Some real talk for once.
I’ve been in Japan since 2011. In hind sight, that doesn’t seem like a very long time compared to people like John Daub who has lived here for over twenty years (and has a very successful YouTube channel that I highly recommend. Search for “Only in Japan” if you haven’t already subscribed). It has seemed that no matter what I do, no matter where I go, I am subject to the same racist tropes that have encompassed my existence in this nation since the beginning.
Let me give you a bit of background.
I started just like 90% of white foreigners who come to Japan: teaching. While education is a very prestigious profession to get into, and it’s considered the same in Japan, for foreigners it’s not real education. It’s children’s entertainment. If that’s something you’re interested in doing, go for it! For me, I’m no entertainer. I don’t even tell good jokes. I have a completely different professional background, one that I am forbidden to do in Japan because, well, when I look in the mirror I know why.
My education is in information technology – programming, software and game development, database administration and a little bit of law. My professional background centers within the transportation industry, specifically railroad and aviation. When I came to Japan, all of that added up to English teaching.
It was only recently that I was able to move beyond English education and now find myself in a rut. I work for a major Japanese corporation, and while my main job is data entry, I have to perform other tasks that are out of my character. It’s an enjoyable job but one that I am not built for. It’s a professional lifestyle that , to be quite honest, isn’t for me. It’s not for everybody, but it’s also something that I personally know that many weeaboos cream themselves over to get.
Trust me when I say, it’s not for the faint of heart, nor is it for the foreigner. I am the only foreigner in my office – a staff of over 50 souls. The only non-Japanese in the entire room is me. I will say this for my company: they treat me like one of their own. Sure, there’s a language barrier and even though my Japanese level is enough to just get through, my colleagues treat me as an important member of the team. It’s the first time that I have been asked to perform jobs and tasks that are expected of every other member of staff in my division, and it feels good!
Unfortunately, that’s not enough to keep me here.
I live in Tokyo (hence the name), and as a result, I work in the city where the salaries are the cheapest in the nation. I have a wife and two kids to support, and it’s not something that I can do while my wife is currently out on maternity. My oldest boy is in elementary school and he’s being treated like a foreigner – even though his mother tongue is Japanese and he is Japanese… though he’s also American, making him hafu. My youngest son turns 1 in a few weeks as of the writing of this piece. If my oldest is getting mistreated at school (and he is, clearly), my youngest is going to go through the same thing.
That leaves the fact that the majority of the population of Japan is not only aged but still hold racist grudges against all foreigners. Just today, I was assaulted by a senior citizen in the grocery store in front of my family. They know that if I retaliate, even in self defense, I will be automatically deported (I am a permanent resident, by the way). For the sake of my family, retaliation is not an option. Considering the totalitarian nature of the police force (almost as cruel as communist China against foreigners), arguing a case of self defense is futile. It’s best to take the beating, get stitches (if you’re not killed), and go to work the next day.
It’s an existence that leaves you accepting defeat each and every day of your life here. It’s not good for the family.
As someone who has the background I have, and the skills I possess, it’s a waste to not be able to support my family while I’m here. Even though there are so many positive things I can say about Japan, the negatives are just too heavy. Most important is my family – my wife and my boys. Feeling less than beta in this country is humiliating to say the least. In Japan, I go a mile and I get knocked back a hundred. My children are seeing me fail time and time again. It’s not a question of self skill – it’s a question of dealing with this society.
I recently had a prospect for some good work – a chance to use the skills I learned in university. The role would eventually lead to management and ownership, so the only way to go was up. Or, so I was told.
It turned out to be not only a translation and advertising job (I’m not a marketer nor advertiser of any sort), but the majority of the work had little to nothing to do with the reasons why I was going to be brought on board. There was no pay because the business was a startup – I would help put together the software and systems required for the business to operate. When it came time for me to catch up on work, I was diverted to English translation (so sick and tired of that) and social media posting.
Zero work I was originally brought on board to do.
In the end, I realized that this was all that there was for me in Japan. Translation and humiliation. Held back all because… well, as I said before, it’s no mystery; all I need is to look in the mirror and I know the reason.
My children have very little future here as well. Most hafu don’t stand a chance when it comes to their futures. They can go into entertainment, sure. Most aren’t even welcome into mainstream Japanese society – being seen as neither foreigner nor Japanese. They are forbidden from working as politicians, police and on a railroad. They can become entertainers, sports stars (pretty much the same), English teachers (by default), but will never be able to have half of the future a full Japanese does.
It’s for these reasons, and more that I have not told you about in this blog, that I will be relocating back to the United States. The timing won’t be soon, though, as there are many legal issues standing in the way. My wife’s professional situation requires that she has at least two years post-maternity before she can be flexible enough to resign her contract without having her college degree taken away from her. Luckily, her four-year degree at a Japanese university, mixed in with (at the time will be) 15 years of teaching experience will equate her to having a masters plus tenure. Even with her limited English abilities, she’ll be able to teach at a university or private Japanese school. If she knew more English, she could teach in public schools, depending on the state.
As time goes on, I will help her find employment and I will need to get her into the immigration process as well. Hopefully, she can naturalize and become American – that’s my hope. The good thing is, she’s willing (she wasn’t before), and I’m happy that I can keep the family together to make this huge move.
My children will benefit greatly. I will be placing them in private education, where they will be free from the propaganda that has plagued my beloved homeland. They will have an outstanding future that they can shape for themselves. Along with the opportunities that I will have back home, they will have that many more.
Even in this age of turmoil for America, we still have the greatest nation on Earth. Sure, Japan is magical and has all these great things. Some aspects of cost of living are very affordable here, but while the negatives are fewer than the positives, they’re heavier and make life that much more difficult. Sure, Japan’s a great place to live for a few years. But building a life here takes some hard steel, something that I just don’t have. Because, after all, being assaulted for being non-Japanese on a weekly basis really takes a toll on someone, especially when these assaults are in front of your family. No matter how big and tough you are, and I’m no slouch, the moment you even show a hint of retaliation, you’re gone! The Japanese want you to fight them – so you can get thrown out of the country.
Living in Japan is not for me. I don’t recommend staying here beyond five or six years. I’ve been here going on nine in March of 2020. I miss my country. I miss my homeland. I want my family to know the American dream first hand, and why I want to raise them there instead of here.
This is why I will say goodbye to Japan. I’ll look back, sure. But, I’ll be bringing the best part of Japan home with me – my family. That is enough for me!