2017年3月 のアーカイブ

MAY
2
4

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)

MAY
2
4

「日本人」としての私のアイデンティティー

「外国人っぽい。」

 

早稲田大学国際教養学部に入学してから8か月。その間に同じ学部の人からも、他学部の人からも言われ続けた言葉です。外見は日本人ですが、たどたどしい日本語に比べ、英語は堂々としゃべることが原因でこのような印象を持たれるようになったのだと思います。

 

実際に帰国子女ではありますが、日本に帰国してから今年のクリスマスで十年経ちます。本当でしたら、この期間で十分の日本語力はつけられているはずです。しかし帰国子女の多くにみられるであろう、住んでいた国、そして英語という言語に対しての執着心を強く持っていたため、私は日本語という言語に本気で向き合おうとしなかったのです。日本語を問題なくしゃべれていたのですが、日本人としてその歳でしゃべれるであろう日本語力がついてなく、子供っぽい日本語をしゃべり続けていました。

 

それでも私は日本人である自分のアイデンティティーがとても大事で、中高六年間書道部に所属して、大いに日本文化に触れていたことは今でもとても誇らしいことだったと感じています。留学生の多い中高一貫校に通っていた上、部活内で英語がしゃべれる人が少なかったため、私が通訳係として書道の魅力ややり方を英語で教えていました。数少ないこの機会で私は異国文化に触れる留学生、そして言語がそんなに通じなくても頑張って自分の文化を必死に伝えようとする部員の姿を見て、自国の文化を知ることの大切さ、それを自分のアイデンティティーだといえることがどれだけ意味のあることなのかなど、異文化交流の魅力にひきつけられていました。

 

しかし大学に入って書道を辞め、国際教養学部ならではの「外国人」という印象をもたれ言い続けられた今、私の中での日本人としてのアイデンティティーが消え始めていました。「外国人」らしく振る舞うようになり、英語と日本語を混ぜてしゃべる、いわゆる「チャンポン」を多く使うようにもなりました。「自分は日本語が下手。」「外国人のように日本語が上手くしゃべれない。」常に意識すればするほど、自信もなくなっていき、高校生の時よりも日本語が下手になっているのではないかと思うほどでした。来年二十歳で成人するのに、自国の言葉もしっかりとしゃべれないことにひたすら悩んでいたその矢先に、ICCに採用されました。

 

ICCの存在や活動は早稲田に入学する前から認識しており、異文化交流が好きな私にはピッタリな場所だと考えていました。採用されて二か月、日本人学生や留学生がお互いの文化や経験を知り、吸収しようとする学生の姿を目の当たりにして、改めて自分自身の文化や背景の大切さを感じました。「外国人」は自分のアイデンティティーじゃない、「日本人」が私のアイデンティティーだという、忘れかけていた感情も取り戻しました。久しぶりに筆を持って書道もしてみたいなと思ったり。日本文化にもう一度正面から向き合いたいと強く感じ続けています。

 

「異文化交流」と聞くと、ただ留学生としゃべって交流する、お互いの文化を紹介しあうことだと思う人が多いかもしれません。確かにそれは異文化交流の大事な一部分ではありますが、他国は私たちのことを日本の代表かのように聞いて、接してきます。その中で私たちは何をどう発信すればいいのか、どう教えれば相手に日本の魅力を伝えられるかと考えますが、それは私たち自身の中での「日本人さがし」をしているのです。様々な環境に揉まれた自分のアイデンティティーを根本的な面から振り返る良い機会です。

 

ICCではこのように、様々な背景の人が異文化交流をできる場を提供しています。興味のある方は是非お越しください。そして私のように、自分のアイデンティティーについて何か気づけたなら幸いです。

 

 

 

M.H. (Student Staff Leader)