Gaijin Smash

Bobby

Posted in Blog by gaijinsmashnet on March 1, 2007

It’s no secret that there are very few foreigners in Japan. Japan’s population is 99% Japanese. Out of the 1% that isn’t Japanese, 40% of that are Korean nationals, many of whom speak Japanese. I don’t know how much of the remaining .6% are Chinese nationals, but even if we were to assume zero that’s still only .6% of the population that is foreign and obviously so.
So foreigners are already rare, and as you can imagine, black folks are the rarest of the rare. As a black male, I am often asked about racism – does it exist in Japan? Have I ever had to deal with it? It’s kind of a hard question to answer, especially as an American, coming from a background where my parents had to go to segregated schools and couldn’t even drink out of the same water fountain. The simple answer, however, is – yes.
It’s nothing blatantly hateful. You won’t see the Japanese version of the KKK, wearing white hoods and swastikas and going around lynching the first darkie they can find. But there is racism here. Call it ignorance, unawareness, whatever you like, but they do have a tendency to lump people together by race and then assume the worst about them.


When I came to Japan, there was an American making the rounds on Japanese TV by the name of Bob Sapp. Sapp was a former NFL player who burned out after a year or something. He found his way to the K-1 Fighting circuit, which is very popular in Japan. He did decently in K-1, and for whatever reason he became very popular in Japan.
Bob Sapp is a big black guy.
He would go on TV only wearing a pair of Speedos, growl and rant like an animal and toss some Japanese people around. The Japanese ate it up – Sapp at his peak was just always on TV, no matter what channel or time of day. Most Americans, regardless of their own racial background, hated Sapp for going on TV and playing the part of the raving fool for a handful of yen. For me, Sapp was particularly frustrating because whenever I was out in public, I was sure to hear some Japanese person exclaim – “Hey look, it’s Bob Sapp!” the moment they spotted me. Keep in mind that although we’re both black males, that’s exactly where the resemblance ends. Sapp has several inches and several hundred pounds on me – his head is shaved (I keep my hair close but never shaved), and our facial features aren’t even that similar.
There was just no escaping the Sapp comparison. It was especially bad at work – students calling me Bob Sapp and then eventually just Bob – or the Japanese version of “Bo-bu”. One principal actually, my first day at the school, he introduced me to the student body as “A new American teacher who looks a lot like Bob Sapp.” At another school, a completely different principal had used the Sapp comparison to describe me to the faculty. One English teacher mistook that to mean my name was actually Bob, and called me “Bob-sensei” several times throughout the course of one class.
It wasn’t exactly fun to be compared to a guy who became famous for fighting, and going on TV wearing spandex and acting like a raving beast. …Who would find that fun? I blew it off the best I could though. “They just don’t know better,” I told myself. “There are so few foreigners here, and even fewer black people. It’s not intentional. They just don’t know.” Nevertheless, I waited for the day that Sapp’s popularity would die down and I could go back to just being “foreigner”, “black foreigner”, and sometimes “huge black foreigner”.
Little did I know, it was going to get much, much worse.
At almost precisely the same time Bob Sapp’s 15 minutes of fame expired, he was replaced by someone even worse, Bobby Ologun. Bobby had been on Japanese TV before. Perhaps inspired by Sapp, Bobby took part in a New Year’s K-1 fight, which he won despite not actually being a fighter (the fight was more than likely fixed). From there, Bobby’s popularity exploded. Bobby was on TV far more than Bob Sapp ever was. Unlike Sapp, Bobby knew Japanese. However, instead of using his abilities to speak correct Japanese, he made word puns and other intentional mistakes (such as speaking rudely to someone he should be speaking politely to) which only seemed to reinforce the notion that foreigners can’t speak Japanese. His act also included a lot of bucking his eyes out, overreacting, and in general acting like a bumbling, hapless fool.
He played the part.
Japanese television revolves around their celebrity circle (revoltingly so), and much of the humor is derived from ridicule. There are acts such as the girl with the big, scary face (Sayaka Aoki), the three girls who are chubby and unattractive (Morisanchu), and the two guys who are scrawny and awkward (Un-girls). So, Bobby’s act was really nothing new or extraordinary. However, when you factor in that there are so few foreigners and even fewer black foreigners in Japan, and that Japanese people tend to take one impression of a group of people and run with it, well…things get ugly.
During Bobby’s popularity, I couldn’t leave my house without hearing someone say “Hey, it’s Bobby!” at least 5-10 times a day. There’s a park I usually have to pass by on my way home from work – every day upon seeing me the children would stop playing, exclaim “It’s Bobby!” and then proceed to mock his foolish mannerisms. I was on the train once, and as a group of high school boys spotted me, they nearly screamed out “Look, it’s Bobby!”, roaring in laughter as they too made fun of his TV behavior. They wanted to ask me to imitate his act, but figured I didn’t understand Japanese and couldn’t work up the courage to ask me in English. This went on for ten minutes before I had to change train cars, lest I turn around and start administering Jean Claude Van Damme spin-kicks to whomever wasn’t smart enough to face my wrath. While children were the primary purpetrators of the Bobby chant, there were also some grown men and women who’d let a “Look, it’s Bobby!” slip from their lips upon seeing me.
Words cannot describe how infuriating it was. To automatically be likened to someone simply because of your gender and race. To have that someone play the part of the fool on national television. Because the transistion from Bob Sapp to Bobby happened almost overnight. And, aside from the three of us being black and male, we looked nothing alike (furthermore, Bobby isn’t even American – he’s African). I was angry – perhaps most of all at Bobby. He lived here – he knew Japanese. Bob Sapp, maybe, could have been excused – he had no idea what he was doing, but Bobby…Bobby should have known better. It made me retroactively angrier at Bob Sapp. And I was angry at the situation – there was nothing I could do to stop it. I couldn’t stop random people on the street and tell them to knock it off. And yet, I literally could not leave my apartment without, at the very least, 5-10 people calling me Bobby, with a significant percentage of that proceeding to mock his idiotic behavior. I told friends in Japan about it, who had a hard time believing me at first, until they actually went somewhere in public with me and saw it for themselves. The only thing I could do was throw on some headphones and pray for the day when Bobby’s popularity died down.
There was nothing I could do about the Bobby label in public. But one place where I refused to let it fly was at school. It was a special kind of frustrating to hear my students call me Bobby – they knew my real name. They knew I wasn’t a bumbling idiot. They knew I could speak and understand Japanese. They knew, yet that all got overrided by Bobby’s television antics. Any student who called me Bobby got a harsh re-buff where possible, and when not possible, at least a disapproving glare. Most teachers were quick to notice the pained look on my face whenever “Bobby” echoed through the hallways, and after explaining to them how much I hated the label the majority of them took it upon themselves to pull aside any kid who used it and have a short talk with them.
I did my part as well. The more level-headed students never even thought to call me Bobby, but for your average student who just didn’t think about it, I tried to do what I could. It wasn’t an easy battle though. Of course, there were kids who, if they found out how much I hated it, would only do it more just to push my buttons. Then there was your average kid who just couldn’t wrap their minds around the concept…
Me: Hi there!
Boy: Hey Bobby!
Me: …Why did you do that?
Boy: Do what?
Me: Call me Bobby.
Boy: Because. You look like him.
Me: No I don’t. I don’t look anything like him.
Boy: Sure you do.
Me: Allright, fine. Well, see you later Ichiro.
Boy: …Huh? Ichiro?
Me: You know. Ichiro Suzuki, the baseball player.
Boy: Why’d you call me Ichiro?
Me: Because. You look like him.
Boy: But, I don’t look anything like Ichiro.
Me: Well, you’re both Japanese.
Boy: …I don’t get it.
…They never do.
Some of you may think that I overreacted to the whole Bobby thing. I’d just like to say, that I’m a pretty laid back guy. It usually takes a whole lot to get me worked up. And, growing up in and around military bases across California, I’ve been fortunate enough to never really experience racism first-hand. Or, if I did, it wasn’t significant enough to matter. When I go to a restaurant with my parents, they always flinch a little bit if the waiter/waitress happened to sit us in the back, and while I could understand the reaction, I could never truly empathize with it. I’m not a person who wants to play the victim or cry foul at whatever chance I get.
That the whole Bobby issue even became an issue with me shows how big of a problem it was. When I said I’d hear it 5-10 times a day at the very least, that is in no way an exaggeration. If anything, an understatement. I fear though that the only people who will understand the scope of it are black men who happened to be in Japan during that time, and the people around them. Japanese people who hung around me long enough noticed it enough for it to start bothering them. Just last week, I was walking down a shopping arcade in Kyoto with my girlfriend, when she heard a young woman (probably in her 20’s) say “Look, it’s Bobby.” My girlfriend stopped dead in her tracks and said out loud “Goddamnit, that pisses me off!” She tried to say it to the purpetrator, but apparently she’d already walked by and didn’t notice. The gf swears that if she hears “Bobby” again, she’s gonna tell the person off to their face next time.
I’m not writing this article to say that all Japanese people are racist and evil, free the black man. No. It is what it is. It is a sign of Japan’s massive and staggering ignorance when it comes to foreigners and many things outside of their borders. I knew that the people who called me Bobby, in general, meant no harm or foul by it, and probably never stopped to think about it. But, ignorance is not an excuse. If a child runs out into a busy street, you recognize that his ignorance is what made him do so, but you still tell him not to run into anymore streets.
Nor is this something exclusive to blacks. Foreigners are often likened to, and sometimes flat-out confused with celebrities they look nothing like. In those cases, at least the celebrity (probably) isn’t making a fool of themselves on Japanese television. I’ve also heard that there are quite a few Asians in America who have been hit with something like “Hey, it’s Jackie Chan/Lucy Liu!” at one point. Honestly, that’s just as bad, so we can’t say that this is something exclusive to the Japanese. For me though, at the moment I’m here in Japan and can only tackle one problem at a time.
JET is a program for teaching English, but more than that it brings a much-needed foreign presense to Japan. Japan needs foreigners who can come here and break their stereotypes and closed way of thinking, not perpetuate them. It’s not going to be an easy job, and changes won’t happen overnight, but maybe someday, we’ll get to a Japan where being foreign isn’t so damned pigeonholed. Even if none of the kids I taught ever speak a word of English again, if even a small fraction of the Japanese population will no longer freak out upon seeing a Gaijin, then I’ll feel as if I have accomplished something here.
As for my dear friend Bobby, his popularity was cut short when he had a run-in with his manager. I don’t know the details (nor do I care), but whatever happened lead to Bobby being suspended from appearing on Japanese TV for 6 months. After his suspension ended, many networks have become reluctant to feature him because of the incident. Bobby still occasionally appears every now and then, but nowhere near the complete and total exposure he had last year. As a result, I no longer have to hear the Bobby label everytime I leave my house. It still gets thrown around from time to time, but now the incidents are few and far between. I’ve finally gone back to being just “Gaijin” or “large black man”. If nothing else, at least I no longer have to wear my headphones outside.

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155 Responses

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  1. Azrael said, on March 1, 2007 at 12:31 am

    I would like to note that, given what’s been going on in the comments lately, the timing of this post is an unfortunate coincidence. It’s been in the queue for a few weeks – while I thought about changing it, ultimately I decided I’m not going to let my comments section rule over me.

  2. Rob said, on March 1, 2007 at 12:48 am

    Yeah, I used to get Mike Bernardo [another – older – K1 fighter] because we both do the shaved head thing. Now that he’s not as well known anymore, all I get is Bruce Willis, occasionally. Probably neither as much as much as you ever got Bob and Bobby. Sapp never bothered me so much, probably because I liked watching him fight, but Bobby is the definition of clown.
    But it is what is, nothing to get worked up about… you have to figure Japanese think all foreigners are alike, well… because they think all Japanese are alike.
    The best advice I ever got for the Bernardo/Willis thing was to say “Yep, that’s me! Buy me a beer?”

  3. Anonymous said, on March 1, 2007 at 12:50 am

    don’t have a typekey, but i check into gajinsmash every once in a while and enjoy whats going on. I think your lucky to live such an interesting life Az, look at all you’ve written. Whatever’s going on don’t let it get you down. Youre off having adventures in Japan while some of us are stuck in CA, in school, with no clue what’s next. Keep up the good work.
    -DDD

  4. Anonymous said, on March 1, 2007 at 12:50 am

    don’t have a typekey, but i check into gajinsmash every once in a while and enjoy whats going on. I think your lucky to live such an interesting life Az, look at all you’ve written. Whatever’s going on don’t let it get you down. Youre off having adventures in Japan while some of us are stuck in CA, in school, with no clue what’s next. Keep up the good work.
    -DDD

  5. Shinkada said, on March 1, 2007 at 1:03 am

    10 points for having the guts to post this despite the comments, Az. A great post, and it’s a good point. But I’ve also never been to America so I can’t make that much of a comparison – Australia, especially the inner-city areas of Melbourne and Sydney (I live in Melbourne and rarely venture outside the inner-city areas) has an incredibly high population of Asians. It would simply be stupid to call one ‘Jackey Chan’. Well, more stupid than usual. It’d just be moronic to go around calling about 40% of the people on the streets Jackey Chan or Lucy Liu.
    Though I have been into more rural areas a few times and I imagine its populations are close to America. It never really hit me, but I imagine if I spent a week in a rural area, the lack of Asians would finally hit me and all be a bit surreal. I’ve just grown that used to them, just like all the other races. I’ve never really had much appreciation for Australia’s multi-culturalism (since so many of the local barbie-slinging Bogan idiots in their Holden utes love to hurtle down city streets hurling “GO BACK TO YOUR OWN COUNTRY” quips), but when I think about the idea of there being a certain skin-colour of person that you just very rarely see, and who stands out when you DO see them… Well, it’s odd.
    But hey, we all know that one of the key features of Japan is how isolated it is. Racial ignorance is the price you pay for how many radical steps forward in so many areas Japan was responsible for before things such as the internet began to help them get in touch with the rest of the world. Of course, there are the side effects. No other country is as isolated as Japan to be able to come up with things like their weirdo gadgets and their crazy fashion, but at the same time, no one is as isolated enough to be warped enough to invent tentacle porn.
    Ups and downs. Japan’s a land of extremes, I guess. (And much humour!)
    Great article.

  6. draglancer said, on March 1, 2007 at 1:29 am

    . I’ve also heard that there are quite a few Asians in America who have been hit with something like “Hey, it’s Jackie Chan/Lucy Liu!” at one point.
    Oh man, I heard this on a daily basis at my school back in the US. You just kinda get desensitized by it after hearing only so much.

  7. LLJ said, on March 1, 2007 at 1:39 am

    “…They knew I wasn’t a bumbling idiot…”
    Well, if beliving that helps you sleep at night..lol j/ks.
    Everywhere in the world ppl are guarded against things/ppl/customs that are different. They may welcome you with open arms (and hopefully open bars!) but do someting against the norm, custom or expected behaviour, and your automatically that gaijin/foreigner/scum-bag-not-from-here!
    But it is worse for colour, because its so pianfully obvious. I fell you, I have been confused with so many different races, and it does get annoying. Ppl treat you differently on that basis, if their interaction with you is superfical (ie. seeing you on a train.) But once they get to know you it doesnt matter at all, you’re either a nice person they want to get to know or a dick, regardless of colour.
    And dont change your posts due to trolls/attention whores. Your great writing is what ppl keep coming back for, its insightful and entertaining.

  8. annon said, on March 1, 2007 at 1:40 am

    although this is not as extreme as your case, for the most part: now you know how asians, especially the chinese, feel about William Hung!

  9. Kerii-chan said, on March 1, 2007 at 1:51 am

    I just spent 10 days in Japan on Winter Break and I can definitely agree with you. Perhaps not completely emphasize (I think a large black man probably stand out there a lot more than a short, white, brown eyed blonde girl ^^’), but I do realize that they’ve got a thing about foreigners. Sometimes when catching a taxi, we had to make sure we were looking away when we hailed it, because some taxis wouldn’t stop for gaijin.
    Not that anyone was outright rude, many are very polite and friendly. My uncle had a very good way of describing this.
    If you’re a foreigner to japan, they will be nice to you, they’ll welcome you, but they will never truely accept you. It’s the world’s most polite predjudice.

  10. Scar3crow said, on March 1, 2007 at 2:03 am

    I’ve been living in Japan myself since last April, so I certainly know the guys you’re talking about. In fact, that moron Bobby was on TV this morning IIRC, and he recently went on that ‘Shall We Dance’ program. Same old eye-bulging, overreacting stupidity.
    Although I can’t relate to the black thing (I’m another Australian), I do know what you’re talking about in regards to people freaking out about gaijins – I’m living up north in a relatively small city called Kushiro (I’m sure you’ve heard of it Az), and frankly, I can go months at a time without seeing a new foreigner. They recently (a few months ago) had a gaijin winter coming party, and I’d swear about 90% of the people there were chinese, korean, or other of another asian nationality.
    As a result, the people up here aren’t really used to the whole gaijin thing, compared to the people down south in Tokyo etc. Though it has been a blessing in a way – I can speak Japanese reasonably well, and when I go to a store or whatever, you see the initial ‘oh shit’ reaction go through the workers’ face, then the ‘oh thank god’ when they realise I can speak it. Down in Tokyo etc, it’s like Az said in a previous post – people flat out refuse to believe you can understand Japanese.
    What Az says about the black population is oh so true though – when I went visited Tokyo for the first time in 6 months, it was the first time I saw a black person since leaving Australia. It’s a rarity to say the least, and pretty much unheard of up where I live.
    It really is a shame that the vast majority of Japanese people will never really get used to foreigners, since we’re so few over here. It took a while for the people at the dorm I live at to get used to the idea, but they all warmed up to it – hell, I went to dinner with a friend who lives in the room next door, and he was telling me that before I (and the one other foreigner) came, he’d had next to zero interest in foreign things, countries, whatever. But now, having lived with me for nearly a year he, as well as lots of the other people I know, have gotten a better appreciation for foreigners. Even they have started to see how stupid some of the stereotypes and stuff are.

  11. not a doktor said, on March 1, 2007 at 2:05 am

    on a culture enrichment day, tell the kids about Yellomon and Victor Varnando
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Beeno
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_Vernado

  12. Anonymous said, on March 1, 2007 at 2:27 am

    Great post. I think you should translate it into Japanese and let Japanese read it.
    And I am really sorry for your troubles.
    It will take time, but you ARE contributing a lot to Japanese society. Thank you.
    Kerrichan
    “If you’re a foreigner to japan, they will be nice to you, they’ll welcome you, but they will never truely accept you. It’s the world’s most polite predjudice.”
    I am not so sure. It really depends.
    I want to know how gaijin biker think of it.
    http://linmoore.blogspot.com/
    I am not sure how long it has taken for the US to grow as she is now, but Japanese society is also changing. At least that is what I am hoping.

  13. Anonymous said, on March 1, 2007 at 2:27 am

    Great post. I think you should translate it into Japanese and let Japanese read it.
    And I am really sorry for your troubles.
    It will take time, but you ARE contributing a lot to Japanese society. Thank you.
    Kerrichan
    “If you’re a foreigner to japan, they will be nice to you, they’ll welcome you, but they will never truely accept you. It’s the world’s most polite predjudice.”
    I am not so sure. It really depends.
    I want to know how gaijin biker think of it.
    http://linmoore.blogspot.com/
    I am not sure how long it has taken for the US to grow as she is now, but Japanese society is also changing. At least that is what I am hoping.

  14. Psymon said, on March 1, 2007 at 2:40 am

    All I can say is, as a black man living in Japan, I understand.

  15. Tornado said, on March 1, 2007 at 3:46 am

    well, the japanese also think that every blonde blue eyed foreign girl is a stripper. Even if she’s wearing a suit, gives her meishi with both hands and her name is all over the research report she wrote and presented- she will not be allowed to speak in a Japanese meeting, all questions will be directed to the man accompanying her, whose sole job is to repeat what she says verbatim because the Japanese men on the other side of the transaction don’t believe that women are capable of such complex thought. They still think, even after feeding all the answers to the man in the meeting, that said female is an escort, and what boggles their mind is why a foreigner would hire an escort in the middle of the day to come to a meeting. And they’re just too damned polite to say how crazy that is.

  16. Anonymous said, on March 1, 2007 at 4:19 am

    Certain stereotypes can infuriate people, its generally only certain ones against you, and its due to the influence of what people see on TV, therefore one guy on TV is the spokesman for people who share his/her nationality/colour etc. but if it really gets on your nerve just think- At least it could be worse like…
    Hey look! Its Whoopi Goldberg!

  17. Stacy said, on March 1, 2007 at 5:28 am

    I’m an exchange student in Japan, and I’ve had somewhat of the same experience before, although no where near on the same scale. I’m a white female, and although I don’t look anything like her, I’ve been compared to Brittney Spears. I can only assume that this is because they don’t really know what she looks like, but seriously, if someone compared you to Brittney Spears, wouldn’t you be offended?

  18. Cariss said, on March 1, 2007 at 6:16 am

    I think you look like moota in The Cat returns [/random]

  19. Driver Driverson said, on March 1, 2007 at 7:17 am

    Az have you ever experienced this in America? I have plenty of times. Many of the time where there have been say 2 or 3 tall, thin, black males in a class (myself included) and no matter how different we look undoubtedly our names are confused ALL the time. By whites mind you, which is weird to me because this isn’t even blatant racism. These people, as a matter of fact are totally not racist. However this pretty much only occurred with white teachers, hispanic and black teachers never made that mistake. It drove me nuts, and I definitely made mention of it at the time as a joke, but with all the other more blatant racism in this country (bear in mind I’m in Virginia, so I’ve experienced some fucked up shit, and not even in the deep south) I never really thought much more about it.

  20. Daniela said, on March 1, 2007 at 7:21 am

    Hi! I’ve found one of your recent posts last week and now I just can’t stop reading through the whole archive! Your stories are great and I’m completely addicted to them! πŸ™‚ Please, keep writing! I’m from Brazil and I’m going to live in Kyoto for one year, starting in April. If I see you around, I’ll have to give you a hug, man! So if a gaijin-woman starts to stare at you on the street, run! πŸ™‚

  21. Michael said, on March 1, 2007 at 7:29 am

    Reminds me of Crocodile Dundee when he beat up the bad guys on the subway and the Asian guy swore it was Clint Eastwood.

  22. Orioza said, on March 1, 2007 at 8:00 am

    I’m a chinese and hey, the caucasian (westerners) think that I speak chinese. I don’t I speak mandarin. Chinese is a race, not a language. Just like African is a race.
    And why the hell, does it seem that all chinese are kungfu martial arts experts? We can’t fly around the room and more often than not, we can’t take down a guy bigger than us. We do not make a hell of noise when we punch someone either aka Bruce Lee.

  23. Lancer said, on March 1, 2007 at 8:15 am

    That “gaijin talent (tarento)” in Japan must be terrible. There was (I don’t know if he’s still on TV) this italian guy, Girolamo Panzetta, that played the stereotype of the italian (lazy,slacker,pizza lover,mandolino player etc) on TV and many Japanese were disappointed in meeting regular italians that didn’t behaved at all like him..

  24. Matt Metford said, on March 1, 2007 at 8:43 am

    I get “Eh! Matto Deiman!” fairly often, but just at school. And just because my name is Matt. I’ve never been called a celebrity out in the streets, and for that I am thankful. I mean, I’ve been called a lot of OTHER things in the streets, but never a celebrity.

  25. Kirone said, on March 1, 2007 at 8:57 am

    I’m not a black guy like you but I’m big and Yugoslavian. Now apparently while I was in Japan there was a set of movies produced which basically featured a popular Yugoslavian actor as a weapons dealer. Hearing people around me saying that I deal in weapons was no fun specially because unlike you I do look like the actor. So there were people around me calling me things like member of the mob, druglord, hell there were people scared of me.
    And I had no idea why till I saw the movies -.-
    Dude I know how you feel like and I have seen both Bob and Bobby and find them to be idiots and a at some points a disgrace to the foreigners and black people all over the world.

  26. Kohaku said, on March 1, 2007 at 9:15 am

    As a black female in Japan, its slightly better and then slightly worse. Right now, at least I will get Beyonce’ or Whitney Houston…..but I HAVE gotten Whoopi Goldberg….THAT freakin sucks! I look like NONE of them…all that we have in common is that we’re black females…..and that Beyonce’ and I are both curvy….nothing else….I TOTALLY understand your pain!

  27. CKX said, on March 1, 2007 at 9:54 am

    You should check out the Average Asian video’s on Youtube. It’s comedy about asian stereotypes.

  28. A Boy Named Siu said, on March 1, 2007 at 9:55 am

    Yeah.. I hear you man. Growing up with Long Duck Dong from Sixteen Candles, in a predominantly Caucasian city was killer. But is the stereotype character a progression before strong minority roles. And how much do you blame an actor trying to feed his family as opposed to the market for such an actor? If not Bob or Bobby, then someone else willing to play the part, as long as there’s a demand for it. Eventually someone will come along who will want to break those stereotypes. Maybe you?

  29. Anonymous said, on March 1, 2007 at 10:24 am

    Hey, just wanted to say that your post really made me think. I’m seriously considering studying Japanese next year and I’m really glad I read this. Not so much in the sense of that I perhaps shouldn’t do it because of the ignorance towards foreigners but more so that it’s something important I should take in consideration. Thank you for being so open about this.

  30. Becky said, on March 1, 2007 at 11:01 am

    Great post, even though what you had to go through sounded really rough. I don’t usually get mistaken for anyone, but I get called ‘Anne Frank’ occasionally by the people who know I’m Jewish, tasteless as it is. I dunno, whoever told the Japanese that all white foreigners were Christian? The best was in December, when I got to explain that no, I didn’t know any Christmas games for english classes to play, nor did I have any favorite memories to share, and actually, I didn’t celebrate it at all. The response was always, always a blank look and ‘nan de?’ Most people, after they get over that, will take it in stride, until we get back to the thing that brought it up, at which point they won’t understand what me being Jewish has to do with the thing that brought religion up, like me not wearing a crucifix, or not celebrating a certain holiday. Then after that issue gets sorted out, if something else comes up, they remember that I am Jewish but attach no meaning to that and try to get me to conform to Christianity anyhow. Sorry to digress, there, but yeah, the xenophobia is pronounced and, going to a Catholic school with religion classes, nuns, and prayers exactly 14 times a day, its something I deal with a lot. I feel sort of lucky that my minority foreigner status is relagated to just being a tall, curly haired white girl when walking along the street, because at least that is the normal amount of staring, but I think I make up for it with absolute shock about my religion, when it comes up. Also, I don’t recommend talking to the Japanese about the Holocaust, you’re likely to find some frightening opinions.

  31. Mac said, on March 1, 2007 at 12:10 pm

    I was stationed in Okinawa, Japan in the late 90’s. While my similar incident didn’t happen in Japan, your post made me relive the moment.
    While on deployment in Korea, I and a friend were out in the local town looking for a bar to chill at. While walking and talking down a pretty open sidewalk, how when I say open, I mean that the lovely people of the people’s Republic of Korea cleared the sidewalk when they saw me (then 5’10” 165) and my friend (5’8″ 200). This was nothing unusual, during our deployments people usually leave the scary looking black guy alone and assume my friends are just as thuggish and rough as I am.
    As it happens this day wasn’t average, while talking to my friend I didn’t notice the 5′ Korean girl and her 4′ friend walking towards us or I just didn’t pay them any attention. Like I said I’m use to not having anyone around me.
    Well, they were talking and laughing just like we were and the tall one walks right into me. As she is almost a foot shorter than I am, look down and say hello (in Korean) She takes a step back, looks at me and screams at the top of her lungs and flees from sight like some kind of cartoon character (without the cloud of dust). I didn’t see how her friend reacted, because out of no where some guy yells “AMERICAN GOOD, AMERICAN GOOD”. What do you do when something like this happens? Nothing right, we just shrugged it off and continued partying the night away. But this incident kept nagging me; I asked one of the ROKMarines I was on duty with why this happened.
    What he told me basically changed my way of thinking. Korea’s major exposure to Americans and especially black Americans is via the media. Earlier that month a black service member had gotten drunk and caused a major incident that was all over the media. In 90% of movies that have black actors they are doing something criminal, whether it’s breaking the law to right an unjust wrong or sell drugs to stealing and killing. Music videos are another genre that allows black people to display ourselves at our worst. The image we allow that to be portrayed is one of violence, ignorance and worthlessness. The funny part of this, to me at least, is that I have never identified myself with this genre. I have never been gangsta, I’m extremely faraway from hip. I haven’t been cool since high top fades went out. I had on jeans with belt, a shirt with a collar and boots and winter jacket. To this day I have never forgotten the look of terror on her face as she locked eyes with me.
    My question is how you would react if your only exposure to a culture was negative, and the positive is hardly seen and rarely noticed. If I was white would she have reacted the same?

  32. Lonna said, on March 1, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    Thanks a lot for postings a blog about being a English Teacher in Japan. That is what I want to do once I graduate college and a insider view is great!

  33. j said, on March 1, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    while I’m not a typekey member either, I have been reading your writing for awhile and always find it greatly entertaining. I completely understand what you are saying. I spent a few weeks in Japan for work, and I’ll never forget walking through a market and having a guy come up to me and tug on my jacket and ask if I played basketball. while I’m pretty tall at 6’6″, no one would ever confuse my build with that of a basketball player. but apparently, because I was tall, I fit the profile for this guy. and this was an adult, not a child who just didn’t know any better. keep up the good work, and hopefully it gets better for you.

  34. Kibo said, on March 1, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    Dudes…!!! It’s Bobby and a Monkey!!! You have got to see this video. Apparently there is not only “gaijin smash” (performed by foreigners), but also a “gaijin smashing” (performed by the japanese towards foreigners).

  35. Rain said, on March 1, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    This is a really great video on Asian stereotypes in North America:
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-877443643928876680&q=chink+in+the+a
    I cannot imagine how frustrating it must be to constantly be recognized as a fool or clown who has nothing to do with you and who you vividly hate. I’m glad that the actors’ popularity is declining so that you don’t have to endure the comparisons as often, and I hope no one crops up to take their place and light the fires anew. Maybe for a day you should wear a shirt that says “I am neither Bobby Ologun, nor Bob Sapp, any more than you are Ichiro Suzuki”. I don’t know if it would do a damn thing, but it might be interesting to see if passerbys do double-takes or you get fewer comments yelled out around you.

  36. R.S. said, on March 1, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    Very thought-provoking post, Az. I was kind of wondering if you were planning to touch on the Bobby phenomenon. I’m truly glad you did. It’s frustrating enough to be likened to someone simply because of race and gender, but it is more so when said someone is the epitome of buffoonery. Not that I’m supportive of pigeonholing, but it is better to at least be compared to someone who commands some degree of respect. I applaud your attempts to educate your students on this matter. However, I think it would have been somewhat more effective if you had used a Japanese equivalent of Bobby (ugh, I hate the guy with a red-hot passion), rather than a Japanese baseball player. Perhaps, then, it would have registered with them.
    Who knows? Maybe, just, maybe people will learn that one person (or a cluster of individuals) does not represent an entire group. That we can FINALLY practice what we preach and judge people as individuals. Until then, keep educating the masses, I guess *sighs*.

  37. Caged Penguin said, on March 1, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    Good Post Az.
    I’m pretty MTV is still your problem even with the 2 Bob’s =p
    Face it Az, As long as MTV and rap are around the black man will always be seen as a Pimp Lunatic lol.
    Can’t wait for Tuesday!
    Curtis Cage.

  38. Gabe said, on March 1, 2007 at 1:47 pm

    Great article. When I was in Japan I got called Tom Cruse alot because I had the same length of hair he had in The Last Samurai. I hated it because I don’t like him and I don’t look like him at all (we dont even have the same hair color). Eventualy I when from being upset to pity because they honestly don’t know any better. It is like dealing with that one 3-year-old who may say something not out of hate or spite but out of sheer ignorace and they honestly can’t wrap their minds around the concept that it may be saying something wrong.

  39. ViolentAJ said, on March 1, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    Gooooooood Morning Vietnam!
    This post reminds me of when I was a child with my parents in Vegas, and my Dad claimed to see Whoopi Goldberg LOL. Since then, I have seen 4 Samuel L. Jacksons, a Tom Hanks, and I, personally, am Billy D. Williams.
    Maybe I shouldn’t live in Japan after all? I’d lose my wife in a crowd?
    Also, my advice for all Blacks in Japan is to get on the first chopper outta there. I have been reading AmRen. They had a juicy story there about how Asians hate Blacks. Now this website might piss you off, as it pisses me off to an extent. However, I’d advise you to read at your own dicression.
    In other, more important “news”, racism will always exist. You have to TAKE THE PAIN, TAKE THE PAIN. If you can’t, then quit life. Sorry to say it, but it’s true. If you’re Black, realize that nobody likes you, and nobody ever will. Had I not come to that realization, I would have never gone to Japan. I thought to myself, nobody likes me anywhere, so I might as well go where I want to; otherwise, I’ll be stuck here in this one little box, to die a virgin. However, I met my wife and I am happy as hell!
    Also, remember what the dormouse said, feed your head.
    Sorry, I’ve been watching Platoon all week. I’ve seen the movie about 50 times this week, and I’ll probably watch it 5 more times today.

  40. ViolentAJ said, on March 1, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    Anonymous studying Japanese:
    If you are Black, don’t do it. The reason why is because you will waste hours of precious time that could be spent doing physics or calculus…
    Or buying Mitsuki T-shirts.
    http://www.cafepress.com/violentaj

  41. Jonci said, on March 1, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    Well I can’t say I know the full extend of having that done to you, but I know the feeling. In high school, I suddenly became “Ralphy” much to my confusion. I didn’t spread much, but it was annoying to hear it called out in the hallways.
    When I finally asked the guy that started spreading it who the hell “Ralphy” is, he tells me that I look like the character from The Christmas Story. I have never even seen this movie, yet somehow I look like some 7-8 year old kid. Eventually I looked up an image just to find our similarity are blonde hair and glasses. Not even the same hair style or style of glasses.
    To me, calling me by anything other than my name is an insult and I took it very personally. If I was in your position, the word “angry” would have been redefined by the Japanese.

  42. Kalle said, on March 1, 2007 at 3:04 pm

    Coincidentally, I read this [ http://joi.ito.com/archives/2007/02/03/japanese_racism_available_now_at_convenience_shops_near_you.html ] a few days ago. The author of the magazine in question responded with this [ http://www.japantoday.com/jp/news/399166 ]. I was meaning to post something about this here, but didn’t get around to it until now.
    -Kalle.

  43. W. Lee said, on March 1, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    “If nothing else, at least I no longer have to wear my headphones outside.”
    They probably thought you were listening to rap too…

  44. Anonymous said, on March 1, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    I got stationed in Japan for four months in ’97. My friend is a clean shaved black guy and we used to tell people in bars that he was Micheal Jordon and I was Steve Kerr. There are probably a hundred Japanese people out there with our autographs.

  45. Anonymous said, on March 1, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    I got stationed in Japan for four months in ’97. My friend is a clean shaved black guy and we used to tell people in bars that he was Micheal Jordon and I was Steve Kerr. There are probably a hundred Japanese people out there with our autographs.

  46. Shoukanjuu Gaijin said, on March 1, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    Since I am seriously considering joining the JET program after college, this post really got me thinking. Being over six-and-a-half feet tall with long hair, glasses, and a beard gets me stared at quite a bit in the ‘States. I’m quite sure I’d get it CONSTANTLY in Japan, so I’ve been prepared for that, but what I didn’t think about was the Japanese populace’s (specific type of) celebrity fixation. Is there anybody incredibly famous in Japan who fits that description??

  47. purplekitty said, on March 1, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    Yeah every race and culture has it’s own sterotypes and no matter if it’s in an isolated country like japan or a multicutral one like america or australia these are things you just can not escape.
    But also americans (I can’t speak for other countries cause I’m not sure) are also ignorant to asains in general. I’m sure when you were here you there where times when you were teased for having an interest in japan. Where you were labeled a geek or nerd or something to that effect for taking an interest in a country and culture that most people either knew nothing about or didn’t care to know.It’s funny cause when you say you want to learn spanish of french americans are all for it they think your intellegent or smart but say you want to learn japanese or chinese and they think your weird and whatnot. Hmmm I’m having a hard time trying to say what I mean. I hope you can understand what I’m trying to say.
    Though you still have every right to be upset. All it takes to bet ignorance is a little logic and common sense and if people don’t think to use that than you have every right to be upset with them.

  48. Zac said, on March 1, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    This same kind of thing happened to me a while ago when I was in Japan. The only difference was that they all thought that I was Harry Potter because Daniel Radcliffe and I are both white.

  49. Dragonclaws said, on March 1, 2007 at 6:05 pm

    Driver Driverson,
    I’d like to add that I’m a white male computer nerd who practically never does anything social where I need to physically see the person, and I sometimes will interact with these three white females that I have trouble telling apart. So I’d say it’s more of a stranger thing in general than a racial thing.

  50. Defectron said, on March 1, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    Hmmm…that mustve been pretty frustrating being Bob all the time. I’m half asian , but don’t really look it so much so I’ve never been called jackie chan.
    Didn’t know Bob Sapp used to be so big over there, my only real exposure to him was the movie “IZO” a tashi Miike movie about an immortal demon samurai who fights like hell through hordes of samurai, ninja, yakuza, riot police, school kids and ghosts to get revenge on the politicians that ruled the many eras of japan. Bob Sapp played a warrior priest who got cut in half by Izo in that movie. I thought it was a cool movie and would recommend it, but then again after all these bobs, I could understand if you had an aversion to anything associated with them.

  51. Azrael said, on March 1, 2007 at 8:04 pm

    Also, I do not mean to discourage anyone, black or otherwise, who would be considering a study abroad, or to live in Japan for some time. As I said, Japan needs more (good) foreigners to help break stereotypes.
    There is a lot of stupid shit here, yes. But there’s a lot of stupid shit everywhere. No exceptions. You just have to factor in everything, along with your personal decisions, and make your own decision.
    I do think there’s a lot of fantasy that surrounds this country for whatever reason. A lot of people come here only knowing the fantasy, and are somewhat shocked to find the reality. That shock oftentimes turns into bitterness, anger, and resentment. I just hope that people, before coming, could know the whole story – the ups as well as downs. Culture shock may be inevitable, but as is I feel that the majority of foreigners who come here just have no idea what they’re getting into beforehand.

  52. Anonymous said, on March 1, 2007 at 8:10 pm

    I have to say, I understand what you mean. I bear a very slight resemblance to Napoleon Dynamite (going only so far as to have curly hair and glasses), and, even now, two years after the tupping movie came out, I can’t go anywhere without hearing “gosh!” or something like that. It’s not as bad as it was when the movie first came out, where most people, even people who knew who I was, still called me Napoleon instead of my name. It’s infuriating, because I am nothing like him whatsoever. I hate that bleeding movie.

  53. Anonymous said, on March 1, 2007 at 8:10 pm

    I have to say, I understand what you mean. I bear a very slight resemblance to Napoleon Dynamite (going only so far as to have curly hair and glasses), and, even now, two years after the tupping movie came out, I can’t go anywhere without hearing “gosh!” or something like that. It’s not as bad as it was when the movie first came out, where most people, even people who knew who I was, still called me Napoleon instead of my name. It’s infuriating, because I am nothing like him whatsoever. I hate that bleeding movie.

  54. mint said, on March 1, 2007 at 9:30 pm

    I am very ashamed of this behavior and I am not even japanese.
    I am a chinese american, but I must say that the same stereotypes exist in china and probably all over asia (and even in my parents’ heads -_- …but that is another rant). But in defense of the place where many of my relatives live, please understand that it is really ignorance and not hatred that fuels this stuff. What Mac said up there is correct about the media only showing black gangstas and slutty white girls etc in asian countries. This is really the majority of asian exposure to foreign people. Therefore, many asians will have this image in their head of america being this crazy place that is exactly what is shown to them on TV (ie: black people = gangstas). It’s not really their fault.. it’s just the only image of foreign people that they’ve ever known.
    The bigger problem is that the government/media does nothing to stop this stereotyping, probably because they don’t see it as much of a problem, since there are so few foreigners there anyway. This is probably the same reason none of the people really stop to think about what they’re doing when they point and yell “bobby!” at a random black guy walking around japan. Education of the public is really the key here, but it seems like no one really cares enough to do anything about it.
    So I guess what I’m trying to say is.. hold your judgement on the population of japan/korea/china/wherever and consider things from the other viewpoint. I’m not saying that their stereotyping is ok. I’m just saying that it’s not intentional, so please don’t think too badly of us asians. Az seems to understand this.. but I guess I just wanted clarify some possible misunderstandings. I sincerely hope all this can improve and even be fixed and I am very sorry that any of this stuff happens at all.

  55. Patrick said, on March 1, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    See, it’s crap like this that makes me hate humanity.

  56. Eureka said, on March 1, 2007 at 9:48 pm

    AZ, although I love your stories, I found parts of it difficult to believe. Black men a rarity in Japan? It can’t be. I saw hordes of black pimps hanging out at Roppongi every night I go there. . . for research of course. The Japanese population should have been sensitised by now.
    (Az’s Note: Leave Tokyo and see how the landscape changes.)

  57. Saben said, on March 1, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    When I was in Japan Beckham was the big thing. All the girls loved him and from time to time I’d have little kids run up to me and ask if I was Beckham and even adults would say that I looked like him. I took it as a compliment given his popularity, but it is just plain ignorance.
    I’m Australian and about the only physical resemblance was that my hairstyle was “messy” at the time, similar to his. Not even the same length mind-you. Just both of us liked to abuse hair wax.
    I can understand what you mean, Az and sorry you had to go through that.

  58. Anonymous said, on March 1, 2007 at 10:38 pm

    Its not racism its stereotype. And stupidity. Theres a difference.

  59. Anonymous said, on March 1, 2007 at 10:38 pm

    Its not racism its stereotype. And stupidity. Theres a difference.

  60. Lacey said, on March 1, 2007 at 11:13 pm

    As a white female in the US, I can’t say I have ever dealt with racism or stereotypes. The closest for either would be when I went to Puerto Rico and I was called a gringo a few times, but it didn’t bother me, and I can’t honestly tell you why. When I went to college, I was a bit harassed because I had a “hillbilly” accent, but it never went too far.
    That being said, I have been witness to the other side of the aisle. There was a black girl that went to my high school. Only black person in the entire school, and she was hit with BeyoncΓ©, Ashanti, Baby Got Back jokes, the whole deal everyday. She acted like it didn’t bother her, and maybe it didn’t, but I find that hard to believe. I couldn’t believe that some of my classmates were that stupid. (Some I most definitely could believe, the arrogant bigots.) Quite honestly, it nauseated me. I understand that I live in a rural area and most people think we’re still in the fifties, but this is the United States of America, and this shit still goes on?
    I don’t know how you manage to keep your cool. Whatever it is, man, keep holding on to it. I wish I could somehow tell you that it’s going to get better, but I’m not a psychic. I hope it does, though. And maybe this next generation that you’re teaching will wise up some and not be as ignorant. I know, I know, unlikely, but it’s worth hoping for, yeah?
    I hope this doesn’t come across as condenscending, but I’m proud of you. You keep going and you don’t lose your cool. That’s very admirable, and I applaud you.

  61. Gedun said, on March 2, 2007 at 12:04 am

    You’re right, ignorance is not an excuse but at least there is no malicious intent behind it (as far as you can tell). I actually work with a gentleman who would routinely call an asian co-workers whom I am friends with “Yao Ming” simply because they are both Chinese.
    I asked him time and again NOT to because it was goddamn racist. Much like some of the students you referred to, he just didn’t get it and as a minority himself he knew full well what he was doing.
    I have to respect you for realizing that what you were suffering was in large part due to Japan being generally close minded when it comes to these matter…but i can also understand that there’s only so much us black men can take!

  62. Anonymous said, on March 2, 2007 at 12:48 am

    Hi,
    In Bangkok, a taxi driver once asked where me and my friends were from. When I answered Canada, he then asked “Ok, but what about her?”, referring to a Vietnamese-Canadian girl. Canada too, we answered. “No, where is she really from?”
    We tried to explain but it wouldn’t register with the cabby. When I finally explained that her parents were originally from Vietnam, he went “Ok, she’s Vietnamese!”.
    The fact is, most nations on Earth are essentially viewed as ethnic. And hence, most people are essentially racist, whether they’ll judge you on ethny or religion (when not on gender, orientation, social status, level of education, clothes styles…)
    It’s either an innocent attempt to classify you in a familiar box, like “Bobby”, or it can lead to more violence.
    In Thailand, no American type ghettos. But you’ll find slums where millions of ethnic Laotians live: people who’ve fled poverty in the countryside.
    The Thais often openly call those people “kwai” (buffalo) in reference to the animal’s lack of wits and initiative. Unsurprisingly, like Afroamericans in the US or Canada, those Laotians tend to stay trapped at the bottom of the ladder.
    Only some societies actively question such notions on the public place: Especially “immigration-based” societies, like in North America and Western Europe.
    Even then, go out to small towns, and in many places you’ll find the same sentiments. Sometimes expressed a lot more violently.
    My point is we need plenty more patience – and efforts – before we’ll see evolution on this question.
    Keep up the good work !
    Both writing this blog AND keeping alive the black man’s “biku dicku” myth among new generations of boys in faraway lands.

  63. Anonymous said, on March 2, 2007 at 12:48 am

    Hi,
    In Bangkok, a taxi driver once asked where me and my friends were from. When I answered Canada, he then asked “Ok, but what about her?”, referring to a Vietnamese-Canadian girl. Canada too, we answered. “No, where is she really from?”
    We tried to explain but it wouldn’t register with the cabby. When I finally explained that her parents were originally from Vietnam, he went “Ok, she’s Vietnamese!”.
    The fact is, most nations on Earth are essentially viewed as ethnic. And hence, most people are essentially racist, whether they’ll judge you on ethny or religion (when not on gender, orientation, social status, level of education, clothes styles…)
    It’s either an innocent attempt to classify you in a familiar box, like “Bobby”, or it can lead to more violence.
    In Thailand, no American type ghettos. But you’ll find slums where millions of ethnic Laotians live: people who’ve fled poverty in the countryside.
    The Thais often openly call those people “kwai” (buffalo) in reference to the animal’s lack of wits and initiative. Unsurprisingly, like Afroamericans in the US or Canada, those Laotians tend to stay trapped at the bottom of the ladder.
    Only some societies actively question such notions on the public place: Especially “immigration-based” societies, like in North America and Western Europe.
    Even then, go out to small towns, and in many places you’ll find the same sentiments. Sometimes expressed a lot more violently.
    My point is we need plenty more patience – and efforts – before we’ll see evolution on this question.
    Keep up the good work !
    Both writing this blog AND keeping alive the black man’s “biku dicku” myth among new generations of boys in faraway lands.

  64. Anonymous said, on March 2, 2007 at 2:54 am

    Great post! You have a very valid point. However, as an asian myself, I have to admit one very strange thing – I find it very hard to tell some black people apart. I’m not racist, in fact, I grew up most of my life in the United States. I have a few good friends who are black. But it’s as if a part of my face-recognition brain area is broken – given two faces that are not blatantly dissimilar, I will have a hard time telling them apart.
    I’m just saying that there might be something deeper than this. It’s very possible that asians are in general very bad at telling black people apart. I joke with many of my asian friends about this, and it seems to be quite common amongst us.
    I definitely wouldn’t forgive your students for doing that, but perhaps the strangers are different… Maybe you DO look like that celebrity to them?

  65. Anonymous said, on March 2, 2007 at 2:54 am

    Great post! You have a very valid point. However, as an asian myself, I have to admit one very strange thing – I find it very hard to tell some black people apart. I’m not racist, in fact, I grew up most of my life in the United States. I have a few good friends who are black. But it’s as if a part of my face-recognition brain area is broken – given two faces that are not blatantly dissimilar, I will have a hard time telling them apart.
    I’m just saying that there might be something deeper than this. It’s very possible that asians are in general very bad at telling black people apart. I joke with many of my asian friends about this, and it seems to be quite common amongst us.
    I definitely wouldn’t forgive your students for doing that, but perhaps the strangers are different… Maybe you DO look like that celebrity to them?

  66. Anonymous said, on March 2, 2007 at 3:47 am

    As an Asian American, I remember what it was like a few years back when the whole William Hung on American Idol thing came out. Multiply it by ten and I think I can see what you’re going through. Sadly, having such racially homogenous societies do promote such things.

  67. Anonymous said, on March 2, 2007 at 3:47 am

    As an Asian American, I remember what it was like a few years back when the whole William Hung on American Idol thing came out. Multiply it by ten and I think I can see what you’re going through. Sadly, having such racially homogenous societies do promote such things.

  68. Old School said, on March 2, 2007 at 3:48 am

    Once again, another great article. Too bad it had to be written because of some insecure pantywaist attention whore with no shred of confidence to be found.
    Reading the experiences in the Comments makes up for it, however. Shows that there are people who experience prejudice and shake it off, not letting it bother them (unlike some people).

  69. Kacie Landrum said, on March 2, 2007 at 4:43 am

    I’m a small, white female, and even I’ve experienced some of that. I’m pretty short even by Japanese standards–about 5’2”–and thin, and have a soft voice, and look fairly young for my age. But that doesn’t stop many of my students from being TERRIFIED of me. I’ve had several classes where the students (even GROWN MEN!) sat in the corner, wiped the sweat off their brows about once every two minutes, and trembled every time I asked a question. I’ve had kids refuse to come into the classroom with me, barely managing to gather the nerve to peek in the window every couple of minutes. My first week in Tokyo, I was waiting in line at a restaurant to use the toilet. A little boy in front of me turned around, saw me, and bugged out. He ran screaming for the bathroom door, which was unfortunately unlocked, and everyone in the restaurant got a view of his father’s pale backside. I can only imagine how little children here react to big, black guys.

  70. Tommie said, on March 2, 2007 at 5:39 am

    Now I see what that Bobby nonsense was. I came to Japan in March, I don’t speak Japanese, and the whole Bobby and Bob Sapp references flew right by me. I see now.

  71. Anon2 said, on March 2, 2007 at 7:03 am

    Anonymous, you’re kidding, right? Please tell me you’re kidding. Google Bobby Olugon and Bob Sapp, then compare their pictures to Az’s. They look absoulutely NOTHING alike! The only thing they have in common is that they’re tall black men. Saying all blacks look alike is JUST as bad (and ignorant) as saying that all Asians look alike (which I have heard countless times). All it takes is paying good attention to realise otherwise.
    Also, when you have to preface a sentence with “I’m not racist”, chances are, you ARE racist. I’m just saying……

  72. dutchguy said, on March 2, 2007 at 8:47 am

    wondering what celebrity i would be as a blond blue eyed guy….brad pitt? lol πŸ™‚

  73. aika said, on March 2, 2007 at 9:19 am

    Yeah Az, Cyril Abidi all but admitted that fight was fixed.
    I guess the bright side is that Bobbys brother Andy is now in the spotlight in K-1, so at least you wont be called a derivative of robert anymore!

  74. Anonymous said, on March 2, 2007 at 11:34 am

    That sounds like a horrible experience, and the other comments don’t seem to be that encouraging either. Though it certainly makes me feel blessed to live in a very multicultural environment where, I hope, the issue of ethnic stereotyping is dissappearing.
    I am very curious as to what reactions I am going to get when I go to Japan. I am probably the exact opposite of Az as I am female, very short (5′), very pale, green eyes and curly red-brown hair. Though I am small I am still very well-endowed in the T&A area. Growing up in Canada I got teased for my paleness and have to deal with men openly ogling my T&A all the time here (regardless of the fact that I dress rather conservatively)… I’m curious to know what other foreign females’ experiences are like in Japan. I know there is the stereotype of the pretty blondes being thought of as escorts or strippers, but what about sort-of-redheads or short foreigners? Or what I would get compared to?

  75. Anonymous said, on March 2, 2007 at 11:34 am

    That sounds like a horrible experience, and the other comments don’t seem to be that encouraging either. Though it certainly makes me feel blessed to live in a very multicultural environment where, I hope, the issue of ethnic stereotyping is dissappearing.
    I am very curious as to what reactions I am going to get when I go to Japan. I am probably the exact opposite of Az as I am female, very short (5′), very pale, green eyes and curly red-brown hair. Though I am small I am still very well-endowed in the T&A area. Growing up in Canada I got teased for my paleness and have to deal with men openly ogling my T&A all the time here (regardless of the fact that I dress rather conservatively)… I’m curious to know what other foreign females’ experiences are like in Japan. I know there is the stereotype of the pretty blondes being thought of as escorts or strippers, but what about sort-of-redheads or short foreigners? Or what I would get compared to?

  76. long time reader said, on March 2, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    REading since outpost.
    Fantastic post. Really enjoyed it. I like the posts with YOUR insights into Japanese culture as an outsider the best. Well done!

  77. J-hoosier said, on March 2, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    If it makes you feel any better, my friend used to get called “Frodo” all the time. So he went and shaved his head, just in time for “Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind.” Made me laugh all the harder.
    Of course, my name’s Jeremy, so the first thing my students exclaimed when I walked in the room is, “It’s a boy!” Dunno which one’s worse.
    Seriously, though, I think Az’s doing Japan a great service by being in a less foreigner-infested part of the country. In the Shonan area there are lots of foreigners of all sorts (English teachers of all races from all countries, not to mention South Americans who work in the factories and Africans who work in the hip-hop shops). So people seem pretty used to foreigners. The downside is if you’re black, you’re assumed to be a knife-wielding African hoodlum, and if you’re a white female you’re obviously a Russian hostess. My Filipina co-worker used to always get propositioned by drunk salarymen.

  78. Jack Mott said, on March 2, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    HEY BOBBY!!!!!!!
    omg ahahahahahahaha
    sorry

  79. Thavglmog said, on March 2, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    Ok I’m white and from a country that until two decades ago had little or now idea that black people existed outside of movies or books. That said, looking at Az’s picture? Bobby Ologun? I’m gonna have to agree with Az on that one. I can understand the problem, some of my friends went to China and it took one or two day for them to be able to tell people apart. But a guy that appears on TV regularly? I see black people here and they don’t look like Eddie Murphy. And even though I’ve seen some Asians that are similar to Jackie I can tell they’re not Jackie Chan! I think people should just take a second look, but that’s probably too much to ask in today’s society.

  80. Greg said, on March 3, 2007 at 12:23 am

    Has anyone seen the Bobby Ologun mask that they sold (and maybe still sell) at Don Quixotes in Japan? Look it up on google. I’m not even black and I was offended by it. Japan and the world still has a long way to go…

  81. Pookie said, on March 3, 2007 at 12:29 am

    I’m a long-time reader, and I was wondering why you haven’t written about this before, what with the Black stereotypes ever so present on Japanese TV. Yeah, it’s funny, but I know how you feel. I’m a nursing student, and I am Asian, so there are two stereotypes there I am unable to avoid.
    As for the whole Jackie Chan/Lucy Liu thing, I’ve only encountered that once, and that was during my clinicals in a mental hospital. I was fondly remembered by my patients there as Bruce Lee.

  82. Anonymous said, on March 3, 2007 at 4:58 am

    Bobby pissed me right the fuck off too. He made me embarassed for the human race – why would people produce or consume that kind of crap?

  83. Anonymous said, on March 3, 2007 at 4:58 am

    Bobby pissed me right the fuck off too. He made me embarassed for the human race – why would people produce or consume that kind of crap?

  84. Steve said, on March 3, 2007 at 9:23 am

    This post reminded me of others where you talked about how Japanese people couldn’t get their heads around the fact that you can speak Japanese, even if you’ve been speaking Japanese with them for the past 20 minutes. If it helps at all, the exact same thing happened to me in Vienna – I and a couple of friends had been speaking German to this lady for 20 minutes when we overheard her tell her friend that we were “barely capable” in German. Since we were in school over there, being taught in German by an Austrian professor, I’m pretty sure that was an exaggeration at the very least.
    Also – and more to the point of your post – it’s simply human nature to concentrate on differences among people you see every day, and concentrate on similarities among people you see rarely – it’s just how our brains work. Does that make it okay to laugh, point and comment? Absolutely not! That’s insensitive no matter what age you are or what culture you’re from. So I guess I’m making the completely unhelpful suggestion that you try to understand their confusion while not forgiving their rudeness. πŸ˜‰
    Keep on being a patient emissary for all Gaijin everywhere, and good luck with the job hunt!

  85. colagirl said, on March 3, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    Hi Az,
    Been reading for a while–as a bit of a Japanophile myself (just a *little* bit of one) I find your posts and writings both informative and often hilarious–it’s a fascinating view of Japanese culture.
    You commented: “Some of you might think I’m overreacting” to the whole Bob/Bobby thing. As a white female living in the U.S. I’ve fortunately never been exposed to much in the way of prejudice or racism; however I don’t think you overreacted at all. I can definitely see that hearing that sort of thing day in, day out, over and over again would really start to get to just about anyone after a while, kind of like being poked with a needle over and over again. I admire your self-restraint in resisting the urge to knock people’s teeth down their throat. At least you mentioned that Bobby was no longer on TV, and that the whole Bob/Bobby thing was starting to die down, so at least there’s that. Anyway, keep posting–I look forward to your great updates!

  86. Excel-2007 said, on March 3, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    I’ve been compared to Chow Yun Fat and Kim Jong Il in my own nation (I’ve never traveled abroad) after I decided to post photographs of myself. I don’t know why. If you want, I can let you see for yourselves.

  87. ViolentAJ said, on March 3, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    God damn it Greg! Like I’ve always said, Japanese hate Black people, as do the majority of all non-Blacks. The japs will never change. There will always be a handful that do not hate Blacks, but for the most part, the Jap[anese, along with all non-Black races, will hate Blacks for the most part. This is fact.
    I am Black, my wife is Japanese. I know the truth. I have years of experience.

  88. Sam said, on March 3, 2007 at 7:50 pm

    It’s cultural. Asian cultures tend to project their own cultural uniformity onto other races, and voila, you have the polite and prejudiced society that accepts others but gets away with social disrespect to the nth degree due to this race barrier that everything seems to be excused by. I think Japan is the worst of them all since the cultural pride has been immensely stiffened since their loss in WWII–cultural pride was all they had left, and even now they deny war crime accusations and any culpability from WWII. It’s…sad. And painful to those of us who have to deal with it.

  89. mephy said, on March 3, 2007 at 10:17 pm

    i’m a goth in a redneck town. so i know exactly what you mean with getting yelled at 5-10 times per day. (and everyone thinks they’re so original!)
    conversely Japan was the only place i’ve been to where people thought i was “cool” and not a freak – although they were quite scared at first.
    Az, you’re very brave to post this and to be honest about the state of Japan and of your standing there. i admire you.

  90. Dillon said, on March 3, 2007 at 11:32 pm

    I know what you mean. They do it to every groups that is not Japanese. I`m glade I came to Japan. I`m a High School Exchange Student and I have blond hair and blue eyes. One day I got a haircute, it was a fauxhawk. I didnt want it but my japanese sucked at the time. I come it to school and everyone is like you look like beckham…no i dont. yes u do…i look nothing like him whatsoever. yes u do…shut the fuck up please…for the amount of foreign culture that is being pumped into Japan through music, tv, movies,…well nevermind that explains everything

  91. Azrael said, on March 4, 2007 at 7:58 am

    AJ,
    I’m black. My girlfriend is Japanese. I have years of experience. I don’t think that all, or even a significant majority of Japanese people hate blacks.
    Please don’t try to be the authority on this, because you are not.

  92. Tia said, on March 4, 2007 at 8:02 am

    Interesting article. I like hearing your views. Don’t worry about what people think; they come to hear your views, even if they disagree. I think you have a funny sense of humor. I think racism exists everywhere. Think about how you first viewed Japan. Your perception has changed. Your parents may flinch being seated in the back of a restaurant but as a former waitress, we must follow a rotating chart. We seat people based on which servers are working in which areas and then we rotate guests so each server gets an equal number of tables. So, before jumping to conclusions and exclaiming, “Racist!,” we should all try to look at both sides of the story. I guess if you are like .0001% of the population, Japanese people will think you resemble the one other black person they know. It’s rude, but not necessarily racist. Don’t be too quick to play the race card.

  93. Anonymous said, on March 4, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    Az wrote”
    AJ,
    I’m black. My girlfriend is Japanese. I have years of experience. I don’t think that all, or even a significant majority of Japanese people hate blacks.
    Please don’t try to be the authority on this, because you are not”
    Well said! I think people are way too quick to throw around the hate label. I would have probably agreed with the OP had he said that people are “misinformed” about blacks or even don’t quite understand blacks. But hate? Umm….no. Methinks the OP has too many issues (and I am being dead serious).

  94. Anonymous said, on March 4, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    Az wrote”
    AJ,
    I’m black. My girlfriend is Japanese. I have years of experience. I don’t think that all, or even a significant majority of Japanese people hate blacks.
    Please don’t try to be the authority on this, because you are not”
    Well said! I think people are way too quick to throw around the hate label. I would have probably agreed with the OP had he said that people are “misinformed” about blacks or even don’t quite understand blacks. But hate? Umm….no. Methinks the OP has too many issues (and I am being dead serious).

  95. ViolentAJ said, on March 4, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    Azrael, Wife > girlfriend.
    AJ pwnz j00, AJ pwnz j00 all.
    Since we are both Black, we must settle this with a freestyle battle. I demand satisfaction.
    Yo, this is my rap,
    You’re full of crap,
    I’ve got the skills because I’m married to a Jap,
    I pwn j00, like Admiral Ackbar said “it’s a trap”,
    In Hiroshima this summer, I’m going to make it clap,
    Yellow buns slapping on my pelvis make a sound like “FAP”,
    I’ve got lyrical skills that makes the crowd snap,
    If total ownage is directions, then I’ve got the map.
    I’m a lyrical Nazi, I should Sieg Heil!
    A lyrical Holocaust you can’t match my style,
    I’ll leave you bruised, your body in a pile,
    Take a picture save it to a .JPEG file,
    Nihonjin ha Kokujin ga kirai desu,
    Toy with ViolentAJ, you’re toying with the best,
    Try to play with me I’ll destroy you like the rest,
    The thing for you to do now is confess.

  96. tk said, on March 4, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    The reverse happens all the time here in America, though the degree does vary depending on where you live (it happens more in cities with a predominant ethnic majority) and definitely not at the same intensity you describe. Very nice American (non-Asian) people seem to have the need to tell me I exactly look like some Asian person they’ve seen on television at some point after we first meet. I go home, look up the person mentioned at the time online, and find a face that bears no resemblance to mine other than having Asian features. So, I don’t think it’s limited to Japan.

  97. Azrael said, on March 4, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    And AJ, starting from the very first day you met, how long have you known said wife? How many other Japanese girlfriends/wives have you had aside from this one? How many other Japanese parents have you met? Have you actually ever lived and worked in the country for an extended period of time?
    And while I’m rolling off questions…do you think you wife appreciates you always being so negative about her race? How would you feel if she constantly said “all black people are lazy criminals who don’t take care of their kids”? Have you ever stopped to think that the things you experienced, maybe possibly cannot be applied to the whole?
    I flat out disagree with you. Japanese people do not hate blacks. Yes, there are stupid racial stereotypes and a lot of ignorant behaviors. It’s not flat out hate, it’s just massive ignorance. And it’s not just us – just read upwards to see people of all sorts of ethnicities having the same problems in Japan. And, people of Asian decent having the same problems, right there in America.
    Granted, I’m no authority either. I too can only go by my experiences, and try to weigh those against the whole. But if we’re going to get into a pissing contest over who has the most experience about this, this is not a contest you can win, period.
    You’ve had your piece. And I don’t mind comments, *that are relevant to the actual post*. But if you insist on making every topic “Japanese people hate blacks”, then I am just not going to approve your comments anymore.

  98. Tia said, on March 4, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    I had a question about weight in Japan. Maybe this is not the right thread in which to post my question? It’s about how Americans are perceived in Japan, especially how their weight is perceived. I have heard from quite a few people that Japanese people may say rude things to foreigners about their weight. Maybe to their face or behind their backs. I’ve also heard it’s not uncommon for a Japanese person to tell their friend, “Wow, you sure are getting fat!” Apparently it’s not considered rude to point this out? Now, I have no idea if the things I’ve heard are true or not. That’s why I’d really appreciate it if some of you out there can shed some light on the subject.
    I am not fat. I am not thin. I’m what Americans would call “average” with nice “attributes.” I am actually an ESL teacher in America with many kids from all around the world. One of the things I’ve noticed about my Japanese students is they will make extremely rude comments about Americans, (i.e. dirty country, fat Americans, the fact that Pearl Harbor was an “accident.” Yes, one 7 year-old girl didn’t like the tan she acquired over spring break because it made her look like a “Hawaii people.”) Now, these are elementary students, ages 5 – 11, so when they call me fat, it doesn’t phase me. Children have not developed an automatic mute button or the ability to self-correct their words before they leave his or her mouth. So, no big deal, it doesn’t bother me when they say it, but it does make me wonder what the heck is being said at home! I will hopefully be living in Japan soon and although no one here would consider me fat, I’m starting to wonder if Japanese people are going to make snide comments under their breath when I pass by? I doubt they would intentionally be rude, but I’m wondering if any of you out there are overweight and living in Japan or maybe you know someone overweight that lives in Japan…. Any anecdotes you could share?
    This “Bobby” post made me think of how Japanese people will perceive me. I am a white female and something someone said about white American women being stereotyped as having sex with anyone, being too strong-willed, etc., made me want to further explore this discussion. During parent/teacher conferences with my Asian students’ parents, I get the impression that the way they perceive gender roles, weight, skin color, the way they raise their children, etc., is so very different in comparison to the culture in which my other non-Asian students are raised. I’d love to hear more comments on this subject.
    By the way, Az, I really do love your editorials. (Judging from your pictures you aren’t too shabby either! Teach me the octopus! …….. Kidding!) I see a lot of my own students in the stories you have written. Many, many similarities…. Except none of them would dare kancho me! I registered my name/email at your outpost 9 forum but unfortunately it will not let me post this comment. I doubt many people will see this post this far down in this thread and I’d really love some ideas about “weight in Japan.”
    Thank you!
    (Az’s Note – I read every comment. ^_^ Oh, and I’ll go make sure to activate your OP9 account, so if you wanna take the discussion there, I and many others will have some responses for you I’m sure.)

  99. ViolentAJ said, on March 4, 2007 at 11:46 pm

    Well, I have known and been with my wife for about 3 months now.
    My dear wife is the only Japanese girl I have ever been involved with. I have met plenty of other Japanese people in my life, and have a handful of Japanese friends; some of the nicest people I have ever met.
    I have not met any Japanese parents from the perspective of a husband/boyfriend. My wife is the first and only Japanese woman that I have met willing to touch a Black person.
    I have not lived/worked in Japan for an extended period of time, but I have read much about it, and have spoken to Japanese people online as a Black person, and mascarading as a White. As a Black, they immediately block me; as a White, some girls wanted to flash me on webcam.
    I’m not speaking negatively of her race; I’m merely stating facts. Like I said, there are Japanese people that I truly adore (my wife included, of course), and Japanese people that I bloody cannot tolerate, same with Blacks, Whites, any other race you can think of, even Jews.
    My wife knows that her people don’t care for my people, she’ll be the first to admit it. If my wife told me that Black people were lazy, shiftless, criminalistic, etc., I would not mind. I know that she would not be talking about me, my family, or Black firneds that we have that are generally decent people. If she is referring to what is shown on the media, and what sadly a good deal of Black youths seem to be emulating (I don’t have exact numbers, but I see examples with my own eyes, and I am certainly not saying that ALL Blacks are bad, because I’m awesome), then I could not possibly blame her for stating the truth.
    We’re not going to be having kids. We have discussed our future together, and after I finish college, we’ll be headed to Japan. Japanese/Blacks will not fare well in such a climate; in the USA, they’d only be accepted by a small minority of Blacks, or maybe Whites that are torn between “wapanese” and “wigger” (I have White friends,a nd generally speaking, Whites have been pretty decent to me, I’m merely stating the prospects of any children that my Wife and I may have).
    As for your claim of having more XP on the matter, I have read so much about Japan it’ll make j00r head swim. You could not possibly comprehend the complexities of Japanese culture that I can. For instance, take the bombing of Pearl Harbour. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour merely to kill Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character (forgot the guy’s real name, and that movie sucked). Also, take the Geisha for example. Geishas are an elite femme fatale clan that beg for White cock and hates Black people; paradigm for the “perfect” Japanese woman.
    Yes, I am a whole volume of knowledge on Japanese culture, and my wife knows so much more, her being Japanese and all. Yes my friends, if you are looking for the ultimate authority on Japanese culture, look no further, for he has arrived.
    AJ <3s j00.

  100. soumakyo said, on March 5, 2007 at 12:45 am

    ah ah this is so true. Once any Japanese knows that my name is Leo, they immediately find me an uncanny resemblance with Leonardo di Caprio. And I don’t look the least like him.
    One of my friends was likened to Zidane (for the report, Zidane is bald-ish and my friend had wavy blond hair), but it was during the world cup, so I guess you just got compared to the most famous gaijin of the moment…
    This said, back in France, it’s a bit the same, most of “non asia-trained” people can’t tell 2 japanese guys apart, and we do have some asian people (not as much as in US, though)
    That’s why I keep to my self and painfully accept to be Leonardo Di Caprio for time to time

  101. Azrael said, on March 5, 2007 at 12:57 am

    Ok, let me get this straight.
    Been with your girlfriend/wife, the first and only Japanese girl you’ve been with, for a grand total of 3 months. Never met her folks. Have met “plenty other” Japanese folks. Talked to many others online. You “have read so much about Japan it’ll make j00r head swim.” And you are the authority on Japan, especially when it comes to black people and the Japanese’s supposed hatred of them.
    Oh AJ. Dear, sweet AJ.
    Now, it’s my turn.
    Been dating my girlfriend for 1 year, 7 months. Met her folks, and her brother and sister. This is my second serious relationship with a Japanese girl – the first was my infamous ex. We dated for 1 year+, I guess 1 year 6 months if you count the birthday incident as the official breakup (see Moeko’s Owl). Met her folks, and her brother. Non-serious relationships with Japaense girls…I don’t wanna get into the number, but we’ll just say it’s FAR more than you.
    Live and work with Japanese people, well, everyday. Have lived here for almost 4 years. Have held three different jobs here. Have many Japanese friends. Interact with some Japanese people online, who do know I’m black. Have interacted with Japanese people online, did not tell them I was black or Gaijin, told them later, and after the initial shock they didn’t really seem to care. Conversely, a few were amused/happy to find that out. Made friends with my girlfriends friends. Three of them are getting married this year – I’m invited. Made friends with my gf’s younger brother. He insisted on taking a lot of pictures so he could show all his friends in college “his really cool soon-to-be older brother-in-law”.
    And, I sort of gave up on reading about Japan when, you know, I started living there.
    Like I said, if it comes down to a pissing contest here, I win.
    And do get your head out of the Japan books. I read books too, and let me tell you, it just doesn’t paint the whole picture. Not even close.

  102. ViolentAJ said, on March 5, 2007 at 2:10 am

    Well, I read more websites than books. I migrated to this website when I found out that it was run by a Black person. I had to pounce on the opportunity.
    I have gone to Debito, but they neve publish my commentary; perhaps it is because I’m Black?
    I have also gone to Amren. They have published one of my comments, but it had nothnig to do with Japan. I dare not post there anymore, as all of the WN’s will destroy me, and the resident “I have a Japanese wife” dude there would probably pwn me too. AJ picks his battles wisely. Battles that are winnable, and worth winning.
    Well, you must be an anamoly then.
    Also, do not call me sweet or dear, it is reserved for my wife. I’d prefer it if you were to call me Colonel or Sir, I believe I’ve earned it.

  103. Becky said, on March 5, 2007 at 8:42 am

    “…and Japanese people that I bloody cannot tolerate, same with Blacks, Whites, any other race you can think of, even Jews.” -ViolentAJ
    Just… a little error, um, Jews aren’t a race. Its a religion.
    But either way, ignorance (because thats what I think that above mistake was, just like how rude the Japanese can occasionally be is due to ignorance)is unintentional. To know better and persist, that is racism. One of the worst days of my life was when I realized that my dad’S impressions of my chinese friend’s family weren’t funny, they were offensive, and when I asked him to stop, he wouldn’t.
    So, a little joke to lighten things up?
    Q: Whats the difference between ignorance and apathy?
    A: I don’t know and I don’t care.
    Az, thanks for writing this. I’m going to try harder to not let ignorant comments get to me. Haha, for I am a non-Japanese JAP.

  104. El-ahrairah said, on March 5, 2007 at 9:31 am

    Thank you for blowing the doors off, of any remaining trace of japophile in me. It is..informative to say the least to see the first hand experiences and opinions of this place from a Cali natives P.O.V.; Anyway, keep it up.

  105. An Airman in Aomori said, on March 5, 2007 at 11:11 am

    I can remember about 5 months ago, I was on a bus ride coming home from Tokyo. We stopped at this rest-joint or whatever you’d like to call it.
    I was walking out of the bathroom with a friend, and upon seeing us, this little Japanese boy, who was running to the restroom, came to a screeching halt, and looked at us with a worried look on his face, then back at his father, who shook his head “No.”.
    Then, about a week ago, I was at a mall. A Japanese man and his son had taken the same route as I toward the food court, but from a different route. The child stopped in his tracks with arms out, almost as if he were trying to hold his father back while looking at me and my group of friends.
    Now, for the most part, since Aomori is the Japanese equivalent of Montana, with most of the local population for about the closest 4 cities frequently interacting with Americans (in my case, African American men), we have a fairly decent rep with them, save for a few incidences.
    Hell, I two-piece’d a Japanese guy at a club on New Years, but he hit me first. Right behind my left ear.
    However, the stereotypes are still about like nobody’s business. Now I’m a milk chocolate-skinned guy, mind you.
    I’ve been equated to the likes of Ne-Yo, Will Smith, Tupac (that pisses me off the most), and assorted others on my iTunes playlist. Just because I’m black. I look nothing like those people. Perhaps once I got compared to Sean Patrick Thomas, but I look more like him than the others I mentioned.
    However, I will not stand for Bob Sapp or Bobby Ologun. I let my Japanese friends know that with the fastness.
    I saw the magazine about Foreigners devastating Japan with their crime or whatever.
    Had my classiness not withstood, I wouldn’t have hesitated to point out to the readers that the biggest devastation caused to Japan by Foreigners happened 62 years ago, and on two separate days at that. But I wasn’t going to do that.
    Now, being an American, I do realize that stereotypes are abound in my homeland. Yes. I know that.
    The difference is that we are TRYING to make strides at a more racially harmonic society. Japan isn’t doing so in the least. Not when a man who is discriminated against files and loses a lawsuit over it.
    My father was stationed at Yokota from 1981-83. He mentioned to me once that a little kid had said something like “Daddy, look at the kokujin!” or whatever. I had no idea what he was getting at. He did tell me, however, that I would like this place. I can only imagine what he, a soldier of the 3rd Infantry and eventually an Unknown Soldier Tomb guard could have went through in regardsto stereotypes, especially when these Japs didn’t know anything abot him. Or me.
    I wish I could leave here, go back to DC, and tell him and my sister that I liked this place, but these stories, coupled with my experiences, are really beginning to irk the hell outta me.
    I’m so open-minded, however, that I’m not willing to continue believing that Black people are hated by everyone else. Trust me; I believed such before coming here. Especially in high school, and such thoughts were what initially were going to hold me back from joining the United States Air Force; Why fight for others who don’t like me, and in return, I will not give two fucks about?
    I had a girlfriend of Puerto Rican stock. She liked me. Brother liked me. Parents didn’t. And there was no given reason why. I was a prospective Morgan State University attendee at the time. No criminal record. I wasn’t a thug. I could breakdance somebody out of their skin on some “Breakin'”-type shit though.
    But as I’m not stupid, I know the real reason. It has something to do with my melanin content.
    My father’s statement only reinforced my notions of everyone being against my race just a bit.
    Perhaps my Japanese girlfriend of 7mos will help me find solace in this nonsense. Maybe.
    But until then, I’m just waiting to be able to peel off a rant and complaint on how my race has been treated here (in general) in fluent Japanese.

    And like the other guy, I too am/was wondering why you never spoke about this earlier. Or even the caricatures in anime and things the like of that old “Dakko-Chan” doll (sounds alot like “Darko”, or “Darky” as it’s probably supposed to be.)
    Whatever. I’m fighting to keep my cool on this island. I even talk to my girlfriend about it, but her answers simply aren’t satisfying. Like she’s beating around the bush.
    Whatever. I’ll enjoy this place while I can. Unfortunately, I won’t be around for that fertility festival with the long wooden c*ck. That would have been interesting.

  106. Amanda said, on March 5, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    My b/f would talk to one of his online friends about me and the stuff I knew about Japan, blah blah. Wasn’t long before this online friend started to assume I was a Nisei ^_^
    …Nope, I’m just a white girl who majored in Japanese in college. WISH I was a Nisei…

  107. Cristian said, on March 5, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    Very illuminating. Well I’ve drawn my own conclusion about Japan.(never been there though) I guess if I’d want to live in an overbloated anime it would top my choice list. However ATM i’m trying to understand life properly.
    (19 years old and not a single feat worth of ANY kind of praise. Not counting negative feats XD)
    Anyway Az, thanks for banging the nail on the head for the japanophiles who think it’s all nice and cool in Japan. I guess they really love ‘the box’.

  108. Anonymous said, on March 5, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    Eh, every race seems to get those types of comments though, for instance my mom is from Finland and dad is from Vietnam, though i am half white i do look very asian. When i visit Finland whos populations is mainly white i get alot of “hey, look i think its Jackie Chan!” but i look absolutly nothing like him, and im about; I dont know 15 years younger or more?
    so i really do understand your point.
    um…yea, love the stories, i read them everyday durring study hall keep posting please…

  109. Anonymous said, on March 5, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    Eh, every race seems to get those types of comments though, for instance my mom is from Finland and dad is from Vietnam, though i am half white i do look very asian. When i visit Finland whos populations is mainly white i get alot of “hey, look i think its Jackie Chan!” but i look absolutly nothing like him, and im about; I dont know 15 years younger or more?
    so i really do understand your point.
    um…yea, love the stories, i read them everyday durring study hall keep posting please…

  110. Jonachi said, on March 5, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    Good stuff. I liked it so much I wrote about it I linked it and wrote about it in my own blog (link above, in Swedish though).

  111. ~~A said, on March 5, 2007 at 6:29 pm

    I didn’t read the comments but I did read your entry. πŸ™‚ You reminded of the time OJ was arrested, years ago. We had a white Chevy Blazer at the time, the same year as OJ’s white Bronco and very similar in shape, etc.
    Right after OJ’s famous “slow-motion” cop chase down the LA freeways, the comments started. “That looks like OJ’s car! Hey, that’s OJ’s CAR! Did you know that’s OJ’s CAR? IT LOOKS JUST LIKE IT!”
    This was said by anyone and everyone; people in grocery store parking lots, when we parked to go out to dinner, neighbors, while dropping off or picking up our kids at school, ANY TIME people saw our white Blazer.
    It went on for MONTHS, with the trial prompting people to ask if we’d checked for blood inside our car.
    This was apparently very funny, a joke.
    They’d laugh, we didn’t.
    We even had people motioning us to roll our windows down while stopped at red lights just so they could laugh, point and say, “DIDJA KNOW THAT YOUR CAR LOOKS JUST LIKE OJ’S?”
    Um. No. We didn’t know that, thanks for telling us.
    We sold the damn thing before the comments stopped. Not because of that; just because we got a newer car eventually.
    I know it’s not in the same ballpark as what you’re talking about, except…GOD, sometimes people can be annoying as hell! No matter where they live. πŸ™‚

  112. Andrew said, on March 6, 2007 at 12:32 am

    In my short time in the backwoods of Japan, I wasn’t likened to many celebrities; however, one exception stands out. At least two full-grown Japanese adult males compared me to Tom Cruise, who I honestly do not resemble (and certainly did not at 17, when I was in Iwate).
    Scientologist or not, TC has nothing on the stupidity shown by Sapp. Every time I’ve seen a black man on Japanese TV, he has been made to look like a somewhat trained simian. It’s criminal.

  113. Saben said, on March 6, 2007 at 3:11 am

    Wow AJ! You read it on tha intranetz so it must be tru! The internet is 90% bullshit and if your experience with Japan is limited to internet forums then I’d conclude your experience is 90% bullshit, too.
    Japanese people you meet outside of Japan are already a minority, like most Americans most Japanese will never even leave their country of birth for a holiday. The opinions of MOST nationals outside their own country is always going to be a minority opinion, sometimes the reason for leaving a country in the first place is a difference in opinions.
    From the sounds of things, AJ, your wife is quite bitter about Japan and willing to say that the Japanese are a bunch of small minded bigots- that’s probably one reason she left the country in the first place. But her opinions are hardly typical of most Japanese girls. The fact that she’s with a black man makes her pretty “weird” in the first place.
    It’s too complex to qualified by such a simplistic statement as “Japanese hate Blacks”. Most Japanese don’t encounter enough black people to even have much of an opinion on them in the first place.
    Once you’ve lived in Japan for a while and had some conversations with some Japanese people that don’t speak any English, get back to me. Until then you’re unqualified to make such a concrete statement.

  114. xin said, on March 6, 2007 at 8:37 am

    my JPN tutor (hes full chinese) who lived in JPN for 1st thu 7th grade in a small town in honshu said japan didnt like that he was chinese, but they disliked blacks even more

  115. ViolentAJ said, on March 6, 2007 at 11:47 am

    Saben, yes, she is “weird” for being with a Black; Japanese girls like any race except for Black usually, you have done nothing except to prove my point.
    She said she would like to GO BACK to Japan. She is not bitter about her country or race at all, she is just willing to tell the truth that most Japanese people hate Black people.
    PS: Do you play Rome: Total War? I demand satisfaction.

  116. xin said, on March 6, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    hey az i have a question. Out of being black, brazillian, korean, or chinese, which do you think would have the hardest/easiest time getting accepted into japanese society?

  117. E_M said, on March 6, 2007 at 8:24 pm

    Good grief, AJ. Give it a rest. Like most people have already stated, there is a big difference between ignorance and hate. Yes, Japanese people can be very ignorant where other races are concerned, but guess what? They are not unique in that regard. You’re a prime example of that.
    Also, given your previous comments, I’m starting to wonder if YOU like blacks yourself. Take this little gem of yours:
    “If she is referring to what is shown on the media, and what sadly a good deal of Black youths seem to be emulating (I don’t have exact numbers, but I see examples with my own eyes, and I am certainly not saying that ALL Blacks are bad, because I’m awesome), then I could not possibly blame her for stating the truth.”
    You have some nerve criticizing other races about their alleged hatred and prejudice towards blacks when YOU are guilty of stereotyping your own people. Come off your high horse for a change. You ain’t unique and you ain’t “speshul”. Trust me, there are PLENTY of black youths who do NOT emulate such behaviour (contrary to popular belief perpetuated by the media). Honestly, you’re just a prick who feels sooooo different from “those other blackfolks” and gets bitter when other races don’t exactly welcome YOU with open arms. Maybe you need to develop some self-respect before others can respect you.
    Do yourself a favor. Stop using the internet (never a good source to begin with!) and your wife as your main guides. Step out of your comfort zone, travel to Japan, and ACTUALLY attempt to understand your surroundings. Perhaps, then, you will understand why most people here feel that you are heavily misguided. Until then, it would be better for you not to appoint yourself the authority on the Japanese mindset.

  118. Scootah said, on March 6, 2007 at 9:57 pm

    Jesus christ I want to move to Japan. I could have a lucrative career inpersonating Vin Diesel just waiting for me. I’m about his height and have a shaved head, that should surely compensate for the other vast difference between our appearances.

  119. Gunlord said, on March 6, 2007 at 10:56 pm

    Hi, Azrael! Much like everyone else here, I’ve read and ENORMOUSLY enjoyed your blog for a very long time. This is one of your best posts, IMO–your humor’s wonderful, but these ‘serious’ posts really give people a good idea of what Japanese society is like. I find your views to be far more trenchant and revealing than a lot of professionally-written stuff I’ve seen! That said, though, I’d just like to ask a couple of lil’ questions.
    First off, I’m wondering, although you’ve stated that the portrayal of blacks in the Japanese media is almost overwhelmingly negative, are there any venues in which they actually ARE portrayed positively? Some Japanese friends of mine really like Jazz, and I believe the art form has some measure of popularity in Japan, if its presence in soundtracks for anime like Armored Trooper VOTOMs and Cowboy Bebop are any indication (which they may very well not be ;_; ). Given the preponderance of African-Americans who pretty much made that style, is it possible that learning more about the African contributions to art forms many Japanese folks enjoy, ranging from music to art to technology (Charles Drew, an African America, thought up the idea of blood banks). Perhaps teaching Japanese students of world history and world culture more about the African/black contributions to humanity would lessen the impact of unfortunate stereotypes like the ‘Bobbys’ you described.
    Secondly, out of curiosity (and this is probably a rather silly question) do you think Africans are portrayed more positively in other forms of entertainment, most notably anime? I’m something of an anime fan myself (though far from a basement-dwelling otaku), and I’ve noticed that I’ve seen a few very likable black characters in a few anime–Marbet from V Gundam, Vartla from VOTOMs, Patrick Spencer from Eyeshield 21, etc. etc. etc.–so I’m wondering if you’ve noticed the same thing, or if I just have to watch more animu D:
    Anyways, another excellent post. This is one of the best blogs on the Net, IMO–I never thought it could get better after moving from Outpost 9, but looks like I’ve been proven delightfully wrong :]

  120. Nikpack said, on March 8, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    This post strikes me on how much we here in America can be accused of the same thing. How many Americans think that all Japanese/Chinese/Korean/…people of Asian decent look exactly the same? That’s a huge stereotype that been around for years.
    It’s a part of human nature that we all need to recognize. And while it is ignorance instead of hate, hopefully through programs like JET, all people will broaden their horizons and learn about their fellow human beings from around the world.

  121. Vincet said, on March 8, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    I have been reading your stories for a long time, and this has to be the first time I felt so compelled to say anything myself.
    I am a Chinese national living in the US, and this past summer, I took my best friend home to China with me. The reaction was overwhelming. People flocked to see a white person in my hometown, which is quite small. When I took her into the villages to visit my grandparents’ homes, children and adults alike came from all over the village, swarming just to get a glimpse of her. Everything from her curly hair to her freckles fascinated them. “Do all Americans look like her?” they would ask me, “aren’t Americans supposed to be taller?” One little old lady (whom I may or may not have been related to me, I honestly don’t know) gave me the biggest toothless grin when I took a picture of her with my friend. She told me that she could die happy now, knowing that she had done and seen everything.
    On a related note, when I was eleven or twelve, and living in West Virginia, I was one of two Chinese nationals going to my middle school. There was another Chinese girl, in the grade above me. On average, at least two of her friends would come up to me every week or so and start talking to me, only to realize after a few moments that I was not “their” Chinese girl. I was the other one, and we looked nothing alike. My hair was a mile longer than the other girl’s, for one. You would think even if non-Asians claim to be unable to distinguish between facial characteristics of Asians, at least they would notice that glaring difference between the two of us.
    I could go on in this vein for hours and tell any number of stories from my ten-plus years of living in this country, but the point seems to be the same across the board. Ignorance is key. In mostly homogenous environments, people rely on stereotypes because that is all they have to go on. There is not enough exposure for them to form their own opinions. I have the good fortune of fitting the stereotype of Chinese people being good at math, but even before anyone got to know me in West Virginia, they assumed that about me. I was cheated off more times than I can count in math classes. I am sure there are plenty of children in China who are convinced that white people have blue eyes because they are upside down all the time, what with being on the other side of the world. Believe you me, it sounds ridiculous, but I have heard adults joking about this, and for a very brief while, as a child, I believed this little misconception myself.
    Interestingly enough, the most racist one out of my massive extended family is my father, who has been living here among white people, black people, Mexicans, and other immigrants like himself even longer than I have. He refuses even to consider living in a predominately-black neighborhood. He could have cited economic reasons and said that houses in black neighborhoods are devalued and hard to sell, as a general trend. Instead, when I asked him why, he said he didn’t like black people and thought that it wasn’t safe to live so close to them.
    Now that I’ve thoroughly blabbed your ear off about my own experiences with racism, I have a question to ask. I originally only intended to ask my question and stop there, but somehow I couldn’t stop myself from sharing. My question is this – what degree of racism do you see in Japan? Is it only present when the difference is obvious, such as in your case of being a large black man in the midst of not-so-large Asians, or is it a generalization of all minorities? My father, racist asshole (I call him an asshole for more than just his racism; he really IS just an asshole, and racist, to boot) that he is, hates Japan. Granted, some of his reasons cannot be easily dismissed, such as how the Japanese government at some point refused to print any accurate information in their history books regarding historical events such as the Rape of Nan-jing. But he blames everyone in Japan, as if they were all personally responsible for World War II and all its atrocities. China as a whole pretty much hates Japan, and historically, I suppose, some of that is justified. I have no illusions about Japan, of it either being a nation run by ravening monsters hungry for more land and power, or being a land filled with goodness and anime. How does Japan feel about China and its people? I have hopes of going to Japan on the JET program in a few years (I still have two years of university to slog through), and I am deeply concerned about how Chinese people are received there. As an Asian, I’m going to reveal that Asians are not infallible when it comes to identifying the different nationalities. I’ve had more than one Chinese person tell me I looked Japanese – hell, a Chinese guy in one of my classes last year didn’t talk to me for a better half of the semester because he thought I was Japanese. Will the locals react negatively if they find out that I am not one of them?
    Thanks for taking the time to review my post, I hope you can keep your head up and fight fire with fire. Ignore the fools who would ignore your true character in favor of retaining their ridiculous misconceptions, or if you cannot, cure them of their ignorance.
    Man, I talk too much.

  122. xin said, on March 8, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    Hey vincent, im chinese too and i want to be a JET. I know what your saying about the older genereations of chinese hating japanese. Im in love with japan, and this year i wrote a 17 page paper about the war atrocities japan committed mainly in china, korea, thailaidn-burma, and the pacific (it makes the holocaust look like a joke), and i made sure out of maybe out of the 30 sources i used, not ONE of them was to come from a chinese source.
    Based on my experience with family, research, sschoolwork, and generally what i read, the history of the chinese and the chinese government is one of lies, lies, lies, and more lies to cover their various shit up. it really doesn’t help at all to reveal the truth behind what happened during WW2. So, i used sources from Japanese, Americans, British, and Nazis. I think it is the greatest paper i have ever written, but after all of the depressing stuff i had to reserach, as a 100% chinese guy, i still fuckin LOVE japan. Its a goddamn shame how nationalism breeds ignorance, and that goes for both the chinese and the japanese.
    Although from what i understand, there is a small, but somewhat significant movement from SOME japanese historians to reveal the own dirty truth about their country through interviews of ex WW2 japanese soldiers, now that they are all dieing and want to atone for their sins.

  123. Anonymous said, on March 9, 2007 at 9:31 am

    Sharing an experience as a Black American guy in Tokyo…I always get the Music crowd comparsions. To the Japanese crowd who listens to R&B (usually young and female) I have actually gotten R. Kelly a few times (usually with the Kanagawa/Yokohama crowd). To the other young Japanese, they called me the “black” Ken Hirai (famous J-soul singer). It was cool until I found out: 1)Ken Hirai is one of the most attractive singers to Japanese women, but surprised to find out that he’s gay. (Just great…) and 2)one of my co-workers uses this to break the ice with other students but this one female student said that I was “too Black” to be Ken Hirai (who of course is Japanese) in Japanese. I didn’t find out until later that she actually meant it to be crude insult to compare me to a Japanese singer….but when I spoke to her, she told me that she “lovves” Beyonce and looking at a magazine with Beyonce on the cover. ( Who is a black woman. ) My co-worker was worried that I would get upset about the student’s comment…lucky for me, I don’t understand it from the jump…but it makes you think that it’s okay to be compared to someone who is black like Bob Sapp/Bobby/R.Kelly,etc..but to be compared as a “black version” of a Japanese celebrity is detrimental to the Japanese psyche. Interesting post my fellow expat. As they say it here…shou-ga-nai!

  124. Anonymous said, on March 9, 2007 at 9:31 am

    Sharing an experience as a Black American guy in Tokyo…I always get the Music crowd comparsions. To the Japanese crowd who listens to R&B (usually young and female) I have actually gotten R. Kelly a few times (usually with the Kanagawa/Yokohama crowd). To the other young Japanese, they called me the “black” Ken Hirai (famous J-soul singer). It was cool until I found out: 1)Ken Hirai is one of the most attractive singers to Japanese women, but surprised to find out that he’s gay. (Just great…) and 2)one of my co-workers uses this to break the ice with other students but this one female student said that I was “too Black” to be Ken Hirai (who of course is Japanese) in Japanese. I didn’t find out until later that she actually meant it to be crude insult to compare me to a Japanese singer….but when I spoke to her, she told me that she “lovves” Beyonce and looking at a magazine with Beyonce on the cover. ( Who is a black woman. ) My co-worker was worried that I would get upset about the student’s comment…lucky for me, I don’t understand it from the jump…but it makes you think that it’s okay to be compared to someone who is black like Bob Sapp/Bobby/R.Kelly,etc..but to be compared as a “black version” of a Japanese celebrity is detrimental to the Japanese psyche. Interesting post my fellow expat. As they say it here…shou-ga-nai!

  125. Chowbakka said, on March 9, 2007 at 11:51 am

    HAHAHAHAHA
    This is some FUNNY SHIT AZ!! SO TRUE!!
    I think it’s the same for the whole world
    like I said before, I am an azn foreigner in America and
    People always refer me to azn stars like Jackie Chan and Jet Li or whoever is AZN!!
    It was irritating because I know I look nothing like them at all
    How about I say American looks just the same as European and Russian??? (But honestly the don’t look the same. Same with AZN and people in other colors or ethnics)
    I would be more happy if they say I look like Michael Jackson instead of putting me in a catagory. lol^^

  126. ViolentAJ said, on March 9, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    When the Japanese girls referred to you as R. Kelly, did they ask you to piss on them? Nobody would notice with their yellow skin LOL.
    I remember when I was in Namba, and my wife and I stopped atan arcade to play House of the Dead 4. Of course, I was pwning! An older, short, Japanese lady approached us and said wow, you look “pahfectu”! I don’t know if she was saying that I was perfect because I was pwning, because I was a Black man with a “gun”, or if Chii-chan and I are the perfect couple. Anyway, I pwn.

  127. Anonymous said, on March 9, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    Maybe not as often as 5-10 times a day, but having dark brown slightly shaggy hair and glasses instanly labeled me as Harry Potter in Japan. Almsot every one I met I would hear “Heeri Pottaa” It was a little frustrating at times, but I didn’t know how to say. No I am not a fictional wizard in Japanese so I just nodded and changed the subject

  128. Anonymous said, on March 9, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    Maybe not as often as 5-10 times a day, but having dark brown slightly shaggy hair and glasses instanly labeled me as Harry Potter in Japan. Almsot every one I met I would hear “Heeri Pottaa” It was a little frustrating at times, but I didn’t know how to say. No I am not a fictional wizard in Japanese so I just nodded and changed the subject

  129. Mr. Bomberman said, on March 9, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    Wow, another flashback to when I was in Switzerland. Everyone where I was (The germans) called me Shaq, and while I was as tall as him, I didn’t look like him one bit. I’m also not that good in playin’ ball.
    Only ’cause we’re black.
    When I ripped out the back of a book to write something, they thought I was smokin’ weed, ’cause the back of a spiral book is brown, the same color of a blunt wrap.
    Only ’cause we’re black.
    When I was in a pizza store, some guy was like “Yo, yo, yo, what up, I’m in da house, B! and made up some stupid, terrible rap. Everyone else was laughing. I and my friends we’re made into fuckin’ fools! >_<
    Only ’cause we’re black.
    I was next to some cool car talking a pic with my friends on the last day we were there.
    Some german dude says in English: “Are you going to steal ze car, nikka?” and we all ran after him. He escaped.
    And it’s only ’cause we’re black.
    I feel your pain, perhaps moreso than you, Az…
    This.. is international.

  130. fr00tloops said, on March 10, 2007 at 11:41 pm

    Believe it or not, 50% of canada is racist.
    I live in The northern Ontario area. Here, having anybody who isnt purely canadian is rare. Being russian, i usually always get a “Go back to russia” or “Speak russian”
    In Toronto, Vancouver, And montreal however, no such thing exists. In fact, Toronto Is being populated with Koreans and Chineese, and Vancouver is 50% asian.

  131. Killer Mangos said, on March 12, 2007 at 4:23 am

    It wasn’t until I was around 13 that I realized that I was Korean. I mean, yeah, I KNEW, but it didn’t really sink in until then. (Don’t worry, this is relevant to your article…I think)
    I’m adopted by a Caucasian family and grew up in a very white neighborhood. I might’ve gotten a few brash remarks when I was younger (flat-face, pizza-face) but I didn’t really understand. I don’t speak Korean, I have no Asian friends, and I don’t know about my culture at all. I’m not even sure I can call it ‘my’ culture.
    It’s really start to hit home lately. With my last job, my boss was Korean. In the towns near me, there’s a decent-sized Korean population, but if you don’t speak Korean, you’re not in it. He flat out told me that I’m not Korean, but American. Oh, and he also told me I look Chinese. (I don’t really think I do, considering that lots of people walk up to me and start speaking Korean). It was flat out humiliating when he made me go to the Korean grocery store to pick up some food and I couldn’t understand what the people there were saying to me. To make matters worse, there was a guy that worked there that actually seemed to know alot about Korean culture and would make comments, and when I didn’t understand what he meant, he refused to explain, saying I “didn’t want to know”.
    I recently moved into a new group house and a girl that lives here said that it was “hilarious” that I can’t speak Korean, and went on to laugh in my face. I was deeply offended, but I didn’t say anything and just left the room.
    I guess my point is that I’m starting to feel like no matter where I go, I’ll never fit in. I won’t be accepted by Koreans because I’m American, and in America, it’s usually assumed that since I’m Korean, I must have tons of Asian friends and speak the language. I’m supposed to go to S. Korea this summer to visit with the adoption agency, but really, I’m very scared. Someday, I’d like to visit Japan, but I’m worried about these prejudices I keep on hearing about.
    My friend introduced me to your blog and it’s a totally addicting read. I love the humorous stories you have, but serious issues are also enjoyable.
    Lucky for me, I live in a very diverse area, so I’ve nowhere near experienced anything like you have to those extremes, but I can definately see where you’re coming from, I think.
    P.S. I’ve been compared to Lucy Liu and I look NOTHING like her.

  132. Edward The Great said, on March 13, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    That’s why I live in america

  133. luke said, on March 18, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    long time reader, firstime poster.
    killer mangos
    i feel almost the same way. i am half mexican/ half scotch irish, and for most of my life i have lived in the white area (northern florida) so pretty much i grew up like a red neck.
    move ahead 20 years.
    i’m living oklahoma and working as a manager at a fast food resturant. the majority of the grill crew are mexican(fresh of the boat) and they can’t wrap it around there head that i don’t know spanish (never needed it but i speak hick quite fluently). on the other hand, most people think i’m either italian,muslim, or jewish. in the beginning it was frustrating but no it’s funny. so in a way i know how you feel
    hopefully my point didn’t get to lost

  134. Jorobeq said, on March 18, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    I am a Latino, born and raised in the U.S., and am going to go study abroad in Tokyo for a year in July. After reading this post, I have to wonder, what about people like me (lol)? What steroetypes are there for latinos in Japan? I really would like to know what to expect while i’m there.

  135. Serukaen said, on March 19, 2007 at 2:42 am

    Interesting post (yes, I know, that’s not an original statement!) My brother currently lives in Japan, and it’s through his blog I arrived here. He is white (French) and works for a company where he is the only gaijin and most of the time lives in an all-Japanese environment. He occasionally makes some humorous (and sometimes somewhat bitter) reflexions about the cultural misunderstandings he is experiencing, but so far he has not reported any comparison with a celebrity. Maybe I should ask him…
    Fr00tloops, I’m surprised about Canada, I have been living there for a while, and the multiculturalism seemed self-evident, but it’s true that I live in Vancouver and as you say, it’s a very multicultural city and where I live the population must be 50% Asian. Well, I guess Canada is like every other country, but sometimes they play so “high and mighty” compared to their American neighbors, you’d think they did not encounter any social problem.

  136. fr00tloops said, on March 19, 2007 at 8:23 pm

    Why is my post so named “mr.bomberman” and the post with fr00tloops is something completely different?

  137. DunnDeegan said, on March 26, 2007 at 2:34 am

    Yeah, living in Korea can be similar…at least I’m here with my cousin though, he takes most of the heat. As a tall, thick, white guy with longer hair that most, he often gets “HHH” or “Big Show”….his goatee doesn’t help. I’m tall and skinny so I don’t get too much of anything as far as names are concerned. The taxi thing that was mentioned earlier though…I do get that. Cabs actually slow down (to the taxi stands I’m waiting at), they look at me, realize I am white (by white I mean not Korean) and drive away. This is keeping in mind I am completely sober (usually) and I couldn’t scare anyone if I tried.
    There are some very nice people here, but some very rude ones as well. Something you will find everywhere you travel I suppose…All in all, I can deal with blatant racism, but then again, I don’t get it nearly as bad as some people do and I have never had to deal with it before coming here. I should just consider myself lucky I guess.

  138. Gordon said, on April 14, 2007 at 7:56 am

    (I stopped reading most of the way down, sorry if someone else already said this)
    Stop taking AJ so seriously! He’s obviously trolling / kidding around and making it up as he goes. The rap is what sealed the deal for me.

  139. Lauren C. said, on May 19, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    They really do need more foreigners there, to break the stereotypes they have, like you said. I’m a small, white girl and I can understand how frustrating that must be– see, I’m Italian, and I live in an area of Michigan where there are very few Italians and a lot of Dutch people.
    Every single one thinks I’m in the mafia.
    And they all think it’s funny to point it out, like they’re the first one to say it to me. D:
    so while I can’t understand completely, I do sympathize. They’d probably see me and go, “Hey! It’s Lindsey Lohan!” D:

  140. Phobos said, on June 1, 2007 at 11:48 am

    Sounds like you got a real raw deal, with not one, but two idiots to be stereotyped against. I have one stereotype I’d like to add to the list: Steve Irwin (yes, I’m an Aussie).
    I really don’t have the words to say how much I despised his fake-yobbo persona, and to be compared to… that, is infuriating. I know you’ve copped it much worse, I’m not trying to compare; all I’m trying to say is: I share your pain.
    Stay strong man, you are in a position to make a change over in Japan. And Love the stories, always brings a smile to my face. πŸ™‚

  141. BKE said, on August 8, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    I think that someone telling you not to complain about being stereotyped as a black man is just plain ridiculous. I’m glad you’d not hesitate to post a story like this because it was on your mind in spite of what anyone has to say about it.
    If anyone here or anywhere can’t understand that it’s about being respected as yourself, and all of what makes you the individual you are, than you need to take a step back and re-evaluate yourself or something.
    And for that matter, look how many different people have claimed similar circumstances?

  142. Cho-Gaijin said, on August 9, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    I’m all with you on that goal, infact, JET was going to be my original task, rather than the military, and I think I may still look into it, or atleast request a move to a station near or in Japan. Yes, you are completely right about the imposibility of that steriotypical behavior being exclusive to Nihongo culture, though I personally can’t stand hearing things like “Uh-oh! It’s Jet-Li!”, .ect (you know the rest), I have friends who do the stupid crap all the time with any asian.
    I’m like …one, did anyone ever think about the fact that Jackie Chan, may not be japanese? it actually bugs me to hear people play at people they see on the movies, actually expecting every asian that gets to the states to do some highly-advanced form of martial arts, which intitles jumping off walls, and doing like 8 spin-kicks in the air, straight out of a fortisimo to attack some long-time rival they met in Tokyo, all the while screaming “WAAAAH!” or “HYAH!”.
    But to the aformentioned point, Just like I said before, I swear I would love to go to japan, just because some of this stuff, I need to see with my own eyes.
    ~Cho-Gaijin (Regardless to the name, which I know you probably already know what I mean by it, I emplore people to try to think of other cultures with an open mind, including my own. Keep doin what you do, it inspires people to do the same!)

  143. Steph said, on August 15, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    I’ve actually heard of Bobby more than a couple times. The first time was when I was watching some Japanese television shows… I think the one I watched was pusama, where there was a short clip and the guys on the show had to draw what he looked like. Not everyone I suppose knows who Bobby is, because one of them had no clue and just drew what he thought the guy looked like, but yeah. The clip was interesting, to say the least. I know a lot of people that say “oh all Japs are the same” or “oh all *insert something here* are the same”, so I can definitely see where they’re coming from since I doubt they see many black people on a daily basis, but it’s still wholly uncalled for. =(

  144. a said, on August 16, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    I know you acknowledged that it wasn’t only Japan which had this problem, but honestly, it’s the same everywhere. You think the Japanese are ignorant, but let’s face it – it’s not true of ALL of Japan (I HAVE been there with a group of Caucasians – and a couple of Blacks), and nor is it even restricted to Japan.
    I mean, much of the West (less in Europe) discriminates in much the same way, especially with the whole ASIANS are ALL the same. I have been called Japanese (I’m Chinese) innumerable times, and often accosted with the most pathetic attempts at Japanese phrases – in places where I had been speaking perfect English for aeons.
    Finally, the preconceptions you speak of (markedly the worst in America, where, by the creed of being, let’s face it, the most powerful nation in the world, its citizens are often MOST ignorant and dismissive of other ethnic groups and cultures) – it is also true EVERYWHERE (at least in all countries, some areas ARE better than others).
    I live presently in Australia, where this is often true of Western suburbs – where the “Lebs” (people of Lebanese descent) are almost ALWAYS given a bad rep, not helped by the fact that there was an incident several years ago where a gang bashed to death a poor young boy on the way to a BIRTHDAY party.
    However, even I must say (while I try not to hold it against them), that I often hold such preconceptions – EVERYONE does, it’s just human nature.
    It is only when you ACT upon those notions (often mistaken) that you are being discriminative – let;s face it, many people ARE that ignorant, sometimes, it just has to be endured.
    As someone who was once a teaching assistant, Az, you werein a position to try and rid others of such mistaken preconceptions – as well as in a position to get rid of your own – such as your oft repeated comment on how fucked up Japan is – when much is true of ANYWHERE else – raping being a marked point, along with racism – which is, if anything, WORSE in America than Japan.
    Thanks, just needed to get that off my chest. Do love some of your posts though.

  145. Oregonian said, on August 29, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    After reading this for the first time, did it ever occur to you to call some of these people 穒倚 (eta)? Especially after reading things like, “Yo nigga.” I never use that kind of language, except as a joke and even then I’m probably going to hell too…

  146. Anonymous said, on September 23, 2007 at 3:33 am

    That’s so depressing… You’re a great guy, Az. Thank you for holding up under the pressure. We may not both be of the African race, but we are both of the human race, and you make me proud of that. I know that sounds cheesy and stupid, but I can’t think of any better way to say it. I look forward to a time when everyone realizes that, that we’re all one race, whether European, African, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Jewish…

  147. Anonymous said, on September 23, 2007 at 3:33 am

    That’s so depressing… You’re a great guy, Az. Thank you for holding up under the pressure. We may not both be of the African race, but we are both of the human race, and you make me proud of that. I know that sounds cheesy and stupid, but I can’t think of any better way to say it. I look forward to a time when everyone realizes that, that we’re all one race, whether European, African, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Jewish…

  148. Anonymous said, on November 22, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    oh gosh….
    This had made me hesistant to go to Japan.
    I would probably go there for holidays but i’m definetly not staying for long.
    Thank you for sharing your story.

  149. Anonymous said, on November 22, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    oh gosh….
    This had made me hesistant to go to Japan.
    I would probably go there for holidays but i’m definetly not staying for long.
    Thank you for sharing your story.

  150. Skiba said, on November 23, 2007 at 1:05 am

    You know what’s kinda strange about all this? I’m certain if I ever get to go to Japan, I’d fit right in. I’m 5’1″, with straight black hair and brown eyes, and on a few occasions people have asked me if I have any Asian in me (I’m 100% European, oddly). As a “Japanophile” (though I’ve never actually called myself one), it makes me feel kinda special. XD;; I just know the only thing that would make me stand out there would be my chest. x_x
    … I guess somewhere in Japan there’s a girl my age wishing she was Caucasian. >_>;;

  151. Anonymous said, on May 22, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    Sounds like I would get one better in Japan than I would here. People tend to nick-name me ‘the milky bar kid’ because I have blond hair and glasses. Admittedly it was funny… 6 years ago, but since then every time I have been in public I hear it at least 7 times. Every single day.
    Maybe if I go to Japan things will be better, because then I would know it is only ignorance and not malice.

  152. Anonymous said, on May 22, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    Sounds like I would get one better in Japan than I would here. People tend to nick-name me ‘the milky bar kid’ because I have blond hair and glasses. Admittedly it was funny… 6 years ago, but since then every time I have been in public I hear it at least 7 times. Every single day.
    Maybe if I go to Japan things will be better, because then I would know it is only ignorance and not malice.

  153. Kyodai said, on October 15, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    You dont look anything like Bobby, if anything, you look like a male version of Chris Tucker.

  154. Anonymous said, on December 5, 2008 at 1:48 am

    Firstly, somewhere Chris Tucker is crying himself to sleep XD.
    Secondly, I agree with the earlier comment about Sydney (where I’m from) being pretty much the polar opposite of Japan, in terms of race-relations. I really can’t think of a time where I’ve seen someone of any race group and thought it “unusual”. Sure there’s racism in Australia, but the fact that about 40% of Sydney’s citizens are migrants means that there’s not the widespread ignorance that other cultures have.

  155. Anonymous said, on December 5, 2008 at 1:48 am

    Firstly, somewhere Chris Tucker is crying himself to sleep XD.
    Secondly, I agree with the earlier comment about Sydney (where I’m from) being pretty much the polar opposite of Japan, in terms of race-relations. I really can’t think of a time where I’ve seen someone of any race group and thought it “unusual”. Sure there’s racism in Australia, but the fact that about 40% of Sydney’s citizens are migrants means that there’s not the widespread ignorance that other cultures have.


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