By Takuan Amaru
No. Never was, could be, or would be. For those who live in Japan, what about you? Do you even know? There are a slew of misinformed people (from various countries) who refer to themselves as “Gaijin” but don’t really know what it means. Most of them erroneously believe it just means ‘foreigner.’ But isn’t that word ‘Gaikokujin?’ Here is the difference between the two terms, according to a journalist who was born in Japan but raised in the United States.
外人: The word consists of two Kanji meaning outside (gai) and person (jin)…so it literally means an outsider. 外国人: The word consists of three Kanji meaning outside (gai), country (koku) and person (jin) As you can see, these are different words. Gaikokujin is much more formal than Gaijin, and many people think Gaijin is a shortened word of Gaikokujin but that is not necessarily the case. Gaijin is used to describe White people, or Westerners, whereas Gaikokujin is for all foreigners, and that includes other Asian nationals
Notice in her definition for gaijin, no mention is made of any dark-skinned people; she even uses the term “White people.” She also explains it literally means ‘an outsider’. Hmm, is that correct? Perhaps another interpretation for the combination of Chinese characters ‘Outside’ plus ‘Person/Human’ could be something akin to a barbarian or savage In other words: ‘Outside of humanity’. Well, on second thought, I guess that is still being an outsider. The word “Gaijin” originally referred to the Portuguese. Later, other Europeans followed them to Japan. Comprised of mostly pirates, explorers, missionaries, and merchants, this era is irrevocably linked to the Nanban Trade Period (南蛮貿易時代). The Nanban Trade (南蛮貿易), better known as the “Southern Barbarian Trade”, began with the arrival of the first Europeans to Japan in 1543, and lasted until almost all of them had been killed or evicted in 1614, under the promulgation of the Sakoku Seclusion Edicts. Nanban (南蛮), meaning “Southern Barbarian”, is a Sino-Japanese word, originally referring to the peoples of South Asia and Southeast Asia. According to Wikipedia, Nanban took on a whole new meaning when it came to designate the Portuguese. First Westerners in Japan, by Hokusai, states: “On August 25, 1543, these foreigners were cast upon the island of Tanegashima, Okuma Province”. Why were they “cast upon” an island? What kind of reception is that for visitors? Well, one of the small details which has conveniently been lost is how filthy and nasty these Europeans were. In this day and age, any ideology that does not in some way support white nationalist propaganda is seen as evil. That’s the programming. In spite of this, let’s be honest and unafraid to point-out the elephant in the room. It is a known fact (by Europeans themselves) that Europeans did not bathe in the 16th and 17th centuries. This was not long after the Bubonic Plague swept through Europe, killing millions during the Dark Ages. Now sit back and just imagine all those people dying only because they did not understand they needed to take a bath! In fact, they believed bathing to be evil…along with just about everything else.
Try to fathom how nasty a person would be that never took a shower. Fleas, lice, rashes, disease…just stank-ass!
According to Wikipedia, the reasons Japanese viewed Europeans as strange had nothing to do with their lack of hygiene. They claim their inability to use chopsticks, or read Chinese characters was what the Japanese noticed most. While these are indeed noticeable differences, this may be just another attempt to alter the historical facts. Just use your common sense—you be the judge. If you met a person that hadn’t taken a shower for, let’s say, only two weeks, what do you think would be the guy’s most memorable attribute? The fact he ate sashimi and rice with his hands? I don’t think so. The fact is, if homeboy didn’t know he needed to take a shower, I would expect him to eat with his hands! We cannot even begin to imagine how disgusting a person would look and smell after only a couple weeks of non-bathing—not to mention wearing the same soiled clothing. Why even in the television series of James Clavell’s best-selling novel, Shogun, Hollywood illustrated how flea-bitten and nasty “Anjin-san” and his crew were upon arriving to the shores of Japan.
Anthropologists Roland B. Dixon, Alexander Chamberlain, historians E. Papinot, Runoko Rashidi, James Brunson, (I could go on) have painted a very different landscape for Japan prior to the arrival of Commodore Perry than the one described by Western academia. It almost seems like the work of these great scholars has been ignored.
The question is why?
“When in Rome…”
Since I live and work in Japan, I insist that my associates and coworkers address me as “Amaru”. Both Japanese and westerners alike often look surprised upon realizing this is my last name. This is because, in Japan, foreigners are almost always called by their first names; while Japanese address each other by their last names. The reason for this has little to do with being of Japanese descent; rather, it has its roots in the adage: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” So, for example, if (for some reason) I had to live in, let’s say, Russia for an extended time-period, I would start learning phrases and nuances about the Russian culture before I even got on the plane. Put another way, I’d go there with the intention of showing respect to the people and the culture of Russia. If I went to Sierra Leone, Australia, Puerto Rico, etc., the same goes. This is the natural way of thinking for melanin-rich people. However the opposite is true for a gaijin, or gringo, or whatever your slang-term is for the melanin-deficient invader. Only gaijin go to other countries with no intention of respecting the other’s culture and, instead, to subject the people to their ways, mores, and values; i.e. to colonize.
By now, you should be able to see the word “Gaijin” is much deeper than merely meaning foreigner. In fact, it is so deep it goes to the subconscious level. Another article entitled, Gaijin: What does this word really mean? illustrates what Japanese think about this in their collective subconscious.
When Japanese people go abroad, they continue to use gaijin to refer to the native population. ‘There are so many gaijin in America!’ No, you are the foreigner in this situation, but the attitude is that: Japanese people can’t be gaijin/foreigners
I’ve tested more times than I care to mention what Hashi refers to, in his article, as Japanese people’s “cavalier manner” when addressing others as gaijin. Whenever Japanese slip-up and call another country’s citizens “Gaijin” while recounting their vacation or homestay outside of Japan, I never miss the opportunity to correct them. I’ve even continued the conversation with follow-up questions such as: “So, how’d the Canadians feel about you gaijin being in their country?” Even though in 100% of the cases Japanese have silently accepted my critique, it’s obvious, by their facial expression, they are uncomfortable, if not unhappy, with being labeled as ‘a gaijin’.
So, to recap, this does not have anything to do with DNA, or being “mixed”. No, the reason I’m not a gaijin is because when you check the historical record and the subconscious of Japanese society, this word has always described the most melanin-deficient of behaviors, attitudes, customs, and…people. On that note, we return to the question: Are YOU a Gaijin?
Takuan Amaru is the author of Gaikokujin – The Story.