Pros and Cons of being an Asian Gaijin in Japan


At Miyajima Island

A “Gaijin” means a foreigner in Japanese. Sometimes, we think of Caucasians with this term when in reality, there are many Asian gaijins living and working in Japan. I am of Asian descent but born in Canada so I consider myself pretty westernized. But living in Japan I have encountered some perks of being an Asian gaijin, but also, have experienced difficulties as well. So below, here are my pros and cons as an Canadian born Chinese individual trying to navigate life in Japan!

Pros

  1. Japanese clothing and beauty products fit my features!

Back in Canada, I always had a hard time trying to find clothes that fit me. I have a petite frame so I always had to get my clothes altered. And don’t even get me started on shoes, I had to wear lots of insoles so that my size 5 shoe would fit me. But in Japan, EVERYTHING fits me. Most of the clothes here have “one size” so I am very fortunate that I can wear Japanese clothing brands and not have to worry about altering it compared to back home. In fact, my shoe size is so popular it is always sold out. I also love that the cosmetic products work really well on my Asian features as I will admit, I felt that the North American products didn’t work well on my face.

2. Reading Kanji

Although I don’t know all of the kanji, I can get by with some of the simple ones and this is because I studied Chinese writing before. Kanji is extremely difficult even for Japanese people too, so I feel comfortable being able to read some of it, even when it is grouped with hiragana and katakana. I don’t know all of the kanji, but it has helped me in grocery shopping as I know what beef, pork, chicken, soy sauce, and other daily necessities!

3. No one is staring at me!

Because I look Japanese, no one sees me as an “exotic” person living in this country. They just assume I am one of them. I like that I don’t get uninvited attention as I have heard it can be extreme for some foreigners. And it’s only because Japan is a homogeneous country so I totally understand the stares because there is only one culture there compared to other western countries. Also, it helps me to practice Japanese as they assume I am Japanese!

4. I eat rice and noodles too!

Back at home in Canada, rice and noodles were my staples diet. I didn’t eat that much western food so when I did go out to eat in Canada, I binged eat on fish and chips, cheeseburgers, and shepard’s pie. I LOVE potatoes and always looked for a good restaurant that can serve a good mash potato as a side dish. I didn’t have much difficulty in adapting my diet to the Japanese standards as most of the food I eat in Japan I ate back home in Canada. I think what’s difficult for me is that when I do crave western food, it’s not as easy to find compared to when I was in Canada!

Cons

There is only con I believe as an Asian Gaijin I faced and it’s that sometimes, the older generation doesn’t understand why I am Asian, but, I’m from Canada too? This doesn’t happen all the time to the people that studied and lived abroad as they are aware of the current global situation. However, I have gotten many older Japanese people that are confused as to why I look Asian, but, came from Canada. I always have to respond by explaining that my mom is from Hong Kong, but I was born in Canada. My dad is from Jamaica and I don’t even explain this to them as that would leave them even more confused. This is not a big negative aspect in living in Japan but it can be a little difficult in explaining my background to them. Because when I tell them I’m Chinese, they automatically assume I’m from China and speak Chinese to me. Which is strange because back in Canada, I always had to identify myself as Chinese since I’m considered a minority there. But being in Japan, I identify myself as Canadian to explain that English is my native language and not Chinese.

It’s just strange that back home in Canada, I’m still considered a minority, and in Japan, I’m one as well. I think we are in a unique position as an Asian Gaijin that is from an western country. We can easily adapt to the country, however, many of the people will be confused as to why we are Native English speakers.