The (not so) hidden face of racism in Japan

I consider myself a very privileged person. I can speak enough Japanese to communicate basically anything I want, I am from an overall very well liked country, I don’t really stand out in a crowd, considering I’m very much tiny and white. I am fully aware that these characteristics make me unlikely to be the victim of prejudice or racism, whether it is in Japan or in any other country, and for that I am very thankful.


However, as I have friends of many different backgrounds, I know for a fact that these discriminatory acts do happen here, with their frequency varying according to people’s skin color and country of origin. For example, it’s not uncommon to see Japanese people raising their voices in demonstrations against the presence of Korean or Chinese people in Japan. While these events have lessened, and people have started to oppose them, they clearly can be classified as hate-speech, and the fact that they are easily permitted by the authorities is very worrying.


In addition to these loud and clear actions, discrimination keeps happening every day on a smaller scale, and in a situation that no foreigner can avoid when living in Japan. This is the much dreaded occasion of renting an apartment. I don’t think there is any foreigner that can say that they have had an easy time when searching for a place to live here. The first barrier is the language, as not knowing Japanese will definitely limit your options and make the whole process much harder. Then comes the second barrier, which is that even if you know Japanese, there are so many specific procedures and conditions that you will find yourself lost and struggling in the end. And even if you surpass all these difficulties, you might still not be able to get a home. This is because in Japan the owner of the building has full control of who they want living in their real estate (the principle of freedom of contract), and thus not renting to people because of their nationality is a widespread and very accepted practice.


I had heard a lot of stories from friends that found themselves in that situation. A Spanish friend was denied apartments 6 times before he could find a place that accepted him. Many others had to wait for the real estate agency to contact the landlord before being able to even see inside of the apartment. And, while it is not directly related to nationality, I have a Brazilian friend that was all ready to move into a new place, but when he went to sign the contract, the landlord refused him on the spot because he “looked gay”. This is the discriminatory extent to which “freedom of contract” is established in Japan.


Being aware of these cases, I prepared myself for the worst when I decided to move out of the dorm I had been living for 4 years. And I my expectations, sadly, came to pass. Even though I used a real estate agency close to Waseda, which was used to foreign clients, many of the available buildings clearly said in their pamphlets that they didn’t accept foreigners. In fact, what shocked me the most was that this information was normally written together with things such as “we don’t accept pets”. It really felt like we were being held to the same standards as a dog or cat, less than a normal human being. I was also directly denied one of the apartments I had shown a little interest in, as the real estate agent called the landlord in front of me and received a negative answer. Also, even if foreigners were accepted, the caution money asked was doubled, and the conditions for finding a guarantor were also way stricter than towards a Japanese person. Even though I understand the fear Japanese landlords might have of losing money or of not being able to communicate with a foreigner, I don’t agree that these issues are reason enough to warrant this kind of discriminatory behavior, especially when there are other, better ways of solving any problems that might occur between the parties.


That was the first time I actually felt bad for being in Japan. I love this country, and I intend to live here for the rest of my life, but after this experience I’m very much scared that no matter how hard I try, because of my face, of my mother tongue, of my nationality, I might never be accepted as a good part of Japanese society, and will always be seen as someone that doesn’t belong and is not worthy of the same treatment given to Japanese people.


In the end, even with all those problems, I managed to find a nice place for myself. I don’t think I can ever forget this sad experience, but I will try to look at it positively and use it as a guideline to make sure that my actions are not being discriminatory. I truly believe that you should treat other people the way you want to be treated, and thus I wish to make sure that I never make other people feel the way I felt, and many other foreigners also feel constantly. I also hope that in the near future, this kind of practice from the Japanese real estate sector ends, and that all people may be treated fairly. I believe that Japan can definitely change it for the better!




F.S.T. (Student Staff Leader)





















M.H. (Student Staff Leader)


Not Confident with Speaking Japanese? -Meet Japanese at the ICC that are willing to talk to foreigners like you-

Having lived in both Korea and the USA for a long time, I’m used to meeting people who come from various backgrounds. It’s my first time living by myself in Japan, and having stayed here for a little over two years, I`ve felt that advertising and exposing yourself to many experiences is truly important.



When I first came to Japan, everything was difficult because expressions were limited to 2-3 words in a sentence, and problems were solved mainly with body language.
If I came as a tourist, it would totally not have been a problem, but considering that I would have to live here for 4 years I knew it would be very difficult to live with thatlevel of Japanese.
However, I believed in myself that I could learn another language fluently, and I wanted to go to college in another country besides Korea and America since I already experienced the education system there.



Then, at quite an unexpected moment, the International Community Center appeared as a key for solving my difficulties in communication matters.
I had wanted to meet Japanese people to increase my speaking skills, but as a foreigner who cannot speak any Japanese, I guess it was hard for only-Japanese speaking people to be able to communicate with me too.
Also there are Japanese people who keep their distance from confronting foreigners, usually because of the language barrier.
However, Japanese people who come to the ICC are seeking to learn other languages and are not uncomfortable with having to face foreigners in everyday situations. So ICC was a great chance for me to have confidence in speaking Japanese.
They would wait for me, and were keen on what I was trying to express as my opinion.



The ICC provides a great amount of programs that allow foreigners to be exposed to a lot of Japanese, and what I would suggest is, learn grammar in Japanese classes at CJL, and apply that when you come to the ICC to talk with Japanese people. You will be less bored in class, getting to think that you will able to use what you have learned, and actually feel that confidence you never thought would appear regarding Japanese.



Try your best to experience whatever is out there, and that experience will then help you later on and make you a greater person than before.




JH (Student Staff Leader)





そこで今日は皆さんにあるウクライナ民話をご紹介したいと思います。福音館書店出版で、絵は エウゲーニー・M・ラチョフ、訳は 内田 莉莎子の「てぶくろ」という作品です。日本でも広く読まれており、ご存知の方も少なくないでしょう。










(T. K. 学生スタッフリーダー)


神楽坂 石畳と“塀”のなか

























TM(ICC 学生スタッフ)














X. F. (ICC 学生スタッフ)


JLPT: Is it that scary?

I believe no introduction about the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (“JLPT”) is necessary as most who live in Japan pretty much know about it. As most of you are aware, the last test of 2016 had been held recently. Now, all of us who took the test just need to sit tight and wait for around 2 months for the result to come out. For those who pass, congratulations, you no longer have to deal with the same drills and textbooks all over again next year. For those who do not, well, look at the bright side, it is not the end of the world and you have the chance to re-polish your Japanese skills and improve even more.


Those who I have asked about the JLPT pretty much has the same answers, it is troublesome, it takes a lot of money and time, and some even say it is scary. I can agree with it being troublesome, and that it takes a lot of money and time to prepare. But, even if I get why, I don’t think you should be scared of it.


Other than JLPT, I also had experiences with other language tests as I took the TOEFL and IELTS before. From those experiences, I can tell that JLPT is quite different from the other tests on several aspects, which in turn can make it feel scary. First, JLPT is divided into pre-determined levels that you have to choose. Second, it is held only twice a year on a specific date which you cannot change. And lastly there are only two results that you can get, “Pass” or “Fail”.


Since JLPT is divided into levels, it requires you to first assess your current abilities, and make prediction of how far you can get until the exam date. The problem with this is, as human being, most of us tend to over-assess ourselves because we want to receive the title of “fluent” ASAP. Then, making prediction leads to unconsciously making expectation. When what you expect does not turn into reality, well, we all know it does not feel good. Coupled with the fact that it is only held twice a year means that your chances are limited, so if you make the wrong prediction and fail, it means waiting for another 6 months repeating what you have prepared for the past 6 months all over again. After that, normally none of us would like to see “Fail” on our score card right?


Instead of treating JLPT as certification, which it ultimately is, just treat it as a source of motivation instead. The goal of learning Japanese is not the N1. Japanese is much larger than what the JLPT tells you as important, and it should be much more interesting. So see the bright side, it is not scary, it simply tells you how far you have achieved. As long as you are being realistic about yourself, there should be no fear towards whichever result you got.


The good thing about JLPT is it tells you the direction of how you can learn Japanese. It provides a guideline on which grammar, words and other knowledges that can be treated as priority and which can be treated as not priority for your current state. Imagine you are building a skyscraper; you need to build strong foundation and continue building one floor at a time to get to the top. Obviously, it will be much faster to build the foundation and the floors if someone can give you a guideline and direction, and much slower if you have to figure things out from the beginning. JLPT is that someone. Just be friend with it, and as any good friend would do, sometimes they can be harsh in giving their criticism. You may also fear of breaking or even losing your relationship with it, especially knowing that you can only see him or her twice a year for one day. But at the end of the day, you will realize that what that friend said helped us grow better. It is not the time we meet him or her that matters; it is what we prepare for the long-awaited meeting that matters.


So yeah, long story short, JLPT is your ally and there is no need to fear it.




I. M. (ICC Student Staff)


The importance of communication: It can change your life!

I first learned of Carly’s story through YouTube. A long time ago (6, maybe or 7 years), I stumbled upon a video of a news report about her life. It made me think a lot about the way we communicate and interact with people, and also how we might end up taking things for granted in our lives.


As the video in question (click here to go watch it!) tells us, Carly Fleischmann was born with autism, which would be the general term for a group of complex disorders of brain development. She lived the first years of her life having difficulty doing the most basic things like walking, sitting up, interacting with the world around her and, most importantly, being unable to communicate with other people. Not even the excruciatingly long hours of therapy were of any help.


But one day, when she was eleven, something happened that changed Carly’s life forever. She ran to a computer and typed a word, the first thing she was ever able to tell her parents. “Hurt”. Then, she typed “help”. While this is a basic, mundane thing for most of us, to her it meant everything. A girl that had been labeled as “mentally challenged” her whole life could finally express herself and tell people what she needed, wanted and thought about.


And boy, did she tell people. Her words showed that she was just a girl that didn’t have full control of her body, totally capable of understanding and communicating normally. Also, being able to talk, even if it’s a non-verbal conversation, to other people helped her condition improve drastically. She even wrote a book about her life experience!


To think that something we do easily on a daily basis, like greeting a person or telling other people what we feel, has had such a huge influence on Carly’s wellbeing and development still amazes me. We normally don’t think about how privileged we are, especially when it comes to these regular, daily actions like communicating with other people, until when we leave our comfort zone and are not able to do those things anymore.


As for me, the first time I felt like that was when I came to live in Japan as an exchange student, in 2008. I had never been abroad alone before, and while I could communicate in English and Japanese to a certain extent, that was the first time in my life that I couldn’t be understood fully by my peers.
It was like being a child again, having to learn vocabulary, expressions and social customs that used to be obvious to me. Getting misunderstood and being scared of doing something wrong were things I felt on a daily basis, and will probably still feel as long as I live here. And while this experience isn’t even close to what Carly has to deal with in her life, it still makes me appreciate so much the fact that I can express myself. Also, it made me try harder in order to be able to tell people my thoughts and feelings in other languages.


I guess that’s why it makes me so happy to know that Carly has been doing well, against all the odds. Since the interview that brought her story to light, she has had to face many ups and downs in her health, but she never gave up on her work as an advocate for people with autism and on her dreams. To be heard, to be understood, to be anything that she wants to be. And now, one of her dreams actually came true! Some months ago, she uploaded on Youtube the video of her first interview as a talk show host, with her guest being no one less than Hollywood actor Channing Tatum. (Watch it here!) Again, by trying her best to make her thoughts into words, Carly showed us that it is possible to find your inner voice, in your own way.


And you? Have you ever thought about the importance of communication? Have you had any issues expressing yourself? How did you manage to overcome it? Or are you still trying to find yourself? Here at the ICC, through our many events, we try our best create a community that can help all Waseda Students express their inner voices too.


You can always count on us!




F. S. T. (ICC Staff)


Waseda=Countless opportunities / Waseda=innumerables oportunidades

Hello there! Congratulations on being accepted to Waseda University.


This is T.I., currently performing as a Student Staff Leader (SSL) at the International Community Center of Waseda University.


As your first classes start, you might have realized that you’ve just entered a world filled with countless opportunities. Having the freedom to learn from top-tier faculty, to exchange opinions with fellow students coming from across the globe and Japan, or to immerse yourself in the limitless number of circles and clubs, are just a few of the chances that will be offered to you upon entry to Waseda.


The International Community Center (ICC) at Waseda University is one of those. Currently, there are about 5000 international students enrolled in Waseda; number encompassing almost 10% of the total student population. The ICC was established 10 years ago in order to make use of this vibrant diverse environment, and further enrich on and off-campus cross-cultural exchange. I personally encourage you to make the most of your student life by actively engaging in the ICC’s activities as a participant or as a supporting volunteer.


My career at the ICC started like that: from a supporting volunteer to becoming a SSL today. Even though it has only been a year since my connection with ICC started, I have personally gained a lot. I have especially learned how to appreciate diversity in terms of internationalization and globalization—both of which have nothing but opportunities for current and future endeavors for everyone.


Besides being academically challenged, it is up to you to decide whether you want to partake in extracurricular activities that will shape and polish you as an individual. I encourage you to challenge yourself to opportunities that will provide you with tools that will help you grow. ICC plays a paramount role at Waseda and I invite you to come and join us in our activities! The choice to take this opportunity or not is up to you! 




T. I. (Student Staff Leader)




Waseda=innumerables oportunidades


Hola! Felicitaciones por haber sido admitido a Waseda University.


Te saluda T.I., actual Staff Student Staff Leader (SSL) en el International Community Center de Waseda University.


A medida que pase tu primer semestre, te habrás dado cuenta de que haz entrado a un mundo cargado de innumerables oportunidades. Tener la libertad de aprender de la mano de profesores renombrados, de intercambiar opiniones con estudiantes provenientes del mundo y Japón, o de sumergirte en el ilimitado número de circles y clubs, son solo algunas de las pocas chances que te serán ofrecidas al entrar a Waseda.


El International Community Center (ICC) de Waseda University es una de esas. Actualmente, hay casi 5000 estudiantes internacionales matriculados en Waseda, número abarcando cerca del 10% de la población estudiantil total. Para hacer uso y maximizar este ambiente de semejante naturaleza vibrante, y enriquecer el intercambio intercultural dentro del campus más a fondo, el ICC fue establecido 10 años atrás. Yo personalmente, te aliento a que vivas tu vida de estudiante al máximo participando activamente de las actividades del ICC como participante o voluntario coordinador..


Mi carrera en ICC ha empezado así mismo: como un voluntario coordinador, hasta convertime en un SSL hoy día. Aunque ha sólamente sido un año desde que mi conexión con ICC ha empezado, yo personalmente aprendí mucho más de lo esperado. Aprendí a cómo saber apreciar diversidad en términos de internacionalización y globalización—ambos, fenómenos completamente cargados con meras oportunidades para futuros y presentes emprendimientos para todos.


Aparte de estar siendo desafiado académicamente, depende de tí decidir si quieres participar en actividades extracurriculares que te moldearán y pulirán como persona. Yo te animo a que te desafíes a actividades que te proveerán herramientas que te ayudarán a crecer. El ICC juega un rol importante en Waseda y te invito a que te unas a nuestras actividades. La decisión de tomar esta esta oportunidad o no depende de tí! 


T. I. (Student Staff leader)


ICC映画上映会「東北ライブハウス大作戦ドキュメンタリー ムービー(英語字幕版)」を終えて

「東北ライブハウス大作戦」という、東日本大震災の被災地を応援する活動のドキュメンタリームービーを初めて観たのは、2013年7月17日渋谷CLUB QUATTROでの上映会でした。


当時はすでに、東北ライブハウス大作戦ツアーと題して、アーティストの公演とともに多くの人々が被災地を訪れていました。しかしながら、あの日の津波の光景があまりにも衝撃的であり、自分も何か力になりたいと思いつつも、被災地に足を運ぶことができずにいました。けれど映画を観て興味を持つことだけでも、少しは役に立てるかなという気持ちで会場へ向かったのを覚えています。この映画は津波で何もかも流されたところに、人が集まれるライブハウスを作るというドキュメンタリー映画です。上映に先立ち、オープニング・アクトとして登場してくれたのが、プロジェクトの賛同アーティストでもあるロックバンドのDOESでした。 『今を生きる』という楽曲の「僕らの存在が嘘にならないように、消えてしまわないように、今を生きる」というメッセージと、映画の中の宮古、大船渡、石巻の人々の姿がシンクロして、できることがあれば力になりたいと、改めて思うきっかけとなりました。






しかし、ムービーを上映するにあたり、「言語」の問題が出てきました。本学には世界各国からの学生が多く集まっています。内容をより理解してもらうには日本語と英語での対応が不可欠でした。字幕、音声の日本語に加え、90分におよぶ映画に、英語字幕を付けて上映するという企画がスタートし、発案から約1年半を経て実施に至りました。そして、この翻訳を担当してくれたのが、早稲田大学公認サークル ザ・ワセダ・ガーディアンです。早大生の凄いところは、大変だと思われることも「サークルの新人の翻訳練習になるからいいですよ」と、快く引き受けてくれることです。ICCでは学生サークルとの連携も数多くありますが、ワセダの気質でしょうか、そのパワーにいつも感心しています。



本編の上映に関しては、英語字幕を付けていただいた監督の木村真生さん、音響チームSPC peak performance代表で東北ライブハウス大作戦事業部本部長の西片明人さん、ライブハウス・クラブカウンターアクション宮古の太田昭彦さん、ライブハウス石巻BLUE RESISTANCE代表の黒澤英明さん、TOSHI-LOWさん(from BRAHMAN)、クハラカズユキさん(from The Birthday)、うつみようこさん(うつみようこ&YOKOLOCO BAND,うつみようこGROUP, UFOS)、東北ライブハウス大作戦に関わるスタッフの皆様のご協力により、本当に素晴らしいイベントを開催することができました。宮古市の山本正德市長からも「みなさんのパワーは、繋がって、繋がって私たちのところにも届きます。宮古市は必ずや復興します!復興した宮古のまちを、ぜひ見に来てください」というメッセージを頂きました。人と人とが繋がって、今後も早稲田から日本の地域へ、そして世界へと広がっていってほしいと願っています。






N. N. (ICC Staff)

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