Fish Got Used to Breathing Air, Doesn't Notice Difference

Aug 12,2016

It's kind of interesting how I sometimes need to be reminded that I'm different. I don't mean the persistent 'harro, harro' heckling I get from ignorant prole children whom television has convinced every white person was put there for their entertainment, but that I often forget that the default perspective, even among those who work in the field of 'international relations' is that there is a distinct line between 'the Japanese' and 'outsiders', even when we've been here so long that we often don't realise that we're genetically and, at least until recently, culturally different, until we're ridiculed by children, chatted up by strangers in a language we don't usually use except for blogging, or look in the mirror.

The fact is that day to day, I'm not conscious of any difference from the dominant group. It's not because I subscribe to the Social Marxist race-is-a-social-construct dogma--I most emphatically do not--but simply because I live my life in Japanese and have had so little contact with 'western culture' for so many years that when I do encounter it I use Japan as the benchmark for comparison, not the other way around.

Most people around me, of course, don't really know me, and so they don't know this. They know only my caucasian appearance and their media-based stereotypes of what all caucasians must be, if somewhat mitigated by revelations during rare excursions into honest conversation. I still get asked if I plan to 'go home' during extended holidays, as if I don't actually live in Tottori.

Thus when I make a self-deprecating joke, such as about my own age in contrast to a room full of young whippersnappers, if the joke happens to include some aspect of something perceived to be 'Japanese', in contrast to myself, 'the Japanese' might be offended. In order for that to work, they need to be a lot more racially aware than I am. Actually, they have to be committed to an idea of 'us' vs. 'them', which I can't seem to maintain in the absence of a community of immigrants. This, to me, is the way it should be; one has only to look at the growing destabilisation in the west to see that reckless immigration policy isn't necessarily good for a society.

But it's also part of the reason I don't like going out so much.

'Well, it looks like you're staying here for good,' I wasn't recently told when making some renovations to my garden. It always seems to surprise people. 'Sure, he's married and has a twenty-year loan on his house, but he'll eventually get divorced, sell his house, and go back where he belongs, won't he?'

Just as travelers in the Middle Ages were destined to spend the night wherever they happened to be when night fell, so a man in his middle age is likely to spend the rest of his years in whatever country his life and work is by that time established. Sometimes his DNA is different from that of the locals, but he does his best to mimic their ways and not cause trouble. It could be argued that, all told, I've given a good bit more to this country than I've received. I'm quite happy for that. If I had felt any sense of loss, reading George Mikes pretty much cured me of it. I don't really 'belong' anywhere I've been so far, even where I was born--but I can still make the best of where I am, and always keep as a never-ending goal that humanity were a little bit better off with me than without me.

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