People living in Japan can be slyly racist and discriminate without realising. I still want to live in Japan in the near future but I cannot ignore the imperfections and the way I was treated at times living there. Living there for a year has helped me experience what it is like to feel like a complete foreigner and have to survive. I never got stopped by police and I wasn’t called the n-word or any racial slurs like other people have but my cases are a little different. You may be able to relate to them as a POC foreigner in Japan.

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Case #1

This company was called Global Power and its recruiter seemed to be giving me a chance. But slowly and surely during the interview as I tried my hardest to communicate, the recruiter made me feel like I had no skills at all. He managed to debunk my Japanese and Korean language skills. He asked me if I was going to go back to school but how could I if I don’t have a job? He told me there was no hope for someone like me with an N3 level and I need to go back and study. In the end, the recruiter seemed to feel bad for what he had said and proposed upon finding me a job. But 20 minutes of asking me questions, I didn’t feel like he was actually searching for anything. I asked him if it is possible to send it to me later and he hastily stood up as if he was ready to get me out of there. I never got an email back from that job or any other the recruiter said he was going to search for me. That’s when I started losing confidence finding any Japanese speaking roles or any office jobs.

When applying for jobs, you must attach a picture of yourself to your CV. It is something I despise as many employers judge your face before actually meeting you and hearing what you have to say about yourself. It is still a surprise I had 3-4 interviews per week while living in Tokyo. Although this employer had received my CV and cover letter, I didn’t like his approach during the interview and he didn’t seem irritated or intimidating at the least. I was ready and prepared for the interview but I can now understand that some people will slyly put you down and make you lose confidence especially if you are a foreigner. I will improve my Japanese to N2 as well as my other skills and prove to recruiters like him that it is possible for me to work in the field I want to do rather than go back to school.

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Case #2: One girl in particular that I knew in Japan got a lot of “privilege” and only experienced what it was like to be discriminated a few times without realising. The only time she ever experienced discrimination was when she signed up to a gym membership and felt watched by the entire swimming pool especially from the old people and life guard. She finally understood what I mostly felt while being in Japan; stared during random encounters, Regardless, this girl had no degree and no Japanese skills but she still got a job quicker than me. A lot of people helped her and she got a lot of free things (food, drinks, car rides and more) without realising. Granted the girl did work hard (mainly because me and her other roommates pushed her to do so) but my other advice seemed to have been ignored and she will not be staying in Japan forever for other reasons.

This was one thing I came to realise as I came back to the UK. I had to work harder as a person of colour. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I also came to see how people were lucky over others especially if the difference between how you are treated being either a light-skinned or a dark-skinned person. People were more than likely not hiring me or calling me back because of the fact I was black from my pictures and also my first name especially from these schools but hiring her because she was the ideal look to them. English teaching companies in Japan tend to look for a certain face and voice e.g. Canadian/American male so I was not surprised. Seeing other people around me get treated and easily get things while I had to work extra harder made me not enjoy my time in Japan especially if these people were extremely closed off and clueless about other people’s cultures and struggles. But I guess if I return, I want to be around more POC and have a better time working and living in Japan in the near future.

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Case #3

The staff working at the curry restaurant didn’t treat me well in the very beginning. Customers looked at me oddly. The staff whispered about me for the first couple of months especially about my lack of not knowing things, my Japanese level. One Japanese girl who was two years younger than me often pushed me a lot, grabbed things from me and talked to me harshly. Given she was my senpai having worked there for four years however the talking behind my back wasn’t necessary e.g. “She’s new and she can’t speak Japanese well” or saying “Just give her simple things to do, she doesn’t understand.” On some days, she would ask me questions about myself seeming curious about me especially wanting to take a picture with me on my last day. I still didn’t understand her even until my last shift. My Japanese listening skills are much better so the fact that she and some of the other staff didn’t think I understood what they were saying but I couldn’t reply pretty well which really frustrated me. 

I never understood why they treated me this way but it make my willpower to work much stronger. This was probably my first time working in an all Japanese speaking environment and I did feel very intimidated as the staff was mostly Japanese and Nepalese people fluent in Japanese who had lived in Japan for more than 2-3 years. I can understand the strict ways of working but I could also not understand why this was the norm and I had to be treated this way. Maybe it was because with this kind of working environment, you had to be fast. However previously working at a Japanese company for two years I could understand they want to be perfect and accurate but I still don’t like as the most obvious foreigner, the way I was talked to and treated. It could be a cultural difference as how Asian people treat each other but I will have to have someone explain further on this issue. They were only nice to me more once I came out with them drinking and gave my notice to leave. I intend to one day walk into those two particular branches and show them how better my life is once I return to Japan in the near future.

 

 

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