Possessive Over Unique Japan

The Japanese keep you an outsider. The other foreigners are competitive and are out to prove they know more than you. The world outside of Japan is looking on with jealousy and amazement because they either worship Japan or thinks it’s batshit crazy.

Here’s a shocker: Japan is no more unique than any other country.

People act like Japan is some mysterious, enigmatic country, usually citing the 200-year period of isolation as the cause, but the fact is different countries have different people and different practices. All nations are the same in their differences. If you think Japan is unique or crazy-weird, that makes me want to question how much of the world you’ve seen.

Once Japan is brought up in conversation, online or in person, people begin to not-so-subtly stake their claim on the country in one way or another. I think the one expats use the most is “So, how long haveย youย been here?” Whoever answers with the larger number is wordlessly deemed superior. And beware: if your answer is one year or less, you will be laughed onto the next plane with the other tourists, students, and JET teachers.

"Oh, you've been to Japan, huh?"

“Oh, you’ve been to Japan, huh?”

The one I hear most from people outside of Japan is “Oh, I’m a big fan of Japan.” I hear it every day, but I have no idea in what way these people are a fan. How can you be a fan of an entire country? Think about it — when was the last time you heard someone say that about another country, outside of referring to sports teams?

When people say they’re a big fan of Japan, I think it’s like saying “I find Japan interesting,” but the difference is it goes a step further. They’re also implying they know a thing or two about Japan, enough to be a fan. But why people need to let others know how knowledgeable of Japan they are, I truly don’t know. Is it to seem unique or interesting to other people? To feel superior over mainstream culture?

"That's one of the main reasons why I love this book, because we got to visit Japan, and I love Japan."

“That’s one of the main reasons why I love this book, because we got to visit Japan, and I love Japan.”

Regardless of the reason, and taking this to a personal level, I’m tired of having to struggle against other foreigners, Japanese people, and the world outside. I don’t want to be Japanese. I don’t want to be a foreigner in Japan. I just want to be with my husband. It just so happens that he’s Japanese and works in Japan and I live with him.

I haven’t been able to find anyone else in a similar situation to mine. I didn’t move to Japan with a Japan-centric goal in mind. Yet, unlike the other wives who followed their husbands here, I’m not completely disconnected from Japan. I got my degree studying Japanese, and I had inklings to have a career here at one time. I don’t want to be here, and yet I do.

I feel like I’m playing three simultaneous games of tug-of-war with no one else on my side helping me pull.



Filed under Japan, Personal

6 responses to “Possessive Over Unique Japan

  1. Pingback: Japan: The Cultural Jigsaw of Old and New | Globe Drifting

  2. I’ve never been to Japan, but I have been to almost all 50 states and to Panama. It feels like you just might want to live in the moment and appreciate where you are, who you are, and just breathe ๐Ÿ™‚ Ignore other foreigners making you feel less “worthy” they’re only masking their insecurities. Bottom line ๐Ÿ™‚

    The world is basically anyone’s oyster who reaches out and enjoys the experiences they’re allowed to have on this earth. Other people will always try to ruin this experience. Don’t let them ๐Ÿ™‚

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  4. Ugh, the whole “what do you think you’re doing in my Japan” thing gets me too. What is with the evil stares from other expats in public places? Also, people being passive-aggressively competitive about their Japanese skills. Where’s the comradery? Good luck with your three-way tug-of-war but I’m pretty sure you aren’t the only one! Great post!

  5. Pingback: ANA’s Ad is Racist, But That’s Not the Problem | jeannettosaurus

  6. Cass

    I understand your angst. Somehow just being in Japan sometimes seems like non-verbal approval for one’s identity to be gradually erased.

    Been in Japan for years 19-20? was getting on quite well by myself.
    THEN.. You know the whole….”ah your husband is Japanese can we speak to him instead” in such a kind and courteous tone that it is even possible to forget how blindly impolite and exclusive this is.

    Please don’t make the same mistake as mentally challenged folk and brand all “foreigners” in the same way we are branded. Personally I applaud your courage and en-courage you to rid yourself of those whose ill will is probably nothing more than envy.


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