Dealing With Your Gaijiness With Hikosaemon

SEASON 1 EPISODE 29

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  • Anthony returns to Japan from his month-long vacation in his home city of Vancouver, Canada. He talks about experiencing reverse culture shock at being back in his home country and how his life dramatically improved by forcing change into it.
  • He is joined by popular YouTube creator Hikosaemon who has produced many excellent videos about the cultural aspects of living in Japan. Hiko talks about what it means to be a foreigner in Japan as well as a Japanese in its community. He also tackles the ultimate question of whether a foreigner will ever be accepted by Japanese society.

Okaeri Nasai!

Anthony is back in Japan after visiting his home country Canada. Since he left in 2007, he was struck by how it felt like being a tourist in his town. Some of the things that struck Anthony when he returned was how easy it was to do everything he needed to do. Many problems of living in a new country can be solved by speaking the language fluently. It reinforced his belief that before moving to a new country, learning the language will make everything easier. He also had to be careful with what he says because people surrounding him can understand him.

Seeing old friends again made him realize that they were not quite the same as having new ones from another country. Technology may have enabled him to communicate with family and friends through Facebook all the time. But hanging out with friends minus the tools made him realize the importance of building and maintaining friends in real life and not just online.

There is also the sheer number of food options available! Bread and cheese are plentiful in Canada and America compared to Tokyo and Bangkok where these items are small, expensive, and rather difficult to find. Anthony also noticed how little change there was in people’s lives. Compared to his 20-30 years in Canada. he experienced so much more in the five years since he left. It forced changes in his life and with it, came new opportunities. Thus, he suggests that in dramatically changing one’s life, do it quickly instead of gradually to see tremendous results. 

It ain’t easy being a foreigner or Japanese

Hikosaemon is on the show to talk about being a foreigner in Japan as well as being a Japanese in the country. While working for American and Japanese companies, he vlogs as a hobby to reach out to Japanese and English audiences. He came to Japan as part of his overseas experience while attending college in New Zealand. He also previously studied the language when he was younger. After graduating and having an interest in Asian countries, he came to Japan to live and work in it.

Compared to other vlogs, Hiko gives an in-depth take on Japanese culture which viewers can enjoy and be informed. He acknowledged that Japanese culture has changed since he arrived. Westerners also tend to view social issues in the country as problems that need to be addressed when they come. However, Japanese people are put off by criticism that they shut down and disengage. Thus, one must learn the importance of consensus-building as opposed to confrontation in Japan, especially at work.

Some practices may not make sense to foreigners. For these, people would simply say shoganai or “it can’t be helped”. Others would find this approach as being passive, but it may also be how Japanese people manage not to get worked up by things they cannot change. Others think that being critical is showing intelligence. But at times, it is easier to be critical and negative rather than identifying a problem and proposing ways to address these.

Being an ex-pat for a long time has enabled Hiko to see that two sides of an issue can be right but also wrong. Compared to being in one’s home country, friends would simply agree to what is discussed. In a familiar environment, one can naturally accept the norms without thinking much about these. Living in Japan can make one look into their value set and realize how they take it for granted.

Topics such as one’s weight show how the Japanese are conscious of their health compared to other countries that consider it an offensive topic to bring up. Meanwhile, topics on sexuality are not always a source of embarrassment. Foreigners should be more careful talking about politics and religion, though. People might have strong opinions or be easily offended given the country’s complicated history entangled with it. The Japanese may not find it funny in the same way Westerners make political jokes.

Strangely, many gaijin feel like they must be accepted into Japanese society. Hiko honestly asked whether they do want to be accepted into the culture. Having worked in a Japanese company, Hiko realized how difficult it also must be for a Japanese person to do everything his superior tells him to do. A lot of foreigners go to small towns where there are fewer gaijins present. They do this to improve their Japanese and have deep, unique cultural experiences. As a result, they stick out like a sore thumb and people will still treat them differently. In some places like Tokyo and major companies, working as hard as the managers and acting as a Japanese can help foreigners be accepted. But one must note that even Japanese people accept only a small group of people themselves. They never felt the need to accept multi-culturalism compared to what new world countries say. Being an ex-pat enabled Hiko to look at these sides of foreigners and Japanese. For all they know, foreigners are treated better than the Japanese themselves.

Upcoming Holiday next Week!

Golden week coming up and people all over the country will ride the trains to go back to their hometowns. The next show will feature a gentleman who will share his knowledge of trains and what he sees for high-speed rail in Japan.

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