Accepting foreigners in Japan

Azusa Tao 

Here I would like to make some comments on accepting foreign tourists and workers in Japan, which has been the main focus of the Japanese government recently in order to boost the Japanese economy.
            It seems like the world’s awareness of the Japanese tourism has been rising these days. The number of the foreign tourists in Japan last year has reached 19.73 million and this was the highest figure in the past. Since then, many stores, especially the cosmetics stores, drug stores and the DFS, have incorporated the services aimed to foreigners, for example, the multi-lingual translation services.
I feel glad to see so many tourists enjoying themselves here in Japan, and when I could be their help using my language skills. Moreover, through my study abroad in the UK, I have realised the blessing of living with people with different backgrounds. It cultivates the sense of respect towards people, and expands your human network, which enriches your life. Therefore, I am definitely all for accepting foreigners and developing diversity here.   
However, there is one problem I have recently faced, as to welcoming foreigners to a foreign country, and that is, how people’s attitudes change when they come to certain countries. I had a chance to have my Indian friend in Japan the other day. I have specialised in the South Asian studies for almost four years now. Having been to India three times, I am very fascinated by its culture, people’s lifestyles and their values. I became friends with a guy ‘A’ last year when I went to Delhi for a trip. A learns Japanese there and he came to take us to Taj Mahal. He would be so kind and ask us if we needed anything each moment, and did everything he could to make us have a good time. I honestly was, and still am, very impressed with his humbleness and hospitality. The day was the only time we saw him, but we kept a good friendship with him. However, I was shocked to hear what he did to my friend when he came to Japan this summer. I got a text from him just before he would leave India. He asked me to show him around in Japan. I felt a responsibility to guide him here because I owed a lot to him in India. He told me he would be available for some days, so I needed to adjust my schedule. Finally, I decided to meet A for one day and have my friend guide him for another day.
My friend took A to all the famous spots in Tokyo. Luckily, her English was good and she had an experience of visiting India too, so I was sure that both of them were having a great time learning from each other. I was keeping up with them via texts so that I could do my best to support them if anything happened, and finally the trip was over. I was happy that it went well, but the text she gave me totally threw me off. She told me that A kissed her on the lips when they were about to part. Because she had a lot of experience of travelling abroad, she knew that some foreigners consider Japanese girls ‘reserved’, ‘silent’, ‘obedient’ and ‘easy to get’. So she thought A was also having this kind of idea over her. She did not become too upset, but she was obviously feeling bad about it. I immediately asked A if this was true, and he replied that ‘it was only a gesture of thankfulness’. However, since I knew that kissing an opposite sex so casually would not be tolerated in his society, and he was so loyal to anyone back in his country, I doubted that he could be so open to this kind of thing. I was shocked to know how his attitudes had changed in Japan. I wanted to make sure if kissing on the lips would do as a sign of gratefulness, so I asked a couple of my Indian friends in Japan, a girl and a boy. They completely denied the logic, and said that probably A was feeling too liberal here with so many girls exposing their skin with no hesitation and the exhibition of affection (and could also be because of the notorious porn industry). Therefore, he might have thought ‘maybe kissing is okay’.
Well, I do not deny that we sometimes feel too open outside your country. I myself have experienced this. Japan is very strict about manners and I feel unwound to have no one who knows me. I am a total stranger there and I do not need to pay attention to what people may think about me. However, we should never forget to understand the culture accurately. Going to the Europe from Japan does not mean you can hug random people nor completely lose temper by drinking. We should not interpret it in the way we want it to be. The universal key to a good relationship is respect to people. Have a good understanding of people’s values. We sometimes forget this when going abroad.
We know another tragic example of people’s misbehavior in a foreign country: the massive molestation in Kelun, Germany, that happened in the end of last year. More than 550 ladies were molested and some were raped by the immigrants, most of whom were Islamic. Some culprits have commented, ‘The German government has let us do this, since they let us migrate in this country. With the rights to reside here, we are not responsible for this. It’s the government that’s responsible.’
The Islamic culture and that of Germany are largely different, especially when it comes to women’s behaviour and how men treat them. I have been to Germany, but they dress casually and do not mind showing their skin. On the contrary, women in the Middle East do not usually show their skin due to the Islamic principles. Therefore, we can think that the exposure of women’s skin may have stimulated the immigrants and some have thought that the German women were trying to make random men sexually excited. Hence it has ended up with the incident.
Coming back to the theme ‘accepting more foreigners in Japan’, I would like to once again say that I am all for accepting them here and embrace cultural diversity. Foreign workers and tourists will definitely support the Japanese economy, and I am sure that the Japanese government will accelerate building the environment where foreigners can live their lives comfortably, although there is much space to improve. However, there is one thing I am not sure about: will they respect our culture in return? We cannot, however, realise the real diversity one-sidedly, and this is what we should put as much focus on by appealing our pride in our own culture.

Video: City & Life-Tokyo

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