other hand, -have- been discriminated, and I can tell you it’s no fun, but I must also say that in my case I feel it wasn’t too much of a problem, not even worth to complain about. (i.e. compared to the extreme example of the untouchables I gave)

    42. Intricate says:

      @ Alex, yeah you are right that it is not a very laden term right now. But it will change.

      As for drawing the line, looking at history, the line changes with time. So right now it might seem okay to use gaijin, but probably in 50 years or so it might have a much bigger impact.

      Maybe it’s not necessary to actually hold the debate right now, but I guess I just find no harm in actually discussing the matter with Japanese people. They probably find it strange when I’d tell them gaijin might be perceived as an insult or whatever, but hey.., knowing it can be perceived that way is better than not knowing at all right? (in the sense that avoiding is better than fixing the problem as a saying I know roughly goes)

    43. Intricate says:

      @ Alex, yeah you are right that it is not a very laden term right now. But it will change.

      As for drawing the line, looking at history, the line changes with time. So right now it might seem okay to use gaijin, but probably in 50 years or so it might have a much bigger impact.

      Maybe it’s not necessary to actually hold the debate right now, but I guess I just find no harm in actually discussing the matter with Japanese people. They probably find it strange when I’d tell them gaijin might be perceived as an insult or whatever, but hey.., knowing it can be perceived that way is better than not knowing at all right? (in the sense that avoiding is better than fixing the problem as a saying I know roughly goes)

    44. Nino says:

      @Intricate, ‘nigger’ is clearly racist from the beginning on, because it is associated with skin color, while ‘gaijin’ is not racist originally, because it means ‘foregn’. Tell me, do Japanese people have a history of enslaving blacks and calling them ‘nigger’? Who thinks these two words have same weight, is ignorant himself and has no clue about history of racism and the history of word ‘nigger’. I read your comment, you obviously have no clue what you’re talking about.

      • Intricate says:

        Please don’t start insulting people, before you have actually done your homework. You don’t even know my background, so how can you say I don’t know what i’m talking about?

        In fact, in my country, even people’s actual nationalities can (and are) used as racist terms. Therefore, a term like gaijin in Japan perfectly fits the bill of being able to be used as a racist word.
        You don’t need to enslave people, or need them to be of certain skin colour to think up racist words for them you see.

        I don’t know where you are from, but racism goes very far beyond nigger and slavery. I think nigger is quite a “soft” word compared to what I know is being used as racist vocabulary.
        Think of the untouchable caste in India, those people are -born into a future- where basically the only jobs they can do have to do with cleaning up other people’s gunk. Those people were/are perceived to be so impure that you can’t touch them (hence the name) and if you do then there are all these rituals and cleansings you are supposed to do, now that’s racism for ya. It’s not as bad these days as it used to be, but it’s still very hard for those people to get certain jobs. Another similar group of people are the burakumin in Japan, but they were a bit more fortunate.

        As for enslavement, if you know anything about enslavement at all, you know that the country where I come from was the first country that used African slaves to do their dirty work. (It coincidentally is also the first country to abolish slavery as far as i know but that’s beside the point)

        And on the words gaijin and nigger, http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=nigger
        as you can read there, nigger used to be a purely descriptive -non-racist- word. The “inferiority” assumption was just accompanied with the usage of the word at the time and it stuck to these days, that’s why since those days, nigger has come to be seen as a racist word, when it originally was -not-. So it is not a racist word from the onset as you are -incorrectly- saying.
        gaijin is exactly the same, it’s descriptive of someone not from Japan, and even up till the second world war the Japanese race was openly seen as the superior one among the Japanese themselves and consequently a foreign race was less than the Japaneserace. Therefore, gaijin is a term that can be (and is, but not always,) used to describe someone of inferior race, exactly the same as nigger. I’m not saying the nuance is always the same (like you said, nigger can also carry the meaning of slave), but the meaning of inferiority is, and therefore it is not good to use.

        Now don’t go telling me i don’t know anything about racism. I’m actually planning to get out of my country because I can’t stand the racism (even in governmental regulations) over here. I have very real first-hand experience of racism directed at myself.

        At any rate, gaijin and nigger are both racist words, maybe not equally “heavy”, but as they are still racist words they are not to be used as words to describe people. I’m sure you get that.

        And as you have crossed a line in insulting me by falsely accusing me of lack of knowledge when you are in fact proven guilty of it yourself, I expect your apologies.

        • Alex says:

          “Gaijin” isn’t inherently racist – Foreigners are defining it that way as the result of a misinterpretation. If you ask native users about the term, the vast majority of them won’t see it as discriminatory. It’s only Westerners (not foreign, as this mainly seems to stem from primarily English speaking nations that have been known to take PC concepts overboard) who are making this an issue, and I mean that in the literal sense. They are creating an issue, not recognizing one.

          • Intricate says:

            yes you are right to an extent, most foreigners don’t have too much problems with the usage of the word against them. But some of them do and therefore it is better to be aware of that. It’s remotely similar to a person called Deborah not wishing to be simply called Debby, a foreign person might similarly dislike to be simply called foreigner.
            But the thing is, the problem only arose when those who took offence by the word were living in Japan in greater numbers (which is a very very recent development), so it’s only a problem of this time because there never were that many foreign people anyway.

            But like I said somewhere in my previous comments, certain words used to describe certain groups of people will eventually cause irritation and problems, so therefore they should be avoided.

            This gaijin problem -will- grow larger eventually if nothing is done about it, as more and more of those who the term applies to will come live in Japan. So it’s probably the best thing to do something about it now, like creating awareness or something. But I’m rather pessimistic about there actually going to be improvement actually.

            • Alex says:

              “…certain words used to describe certain groups of people will eventually cause irritation and problems, so therefore they should be avoided.”

              But who draws the line? Are we restricted from using “White”, “Black”, “Asian”, “Hispanic”, “European”, “African”?

              For what it’s worth, “gaijin” doesn’t even apply to foreigners, and it really shouldn’t be translated as such. More accurately, it refers to “Westerners”, and in more specific cases just “White” people.

              The problem isn’t the word, as I’ve mentioned on many other sites. It’s that people who are offended by the word are frustrated at constantly being perceived as “different”. That’s an issue that won’t be changed by simply making a harmless term taboo. The process of integration will be decades-long, but if the birthrate continues as it has, it’ll be an inevitable outcome that different looking faces will become commonplace in Japan. If Japanese then know that most of these different faces actually possess Japanese citizenship and speak Japanese, and they still insist on calling them ‘gaijin’, then we might have a legitimate position to argue that the term is derogatory.

              But right now, this debate is really jumping the gun, and we don’t know how Japanese society will develop.

    45. Nino says:

      @Intricate, ‘nigger’ is clearly racist from the beginning on, because it is associated with skin color, while ‘gaijin’ is not racist originally, because it means ‘foregn’. Tell me, do Japanese people have a history of enslaving blacks and calling them ‘nigger’? Who thinks these two words have same weight, is ignorant himself and has no clue about history of racism and the history of word ‘nigger’. I read your comment, you obviously have no clue what you’re talking about.

      • Intricate says:

        Please don’t start insulting people, before you have actually done your homework. You don’t even know my background, so how can you say I don’t know what i’m talking about?

        In fact, in my country, even people’s actual nationalities can (and are) used as racist terms. Therefore, a term like gaijin in Japan perfectly fits the bill of being able to be used as a racist word.
        You don’t need to enslave people, or need them to be of certain skin colour to think up racist words for them you see.

        I don’t know where you are from, but racism goes very far beyond nigger and slavery. I think nigger is quite a “soft” word compared to what I know is being used as racist vocabulary.
        Think of the untouchable caste in India, those people are -born into a future- where basically the only jobs they can do have to do with cleaning up other people’s gunk. Those people were/are perceived to be so impure that you can’t touch them (hence the name) and if you do then there are all these rituals and cleansings you are supposed to do, now that’s racism for ya. It’s not as bad these days as it used to be, but it’s still very hard for those people to get certain jobs. Another similar group of people are the burakumin in Japan, but they were a bit more fortunate.

        As for enslavement, if you know anything about enslavement at all, you know that the country where I come from was the first country that used African slaves to do their dirty work. (It coincidentally is also the first country to abolish slavery as far as i know but that’s beside the point)

        And on the words gaijin and nigger, http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=nigger
        as you can read there, nigger used to be a purely descriptive -non-racist- word. The “inferiority” assumption was just accompanied with the usage of the word at the time and it stuck to these days, that’s why since those days, nigger has come to be seen as a racist word, when it originally was -not-. So it is not a racist word from the onset as you are -incorrectly- saying.
        gaijin is exactly the same, it’s descriptive of someone not from Japan, and even up till the second world war the Japanese race was openly seen as the superior one among the Japanese themselves and consequently a foreign race was less than the Japaneserace. Therefore, gaijin is a term that can be (and is, but not always,) used to describe someone of inferior race, exactly the same as nigger. I’m not saying the nuance is always the same (like you said, nigger can also carry the meaning of slave), but the meaning of inferiority is, and therefore it is not good to use.

        Now don’t go telling me i don’t know anything about racism. I’m actually planning to get out of my country because I can’t stand the racism (even in governmental regulations) over here. I have very real first-hand experience of racism directed at myself.

        At any rate, gaijin and nigger are both racist words, maybe not equally “heavy”, but as they are still racist words they are not to be used as words to describe people. I’m sure you get that.

        And as you have crossed a line in insulting me by falsely accusing me of lack of knowledge when you are in fact proven guilty of it yourself, I expect your apologies.

        • Alex says:

          “Gaijin” isn’t inherently racist – Foreigners are defining it that way as the result of a misinterpretation. If you ask native users about the term, the vast majority of them won’t see it as discriminatory. It’s only Westerners (not foreign, as this mainly seems to stem from primarily English speaking nations that have been known to take PC concepts overboard) who are making this an issue, and I mean that in the literal sense. They are creating an issue, not recognizing one.

          • Intricate says:

            yes you are right to an extent, most foreigners don’t have too much problems with the usage of the word against them. But some of them do and therefore it is better to be aware of that. It’s remotely similar to a person called Deborah not wishing to be simply called Debby, a foreign person might similarly dislike to be simply called foreigner.
            But the thing is, the problem only arose when those who took offence by the word were living in Japan in greater numbers (which is a very very recent development), so it’s only a problem of this time because there never were that many foreign people anyway.

            But like I said somewhere in my previous comments, certain words used to describe certain groups of people will eventually cause irritation and problems, so therefore they should be avoided.

            This gaijin problem -will- grow larger eventually if nothing is done about it, as more and more of those who the term applies to will come live in Japan. So it’s probably the best thing to do something about it now, like creating awareness or something. But I’m rather pessimistic about there actually going to be improvement actually.

            • Alex says:

              “…certain words used to describe certain groups of people will eventually cause irritation and problems, so therefore they should be avoided.”

              But who draws the line? Are we restricted from using “White”, “Black”, “Asian”, “Hispanic”, “European”, “African”?

              For what it’s worth, “gaijin” doesn’t even apply to foreigners, and it really shouldn’t be translated as such. More accurately, it refers to “Westerners”, and in more specific cases just “White” people.

              The problem isn’t the word, as I’ve mentioned on many other sites. It’s that people who are offended by the word are frustrated at constantly being perceived as “different”. That’s an issue that won’t be changed by simply making a harmless term taboo. The process of integration will be decades-long, but if the birthrate continues as it has, it’ll be an inevitable outcome that different looking faces will become commonplace in Japan. If Japanese then know that most of these different faces actually possess Japanese citizenship and speak Japanese, and they still insist on calling them ‘gaijin’, then we might have a legitimate position to argue that the term is derogatory.

              But right now, this debate is really jumping the gun, and we don’t know how Japanese society will develop.

    46. Nino says:

      Ok, I have to say excellent article. I won’t go into everything. What made me mad was that comparison between gaijin and nigger by Debito Arudou. That guy is a disgrace for all the foreigners that go to Japan. How can you compare these two words!? One is just a descriptive word originally meaning ‘foreign’, while the other one is clearly racist and derogatory, because it labels a person by the dark skin. It would be something way different, if the Japanese had a history of enslaving foreigners and calling them ‘gaijin’ in a racist way like White people did with Africans. But that’s clearly not the case.
      What I don’t like is people coming from the West to places like Japan, Korea, China and expecting the society will be as open and diverse as the multicultural West. Japan was always very secluded, maybe they came in touch with more foreigners in the last 20 years. So how can we expect them to be open and without prejudice, if that’s something new to them, especially to the older Japanese? It will take some time, maybe when the teenagers of today become eldrely, then the attitude towards foreigners will be much different than today.
      I think if you go to Japan, you need to have real expectations. You’ll never be accepted by everyone in a foreign land, be it an European in Japan or a Japanese in Europe. Because these things happen in Europe, too. I’ve heard my people poking fun at Asians, calling them derogatory names or just behaving stupid and ignorant. So, if you go to a foreign land, don’t expect that everyone will be waiting for you with open arms. You need to have the balls to get over some gaijin-chatter. I still think better be called gaijin than something worse which is explicitly racist. For me, I wouldn’t mind being called gaijin. So what? If that’s the worst that can happen to me in Japan, then I don’t known what’s the fuss about it? In some parts of Europe some neo-nazis not only call you names, they beat you sensless if you’re not having blue eyes and blond hair. Let’s put things in perspective.

      • Intricate says:

        Contrary to what you think, gaijin and nigger are very similar words (even sharing a similar history, as nigger used to be descriptive too). In many cases gaijin is used in a way that is “clearly racist and derogatory” as well, just like nigger.

        You should read my comment to LB (which is right above yours in fact).

    47. Nino says:

      Ok, I have to say excellent article. I won’t go into everything. What made me mad was that comparison between gaijin and nigger by Debito Arudou. That guy is a disgrace for all the foreigners that go to Japan. How can you compare these two words!? One is just a descriptive word originally meaning ‘foreign’, while the other one is clearly racist and derogatory, because it labels a person by the dark skin. It would be something way different, if the Japanese had a history of enslaving foreigners and calling them ‘gaijin’ in a racist way like White people did with Africans. But that’s clearly not the case.
      What I don’t like is people coming from the West to places like Japan, Korea, China and expecting the society will be as open and diverse as the multicultural West. Japan was always very secluded, maybe they came in touch with more foreigners in the last 20 years. So how can we expect them to be open and without prejudice, if that’s something new to them, especially to the older Japanese? It will take some time, maybe when the teenagers of today become eldrely, then the attitude towards foreigners will be much different than today.
      I think if you go to Japan, you need to have real expectations. You’ll never be accepted by everyone in a foreign land, be it an European in Japan or a Japanese in Europe. Because these things happen in Europe, too. I’ve heard my people poking fun at Asians, calling them derogatory names or just behaving stupid and ignorant. So, if you go to a foreign land, don’t expect that everyone will be waiting for you with open arms. You need to have the balls to get over some gaijin-chatter. I still think better be called gaijin than something worse which is explicitly racist. For me, I wouldn’t mind being called gaijin. So what? If that’s the worst that can happen to me in Japan, then I don’t known what’s the fuss about it? In some parts of Europe some neo-nazis not only call you names, they beat you sensless if you’re not having blue eyes and blond hair. Let’s put things in perspective.

      • Intricate says:

        Contrary to what you think, gaijin and nigger are very similar words (even sharing a similar history, as nigger used to be descriptive too). In many cases gaijin is used in a way that is “clearly racist and derogatory” as well, just like nigger.

        You should read my comment to LB (which is right above yours in fact).

    48. Intricate says:

      @ LB –
      “But if I am being addressed by an obachan (or anyone else, but just to keep the example going…) and she calls me “Mr. Glasses wearer” is that not differentiating me? And is it not irrelevant to the topic at hand (unless we are talking about eyeglasses)?”

      You are quite entirely missing my point. In general inter-human communications, it is often needed to point someone out and it is always satisfied by stating uniquely identifying details about the person in question, always using the most fitting phrases in a given situation.
      If the obachan has to point you out from a whole group of glass wearing blokes, she would not say “the guy with the glasses” because it does not uniquely identify you as the person in question. If however you are the only bloke with glasses, she would use it.
      The usage of differentiating words is always needed, but you can -always- (with no exception) avoid using differentiating words that involve ethnicity (or societal standing or something similar that can not easily be changed, i.e. words like nigger, gaijin, chink, bastard, bitch and what have you, and yes, gaijin too because in Japan being Japanese has strong racial connotations, whatever you may say about it.)
      Conversely, it would probably be okay to use “that person with the dark skin” as you can change the colour of your skin quite easily these days, but then again, “the dark person” is probably a lot more negative as you are not specifying that it’s the person’s skin that is dark and that his or her “darkness” as a physical trait (not to be confused with criminality) is connected to their persona.

      And to come back at the glasses example, have you ever called someone Mr. glasses wearer? I sure haven’t and neither does any Japanese i know. The proper translated phrase should turn out to be something like “He who wears glasses”, which is a perfectly fine way to point the one out who is wearing glasses from amongst a group of people where that person is the only one wearing them. And more importantly, wearing glasses does not specify race or ethnicity or something along those lines.

      So you always need to consider context, just like how nigger is not always a bad word (amongst those who are generally considered to be one it’s apparently a not so tabooed word to use on one another), gaijin isn’t either. But because the word is inherently not a positive word (never has been), and will therefore cause friction with people, its use should be avoided (again, those who use the word nigger but can generally be considered to be one should not use it either).
      Maybe for a more recent example, using the word bitch towards a girl is seen as very offensive these days, but some girls use it on each other all the time (in America at least, from what i understand), even in an amicable way, but because it’s a word with inherently negative connotations, it’s not to be used as lightly as that.

      Surely you can understand what I’m getting at? I’m not saying gaijin is incredibly and completely wrong, but in favour of improving the relations between Japanese and those who don’t have their roots in Japan it is a word that is better left for other uses than what it is usually used for at present (i.e. pointing out the foreigner).

      As for the US citizenship issue, a great example is Arudou Debito. He is a Japanese national, but he is in fact not Japanese in the way Japanese view themselves as being Japanese. Similarly (obviously and trivially), Americans are culturally and ethnically far more related to Europe than to those who used to be the only ones in North America. Therefore, holding a citizenship doesn’t necessarily mean you are not a foreigner anymore. Another quite sounding example, I was born in the Netherlands and I have been raised with all Dutch morals and values in the Netherlands, I speak Dutch with no accent (better than most Dutch in fact *ahem*), I hold Dutch citizenship, my friends are almost exclusively Dutch, I went to a ‘white school’. But still, by law I am defined as ‘a non-autochthonous inhabitant of the Netherlands’ (yes that’s an English word, basically means native) because my mother is non-native, I am an outsider by law. You can probably realize the ramifications of it if such a definition was used for natives and non-natives in the US, it would cause quite an uproar I imagine. So you see, it’s not such an asinine issue as you might think. But because it was utterly impractical to use such a definition in the law, there hasn’t been one since the start of the US, a mere handful of generations ago.

    49. Intricate says:

      @ LB –
      “But if I am being addressed by an obachan (or anyone else, but just to keep the example going…) and she calls me “Mr. Glasses wearer” is that not differentiating me? And is it not irrelevant to the topic at hand (unless we are talking about eyeglasses)?”

      You are quite entirely missing my point. In general inter-human communications, it is often needed to point someone out and it is always satisfied by stating uniquely identifying details about the person in question, always using the most fitting phrases in a given situation.
      If the obachan has to point you out from a whole group of glass wearing blokes, she would not say “the guy with the glasses” because it does not uniquely identify you as the person in question. If however you are the only bloke with glasses, she would use it.
      The usage of differentiating words is always needed, but you can -always- (with no exception) avoid using differentiating words that involve ethnicity (or societal standing or something similar that can not easily be changed, i.e. words like nigger, gaijin, chink, bastard, bitch and what have you, and yes, gaijin too because in Japan being Japanese has strong racial connotations, whatever you may say about it.)
      Conversely, it would probably be okay to use “that person with the dark skin” as you can change the colour of your skin quite easily these days, but then again, “the dark person” is probably a lot more negative as you are not specifying that it’s the person’s skin that is dark and that his or her “darkness” as a physical trait (not to be confused with criminality) is connected to their persona.

      And to come back at the glasses example, have you ever called someone Mr. glasses wearer? I sure haven’t and neither does any Japanese i know. The proper translated phrase should turn out to be something like “He who wears glasses”, which is a perfectly fine way to point the one out who is wearing glasses from amongst a group of people where that person is the only one wearing them. And more importantly, wearing glasses does not specify race or ethnicity or something along those lines.

      So you always need to consider context, just like how nigger is not always a bad word (amongst those who are generally considered to be one it’s apparently a not so tabooed word to use on one another), gaijin isn’t either. But because the word is inherently not a positive word (never has been), and will therefore cause friction with people, its use should be avoided (again, those who use the word nigger but can generally be considered to be one should not use it either).
      Maybe for a more recent example, using the word bitch towards a girl is seen as very offensive these days, but some girls use it on each other all the time (in America at least, from what i understand), even in an amicable way, but because it’s a word with inherently negative connotations, it’s not to be used as lightly as that.

      Surely you can understand what I’m getting at? I’m not saying gaijin is incredibly and completely wrong, but in favour of improving the relations between Japanese and those who don’t have their roots in Japan it is a word that is better left for other uses than what it is usually used for at present (i.e. pointing out the foreigner).

      As for the US citizenship issue, a great example is Arudou Debito. He is a Japanese national, but he is in fact not Japanese in the way Japanese view themselves as being Japanese. Similarly (obviously and trivially), Americans are culturally and ethnically far more related to Europe than to those who used to be the only ones in North America. Therefore, holding a citizenship doesn’t necessarily mean you are not a foreigner anymore. Another quite sounding example, I was born in the Netherlands and I have been raised with all Dutch morals and values in the Netherlands, I speak Dutch with no accent (better than most Dutch in fact *ahem*), I hold Dutch citizenship, my friends are almost exclusively Dutch, I went to a ‘white school’. But still, by law I am defined as ‘a non-autochthonous inhabitant of the Netherlands’ (yes that’s an English word, basically means native) because my mother is non-native, I am an outsider by law. You can probably realize the ramifications of it if such a definition was used for natives and non-natives in the US, it would cause quite an uproar I imagine. So you see, it’s not such an asinine issue as you might think. But because it was utterly impractical to use such a definition in the law, there hasn’t been one since the start of the US, a mere handful of generations ago.

    50. Alex says:

      To add to what LB is saying, I’ve spent as much time in Korea as I have in Japan, and there’s a huge disparity regarding this issue. The Korean equivalent of weigookin (waygookin, weigoogin, etc.) is rarely, if ever, argued as a racist term by the foreign population. This debate is unique to foreigners in Japan.

      • LB says:

        Alex – two thoughts: 1. could part of it be that Koreans have largely stopped using Chinese characters, so even if weigookin is written, it is in Hangul and therefore doesn’t have that big visual of “outside” that the Kanji “gaijin” has?

        2. Do Koreans shorten to just “wei-in”? Leave the “gook” out entirely, thus opening the door to some over-imaginative individual to insist they are saying “outside person”?

        I don’t really have any experience with Korea (only been there once, did not speak the language, got by fine between “Lonely Planet” phrases, English, Japanese and once or twice Chinese), but my gut feeling is that even if foreigners over there tried going off about being called “weigookin” the Koreans wouldn’t do the perplexed head-tilt-accompanied-by-sucking-air-through-their-teeth, but would rather simply slap the idiot upside the head. ;-)

        • Alex says:

          Well, I think both (1) and (2) are valid considerations, but they don’t hold relevant in the fundamental debate against the Debito camp. They are mostly arguing that the term “strips people of diversity by lumping them together.” I’ve already explained that every categorization does that – “White guy”, “Black guy”, “Asian woman”, “College students”, “Mid-westerner” – Where do you draw the line at specificity? Ideally we should address people by their names, but we don’t give our names to strangers, and Japanese in particular are sensitive to their privacy.

          In the boonies of Korea people will point at the waygookins, perhaps even more than in Japan. But the waygookins in Korea aren’t particularly offended by it. Yes, it’s annoying, but it’s not overt racism. Meanwhile, the gaijins of Japan shout from the heavens when people point out the obvious. (We are foreign)

          The meaning of words are dictated by general usage, and I’m willing to bet a survey of Japanese speakers will, for the most part, not perceive the term to be negative. It’s just (Western) foreigners who are trying to change the Japanese language based on their own misinterpretations.

    51. Alex says:

      To add to what LB is saying, I’ve spent as much time in Korea as I have in Japan, and there’s a huge disparity regarding this issue. The Korean equivalent of weigookin (waygookin, weigoogin, etc.) is rarely, if ever, argued as a racist term by the foreign population. This debate is unique to foreigners in Japan.

      • LB says:

        Alex – two thoughts: 1. could part of it be that Koreans have largely stopped using Chinese characters, so even if weigookin is written, it is in Hangul and therefore doesn’t have that big visual of “outside” that the Kanji “gaijin” has?

        2. Do Koreans shorten to just “wei-in”? Leave the “gook” out entirely, thus opening the door to some over-imaginative individual to insist they are saying “outside person”?

        I don’t really have any experience with Korea (only been there once, did not speak the language, got by fine between “Lonely Planet” phrases, English, Japanese and once or twice Chinese), but my gut feeling is that even if foreigners over there tried going off about being called “weigookin” the Koreans wouldn’t do the perplexed head-tilt-accompanied-by-sucking-air-through-their-teeth, but would rather simply slap the idiot upside the head. ;-)

        • Alex says:

          Well, I think both (1) and (2) are valid considerations, but they don’t hold relevant in the fundamental debate against the Debito camp. They are mostly arguing that the term “strips people of diversity by lumping them together.” I’ve already explained that every categorization does that – “White guy”, “Black guy”, “Asian woman”, “College students”, “Mid-westerner” – Where do you draw the line at specificity? Ideally we should address people by their names, but we don’t give our names to strangers, and Japanese in particular are sensitive to their privacy.

          In the boonies of Korea people will point at the waygookins, perhaps even more than in Japan. But the waygookins in Korea aren’t particularly offended by it. Yes, it’s annoying, but it’s not overt racism. Meanwhile, the gaijins of Japan shout from the heavens when people point out the obvious. (We are foreign)

          The meaning of words are dictated by general usage, and I’m willing to bet a survey of Japanese speakers will, for the most part, not perceive the term to be negative. It’s just (Western) foreigners who are trying to change the Japanese language based on their own misinterpretations.

    52. LB says:

      My thought: I think a lot of people who get their shorts in a knot over the word “gaijin” are doing so because they are endlessly worried about how others view them. They’re like the poster I saw on Debito’s blog who ranted “Assimilate? How can I assimilate? They won’t let me!” As though “assimilation” was some sort of reward handed out by Japanese. It isn’t. Learn the rules of the road, live by them, and get on with your life. That’s assimilating.

      Or as someone else put it on another blog “they’re like that psychotic ex-girlfriend we all know, endlessly agonizing over every word and gesture – ‘what did he really mean?'”

      I only concern myself with what the Japanese around me think in the sense of “am I about to break some horrible taboo or something”. But I don’t have panic attacks over it. I’ve only ever gotten cross about being called “gaijin” when everyone in the room knew my name and one guy insisted on referring to me as “the gaijin” when he, too, knew my name. I just turned the tables and started calling him “the naijin” in front of the others. He didn’t like it and said “My name is xxx!” And I said “And mine is yyy! Got it now?” The other Japanese jumped in on my side, and problem solved. Now, inside he may still have thought I was a dick, but why should I care?

      In short, stop letting others define your sense of identity for you. You decide who you are, and be comfortable with that. I mean really, does it matter if some obachan calls you “gaijin”? No. Not if you don’t let it. I mean, if she doesn’t know your name or nationality, what else can she call you while still being clear who she’s referring to? “Anata”? Great – now I’m her freakin’ husband… LOL

    53. LB says:

      My thought: I think a lot of people who get their shorts in a knot over the word “gaijin” are doing so because they are endlessly worried about how others view them. They’re like the poster I saw on Debito’s blog who ranted “Assimilate? How can I assimilate? They won’t let me!” As though “assimilation” was some sort of reward handed out by Japanese. It isn’t. Learn the rules of the road, live by them, and get on with your life. That’s assimilating.

      Or as someone else put it on another blog “they’re like that psychotic ex-girlfriend we all know, endlessly agonizing over every word and gesture – ‘what did he really mean?'”

      I only concern myself with what the Japanese around me think in the sense of “am I about to break some horrible taboo or something”. But I don’t have panic attacks over it. I’ve only ever gotten cross about being called “gaijin” when everyone in the room knew my name and one guy insisted on referring to me as “the gaijin” when he, too, knew my name. I just turned the tables and started calling him “the naijin” in front of the others. He didn’t like it and said “My name is xxx!” And I said “And mine is yyy! Got it now?” The other Japanese jumped in on my side, and problem solved. Now, inside he may still have thought I was a dick, but why should I care?

      In short, stop letting others define your sense of identity for you. You decide who you are, and be comfortable with that. I mean really, does it matter if some obachan calls you “gaijin”? No. Not if you don’t let it. I mean, if she doesn’t know your name or nationality, what else can she call you while still being clear who she’s referring to? “Anata”? Great – now I’m her freakin’ husband… LOL

    54. Joseph Tame says:

      This post prompted Orchid64 to contact me and suggest I ask Arudou Debito what he thought about non-japanese who defend discrimination in Japan – having followed the debate here myself I thought that was a jolly good idea. Debito also comments on the use of ‘gaijin’ – talking about how it has been made an ‘un-word’ in some parts of Hoikkaido.

      http://tr.im/osnc

    55. Joseph Tame says:

      This post prompted Orchid64 to contact me and suggest I ask Arudou Debito what he thought about non-japanese who defend discrimination in Japan – having followed the debate here myself I thought that was a jolly good idea. Debito also comments on the use of ‘gaijin’ – talking about how it has been made an ‘un-word’ in some parts of Hoikkaido.

      http://tr.im/osnc

    56. Mike says:

      Thank you all so much for your comments! I have been a little busy recently with exams, but am working my way through reading them all! Please feel free to follow up and keep spreading the word about this article and debate – the more opinions gathered, the more insight we can gain :)

    57. Mike says:

      Thank you all so much for your comments! I have been a little busy recently with exams, but am working my way through reading them all! Please feel free to follow up and keep spreading the word about this article and debate – the more opinions gathered, the more insight we can gain :)

    58. Yuuh says:

      I must applaud you for this extreamly long aticle! I could not write that much keeping on topic. XD
      In responce though, I don’t think Gaijin is racist.
      We call the Japanese foreingners and sometimes Asian and ofcourse Japanese and I’ve not once seen a negative responce to that use.
      As for the word ‘Nigger’, I always think when that word is said that it comes across quite sharp and harsh and it almost segragates the black-africans so I would say the use of that word is racist. Infact the only time I would say the word is justified is when it’s towards a friend who is black-african that likes being called that in a friendly way I guess.
      ‘Gaijin’ is used to refer to all outside of Japan not segragate one minority race. I don’t really see how any one can class it as a racist word.
      But then again I oppose all this Political Correctness malarky so my view may be slightly biased.

      Anyhoo, European Elections results are about to start and I’m not wiling to miss them – especially after the recent local elections xD

    59. Yuuh says:

      I must applaud you for this extreamly long aticle! I could not write that much keeping on topic. XD
      In responce though, I don’t think Gaijin is racist.
      We call the Japanese foreingners and sometimes Asian and ofcourse Japanese and I’ve not once seen a negative responce to that use.
      As for the word ‘Nigger’, I always think when that word is said that it comes across quite sharp and harsh and it almost segragates the black-africans so I would say the use of that word is racist. Infact the only time I would say the word is justified is when it’s towards a friend who is black-african that likes being called that in a friendly way I guess.
      ‘Gaijin’ is used to refer to all outside of Japan not segragate one minority race. I don’t really see how any one can class it as a racist word.
      But then again I oppose all this Political Correctness malarky so my view may be slightly biased.

      Anyhoo, European Elections results are about to start and I’m not wiling to miss them – especially after the recent local elections xD

    60. risui says:

      I suppse that many Japanese use ‘gaiijin’ without thhinking of racism.
      I feel Japanese culture is still internal culture (内文化).
      Britain is also an island country as same as Japan but Britain is more
      accetable against gaijin than Japan.
      I guess it’s related with history…
      Britain had colonies around the world and accept lots of immigrants,
      so I guess it’s common for you (British) to live and see people who
      are different from you when you are really children.
      Of course, it’s getting common to see foreingers in Japan.
      But I suppse that it’s still rare to contact with foreingers for many Japanese
      in daily life…(for example, like studying with foreigners in school for many children).
      I feel that children don’t have chances to contant with foreigners, which means
      that they don’t have chances to be interested in foreign countries and foreigners…..
      When such children become adult, they would not be interesrted in racim so much….

      I’m interested in foreign countries, so it’s really interested in knowing other cultures
      for me. I thinks Japnese people should know other culture and be interested in them more.

    61. risui says:

      I suppse that many Japanese use ‘gaiijin’ without thhinking of racism.
      I feel Japanese culture is still internal culture (内文化).
      Britain is also an island country as same as Japan but Britain is more
      accetable against gaijin than Japan.
      I guess it’s related with history…
      Britain had colonies around the world and accept lots of immigrants,
      so I guess it’s common for you (British) to live and see people who
      are different from you when you are really children.
      Of course, it’s getting common to see foreingers in Japan.
      But I suppse that it’s still rare to contact with foreingers for many Japanese
      in daily life…(for example, like studying with foreigners in school for many children).
      I feel that children don’t have chances to contant with foreigners, which means
      that they don’t have chances to be interested in foreign countries and foreigners…..
      When such children become adult, they would not be interesrted in racim so much….

      I’m interested in foreign countries, so it’s really interested in knowing other cultures
      for me. I thinks Japnese people should know other culture and be interested in them more.

    62. YoyoKirby says:

      Like all derogatory remarks, ‘gaijin’ is used by people of that group as a positive remark.

    63. YoyoKirby says:

      Like all derogatory remarks, ‘gaijin’ is used by people of that group as a positive remark.

    64. reesan says:

      mike, great article that seems to have provoked an interesting debate. personally, i am in the ‘context’ camp. if it is meant with any malice then i take offense to it. otherwise, i am happy to refer to myself as a gaijin although i much prefer ‘guy-jin’.

    65. reesan says:

      mike, great article that seems to have provoked an interesting debate. personally, i am in the ‘context’ camp. if it is meant with any malice then i take offense to it. otherwise, i am happy to refer to myself as a gaijin although i much prefer ‘guy-jin’.

    66. Mike says:

      Wow, a nice discussion going on here :) Good work!

      Personally I don’t think it’s an offensive term, so much as a different concept. I understand people getting upset simply because, at least in the UK, we don’t really have a similar term that *doesn’t* have some negative connotations linked to it.

      For example, I could call someone a ‘foreigner’ in the UK, but that at least to me conjures up the notion I am distancing myself from them. If you consider 外人 simply a technical term, I believe that underlying meaning doesn’t exist.

      Obviously though I understand where people are coming from – literally meaning ‘outside person’ suggests exclusivity, exclusion and so on, and of course people exclaiming へー!外人だ!is irritating, but if you treat it as them missing out on internationalization rather than segregation, I find the whole thing much more pleasant :)

      Hope that’s OK

      Mike

    67. Mike says:

      Wow, a nice discussion going on here :) Good work!

      Personally I don’t think it’s an offensive term, so much as a different concept. I understand people getting upset simply because, at least in the UK, we don’t really have a similar term that *doesn’t* have some negative connotations linked to it.

      For example, I could call someone a ‘foreigner’ in the UK, but that at least to me conjures up the notion I am distancing myself from them. If you consider 外人 simply a technical term, I believe that underlying meaning doesn’t exist.

      Obviously though I understand where people are coming from – literally meaning ‘outside person’ suggests exclusivity, exclusion and so on, and of course people exclaiming へー!外人だ!is irritating, but if you treat it as them missing out on internationalization rather than segregation, I find the whole thing much more pleasant :)

      Hope that’s OK

      Mike

    68. shibuya246 says:

      Its a question of whether your feel part of the group or outside the group. It is the same for people in companies where there are full-time employees and part-timers, or those who went to Uni and those who didn’t, those who are from Japan and those who are not.

      If you hear one group talking about your group in an exclusionary way you are going to get upset. “Do we have to invite the temp workers to the party?”, “Ask the gaijin if they want to come as well”. There may be no ill intent here, but there is a clear demarcation of us and them. That alone may upset people.

      Find a way you can be part of the group with these people where the lines are not based on where you were born.

      If a term is used in a derogatory sense then it will always be hurtful but the use of gaijin itself doesn’t have to be meant in that way. Trying to convert every non gaijin to understand the issue could take a long time.

      In the meantime, as my niece told me recently, “Build a bridge and get over it”. She should know, she is neither a nihonjin or a gaijin. She is in the middle.

    69. shibuya246 says:

      Its a question of whether your feel part of the group or outside the group. It is the same for people in companies where there are full-time employees and part-timers, or those who went to Uni and those who didn’t, those who are from Japan and those who are not.

      If you hear one group talking about your group in an exclusionary way you are going to get upset. “Do we have to invite the temp workers to the party?”, “Ask the gaijin if they want to come as well”. There may be no ill intent here, but there is a clear demarcation of us and them. That alone may upset people.

      Find a way you can be part of the group with these people where the lines are not based on where you were born.

      If a term is used in a derogatory sense then it will always be hurtful but the use of gaijin itself doesn’t have to be meant in that way. Trying to convert every non gaijin to understand the issue could take a long time.

      In the meantime, as my niece told me recently, “Build a bridge and get over it”. She should know, she is neither a nihonjin or a gaijin. She is in the middle.

    70. Yoshi (aka Super Yossy) says:

      Aww, so many typing errors in my comment..I’m still sleeping.. orz

    71. Yoshi (aka Super Yossy) says:

      Aww, so many typing errors in my comment..I’m still sleeping.. orz

    72. Yoshi (aka Super Yossy) says:

      Well I have to say this…so many comments! LOL
      Persoanlly, I have never used the word gaijin. Of course, I use the word “igirisu-jin” (British people) or “amerika-jin”(Americans)…
      I also use the word “oubei-jin”(westerners). Actually, I don’t like the abstract nature of the word “gaijin” As I have already mentionned, this word mostly means Westerners, sometimes Afro-European or Afro-American. And as long as I know, it never refers to other Asians (than the Japanese of course). So, does it mean, the Japanese considers Westeners an outsider while they consider other Asians their fellows? Well, ABSOLUTELY NOT. I even have to admit discrimination over other Asians (especially Chinese and Koreans) is prevailing much more siginificantly than discrimination over westerners.

      Actually, I understand those who get upset when they hear the word “gaijin”.
      I have spent 6 years aboroad..in France, I have met so many people who regard me as a South-east Asian because they don’t understand South-east Asia is only a part of Asia. In Australia, I have met so many prople who regard me as a Chinese person and even some of them totally changed their attitude and suudenly become kind to me because they noticed I am a Japanese guy. I can say I have experienced many racist comments on me…and stupid stereotypes as well.
      And these experiences are probably what keeps me from using the word “gaijin”.
      And the point is here. Not all Japanese have luck to live abroad to experience this kinda stuff. When we don’t spend life as a “foreigner”, we might not easily understand people living as a “foreigner”, especially what could be annoying to them.

      Through my experience I got one thing.
      Truth beyond the surface, personality beyond the nationality (or origin).
      I like foreign cultures not because I like stereotypes but I find it interesting to discover new things, something different from what I have experienced.
      I have some good British friends not because they are Brits but I like their personality. Well, I don’t draw a line between the Japanese and “gaijins” because it’s meaningless to me :-D

    73. Yoshi (aka Super Yossy) says:

      Well I have to say this…so many comments! LOL
      Persoanlly, I have never used the word gaijin. Of course, I use the word “igirisu-jin” (British people) or “amerika-jin”(Americans)…
      I also use the word “oubei-jin”(westerners). Actually, I don’t like the abstract nature of the word “gaijin” As I have already mentionned, this word mostly means Westerners, sometimes Afro-European or Afro-American. And as long as I know, it never refers to other Asians (than the Japanese of course). So, does it mean, the Japanese considers Westeners an outsider while they consider other Asians their fellows? Well, ABSOLUTELY NOT. I even have to admit discrimination over other Asians (especially Chinese and Koreans) is prevailing much more siginificantly than discrimination over westerners.

      Actually, I understand those who get upset when they hear the word “gaijin”.
      I have spent 6 years aboroad..in France, I have met so many people who regard me as a South-east Asian because they don’t understand South-east Asia is only a part of Asia. In Australia, I have met so many prople who regard me as a Chinese person and even some of them totally changed their attitude and suudenly become kind to me because they noticed I am a Japanese guy. I can say I have experienced many racist comments on me…and stupid stereotypes as well.
      And these experiences are probably what keeps me from using the word “gaijin”.
      And the point is here. Not all Japanese have luck to live abroad to experience this kinda stuff. When we don’t spend life as a “foreigner”, we might not easily understand people living as a “foreigner”, especially what could be annoying to them.

      Through my experience I got one thing.
      Truth beyond the surface, personality beyond the nationality (or origin).
      I like foreign cultures not because I like stereotypes but I find it interesting to discover new things, something different from what I have experienced.
      I have some good British friends not because they are Brits but I like their personality. Well, I don’t draw a line between the Japanese and “gaijins” because it’s meaningless to me :-D

    74. wormgear says:

      Hey what’s up Gaijin!? (haha, no offense intended!) Unlike many of the folks who have replied here, I have never lived in Japan (although I hope relocate soon). I have spent a lot of time there, though, and I have many wonderful friends and family there.

      Additionally, while it’s most likely the case that someone has probably used the word 外人 in reference to me, I was unaware of this and no one has ever said it to me directly. I, like most others, have had the experiences of people gawking at me or approaching me in wonderment of who/what I am but all of the people who have approached me normally started by saying, “konnichiwa…” (note: not even “Hello,” but “konnichiwa.”). My friends and friends-of-friends all just call me by my name, of course. Perhaps this gives me little room to discuss the topic, but I’m going to go ahead anyway.

      For me, 外人、外国人 mean the same thing, and that is what I am! There is absolutely no reason to be upset about it or offended by it. I was born and raised in the United States, not in Japan, and that makes me a foreigner in Japan. Also, knowing how Japanese people love to shorten or abbreviate everything, I think it’s just simpler to say 外人. I agree 100% with the folks that believe this word is absolutely nothing like the word “nigger” (there is a word for this in Japanese, too, BTW) and is incapable of carrying the same weight or degree of hatred. If a Japanese person wants to insult me, racially, then I think s/he would choose to call me “ketou” (someone else mentioned that one earlier – I first discovered it while reading the manga, “Nekojiru.”). Has anyone here ever been called THAT? You would have a right to be angry in this case, I think. I guess the folks that have discussed the CONTEXT of using the word have made the best points. Of course, the word can be used in a derogatory way, but I do believe that is not the intent during the vast majority of its utterances. Can’t people use just about *any* word in such a way? The meaning that is attached to a word upon delivery is what provides it’s content. In short, a word is just a word without content/meaning.

      Now, I am sure this is going to infuriate many of you, but– on the topic of underlying meaning, some of us have made reference to the meaning behind the word 外人 (e.g. loud, rude, unclean, ignorant, etc). I am sorry to say that there’s a whole boatload of loud, rude, unclean, ignorant westerners running around in foreign countries all over the world who are proving this to be true! I have seen them MANY times with my own eyes in Japan and other countries everywhere. It’s absolutely embarrassing and I refuse to interact with any such person (for the life of me I can’t figure out what they’re doing overseas in the first place). The folks that behave in this way also represent good, decent folks like those of us participating in this discussion. We all hate generalisations but sadly, they are a fact of human nature and I feel that we good ones are outnumbered by jerks that make us look bad. I know that we aren’t all like this, and I certainly do NOT think that every other westerner besides me acts this way, but is there anyone here who HAS NOT seen this happening?

      If Japan and Japanese culture were very different from what it is (i.e. a society built upon cultural diversity instead of one built on strong Japanese nationalism/pride) then use of such a word might be unacceptable. Japanese society and culture is just that however – it’s Japanese. American culture is by virtue a cultural mish-mash consisting of perspectives and viewpoints from all over the globe. People we perceive to be “Americans” don’t even have roots that started on American soil. In fact, the folks that do have their true roots in America were pushed aside just a few hundred years ago to make way for the immigrants that decided to occupy this land for themselves. The idea that we, as foreigners, can impose the same concepts of cultural tolerance and understanding upon Japanese society is just plain arrogant. Besides, finding success in doing so would essential result in Japan ceasing to be what it is– the country we love so much!

      In general, westerners (particularly us Americans) are so talented at flying the banner of multiculturalism, and doing so to the point of tolerating other westerners’ discriminatory views or even being downright ignorant of their own. I find it rather amusing that, despite this, many of us are able to get so bent-out-of shape at being identified as someone who is foreign / an outsider as soon as we start to explore a different culture. Indeed, we are SO good at playing the role of victim when it serves us. I am not accusing every person who dislikes use of the word 外人 of doing this, but I think, honestly, that this is what has occurred in many cases (probably many more than we’d be willing to admit).

      I would conclude by saying that those of us who are able to visit/live in Japan and participate in Japanese society are *extremely* fortunate and privileged. There are SO many other humans who will never have the means to do this and many others who are either not interested or would never know what to do with themselves in a culture that is different from their own. We should be thankful for the opportunities that life has given us and not get so hung up on one little word! I, personally, don’t give a damn what you call me unless you are deliberately and intentionally trying to harm me, and this brings back round again to _context_. I think darg said it best by writing, “It is through personal relationships and blurring people’s distinctions that you break down the whole “us and them” thing, one person at a time.” I agree. I love it and live it.

    75. wormgear says:

      Hey what’s up Gaijin!? (haha, no offense intended!) Unlike many of the folks who have replied here, I have never lived in Japan (although I hope relocate soon). I have spent a lot of time there, though, and I have many wonderful friends and family there.

      Additionally, while it’s most likely the case that someone has probably used the word 外人 in reference to me, I was unaware of this and no one has ever said it to me directly. I, like most others, have had the experiences of people gawking at me or approaching me in wonderment of who/what I am but all of the people who have approached me normally started by saying, “konnichiwa…” (note: not even “Hello,” but “konnichiwa.”). My friends and friends-of-friends all just call me by my name, of course. Perhaps this gives me little room to discuss the topic, but I’m going to go ahead anyway.

      For me, 外人、外国人 mean the same thing, and that is what I am! There is absolutely no reason to be upset about it or offended by it. I was born and raised in the United States, not in Japan, and that makes me a foreigner in Japan. Also, knowing how Japanese people love to shorten or abbreviate everything, I think it’s just simpler to say 外人. I agree 100% with the folks that believe this word is absolutely nothing like the word “nigger” (there is a word for this in Japanese, too, BTW) and is incapable of carrying the same weight or degree of hatred. If a Japanese person wants to insult me, racially, then I think s/he would choose to call me “ketou” (someone else mentioned that one earlier – I first discovered it while reading the manga, “Nekojiru.”). Has anyone here ever been called THAT? You would have a right to be angry in this case, I think. I guess the folks that have discussed the CONTEXT of using the word have made the best points. Of course, the word can be used in a derogatory way, but I do believe that is not the intent during the vast majority of its utterances. Can’t people use just about *any* word in such a way? The meaning that is attached to a word upon delivery is what provides it’s content. In short, a word is just a word without content/meaning.

      Now, I am sure this is going to infuriate many of you, but– on the topic of underlying meaning, some of us have made reference to the meaning behind the word 外人 (e.g. loud, rude, unclean, ignorant, etc). I am sorry to say that there’s a whole boatload of loud, rude, unclean, ignorant westerners running around in foreign countries all over the world who are proving this to be true! I have seen them MANY times with my own eyes in Japan and other countries everywhere. It’s absolutely embarrassing and I refuse to interact with any such person (for the life of me I can’t figure out what they’re doing overseas in the first place). The folks that behave in this way also represent good, decent folks like those of us participating in this discussion. We all hate generalisations but sadly, they are a fact of human nature and I feel that we good ones are outnumbered by jerks that make us look bad. I know that we aren’t all like this, and I certainly do NOT think that every other westerner besides me acts this way, but is there anyone here who HAS NOT seen this happening?

      If Japan and Japanese culture were very different from what it is (i.e. a society built upon cultural diversity instead of one built on strong Japanese nationalism/pride) then use of such a word might be unacceptable. Japanese society and culture is just that however – it’s Japanese. American culture is by virtue a cultural mish-mash consisting of perspectives and viewpoints from all over the globe. People we perceive to be “Americans” don’t even have roots that started on American soil. In fact, the folks that do have their true roots in America were pushed aside just a few hundred years ago to make way for the immigrants that decided to occupy this land for themselves. The idea that we, as foreigners, can impose the same concepts of cultural tolerance and understanding upon Japanese society is just plain arrogant. Besides, finding success in doing so would essential result in Japan ceasing to be what it is– the country we love so much!

      In general, westerners (particularly us Americans) are so talented at flying the banner of multiculturalism, and doing so to the point of tolerating other westerners’ discriminatory views or even being downright ignorant of their own. I find it rather amusing that, despite this, many of us are able to get so bent-out-of shape at being identified as someone who is foreign / an outsider as soon as we start to explore a different culture. Indeed, we are SO good at playing the role of victim when it serves us. I am not accusing every person who dislikes use of the word 外人 of doing this, but I think, honestly, that this is what has occurred in many cases (probably many more than we’d be willing to admit).

      I would conclude by saying that those of us who are able to visit/live in Japan and participate in Japanese society are *extremely* fortunate and privileged. There are SO many other humans who will never have the means to do this and many others who are either not interested or would never know what to do with themselves in a culture that is different from their own. We should be thankful for the opportunities that life has given us and not get so hung up on one little word! I, personally, don’t give a damn what you call me unless you are deliberately and intentionally trying to harm me, and this brings back round again to _context_. I think darg said it best by writing, “It is through personal relationships and blurring people’s distinctions that you break down the whole “us and them” thing, one person at a time.” I agree. I love it and live it.

    76. Satoshii says:

      One more thing i’d like to add btw…

      Well done Mike! This is an awesome post, very well thought out and it’s got a lot of responses because of it. Just adding my congratulations.

      Keep ’em coming!

    77. Satoshii says:

      One more thing i’d like to add btw…

      Well done Mike! This is an awesome post, very well thought out and it’s got a lot of responses because of it. Just adding my congratulations.

      Keep ’em coming!

    78. nihonjon says:

      Wow, cool guys, 25 different blogs attached to Mike’s post. I feel out of place commenting here… but why not…

      Nice writeup. You took quite a few views on the subject and spoke your mind well. I tend to agree with you, but would hope that if everyone who said 外人 were scolded by colleagues or classmates, that they may think before they act or say. You know – kind of like a friendly reminder before they say something ignorant like 「外人ってさ、お箸使えるんすか?すごぉーい!」

    79. nihonjon says:

      Wow, cool guys, 25 different blogs attached to Mike’s post. I feel out of place commenting here… but why not…

      Nice writeup. You took quite a few views on the subject and spoke your mind well. I tend to agree with you, but would hope that if everyone who said 外人 were scolded by colleagues or classmates, that they may think before they act or say. You know – kind of like a friendly reminder before they say something ignorant like 「外人ってさ、お箸使えるんすか?すごぉーい!」

    80. Ryan says:

      Okay, here goes nothing..

      True, 外人 may have begun its legacy way back in feudal Japan, and true, the term may have started out with negative connotations in mind, which, undoubtedly, linger on into this century, and will, no doubt, continue to linger through the next, however, my point is: ‘why are you bothered?’

      Debito claims, as do many people, that they have the right to have their ‘Japannishness’ recognised and that they should not be singled out; they should be acknowledged. Okay, but why? Why is it relevant?

      Well, firstly, what I really think is happening here is that people have a rose-tinted perception of Japan, and a lot of people, when they first set out to its beautiful shores, think they are going to find some kind of utopia, some kind of ideal. Unfortunately, however, this does not exist, not anywhere, not even, dare I say it, in Japan, and in fact, what they really find is a society that is quite happy to continue along its merry way, without the intervention of a shed load of foreigners dumping their views and their beliefs and their ways of thinking on them.

      Secondly, I thought we all got involved in Japan because we actually like its people, its cultures, its way of thinking? If that is the case, then how can you single out this one aspect as being the most offensive thing on the planet, when you are quite happy to accept all the good parts? Reality dictates that nothing is perfect, that you are never going to get everything that you want.

      Thirdly, time is too precious to care what the etymology/pragmatics/semantics of the word is. This goes far deeper than just one word, and is intrinsic to the whole in-group/out-group perspective of Japanese people. You will never conquer this viewpoint, and why should you? Again, why is it relevant?

      Finally, Debito et al. also argue that the connotations of 外人 are archaic, from an era when people had archaic views. Well, that’s true, but so is the idea that Western civilisation is better than Eastern; in Japan that table is turned on its head, and quite frankly, some people cannot deal with being the minority for once.

      In this supposedly ‘modern world’, aren’t we supposed to embrace difference of opinion? Debito et al. argue that their view, that the very nature of their difference, should be celebrated, that their viewpoint should be acknowledged. Well, if that’s the case, then so should the use of 外人, after all, all opinions are equal, right?

      One simple message: ‘get over it, and get on with it’.

    81. Ryan says:

      Okay, here goes nothing..

      True, 外人 may have begun its legacy way back in feudal Japan, and true, the term may have started out with negative connotations in mind, which, undoubtedly, linger on into this century, and will, no doubt, continue to linger through the next, however, my point is: ‘why are you bothered?’

      Debito claims, as do many people, that they have the right to have their ‘Japannishness’ recognised and that they should not be singled out; they should be acknowledged. Okay, but why? Why is it relevant?

      Well, firstly, what I really think is happening here is that people have a rose-tinted perception of Japan, and a lot of people, when they first set out to its beautiful shores, think they are going to find some kind of utopia, some kind of ideal. Unfortunately, however, this does not exist, not anywhere, not even, dare I say it, in Japan, and in fact, what they really find is a society that is quite happy to continue along its merry way, without the intervention of a shed load of foreigners dumping their views and their beliefs and their ways of thinking on them.

      Secondly, I thought we all got involved in Japan because we actually like its people, its cultures, its way of thinking? If that is the case, then how can you single out this one aspect as being the most offensive thing on the planet, when you are quite happy to accept all the good parts? Reality dictates that nothing is perfect, that you are never going to get everything that you want.

      Thirdly, time is too precious to care what the etymology/pragmatics/semantics of the word is. This goes far deeper than just one word, and is intrinsic to the whole in-group/out-group perspective of Japanese people. You will never conquer this viewpoint, and why should you? Again, why is it relevant?

      Finally, Debito et al. also argue that the connotations of 外人 are archaic, from an era when people had archaic views. Well, that’s true, but so is the idea that Western civilisation is better than Eastern; in Japan that table is turned on its head, and quite frankly, some people cannot deal with being the minority for once.

      In this supposedly ‘modern world’, aren’t we supposed to embrace difference of opinion? Debito et al. argue that their view, that the very nature of their difference, should be celebrated, that their viewpoint should be acknowledged. Well, if that’s the case, then so should the use of 外人, after all, all opinions are equal, right?

      One simple message: ‘get over it, and get on with it’.

    82. Intricate says:

      I think the reason for 外人 being such a bad word is because it’s being used to differentiate groups of people. Which is always bad, whatever the case. Therefore, even though it might be applied correctly, it is not appropriate to use because creating differences between groups of people is just not something this global society needs.

      The only reason Japanese use it is because in their world people other than those of Japanese decent are a rare thing to be seen. So they use it more out of astonishment and mystery than because they want to differentiate. It’s just that they have no way of identifying themselves with other people because there aren’t any to identify with. However, times are changing so the use of the word will likely diminish.

      Another example of remark that is in fact racist:
      “I don’t care if you’re black, hispanic, white or indian, you still have to do your homework!” Here a teacher differentiates between four different groups in one sentence. Such uses of those words encourage group thinking and therefore staying with your “own people” which is completely ridiculous ofcourse but that’s how it is. It’s being fed into young American people from a very young age, and yet, those who go to Japan are surprised when such similar terms are used.

      To summarise, differentiating between groups is always bad. It’s generalizing and entirely unnecessary, -whatever- the case. Therefore, the word 外人 in its current meaning is a bad word, just as bad as hispanic, nigger, slave, redskin, untouchable or whatever term that is used to distinguish one group of people from another.

    83. Intricate says:

      I think the reason for 外人 being such a bad word is because it’s being used to differentiate groups of people. Which is always bad, whatever the case. Therefore, even though it might be applied correctly, it is not appropriate to use because creating differences between groups of people is just not something this global society needs.

      The only reason Japanese use it is because in their world people other than those of Japanese decent are a rare thing to be seen. So they use it more out of astonishment and mystery than because they want to differentiate. It’s just that they have no way of identifying themselves with other people because there aren’t any to identify with. However, times are changing so the use of the word will likely diminish.

      Another example of remark that is in fact racist:
      “I don’t care if you’re black, hispanic, white or indian, you still have to do your homework!” Here a teacher differentiates between four different groups in one sentence. Such uses of those words encourage group thinking and therefore staying with your “own people” which is completely ridiculous ofcourse but that’s how it is. It’s being fed into young American people from a very young age, and yet, those who go to Japan are surprised when such similar terms are used.

      To summarise, differentiating between groups is always bad. It’s generalizing and entirely unnecessary, -whatever- the case. Therefore, the word 外人 in its current meaning is a bad word, just as bad as hispanic, nigger, slave, redskin, untouchable or whatever term that is used to distinguish one group of people from another.

    84. William says:

      Context is everything. ‘Gaijin’ is a useful word that *can* be used inclusively by the people it represents. Everyone who experiences racism here, whatever their colour or nationality, can use it to describe their experiences. All of us outsiders can own it and use it. Of course, it can be used to exclude.

      In my home country, pointing out someone of a different colour or moving because they sat down next to you on the train is considered to be extremely offensive. But we accept it as not only a minor thing here, but argue that you have ‘a chip on your shoulder’ if it disturbs you. Aren’t we really saying that it’s unacceptable in our culture because we have standards, but the Japanese simply ‘don’t know any better’? “Oh but racism is just their culture!”

      Overall, I think using ‘gaijin’ is fine and even useful in the right context. In a negative context, it’s unacceptable. It’s not a separate issue from the “discriminatory immigration practices, lack of oversight for law enforcement, and the creepy political speeches broadcast at deafening volume on the streets”, it’s the same thing viewed from a different angle. If you think about slurs in your own country, whether racist, sexist, homophobic or whatever, it’s not the label that matters, it’s the treatment that label reflects.

      (Also I’d be lying if I said it didn’t infuriate me when gaijin cheerfully accept third-class treatment and get holier-than-thou at other people who are upset by it!)

    85. William says:

      Context is everything. ‘Gaijin’ is a useful word that *can* be used inclusively by the people it represents. Everyone who experiences racism here, whatever their colour or nationality, can use it to describe their experiences. All of us outsiders can own it and use it. Of course, it can be used to exclude.

      In my home country, pointing out someone of a different colour or moving because they sat down next to you on the train is considered to be extremely offensive. But we accept it as not only a minor thing here, but argue that you have ‘a chip on your shoulder’ if it disturbs you. Aren’t we really saying that it’s unacceptable in our culture because we have standards, but the Japanese simply ‘don’t know any better’? “Oh but racism is just their culture!”

      Overall, I think using ‘gaijin’ is fine and even useful in the right context. In a negative context, it’s unacceptable. It’s not a separate issue from the “discriminatory immigration practices, lack of oversight for law enforcement, and the creepy political speeches broadcast at deafening volume on the streets”, it’s the same thing viewed from a different angle. If you think about slurs in your own country, whether racist, sexist, homophobic or whatever, it’s not the label that matters, it’s the treatment that label reflects.

      (Also I’d be lying if I said it didn’t infuriate me when gaijin cheerfully accept third-class treatment and get holier-than-thou at other people who are upset by it!)

    86. Mika says:

      gaijin is gaijin. What’s the point here? I love Japan. Wish I’m Asian than being white :(, so much better over in jpn!

    87. Mika says:

      gaijin is gaijin. What’s the point here? I love Japan. Wish I’m Asian than being white :(, so much better over in jpn!

    88. darg says:

      Personally I think too many people put too much time and effort into thinking about and arguing this topic – the reason you don’t hear long-termers talking about this so much is because if you live here and dwell on it then you’ll be leading a pretty miserable existence… case in point: Debito.

      My personal solution to the whole thing is a bit more on the individual level. If you know and follow the rules for the most part and speak the language, the longer people are around you and get used to your presence the more you get treated as you and not just a guest… your friends and everyone forget you’re a foreigner, so much so that sometimes you have to remind them of the fact (the occasional ‘gaijin card’ is inevitable). They don’t call me ‘gaijin’, they call me by my name.

      If someone says something along the lines of “oh, you’re almost Japanese” or something, I tell them that I am most definitely not Japanese, I just know my way around. It is through personal relationships and blurring people’s distinctions that you break down the whole “us and them” thing, one person at a time. The more people that permeate the outer layer of this whole “sakoku” society, the more we’ll make them think about where the distinction lines should be drawn or whether they should even be drawn at all.

      Lead by example, it’ll get you a lot farther than arguing or getting hung up on semantics around here.

      • NB says:

        I think in many ways, being against the word gaijin comes from the stress of always being different. Always being stared at in a crowd. Always being the one who doesn’t quite understand. Always being the example of someone who is different.

        Most of the time, people just repeat what they hear without thinking – that’s human nature.

        “If someone says something along the lines of “oh, you’re almost Japanese” or something, I tell them that I am most definitely not Japanese, I just know my way around.”

        I find this even more perplexing than being called a “gaijin”. Again, intent is important. And people are just repeating what they hear.

        When people call me “almost Japanese” on one hand they mean:

        “You actually took the time to learn our language and culture.”

        However, sometimes they mean:

        “You’re almost good enough to be one of us.”

        And although I fall for it sometimes, I certainly DON’T want to play the “us and them” game.

        I think it’s important to make the point that no one is perfect and that being different is ok.

        In both instances I tell people I just did what anyone living in a foreign country would do. And if they were to live in my country I hope they would do the same thing.

    89. darg says:

      Personally I think too many people put too much time and effort into thinking about and arguing this topic – the reason you don’t hear long-termers talking about this so much is because if you live here and dwell on it then you’ll be leading a pretty miserable existence… case in point: Debito.

      My personal solution to the whole thing is a bit more on the individual level. If you know and follow the rules for the most part and speak the language, the longer people are around you and get used to your presence the more you get treated as you and not just a guest… your friends and everyone forget you’re a foreigner, so much so that sometimes you have to remind them of the fact (the occasional ‘gaijin card’ is inevitable). They don’t call me ‘gaijin’, they call me by my name.

      If someone says something along the lines of “oh, you’re almost Japanese” or something, I tell them that I am most definitely not Japanese, I just know my way around. It is through personal relationships and blurring people’s distinctions that you break down the whole “us and them” thing, one person at a time. The more people that permeate the outer layer of this whole “sakoku” society, the more we’ll make them think about where the distinction lines should be drawn or whether they should even be drawn at all.

      Lead by example, it’ll get you a lot farther than arguing or getting hung up on semantics around here.

      • NB says:

        I think in many ways, being against the word gaijin comes from the stress of always being different. Always being stared at in a crowd. Always being the one who doesn’t quite understand. Always being the example of someone who is different.

        Most of the time, people just repeat what they hear without thinking – that’s human nature.

        “If someone says something along the lines of “oh, you’re almost Japanese” or something, I tell them that I am most definitely not Japanese, I just know my way around.”

        I find this even more perplexing than being called a “gaijin”. Again, intent is important. And people are just repeating what they hear.

        When people call me “almost Japanese” on one hand they mean:

        “You actually took the time to learn our language and culture.”

        However, sometimes they mean:

        “You’re almost good enough to be one of us.”

        And although I fall for it sometimes, I certainly DON’T want to play the “us and them” game.

        I think it’s important to make the point that no one is perfect and that being different is ok.

        In both instances I tell people I just did what anyone living in a foreign country would do. And if they were to live in my country I hope they would do the same thing.

    90. Craig says:

      There was a time, when I first came to Japan that I really wanted to integrate myself into society here. I followed all the rules, tried to be fit as best as possible, and yet, at the end of the day, I was still ‘gaijin.’

      It was coming at the expense of myself. Trying to become something I’m not, and still being labeled as something I was trying to get beyond was just causing stress.

      At one point, reading about old Japan and Onsen culture, I came across the idea that the Onsen were the great equalizer in Japanese society, where rich and poor could all mingle freely and not be judged and placed into categories, everyone lacking symbols of status (being naked).

      Laying in the pools after a swimming workout at my local Konami sports club, I realized that this wasn’t something that applied to me, noticing the constant stares, leers, and odd looks. I would never truly ‘fit in’ as my mind wanted. Even in this great equalizer I’d still be cast apart from the norms of Japanese society.

      After that, I quit on my quest to ‘fit’ in and decided it was best to just be myself. If you want to call me ‘gaijin,’ go ahead. I’m proud of the ‘outsider’ viewpoints and ways I bring to the table.

      The label also allows use to be ourselves, as it’s expected that the gaijin will behave in his wacky outsider ways.

      Screw being accepted as part of the whole, that’s far to stressful! Then I’d be expected to spend my vacations taking pictures and shopping for Omiyage instead of just relaxing like us silly outsiders always do!

    91. Craig says:

      There was a time, when I first came to Japan that I really wanted to integrate myself into society here. I followed all the rules, tried to be fit as best as possible, and yet, at the end of the day, I was still ‘gaijin.’

      It was coming at the expense of myself. Trying to become something I’m not, and still being labeled as something I was trying to get beyond was just causing stress.

      At one point, reading about old Japan and Onsen culture, I came across the idea that the Onsen were the great equalizer in Japanese society, where rich and poor could all mingle freely and not be judged and placed into categories, everyone lacking symbols of status (being naked).

      Laying in the pools after a swimming workout at my local Konami sports club, I realized that this wasn’t something that applied to me, noticing the constant stares, leers, and odd looks. I would never truly ‘fit in’ as my mind wanted. Even in this great equalizer I’d still be cast apart from the norms of Japanese society.

      After that, I quit on my quest to ‘fit’ in and decided it was best to just be myself. If you want to call me ‘gaijin,’ go ahead. I’m proud of the ‘outsider’ viewpoints and ways I bring to the table.

      The label also allows use to be ourselves, as it’s expected that the gaijin will behave in his wacky outsider ways.

      Screw being accepted as part of the whole, that’s far to stressful! Then I’d be expected to spend my vacations taking pictures and shopping for Omiyage instead of just relaxing like us silly outsiders always do!

    92. Alex says:

      Do you feel stripped of cultural diversity if someone called you “White”, or “Black”, or “Asian”? If you do, then ‘gaijin’ will have the same result.

      But why is it that some individuals take offense while others don’t? Because it’s an issue of personal identity, and it’s impossible to take into account the personal identities of every person.

      What it boils down to is this – If the speaker uses it in a racist manner, then the person is racist. The term isn’t. It’s never had the overt racist foundation that terms like ‘nigger’, ‘kike’, or ‘chink’ have had. To put it simply, ‘gaijin’ only offends people who already have a chip on their shoulder.

      Now, the term can definitely be annoying because it points out the obvious, but Japanese (and, for that matter, all humans in general) have a tendency to do just that. “It’s hot!” (Yes, I know – I can sense temperature as well, and we’re standing in the same region)

      As a foreigner who stands out, some people get annoyed at always being in the spotlight. But even if you took away the term ‘gaijin’, you’ll still experience the occasional stares, and they might even just use the blanket term ‘American’, which would be even worse for all of the Canadians, French, Italians, English, South Africans, Australians, etc.

      Arudou Debito uses the term “NJ” (Non-Japanese) instead. Is that any better? How does that incorporate cultural diversity that “gaijin” doesn’t? Now I would like a chance to state the obvious here: NJ = gaijin.

      Now consider the term ‘Asian’ in the following two sentences:
      “My best friend is Asian.”
      “Damn Asian – Learn how to drive!”

      Can you argue that ‘Asian’ itself is a racist term just because it can be used in a racist way?

      After living in both Japan and Korea, and hearing all of the complaints (in English…) from foreigners, I’ve drawn the conclusion that a lot of the whinging and complaining stems from this perceived fantasy that “The Others are out to get us”. It seems to stem from a lack of communication, and most of the people who complain can’t communicate very well in Japanese or Korean, and so they start to imagine what “The Others” are thinking.

      That’s not to say I don’t hear annoying comments – I hear them. Just the other day I heard one, but I have a tool that a lot of other foreigners lack. I can shoot them down in Japanese.

      And just as an anecdote, I’ll write the exchange as it went down last Thursday night on my way to the coffee shop at 9:00pm, standing at an intersection waiting for the light to turn green:

      random man in Japanese group heading to “second party”:
      この外人も招待しようか!ハハハ!

      Me:
      外国人でも日本語が喋れますよ。言葉遣いに気をつけましょうね。

      And then a couple of the party group members gave apologetic head bows, and the guy who made the comment looked a little embarrassed having been taught manners in Japanese by a foreigner. I bet at least a couple of them remember the exchange, but they didn’t feel attacked.

      • Tomo says:

        I was getting ready to write a long comment to express my opinion as a native Japanese who use the word gaijin in regularly in non-racist contexts, but you explained pretty much everything I wanted to say. Thanks for saving my time – it’s still a great hassle for me to write in English!

      • LB says:

        “Now I would like a chance to state the obvious here: NJ = gaijin.”
        Indeed it does – even if accepted into general usage by Japanese (unlikely), it would still be a word lumping people into a group even though they have absolutely nothing in common other than being….

        Foreigners.

        Whoops.

        Personally, I think even if you wanted “NJ” to replace 外人 and 外国人, you are going to need to put it in Japanese. エヌジェー is just phonetically awkward and too difficult to instantly grasp the meaning of. The other problem is what, exactly, is the “Japanese” group that you are saying one is not of? Not ethnically Japanese? Not of Japanese nationality? I’m going to take it on faith that Debito does not include himself in the “NJ” group, as he says (correctly, at least in terms of nationality) that he is Japanese. So “NJ” must mean “non-Japanese citizens”.

        Hmmmm……

        非国民? Does that work for everyone? Can we get a consensus here? ;-)

    93. Alex says:

      Do you feel stripped of cultural diversity if someone called you “White”, or “Black”, or “Asian”? If you do, then ‘gaijin’ will have the same result.

      But why is it that some individuals take offense while others don’t? Because it’s an issue of personal identity, and it’s impossible to take into account the personal identities of every person.

      What it boils down to is this – If the speaker uses it in a racist manner, then the person is racist. The term isn’t. It’s never had the overt racist foundation that terms like ‘nigger’, ‘kike’, or ‘chink’ have had. To put it simply, ‘gaijin’ only offends people who already have a chip on their shoulder.

      Now, the term can definitely be annoying because it points out the obvious, but Japanese (and, for that matter, all humans in general) have a tendency to do just that. “It’s hot!” (Yes, I know – I can sense temperature as well, and we’re standing in the same region)

      As a foreigner who stands out, some people get annoyed at always being in the spotlight. But even if you took away the term ‘gaijin’, you’ll still experience the occasional stares, and they might even just use the blanket term ‘American’, which would be even worse for all of the Canadians, French, Italians, English, South Africans, Australians, etc.

      Arudou Debito uses the term “NJ” (Non-Japanese) instead. Is that any better? How does that incorporate cultural diversity that “gaijin” doesn’t? Now I would like a chance to state the obvious here: NJ = gaijin.

      Now consider the term ‘Asian’ in the following two sentences:
      “My best friend is Asian.”
      “Damn Asian – Learn how to drive!”

      Can you argue that ‘Asian’ itself is a racist term just because it can be used in a racist way?

      After living in both Japan and Korea, and hearing all of the complaints (in English…) from foreigners, I’ve drawn the conclusion that a lot of the whinging and complaining stems from this perceived fantasy that “The Others are out to get us”. It seems to stem from a lack of communication, and most of the people who complain can’t communicate very well in Japanese or Korean, and so they start to imagine what “The Others” are thinking.

      That’s not to say I don’t hear annoying comments – I hear them. Just the other day I heard one, but I have a tool that a lot of other foreigners lack. I can shoot them down in Japanese.

      And just as an anecdote, I’ll write the exchange as it went down last Thursday night on my way to the coffee shop at 9:00pm, standing at an intersection waiting for the light to turn green:

      random man in Japanese group heading to “second party”:
      この外人も招待しようか!ハハハ!

      Me:
      外国人でも日本語が喋れますよ。言葉遣いに気をつけましょうね。

      And then a couple of the party group members gave apologetic head bows, and the guy who made the comment looked a little embarrassed having been taught manners in Japanese by a foreigner. I bet at least a couple of them remember the exchange, but they didn’t feel attacked.

      • Tomo says:

        I was getting ready to write a long comment to express my opinion as a native Japanese who use the word gaijin in regularly in non-racist contexts, but you explained pretty much everything I wanted to say. Thanks for saving my time – it’s still a great hassle for me to write in English!

      • LB says:

        “Now I would like a chance to state the obvious here: NJ = gaijin.”
        Indeed it does – even if accepted into general usage by Japanese (unlikely), it would still be a word lumping people into a group even though they have absolutely nothing in common other than being….

        Foreigners.

        Whoops.

        Personally, I think even if you wanted “NJ” to replace 外人 and 外国人, you are going to need to put it in Japanese. エヌジェー is just phonetically awkward and too difficult to instantly grasp the meaning of. The other problem is what, exactly, is the “Japanese” group that you are saying one is not of? Not ethnically Japanese? Not of Japanese nationality? I’m going to take it on faith that Debito does not include himself in the “NJ” group, as he says (correctly, at least in terms of nationality) that he is Japanese. So “NJ” must mean “non-Japanese citizens”.

        Hmmmm……

        非国民? Does that work for everyone? Can we get a consensus here? ;-)

    94. ryanthewired says:

      I would rather not be lumped into an often derogatory stereotype; I am me and that is all I can be. I am obviously different and if anything it makes for an interesting conversation, yet I don’t like having negative connotations implied upon me.

      I am not loud and annoying; not rude and ungrateful; not racist and ignorant. The term gaijin implies these qualities and that is not who I am in the slightest. Gaijin effectively prevents people from getting to know me because they dislike or are afraid of the stereotype that gets projected upon me.

      What I want is to get to know different people, make new friends, and learn about other cultures.

    95. ryanthewired says:

      I would rather not be lumped into an often derogatory stereotype; I am me and that is all I can be. I am obviously different and if anything it makes for an interesting conversation, yet I don’t like having negative connotations implied upon me.

      I am not loud and annoying; not rude and ungrateful; not racist and ignorant. The term gaijin implies these qualities and that is not who I am in the slightest. Gaijin effectively prevents people from getting to know me because they dislike or are afraid of the stereotype that gets projected upon me.

      What I want is to get to know different people, make new friends, and learn about other cultures.

    96. Jomann says:

      Just my opinion: we don’t belong there, because it is their country, it is a privilege for us to visit. We most definitely should not be allowed to live there If we are not at least half Japanese and it’s not our country to change, not to mention most of the government of Japan is con-gaijin. Someday maybe, but for now its their country and the people there say what is true, however I don’t believe they wish to insult us by saying gaijin anyway, I think they are interested in us more than anything. But as I said before, we should not even be in japan anyway living or extended stay.

      • Jomann says:

        maybe I should just add one more thing to this:
        “We should not expect we have the right to be in their country”
        But I feel visiting their country is a perfectly acceptable thing.

        • William says:

          Wow. Would you turn around and say that to “foreigners” in your home country?

          • LB says:

            You wouldn’t? I would – “Don’t like it? Get out. You don’t have a “right” to be here.”

            • Intricate says:

              LB – “You wouldn’t? I would – “Don’t like it? Get out. You don’t have a “right” to be here.” ”

              If you’d say that in the US, a vast majority of the inhabitants would have to go back to Europe, as their ancestors basically invaded the country and took everything for themselves. And their descendants actually believe they belong there. Even though most of them either don’t like it there, or are in deep financial trouble (a very old problem having nothing to do with the recent crash) or worse, both. I.e. many of those immigrant descendants can not contribute to US society in a positive way. Should they go? Even though they view themselves as part of that country? (Which they technically are not)

              The sort of mentality you reveal in what you -would- say to foreigners is exactly what leads to unwanted friction between people/countries. You may not realise it but it’s incredibly damaging to hear such things from people, just like being called gaijin on a regular basis. Mental abuse isn’t called abuse for no reason, and nobody has enough patience to put up with it indefinitely, and you are not an exception.

              Although i agree with you on many of the things you say, you must realise that even if you yourself don’t mind being called gaijin or whatever, it doesn’t make it less of a bad word. And if the obachan doesn’t know your name she could also just describe what you look like “he with the glasses” or “him with the blue T-shirt” or whatever. There is -never- a need to use group differentiating words, when the topic doesn’t actually concern those groups.

              Group differentiation is the source of most major non-natural problems in this world, basically all wars are (directly or indirectly) based on it, and all gang violence is too.

            • LB says:

              @intricate – But if I am being addressed by an obachan (or anyone else, but just to keep the example going…) and she calls me “Mr. Glasses wearer” is that not differentiating me? And is it not irrelevant to the topic at hand (unless we are talking about eyeglasses)? Same with the T-shirt argument. You are differentiating people in a way that clumps them into a group that may have no relevance to the situation at hand. “Foreigner”, “gaijin”, “laowai”, “Auslander” – these are all just words to identify someone from outside. Do you think that if I know you are a foreigner, but don’t call you that, that is going to somehow change the fact I think of you as a foreigner? It won’t. Group differentiation, which you apparently think is a non-natural phenomenon, is one of the most natural phenomenon for humans and any other animal that lives in groups – Who is in the group? Who is not in the group? What are the boundaries of the group?

              Everyone differentiates. It is human nature. Differentiation serves valuable purposes in forming a cohesive social structure and personal relationships. It is not, in and of itself, a bad thing, not by a long shot. Using words that show differentiation is not, in and of itself, racist or negatively discriminatory.

              Now, a word that is clearly used in negative way as a racial slur, like “nigger” or “chink” – yes, those should not be used. “Gaijin” is not such a word, even if it can, admittedly, be used as one. But so can pretty much any descriptive adjective, so do we ban all such words on the grounds they may offend?

              Finally – as regards “Don’t like it? Leave.”: I am referring to foreigners. Those who do not hold nationality of the country they are living in. Last time I looked, most people living in the US hold US citizenship. Arguing that because their ancestors took the land from the previous occupants they therefore don’t belong is, frankly, assinine. Everyone came from somewhere else, with the possible exception of Africans living near the Great Rift Valley, and we can’t even be 100% sure about that.

            • Tomo says:

              @Intricate

              > And if the obachan doesn’t know your name she could also just describe what you look like “he with the glasses” or “him with the blue T-shirt” or whatever.

              You used the word “he” and “she”, which are group differentiating words. I know many Japanese feminists who get seriously offended by the word “obachan”.

    97. Jomann says:

      Just my opinion: we don’t belong there, because it is their country, it is a privilege for us to visit. We most definitely should not be allowed to live there If we are not at least half Japanese and it’s not our country to change, not to mention most of the government of Japan is con-gaijin. Someday maybe, but for now its their country and the people there say what is true, however I don’t believe they wish to insult us by saying gaijin anyway, I think they are interested in us more than anything. But as I said before, we should not even be in japan anyway living or extended stay.

      • Jomann says:

        maybe I should just add one more thing to this:
        “We should not expect we have the right to be in their country”
        But I feel visiting their country is a perfectly acceptable thing.

        • William says:

          Wow. Would you turn around and say that to “foreigners” in your home country?

          • LB says:

            You wouldn’t? I would – “Don’t like it? Get out. You don’t have a “right” to be here.”

            • Intricate says:

              LB – “You wouldn’t? I would – “Don’t like it? Get out. You don’t have a “right” to be here.” ”

              If you’d say that in the US, a vast majority of the inhabitants would have to go back to Europe, as their ancestors basically invaded the country and took everything for themselves. And their descendants actually believe they belong there. Even though most of them either don’t like it there, or are in deep financial trouble (a very old problem having nothing to do with the recent crash) or worse, both. I.e. many of those immigrant descendants can not contribute to US society in a positive way. Should they go? Even though they view themselves as part of that country? (Which they technically are not)

              The sort of mentality you reveal in what you -would- say to foreigners is exactly what leads to unwanted friction between people/countries. You may not realise it but it’s incredibly damaging to hear such things from people, just like being called gaijin on a regular basis. Mental abuse isn’t called abuse for no reason, and nobody has enough patience to put up with it indefinitely, and you are not an exception.

              Although i agree with you on many of the things you say, you must realise that even if you yourself don’t mind being called gaijin or whatever, it doesn’t make it less of a bad word. And if the obachan doesn’t know your name she could also just describe what you look like “he with the glasses” or “him with the blue T-shirt” or whatever. There is -never- a need to use group differentiating words, when the topic doesn’t actually concern those groups.

              Group differentiation is the source of most major non-natural problems in this world, basically all wars are (directly or indirectly) based on it, and all gang violence is too.

            • LB says:

              @intricate – But if I am being addressed by an obachan (or anyone else, but just to keep the example going…) and she calls me “Mr. Glasses wearer” is that not differentiating me? And is it not irrelevant to the topic at hand (unless we are talking about eyeglasses)? Same with the T-shirt argument. You are differentiating people in a way that clumps them into a group that may have no relevance to the situation at hand. “Foreigner”, “gaijin”, “laowai”, “Auslander” – these are all just words to identify someone from outside. Do you think that if I know you are a foreigner, but don’t call you that, that is going to somehow change the fact I think of you as a foreigner? It won’t. Group differentiation, which you apparently think is a non-natural phenomenon, is one of the most natural phenomenon for humans and any other animal that lives in groups – Who is in the group? Who is not in the group? What are the boundaries of the group?

              Everyone differentiates. It is human nature. Differentiation serves valuable purposes in forming a cohesive social structure and personal relationships. It is not, in and of itself, a bad thing, not by a long shot. Using words that show differentiation is not, in and of itself, racist or negatively discriminatory.

              Now, a word that is clearly used in negative way as a racial slur, like “nigger” or “chink” – yes, those should not be used. “Gaijin” is not such a word, even if it can, admittedly, be used as one. But so can pretty much any descriptive adjective, so do we ban all such words on the grounds they may offend?

              Finally – as regards “Don’t like it? Leave.”: I am referring to foreigners. Those who do not hold nationality of the country they are living in. Last time I looked, most people living in the US hold US citizenship. Arguing that because their ancestors took the land from the previous occupants they therefore don’t belong is, frankly, assinine. Everyone came from somewhere else, with the possible exception of Africans living near the Great Rift Valley, and we can’t even be 100% sure about that.

            • Tomo says:

              @Intricate

              > And if the obachan doesn’t know your name she could also just describe what you look like “he with the glasses” or “him with the blue T-shirt” or whatever.

              You used the word “he” and “she”, which are group differentiating words. I know many Japanese feminists who get seriously offended by the word “obachan”.

    98. christopher says:

      interesting topic.
      personally i dont give a toss what people call me. i know im an outsider, and have no problem with that. i came to this country, i have deal with tatemae and all that. hell, in some countries they kill people for being different. being called a name doesnt bother me at all.
      being a gaijin is very very useful sometimes too. when christian missionaries or newspaper sellers or angry neighbours show up on your doorstep you can pretend not to understand and they bugger off without the need to tell them to.
      also its great for eavesdropping, listening to people talk for an hour or so about you, then chime in fluently. scares the shit out of them. especially effective with children.

      sure we stand out and will never be completely incorporated into the culture, but thats not always a bad thing. i like to maintain a bit of distance, so i can enjoy the show! theres a lot of fucked up stuff going on here, and the best thing to do is divorce yourself from it all and watch and enjoy it all. i have no stake in the outcome.

      then there are those gaijin who take it even further. its not enough to be an equal foreigner in japan, no no billy gaijin wants to be completely japanese.
      nothing makes me laugh more than some goofy blonde fuck at a shrine getting married wearing a hakama. youre not japanese, and you look like a prat. be white, be lame, and get over it.

      • wormgear says:

        PFFTttt! What a comment!!! HAHA! Well good for you! You are entitled to your view, just as Japanese people who call you Gaijin in a derogatory way are entitled to theirs. I’d say you are both on equal footing based on the comment you made.

        I was married in a Shinto shrine and wore Hakama. My wife wore a beautiful Furisode. I am *very* happy that I chose to be married in a way that gives meaning to the bond between my wife and I and did not just do whatever other people view as the “white” way of doing it. I am not a christian and have zero interest in participating in christian ceremonies. My mother and father in law are very proud and honoured.

        I can’t help but wonder how far your view goes? How about a Japanese couple getting married in a chapel, wearing a tuxedo and wedding gown/viel? Do they look like prats as well?

        Laughable.

        • christopher says:

          “How about a Japanese couple getting married in a chapel, wearing a tuxedo and wedding gown/viel? Do they look like prats as well?”

          Yes, absolutely. especially if its in one of those bloody awful ‘wedding places’

    99. christopher says:

      interesting topic.
      personally i dont give a toss what people call me. i know im an outsider, and have no problem with that. i came to this country, i have deal with tatemae and all that. hell, in some countries they kill people for being different. being called a name doesnt bother me at all.
      being a gaijin is very very useful sometimes too. when christian missionaries or newspaper sellers or angry neighbours show up on your doorstep you can pretend not to understand and they bugger off without the need to tell them to.
      also its great for eavesdropping, listening to people talk for an hour or so about you, then chime in fluently. scares the shit out of them. especially effective with children.

      sure we stand out and will never be completely incorporated into the culture, but thats not always a bad thing. i like to maintain a bit of distance, so i can enjoy the show! theres a lot of fucked up stuff going on here, and the best thing to do is divorce yourself from it all and watch and enjoy it all. i have no stake in the outcome.

      then there are those gaijin who take it even further. its not enough to be an equal foreigner in japan, no no billy gaijin wants to be completely japanese.
      nothing makes me laugh more than some goofy blonde fuck at a shrine getting married wearing a hakama. youre not japanese, and you look like a prat. be white, be lame, and get over it.

      • wormgear says:

        PFFTttt! What a comment!!! HAHA! Well good for you! You are entitled to your view, just as Japanese people who call you Gaijin in a derogatory way are entitled to theirs. I’d say you are both on equal footing based on the comment you made.

        I was married in a Shinto shrine and wore Hakama. My wife wore a beautiful Furisode. I am *very* happy that I chose to be married in a way that gives meaning to the bond between my wife and I and did not just do whatever other people view as the “white” way of doing it. I am not a christian and have zero interest in participating in christian ceremonies. My mother and father in law are very proud and honoured.

        I can’t help but wonder how far your view goes? How about a Japanese couple getting married in a chapel, wearing a tuxedo and wedding gown/viel? Do they look like prats as well?

        Laughable.

        • christopher says:

          “How about a Japanese couple getting married in a chapel, wearing a tuxedo and wedding gown/viel? Do they look like prats as well?”

          Yes, absolutely. especially if its in one of those bloody awful ‘wedding places’

    100. Orchid64 says:

      This debate is pointless and one of those things I believe foreigners fight about amongst themselves because of a compulsion to tear each other apart. Too many foreigners treat Japan like a turf that they war over and on one side are those who generally believe Japan is la-la land/paradise/utopia and the behavior of the Japanese is not to be criticized by the smelly, ethnocentric, arrogant rabble who invade their perfect Japan and on the other side are the people who apply their cultural values to life here and get offended by every little thing.

      The truth, as always, is in the middle. To me, the question is a simple one when judging Japanese behavior. Does what they are doing to you fit the pattern of their behavior of how they treat one another? If the answer is “yes”, it is not prejudice. If the answer is “no”, then they are treating you differently because you are a foreigner. Depending on your experiences, sometimes they treat you like a doll they delight over and lavish you with undeserved praise, attention, and gifts and sometimes they treat you like something they’ve stepped in and want to scrape off their shoe. The fact of the former doesn’t excuse or negate the fact of the latter. Both happen, and though one appears complimentary, it’s actually as much a form of objectifying you as the negative attention.

      What can you do? Well, you can leave. You can make the best of it. You can grow a thick skin. Or, you can try to let the Japanese people who are around you know how their behavior affects you in the most productive manner possible. Too many foreigners, however, just decide to defend all Japanese prejudice, and that leads us back to this argument.

      The bottom line on the whole gaijin debate is that each person the word applies to gets to decide what offends them. If your name is “Jonathan” and I insist on calling you “Johnny” because that’s what I want to call you, are you right in being offended by my insistence on not calling you by your proper name? Just as minority groups in America can tell the majority that they don’t like being referred to in a specific way because it offends them (“coloreds” is a good example of such a term), we get to decide what offends us. If it doens’t offend person A or B, bully for him or her, but if it does offend person C or D, then it’s not wrong for them to be offended about being called a gaijin.

      Look at it this way, if I call a Japanese person a “Jap”, do my intentions matter or do their feelings about what has historically been a pejorative term matter? Obviously, they get to decide. Everyone seems to be right with the idea that ethnic groups get to decide what offends them everywhere else, but somehow those of us in the minority here aren’t afforded this same latitude. Why should this be? Well, go back to the la-la land people in paragraph one.

      Sometimes I think that the other foreigners in Japan are worse than the Japanese who are prejudiced against them because they are either hypocritical (applying different standards to Japan than other countries) or tribalistic (adhering ferociously to their status and values without consideration for cultural variations). The Japanese are usually acting out of ignorance of fear. I think most foreigners are acting out of ego, selfishness, and the notion that their viewpoint is the only one that could possibly be correct.

    101. Orchid64 says:

      This debate is pointless and one of those things I believe foreigners fight about amongst themselves because of a compulsion to tear each other apart. Too many foreigners treat Japan like a turf that they war over and on one side are those who generally believe Japan is la-la land/paradise/utopia and the behavior of the Japanese is not to be criticized by the smelly, ethnocentric, arrogant rabble who invade their perfect Japan and on the other side are the people who apply their cultural values to life here and get offended by every little thing.

      The truth, as always, is in the middle. To me, the question is a simple one when judging Japanese behavior. Does what they are doing to you fit the pattern of their behavior of how they treat one another? If the answer is “yes”, it is not prejudice. If the answer is “no”, then they are treating you differently because you are a foreigner. Depending on your experiences, sometimes they treat you like a doll they delight over and lavish you with undeserved praise, attention, and gifts and sometimes they treat you like something they’ve stepped in and want to scrape off their shoe. The fact of the former doesn’t excuse or negate the fact of the latter. Both happen, and though one appears complimentary, it’s actually as much a form of objectifying you as the negative attention.

      What can you do? Well, you can leave. You can make the best of it. You can grow a thick skin. Or, you can try to let the Japanese people who are around you know how their behavior affects you in the most productive manner possible. Too many foreigners, however, just decide to defend all Japanese prejudice, and that leads us back to this argument.

      The bottom line on the whole gaijin debate is that each person the word applies to gets to decide what offends them. If your name is “Jonathan” and I insist on calling you “Johnny” because that’s what I want to call you, are you right in being offended by my insistence on not calling you by your proper name? Just as minority groups in America can tell the majority that they don’t like being referred to in a specific way because it offends them (“coloreds” is a good example of such a term), we get to decide what offends us. If it doens’t offend person A or B, bully for him or her, but if it does offend person C or D, then it’s not wrong for them to be offended about being called a gaijin.

      Look at it this way, if I call a Japanese person a “Jap”, do my intentions matter or do their feelings about what has historically been a pejorative term matter? Obviously, they get to decide. Everyone seems to be right with the idea that ethnic groups get to decide what offends them everywhere else, but somehow those of us in the minority here aren’t afforded this same latitude. Why should this be? Well, go back to the la-la land people in paragraph one.

      Sometimes I think that the other foreigners in Japan are worse than the Japanese who are prejudiced against them because they are either hypocritical (applying different standards to Japan than other countries) or tribalistic (adhering ferociously to their status and values without consideration for cultural variations). The Japanese are usually acting out of ignorance of fear. I think most foreigners are acting out of ego, selfishness, and the notion that their viewpoint is the only one that could possibly be correct.

    102. Yoshi (aka Super Yossy) says:

      I don’t think the word gaijin (外人)itself carries a negative meaning but probably it depends on a way to use this word.
      The problem is that most non-Japanese people don’t know this word is actually a quasi-synonym of Oubeijin (Westerner) and includes sometimes black people in some context. The proof is this word is not used for neither Chinese nor Korean (and even South-east Asian, even if they are physically quite different from Japanese)
      Arutou’s accusation is probably a bit out of point because the word gaikokujin should be a racist term by his definition. Actually, he simply doesn’t want to be regarded as a foreigner by Japananese people as he is a Japanese. And well, from my experience, I could say French people born Vietnamese and Australian born Chinese are almost always called “Asian” respectedly in France and Australia. So, I would say Mr. Arutou is not regarded as an outsider but a Westerner.

      What matters, in my view, is how to use this word. Kids asking to “gaijin” taking pictures with them don’t seem to use this word as a negative or racist term..otherwise, why asking taking pictures with them?

      However, I admit the word “gaijin” is also used in a racist way…when it’s written “害人(harmful people)” (used often by redneck otaku guys) or pronouced like “geejin”.

      To finish, I present you some annoying racist words…
      “毛唐ketou”-this is kinda oldish word now but still used to discriminate Westerners.
      There are many racist words for Asian (especially, Chinese and Korean people), which shows the fact that there are much more Japanese people descrminating Asians than those descrminating Westerners.
      “三国人Sangokujin” and “特アtokua” referring Chinese and Korean. tokua is more political.
      “中華chuuka”-when it doesn’t refer to ramen shops but Chinese people.
      “厨国人” commonly used by redneck otaku guys to refer Chinese people
      “チョンchon”-classic one. Referring Korean people.
      “半島人” commonly used by redneck otaku guys to refer Korean people
      and there are many others…

      • Gotanda says:

        @Super Yossy

        Too bad the comments aren’t threaded, but in your early comment you gave some really useful information by situating 外人 in context with other, often more derogatory terms.

        For example:
        “チョンchon”-classic one. Referring Korean people.
        “半島人” commonly used by redneck otaku guys to refer Korean people

        First off, I love the way this has now come full circle with “redneck” being applied to Japanese people. Some people would bristle at the term, but others would embrace it as self-proclaimed “rednecks”. Just goes to show…

        Second, you reminded me of a big mistake I made ages ago when I first came to Japan and spent a year in Miyazaki. My neighbor, a high school teacher, described my new point-and-shoot camera (autofocus was still advanced technology then) as a “馬鹿チョン” if I recall correctly, I picked that up without realizing the content of the second part until I badly stuck my foot in my mouth as a white guy from the States proudly slinging around old-style racism he mistook for some fun new slang he’d picked up. I got seriously scolded and was deeply embarrassed. Thanks, I think, for reminding me of that humiliating, but very educational experience.

    103. Yoshi (aka Super Yossy) says:

      I don’t think the word gaijin (外人)itself carries a negative meaning but probably it depends on a way to use this word.
      The problem is that most non-Japanese people don’t know this word is actually a quasi-synonym of Oubeijin (Westerner) and includes sometimes black people in some context. The proof is this word is not used for neither Chinese nor Korean (and even South-east Asian, even if they are physically quite different from Japanese)
      Arutou’s accusation is probably a bit out of point because the word gaikokujin should be a racist term by his definition. Actually, he simply doesn’t want to be regarded as a foreigner by Japananese people as he is a Japanese. And well, from my experience, I could say French people born Vietnamese and Australian born Chinese are almost always called “Asian” respectedly in France and Australia. So, I would say Mr. Arutou is not regarded as an outsider but a Westerner.

      What matters, in my view, is how to use this word. Kids asking to “gaijin” taking pictures with them don’t seem to use this word as a negative or racist term..otherwise, why asking taking pictures with them?

      However, I admit the word “gaijin” is also used in a racist way…when it’s written “害人(harmful people)” (used often by redneck otaku guys) or pronouced like “geejin”.

      To finish, I present you some annoying racist words…
      “毛唐ketou”-this is kinda oldish word now but still used to discriminate Westerners.
      There are many racist words for Asian (especially, Chinese and Korean people), which shows the fact that there are much more Japanese people descrminating Asians than those descrminating Westerners.
      “三国人Sangokujin” and “特アtokua” referring Chinese and Korean. tokua is more political.
      “中華chuuka”-when it doesn’t refer to ramen shops but Chinese people.
      “厨国人” commonly used by redneck otaku guys to refer Chinese people
      “チョンchon”-classic one. Referring Korean people.
      “半島人” commonly used by redneck otaku guys to refer Korean people
      and there are many others…

      • Gotanda says:

        @Super Yossy

        Too bad the comments aren’t threaded, but in your early comment you gave some really useful information by situating 外人 in context with other, often more derogatory terms.

        For example:
        “チョンchon”-classic one. Referring Korean people.
        “半島人” commonly used by redneck otaku guys to refer Korean people

        First off, I love the way this has now come full circle with “redneck” being applied to Japanese people. Some people would bristle at the term, but others would embrace it as self-proclaimed “rednecks”. Just goes to show…

        Second, you reminded me of a big mistake I made ages ago when I first came to Japan and spent a year in Miyazaki. My neighbor, a high school teacher, described my new point-and-shoot camera (autofocus was still advanced technology then) as a “馬鹿チョン” if I recall correctly, I picked that up without realizing the content of the second part until I badly stuck my foot in my mouth as a white guy from the States proudly slinging around old-style racism he mistook for some fun new slang he’d picked up. I got seriously scolded and was deeply embarrassed. Thanks, I think, for reminding me of that humiliating, but very educational experience.

    104. Satoshii says:

      Hoy boy, you opened this can of worms, eh Mike?

      Where to start. I’ll get to the point. I have no problems being called a ‘gaijin’. I disagree with Debito in regards of the strength of the word being compared to ‘nigger’. I don’t think it has the same spiteful connotation that that word has.

      I suppose i agree with the line “Using the word gaijin strips a person of his or her cultural diversity, which we as human beings have the right to hold”, to a degree. The word is annoying probably because it is pretty vague. There is no personality in that word, you’re classed as ‘the others’, and it feels a bit, well, placid. You feel a lack of respect with that term, and especially since Japan is such a politeness driven country, you feel like you’re getting the sharp end of the stick.

      I can relate to this problem because it exists back in the UK as well as in Japan. They won’t refer to individuals as Amerika-jin or igirisu-jin, instead to gaijin. The fact that most English people are automatically assumed to be American is the same sort of prejudice as calling every Indian looking person a Pakhistani (or more rudely a Pakhi). I frown upon people using these prejudices, especially here in Britain. ( “That guy you just said ‘go back to your own home’ to, has been a Brit longer than you have, and so has his father and his father’s father. Just cause he looks different because of his heritage, doesn’t mean you can assume things about him.” )

      So gaijin. Well, I have no problems with the word in a casual setting. No doubt most you us use the word foreigner in that sense many a time. I do believe the television stations are correct keeping it from the news, etc though. It gives off a little sense of respect. I just think it’s a little annoying to some people. People use it innocently, sure, but then it also reinforces the classification.

      Gaijin is a word that connotes assumption. You look different, ergo you are a foreigner. To quote the author Lee Child, “Don’t assume. To ASSUME is to make an ASS out of U and ME.

      Another similar point I might add to this already long comment ( ^ _ ^ )

      I know many foreigners in Japan find the condescending nature of a lot of Japanese people irritating – the ‘jouzu’s and the ‘can you eat sushi?’ ‘wow, you can use chopsticks!’, etc. That behaviour irks me, because we’re moving on to territory beyond vague classification, into something that separates you into a lesser group. That is, in my opinion, worse than using a word with a broad term, because it actually segregates us from the Japanese.

      Most people know that in Japan there exists an ‘Inner’ – ‘Outer’ mentality, but this doesn’t make it OK. When has it been OK to accept something just because it’s there? The group nature of the Japanese people also makes it hard to blame it on the rotten or naive few.

      Sure, I understand that not all comments are bad. Of course there are jouzus that are actually sincere, and there are misunderstandings like ‘can you eat sushi’ being taken literally instead of ‘do’ you eat sushi.

      For instance, I can imagine myself when i’m 50 being in japan, having lived there for the greater portion of my life and being told ‘wow, your Japanese is really great’ when i did was say thankyou in Japanese to a kid. Dammit, i’ve lived here longer and spoke the language more than you have! Technically I’m more Japanese than you (if it weren’t for the blasted DNA! haha j/k).

      I think this is the sort of situation that Debito and the like get. It’s not as harsh as it can be in other countries, but It’s certainly annoying. It stems back to the prejudice and the being refered to as ‘gaijin’. You aren’t going to be accepted completely no matter how much you try, because it doesn’t depend on the individual, but on the group. These issues of ‘Foreigners banned’ in Tsukiji or ‘Japanese only in this bath house’ are definately from naivety, misconceptions and prejudice. I do wish Japan would change, but then I suppose that would be wishful thinking because there are many other countries more multicultural than Japan who still insist on segregation, rather than realising we are all citizens of this world.

      • LB says:

        Allow me to slightly disagree – I have locals ask me “how long have you lived in Japan” . I tell them. No one ever says “Boy your Japanese is good” or “you use chopsticks well” after that. Those sorts of things are icebreakers designed to fluff egos and ingratiate yourself with the listener. When faced with a PR who has lived in Japan for a good while, the locals know that not only are those sorts of inane comments not needed to break the ice, they are insulting.

        Which is why, when Debito taped his “confrontation” with the cops at the airport in Hokkaido and the cop said “Nihongo jouzu desu ne” after Debito identified himself as a Japanese, I chuckled. That was a clear slap in the face.

    105. Satoshii says:

      Hoy boy, you opened this can of worms, eh Mike?

      Where to start. I’ll get to the point. I have no problems being called a ‘gaijin’. I disagree with Debito in regards of the strength of the word being compared to ‘nigger’. I don’t think it has the same spiteful connotation that that word has.

      I suppose i agree with the line “Using the word gaijin strips a person of his or her cultural diversity, which we as human beings have the right to hold”, to a degree. The word is annoying probably because it is pretty vague. There is no personality in that word, you’re classed as ‘the others’, and it feels a bit, well, placid. You feel a lack of respect with that term, and especially since Japan is such a politeness driven country, you feel like you’re getting the sharp end of the stick.

      I can relate to this problem because it exists back in the UK as well as in Japan. They won’t refer to individuals as Amerika-jin or igirisu-jin, instead to gaijin. The fact that most English people are automatically assumed to be American is the same sort of prejudice as calling every Indian looking person a Pakhistani (or more rudely a Pakhi). I frown upon people using these prejudices, especially here in Britain. ( “That guy you just said ‘go back to your own home’ to, has been a Brit longer than you have, and so has his father and his father’s father. Just cause he looks different because of his heritage, doesn’t mean you can assume things about him.” )

      So gaijin. Well, I have no problems with the word in a casual setting. No doubt most you us use the word foreigner in that sense many a time. I do believe the television stations are correct keeping it from the news, etc though. It gives off a little sense of respect. I just think it’s a little annoying to some people. People use it innocently, sure, but then it also reinforces the classification.

      Gaijin is a word that connotes assumption. You look different, ergo you are a foreigner. To quote the author Lee Child, “Don’t assume. To ASSUME is to make an ASS out of U and ME.

      Another similar point I might add to this already long comment ( ^ _ ^ )

      I know many foreigners in Japan find the condescending nature of a lot of Japanese people irritating – the ‘jouzu’s and the ‘can you eat sushi?’ ‘wow, you can use chopsticks!’, etc. That behaviour irks me, because we’re moving on to territory beyond vague classification, into something that separates you into a lesser group. That is, in my opinion, worse than using a word with a broad term, because it actually segregates us from the Japanese.

      Most people know that in Japan there exists an ‘Inner’ – ‘Outer’ mentality, but this doesn’t make it OK. When has it been OK to accept something just because it’s there? The group nature of the Japanese people also makes it hard to blame it on the rotten or naive few.

      Sure, I understand that not all comments are bad. Of course there are jouzus that are actually sincere, and there are misunderstandings like ‘can you eat sushi’ being taken literally instead of ‘do’ you eat sushi.

      For instance, I can imagine myself when i’m 50 being in japan, having lived there for the greater portion of my life and being told ‘wow, your Japanese is really great’ when i did was say thankyou in Japanese to a kid. Dammit, i’ve lived here longer and spoke the language more than you have! Technically I’m more Japanese than you (if it weren’t for the blasted DNA! haha j/k).

      I think this is the sort of situation that Debito and the like get. It’s not as harsh as it can be in other countries, but It’s certainly annoying. It stems back to the prejudice and the being refered to as ‘gaijin’. You aren’t going to be accepted completely no matter how much you try, because it doesn’t depend on the individual, but on the group. These issues of ‘Foreigners banned’ in Tsukiji or ‘Japanese only in this bath house’ are definately from naivety, misconceptions and prejudice. I do wish Japan would change, but then I suppose that would be wishful thinking because there are many other countries more multicultural than Japan who still insist on segregation, rather than realising we are all citizens of this world.

      • LB says:

        Allow me to slightly disagree – I have locals ask me “how long have you lived in Japan” . I tell them. No one ever says “Boy your Japanese is good” or “you use chopsticks well” after that. Those sorts of things are icebreakers designed to fluff egos and ingratiate yourself with the listener. When faced with a PR who has lived in Japan for a good while, the locals know that not only are those sorts of inane comments not needed to break the ice, they are insulting.

        Which is why, when Debito taped his “confrontation” with the cops at the airport in Hokkaido and the cop said “Nihongo jouzu desu ne” after Debito identified himself as a Japanese, I chuckled. That was a clear slap in the face.

    106. Leafy says:

      In the end, it’s the same as any term applied to a group of people – it isn’t the word, but how you use it. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Words don’t hurt feelings, people hurt feelings. If the intention is to insult, of course it’s a bad term. If the person is just saying, “Wow, lots of gaijin at the market today,” I don’t see how that can be bad. In a way, it is relative to nigger, except that nigger is used more often to insult than anything.

    107. Leafy says:

      In the end, it’s the same as any term applied to a group of people – it isn’t the word, but how you use it. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Words don’t hurt feelings, people hurt feelings. If the intention is to insult, of course it’s a bad term. If the person is just saying, “Wow, lots of gaijin at the market today,” I don’t see how that can be bad. In a way, it is relative to nigger, except that nigger is used more often to insult than anything.

    108. moku says:

      Hmm, the time I spent there, I generally didn’t take much offense to being called a gaijin. Surrounded by Japanese people in a homogeneous culture, there were a lot of moments when I realized how much I must have (visually) stuck out, because whenever I came across another foreigner in public, the “gaijin alarm” went off in my head — “who are they and why are they here?” And then the next moment I come to my senses and realize, “oh wait, that’s just how I am too.”

      But in terms of offensive stereotypes, the thing that bothers me is the overall lack of expectations for foreigners (this has little to do with the actual word “gaijin”). We get cut a lot of slack in everyday life — no one would have been that disappointed if I messed up polite speech or brought the wrong kind of omiyage. But on the flip side, we get disproportionate recognition and attention for doing these things right. I’m all but applauded for knowing to degrade my gift before I give it (“tsumarani desu ga…”). While this level of praise for something I feel like I should be expected to do just-like-everyone-else-is-expected-to-do is kind of upsetting at times, it’s not that different from constantly being noticed/praised/gawked at for being a female computer science major in the US.

      So I think it has a lot to do just with the rarity of the situation, but to us it can feel like a judgement being passed, that we are gaijin (“oh, really? Thanks for pointing it out. I didn’t realize I am the only foreigner around for kilometers but thanks, now I got it.”)

    109. moku says:

      Hmm, the time I spent there, I generally didn’t take much offense to being called a gaijin. Surrounded by Japanese people in a homogeneous culture, there were a lot of moments when I realized how much I must have (visually) stuck out, because whenever I came across another foreigner in public, the “gaijin alarm” went off in my head — “who are they and why are they here?” And then the next moment I come to my senses and realize, “oh wait, that’s just how I am too.”

      But in terms of offensive stereotypes, the thing that bothers me is the overall lack of expectations for foreigners (this has little to do with the actual word “gaijin”). We get cut a lot of slack in everyday life — no one would have been that disappointed if I messed up polite speech or brought the wrong kind of omiyage. But on the flip side, we get disproportionate recognition and attention for doing these things right. I’m all but applauded for knowing to degrade my gift before I give it (“tsumarani desu ga…”). While this level of praise for something I feel like I should be expected to do just-like-everyone-else-is-expected-to-do is kind of upsetting at times, it’s not that different from constantly being noticed/praised/gawked at for being a female computer science major in the US.

      So I think it has a lot to do just with the rarity of the situation, but to us it can feel like a judgement being passed, that we are gaijin (“oh, really? Thanks for pointing it out. I didn’t realize I am the only foreigner around for kilometers but thanks, now I got it.”)

    110. Drabant says:

      How would you say “foreigner” without using “gaijin”? There clearly is a need to describe someone who is a foreigner.

      And the fact is, that in most countries in the world, if not all, you will always be a foreigner unless you were born there.

      • William says:

        “Gaikokujin”. It literally means a foreigner (outside-country-person) while gaijin means an outsider (outside-person).

        • Tomo says:

          Actually, “gaijin” is the word that literally means “a foreigner.” The word “foreigner” doesn’t have any part that means “country” or “nation.” The literal translation of “gaikokujin” would be “a foreign national”.

          “Gai” as in “gaijin” should not be translated as “outside” in this context, it should be “foreign.”

          • Satoshii says:

            @ William: The way I understand it, is that gaijin (外人) is merely a shortened form of gaikokujin (外国人). I think maybe you’re translating a bit too literally if you’re claiming that gaijin (外人) means outside person / outsider. Sure, the kanji is for outside and person, but the same kanji has similar but altogether different meanings. It’s just a more casual way of saying it.

            But then we move on to the question: although it is just a casual way of saying it and there probably isn’t any negative meaning behind it, does shortening the word create a lack of respect? For instance, the word ‘Pakhi’ is only a shortened form of ‘Pakhistani’, but that brings along with it a very racist connotation.

            • Jon says:

              The way you understand is only half right. Gaijin meant outsider or enemy. Many, many years later the term gaikokujin came along. Now people have kind of combine the two.

              The net effect that the meaning of gaijin has been altered. So historically you are incorrect. But in modern usage you are mostly correct. Japanese people, like English speakers, like to shorten longer words.

              However, do let that fool you into thinking that everyone who says the word is just intending to use a shortened version of gaikokujin. I do believe that the majority of folks in Japan don’t know or think about the nastier connotations though.

            • LB says:

              @Jon – and at one time if you said a woman was quick, you meant she was pregnant. Defining a modern word by what it meant in Chaucer’s time just doesn’t work – words change meaning over time. The “gaijin = outsider, one to be considered as an enemy” line of reasoning is exactly this sort of argument. That definition existed once upon a time, true – but the vast majority of Japanese would not recognize that definition today, let alone use the word that way. How many Japanese do you know who call a toilet “kawaya” – despite the fact it is a word of far more recent origin and understandable to almost everyone?

    111. Drabant says:

      How would you say “foreigner” without using “gaijin”? There clearly is a need to describe someone who is a foreigner.

      And the fact is, that in most countries in the world, if not all, you will always be a foreigner unless you were born there.

      • William says:

        “Gaikokujin”. It literally means a foreigner (outside-country-person) while gaijin means an outsider (outside-person).

        • Tomo says:

          Actually, “gaijin” is the word that literally means “a foreigner.” The word “foreigner” doesn’t have any part that means “country” or “nation.” The literal translation of “gaikokujin” would be “a foreign national”.

          “Gai” as in “gaijin” should not be translated as “outside” in this context, it should be “foreign.”

          • Satoshii says:

            @ William: The way I understand it, is that gaijin (外人) is merely a shortened form of gaikokujin (外国人). I think maybe you’re translating a bit too literally if you’re claiming that gaijin (外人) means outside person / outsider. Sure, the kanji is for outside and person, but the same kanji has similar but altogether different meanings. It’s just a more casual way of saying it.

            But then we move on to the question: although it is just a casual way of saying it and there probably isn’t any negative meaning behind it, does shortening the word create a lack of respect? For instance, the word ‘Pakhi’ is only a shortened form of ‘Pakhistani’, but that brings along with it a very racist connotation.

            • Jon says:

              The way you understand is only half right. Gaijin meant outsider or enemy. Many, many years later the term gaikokujin came along. Now people have kind of combine the two.

              The net effect that the meaning of gaijin has been altered. So historically you are incorrect. But in modern usage you are mostly correct. Japanese people, like English speakers, like to shorten longer words.

              However, do let that fool you into thinking that everyone who says the word is just intending to use a shortened version of gaikokujin. I do believe that the majority of folks in Japan don’t know or think about the nastier connotations though.

            • LB says:

              @Jon – and at one time if you said a woman was quick, you meant she was pregnant. Defining a modern word by what it meant in Chaucer’s time just doesn’t work – words change meaning over time. The “gaijin = outsider, one to be considered as an enemy” line of reasoning is exactly this sort of argument. That definition existed once upon a time, true – but the vast majority of Japanese would not recognize that definition today, let alone use the word that way. How many Japanese do you know who call a toilet “kawaya” – despite the fact it is a word of far more recent origin and understandable to almost everyone?

    112. Akiko says:

      I am a Japanese and I used to consider the word “gaijin” as a racist term but now I have an impression it is obsolete (it’s just my impression). I know many non-Japanese call themselves Gaijin on purpose as self-promotion. All of them are living in Japan for a long time.

      Please remember, that most of us do not use the term intending to discriminate. Some people use it even respectfully, sometimes with “san”. We are just innocent or naive.

      But at the same time, we should learn to stop using it unwittingly if there are foreigners feel unpleasant about it.

    113. Akiko says:

      I am a Japanese and I used to consider the word “gaijin” as a racist term but now I have an impression it is obsolete (it’s just my impression). I know many non-Japanese call themselves Gaijin on purpose as self-promotion. All of them are living in Japan for a long time.

      Please remember, that most of us do not use the term intending to discriminate. Some people use it even respectfully, sometimes with “san”. We are just innocent or naive.

      But at the same time, we should learn to stop using it unwittingly if there are foreigners feel unpleasant about it.

    114. Dumb Otaku says:

      This is actually a fun debate for me because I like to relate myself to the Japanese in this case, except as an American in America.

      I could careless where you come from, where you have been or where you are, but if you are not originally an American you are a foreigner. That isn’t bad at all that just means you are different. That being said your kids if they are born here will be American, unlike in Japan. Personally for me I don’t care to much. I if i can talk to you and get to know you then I don’t care where you are from, unless you are from another planet then we have some talking to do because I want to go.

      I also take issue with the hyphenated names. I say that because I take issue with it as an American. If you want to be American be American from somewhere else. But you can’t be xyz-American. No you are American or you are not. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

      That is the real problem people try to conform, but want to keep their identity as someone else. Then they complain when they conform almost enough that they aren’t accepted completely.

      My outlook at life is that there will always be labels, no matter what. You have two options.

      1) get pissed off throw a fit get an ulcer try to change it and be ever more that label
      2) do some introspection if it fits wear it proudly if you like it. If you don’t like it change your label.

      To point 2 many people might complain that some labels you can’t change. I disagree with that its just you might not want to do what it takes to change it. If you don’t want to be called an outsider leave. You will no longer be an outsider. Again you just changed your label.

      To many people are caught up in having their cake and eating it too which sometimes tends to lead to them having a lot of problems.

      anyway that is my, I guess, 25cents worth lol.

      • Katie says:

        I don’t think I need to add my own comment cos you said everything for me, mate! Travel is a privilege, and I say this as a UK/US dual national. Even though I put my hard-earned money and over 7 years of my life into getting UK citizenship, I accept that I will always be different. It does not bother me.

    115. Dumb Otaku says:

      This is actually a fun debate for me because I like to relate myself to the Japanese in this case, except as an American in America.

      I could careless where you come from, where you have been or where you are, but if you are not originally an American you are a foreigner. That isn’t bad at all that just means you are different. That being said your kids if they are born here will be American, unlike in Japan. Personally for me I don’t care to much. I if i can talk to you and get to know you then I don’t care where you are from, unless you are from another planet then we have some talking to do because I want to go.

      I also take issue with the hyphenated names. I say that because I take issue with it as an American. If you want to be American be American from somewhere else. But you can’t be xyz-American. No you are American or you are not. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

      That is the real problem people try to conform, but want to keep their identity as someone else. Then they complain when they conform almost enough that they aren’t accepted completely.

      My outlook at life is that there will always be labels, no matter what. You have two options.

      1) get pissed off throw a fit get an ulcer try to change it and be ever more that label
      2) do some introspection if it fits wear it proudly if you like it. If you don’t like it change your label.

      To point 2 many people might complain that some labels you can’t change. I disagree with that its just you might not want to do what it takes to change it. If you don’t want to be called an outsider leave. You will no longer be an outsider. Again you just changed your label.

      To many people are caught up in having their cake and eating it too which sometimes tends to lead to them having a lot of problems.

      anyway that is my, I guess, 25cents worth lol.

      • Katie says:

        I don’t think I need to add my own comment cos you said everything for me, mate! Travel is a privilege, and I say this as a UK/US dual national. Even though I put my hard-earned money and over 7 years of my life into getting UK citizenship, I accept that I will always be different. It does not bother me.

    116. RRabano says:

      I hope u guys’ r not going to be politically correct. If you do, when I go to Japan next time. I might have to learn a new language.

    117. RRabano says:

      I hope u guys’ r not going to be politically correct. If you do, when I go to Japan next time. I might have to learn a new language.

    118. Eleonora says:

      “Perhaps, given enough time, most foreigners should be able to come to terms with the use of gaijin and not fret over it so much? Perhaps I have not yet reached that stage? Perhaps I am kidding myself thinking that I can integrate into Japanese society to the extent that I do not feel like a complete outsider..?”

      Don’t follow the light, Mike! DON’T FOLLOW THE LIGHT! :D

      “I think that we would do better to shift our focus to educating people rather than arguing whether or not gaijin is a racist term.”

      I totally agree with you. I think it’s a pretty ridiculous debate. Ok, you’re a gaijin, I’m a gaijin, so what? It’s just a word. Life it’s already tough enough to debate over these things. And, by the way, an outsider is not welcome about everywhere on this planet, specially in small places. If we have(but we don’t, actually) to see it as a problem, it’s not just Japan. Do they think that a Japanese, barely speaking English or not at all, will be so welcome in a small American/European/whatever town?

    119. Eleonora says:

      “Perhaps, given enough time, most foreigners should be able to come to terms with the use of gaijin and not fret over it so much? Perhaps I have not yet reached that stage? Perhaps I am kidding myself thinking that I can integrate into Japanese society to the extent that I do not feel like a complete outsider..?”

      Don’t follow the light, Mike! DON’T FOLLOW THE LIGHT! :D

      “I think that we would do better to shift our focus to educating people rather than arguing whether or not gaijin is a racist term.”

      I totally agree with you. I think it’s a pretty ridiculous debate. Ok, you’re a gaijin, I’m a gaijin, so what? It’s just a word. Life it’s already tough enough to debate over these things. And, by the way, an outsider is not welcome about everywhere on this planet, specially in small places. If we have(but we don’t, actually) to see it as a problem, it’s not just Japan. Do they think that a Japanese, barely speaking English or not at all, will be so welcome in a small American/European/whatever town?

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