Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose – early 20th century microaggression

In the San Francisco Call newspaper, 24th September 1910, there was a rather entertaining tale of a gaijin manhandling a “little brown [‘yellow’ surely?] trainboy” for looking funny at his wife. I present the conclusion, but note I might have made a small mistake or two:

But he is going to have his revenge. He is going back to Hawaii, where he will write a Japan Times column advising tourists to stay away from Japan, telling them that they can not place any faith in weeaboos’ alluring descriptions or any reliance on the Japanese brand of civilization.

Further entertainment and a tidied-up transcription may be found on reddit.

Leave a comment ?


  1. Bristly taches were an early form of ponytail douchery

  2. @VK:

    No, the writer is making a lot of good points here. Japanese women entice foreign men to Japan with their treacherous vaginas, and then society traps them by giving them decent paying jobs without requiring them to have any language skills or any other skills. Suddenly those women turn into shrewish housewives, even though foreign men usually marry women who are least likely to turn into shrewish housewives, and this is all further complicated by pernicious nihonjinron, despite the fact this doesn’t exist. Foreigners are expected to behave and live in society the same as everyone else, and yet can’t make friends or advance at work just because they refuse to behave and live in society the same as everyone else! Clearly the solution is to make lots of non-Japanese friends, resist integrating into the culture, and accept that Japan is a closed, microaggressive, collectivist society of which you will never be a part. The moral of the story is that if you live in a foreign country you should to look down on it, act like a massive gaijin wanker, and bully people into doing things your way.


  3. @Rob:

    I LOLed included photo of the white guy showing an empty wallet. Priceless.

  4. That article is so full of amazing. Thank you so much for sharing. Makes me want to go on a bender and kick down some signs. Why can’t these soulless automatons just allow us to live and to breathe in peace without marrying us or making us work?

  5. KT88 (aaaahhhhrrrghhh)

    LOLhard – man, that “article” is one of the most epic trolls I’ve seen in a while. I mean, it even outdoes JDG in terms of rearranging and re-presenting the greatest hits of Gaijin bulletin boards, conversations overheard in gaijin sports bars and eikaiwa office between classes circa the 1990s with such serious sincerity.

    Splendid! Very impressive.

    Love it – feel isolated? Friendless? Trapped?

    Solution – Do the Baye! Hold those yellas in contempt, reject their language and go down to the local British pub…

    Is the demographic really that big or is it just overrepresented.

    Mystery? Conspiracy! That’s a question only (a) PeNiS can answer!

  6. @Rob: Loving your work. A career at the Japan Times awaits.

  7. Dear lord, that column (and the comments!) are a train wreck.

    @impressed and @rob

    Yes, that was spot on. You had me by the second line.

    “Treacherous vaginas”

    Ha ha ha ha ha

  8. This is the most brilliant piece of gaijin-expositional-theory I’ve read in a while. Comedy Gold.

    It literally covered at least half of the Top Ten Gaijin You’ll Meet in Japan list: #9, #7, #6, #5, #2, and ILD’s favorite: #1.

  9. @Ketsuro Ou:

    Careful, certain authors might sue for idea theft. The concept of Treacherous Poon Tang was well covered in the copyrighted masterpiece “In Appropriate”.

  10. Olga appears to be a newcomer to JT, a pseudonym for a JT worker who is annoyed at the racism of one or more of his/her fellow JT columnists maybe?

  11. Lack of Research

    @COYP: actually I was going to hazard a guess (based strictly off her focus on white males and asian women – IT’S A TRAP!) I’d say that Olga falls into havill‘s category #5.

  12. The Japan Times is a haven for the clinically depressed.

    “Adrian Havill, I’ve worked at thousands of Japanese companies in the most senior of senior positions, such as Vice-President Of Vice-Presidents, and now I’m herein the JT, posting endless inflammatory gibberish in my 24-year-old Eikaiwa Muppet voice to tell you that you are WRONG!”

  13. I have this sneaking feeling that Steve Jackman is run by someone at the Japan Times.

  14. Even Jake The Not-So-Real is trying to ream this one in from the brink.

    What’s sad is the utter conviction by some that the “Japanese People” are ultimately unknowable and not worthy of any time or effort flung in their general direction.

    “I can’t become at one with a group mentality without having to give up my individuality, the very thing which what defines who I am.”

    Spare a thought for the robots.

  15. Seb should have watched this morning’s めざましテレビ. A whole, inspiring segment on gai[koku]jin who have learnt how to work competently in a コンビニ. Even one of those scary slightly brown dudes, who could identify cigarettes by their names, not just the numbers!

    Tomorrow, a dancing horse


  17. Yeah, the guy who controls your future at the company takes you out for dinner and pays for all the drinks while he gets to know you better….THE HORROR THE HORROR

  18. ASK A GAIJIN Vol 3

    -So I hear a lot on the English Web about gaijins avoiding assimilation into the native culture because of the heavy and myriad social obligations that Japanese men apparently bear like Atlas.

    Now, I know a lot of Japanese men. I’m not gay or anything, I just have a lot of friends and it seems to me that most dudes go to work, have dinner with their families and shit, and then go on the piss with their mates.

    The only “social obligations” I can think of are weddings or company parties so what are these crushing societal pressures that gaijins claim to be avoiding like the plague? Or is it one of those bullshit theories that gets thrown around the hub like a fairly tipsy fairly portly OL 5 with a wide-on for raggedy worn out jaded fucks who sell English for a living?

  19. @ilikedolphins:

    I’m not gay or anything,

    Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That. :wink:

    But seriously folks, what about all the other developed nations of the world that have workplace social obligations? Are American offices all vast forests of loners in cubicles?

  20. @The 2-Belo: United Way.

    Don’t even get a drink out of it.

  21. For the “all rice tastes exactly the same people”.

    When I went shopping in rural Pennsylvania men’s shirts only came in blue, were ill-fitting, and looked cheap. Maybe that’s why they were, you know, cheap.

    I’m amazed at the mental processes that have people who actually live in Japan convinced that Japan is expensive because, you know, it was in 1992.

  22. Well, I hope we can all agree that this is a pile of poo: Justice ministry says it’s not discrimination to state “no foreigner” conditions for renting apartments.

  23. @VK:

    Well, I don’t think that’s quite accurate; the ruling was it did not qualify as a violation of the person’s rights, but they recommended reforms.

    I’d have to double-check, but in the US do Fair Housing laws cover nationality (as opposed to national origin)?

    What is indisputable is that landlords in the US or just about anywhere are allowed to reject applicants based on credit history. Since most foreigners likely have little or no credit history in Japan, one would assume there is little legal justification to claim ‘discrimination’ or some other violation of a person’s rights.

    The ‘no foreigners’ issue facing prospective renters is far, far more prevalent than ‘Japanese Only’ yet our resident quack….er, doctor has barely touched the issue, and I suspect that’s why.

  24. Actually, even that might not be correct – I don’t see anywhere in the story where they say landlords putting up a sign saying ‘no foreigners’ is fine. Isn’t the ruling just about this particular prospective renter’s case?

  25. Fair point, it’s not discrimination that counts as a human rights violation (if I’ve read t right). But perhaps that’s splitting hairs. As the article points out, the MoJ website lists refusal of service at a barber’s as an example of a human rights violation; it seems reasonable to take this to mean “is a case of unlawful discrimination). The MoJ site also lists refusal to rent to foreigners as foreigners as an example of a human rights issue (as well as refusal at a bathhouse… :razz: )

    It’s true the ruling is about this specific case, but as far as I can see, no extenuating circumstances have been cited.

    Yes, I’ve noticed a strange lack of interest over there in dealing with the biggest concrete discrimation issue affecting foreigners. Surely with guarantors the credit issue isn’t a big one. It’s not like it hasn’t also been solved elsewhere by various means.

  26. When I was last looking for an apartment, the estate agents phoned up about 8 different landlords to ask about availability. What was interesting was that they started every call in the same way – “We have a guy looking for an apartment. He work at university X, speaks Japanese quite well, has a guarantor in place and a good credit history…and he’s a foreigner.” They seemed to pile on the positives before mentioning the “foreigner” thing.

    A couple of landlords said it was ok as long as I wasn’t Chinese (and I wasn’t), and one flat-out turned me down. In all three cases, the estate agent looked really embarrassed, and spent some time apologising and explaining that the oya-sans were very old and set in their ways. I drew three conclusions from it:

    1) Housing discrimination is still a problem.
    2) If you’re gainfully employed, financially secure, and have worked at integrating then it’s less of a problem.
    3) If you aren’t white, it’s more of a problem.

  27. Similarly to Rob, the place where my office is (an old karaoke building made into 5 floors of offices) had a similar “no foreigners” clause. When they asked them to explain a little more, the letting agent explained that the previous Chinese tenants had used the office as a living area too.

    Being white, maybe even being black, seems like a whole different ball game to being Asian.

  28. @VK: I think it’s the MOJ that’s splitting hairs. I read it as saying that it wasn’t a violation of her individual human rights because the “No foreigners” refusal was not directed at her as an individual. A very Clintonesque answer. :razz:

  29. @Rob: When I went looking with my then fiance, she handled the ass kissing. One young sales assistant actually sympathised, and explained that the No foreigners rule was mostly for “Filipino hostesses and other bad foreigners like that”.

  30. @VK: Well, yes, it does say refusing to offer your services to foreigners is discrimination – that’s a fairly well-defined law (and it’s why Debito won his lawsuit). It can be tricky, of course – just look at the ridiculous law in Indiana.

    However, isn’t there a clear difference in offering a service (haircuts, taxi rides, hotels or…um, onsen) and renting out an apartment? The financial burden to the customer is larger, and the risk to the owner is heavier: can the renter pay, risk of damage to the property, risk that it can be incredibly hard to evict tenants, etc. This isn’t just true in Japan, it’s true in the US, the UK etc.

    The page you linked mentions ‘foreigners being refused when trying to rent apartments’, but it doesn’t say anything about this specifically being a human rights violation, and for good reason, I think – there are legitimate reasons (lack of credit history) that a landlord could reasonably use as a reason to reject an application from a foreigner.

    Incidentally, I had the same problem….in New York. After spending my uni years in Japan and then working in Japan and Hong Kong, I moved back to the States for the first time as an adult. I was working, had a full-time job, zero debt….but could not get a credit card and struggled to find a place I liked that would rent to me because I basically had no credit history. They would have rather I had poor credit than no credit LOL.

  31. @S. Urista:

    I’m really not convinced this is all about credit checking. I’ve never heard of these places saying “as you’re an incomer, I’m going to need extra guarantees/evidence of your creditworthiness”. Of course, renting an apartment is a bigger transaction with a greater risk than a hair cut, but (a) that’s the nature of the business; and (b) all the anecdotal evidence is that it’s still a straightforward refusal to do business on grounds of nationality, largely regardless of creditworthiness or even how acculturated the person is. Comprehendable prejudice (underlying fears of creditworthiness or whatever) isn’t the same as justifiable prejudice, even if it’s negotiable if you’re not the wrong type of foreigner. Just because you can empathise doesn’t mean it’s OK.

    America of course, isn’t a prejudice-free haven either, from what I hear and read. I’m not sure what that has to do with the matter here. I’m not saying “Japan is terrible and should be more like the US”. I’m saying “this particular thing where I live is bad and I’d like it sorted out please”. I’m pretty depressed by the MoJ’s approach because we’re supposed to be attracting more foreign students and they’ve taken a very passive line here about a problem where they need to be active and pro-active.

  32. @VK:

    all the anecdotal evidence is that it’s still a straightforward refusal to do business on grounds of nationality, largely regardless of creditworthiness or even how acculturated the person is.

    For dealing with non-nationals, their fear (not saying right or wrong) is that compared to Japanese, they lack the legal tools for relief should the tenant turn out to be a Bad Tenant. (Order of magnitude easier for a foreigner to flee overseas, Order of magnitude harder to track down a foreigner that’s left overseas, and Order of magnitude harder {or impossible} to force that foreigner to pay up or suffer legal/financial consequences if they’re overseas)

    If Japanese landlords want to be consistent about their nationality discrimination so they don’t look like hypocrites, they should make it equally hard for Japanese nationals to rent in Japan if they possess additional nationalities (dual/multi nationals) and/or medium/long term live/work visas enabling them to easily flee Japan’s jurisdiction.

  33. @havill:

    But if someone does a bunk, there’s the guarantor. Isn’t that the point of guarantors?

  34. @VK:

    Depends on the type of guarantor. For a standard “guarantor” (保証人), the landlord/etc can only collect from the guarantor if they show they they have legally spent both the effort to locate the person AND they have legally attempted to collect from that person (using the courts and stuff). So if it’s a standard guarantor and the person flees oversees, the landlord is basically hosed: good luck in spending your money to find that person, determine jurisdiction, and navigate the legal machinery of that country and then fail, and get all the proof of that, to show that the collector in good faith went through these routes. PLUS, the guarantor is only on the hook for XX amount of years from the time of the contract (I forget how many years; I think two years tops).

    Re your question, you’re absolutely right that what’s called a 連帯保証人. For this type of guarantor, you don’t need to go through all the hassle of proving you did your best to locate and collect, and the length of the guarantee is for the length of the contract. The person will know the difference because for this type of guarantor, they’ll make them sign their own contract and provide paperwork showing they have the income and means to cover the person should they pull a runner.

    Oh, and a catch-22: most places require the guarantor to be Japanese (if both the runner and guarantor ditch the country, what’s the point?).

    Most places don’t ask for 連帯保証人 anymore, because like educating seniors about オレオレ詐欺, most people have been taught to never, ever, become one of these, for Japanese or non-Japanese, unless they’re very close family.

    Instead, most places these days do the 保証料 instead of a guarantor. This is money they collect with the rent EVERY MONTH, and can be as high as 30% of the rent. What the landlord does is give this money to a separate company that basically acts as a 連帯保証人. From the renter’s point of view, if you can get a 保証人, then this is a sucker’s play, as you pay this fee for the life of the rental contract.

    Another catch-22: like all insurance companies that work on risk assessment tables, there are some of them that won’t accept non-Japanese or Japanese that they consider to be too high risk.


    The above two 保証人 are different from yet another guarantor, the 身元保証人, which is only used for employment contracts; that guarantor basically says they vouch that the person they’re employing is an honest dude or dudette, and if they screw over the company they’ll compensate the company for any damage they cause. That can be a lot of money, but they’re slightly protected in that the company has to go through the legal system to collect from the guarantor, and that sort of guarantor is limited to three to five years.


    TL;DR: so yes, if it’s a 連帯保証人, then yes there’s no need to worry. But getting a (Japanese national) person to be a 連帯保証人 is even harder than finding a place that rents to foreigners. And a regular 保証人 is pretty much worthless if the person (Japanese or non-Japanese) pulls an international runner, as it’s unlikely the landlord is going to be able to satisfy all the legal hoops to collect.

  35. @havill:

    One more thing: using extradition, so that a landlord can try the runner in a Japanese court with Japanese law and language and lawyers, isn’t really an option.

    Japan only has extradition treaties with two countries* in the world: South Korea and the United States. And those treaties have a list of conditions for the types of crimes and severity they’ll extradite for; generally most countries won’t extradite for any case that has less than a potential three year sentence. No rent runner is going to get three years in the slammer, so extradition is moot.

    * Just because there’s no treaty doesn’t mean you can’t extradite. It just means they have to ask really, really nicely. And it better be a more important crime than ditching rent (like murder). Some countries, like France, China, Germany, Brasil, and yes, Japan, won’t extradite its own citizens under any circumstances.

  36. @havill:

    Most places don’t ask for 連帯保証人 anymore, because like educating seniors about オレオレ詐欺, most people have been taught to never, ever, become one of these, for Japanese or non-Japanese, unless they’re very close family.

    Or even if they are close family. My wife’s younger sister burned us like this in the past (her dad was 連帯保証人 for her apartment, and she was chronically late with rent, and then eventually (cough) infinitely late. He ended up having to pay it off…)

  37. The Apologist

    While is unquestionably true that a foreign runner will be more difficult to track down than a native, for me the more pertinent problem is the unwarranted association of foreigners with being more likely to run in the first place. Why should being foreign be THE dominant criterion for determining a potential tenant’s reliability when other criteria would be far more telling?

  38. @VK: I think you’ve completely missed my point. I wasn’t saying ‘America is just as bad’ or whatever. My point was that credit history, credit worthiness, and perceived credit risk are justifiable and entirely understandable reasons why landlords may simply decide that it’s just a lot easier if we don’t give a credit card to this person, or rent to that person. Sure, as 2-Belo’s case notes, it’s not like lending to a Japanese tenant means you face zero risk….but the landlord can reasonably assume he has far more options at his disposal if things go wrong.

  39. ilikedolphins

    Now that’s some real apologistic shit right there.

  40. @S. Urista:

    Your argument about credit record would only matter if it was an issue of credit record. However, there is nothing in this case, nor in any of the anecdotal evidence available, that “no foreigners” conditions are related to credit concerns. To be honest, you appear to be arguing that all cases of “no foreigners” conditions can be routinely dismissed as being justifiable because it might be to do with credit. I’m not sure that’s what you want to say, but you do appear to be trying quite hard to justify the MoJ’s decision. Isn’t it at least worth questioning, particularly, the lack of detail, and particularly given that overseas students need places to live if they come here, and being turned down like this isn’t going to boost the attractiveness of Japan as a destination?


    Wow – thanks for that! I had no idea that regular guarantors were so ineffective.

    Extradition wouldn’t be an option at all no matter the treaties, as far as I understand, because an unpaid debt would be a private (civil) matter, rather than a criminal offence.

    In the end, I don’t see what wouldn’t be solved simply by asking for a larger security deposit.

    The interesting thing is, it looks to me unless I’m misunderstanding the status of documents (or plain misreading them) that there are several prefectures and cities that have formally stated that refusal to rent on the basis that someone is a foreigner is a form of (disallowed) discrimination, including some that base this explicitly on their reading of the constitution:

    Tottori Prefectural action plan:

    Mie Human Rights Centre (afaics part of Mie Government structures), where it is lumped in with other refusals of service:





    Many of them use very similar phrases or explanation strategies (for example, how to respond to someone who says “I had trouble before with foreigners/old people/disabled so I don’t want to rent to them”,) so I wonder if there was something sent out from a central authority at some point about this.

  41. Ken – I’m stuck in moderation without even being sweary. Too many links?

  42. @VK: No doubt! Unblocking now.


Leave a Comment

NOTE - You can use these HTML tags and attributes:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>