Boy in a Train Station

Written by on November 29, 2006 in Black and White, Life, Culture, Events, Photo Blog with 0 Comments

Boy in a Train Station

Tonight I went to a meeting in Hachioji that brought together Japanese community leaders and internationals living in the city. After introductions they group spent time listening to the internationals talk about the difficulties they’ve faced here.

First someone mentioned how hard it is to make friends with Japanese people. Most Japanese people are nice, and they greet internationals with a warm smile, but relationships don’t develop. The internationals said it’s like hitting a wall. I agree. I’ve been here five years, and I’ve seen many relationships that started off well reach a certain point and go no further. There are cultural reasons, of course, but, however you explain it, the fact is that many internationals in Japan experience this wall and feel like perpetual outsiders. After than someone brought up how hard it is for an international to rent a house or apartment. It seemed like everyone had a story. Housing is a basic human need. Many of the people there tonight had a time when they were desperately looking for a place to rent, and they remember being turned away by realtors for various reasons which boiled down to either a lack of a guarantor (someone who will guarantee to pay if they can’t) or being a foreigner.

I was impressed by the internationals gathered in the room. They were from a variety of countries in Asia primarily (Nepal, Sri Lanka, Korea, China, etc.). I was the only American. (Most foreigners in Japan are from Asian countries.) They spoke Japanese well. In their home countries, I imagine most would be leaders of some sort. They weren’t playing the role of victims but responding to this group who wanted to hear their stories.

Afterwards I went to an Indian restaurant (owned by a man who were there tonight) and six of us (from Japan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and the USA) had curry and talked for awhile… Not much more to say, I guess, but I’ll write more as these connections develop.

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