What is it like to be a foreign worker in Tokyo?

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/09/09/what-is-it-like-to-be-a-foreig.html


A good friend of mine (and BB!) has a Brazillian friend who lives in Japan. He reports of neverending xenophobia and racism.

A decade ago, Japan actually offered to ship these folks “home” on one-way tickets:


This same friend visits Japan a few times a year and constantly provides stories of having his full-japanese friends going into shops or (especially) restaurants first to get the “japanese” menus and rates before the foreigner rates (or even in many cases, just to patronize the establishment).

I’m not certain on this, but I also believe foreigners are not allowed to own property or really set down “roots” there, either.

Makes you wonder what will happen as the many Brazillian Japanese (in brazil) intermarry and have children…


Essentially, just like California…

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Somewhat related.


Hi Orenwolf.

I have lived and worked in Japan for nearly 30 years. I am not Nikkei Brazilian. I am fluent and literate in Japanese. I am of Western European extraction, so my experience will be skewed. My mileage will vary from others.

That said, I have not seen shops or restaurants with different prices for locals vs. foreigners. (Exception being metropolitan-owned sports facilities offering residents a 50% discount over people living outside the municipality - nationality not a factor). With the increases in tourism (especially from south east and eastern asia), I am more frequently given an English menu. I ask for the Japanese, which is usually easier for me. It has the same prices.

I have not yet bought a home, but my best friend just got a mortgage from a Japanese bank and moved into a beautiful house. She had to wait for her permanent residence to come through. She is European. Several Chinese and Philippine-born friends of mine skipped the PR status and simply naturalized, becoming Japanese citizens.

Regarding the special deal for unemployed Nikkei (mainly Brazilian and Peruvian’s of Japanese ancestry) who became unemployed after the crash of 2008, the foreign community here mainly looked on that as a sweet offer. The Nikkei workers had been specifically invited to come and work in blue collar jobs through a government initiative, and given a special visa category, so they were given special consideration. Johnny English teacher, was left stranded. The return flight was an offer. Some took it up. Many did not. To prevent it’s being mis-used as a “free vacation” there was a term stipulation. I think it was 5 years that they had to agree they would not return for. For free money. From all us tax-payers (including themselves).

Finally, I know a handful of Brazilian Japanese in both Brazil and Japan. They marry who they want and their kids become 2nd and 3rd and 4th generation. I don’t see how that’s any different from being 3rd or 4th generation Irish or Chinese. (no snark intended - I am generally wondering what you are wondering about.)

I wish I could legally telework from Tokyo but their tourist visas are only 90 days.

Toronto is pretty cyberpunk at night (someone please remind me of the cross streets downtown) - but it’s my understanding actually teleworking (not just checking an email on vacation but 9-5 doing your job) is not allowed even if you have a US employer.

(If that’s wrong please let me know and I will look into some land in Point Edward a gentleman has been offering to sell me. Seems he had to move all quicksy!)

Are those establishments stripper bars, perhaps? I can’t speak to that. Also, I don’t live near US military bases, where I hear more stories of friction and signs on sex-joints about who is welcome and who isn’t. In normal (non-sextrade) hospitality industry, if/when a restaurant puts a sign only in Chinese saying, “everyone at the table must order a dish” or something, it makes the news here.

I’m pleasantly surprised to see so many interviewees in the video say they believe pay is the same between Japanese and foreign workers. The exception, which surprises no one, is the technical intern system, which needs serious overhaul or straight up abolishment. Too much abuse and too little oversight.

Hi Taj. Your post to @orenwolf was targeted to me. I’m referencing him here so he doesn’t miss your post to him.

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The specific example given was a shabu-shabu restaurant where the menu had an all-you-can-eat option on the Japanese menu, but not on the english one. The Japanese one wasn’t given to the individual of Brazillian heritage despite speaking fluent Japanese. upon return, they had their Japanese friend enter first, get the appropriate menu, then all join him to have the option.

My comments here are second- (or third-)hand, and from a pair of individuals as reference. Law of small sample sizes and so on apply. I thank you for the first-hand accounts provided by yourself and others, and definitely believe they should be given significantly more weight by readers than my indirect accounts provided above.


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