Racism in Japan

Racism in Japan

by Kevin R Burns

(Tokyo, Japan)

Racism in Japan, are you Shudan Stalked – group Stalked?

I just got an Email from a man who claims he is stalked by shudan stalkers or group stalkers. He could be in need of counseling or it could be true.

Anyway, I sometimes feel that I am given extra attention at certain stores, as if they suspect I will shoplift.

If I am a regular customer then I usually don`t experience this, and it doesn`t happen all the time, but it has happened at a few stores I will mention briefly:

The Toys `r Us in Hadano, Kanagawa

Yellow Submarine Shop (that sells many boardgames) in Akihabara,Tokyo

And a recycle shop in Odawara (whose name escapes me)

At the last store, I was actually followed around. In the Yellow Submarine shop the store clerk was checking stock near me but kept moving to be close to me. Could have been just a coincidence but I really felt otherwise. Plus I felt they were talking about foreigners saying, “Kyo wa go nin kimashita.”

“Taihen desu ne?”

But with Japanese, you don`t introduce the topic of what you are talking about often, so it is difficult to know if people are talking about foreigners in this case or not. The topic is open ended. However, 5 what? Women? People with one arm?

I can`t prove any of this and the store I`m sure would deny that they are racist, but I just wondered if any of you have felt the same way?

The Toys `r Us in Hadano often has store clerks near me or even behind me as I look at something, but when I wanted to actually talk to one, he walked away, until I finally had to yell,”Sumimasen!” It is comical now, but I felt angry at the time.I thought if you are going to stalk me at the store, at least be willing to help me when I have a question.

Racism in Japan – Am I just being Paranoid?

If you have never experienced this, I will sound

paranoid. That`s always the risk if you bring any of this up.

But if you have had similar experiences, you will understand what I am saying.

Racism in Japan, Different from other Countries?

I have felt this way only once in North America, never in Europe, and never in any other Asian countries. Never felt it in Australia or New Zealand either. I travel a lot but don`t feel victimized in this way. Of course in many cases I am a white guy in a caucasian country. But that is my point, I feel sometimes I am treated differently because of my skin color in Japan, and in a hurtful, racist way.

So I suspect there is a bit of racism going on that I am picking up on.

Unfortunately some non-Japanese do steal, but I think they victimize foreign people, as I know that Japanese steal too, but I don`t think Japanese store clerks stalk them.

Racism in Japan – A Trait of Japanese People?

I feel that if one foreign person does something stupid in Japan, we are all branded with the same label. Be it shoplifter, or guy who doesn`t follow the rules (or know the rules) at the hotsprings baths. And we are all treated in the same racist manner as a result.

It is unfair!

What do you think about all of this?

I am very interested to know what other non-Japanese have experienced in Japan and what ethnicity are you? I think Asians or North Americans of Asian ethnicity for example, have a very different experience of Japan than I do.

Moreover, Nissei, and Sansei (second or third generation) Japanese North Americans or Japanese Europeans tend to blend into Japan, yet I wonder how they feel about all of this, what have you experienced in Japan?

People of African or Indian decent too, please tell us how you feel and how life has been for you here. I will be letting Amnesty International Japan know about this page, so hopefully it will be enlightening for them too.

Comments for Racism in Japan


who knows, but… NEW

by: Anonymous

Sorry to hear that you feel singled out. It’s an alienating if not humiliating feeling. I wonder if it could be your age, your style of dress or general appearance? When I was a teen to when I was in my early twenties, I recall feeling watched carefully at shops. My punky style of dress didn’t help ease store-keepers suspicions. But now, 30 years later, a white middle-aged male gaijin, I never feel watched or followed about in stores.

You might try going back in a suit and tie, and see if you still feel followed.

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About kintaro63

Writer and teacher in Japan
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