1. Education
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.
Namiko Abe

What Frustrates Foreigners Most in Japan

By November 5, 2008

Follow me on:

I read an interview about what foreign tourists say puzzles them in Japan. Can you guess what is the most common answer? It was about toilets. There are Japanese style toilets that require one to squat, but it was not about those. Most toilets nowadays are "washlets" and have many buttons for various purposes. If you are not used to them, it is hard to know which button to push. When I was little, the toilet was much simpler. When I go back to Japan, I am always surprised that these high tech toilets are everywhere. They are not just for expensive hotels; they are in stations or malls, too. As for me, it took a while to figure out how to flush it at my grandma's house, even though I am Japanese! I can imagine how they could frustrate foreigners. Japanese translation


November 6, 2008 at 4:02 pm
(1) Kojiro says:

Ah but the best thing about them are the heated ones in the parks and shrines. I almost didn’t want to leave and go back into the cold mountain air!

November 7, 2008 at 8:23 am
(2) Nicolas says:


November 8, 2008 at 8:41 am
(3) Mansu says:

What frustrates foreigners the most in Japan is not japanese style toilets, but japanese racism. The japanese feeling of superiority, and the fact that no matter how long foreigners live in Japan they are treated as outsiders (外人), that is really a frustration. It is possible to get used to squat type toilets, but not to being treated as a non human being. Take a look at the poll by the Japanese government ‘should foreigners’ human rights be protected in Japan?’, that says enough…

November 8, 2008 at 9:36 am
(4) kento says:

haha thanks for the lessons!
honto ni nihongo suki desu! ^_-

November 8, 2008 at 12:00 pm
(5) Jayaprakash says:

I am a foreigner living in Tokyo. When I first came to Tokyo and stayed in a hotel for three days, I was also confused on the same topic – which button to press. But the common sense helps and the symbols says a lot. It is not that difficult to use Automatic toilets in Japan as written here. It is quite easy and convenient.

I don’t think Toilet is a frustrating thing in Japan. But the inability of Japanese people to communicate with foreigners will frustrate them. But Japanese people are generally helpful. They want to help the foreigners but language becomes a barrier and they keep away from foreigners, sometimes misinterpreted as Japanese racism.

November 11, 2008 at 10:39 am
(6) misskyu says:

I dodnt have anything against the “washlets”, its cool…what frustrates me is yeah..the racism..though not all Japanese treated foreigners like “doormats” majority of them I think is…though they’ve been smiling you’ll notice that its full of sarcasm and hypocricy..gomenne…minna janai kedo…

November 11, 2008 at 10:39 am
(7) misskyu says:

I dont have anything against the “washlets”, its cool…what frustrates me is yeah..the racism..though not all Japanese treated foreigners like “doormats” majority of them I think is…though they’ve been smiling you’ll notice that its full of sarcasm and hypocricy..gomenne…minna janai kedo…

November 19, 2008 at 9:39 pm
(8) allen says:

I think these allegations of racism are nonsense. While there are some, mostly older, Japanese who resent the gaijin in their onsen, most of my interactions have been with people who sincerely wanted to help make my adjustment to japanese life easier, and I thank them for it. As for the toilets, the survey must have been among North Americans: Europeans are familiar with the symbols on the controls.

November 24, 2008 at 8:37 am
(9) Martin says:

Hmm I spent 2 months travelling all over Japan so I got to experience all the wonderful types of toilet from the dreaded hole-in-the-floor to the fancy buttoned ones.
I have to admit though, there seems to be a fairly standard model of washlet with the same symbols on.

I think if youre going to struggle with a symbol of a ‘behind’ and a spray together youre going to struggle with a lot of things in foriegn countries!

I find it funny that even with all the fancy buttons, most of them still have a metal handle for flushing, so I dont see why people would find it difficult. The only difference is it usually pulls both ways, one for big and one for small.

Racism is kind of annoying. I got laughed at by a group of Japanese people when I said ‘Akanko Onsen’ when I was learning Japanese. Apparently I didnt pronounce the first ‘A’ enough and made it sound like ‘Kanko Onsen’ (sightseeing onsen) which I admit is probably funny to hear, but it was unnecesary to laugh at me.

Also, on trains, getting up from a white or black person to go sit next to another japanese person? That ALWAYS happened! Whats with that? You could so not get away with that here in England. But then again, nice to have more space on a train!

November 24, 2008 at 10:53 am
(10) Gaijin says:

Japan is a wonderful country with a lot to offer. I’ve been there several times, and lived there while I was an exchange student. My wife is a native of Kyushu. That being said, yes many Japanese are complete and total racists. It is bad enough in Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, etc. Go to someplace rural (Yamagata comes to mind) and you’ll know how it feels to be a leper with AIDS and tuberculosis. Its funny because the ones who will actually talk to you seem very concerned about racism in the U.S. At least in the USA we acknowledge the problem and address it.

Most Japanese will try to explain that they aren’t racist, but just shy about speaking English, which is a horrible excuse, and an outright lie. I speak basic Japanese at best, but that doesn’t mean I treat people like crap. I’m just as shy about Japanese as they are about their English. At least they are in their homeland, surrounded by other Japanese speakers.

The constant stares, people moving away from you, the “gaijin” comments when you are clearly within earshot of them… it is flat out rude and annoying, and there is NO excuse for it.

January 14, 2009 at 11:12 am
(11) Tim says:

These comments about racism are quite interesting to me. I lived in Japan for a couple of years and have a Japanese wife. I would say I understand the culture very well, however, I don’t think they are racist, in fact quite the opposite, more like an inferiority complex. I am ALWAYS treated very well by Japanese people in Japan and I think the root of what appears to be racism is actually that they are shy people, they feel bad or afraid to have to interact with a foreigner and would tend to shy away from a possible encounter where they may be asked a question in English and they are probably terrified to have to speak English. Please try to understand their culture instead of seeing their behavior through your western filters. Japanese truly are wonderful people.

January 26, 2009 at 7:28 pm
(12) seaweb says:

What frustrates me most when I’m in Tokyo is that…I still don’t speak or read Japanese! Eight visits, and I’m a bit ashamed to admit I lack the discipline (please don’t substitute “courtesy”) to learn. It frustrates me because so many people I would enjoy talking with pass me by. I regret I’m missing so many opportunities to grow and share.

April 22, 2009 at 11:52 am
(13) kana says:

Japan hates foreigners because they make up 90 percent of the crime there.

Period. Japan is not perfect, but when a foreigner enters the country, they always worry about what crime he or she is going to commit.

You would to if someone came to your peaceful town.

April 25, 2009 at 6:07 am
(14) yez says:

I’ve lived in and out of Japan for 32 years and I have to agree with Tim. The comments are very ethnocentric and more of our (USA) based politically correct nonsense. Once you’ve lived in Japan long enough to understand more about them, you’ll realize it takes all kinds, but I can hardly imagine someone branding all Japanese as racist. My pet peeve is the male oriented society – I’m a guy, but I can see men take significant gender advantages – simple test, look for guys spread out (literally) legs wide apart on a train, while females crunch up in the tiniest of space.

May 2, 2009 at 10:20 am
(15) Mansu says:

Look at what kana says

“Japan hates foreigners because they make up 90 percent of the crime there.”

Do I need to say more? For japanese foreigners in their country are criminals. And they treat them like that. Foreigners are fingerprinted on entry to Japan, even if they have permanent residency. Foreigners are harassed by cops on street in Japan, randomly stopped to ask them about their IDs. But according to Kana japanese are perfect and nobody except foreigners commit crimes there. It is an outright lie, unsupported by facts, only their typical prejudice. An I wonder why Ms. Namiko Abe does not say anything on the issue. All she does is writing about how “unique” Japan is, how “only” Japan has 4 seasons and spreading the typical cultural propaganda. Shame on you!

May 6, 2009 at 12:55 pm
(16) Chris says:

Okay theres alot of opinions here, I figure I add my contribution!

I don’t find Japanese in their normality to be racist people. I think its a sense of living in such a homogenous country compounded with shyness. In the Western world, our cultures are blended enough to see past skin tone. But other countries don’t share that concept. I’m an Americanized hispanic person, and being there I find many, especially in a younger generation, are very open minded and helpful just don’t know where to begin

I’m not saying it DOESNT exist, damn straight it does…like all countries…and this goes back to that Kana comment “Japanese hate foreigners because they make up 90% of all crimes”. That was just not an arguement, no thought in that at all. Our crimes aren’t the most by quantity, but we’re the MOST publisized cause we’re different. Like U.S. soilders committing crime is more interesting than another Japanese person committing a crime. (What did people think about Arabs after 9/11?)

And for Ms. Namiko, I love your posts there very interesting to read, very lighthearted, and I’m always learning! So thanks, appreciate it!

June 1, 2009 at 6:13 pm
(17) Nyhil says:

Mansu: “An I wonder why Ms. Namiko Abe does not say anything on the issue. All she does is writing about how “unique” Japan is, how “only” Japan has 4 seasons and spreading the typical cultural propaganda. Shame on you!”

Mansu, ur awesome =D

July 6, 2009 at 2:19 am
(18) PB says:

Japan is the best place for Japanese, nobody else. It has some of the worlds best technologies, but it is the only example in the world that shows that advanced technologies/science do not equate to advanced way of thinking about the world or leading the world. Nobody can dispute, it is a racist nation with its own style. You will not be spit on the back or yelled because you are a foreigner. You will be invited to parties and treated like a king because you are foreigner, but the same guy that treat you will refuse to treat you even equally when he is your employer or your lanlord. Everywhere in Japanese system foreigners are systematically and effectively isolated without violating the law. Most of the Japanese public (I said most, not all) are still at their post-WWII mentality (thanx to the Japanese media and right-wing politics) and look at the world with the old-style internationalism i.e. you don’t go and learn about the world (and teach the world about you, say by learning English), the world should come and learn about you (by learning Japanese). Many still think internationalism is a zero-sum game. You foreigner, if you earn money, that means Japan loses it. Japanese intellectuals, many leaders understand what is good, but nobody want to say what is right. They want their jobs intact, they don’t want to be the nail sticking out which will be hammered by minority but stronger right-wingers. But, better not blame Japanese for what they are and leave them in peace and be ALONE. For that what they deserve.

August 6, 2009 at 5:17 am
(19) Sioraf says:

The kettle calling the pot black.

August 7, 2009 at 12:56 am
(20) Maxicha says:

whoa! PB you took the words right out of my mouth. May I add you put it down in such a genius way too. So funny, I was reading all of your comments. It is quite curious about the the seeming “dislike” for foreigners in Japan. I listened to a video about it on youtube too and am still quite curious about it all. If anyone has any places where i could get more information for my research please put it on here! Also, everyone who commented on here seriously you guys are great and its so funny to read.

September 8, 2009 at 11:18 pm
(21) mari says:

All I hear is crying… First of all, it’s their country and you have no obligation to go there, if you don’t like it, just don’t go and enjoy somewhere else instead of complaining. Second, if they treat you like a foreigner, it’s because you are, many poeple don’t even bother to learn their languange and, after all, it would be a nice sign of respect, since you’re in their country. Some of us were born in multirracial countries and are used to see al kinds of people, in Japan that’s not as usual as in America, Australia, etc., so if they act strange, it’s simply natural. If they think their country is the best in the world, well…don’t we all? I’m happy they love the place they live in. So, they laugh at your accent, of course they do if you said something funny. If you don’t have a stupid sense of pride, you can laugh with them, instead of taking offense. In my experience, if you take it easy, you can have a lot of fun and make a good friends, they are very sweet people… if you just relax and break the ice…

September 9, 2009 at 10:36 am
(22) Inejiro says:

Do you go there expecting to find a crowd of like-minded people to greet you straight off the plane with a red carpet and support you and your feelings in your decision to move/sightsee there? That’s totally unrealistic, as is expecting anything from their culture. They don’t owe you anything, not even courtesy… once you accept that you should be able to appreciate how their culture and socialization works.

Here in NY where I live it’s not uncommon to joke about a hispanic person (regardless of how stupid and ignorant that description is) being an illegal immigrant or to pick on his/her english… It sounds like humans being human to me. PERSIST in starting conversations and making contacts until something works.

As this is my first comment I’ll throw a hearty “arigatou” out to Ms. Abe- thanks for your inciteful commentary and keep em’ coming! discussion like this is a compliment! =)

November 11, 2009 at 2:45 pm
(23) Perraith says:

I actually don’t have much bad to say about japanese. They mostly catch my attention for their differences compared to what I see in the US. I admit I don’t know enough about them (thus why I am learning the language and cultures) to say if they’re racist but from the summary of people and their posts on this site; You need to realize. Japan may very well be one of the most unique countries because it was isolated from the world for so long. Into the 1800′s if I’m not mistaken.

You expect them to suddenly open up and say Oh hey! foreigners? My own experiance I can’t walk down the street in Washington Cities without hearing racist based (spoken by the woefully ignorant) comments. Or hear the latest swear words from fools who think cursing is a sign of maturity and the like.

The very concept of what is polite and what is not is nearly 180 opposite between US and much of Asia. Don’t get your head filled with ideas of it being easy to just ‘fit’ in Japan. You don’t. If you are a foreigner brought up in the “melting pot” of the US then I suggest you get used to being treated differently; cause that’s how it will be. Your cultural upbringing is already opposite. It’s time to stop thinking from that viewpoint. And I am glad I am taking Japanese, even through the language I’ve learned to expect something else.

I plan to spend some of my life in Japan and if I’m treated differently so what. For a country so full of ‘be-yourself’ attitudes the US sure is intolerant of being treated differently by someone else. I mean for the love of anything, it IS their country, the US if anything is filled with more racism; of course it’s called “Be American:” Speak English, don’t do anything ‘funny’ and be tolerant of everything. The US can learn so much from those who’ve immigrated from all over the world instead we tell them to change. This is our failing.

Between the two kinds of descrimination I’d rather appreciate a good laugh for my excusable mistakes then get yelled at for not appeasing every US citizen.

November 14, 2009 at 12:38 am
(24) Kayla says:

I’m sorry but you can’t go to their Country and expect the royal treatment. It’s their home, if you don’t like it don’t go there. There are some good points here, many don’t take the time to learn their language. I know a couple Japanese people who help me out when it comes to learning the culture and the language and I help them out. A lot of the things that I tell them about the English words they have questions about they don’t understand and admit to being shy about speaking English to a native English speaker. That’s just how it is, they distant themselves because they are shy. We live in an imperfect world and so Japan isn’t perfect, some may be a bit raciest, but you know you’re going to find that everywhere. If you don’t like it then don’t go to Japan, they have their own way of life and when you go there you need to be able to change to the way things are there. They shouldn’t have to change for you, and you don’t know them. You’re judging them without knowing, all you are doing is assuming that they are raciest. You do not know for a fact, so why are you seeing yourself as someone who deserves to be treated better. Maybe their assuming as well, you don’t know them and they don’t know you, you can’t just assume that you are correct. I’m sure some Japanese people do it also, but hey, you do it as well. So don’t just bash on them about it.

November 17, 2009 at 1:15 am
(25) Dan says:

For those interested in the topic (as I am), please look at http://www.debito.org.

As an American living in Japan, I can certainly vouch for the presence of racism, and not just the “shy” stuff. I have had my own students tell me to go back to America- “we don’t need foreigners here.”
Then you can also look at the Uyoku (right-wingers) on the street corners in Shibuya, screaming about “gaijin hanzai” (crimes by foreigners), which they insist are high and rising. In reality, the crime rate is and historically has been lower than the general Japanese populace (thus, the 90% claim is, of course, pure fiction). Crimes by foreigners are simply focused on by the media, because they seem more sensational, and it preserves the “innocent Japanese” image while trashing the rest of the world.

I believe it comes from a lack of education about the world, and a worldview that sees “Japanese” customs (many of which originated elsewhere in Asia) as being under attack from Western cultures. People seem to think that, like Tokugawa Ieyasu, they can shut the country off from the outside world. In the 21st century, that would be a deathknell for Japan.
Internationalization is an inevitable force, and it can solve some problems in Japan, if the government can take advantage of it. Low and falling birthrate could be solved by bringing in more foreigners. Having them stay, then move abroad, would help increase international interest in tourism in Japan. A smarter cultural export would lead to more interest in Japanese Intellectual Properties and media- movies, games, etc, which could raise revenues and GDP.
Instead, we have people like the governor of Tokyo refusing to talk to foreign press and saying that foreigners are the cause of all crime in Japan. We have 3rd or 4th-generation “Korean-Japanese”, who speak no Korean, denied citizenship and sufferage. There are plenty of people looking at this, foreigners and Japanese alike, so they will (probably) be ironed out in the long run, but they won’t be solved without more input, communication, and interaction with foreigners.

March 8, 2010 at 5:32 pm
(26) natsumi takashi says:

well what frustrates me the most is that alot of people think were rasict to foreigners because there not japanese well does it really matter because a foreigner tougt me most of the english that i know to this very day and also i think it its nice to see all of the other races taking an intrest to our cutlture and learing the language but one thing i cant stand is when you well actually i wont start beacuse then ill seem rude and ignorent so ill leave it at this

April 20, 2010 at 6:25 pm
(27) Unforgiven says:

First of all-towards all the Foreigners who stand up for Japan without actually have lived there,and at least for more than one year,not for an occational visit-YOU DO NOT HAVE IDEA WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT.
It is one thing to go there as a visitor,of course they’ll treat you great,because you are not going to stay and they will have a chance to visit you back,what Japanese like the most.
I am a foreigner living in Japan since six years.When I came full of enthusiasm and good feelings open to learn I didn’t even imagine a country LIKE THAT could ever exist,not in the 21st century.
I have a family,have been working in Japan for already four years,can speak and communicate in their language and I can tell you- there is no hope.The moment they see you are a foreigner,they do not listen to your words,they watch your face with trange expression and say they do not understand what you are saying.But that is in case you are asking for help,information,directions.It’s completely different case when you are paying them for something-they understand everything and there is a perfect communication.
So my Japanese is easy to understand if I’m customer or client and not understandable when I need help,no matter on the street,work,establisment,etc.
And one more thing.Towards the Japanese-WAKE UP-THE WORLD IS A GLOBAL SPACE THAT INCLUDES YOUR COUNTRY TOO-not only you travelling and living in almost every country around the globe.The same way you go and live and work in other countries and want to be treated right,the foreigners who come in your country have that right too.

April 28, 2010 at 12:36 am
(28) holmes says:

To those of you who say, “If you dont like Japan or can’t put up with their “unique” way of treating foreigners, dont go there”

Oh, ok then. I ll invest my international corporation’s money in another country…let me see where, oh yes CHINA.


In fact, foreign investment in Japan is often criticized in the Japanese media. Who wants to invest in a country like that?

Japan has to accept more people, or dwindle away. Sadly, people in government too often seem to prefer the latter.

Oh, “poor Japan” is what they think.

May 19, 2010 at 8:34 am
(29) lalala says:

Namiko, I doubt you are a foreigner yourself and title of the post sounds like a misnomer. I do not want to come across as rude, but this is to save face–for your sake, and to stop the misunderstandings spreading around the net.

Honestly, the MOST frustrating thing? It seems like you’ve only asked a few foreigners to come to that conclusion.

Toliet may be a culture shock to some, but since Western style toliets are common here, highly doubt that’s a problem… The problem is the language and cultural barrier. The cultural differences can be perceived as racism. Like laughing at awkward times, such as when the foreigner attempts to speak in Japanese. To the foreigner it may seem rude. To Japanese, it may be because it’s cute or whatever. Or when the bilingual Japanese speaks only in English when the foreigner is attempting Japanese–also frustrating. There are plenty of frustrating things besides a toliet. Besides, there are directions how to use a toliet which can be looked up online…

“As for me, it took a while to figure out how to flush it at my grandma’s house, even though I am Japanese!” In case you didn’t know, they have high-tech toliets in other countries too, like Korea, so the high-tech toliet is not only a “Japanese” thing… and I’m not sure why not knowing how to use a toliet and being Japanese as any connection. It’s just YOU that didn’t know how to use it, being “Japanese” doesn’t mean anything. For all you know, not all Japanese know how to use it properly either, nor do they care.

May 19, 2010 at 8:57 am
(30) whoisthis says:

Kana, you are one of those people who put blame on others without seeing one’s own flaws. I specifically point you out because not all Japanese are like that.

Have you seen the news lately? There are news about mothers murdering their own children… Seems like it’s common here because for a week, there’s been three cases like that. More crimes like that than committed by a foreigner… “Peaceful town” when there is domestic violence within the family?

And how can you prove those statistics are correct anyway? For all you know, they’re just lies created by the government just to save face.

So stop trying to put the blame on foreigners as if crimes are entirely their fault. That is just ignorant and sad that you cannot see the flaws of your own country and admit it.

July 6, 2010 at 2:54 pm
(31) abhay says:

Dear Mansu
I am a PhD scholar from India and working on Japan. Can you please forward the link of poll result by Japanese Government regarding Foreigners Rights in Japan. My Email ID is abhay.singhs@rediffmail.com
If you do so, it will be a great help.
Thanks and regards

September 18, 2010 at 10:56 pm
(32) sillyme says:

I’m Japanese and I just got to say that students in my school always look at Americans as above them. They think being even half-American is cool and worships the English language, envying me for my skills. That is just my viewpoint, of course, so please don’t object that fact. I just wanted to point out that new generations don’t think foreigners are strange. They’re not racist; they’re acknowledging that foreigners are foreigners. That’s my opinion. :/

September 28, 2010 at 12:55 am
(33) John says:

I’ve spent the last few weeks in Japan on holiday. Before I arrived in this country I had read about Japanese treatment of foreigners, how we were treated like rock stars and the ‘girls will love you’. Now I didn’t come here to score a Japanese girl nor to expect preferential treatment because I am a westerner, I came simply to experience a very unique and captivating country.
Pretty much from day one I was taken aback at how negatively the Japanese viewed me as a foreigner. I’m not a fashion tragic by any means, I tend to think I dress fairly well but I get noticeably smirked at, laughed at and even mocked by groups of Japanese youths as I walk by, quite obviously finding something very humorous with the way I am dressed. I’ve seen them doing the same to other foreigners. Japanese fashion I have found is WAY out there, guys wearing womens handbags, outrageous hairstyles and a generally very unique dress sense (think about those fashion shows you see in the news and think ‘who would wear this!’ and you’ll get a good idea of Japanese fashion) so when they see us foreigners walking around in shorts/tshirt/cap/flip flops they find it quite hysterical.
And yes, you’ll find yourself often having a wall of empty space around you when riding a train, even when it’s fairly packed! You’ll also get people ‘sucking their teeth’ at you, which is a Japanese equivalent of spitting at you, as you walk past. I even had a 6 year old kid call me a gaijin and his parents just looked at me and chuckled.
Having said all that, this is a truly amazing place where you can go from feeling like you are on the set of a sci-fi movie to a smoky alley filled with age old shophouses selling bbq and beer, all within a stone’s throw from each other. The mountain scenery is something to behold as well as the multitude of ancient temples, some well over 1000 years old. So my advice is to go to Japan, experience the country but try to ignore the people!

November 25, 2010 at 10:52 pm
(34) Another John says:

The frustration really starts if you live and work in Japan mid- to long-term. Though Westerners are often treated very well as tourists and short-term workers, problems in housing, employment, relationships and general discrimination start to build up if you intend to make a life here. Try renting a house, getting a permanent job, or even a drink in some places; barriers mysteriously spring up. This leads to parallel jobs, accommodation agencies and entertainment businesses to cater to foreigners; if you find yourself in these places, you won’t encounter racism because the discrimination has already occurred.

My other problem is with foreign apologists who refuse to apply ideas of equality to Japan that they would strongly espouse in their own country. For example, if an Asian man visiting an all-white town in America were assaulted in a racist attack, you wouldn’t say, “Well, this is a homogeneous community, they’re not used to foreigners, it’s natural,” etc. You would recognise it as racism. Too often people buy the idea that Japan is a unique society which must be protected through discrimination, rather than being a modern country with social problems shared by other countries. There are also more problems specific to Japan: serious organised crime syndicates which actually have quasi-legal recognition, plus a lot of unreported, casual sexual violence (Japan has women-only train carriages at certain times of the day).

I do think Japan is a great place to live and work, despite its many problems. If you can endure the discrimination – from being fingerprinted on every entry regardless of status to not having your name equally registered with your spouse as a parent of your child – then there are some wonderful opportunities here, including the chance to try the toilets. :) However, there are no coherent arguments for treating the foreign population badly, especially when it is foreigners who are increasingly keeping the export economy and workforce going.

December 4, 2010 at 11:10 am
(35) Sloane says:

I thought this piece was about the tourist that has a hard time using the crapper in Japan…

December 6, 2010 at 8:50 pm
(36) Marou says:

I’m a PhD student for more than 3 years. I found that who wants a frank communication, charge that Japanese speak indirectly and vaguely. They do not communicate directly. Everthing is said privetly, behind your back. Everyone know but you!
I’m ususally suffering from miss understanding, and from academic harassment, so to whom shall i complain or to whom shall i express my feeling?
Expectations on acquiring language proficiency are another source of distress, as many students find learning Japanese poses more problems than they had anticipated. For those who are at a time in their lives when they feel
pressure to get a degree as soon as possible, the extra demand of mastering a foreign language is imposing. Some students who have mastered several other
languages find Japanese to be a monumental challenge. Many are also ambivalent about spending time on language study, having been told by advisors
that it is unnecessary academically and all study can be conducted in English.
These students often suffer, however, from academic isolation and in their social relations if they do not master Japanese sufficiently to communicate beyond the level of daily conversation. Language deficiencies are directly
related to perceived misunderstanding and paranoid reactions. Feelings of childishness and inadequacy are difficult for some to handle and the inability
to express themselves leads to frustration and anxiety.

January 2, 2011 at 1:37 pm
(37) Gaijinn says:

Lived here for 3 years, and I agree with the above Johns and other honest foreigner posts above. Apart from certain people and places, this country can resemble a living hell for a mid to long-term resident foreigner; whether that foreigner be white or black, male or female. Example: I hesitate going into the city alone because of the sheer snooty racism I receive on a daily basis, whether or not I wilfully ignore it by listening to music, casting my eyes to my iphone or DS on trains, looking past people, focussing my mind on my destination etc.

I’ve had passers by deeply insult my visiting elderly relatives in front of me thinking I couldnt understand them, and occassionally have had to snap at people who laugh at me for no apparent reason other than me not being Japanese. I have even experienced people mocking me when I was on my way back from the funeral of a close Japanese friend of mine a month ago (they all knew it because I was wearing the formal funeral suit and black-tie, and didnt look too happy either) and was utterly devastated by it..

This country has many nices places, interesting business, phenomenons and experiences that do not exist outside this nation, BUT a LOT of people who may ruin those experiences for you due to their racist treatment of you. Don’t let potential employers, or ignorant colleagues fool you!!!

… And that’s the last you’ll hear me warning anyone from the general public because once I return to my home country, I too will play the little game all ex-gaijin and now-foreign-resident Japanese people have done and accentuate this country’s daintyness for all the ignorant, then milk it for all its worth in my career choice and social life. Many friends have done it before and have prospered for it, despite their private feelings, and I will too.

And now you know…

January 7, 2011 at 10:28 pm
(38) Taerkasten says:

First about the topic is that some levels of discrimination will be in every place on the planet, dont matter if you are canadian, american, mexican, that’s dont really matter, it’s all about prejudice, and in part lack of knowledge in both parties, japanese and the rest of the world.

Most of the japanese are still in that superiority complex than are superior but like in some comment, we are in 21 century. times has changed, habits has changed and they obviously most start to see themselves than are not the perfect society like some countries and their goverments try to impose at any cost but the time gradually show the reality than is different, dont matter how idealization are taking that goverment, we are in one place, so one country need from another and in conclusion we are in a global community.

they must start to open and start to understand than every barrier than you make, material or not can be broken, if every moment they will ask for anything to the rest of the world and have to adapt it.

so the society better adapted to accept than have their good and points and accepting the foreigners like a important part of their presence and future is the way the world are taking, nations than try to impose barriers of every type in times they are more close to possible end.

i’ll insist japan must adapt to deal with foreigners, they or we are becoming important in economy, politics, and various topics in modern life, so is totaly useless than most japs still believes in the past costumes.

March 25, 2011 at 9:54 am
(39) Frustrated Foreigner says:

How can you have the right to have your own column. Are you an educated person? Any semi-intelligent person can use a washlet. I am an America, it took me just one time use to figure out to use the washlet. There are cleary marked symbols on the buttons, so even if one can’t read Japanese…one can still understand how to use.

The problem that faces most foriegners that live in Japan is the image attached to them. For instance, I am white. So…Japanese assume that I can’t read, write, or understand Japanese…without even asking me…oh, by the way ‘CAN YOU UNDERSTAND JAPANESE’? i have never been asked this question…NEVER! whenever, I go to restaurant, supermarket, department store, etc… I never get any assistance from staff, because they assume that I dont understand Japanese. But, the funny part…is that I can speak better Japanese…than they can speak Englih. When I use Japanese, they always have blank expression on their face. Then after repeating several times, they finally realize..’oh, he is speaking Japanese’. But, they will responsd in broken, bad English. Please use Japanese!!

Moral of the story….Japanese….please NEVER assume anything. Assuming makes you look racist and stupid.

Assuming is what makes us tired about Japanese. Not toliets!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

June 26, 2011 at 11:24 am
(40) Dissapointed tourist says:

I’m currently on my last day of my first ever trip to Japan, and can say I’m disheartened by the way some of the Japanese have behaved towards myself and my partner. In shops they are mostly helpful and kind, but on the trains or out in public they have avoided us like the plague. For example even on crowded trains where it makes sense for them to sit down they all seem to try to sit as far away from us as possible, or just stand away from us. This includes resturants. I can honestly say there is nothing off putting about us in appearance, and we certainly don’t smell! They just seemed to prefer to be anywhere other than near to us. On a few occasions I have been certain some of the younger japanese have laughed and joked about us. On one paticular day I dressed very nicely to go shopping, yet found myself laughed and pointed at by Japanese of all ages, young school children to ladies in the 60+ age group. I know I didn’t look bad, if I’d of been at home I would’ve felt great. However, here I was made to feel like I looked like hell. Of course some are better at ignoring these kind of things and I’m fully aware I may be too sensitive. But I don’t think it’s acceptable to have to eperience this kind of behaviour anywhere. I mean, it’s so blatant and almost cruel – whether they mean it that way or not. Unfortunately at times I questioned whether its because I’m of mixed descent and even worse it’s just made me wonder whether there is anywhere I can go without fear of being a target of some sort of racism.
For this reason I doubt I could come back here, despite the fact it has always been my dream to work and live in this beautiful country. For me their racism is the most frustrating thing.

September 17, 2011 at 10:29 am
(41) Japan ARE Racist (sugarcoating not necessary) says:

Many of the comments made here by some of the long-term Japan foreign residents are spot on.

I was working as a technical translator for many years in an exclusive area of Tokyo, an area where many Japanese themselves dream to live in. Although my Japanese co-workers acted in a “respectful” manner toward me since I worked 12-14 hours a day, I was treated quite badly almost everywhere else I went. I was speaking with Japanese clients and co-workers in Japanese all day, but once I entered a bar, restaurant, etc., my words suddenly had absolutely no meaning. I cannot tell you how many times I said something and they pulled a 知らんぷり (played dumb). I have translated approx. 50,000 pages of Japanese technical documentation into English. If they treat me this way, it means all the rest of you have no chance whatsoever! Anyway, I ended up leaving the country.

You have all these brainwashed gaijin apologists out there that have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. And as far as the guy who lived in Japan for 30+ years and blames our “American political correctness”, I would like to say that it is possible to J.O. 1000 times a day but never have a baby. So much for your Japan experience. You must be living in a bubble.

In my mind Japan should become like North Korea (鎖国の状態に戻ったほうがいい). 中途半端な国際関係は絶対ダメだよ皆さん! (Half-assed international relations are exactly what they are: half-assed!)

November 23, 2011 at 5:15 am
(42) Thato says:

Quiet a lot I must admit. Im a black African interested in working in Japan come 2012. Black people are almost always sidelined so I thought I’d check how it is in Japan. I do not know any Japanese so please help me all you can and be brutally honest so I come prepared. Besides Tokyo,what are the other big cities? Cities are normally less judgemental so i’d prefer that.

February 29, 2012 at 9:14 am
(43) Abemaria says:

japanese are racists

March 7, 2012 at 5:51 am
(44) Abemaria says:

my last comment “japanese are racists” was only to make a test, of why my other comments saying somethings about the foreigners were removed.. ??
This shows that this girl namiko abe is the only racist here… When i say something about the foreigners in my comment, it’ll definitely be removed, but my last comment saying that ” Japanese are racist” wasn’t removed.. ?? This girl namiko abe is a bogus !!! she’s no Japanese. she’s just trying to fool all you readers here… she’s a fake !!! her Japanese is weird. My friend said she’s definitely not a native speaker.. STOP !!! being fooled by this girl… she’s a BOGUS !!!!

My apologies for saying that Japanese are racist… i’m truly sorry !!
It was only said to make the test. The result turned out to be what I’ve expected.

April 18, 2012 at 11:11 am
(45) S says:

What I don’t understand is some foreigners coming to other countries and not even bothering learning other countries rules/manners or what so ever and expecting them to be treated nicely. ‘i go to Japan and nobody speaks to me in english!!!’ wow! seriously???? So if I go to foreign country, like the U.S and speak in Japanese, and they wouldnt talk back to me in japanese should I cry racism?

For those of u who have been treated badly I’m sorry. But there are some ppl who come to Japan not even bothering to study the rules/manners and expected to be treated nicely. Go buy yourself some decent guidebook pls!

I’m not saying there’s no racism here. Im sure there is. My sister in law is a foreigner and I hear it all the time. But I’m just saying some foreigners are giving the whole foreign ppl a bad credit too.

July 26, 2012 at 1:37 am
(46) Nicole says:

To everyone who is frustrated that the Japanese try to respond in English when you speak to them in Japanese: rather than jumping to the conclusion that the Japanese assume that you’re too stupid to learn their language, how about thinking the best of them?

When I was living in Japan for a year, I would ask the Japanese questions in their language, and when they responded in English, I automatically assumed that it was because they (rightfully) assumed that it was easier for me to understand/speak English and, thus, were helping me out by speaking in English. It was KINDNESS motivating them to respond in English, NOT racism!!

Some of you people are so quick to jump to the conclusion that Japanese are such cold-hearted, ignorant people without looking to yourself and seeing how judgemental you’re acting.

All I had to do to get the Japanese to respond IN Japanese was to say: “Please say it in Japanese”. That’s it! If you ask them to speak in Japanese, they will. End of story.

July 27, 2012 at 1:55 pm
(47) Nicole is a dumbass Japan nube says:

It was KINDNESS motivating them to respond in English, NOT racism!!


July 28, 2012 at 7:56 pm
(48) maybe says:

well that is a good point Nicole.after all we don’t know
what inside people’s heart and outer image deceives.
so maybe what you said is true and maybe not.
but a better choice is to say maybe yes.since you had
your own experience.well i hope i can meet a Japanese
to make sure of that.


September 24, 2012 at 11:42 pm
(49) hideo says:

I think Gaijins should stay away from Japan. Japan is a very peaceful country only if theres no gaijins. Look at places like America where theres tensions between various racial groups. Incidents like O.J. trials show how different races cant assimilate. More Gaijins in Japan would mean Japan becoming a weird place like the us

November 26, 2012 at 7:04 pm
(50) Kodama Yoshio says:

What frustrates me about a big majority of Japanese people is their inability of critical thinking. “Critical” here not meaning to “criticize something or someone”, but simply to be able to look beyond the surface of any matter.
Due to this low-quality education system, even adult Japanese have the minds of children – they look up to authority (whoever they think is above them, like their Kachou, Buchou, or a politician, or people on the TV), and accept everything that person says as the truth.
Hence the Japanese have very skewed ideas that are not grounded in reality, like all “countries outside Japan are dangerous” or “the Japanese are a race that is above all other races”.
They think if one American soldier in Okinawa commits a crime, then automatically all other foreigners are exactly as criminal. They think that, for example, a teenage girl from Sweden visiting Japan has the same values, morals, and mindsets as a male American soldier, because for the Japanese, everything outside of Japan is “different” and therefore “worse”.
They are not able to see differences as positive, that’s whay they appear like robots to normal people. They all say the same words “Samui, Kawaii, Oishii” all the time, they all dress the same, and they all have the same wrong ideas about the world that they have been fed by their media.
The country itself is run in the background by a mixture of organized crime, corrupt corporations, and scumbag ultra-nationalist politicians, but the Japanese public would never rock the boat, because they are too weak to speak up against their own political system.
The decay of Japan is therefore very understandable and probably better for the rest of the world.

January 3, 2013 at 11:47 pm
(51) To Hideo says:



March 12, 2013 at 12:46 am
(52) TJJ says:

Japan is not a peaceful country. Every act of terrorism in Japan has been carried out by Japanese people – The sarin gas attack, multiple stabbing in akihabara, etc etc. Do an informal survey of your female friends and see how many of them have been (date) raped. Most of them, right? that’s all unreported crime.

This racism accusation doesn’t need to be a matter of opinion. You can test it for yourself from the comfort of your lounge chair. Get on the internet, go to a Japanese website like 2-chan, join in a discussion (in Japanese), make some friends, then after you are getting n well, reveal you are not Japanese and see if they stop talking with you altogether. In my experience, 50% of the time they cease all communication.

There’s your proof.

Me, 15 years in japan.

October 19, 2013 at 9:23 pm
(53) Max says:

Yes, it is so frustrating to be confronted w a free amenity boosting hygiene and comfort. What next? All these vending machines everywhere are so frustrating because they only accept Japanese coins and the Japanese coins are (gasp) *different*. Sweet mother of god.

Btw, Namiko if you are by any chance reading this, thank you for the posts which I have found useful.

January 23, 2014 at 3:22 pm
(54) Bill Watson says:

Looking back at the relations of Japan with the West, the United States was the only country strong enough (militarily) to open Japan. The British, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Germans tried with no success.

But that was a youthful, unafraid, brash US back in 1890. The United States in 2014 is disorganized, battle weary, fearful, bankrupt , culturally and racially fragmented and in permanent decline. It is possible for Japan to again close it borders to foreigners.

The Americans in Japan who have returned to the US may tell their grandchildren they once lived in this fascinating land and consider themselves lucky.

February 21, 2014 at 8:19 am
(55) commentor says:

if the foreigners don’t like it, they should leave
too many trashy foreigners in tokyo

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.