For the most part, Japan is a pleasant experience. But there are things that I wish wouldn’t exist. Discrimination is one of them. While discrimination is present just about everywhere in the world, sometimes it feels like it’s more prevalent in this country. Being in a country where 98% of the people are Japanese, a foreigner definitely sticks out like a sore thumb. As a country that embraces conformity, you can imagine how out of place you can feel here sometimes.
When you first visit here, you will notice that you will get stared at. A lot. This is pretty normal and you begin to ignore it after awhile. If you don’t, then you’re going to feel awkward the entire time you’re here. The next common thing is people moving away from you when you sit down on a train. This doesn’t happen too often but if you’re with a group of friends, it’s bound to occur. We dub it the “gaijin bubble”, a circumference where the Japanese fear to be in. Once again, this doesn’t really bug me. I’d rather have some space to myself so if people move on the train, then whatever.
What really bothers me though is obvious discrimination. I can deal with the stares and people moving away from me but what I cannot tolerate is people picking on you simply because you’re a foreigner. One night, a group of my friends were on the last train home from a night out. It was packed as always and people were chatting away with each other. We were doing the same. However, according to my friends, one lady was telling one of us to shut up because we were being loud. Seeing that we weren’t the only people talking and we were actually talking in a normal voice, we ignored it.
Eventually, we transferred trains. This is when things went south, fast. The lady was also transferring on the same train and followed to the same car. We sat back down and started chatting again until the lady once again, told us to shut up. However, this time she wasn’t merely mumbling it to us, she was yelling it to the face of my friend. My other friend argued that we weren’t being loud at all to her, which was true. I know when people are obnoxiously loud (usually from drinking too much) but this wasn’t the situation at all. The lady continued to yell at us and say how loud we were and we should shut the fuck up.
At this point, I couldn’t help but chuckle. The situation was ridiculous and I always laugh during awkward moments. The whole train became quiet and were staring at us. The college kids that were happily chatting to each other (at the same volume) soon quieted down. The lady, noticing my chuckling, walked up to my face and yelled, “What the fuck is so funny?! You think this is funny?”
“No, this is stupid. We aren’t being loud at all.” No way in hell was I backing down . Apparently my friends said she looked like she was about to hit me but she backed off. The rest of the ride was awkward as the lady continued to mumble “Shut up” to us until she finally got off at her station. The mess was finally over.
…is what I’d like to say but it wasn’t. Not too long after the lady got off, another lady decided to step in her place and told us to shut up again. I was angry at this point. People were clearly trying to bully us. Keep in mind that we weren’t yelling and other people on the train were speaking on the train at the same volume (if not louder). It was clear that we were being picked on simply we were foreigners. We were the scapegoats. It’s really upsetting when things like this occur because it makes you realize that discrimination still exists out here. It reminded me when I first got to Japan when taxi after taxi refused to pick a friend and I up, only to pick up other Japanese people right next to us. We ended up having to walk all the way to the nearest station to finally find a taxi. It’s really stupid that we get mistreated sometimes simply because we are different.
It upsets me that this still exists. However, Japan isn’t the only place in the world that has this problem. I’m happy to say though that most Japanese don’t discriminate; they are usually happy to help you out with anything or go out of their way to answer a question. Every once in awhile though, things like this will occur. I wish they wouldn’t.