hatefulsandwich wrote: I've sometimes been amazed at how sensitive people are, to the point of being full of themselves. They micro-analyse every action committed in their presence as though it somehow *has to* relate to them in some way because of their race, weight, sexual orientation or piercings. Relax, smile. You're different. You're interesting. Some strangers might gossip about you, but who actually cares?
Though perhaps you wouldn't be so amazed at how sensitive people can be if, over the course of your lifetime, you were unavoidably different-looking because of your race, weight, etc. As for Japan, if you speak frankly with native Japanese, you will discover that their behavior is often due to the presence of a foreign-looking person: in fact, it is commonly assumed by native Japanese, who are probably seeing a foreigner for the first time, that most Japanese will feel anxious or nervous in the presence of foreigners. As for gaikoku-jin in Japan, where people might have only seen a foreigner in passing, a lot is about you, and depending upon the individual, it is not always easy to distinguish between insensitivity and distaste, or intimidation and hostility.
Though I highly advocate taking a relaxed approach and smiling a lot, you won't always be interesting. This won't necessarily work in all places, under all conditions, for all people in Japan. Like many places, you can live in certain areas and encounter few problems, and other places might not be so friendly. While a young western woman might receive more curious attention, a large western male might appear more intimidating, while an openly Chinese male might not only appear less interesting but will likely receive some unfavorable responses from people. I live near an area that was once a notorious slum, but is now predominately an endless expanse of public-housing. While some people are nice, some didn't finish middle school, some are just elderly with no children to care for them, some are connected to Japan's largest yakuza group, and some people are openly hostile towards outsiders. While I don't necessarily feel like my life is in danger walking through the area with my 3 year old, I would rather avoid conflict and now generally stay away.
As for the original poster, most JET jobs are placed in fairly rural, low crime areas with medium to high-ranked schools. These areas hardly ever encounter outsiders aside from JET teachers, and are often curious, while JET housing is never in the middle of a 50 year old public housing area. As for appearing east asian, most find it is easy to blend in, but one thing to keep in mind, is that Japanese who fluently speak English can encounter resentment from Japan's less civil population. Japanese make a big deal about English compared to other countries, and one's inability to speak English is a mark for one's lack of education, while a fluent speaker, who is assumed to have studied abroad, is often perceived as a "showoff".