Who’s Really Japanese?

When I first came to Japan, things were so much simpler.  Men were men, Japanese were Japanese, and foreigners were gaijin.  Now everything’s gone to pieces, nuanced to the point that when somebody talks about “the Japanese,” I don’t even know who they mean.  That it’s not me is the only thing that’s clear.  Things are complicated in modern Japan, is what I’m saying.  Three things, actually, or maybe four. Continue reading “Who’s Really Japanese?”

The Great Japanese Name Switcheroo

At first, you might think the Japanese place great importance on addressing others properly.  After all, it’s a nation where even elephants get called Zou-san.  That’s Mr. Elephant to you.

The reality is that this naming convention works flawlessly until someone who looks “foreign” enters the scene, at which point thousands of years of custom go straight out the window. Continue reading “The Great Japanese Name Switcheroo”