At this risk of turning CA into a mere online diary from the perspicacious journal of current affairs that it is, I have some “more personal observations”:http://www.cominganarchy.com/2006/09/23/just-arrived/ while traveling in Japan.
Those of you that have lived in Japan have most likely experienced the infamous social dynamic of in-group/out-group. This doubly applies to the Japanese-Foreigner groups. No matter how well your Japanese language ability is, no matter how well you know the system, you will never be considered/treated equal to a Japanese. Myself and many of my friends have been deeply involved in a range of traditional Japanese arts (budo, tea, etc.) and have extensive knowledge of Japanese culture and history. On many occasions we have been called “more Japanese than the Japanese” by regular Japanese themselves. But still, in many situations we are treated like children.
Now, you say, who the hell cares? You are living overseas surrounded by cute girls and Hello Kitty! What’s the friggin’ problem?
The problem is that is can be terribly frustrating. If you have a certain Japanese ability, you tend to try and make regular Japanese people understand that you are not some dumb cracker with a Japan Rail Pass, and they don’t have to treat you like a kid. Other expats in Japan have no ability and couldn’t give a flying f– on a rolling donut and don’t get frustrated. Still others have somehow broken the barrier, and nothing frustrates them anymore. These guys are the lifers, the guys who have been here for like 20 years.
Truth is, I was of the first category. I got very frustrated while living here a few years ago. Between working for the Japanese “Man” in the stifling business culture of Kyoto (hat tip Curzon), and having the Rage, I was ready to leave and I did.
But upon returning I have had an epiphany. In my daily interactions with Japanese I came to realize that I just don’t give a fuck. Over the past year and a half my personal identity has been so far removed from Japan that I don’t care about social walls here any more. Considering I may be moving back here for a spell, I think this is a good sign.