William MacDonald wrote:
James Forsyth wrote:I assume you are asking for an example of "...when unnecessary distinctions are made between "foreigner" and "Japanese."
Maybe you mean that this never actually happens because you hardly ever hear the terms "foreigner"/"外国人" anyway, and therefore, since you're doubtful it ever occurs and therefore you ask for an example.
On the other hand, maybe you acknowledge that these terms are used quite often in many different contexts but that the distinctions are, in fact, necessary. Therefore, you are asking for an example in which these terms make unnecessary distinctions because you don't think they do.
If the latter is what you are trying to say, then I'd be surprised that you're actually asking for an example. Unless the person works for the department of immigration, or is speaking about some narrow specific context in which the referent's nationality (or lack thereof, which is basically what foreigner"/"外国人" mean) then we have "...unnecessary distinctions ... made between "foreigner" and "Japanese.""
If you really think a distinction is necessary, I'd be curious to know when you think it is necessary. Surely not to determine who should be granted entry to bathhouses?
The latter. I was interested in how you defined, necessary and unnecessary, and I'd dispute that it is irrelevant anywhere except the department of immigration. Unless their understanding of Japanese culture and the Japanese language is amazing then it is a fair assumption that most foreigners don't completely understand a lot of situations, and that allowances need to be made. One can hardly regard a foreigner as "lacking a sense of humour" for not laughing at a pop culture reference to an Osaka comedian, and in that context, as well as many others, it would be a valid observation that someone is foreign and just didn't get the pop culture reference. Similarly there are specific laws that apply to foreigners, such as salary conditions, the requirement for a visa, and so forth, and so someone being a foreigner can be relevant in a wide range of areas outside of just the immigration office.
I do agree that it crosses the line when someone attempts to exclude you from a bar, onsen or hotel, and that the term can be used in an offensive manner, however drawing the line at the exit to the immigration office does seem a little extreme. Surely someone can comment that you're foreign without causing offence?
Sorry for the delayed response again. I was actually confused by your question, William, because I thought that examples were not only in my original post, they were the reason I started this thread in the first place. So I decided to not answer right away.
Thanks James, for the clarification question. I still think I had some good examples in the original post. I didn't like that distinctions were drawn in that way, and found it fairly ironic that the use of 「外国人」came up several times in a single sentence while talking about 多文化共生 stuff. (BTW, the result was that they let me keep my own not-quite-so-exact English translation, but the Japanese was not changed -- not that I expected it to be. Small victories! I'm happy enough.)
I can't think of ALL the situations it is appropriate and ALL the situations where it is not appropriate to use "gaikokujin," but as you mentioned, things like laws are obviously contexts where you would make a distinction.
Cultural situations are a lot hazier. It's a case-by-case context, but taken as a whole, I notice that there is an overuse of "gaikokujin." As I've mentioned before, I'm especially sensitive to this issue because I am a foreigner here, and to a certain extent I am also Japanese. And I don't even mean I'm just Japanese by blood or name. My parents raised me in a Japanese environment, I ate Japanese food every day growing up (I've loved natto ever since I can remember), I speak Kansai-ben natively, and as far as my parents were concerned, we were all Japanese. It's been an interesting experience hanging out with all the other JETs here, because they've made me notice things that I've never thought to notice, wonder, or be amazed by, because it's always been part of my life.
But time and again, I find that people categorize me into "Japanese" or "gaikokujin," and treat me accordingly. So what exactly are they asking me when they ask if I am 日本人? Because I'm not sure they know either. I've had people flat-out not "accept" me as a "gaikokujin." Conversely, I've also had people suddenly start talking to me slower and asking me if I can east sashimi as soon as I tell them that I'm an American.
Also, there is the point teabot made too. There are lots of different kinds of foreign people in Japan. And yet, I've had people tell me with absolutely no sense of irony (after I've told them that I'm an American) that it is difficult to tell apart the "gaikokujin." I've also heard from many non-English country CIRs (like Russia and Germany...not Korea or China) that people would keep insisting on speaking to them in English despite their own Japanese being better than their English.
What am I trying to say? I think this language distinction speaks to larger cultural and even legal issues of the inclination to separate people. Recently, my husband and I were checking into a hotel, and I was told that they would need my "companion's" passport, but not mine. I completely understand the hotel's standpoint, since there is a law and there was no way to know that I am foreign since I didn't change my name when I got married. But I think this illustrates the wider problem where this type of law is actually acceptable. Remember how controversial it was in the U.S. that Arizona wanted to start checking for "possible" illegal Mexicans driving around?
Believe it or not, I'm optimistic. There are a growing number of permanent residents here, and things will have to keep moving forward. I just want to do my part, however small, while I'm here.
Toyama CIR, Jan. 2011~ (late upgrade)