The Little Gripes

The other day I was chatting with a fellow who had been in Japan for just over a year or so. He was talking about some of the things that got to him – you know, the usual things like being asked if he can use chopsticks, being stared at and whatnot. His grumbles seemed minor ones but they set me thinking about all those gripes and moans we hear again and again as foreigners in Japan and I wondered how valid they are and how commonly the apparent slights occur. This is a list of such things in no particular order – just as they happened to occur to me – together with my comments about whether or not  I have experienced them and some of my thoughts. I would be interested to know how my experiences over almost two decades tally with others.

  1. Been stared at in public

      Has happened often but nowhere near as common now as it was when I first arrived in Japan in the mid-nineties. It’s rude but can’t say it bothers me much, or ever did.

2. Been refused entry to a hotel, bar or restaurant due to race.

     Never experienced it.

3. Been complimented on chopstick use.

   More times than I can count and I have never been particularly upset about it. To be honest I don’t really get why this bothers some people so much. I get that it grates to hear it again and again and again, and I understand that some think the one issuing the compliment is somehow trying to ‘other’ them, to make a point of how very non-Japanese they are and therefore how something like using chopsticks should be beyond them, but mostly I think that is nonsense. Rather, the person likely has no idea how long the foreigner has been in Japan and is simply making conversation and trying to be polite.

‘But we have Chinese  and Japanese restaurants at home!’ argue the aggrieved. ‘It’s hardly difficult.’

Both those points are true but not everybody, in Britain anyway, is great at using chopsticks or even uses them to eat Chinese food. Many don’t. I once had a friend in Japan who hailed from Yorkshire. His father came to visit him in Japan and at one point in a restaurant his dad was sitting with a chopstick in one hand, a fork in the other exclaiming, ‘I’m half way there, son. I’m half way there!’ My own father managed to feed himself with chopsticks when he visited, but it wasn’t always pretty.

Even if people do know how long you have been in Japan and ought not to be surprised by your ability to transport food to mouth via short sticks, rare is the person who actually intends to ‘other’ or offend someone with their compliment. It’s a throwaway line and to scream that it is micro-aggression seems a bit over the top.

4. Been complimented on great Japanese after uttering a single word.

    Yes, even after a simple arigatou. But I feel much the same as I do about the chopsticks thing. Even if they don’t mean it and it’s obviously not true, it’s just someone trying to be nice. Like when you tell a new parent their freakishly weird-looking baby is beautiful.

5. Been refused entry to hot spring. 

    Never experienced it.

6. Had someone in a hot spring get out of a bath because you entered.

    Have been suspicious but can’t be sure. Once, after having a few pre-bath drinks I got into a tub and one old fellow who hadn’t been in long immediately got out and went to sit in a different bath. I decided to entertain myself with a game of annoy the possible racist and followed him to the next bath. He moved again. This happened one more time, but then again he may not have been racist in the slightest – he may well just have been feeling understandably awkward that  a big naked chap kept following him and sitting next to him in baths. And who could blame him?

7. Had people leave an empty seat next to you on a crowded train.

    Never experienced it.

8. Been stopped by the police and asked  to show your alien card for no reason.

    Never experienced it.

9. Been talked about by strangers in public within earshot.

    An unusually large percentage of people sitting in my vicinity in cafes and restaurants seem to end up talking about English or foreign travel. A few people have talked about me quite openly, but usually just remarking that I am tall. One mother in an elevator warned her kid not to catch my eye once!

10. Had people comment directly to you about your appearance. 

      People regularly mention my height. Some openly tell me I have a ‘high’ nose. An ex-student I hadn’t seen for some time and who couldn’t formulate the correct way to ask if I had gained weight asked rather bluntly, ‘Are you fat?’ (to which I had to concede that yes, I was a bit) and an immigration official at the airport told me I was much fatter than in my passport picture. It was less than a year old.

11. Had people shout random English words at you in public.

      Not for quite some time. A few ‘hello’s from kids and some annoying shouty greetings from drunk people, and one rather odd demand from right across a street that I tell the fellow where my country is.

12. Had people ask you if you have / do (      ) ‘abroad’.

      Often, and this probably annoys me more than any other. I don’t even represent British people, never mind all foreigners yet many seem to think that I am a spokesman for everywhere that isn’t Japan.

13. Had people tell you that Japanese snow, seasons, sea or whatnot are ‘different’.

      I’ve been told the snow is different and once managed to offend a chap by telling him we, too, had seasons in Britain. He clearly thought I was lying.

14. Been asked by a stranger if they can practice their English.

Once or twice. But more often I have just had people try to talk to me in English. Don’t mind if they are talking because they want to talk and will happily slip into Japanese if I do so. Find it a bit irritating if it is an interrogation and they are clearly just trying to practice or trying to show off. (But I bet this is every bit as common when, say, Brits who speak a bit of Japanese bump into a Japanese person in London or wherever. We all want to show off a bit!)

15. Had people just look blankly at you when you speak passable Japanese.

      Only when my Japanese was in fact still shit. I thought they were actively trying not to understand, but it may well have been my fault. After all, it doesn’t seem to happen nearly as much when your Japanese gets better.

16. Been on the good end of discrimination and been treated to things just because you are a foreigner.

      Often had drinks and food bought for me or been given lots of random gifts. Some quite lovely.

17. Been refused an apartment or housing on the grounds of race.

      Never. Although most of my housing was supplied by employers until I got married. Never tried to rent as a single foreigner.

18. Had someone go through your rubbish and complain (unjustly) about something.

I once had a bag of rubbish ‘returned’ to my doorstep as it had been put out on the wrong day. It wasn’t mine.

19.  Had someone complain about you to somebody (police, boss etc) rather than to you directly.

       When I was much younger I had a few friends over to my house and we were up late. We weren’t being outrageously noisy, but we could probably be heard by the neighbours and they would have been within their rights to tell us to keep it down a bit. They didn’t, though. Instead one phoned my boss the next day to complain about my rowdy behaviour. They also once phoned my boss to say that the weeds outside my house were needing to be picked and that I hadn’t done it. Actually, several Japanese people I know say they would rather call the police than complain directly to a neighbour. Perhaps it’s cultural but a bit annoying nevertheless.!

20. Been called ‘gaijin-san’ by someone in customer service.

      No, but the house mentioned above came with a parking space, complete with a handmade nameplate saying ‘gaijin’! The house did pass from teacher to teacher, so perhaps it was just too much effort to ask each person to write their own name! Considerately, it was written in katakana for those who couldn’t read kanji.

     

21. Had a server or shop assistant direct all conversation at your Japanese partner / friend.

      Yes. Not always but does happen.

22. Had shop staff give your change to your Japanese partner / friend.

      Rarely, but has happened a few times where I pay and they give the change to my wife.

23. Had someone ask questions about you right in front of you.

      Occasionally people will ask my wife questions about me when I am standing right there. ‘Is this your husband?’ is fair enough, but then to follow up with, ‘Where is he from?’, ‘How long has he been in Japan?’ ‘Can he eat Japanese food?’ and such instead of asking me directly can grate.

24. Been refused a credit card or bank loan on the grounds of being a foreigner.

      No. Had no issues getting credit card. When I applied for a mortgage most banks did say they wouldn’t consider me without permanent residence status, but being foreign wasn’t an issue. One bank did give me a mortgage even without permanent residence and another did try to tempt me to switch to them when my PR had come through.

That’s all I can think of for now. Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but I don’t think there is much there to get bothered about. Wonder how others’ experiences compare.

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16 Responses to The Little Gripes

  1. sendaiben says:

    Nice list! Here are mine 🙂

    1. Been stared at in public
    Happens. Not too bothered.

    2. Been refused entry to a hotel, bar or restaurant due to race.
    Not yet, but have been asked for ID unnecessarily (that does annoy me). The current rules say non-residents of Japan have to show a passport, but the police tend to send blanket statements to hotels to check all foreigners.

    3. Been complimented on chopstick use.
    This can annoy me. Depends on how tired I am!

    4. Been complimented on great Japanese after uttering a single word.
    Don’t mind this.

    5. Been refused entry to hot spring.
    Nope.

    6. Had someone in a hot spring get out of a bath because you entered.
    I’d be happy about this, to be honest 😉

    7. Had people leave an empty seat next to you on a crowded train.
    Maybe? Not much in Sendai.

    8. Been stopped by the police and asked to show your alien card for no reason.
    Only once: in the departure lounge of an airport! I wasn’t amused.

    9. Been talked about by strangers in public within earshot.
    Yes, mostly conversations tend to swing towards foreign things.

    10. Had people comment directly to you about your appearance.
    Sometimes, but I think it is normal here.

    11. Had people shout random English words at you in public.
    Yes, and this annoys me. Doesn’t happen as much now.

    12. Had people ask you if you have / do ( ) ‘abroad’.
    I don’t mind this too much. People are normally embarrassed when I point out I have only been to the US once.

    13. Had people tell you that Japanese snow, seasons, sea or whatnot are ‘different’.
    Not too much.

    14. Been asked by a stranger if they can practice their English.
    Nope, but occasionally someone will insist on speaking bad English when we could do much better in Japanese.

    15. Had people just look blankly at you when you speak passable Japanese.
    Not recently.

    16. Been on the good end of discrimination and been treated to things just because you are a foreigner.
    A little maybe in the beginning.

    17. Been refused an apartment or housing on the grounds of race.
    Yes. Trying to rent a house was impossible in Sendai. I was a public servant, married with a Japanese family, and still 100% refusal. Doesn’t seem to be a problem with apartments/mansions.

    18. Had someone go through your rubbish and complain (unjustly) about something.
    Nope.

    19. Had someone complain about you to somebody (police, boss etc) rather than to you directly.
    Yes, but this is a cultural thing. I’ve done the same to the karaoke place across the street. Get a perverse pleasure out of watching the police shut them down and send the customers home.

    20. Been called ‘gaijin-san’ by someone in customer service.
    Not much, but this would really annoy me and probably cause a complaint.

    I went to a high school open day with my daughter once, and the teacher giving the lecture did a double-take, stopped, said ‘oh, there is a gaijin-san here today’, and then asked me where I was from (in front of two hundred people).

    I pulled the principal aside later and got an apology.

    21. Had a server or shop assistant direct all conversation at your Japanese partner / friend.
    Yep. My wife just ignores them completely when this happens.

    22. Had shop staff give your change to your Japanese partner / friend.
    Yeah, but I think this is the ‘wife handles the money’ thing.

    23. Had someone ask questions about you right in front of you.
    Yes, and I’ll let it slide for the first couple of questions, but will then answer directly.

    24. Been refused a credit card or bank loan on the grounds of being a foreigner.
    Nope. Once I got PR all those problems went away.

    *25. Have someone do a double-take and say ‘bikkuri shita’ when they see you.
    I actually find this incredibly rude. It happened in our block of flats a few weeks ago where a woman who was not a resident did this to me. I loudly wished her a good evening back.

    • Thanks for that! On number 20 – pretty much the same thing happened to a friend of mine at his daughter’s kindergarten open-day where the headmistress made a big deal of the gaijin, even asking where the girl was from and where she was born etc (answers to both were Japan!)

  2. Jim Clark says:

    Wow! You people must have bee n living very sheltered lives in Japan. I, and almost everyone I know have experienced all of these situations and more. You didn’t mention random insults in Japanese on the street in passing.

  3. The only things I would ay were random insults on the street are people commenting on my height quite openly. But that’s kind of why I made this list – I know people who have been stopped and asked for their gaijin cards many times, and yet I and others I know have never once experienced it. Same with the empty seat on the train thing. I know all of these things happen but some people seem lucky, others don’t! Another thing I didn’t put up is the driving test. I’m from Britain so didn’t have to take a test here. I was glad of this because everyone told me it was nigh on impossible for foreigners to pass first time. I actually know several who have passed first time, but those I know who failed once have often failed two or three times. Interestingly the people I know who passed first time have all had very good Japanese, and those who failed usually haven’t. Whether that is pure coincidence or not, I have no idea.

  4. Keep in mind that I haven’t spent nearly as much time in Japan as you folks, and I am still in my early 20s so there may be a generational factor at play, but in my personal experience…

    1. Been stared at in public
    Noticed, sure. Observed, even. The occasional double-take! But rarely, if ever, have I been stared at. I honestly think this is a case of confirmation bias amongst foreigners in Japan – they are told that they will be openly stared at, and suddenly they see it everywhere. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. But, also, sometimes, people look at each other.

    2. Been refused entry to a hotel, bar or restaurant due to race.
    Never. Have had to produce my passport at a hotel, before I knew it was a rule, and was a little annoyed when the desk staffer was unable to answer my questions to my satisfaction.

    3. Been complimented on chopstick use.
    Rarely.

    4. Been complimented on great Japanese after uttering a single word.
    Don’t mind this.

    5-6
    N/A, I’ve still never been to a hot spring.

    7. Had people leave an empty seat next to you on a crowded train.
    Not even once.

    8. Been stopped by the police and asked to show your alien card for no reason.
    Only time I had to do this was when I witnessed a crime (indecent exposure); I was more annoyed that they also asked for my student ID, since I was afraid they might contact the school, and while I wasn’t doing anything illegal and the administrators aren’t stupid, I didn’t think it especially necessary for my school to know precisely what I was up to at 3 am on a Saturday night. That said, I pretended not to speak Japanese and they mostly left me alone.

    9. Been talked about by strangers in public within earshot.
    No, if anything they will quite bravely strike up a conversation with me! I have caught people listening in on my English conversations, though whether for practise or just because people are gossipy, I couldn’t say.

    10. Had people comment directly to you about your appearance.
    All the time, mainly about how skinny I am.

    11. Had people shout random English words at you in public.
    I don’t think so. This young drunk guy, once.

    12. Had people ask you if you have / do ( ) ‘abroad’.
    Yes lol. Of course they also ask me questions about America in particular, which would be perfectly reasonable if I weren’t Canadian.

    13. Had people tell you that Japanese snow, seasons, sea or whatnot are ‘different’.
    No.

    14. Been asked by a stranger if they can practice their English.
    Usually they don’t ask, they just do it.

    15. Had people just look blankly at you when you speak passable Japanese.
    I don’t think so.

    16. Been on the good end of discrimination and been treated to things just because you are a foreigner.
    Again, all the time! Drinks, food, and when I visited as a child, Pokemon cards. That’s not to mention the wealth of friendliness and general hospitality I’ve enjoyed from people who might never have even spoken to me if I were Japanese. And, like most people I imagine, I have abused the Gaijin Card. Sometimes I think, “no, I am a representative of Canada and must comport myself as such; I will submit a urine sample to the health department just like everybody else,” and others I’m like, “sweet, free stuff!”

    17. Been refused an apartment or housing on the grounds of race.
    N/A, so far I haven’t even had the option of seeking out my own housing.

    18. Had someone go through your rubbish and complain (unjustly) about something.
    N/A, I’ve been with host families or a dorm.

    19. Had someone complain about you to somebody (police, boss etc) rather than to you directly.
    Not by a Japanese person.

    20. Been called ‘gaijin-san’ by someone in customer service.
    Not that I can recall, though if it did happen I think I’d just tell them my name.

    21. Had a server or shop assistant direct all conversation at your Japanese partner / friend.
    I think I’m usually with people who are crafty enough to include me.

    22. Had shop staff give your change to your Japanese partner / friend.
    Never.

    23. Had someone ask questions about you right in front of you.
    Yes, but how the hell are they supposed to know that I speak Japanese? If it happens, I try to just cheerfully jump in, which does the trick after momentary surprise.

    24. Been refused a credit card or bank loan on the grounds of being a foreigner.
    N/A

    *25. Have someone do a double-take and say ‘bikkuri shita’ when they see you.
    Hahahahaha, no!

  5. Usman Makhdoom says:

    I have to say that these comments, in my experience, seem to come from Western white expats in Japan, especially Americans. Quite often these are people who hyperventilate by suddenly being a minority and are aggrieved out of proportion by ridiculous things like the chopstick comments. This is nought to do with race but with going from privilege to being an alien and minority.

    Trust me. When I went from growing up going on walks with my mum and being catcalled ‘Paki’ on the regular by white kids; from having my sister accused of theft by white shopkeepers to have her humiliated by police because of her hijab; from schoolteachers who always mocked our ethnicity and religion in class as kids; from my father being refused housing because he was not white in 1976; from constant vitriolic treatment from doctors, nurses, bus drivers, and random passerby….

    …to a Japan where none of this happens at all? Where the random kid calling out ‘Hey gaijin!’ and the occasional person avoids the seat next to me? Where there is no media and social machine that has been constantly demonising one minority or another for decades? I’m very glad for Japan. It’s a far more tolerant place than the West pretends to be.

    This is no accident. While America was still segregated, torching black churches and still lynching blacks, Japan was creating an educational policy to ensure the many ‘half’ children entering schools in the late 1940s as a result of trysts with, and rape by, American GIs, were treated no differently (see ‘The Japanese Educational Challenge’).

    Of course, most Western expats who are white are not like this, from what I see. LIke us nonwhite expats in general, they get on in Japan fine, albeit with a kind of additional privilege Japanese accord to white people. But generally this is an issue of people in a privileged position suddenly being a minority and crying about it, end of.

    Such people can stay in Japan for decades fuming in a weird anti-Japanese racism, refusing to learn the language and clinging to a superiority complex, like Shari Custer of ‘1000 Things about Japan’ infamy. And of course there are some nonwhite Westerners who whinge and whine and moan and even use nasty, racist, throwback slurs about Japanese, like ‘Loco in Yokohama’, and you wonder why such people are even here.

    • McNumpty Jim Numpty says:

      First, let me say, I grew up in a poor, Scottish-Irish community where we experienced bigotry and racist abuse on a weekly basis. It was worse in a more subtle way if you went to England, such as refusing to accept legitimate Scottish currency or at a lower exchange rate. I never experienced any such racism in either Europe or Asia, until Japan.
      As I said in a previous post, I have experience of all the points made, including having a loan contract thown across a desk in a leading bank while being asked if I could read it. And I know many Japanese couldn’t, due to the legalese kanji. I have been stopped by the police at least five times. The last being only a few months ago ehile coming out of the university where I work. I can’t count the number of times people have made passing remarks on the street or on the train while vacating the seat next to me. How many restaurants and bars have refused me entry or asked me to leave on account of being foreign?
      You say there is no media or social machine demonising foreigners. Are you kidding? There are plenty of weekly and monthly magazines whose sole purpose is to do exactly that. There are also political parties and groups that stand on the street shouting racist, anti-foreigner hate speech. You can also see it on the “Wide Shows” on tv where they constantly talk about how weird foreigners are compliment children who were born in Japan about how well they speak Japanese! Miss Universe Japan is a very good case in point. Read her story.
      While it is true that many of the white people coming here haven’t experienced racism before ( and now the shoe is on the other foot), I think it’s wrong to assume all Whites are in that same “priveliged” boat, and that it’s all in their imagination. Racism in Japan is very real. Check out Arudou Debito’s website.

    • sendaiben says:

      Thanks for providing a context, Usman. I always say that there are some racist elements in Japan, but for a white male they are pretty trivial. Japan is a much better place to be a minority than almost anywhere else I can think of.

  6. I’d agree with Ben. If you are white and male, there is usually little to complain about. But I think we probably have it easier than most minorities here.

    That doesn’t mean Jim’s comments aren’t valid – not at all – but personally speaking I have had few occasions to complain.

  7. As all the commenters have been men so far, I’ve found that women have very different experiences in Japan.

    1. Been stared at in public.

    Yes and it used to really irritate me but now I just stare back and them and they get embarrassed and look away usually.

    2. Been refused entry to a hotel/bar/etc. because of race.

    No, but then again I’ve never stayed in a hotel in Japan.

    3. Been complimented on chopstick use.

    Yes, and this one does get on my nerves depending on how I’m feeling and the person saying it. For example, when my coworker who said it to me and knows how long it been in Japan said it to me, I got irritated. Then I took a step back and thought “well, maybe he doesn’t have much experience interacting with foreign people” and brushed it off, but was still an irritating experience. Nowadays I tend to just directly explain to people that it might not be a welcome “compliment” depending on the person. I ask them, “how would you feel if someone asked you if you knew how to use a fork and knife?” They usually get the point afterward.

    4. Been complemented on how great your Japanese is after uttering a single word.

    Yes, usually at international parties with people who are having their first experience with a foreign person. I usually just say a simple “thank you” and then the conversation turns into “how did you learn Japanese?” A pretty harmless conversation with someone that doesn’t know you.

    5. Refused entry to a hot spring.

    Nope. In my 7 years here I’ve only been to a onsen once so not much experience to base such a thing off of.

    6. Had someone get out of the hot spring after you got in.

    Not sure on this one. It’s a pretty hard thing to gauge unless it’s super obvious.

    7. Had people leave an empty seat next to you on an empty train.

    Yes, plenty of times. This experience went from an annoying one when I initially moved here to an amazing one. At first it irritated me, and now when it happens I think “thank god, some personal space!”

    8. Been stopped by the police and asked to show your ID for no reason.

    Yes, but only once and it was a weird and crappy experience. I was with my husband and some person who didn’t even look like a police officer came up to me very abruptly and succinctly said “show me your ID”. When I asked why he needed it (because I was suspicious if he was actually a police officer or not) he started to get an attitude and was not pleasant. I went to a Koban later to confirm if he was with them or not and said it was possible he was an undercover officer or something. Didn’t mind showing but he could have been less of an asshole about it.

    9. Been talked about by strangers in earshot.

    All the time, especially when I had private English lessons in coffee shops in the past. People automatically start talking about English or something related to overseas. One time, a girl and her mother were sitting at the table next to me and the girl said (assuming I couldn’t understand) “She has a pretty face but her ‘parts’ aren’t very good…” I’m assuming she didn’t like my body shape…

    10. Had people comment directly to you about your appearance.

    Yes, and this one can range from annoying to infuriating, especially being a woman. I used to work at a university and one of my male students had the nerve to call me “chubby” and one asked if I had gained recently. They got a good talking to about how we address people when we speak to them in English and rude behavior after that.

    11. Had people should random English words at you in public.

    Yes, in all cases some sort of men who were probably drunk and some high school students. Some cases have been catcalling which was pretty disgusting and made me feel shitty.

    12. Had people ask you if you have/do ___ overseas.

    Yes, but it was usually general questions from students who were looking to study overseas and wanted to know how things were. Nothing really surprising.

    13. Had people tell you that Japanese snow/seasons/etc. are “different”.

    Yes, generally when I tell them that I don’t think Tokyo has 4 seasons because it doesn’t snow here (if it doesn’t snow, it’s not winter to me), they get a little taken aback. One thing that sort of baffles me, not related to seasons but anatomy, is how some people seem to think non-Asian foreigner bodies can’t properly process rice because our intestines aren’t as long as theirs… I’ve looked up information on this and it’s not scientifically proven so, go figure.

    14. Been asked by a stranger if they can practice their English.

    They don’t usually “ask”, they just start talking to you. That’s when I respond, “so, how much are you going to pay me?” They usually lose interest after that.

    15. Had people just look blankly at you when you speak passable Japanese.

    Nope, not blankly. I’ve had people be a little surprised but not just completely shut down on me.

    16. Been on the good end of discrimination and received things just because you’re foreign.

    No, not once. I’ve received parting gifts from people but there was no pretense that it was “because I was foreign”.

    17. Been refused housing on the grounds of being a foreigner.

    Yes, many, many times and I’m quite baffled this is on a list called “The Little Gripes”. This is not a “little” gripe. This is groundless discrimination, not something you should just scoff at and move on from. I have particular experience with this because I used to work at a real estate agency that specialized in helping foreigners find housing (just that fact alone should make you think something is not right here). I would call into real estate agencies everyday and ask the question “is this apartment/house available for foreigners?” to find housing for clients and the majority of the time I was met with anything from “oh foreigners, that’s difficult…” to real estate agents with bad attitudes who would just flat out say “no” and hang up on me. In recent personal experience, I went apartment hunting with my Japanese husband and after being told no by 30 different apartments, we were able to find 3 apartments that said okay. I’m very thankful to the real estate agent we were working with for his patience and kindness through everything. It’s always been a stressful experience to move house in Japan for me.

    18. Had someone go through your garbage/rubbish and complain unjustly about something.

    Not directly that I can prove that was only directed at me. I live in an apartment complex with a lot of young men who are pretty slobbish so we get notices about not properly putting out garbage pretty often. I have a foreign friend who has had one of their neighbors label their garbage as hers and put it out on the wrong day on purpose though. That person got a stern talking to and apologized afterwards though.

    19. Had someone complain to the police, etc. rather than to you directly.

    No, I’ve never caused a big enough scene for anything like this to happen. Has happened to my friend when he had some people over one time though.

    20. Been called “gaijin-san” by someone in customer service.

    Yes, but maybe only once and not directly to me. People generally refer to me by my name, as they should.

    21. Had a waiter/service person direct a conversation at your Japanese partner/friend.

    Yes, several times and it gets extremely irritating, especially when you are talking directly at that person and they face your partner and talk at them as if they’re having the conversation with them yes are, in actuality, talking with you. I went to Don Quijote to buy a washing machine and this older man was helping me set up the day for it to be delivered and while I was speaking to him in perfectly normal Japanese, all he could do was stare at my husband. Then afterward when he handed me the form to fill out with my name and address he had the audacity to turn to my husband and ask “can she write Japanese?” instead of asking the person who had just been talking to him right there. I was very close to exploding. Thankfully I’ve only had a few really grating experiences like this.

    22. Had shop staff give your change to your Japanese friend/partner.

    Yes, but usually don’t care much because they just give it back to me directly afterward anyway.

    23. Had someone ask questions about you right in front of you.

    Yes, refer to my washing machine story above. When this happens I usually give a wave gesture and say “um, I’m right here. You could ask me, you know.”

    24. Been refused a credit card of bank loan offer based on being a foreigner.

    No, I’ve never applied for one. I’m already paying off one credit card. Definitely don’t need another.

    25. Have someone do a double-take and say “bikkurishita!” when they saw you.

    I’ve never heard anyone exclaim anything but I’ve noticed people silently stare at me as I walk by or sometimes do a double-take. I assume more than anything that they initially assume I’m Japanese because I’m pretty short and blend in until they get a good look at my face.

    Another thing that I would like to mention that happens often to foreign women in Japan and not so often to men is sexual harassment. Every single foreign woman friend I have has had some story of sexual harassment in public in Japan, regardless of their country of origin. I’ve personally been inappropriately touched, offered money on the street as if I were a prostitute, and one man came up to me in Yoyogi Station, asked for my phone number, and then proceeded to try and force himself on me and kiss me when I refused. Being a women in Japan is just a whole different story.

    • Thanks for the list – nice to have a woman’s perspective. And you’re right, of course, that being refused housing isn’t a little gripe at all. I should have chosen a better title!

  8. dagashigirl says:

    Hello, I just discovered your blog and I love it!

    2. Been refused entry to a hotel, bar or restaurant due to race.
    I didn’t happen to me but certainly, there’s refusal! Last Xmas my family came to Tokyo and for the first night we didn’t book lodging, so I though that they could stay in one of the hotels near my house. We had dinner, walked and, around 22.00 I headed with them to a hotel in order to take a room and leave them there. When I was booking it, the woman pointed to my family (3 adults) and asked if the room was for them and if they spoke Japanese. I said that they didn’t and she told me: ”Then, or you sleep too in the hotel, or I can’t let them sleep ALONE here”. My mother felt tooootally devastated (first day in Japan) so I let them stay in my apartment…

    Lately I have been reading that some people have been refused in restaurants, izakaya etc… it never happen to me, but it really happens. I don’t know if they are afraid of not being able to communicate or what, but they refuse people sometimes in some places!

    17. Been refused an apartment or housing on the grounds of race.

    God.. how I suffered to rent my first apartment!! Half of the applications were ”Ah, foreigner… then we can’t rent it to her” (Just like that…) But I managed to get one, so it’s not incredibly difficult!.

    Later, I rented with my boyfriend and he did everything. That way I learnt that, for Japanese people the process is: faster, cleaner and… sometimes, cheaper. Even so, when everything was ready to sign, when they ”discover” a foreigner was going to live there too, complained a lot and tried to cancel everything, but the real state agent is friend of my boyfriend and managed to make it done… Still, when they told me they putted problems again I felt quite discriminated (I have money, I speak Japanese, I have a visa, I have been living in another apartment and paying it without problems… what else do they need? xD) I felt quite discriminated..

    • Thank you. Yes, unfortunately, there are still some landlords etc that don’t like dealing with foreigners. Usual excuse is that they worry about communication issues, but even people who speak very good Japanese have suffered and it’s almost always unjustifiable.

      • dagashigirl says:

        Yes.. at the beginning, I though it was ’cause I couldn’t speak Japanese. But later I saw the ”no foreigner” kind of thing. Not for any reason in special, just as a rule to avoid ”problems”.

    • Jim clark says:

      If I were you I report the hotel in question as it is illegal for a hotel to refuse accommodation to a traveller, especially foreign as they have no address in the country. Tell all your alfriends and ask them to boycott the place. Hit them where it hurts.

      • dagashigirl says:

        Really? I didn’t know that, but the woman in the counter sounded quite shady about it, so we just left without arguing. Anyway I hope it doesn’t happen a next time!

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