“I don’t feel like I’ve had the kind of experience that everyone thinks you’ll have when you come to Japan or Tokyo. I think everyone imagines that I am going out and living this crazy life, dressing up in kimono or meeting loads of people. Actually, my seven years in Japan have been really isolated. It’s been difficult to meet people, although I’m fairly lucky to have made really good friends at my job, where it’s pretty much all international staff. But it’s nowhere near as exciting or social as I thought my life was going to be. And then the way I look has a bit of an effect. Initially it was something I was conscious of. I even tried to cover up and look as invisible as possible, because I didn’t want to get stared at, which happens a lot. Sometimes people would see me in the supermarket, look, then turn around and walk the other way. Some get shocked that I exist and I’m walking around. That made me really nervous. My Japanese is quite good but I’ve developed a complex in speaking it because people would just look at me but not hear me. That initially affected how I saw myself and how outgoing I was. But after a couple of years, I realized I can’t disappear no matter what I do. I’m going to be visible. I can’t hide forever. I can’t please everybody. All I can do is accept my ‘otherness’. That helped me develop some resilience. I’m kind of okay with it now. It doesn’t really bother me anymore. Actually it’s nice because people come up to me, like little old ladies who touch my arm, looking amazed at my tattoos. I think it’s cute because it starts a dialogue and shows them that people who look like me aren’t scary. It makes me hopeful there’ll be more tolerance. That said, I’m definitely going to be happy being somewhere else where people are more welcoming or maybe a little bit more diverse.”

At Ryogoku Station







【翻訳:Junko Kato Asaumi

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Finding diversity and inclusion. Breaking down barriers one post at a time. Stories and snapshots of foreigners making their way in Japan.

One thought on “Otherness

  1. I enjoyed reading this. I’m actually going to spend a lot of time in Japan this summer and reading this actually gave me some idea of what was to come. Of course, everyone’s experience may be different but it’s good to be aware that this may happen. Especially being a queer, person of color like myself, it’s good to know how you may or may not be treated. I do know Japan is not a huge meeting pot like the US or even UK so they’re not experienced to culture like us a lot. That can definitely have affect.
    Nice reading your post! Look forward to seeing more!


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