Comfortably Out of Place : Living as a Foreigner in Japan
Worley, Erika J.
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The author explores her experience with the Japanese attitude to foreigners during her study abroad at the Japan Center for Michigan Universities in Shiga Prefecture. She concludes “I was not simply a person to anyone I met in Japan. While no country is perfectly accepting of all its residents and visitors, I was still shocked by the strength of the Japanese idea of ‘us’ and ‘them.’ Orientalism only exists in the west, since the word means ‘east’ and thus refers to the unknown in the east. Japan does, however, have its own ‘occidentalism.’ Just as Westerners once saw East Asian peoples as incredibly foreign and uncivilized, Japanese people see Westerners (especially Americans) as alien and uncivilized. For example, Americans are portrayed in the media as loud, assertive, and other traits that are considered undesirable in Japanese society. Foreigners' presence in Japan is accepted, but for now they are completely unaccepted as true members of Japanese society. More than the culture they come from, their appearance is a bold statement to a country that thinks of itself as homogenous. Looking different means that you are an outsider and therefore you will never belong. My hope is that young Japanese people will come into contact with more foreign people and mixed heritage people as they grow up and learn to understand them as they might another full-blooded Japanese person. This idea of homogeneity is untrue and makes Japan feel like a closed nation even after opening its borders generations ago. It is an island nation not only in truth, but in mentality.”