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senorqueso
08-22-2011, 03:05 PM
Hi All,

I've decided that I want to move to Tokyo to train at Hombu. This was a pipe dream of mine for some time, but after my wife and I separated in March, I've had some time to reconsider. I'm still young (24), and I have very little keeping me tied down to the States. I've seen plenty of people here talking about visiting Hombu, but very few who actually practice there on a continuing basis. I hope to make the jump in January 2013, which gives me a little longer than a year to prepare, financially, mentally and physically. I have a good idea of what I need to do outside of Aikido, but I'm not sure how to handle that aspect of it.

I made it to 5th Kyu, but never received an Aikikai book. I'm not currently practicing, and the closest dojo I want to practice in is 90 minutes away, should I make the effort to get some training in before I go, or should I restart at the beginning once in Tokyo?

Does anyone have any advice for me to prepare for my move?

Thanks,

robin_jet_alt
08-22-2011, 07:50 PM
Hi Jeremy,

If there's one thing I have noticed about Japanese dojos in general, and Honbu in particular, it is that there is not a lot of explanation. The student is expected to see what the teacher is doing, work it out, and replicate it. Because of this, I feel that it would be advisable to attend as many classes as you can before you leave so that you have some idea of what is going on when you get there. How is your Japanese? Obviously all the classes will be in Japanese, and if you aren't fluent, this will compound the problem.

Another thing to think about is that you may only be able to attend beginners classes until you achieve a certain rank. I don't remember the exact policy on this, and I can't seem to find it on the website right now, so please correct me if I'm wrong.

Anyway, my advice is to train when you can and not to put it off. If you can only do it once a fortnight, it will still help. At least make sure your ukemi is not too rusty.

Chris Li
08-22-2011, 08:50 PM
Hi Jeremy,

If there's one thing I have noticed about Japanese dojos in general, and Honbu in particular, it is that there is not a lot of explanation. The student is expected to see what the teacher is doing, work it out, and replicate it. Because of this, I feel that it would be advisable to attend as many classes as you can before you leave so that you have some idea of what is going on when you get there. How is your Japanese? Obviously all the classes will be in Japanese, and if you aren't fluent, this will compound the problem.

Another thing to think about is that you may only be able to attend beginners classes until you achieve a certain rank. I don't remember the exact policy on this, and I can't seem to find it on the website right now, so please correct me if I'm wrong.

Anyway, my advice is to train when you can and not to put it off. If you can only do it once a fortnight, it will still help. At least make sure your ukemi is not too rusty.

The first time I moved to Japan in 1982 I was a 5th kyu and spoke no Japanese. I did OK at hombu, and was in the regular classes. There are always English speakers around somewhere, and they're used to clueless foreigners.

OTOH, unless you're attached to a particular instructor there who's watching out for you I don't really recommend it as a place for regular training (and not even then, really, because of the class size). You can get much more hands on contact in much smaller classes in other places. Try it out and then look around for a more permanent place, would be my advice.

Best,

Chris

robin_jet_alt
08-22-2011, 08:57 PM
I second what Chris said about class sizes and hands on instruction. It wouldn't be too inconvenient for me to train at Honbu, but I don't do it because of this, and also because I wouldn't get my money's worth only training a few times per week.

I think the big advantage of Honbu is that you can train several times per day, 7 days a week for a flat monthly fee, and also get exposed to a number of high level shihans. If you are likely to train more than 5 times per week, I would say Honbu might be worth it.

Chris Li
08-22-2011, 09:09 PM
I second what Chris said about class sizes and hands on instruction. It wouldn't be too inconvenient for me to train at Honbu, but I don't do it because of this, and also because I wouldn't get my money's worth only training a few times per week.

I think the big advantage of Honbu is that you can train several times per day, 7 days a week for a flat monthly fee, and also get exposed to a number of high level shihans. If you are likely to train more than 5 times per week, I would say Honbu might be worth it.

That's true, there are very few professional dojo in Japan because of the economics - and you can train a lot at hombu, because classes are always available.

I think that most people who train at hombu, if they are serious, end up also training someplace else for the personal attention.

Then you have to consider whether or not what is being done at hombu is really where you want to be - but that's another discussion :) .

Best,

Chris

phitruong
08-23-2011, 07:21 AM
Then you have to consider whether or not what is being done at hombu is really where you want to be - but that's another discussion :) .

Chris

sheesh Chris, open a can of worm aren't you? :)

i looked at the online picture of honbu dojo and didn't see a weapon rack. some how, i don't feel comfortable walking into an aikido dojo that doesn't have a weapon rack; it made me feel uncomfortable. come to think of it, i felt right at home visiting kungfu schools that have weapons lined up wall to wall. sometimes i wondered if there isn't a bit of Gengis Khan blood flowing in my vein. once a week, i usually have an urge to go on a plunger and pillage which i jumped in my car with heavy snarling at everything, tires squealing out of my driveway, and my wife yelling after, "don't forget to pickup some milk and eggs too!" :)

now if i have the mean to go to japan to study aikido, i would want to track down Endo sensei and hang out at his dojo. of course, if i have that sort of mean, i would rather hang out at Ledyard dojo, since he tends to bring all kind of great teachers to his place. I'd take that over Honbu any day. besides, i heard that the coffee in northwest U.S. aren't too bad either, although, the folks are a bit strange there.

oisin bourke
08-23-2011, 07:53 AM
now if i have the mean to go to japan to study aikido, i would want to track down Endo sensei and hang out at his dojo. of course, if i have that sort of mean, i would rather hang out at Ledyard dojo, since he tends to bring all kind of great teachers to his place. I'd take that over Honbu any day. besides, i heard that the coffee in northwest U.S. aren't too bad either, although, the folks are a bit strange there.

That's a very good point. If you're coming to Japan and you're a beginner, it's going to take you at least two to three years to settle into a dojo and become proficient enough in Japanese that you understand what the instructor is trying to tell you. And that's just the beginning. It's going to take at least a further three years to get the basics of your "dojo style" down. So you're looking at six years minimum to get the basics of a sensei's style. That's assuming that you find exactly the right place for you from the get go. It takes many people a couple of years of training around before they find dojo that suits them (and vice versa). The well known Shihan like Endo will frequently be away from their home dojo giving seminars, plus, you are just going to be another face in the crowd at the beginning in a large, well attended dojo. Plus, if you are going to be supporting yourself teaching English, you could be working very long, unsociable hours. Throw in travel time in a metropolis like Tokyo and you could find it very hard to support an intensive training regime: you'll be really busy.

If you really want to just do Aikido, there are lots of highly experienced instructors across the States and Europe. I think someone like George Ledyard would love to have a young dedicated student willing to give it some for a few years. I'd bet money that you'd get more personalised training and instruction
in a situation like that in three years than you would in Japan. You wouldn't have the cultural barrier for starters. Plus, you'd be exposed to an evolving style while still staying in a lineage

I'm not trying to rain on the OP's parade. There are lots of reasons to recommend living in Japan, but if one wants to come here just to do Aikido there are lots of other, potentially better options worth considering IMO. This is a testament to the success of Aikido becoming a worldwide art.

I never knew Genghis Kahn used plungers, though.

Aviv
08-23-2011, 08:08 AM
There are three dojo in Iwama that offer uchideshi programs. They are all used to having foreign students and class sizes are much smaller than at Hombu Dojo.

Feel free to contact me directly for more information if you would consider this option.

phitruong
08-23-2011, 08:32 AM
I never knew Genghis Kahn used plungers, though.

that's because you have not heard the common expression uttered in fear and dismay when the Chinese saw his horde, on horse and camel, sipping vende latte, talking smacks. the Chinese and other unfortunate souls usually screamed "OH SHIT!!! Hide the cream and sugar!" "and the camels too!" "no, not the women, they are our secret weapons!" "oh, those poor bastards!" :D

Ketsan
08-23-2011, 10:01 AM
I never knew Genghis Kahn used plungers, though.

That's how he did so well. His opponents were all "Are you serious? You're threatening me with a........."

Yeah, Nasty.

senorqueso
08-23-2011, 10:11 AM
How is your Japanese? Obviously all the classes will be in Japanese, and if you aren't fluent, this will compound the problem.

Another thing to think about is that you may only be able to attend beginners classes until you achieve a certain rank. I don't remember the exact policy on this, and I can't seem to find it on the website right now, so please correct me if I'm wrong.

Anyway, my advice is to train when you can and not to put it off. If you can only do it once a fortnight, it will still help. At least make sure your ukemi is not too rusty.
I think the big advantage of Honbu is that you can train several times per day, 7 days a week for a flat monthly fee, and also get exposed to a number of high level shihans. If you are likely to train more than 5 times per week, I would say Honbu might be worth it.

Robin, I'm currently working about 30-45 minutes a day on learning Japanese. I don't feel its very appropriate to move to a foreign country willingly and not make an effort to learn the language. As far as training goes, I do hope to make it a priority. I'm uprooting to practice, after all, and if I don't go full out then what was the point?

Plus, if you are going to be supporting yourself teaching English, you could be working very long, unsociable hours. Throw in travel time in a metropolis like Tokyo and you could find it very hard to support an intensive training regime: you'll be really busy.

There's no way I'd support myself by teaching English. I've seen the programs available and they look atrocious. There are lots of tech companies in Tokyo hiring experienced foreign IT/Programmers/Web designers, and I have a few years experience in each. Not to mention what the English programs pay is basically slave labor, considering the cost of living in Tokyo.

I have other reasons to move to Japan (a lot of that is simply "I want to move to Japan"), and whether I end up at Hombu full time or another dojo is still yet to be decided.


Then you have to consider whether or not what is being done at hombu is really where you want to be - but that's another discussion :) .


I genuinely don't understand this statement at all. I'm chalking it up to naïveté.

Chris Li
08-23-2011, 10:11 AM
sheesh Chris, open a can of worm aren't you? :)

i looked at the online picture of honbu dojo and didn't see a weapon rack. some how, i don't feel comfortable walking into an aikido dojo that doesn't have a weapon rack; it made me feel uncomfortable. come to think of it, i felt right at home visiting kungfu schools that have weapons lined up wall to wall. sometimes i wondered if there isn't a bit of Gengis Khan blood flowing in my vein. once a week, i usually have an urge to go on a plunger and pillage which i jumped in my car with heavy snarling at everything, tires squealing out of my driveway, and my wife yelling after, "don't forget to pickup some milk and eggs too!" :)

now if i have the mean to go to japan to study aikido, i would want to track down Endo sensei and hang out at his dojo. of course, if i have that sort of mean, i would rather hang out at Ledyard dojo, since he tends to bring all kind of great teachers to his place. I'd take that over Honbu any day. besides, i heard that the coffee in northwest U.S. aren't too bad either, although, the folks are a bit strange there.

I tend to be more of the Garbage Kahn type myself :) .

There really is no weapons practice at hombu, none at all. I always liked Endo, although I haven't really seen him in years - and nobody's going to go wrong with George's place. Of course, the weather's so good in Hawaii that nobody even cares whether or not the training's any good.

Best,

Chris

Chris Li
08-23-2011, 10:28 AM
I genuinely don't understand this statement at all. I'm chalking it up to na�vet�.

Well, at some point you have to decide what kind of practice you want to pursue, and that practice can vary greatly depending upon where you are training.

Best,

Chris

phitruong
08-23-2011, 11:17 AM
Of course, the weather's so good in Hawaii that nobody even cares whether or not the training's any good.

Chris

come on Chris! everybody knows that your dojo is a front for vacation agency where folks go there for fishing, diving, and partying. that's the main reason you got Dan and Howie out there. those guys are party animals. :)

Chris Li
08-23-2011, 11:59 AM
come on Chris! everybody knows that your dojo is a front for vacation agency where folks go there for fishing, diving, and partying. that's the main reason you got Dan and Howie out there. those guys are party animals. :)

Shhh.... be vewy, vewy quiet - we're hunting aiki-bunnies.

Best,

Chris

Diana Frese
08-23-2011, 02:16 PM
I really love Phi's irreverent comments, at least most of them. I had to scroll back to find the original reference to Genghis Khan, because one of my cousins from Europe said another cousin said Genghis Khan had been running through our family tree. Small world, Cousin Phi! But I'm sure it was plunder, as in my husband and I racing each other thru the local Stop and Shop each piling our favorite foods into the cart and then deciding who has to give up something due to budget (sorry I can't buy all the Aikido books and videos I read about but we gotta eat...)

About weapons training at Hombu, George and the ASU actually have the shihan that taught weapons to the American students at Hombu in the mid 1970's, but I'm sure training at Hombu is great even without the weapons, which you may be able to supplement elsewhere. I took some classes with Endo Sensei over there, and his style is smooth and very beautiful while at the same time effective, I'm sure. Saito Sensei was great and so are those of his students whom I saw .... I'm enjoying reading this thread and good luck to you whatever you decide both here and in Japan. I did teach English somewhat, but not a full schedule teaching English or training, didn't have the stamina for more than one or two classes per day, but I did take Watanabe Sensei's class on Sunday for the additional fee for the seventh day added to the regular monthly charge for training there....

Don't get me started on reminiscing, I have to go do some exercises to get back into practice! (Too many trips to the supermarket, hubby and I are having to practice in the driveway to get in shape)

Diana Frese
08-23-2011, 02:28 PM
Oh, here's an ad for a Bill Witt Seminar -- he is really great, a student of Saito Sensei for many many years, he taught at one of the USAF summer camps in the late 1970's I think it was. Too bad we haven't been able to travel in recent years...

Anyway, back to the topic of money, I was able to borrow from my brother and some friends, I think I paid most everything back to them, I will have to double check before my memory fails .... I guess you will have to find out most things yourself but it's great to have so many people sharing advice and experience for you to learn from. I'm sure I could have learned a lot more if I had known more Japanese language, but one can still learn a lot by observing and training....

Bye for now, Daian P. S. Can you tell us how you got the name Senor Queso? Do you love cheese, or something? My husband is crazy about sharp cheddar, that's one main reason to head to the supermarket.

Eric in Denver
08-23-2011, 06:17 PM
A friend of mine started at aikikai hombu, but didn't like Tokyo. They had a list of all the affiliated dojos in Japan with contact numbers so he was able to relocate pretty easily. But that was in the mid-90s, so I don't know if they would do that again.

If you have your heart set on Tokyo, you could always check out the Yoshinkan folks as well, they have a few intensive training options.

If you don't have your heart set on aikido, then there is also Akuzawa who runs his stuff out of the southwest side of Tokyo, and I think about an hour north of Tokyo you could also find Kuroda Tetsuzan. Lots of cool stuff going on if you poke around a bit.

robin_jet_alt
08-23-2011, 07:41 PM
Robin, I'm currently working about 30-45 minutes a day on learning Japanese. I don't feel its very appropriate to move to a foreign country willingly and not make an effort to learn the language. As far as training goes, I do hope to make it a priority. I'm uprooting to practice, after all, and if I don't go full out then what was the point?

There's no way I'd support myself by teaching English. I've seen the programs available and they look atrocious. There are lots of tech companies in Tokyo hiring experienced foreign IT/Programmers/Web designers, and I have a few years experience in each. Not to mention what the English programs pay is basically slave labor, considering the cost of living in Tokyo.

I have other reasons to move to Japan (a lot of that is simply "I want to move to Japan"), and whether I end up at Hombu full time or another dojo is still yet to be decided.

I genuinely don't understand this statement at all. I'm chalking it up to naïveté.

Good to hear you are making an effort with Japanese. That will be especially useful if you want to get a job in IT. They usually require level 2 on the JLPT, so if you can get that before you come here, that will be a big help. You never know, you might even end up working for my company.

Teaching English varies a lot, depending on who you work for. The bottom has fallen out of the market lately, so it's not as good as it used to be, but I actually earned more teaching English than I am earning now as a translator.

The thing that Phi and Chris have been alluding to about Honbu is that while it has all the prestigious shihans and a offers a lot of classes, it is not renowned for its quality of teaching. The teaching there seems stuck in the old style of showing a technique and having the students repeat it with little explanation or assistance. The students are also encouraged not to speak, so you wouldn't get much assistance from your senpai either. A lot of the Shihans there are actually really good teachers, but they are a bit constrained when they teach at Honbu. Also, as Phi said, there is no weapons training at Honbu (or at least there didn't used to be. Is that still the case?).

Iwama is actually something that might be worth looking into. It's out in the country, so you wouldn't have the living expenses or the ridiculous commute times that you have in Tokyo, and you would get more personal attention and weapons training. It all depends on what is important to you.

raul rodrigo
08-23-2011, 08:26 PM
There is a weapons rack in Hombu Dojo—bokken, jo, shoto. The thing is they don't practice weapons in class. Now and then a Yasuno or a Kuribayashi will pick up a weapon to stress a point.

senorqueso
08-24-2011, 07:51 AM
Good to hear you are making an effort with Japanese. That will be especially useful if you want to get a job in IT. They usually require level 2 on the JLPT, so if you can get that before you come here, that will be a big help. You never know, you might even end up working for my company.

Teaching English varies a lot, depending on who you work for. The bottom has fallen out of the market lately, so it's not as good as it used to be, but I actually earned more teaching English than I am earning now as a translator.

The thing that Phi and Chris have been alluding to about Honbu is that while it has all the prestigious shihans and a offers a lot of classes, it is not renowned for its quality of teaching. The teaching there seems stuck in the old style of showing a technique and having the students repeat it with little explanation or assistance. The students are also encouraged not to speak, so you wouldn't get much assistance from your senpai either. A lot of the Shihans there are actually really good teachers, but they are a bit constrained when they teach at Honbu. Also, as Phi said, there is no weapons training at Honbu (or at least there didn't used to be. Is that still the case?).

Iwama is actually something that might be worth looking into. It's out in the country, so you wouldn't have the living expenses or the ridiculous commute times that you have in Tokyo, and you would get more personal attention and weapons training. It all depends on what is important to you.

Robin, thanks, this actually gives me a lot to think about. I don't know anything about Iwama or their style, but it looks interesting Also, the JLPT looks very difficult, it will be a good goal to work towards.

P. S. Can you tell us how you got the name Senor Queso? Do you love cheese, or something? My husband is crazy about sharp cheddar, that's one main reason to head to the supermarket.

I honestly don't remember how I got that name. Something happened in high school, I think, but I don't remember the origin. It feels like it always has been my online alias.

barron
08-24-2011, 02:58 PM
Japan the Gold Standard of Aikido ?

" I would rather hang out at Ledyard dojo, since he tends to bring all kind of great teachers to his place. I'd take that over Honbu any day. besides, i heard that the coffee in northwest U.S. aren't too bad either, although, the folks are a bit strange there." Phi Truong

Perhaps this might be a separate thread?

I agree with Phil about the coffee in the NW U.S. , as well the strange, in a nice way, people. It should be recognized however that there are many "great" teachers in countries other than Japan. I would never discourage anyone from going to Japan as I have been there twice, love the country and people,but never for Aikido but will finally be going next April for one month to study at my Shihan's dojo.

The cultural experience from living in another country is invaluable. During my youth and early adulthood I spent between 4 to 5 months a year in Europe and would do it all again. Learning German in a bar at night with a krug of beer and friends was invaluable.

But this still begs the question in my mind ( or blasphemy ) are there not "Great" teachers elsewhere and is Japan still the best/only place to train? If one wants to study authentic/traditional aikido realistically we would have to go back in time to Japan in the 1930 - 60's era.

Please don't take offence with this especially if your "style" is traditional for I'm only saying that no matter how true one tries to maintain their technique to the style creator the individual biomechanics and personality of the each teacher has an effect on the product .... especially over five decades.

If one were to intensely study Aikido I believe that they should seek out a teacher who espouses and conducts themselves in manner, ethics and philosophy of the art. This teacher might well be in Japan, altough the language barrier and nusances if one was not a native speaker of Japanese would be lost.

Finally I say .... Jeremy go to Japan for the experience and the aikido you'll learn ... you'll love the experience and grow from it.

Chicko Xerri
08-25-2011, 01:23 AM
It will change you for ever. You may or may not find yourself, you may even find something else. As for Aikido you only need to look in your own area. O'sensei the great teacher has moved on, the rest of us are all students of this life and Aiki. regardless of where you go to look. Then again if you have to go, all the best to you.:ai: :ki:

robin_jet_alt
08-25-2011, 01:47 AM
Also, the JLPT looks very difficult, it will be a good goal to work towards.


It is incredibly difficult until you pass it, and then it's not anymore. A lot like gradings in Aikido really. Start with the lower levels and work your way up.

Richard Stevens
08-25-2011, 09:12 AM
Robin, I'm currently working about 30-45 minutes a day on learning Japanese. I don't feel its very appropriate to move to a foreign country willingly and not make an effort to learn the language. As far as training goes, I do hope to make it a priority. I'm uprooting to practice, after all, and if I don't go full out then what was the point?

There's no way I'd support myself by teaching English. I've seen the programs available and they look atrocious. There are lots of tech companies in Tokyo hiring experienced foreign IT/Programmers/Web designers, and I have a few years experience in each. Not to mention what the English programs pay is basically slave labor, considering the cost of living in Tokyo.

As was mentioned before in this thread, you will need at least JLPT Level 2 to get a position in IT in most cases. They can be hard to come by for someone not comfortable with the language. Unless the foreigner has a hard to find skill-set why hire someone who had difficulty communicating when a native speaker may have the same skills?

35-40 minutes of study on your own a day is probably not going to be sufficient to get you to the point where you can pass the Level 2 exam. I would suggest looking for a Japanese club (with actual Japanese members) to improve your conversational skills.

Another option is to look for an eikawa position at a company like Aeon or Peppy Kids Club just to get into the country. I lived in Japan for a long time and was never an English teacher myself, but they can pay enough to get you by for a year or two. If you can find a position in a small city/town your expenses will be low and you may have access to a local Aikikai affiliated school. If you manage to avoid the foreigner bubble and make Japanese friends, your Japanese will improve very, very quickly.

With your Japanese up to speed and a feel for life in Japan you'll find it much easier to land a position in IT as a foreigner with Japanese skills already in the country is a much easier hire.

Tenyu
08-25-2011, 09:29 AM
Jeremy,

Watch out for the hot spots:

http://cdn1.alexanderhiggins.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Tokyo-Metropolitan-Radiation-Soil-Testing-Map.png

More info in Open Discussions if interested.

:circle:

HL1978
08-25-2011, 10:42 AM
As was mentioned before in this thread, you will need at least JLPT Level 2 to get a position in IT in most cases. They can be hard to come by for someone not comfortable with the language. Unless the foreigner has a hard to find skill-set why hire someone who had difficulty communicating when a native speaker may have the same skills?

35-40 minutes of study on your own a day is probably not going to be sufficient to get you to the point where you can pass the Level 2 exam. I would suggest looking for a Japanese club (with actual Japanese members) to improve your conversational skills.


Some of the big US financial companies IT departments don't require JLPT. There are certain worlds you can live in within japan in the technical industry which don't require the JLPT. Buddy of mine is high up in Goldman's Japanese IT dept and never took the JLPT, have another friend who worked in IT in japan and never formally studied japanese either. He now works at NASA as an IT contractor.

I had job offers in Japan to work as an engineer at Sankyo Seisakusho without taking the JLPT, but having lived in japan and studied the language. Also had offers to work as a patent agent too, again without requirements for japanese language ability. I eventually took the JLPT 3 (old style) for fun and passed with minimal studying. If I had taken it right after school, I probably would have passed JLPT 2 but you forget kanji if you don't use them. JETRO is probably a more accurate gauge of one's japanese ability though.

One can poke around gaijinpot.com for jobs, but a better way is through networking. Thats how I eventually had Japanese job opportunities presented to me. Unless you are working for an ameican company as an overseas hire, don't expect to get paid the same as you would in the US, but you will likely get housing assistance. If you are working as an expat rather than direct hire, you can live a fairly lavish lifestyle, as in a more western lifestlye with more western sized accomidations. That is what I have seen among people hired in that fashion.

NagaBaba
08-25-2011, 12:04 PM
From strictly aikido point of view, it is important where you will be living after your retour from Japan. As you know there are a lot of styles of aikido, and if this particular style(that you learned in Japan) is not present in your area, you will have to open your own dojo, or you will be completely unmotivated to continue practice. So the travel to Japan will not fulfill its role.
So when you are choosing what style you will follow in Japan, make sure it also exist close to your home(or future home). When I’m saying ‘style’ i mean a teaching of this particular shihan.

Adam Huss
08-25-2011, 04:33 PM
I know its been mentioned before...but I will reiterate that the Yoshinkan honbu has a good program for foreigners, which they've recently retooled. You can do the senshisei course, or a few different uchideshi options. You would be starting as a complete beginner, learning a new style of aikido. They have classes specifically designed for english speakers and are run in english, as well as many senior mentors who are bilingual.

Tenyu
08-25-2011, 05:14 PM
Good idea to take one (http://youtu.be/7TezrkBC9yI) of these with you.

Carl Thompson
08-25-2011, 06:19 PM
Hi Jeremy

It looks like you have been given a lot to think about. It's no surprise that some experienced people are also countering each other's examples with exceptions. There are all kinds of situations you could end up in which is part of the adventure.

To the previous points I'd add that you'll want time to train, so even the IT job (with or without JLPT requirements) could be a problem if you have to work salaryman hours. Also:


You could look into becoming an uchi deshi until your money runs out then look for work after having had a decent stretch of immersion in Japan. I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned visas. You could do this on the tourist visa for 3 months but a culture visa (requiring sponsorship from your teacher) would be better. You can then switch once you become a regular kayoi deshi (commuting student) with a job.

I imagine you must have a university degree anyway, but for the record, this is usually the requirement to apply for most work visas (especially teaching).

If you have any radiation fears, I'd avoid the hysteria (http://www.mediaite.com/tv/nancy-grace-spars-with-weatherman-over-whether-or-not-radiation-will-kill-us-all/) and the conspiracy theories you find in some of the culture-fatigued blogs out there and check out the science of the situation.


Good luck

Chris Li
08-25-2011, 06:41 PM
From strictly aikido point of view, it is important where you will be living after your retour from Japan. As you know there are a lot of styles of aikido, and if this particular style(that you learned in Japan) is not present in your area, you will have to open your own dojo, or you will be completely unmotivated to continue practice. So the travel to Japan will not fulfill its role.
So when you are choosing what style you will follow in Japan, make sure it also exist close to your home(or future home). When I’m saying ‘style’ i mean a teaching of this particular shihan.

From an Aikido point of view - one of the main advantages of travelling to Japan is the range of styles and instructors that are available in, say, Tokyo, as opposed to many non-Japanese cities.

I think that it would be a shame not to take advantage of that.

Best,

Chris

NagaBaba
08-25-2011, 09:32 PM
From an Aikido point of view - one of the main advantages of travelling to Japan is the range of styles and instructors that are available in, say, Tokyo, as opposed to many non-Japanese cities.

I think that it would be a shame not to take advantage of that.

Best,

Chris
I'm not saying he shouldn't visit and practice for some time in a large variety of dojo. This is quite normal stage of looking for the Teacher process. However once he decides to chose one, the problem I described arrives.
If he doesn't chose a Teacher, he can't learn aikido at all.

HL1978
08-25-2011, 09:51 PM
From strictly aikido point of view, it is important where you will be living after your retour from Japan. As you know there are a lot of styles of aikido, and if this particular style(that you learned in Japan) is not present in your area, you will have to open your own dojo, or you will be completely unmotivated to continue practice. So the travel to Japan will not fulfill its role.
So when you are choosing what style you will follow in Japan, make sure it also exist close to your home(or future home). When I’m saying ‘style’ i mean a teaching of this particular shihan.

I'm not quite sure if I follow. Why wouldn't he have the option to simply follow another lineage if that is all that is available? Plenty of people do so when they move to another area if they do not have sufficent experience to teach on their own, or do not have the resources to make visits back to their old teacher.

Chris Li
08-25-2011, 10:03 PM
I'm not saying he shouldn't visit and practice for some time in a large variety of dojo. This is quite normal stage of looking for the Teacher process. However once he decides to chose one, the problem I described arrives.
If he doesn't chose a Teacher, he can't learn aikido at all.

Well, I'm all for developing personal relationships with instructors, but as for Teachers with a capital "T" - I think that it can hamper as often as it helps.

Best,

Chris

robin_jet_alt
08-26-2011, 01:28 AM
From strictly aikido point of view, it is important where you will be living after your retour from Japan. As you know there are a lot of styles of aikido, and if this particular style(that you learned in Japan) is not present in your area, you will have to open your own dojo, or you will be completely unmotivated to continue practice. So the travel to Japan will not fulfill its role.
So when you are choosing what style you will follow in Japan, make sure it also exist close to your home(or future home). When I’m saying ‘style’ i mean a teaching of this particular shihan.

That is rather emphatic isn't it.

Actually, I have moved and joined a dojo of a different style 3 times now, and I didn't feel at all unmotivated to continue practicing.

Gerardo Torres
08-26-2011, 01:19 PM
I think Szczepan makes a valid point, in the sense that if while in Japan you happen to find a shihan who's aikido you'd like to focus on long-term, then it's in your interest to have that shihan's aikido represented in the area you intend to return to (it would help continue that particular branch of study).

NagaBaba
08-26-2011, 02:05 PM
I think Szczepan makes a valid point, in the sense that if while in Japan you happen to find a shihan who's aikido you'd like to focus on long-term, then it's in your interest to have that shihan's aikido represented in the area you intend to return to (it would help continue that particular branch of study).

Yes, that’s correct. Let’s say he study 5 years in Tada sensei dojo(aikikai organization ) and then after coming back to States the only alternatives are Tomiki or Yoshinkan ? Or in contrary, he spent 5 years in Yoshinkan Hombu and back in States the only option is to study Ki Society aikido LOL
But even i.e. inside of Aikikai, each shihan developed his own teaching method and changing one for other means to start everything from scratch and forget deeply what you’ve learned before.

Of course, one can jump happily from one style/organization to other every 2-3 years, this approach allows for only very superficial aikido training.

NagaBaba
08-26-2011, 02:13 PM
Well, I'm all for developing personal relationships with instructors, but as for Teachers with a capital "T" - I think that it can hamper as often as it helps.

Best,

Chris
I agree that each approach has his strong and weak points, however in my experience, having seen the results of both way of studying after lets say more then 30 years, I can see very clearly a very important difference on many levels. One absolutely needs a Teacher to serious aikido training IMO.
Kind regards

HL1978
08-27-2011, 09:53 AM
Yes, that's correct. Let's say he study 5 years in Tada sensei dojo(aikikai organization ) and then after coming back to States the only alternatives are Tomiki or Yoshinkan ? Or in contrary, he spent 5 years in Yoshinkan Hombu and back in States the only option is to study Ki Society aikido LOL
But even i.e. inside of Aikikai, each shihan developed his own teaching method and changing one for other means to start everything from scratch and forget deeply what you've learned before.

Of course, one can jump happily from one style/organization to other every 2-3 years, this approach allows for only very superficial aikido training.

In your opinon, are each of these branches doing something fundamentially different or merely variations on a theme?

NagaBaba
08-27-2011, 06:30 PM
In your opinon, are each of these branches doing something fundamentially different or merely variations on a theme?
This is quite off topic, so I'll be short: Don't look at the finger, look at the moon.

graham christian
08-27-2011, 08:44 PM
This is quite off topic, so I'll be short: Don't look at the finger, look at the moon.

Hi. I think your point was quite clear and valid. But remember we live in a world where you go to university studying one thing so that you can get qualified in order to come out and do something else.

That's considered normal. Ha,ha.

Regards.G.

Peter Goldsbury
08-27-2011, 09:12 PM
Hi All,

I've decided that I want to move to Tokyo to train at Hombu.

Does anyone have any advice for me to prepare for my move?

Thanks,

Hello,

I came to Japan in April 1980 and I do not plan to leave any time soon. On the advice of a Hombu shihan, I obtained employment before I left the UK. Since Hiroshima was my final destination, I did not train at the Hombu very much. I was already a yudansha and had over ten years of training under my belt. Since my teacher (Teacher 1, I suppose), had already told me whose classes I should go to, training times were not a problem: I went to those particular classes, and to Doshu's classes in the morning and on Friday evening, when I was sometimes able to train with the shihans who also taught there. The teachers whose classes I took also had their own dojos in the suburbs, so I trained there, also. However, I had my own teacher (Teacher 2) in Hiroshima.

So I agree with Sczcepan that you need a Teacher, especially if you intend to make your time in Japan the main focus of your training and not just an interlude. Whether you find this Teacher in the Hombu Dojo is, of course, another question.

Best wishes,

P Goldsbury

robin_jet_alt
08-28-2011, 10:09 PM
Here is a link to a guide to training at Honbu posted by Guillame Erard on a different thread. I thought it might be useful.

http://www.guillaumeerard.com/en/aikido/travels/guide-to-aikikai.html

Cliff Judge
08-30-2011, 01:05 PM
If I were 24 and recently single and thinking of going to Japan, I'd be planning on:

1) not coming back
2) practicing koryu

Gerardo Torres
08-30-2011, 02:18 PM
If I were 24 and recently single and thinking of going to Japan, I'd be planning on:

1) not coming back
2) practicing koryu
Yep, same here. :)

Chris Li
08-30-2011, 02:32 PM
If I were 24 and recently single and thinking of going to Japan, I'd be planning on:

1) not coming back
2) practicing koryu

Just a couple of thoughts.

Even if you live in Japan forever, you never become Japanese. You're always on the outside - that may or may not bother you, but it does add a certain level of stress. Also, the further in you get to Japanese society the more subject you are to the society's rules and customs - which can be quite restrictive. That's why so many Japanese try to escape to the west.

A few years ago I went to see one of the larger koryu demonstrations in Tokyo with and old Japanese koryu friend of mine. His comment was that some of the demonstrations made him feel like crying.

Koryu is like anything else - some good and some bad. The smaller number of practitioners can sometimes keep the quality higher, but there's no guarantee.

Best,

Chris

Carl Thompson
08-30-2011, 05:12 PM
Hello Chris,

I hope you don't mind me adding a few thoughts to your own.

Even if you live in Japan forever, you never become Japanese. You're always on the outside - that may or may not bother you, but it does add a certain level of stress. Also, the further in you get to Japanese society the more subject you are to the society's rules and customs - which can be quite restrictive. That's why so many Japanese try to escape to the west.

Becoming ethnically Japanese is impossible but becoming a Japanese citizen is in fact quite doable. Standing out because of your ethnicity/culture is always going to happen in an area where one ethnic group/culture is more common than the others. This doesn't just apply to Japan but to living in any other country which has a different culture to your own. Some people can handle this, some can't.

"Restrictive" is a relative term. For example, if you like a particular culture, fitting in (awase) with its social rules is part and parcel. If you prefer the system you were brought up with, it is restrictive to have to fit in with another one. Some people can handle this, some can't.

Some foreigners who complain about life in Japan genuinely have problems, some are just people who always complain about their lives, but I think a lot simply didn't do enough research and preparation to live in a foreign country.

Carl

Chris Li
08-30-2011, 07:16 PM
Hello Chris,

I hope you don't mind me adding a few thoughts to your own.

Becoming ethnically Japanese is impossible but becoming a Japanese citizen is in fact quite doable. Standing out because of your ethnicity/culture is always going to happen in an area where one ethnic group/culture is more common than the others. This doesn't just apply to Japan but to living in any other country which has a different culture to your own. Some people can handle this, some can't.

"Restrictive" is a relative term. For example, if you like a particular culture, fitting in (awase) with its social rules is part and parcel. If you prefer the system you were brought up with, it is restrictive to have to fit in with another one. Some people can handle this, some can't.

Some foreigners who complain about life in Japan genuinely have problems, some are just people who always complain about their lives, but I think a lot simply didn't do enough research and preparation to live in a foreign country.

Carl

Yes, you can become a citizen (although it's relatively difficult, and not really encouraged by the Japanese government). But you never become Japanese - it's not like the US, where becoming a citizen means that you're an American. You're either born Japanese or you aren't. Most people are nice about it though...

Even Japanese who stay abroad too long are looked at differently. It's more than just standing out - it's a country where 98% of the population is the same and you're one tiny fraction of the rest.

Take a look at http://www.debito.org/otarulawsuit.html for a recent example.

Of course, you have to fit in with the rules anywhere - but in Japan there are more social rules applied more strictly than almost anyplace you're likely to live in the United States.

Best,

Chris

Chris Li
08-30-2011, 11:41 PM
Yes, you can become a citizen (although it's relatively difficult, and not really encouraged by the Japanese government). But you never become Japanese - it's not like the US, where becoming a citizen means that you're an American. You're either born Japanese or you aren't. Most people are nice about it though...

Even Japanese who stay abroad too long are looked at differently. It's more than just standing out - it's a country where 98% of the population is the same and you're one tiny fraction of the rest.

Take a look at http://www.debito.org/otarulawsuit.html for a recent example.

Of course, you have to fit in with the rules anywhere - but in Japan there are more social rules applied more strictly than almost anyplace you're likely to live in the United States.

Best,

Chris

FYI, the top page of that site http://www.debito.org/ has a lot more information on this type of issue as well.

Best,

Chris

robin_jet_alt
08-31-2011, 12:03 AM
That site is useful, but take everything he says with a grain of salt. He brings up some good points, but he is tends to be a bit extreme.

Chris Li
08-31-2011, 12:30 AM
That site is useful, but take everything he says with a grain of salt. He brings up some good points, but he is tends to be a bit extreme.

Of course, but the problems do exist.

Little kids pointing and shouting "It's a foreigner" are sort of cute, but it got kind of old after a few years.

Just last year I was standing in line in Japan and I happened to say something in Japanese to a high school girl. She didn't answer me - she laughed and turned to her friend saying "He speaks Japanese!".

Neither of them meant anything by it, but as I said, it gets old after a few years and you have to consider whether or not you want to deal with that for the rest of your life.

Best,

Chris

robin_jet_alt
08-31-2011, 01:23 AM
Of course, but the problems do exist.

Little kids pointing and shouting "It's a foreigner" are sort of cute, but it got kind of old after a few years.

Just last year I was standing in line in Japan and I happened to say something in Japanese to a high school girl. She didn't answer me - she laughed and turned to her friend saying "He speaks Japanese!".

Neither of them meant anything by it, but as I said, it gets old after a few years and you have to consider whether or not you want to deal with that for the rest of your life.

Best,

Chris

Oh, I agree. It definitely gets old. These days there is less pointing and shouting than there used to be, but it's still annoying. I think they are making progress though.

Here is a gratifying story. I was at a shop the other day, and i asked whether I could get the curry to take away. The girl instantly got the 'rabbit in the headlights' look that I'm sure you are familiar with, but she said "yes". So I said, "okay, I'll have that then." to which she replied, "I'm sorry, what is it that you want?" to which her coworker said, "he wants the curry, what are you stupid or something?". The first girl is annoying, but 10 years ago, you wouldn't have had the 2nd. It made my day.

kewms
08-31-2011, 01:54 AM
Yes, you can become a citizen (although it's relatively difficult, and not really encouraged by the Japanese government). But you never become Japanese - it's not like the US, where becoming a citizen means that you're an American. You're either born Japanese or you aren't. Most people are nice about it though...

Even Japanese who stay abroad too long are looked at differently. It's more than just standing out - it's a country where 98% of the population is the same and you're one tiny fraction of the rest.

A Japanese friend of mine went back to get married (to an American). He actually got suspicious responses from people because he *wasn't* wearing a suit in the middle of a work day: clearly up to no good!

(This is part of why my friend loves the US and has no plans to ever live in Japan again...)

Katherine

HL1978
08-31-2011, 08:39 AM
Getting spat on, having bottles thrown at you, getting stopped for "bicycling while white" or otherwise having your ID "randomly" asked for is pretty awesome too.

Of course other things offset that like being asked to rap in a train station, being interviewed for TV........

I've had the above all happen while I lived and visited japan.

Lorel Latorilla
08-31-2011, 10:28 AM
LOL wow. A thread about racism in Japan. I can write an essay on this (I actually did) but I'll save y'all the grief of reading.

Let me put it this way. If you are a white guy, especially a white guy with blonde hair and blue eyes, you are good here. You will get the occasional "whoa a foreigner!" comments, but life here for you will be pretty good. If you are applying for, say, an English teaching job, you will probably get the job before an Asiatic like me. Language companies need a face, and the most marketable one is a white face.

Secondly, if you are working under a Japanese boss, prepare to make serious changes on your personality. You simply cannot be "yourself" in a professional setting. If you are working in an English school, you will be expected to be the stupid, smiley, guitar-playing, ball-juggling, bouncing off the wall gaijin that keeps the kids entertained and doesn't ask too many questions. LOL, I've been kicked out of a school and had other Japanese teachers conspire to kick me out of the school because I refused to "not be myself". If you daze off, and think about the weekend at the gaijin bar, and not take your job seriously...you'd be fine. But if you do, like me, you'll get kicked out of the school. If you can take this, good luck.

Cliff Judge
08-31-2011, 11:55 AM
Well, would any of your folks who live / lived in Japan, and understand these issues first-hand, have chosen to not live there if you could go back and do things differently? :)

Peter Goldsbury
08-31-2011, 12:38 PM
Well, would any of your folks who live / lived in Japan, and understand these issues first-hand, have chosen to not live there if you could go back and do things differently? :)

No. I understand where Lorel is coming from, but my experience has been quite different.

PAG

Chris Li
08-31-2011, 01:11 PM
Well, would any of your folks who live / lived in Japan, and understand these issues first-hand, have chosen to not live there if you could go back and do things differently? :)

No, I definitely enjoyed living there - but I still don't think that I would live there on a permanent basis, especially considering that doing so would mean subjecting children to the same stuff.

Best,

Chris

Lorel Latorilla
08-31-2011, 01:37 PM
Well, would any of your folks who live / lived in Japan, and understand these issues first-hand, have chosen to not live there if you could go back and do things differently? :)

Seriously, I like living in Japan (although I would move back to Canada because there are more training opportunities that side of the world). While there is racism towards Asiatics from Japanese people, there are some conveniences that can be gained from this. For instance, they do not have any expectations from you, and if you act up or act yourself and violate Japanese social etiquette, it doesn't matter because I'm a kawaisou Asiatic gaijin that doesn't know any better. They put me outside the boundaries of Japanese tradition? Fine with me, I have my own little world where I can study bodyskill, philosophy, Japanese and other languages, and make music.

I realized that I won't fare well in the Japanese system (for reasons that have to do with racism and also with the fact that I am too independent for me to lapse into group think). So what do I do? I make my own business :D. It feels reallllllly good to be free from the bullshit that is the Japanese educaton system, really. I do what I want, set up the business in such a way so that only sincere learners come to me, and get to help Japanese people escape and transcend the oppressive mechanism that is called the Japanese system. It's great.

Like I said, love living here
;)

oisin bourke
08-31-2011, 05:40 PM
No, I definitely enjoyed living there - but I still don't think that I would live there on a permanent basis, especially considering that doing so would mean subjecting children to the same stuff.

Best,

Chris

Plus a million. I've had a great experience here, but I'm leaving mainly because I don't want to put my daughter through the school system. A lot of the issues raised on this thread stem from the schooling IMO. If you are a foreigner, especially English speaking and white, you can kind of live here and avoid having to engage with the culture. For instance, you can get away with not speaking the language. However, when you have kids, you have to confront the system here full on.

Still, it's a totally different place from anywhere "in the west" and living here for a few years will challenge the way you think and your beliefs and assumptions about a lot of things, not just Budo.

robin_jet_alt
08-31-2011, 07:15 PM
Lorel raises a good point. It is definitely much harder for for Asians. If you are white, you can get away with all sorts of stuff, but people seem to think Asians should know better for some reason.

HL1978
08-31-2011, 07:26 PM
Well, would any of your folks who live / lived in Japan, and understand these issues first-hand, have chosen to not live there if you could go back and do things differently? :)

No, I wouldnt do anything differently and have gone back plenty of times despite the issues. It is just a bit disconcerting if you have never experienced it before. What is more amusing is when you come back to the USA and white folks who have never spent time in japan tell you how you need to conform. When you have had it shoved in your face that you aren't part in the group and won't ever be, when another white guy is telling you to behave in that way you can have a laugh or get angry.

As Lorel said, if you are a caucasian, you may have an easier time than other races.

The gaijin card!

In fact there may be circumstances where it may be benefical (for example discounts on admission to certain places) or in which you can take advantage of it (if you choose, I'm not saying you should).


I don't really want to give a full account of the positives and negatives, but promise that you can have experiences that you will not be able to have at home. Whatever conceptions you may have of Japan will be challenged soon after you step off the plane. For me, I never intended to seek out some of the situations I have described, but I tend to have unusual experiences wherever I go.

You can't ignore the ingroup/outgroup stuff as it happens to the japanese as well. A Japanese friend of mine is not ethnically korean, but consistantly runs into issues because people think he is. That is why he only works for foreign companies while in Japan, or works in the USA. Chris's comments regarding Japanese who stay abroad isn't limited to Japan, the same seems to be happening in china too, but thats another subject. Japan isn't quite as blatant as some of the things in China I have seen, but those are far more inline with perceptions of foreigners being wealthy than racism.

Like others have said, it is totally possible to live entirely in an english speaking world. I'm not sure why you would want to do so, unless you were a short term expat working for a US based firm. I will agree with Lorel that if you stay long term and start to improve your language skills, you will have more expectations in terms of how you are "supposed" to behave (seems like some people want it to work both ways).

here is my hint for the day

Don't stay or live near the hombu if you aren't practicing there. You can hear ukemi in the buildings nearby at 6:30 in the morning. I spent 3 weeks nearby and that was my unwelcome alarmclock.

Carl Thompson
08-31-2011, 09:08 PM
Thanks to Chris for your reply. A few more thoughts:

Of course, you have to fit in with the rules anywhere - but in Japan there are more social rules applied more strictly than almost anyplace you're likely to live in the United States.

I don't think you should pitch this as an absolute, even from a purely American viewpoint. Sure there's a relatively bigger difference between these two societies but it isn't a big deal for everyone. It will depend on the nature of the rule and one's experience whether rules are regarded as "strictly applied" (and whether "strictly" is a bad thing). We're all different in our capacity to cope with these things.

yes, you can become a citizen (although it's relatively difficult, and not really encouraged by the Japanese government).

This is true of pretty much all first world countries and their governments.

Take a look at http://www.debito.org/otarulawsuit.html for a recent example.

David is a case in point: he became a Japanese citizen despite his angry obsession with everything he thinks is wrong with Japan.

But you never become Japanese - it's not like the US, where becoming a citizen means that you're an American.

What other way do you mean "American" rather than just a citizen of the US? A member of society? Also what do you mean by "Japanese" apart from as a nationality? Japanese and other nationalities like Korean, Turkish etc have the interesting situation in which nationality, language and the most populous ethnic group are addressed using the same terms.

Acceptance as an in-group member in any society that differs considerably from one's own depends on a lot of factors.

As I pointed out earlier in this thread, there are many conflicting accounts here from experienced people regarding what Japan is like. My own cumulative six years in Japan strongly contradict a lot of the previous claims. For that reason I'd agree with Robyn's suggestion of taking things with a grain of salt. For example the education system was mentioned as a reason for leaving but there are some families who stay for exactly that same reason. Hunter told us of his racist attack, but there are others who claim never to have experienced anything other than positive discrimination.

A friend of mine who is still in Japan once told me a few years ago that he found aikido particularly useful as a "cultural entry-point" for adjusting to Japan. Rather than arriving with a prejudice (whether positive or negative) a beginner's mind will set one up for a better experience IMO.

Carl

Chris Li
08-31-2011, 09:22 PM
Thanks to Chris for your reply. A few more thoughts:

I don't think you should pitch this as an absolute, even from a purely American viewpoint. Sure there's a relatively bigger difference between these two societies but it isn't a big deal for everyone. It will depend on the nature of the rule and one's experience whether rules are regarded as "strictly applied" (and whether "strictly" is a bad thing). We're all different in our capacity to cope with these things.

Well, everything is always relative, so I don't get your point. I never said that it was necessarily a big deal - I said that it is an added layer of stress to consider.



This is true of pretty much all first world countries and their governments.

Japan is one of the few first world countries with negative immigration - more people leaving than entering. All it takes is a comparison of the laws and immigration procedures to see that there is a substantive difference.


What other way do you mean "American" rather than just a citizen of the US? A member of society? Also what do you mean by "Japanese" apart from as a nationality? Japanese and other nationalities like Korean, Turkish etc have the interesting situation in which nationality, language and the most populous ethnic group are addressed using the same terms.

America is generally a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society - Japan generally is not. A foreigner who gains Japanese citizenship is always going to be considered, by most Japanese, as a foreigner, paperwork notwithstanding.

http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2010/06/23/opening-japans-immigration-door/

Rather than arriving with a prejudice (whether positive or negative) a beginner's mind will set one up for a better experience IMO.

Carl

I never suggested otherwise - that wasn't the question. I was talking about things to consider when thinking about living in Japan on a permanent basis.

If you go too far down the "everything is relative" path than you can never really state an opinion about anything.

Best,

Chris

graham christian
08-31-2011, 09:40 PM
Hi, thought I'd contribute an interesting tale.

My friend studied to be a psychiatric nurse. In his third year of training I believe it was they were shown a film of an experiment that went like this:

A teacher was set up to point something out to a class of young students. I believe they were about 9 or 10 years old. The teacher was just to drop this comment in whilst teaching an altogether different subject. The comment was that it has been found by scientists that all blue eyed people were more intelligent than brown eyed ones.

The behaviour of the children was then monitored and filmed over the next three weeks.

It led to the blue eyed ones forming a closer bond with each other and looking down on the brown eyed ones who in turn seemed to turn against them.

Much discord followed.

Food for thought.

Regards.G.

kewms
09-01-2011, 01:54 AM
A teacher was set up to point something out to a class of young students. I believe they were about 9 or 10 years old. The teacher was just to drop this comment in whilst teaching an altogether different subject. The comment was that it has been found by scientists that all blue eyed people were more intelligent than brown eyed ones.

The behaviour of the children was then monitored and filmed over the next three weeks.

It led to the blue eyed ones forming a closer bond with each other and looking down on the brown eyed ones who in turn seemed to turn against them.

Much discord followed.

In a similar experiment, teachers were told that students in Group A had scored particularly well on an aptitude test, while students in Group B had scored poorly. In actuality, the students had been assigned to groups randomly, regardless of test scores.

By the end of the year, however, Group A did indeed perform better than Group B.

Katherine

Carl Thompson
09-01-2011, 01:56 AM
Rather than arriving with a prejudice (whether positive or negative) a beginner's mind will set one up for a better experience IMO.

I never suggested otherwise - that wasn't the question. I was talking about things to consider when thinking about living in Japan on a permanent basis.

Sorry I did not make it clear that my last statement was a general opinion that I wanted to contribute to the thread and was not specifically aimed in response to you.

Well, everything is always relative, so I don't get your point. I never said that it was necessarily a big deal - I said that it is an added layer of stress to consider.

Actually I disagree. Everything is not always relative . There are absolute facts which can be proven true or false. The problem with relative statements is when they get dressed up as absolute provable facts. It creates an opening for argument by some bugger like me. :)

My point and original objection was to the idea that an ethnic /cultural group (the Japanese) never accepts someone as one of their own ("Even if you live in Japan forever, you never become Japanese."). Please correct me if I misunderstood what you meant by what you wrote. I want to clarify it, not twist it. Some long-term residents in Japan do feel accepted in society and feel no stress. Some some of them don't. It is not a single case of true or false but rather a sliding scale of opinions that can be applied to life as an expat in any country.

Regarding your other related point, I totally agree that America is generally a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society and Japan generally is not. This is a fact and most serious studies support it. I would also agree that because of this fact, visibly appearing as a non-ethnic Japanese will generally create an immediate assumption that one is a foreigner, to the local Japanese and foreigners alike.

Carl

Chris Li
09-01-2011, 02:57 AM
My point and original objection was to the idea that an ethnic /cultural group (the Japanese) never accepts someone as one of their own ("Even if you live in Japan forever, you never become Japanese."). Please correct me if I misunderstood what you meant by what you wrote. I want to clarify it, not twist it. Some long-term residents in Japan do feel accepted in society and feel no stress. Some some of them don't. It is not a single case of true or false but rather a sliding scale of opinions that can be applied to life as an expat in any country.


First of all, I don't think I really stated it that extremely. However, just because some people feel accepted in the society doesn't mean that the problem doesn't exist as a whole. There are many members of minorities that never feel discrimination - that doesn't mean that the problem doesn't exist.

Best,

Chris

Cliff Judge
09-01-2011, 08:23 AM
Since it hasn't been brought up yet, it is probably worth mentioning that Japanese themselves often feel a stigma when they move to another region or interact with people from another region. It isn't so much a homogenous culture as it is a cultural system that tends towards homogeneity.

My wife is of working-class Kanto stock, her best friend married a man from Kyoto. His family came up to Yokohama for something and they spread out food, with plastic wrap draped lightly over it to keep the flying critters off of it. The Kyoto people barely touched the food because it was covered in plastic wrap. Everybody went home hating the other family, leaving my wife's poor friend in the middle. However this made an opportunity for my wife's friend to bond with her mother-in-law, who had actually moved to Kyoto from Tokyo when she married into the Kyoto family. She was never and has never been fully accepted into the village society. They have a yearly festival and other events and they just don't invite her to the planning meetings.

oisin bourke
09-01-2011, 08:43 AM
Since it hasn't been brought up yet, it is probably worth mentioning that Japanese themselves often feel a stigma when they move to another region or interact with people from another region. It isn't so much a homogenous culture as it is a cultural system that tends towards homogeneity.

My wife is of working-class Kanto stock, her best friend married a man from Kyoto. His family came up to Yokohama for something and they spread out food, with plastic wrap draped lightly over it to keep the flying critters off of it. The Kyoto people barely touched the food because it was covered in plastic wrap. Everybody went home hating the other family, leaving my wife's poor friend in the middle. However this made an opportunity for my wife's friend to bond with her mother-in-law, who had actually moved to Kyoto from Tokyo when she married into the Kyoto family. She was never and has never been fully accepted into the village society. They have a yearly festival and other events and they just don't invite her to the planning meetings.

Lovely people :straightf

That's actually one thing that people up in Hokkaido don't really have to put up with. They're all rejects up here!

Cliff Judge
09-01-2011, 11:07 AM
A friend of mine who is still in Japan once told me a few years ago that he found aikido particularly useful as a "cultural entry-point" for adjusting to Japan. Rather than arriving with a prejudice (whether positive or negative) a beginner's mind will set one up for a better experience IMO.

Going to Japan "as an Aikido person" gives you a role, a group, and a way for Japanese people to understand who you are that is more comfortable for them than directly trying to figure you out. This will help with some people and situations.

Lorel Latorilla
09-01-2011, 12:18 PM
Thanks to Chris for your reply. A few more thoughts:

I don't think you should pitch this as an absolute, even from a purely American viewpoint. Sure there's a relatively bigger difference between these two societies but it isn't a big deal for everyone. It will depend on the nature of the rule and one's experience whether rules are regarded as "strictly applied" (and whether "strictly" is a bad thing). We're all different in our capacity to cope with these things.

This is true of pretty much all first world countries and their governments.

David is a case in point: he became a Japanese citizen despite his angry obsession with everything he thinks is wrong with Japan.

What other way do you mean "American" rather than just a citizen of the US? A member of society? Also what do you mean by "Japanese" apart from as a nationality? Japanese and other nationalities like Korean, Turkish etc have the interesting situation in which nationality, language and the most populous ethnic group are addressed using the same terms.

Acceptance as an in-group member in any society that differs considerably from one's own depends on a lot of factors.

As I pointed out earlier in this thread, there are many conflicting accounts here from experienced people regarding what Japan is like. My own cumulative six years in Japan strongly contradict a lot of the previous claims. For that reason I'd agree with Robyn's suggestion of taking things with a grain of salt. For example the education system was mentioned as a reason for leaving but there are some families who stay for exactly that same reason. Hunter told us of his racist attack, but there are others who claim never to have experienced anything other than positive discrimination.

A friend of mine who is still in Japan once told me a few years ago that he found aikido particularly useful as a "cultural entry-point" for adjusting to Japan. Rather than arriving with a prejudice (whether positive or negative) a beginner's mind will set one up for a better experience IMO.

Carl

1) I was born in the Philippines, grew up in Canada, and now live in Japan. There is definitely MORE rules here that are strictly applied, albeit they are unspoken rules. Secondly, they have set of different rules to manage behaviour among Japanese, and they have another set of rules to manage gaijins here in Japan. I know they exist because I got in trouble in a lot of my schools. And it wasn't like I was being revolutionary or anything.

2) David is cool in my books. These issues are real. I am tired of people saying "blah blah blah, it's how you COPE with the problems with the country--you are making an ocean out of a drop--at least racism is not as bad here than it is in America". I think David is a breath of fresh air in the sea of nutlicking (pardon my Japanese) that I see with so many gaijins here. "Dude it's so safe here!". "There's no crime here!" "OMG samurais ninjas and anime--Japan iz so k3wl!" "wow! Japaneze gurlzzzz, so pr3tty, aw3some!". No crime, but 30 000 suicides happen here every year, and that includes little school children killing themselves. Safe? How? Physically? Emotionally and psychologically that doesn't seem to be the case. There are more than 1 000 000 hikkikomoris (social recluses) here in Japan. I appreciate guys like David for breaking the mystique that Japan orientalists create for this country. I came to this country with these same pristine images--you know, sakura, delicious sushi, and cute frolicking Japanese girls. Boy did I have a rude awakening.

3) You can never become Japanese. It's as simple as that. 日本人論 is a theory that is entrenched in all sectors of Japanese society. You ever wonder why you ask your students they can't speak english? Most probably will expect "nah, I don't study too much", or "I'm interested". Most of my students said "nihonjin dakara" (meaning, because I'm Japanese). Ever wonder why people say "nihongo jyozu desu ne!" ("your Japanese is so good!) or "uwaaa, o-hashi meccha jyozu yann!" ("wow you got some serious skills with the chopsticks!"), it's because they adopted the belief that Japanese are truly different from foreigners. That is, to speak fluent Japanese, for example, you need a Japanese brain, and so they are shocked that you can say "konnichiwa" and you get the obligatory "nihongo meccha o-jyozu desu ne". Whether they really believe that or not, I don't know--they have just adopted this from somewhere, and this is why I say the theory of the Japanese self (日本人論) is prevalent in all sectors of Japanese society. Thankfully, there are Japanese who are open enough to realize that Japanese are just humans like everyone else and that a foreigner can speak Japanese as good as a Japanese person can. But even if you can't speak Japanese, they will always assume you do not get the full nuances of Japanese culture. Personally, I lost my capacity to give a shit about becoming Japanese and fitting into the culture and started helping other Japanese people see beyond the nonsense that is nihonjinron.

As far as the education system goes...if I were to live here, I would rather have my kids be homeschooled. I know many expats who make their kids do this. I see what goes on in elementary school, junior high school, and high school (having worked in all levels) and gat damn do some of these kids know how to gaman.

Richard Stevens
09-01-2011, 02:09 PM
My experience living in Japan is a bit different than most, so maybe I can make a useful contribution to the discussion. I originally lived in Japan from 1985-1998 and throughout my elementary/middle school years I was completely immersed in Japanese culture. I was the only Caucasian foreigner at a public school and was thrown into the deep end with no Japanese language skills or cultural awareness.

My year was difficult (language related), but I don't recall dealing with any animosity directed towards me due to being a foreigner. I was readily accepted by my classmates and teachers and did "fairly" well in school.

In fact, it wasn't until my father decided to enroll me in a DOD school for the dependent children of members of the US military that I had problems. I was quickly rejected socially and faced constant bullying. I was an American in a school full of Americans, but I felt completely out of place and awkward. Where I had no problem fitting in with my Japanese classmates, I couldn't manage to navigate the "social waters" of the DOD school.

By the time I graduated I had learned how to fit in, but I always felt out of place. When I was 19 I returned to the US to go to college and eventually moved back with my wife, with every intention of staying. Unfortunately, where I felt at home, she felt completely out of place and we returned to the US after a few years.

In all my time in Japan from elementary school to adulthood I was keenly aware that I would never be fully "accepted" as Japanese, and I accepted that. I've experienced some of the issues related to non-acceptance and the social complexity inherent to life in Japan. However, it never created a sense of resentment like it has in some (like Debito). It was just part of life, shoganai...

oisin bourke
09-01-2011, 06:02 PM
I see what goes on in elementary school, junior high school, and high school (having worked in all levels) and gat damn do some of these kids know how to gaman.

That's part of the of "the floggings will continue until morale improves!" mentality that runs through this country IMO.

The interesting thing about Debito, to me, is that, although he is outspoken, brash etc, he is a Japanese citizen and as such, is a model of Japanese behaviour.

Cady Goldfield
09-01-2011, 07:20 PM
snip My point and original objection was to the idea that an ethnic /cultural group (the Japanese) never accepts someone as one of their own ("Even if you live in Japan forever, you never become Japanese."). Please correct me if I misunderstood what you meant by what you wrote. I want to clarify it, not twist it. Some long-term residents in Japan do feel accepted in society and feel no stress. Some some of them don't. It is not a single case of true or false but rather a sliding scale of opinions that can be applied to life as an expat in any country.


I would like to recommend a book, though I don't know whether it's still in print. The Road Through Miyama, by Leila Philip (Vintage Books 1989) is a very nice example of how it is possible to be accepted into a culture, even in Japan.

Ms. Philips was an apprentice to a family of potters in the pottery-artisan village of Miyama in southern Japan. The book is a charming and quite interesting account of how she came to train there, how she adapted to daily life, and how, by the time she had completed her apprenticeship, the people of Miyama thought of her as "one of them," and it scarsely registered that she was a blonde, blue-eyed Caucasian foreigner.

The "secret," I believe, is to cast aside one's own cultural biases and behaviors and to embrace, with humility, the ways of the culture which one is seeking to enter. This doesn't mean losing who one is, but simply not exuding and insisting upon acting out one's own culture's ways. You're a guest in someone else's home, and there is an etiquette to that.

It also takes time; people do not come to trust and relate overnight. One also has to "choose" the right community, where there is a common interest that promotes a bond For a person who is a craftsman, a crafting or artisanal village was the right place to fit in. In metro Tokyo, it probably would not have worked.

"Seek your niche, and it may find you." :)

robin_jet_alt
09-01-2011, 07:30 PM
Ever wonder why people say "uwaaa, o-hashi meccha jyozu yann!" ("wow you got some serious skills with the chopsticks!"),

It's been a while since anyone said that to me... then again, I haven't been to Kansai for a while. :rolleyes:

Peter Goldsbury
09-01-2011, 11:42 PM
snip

I would like to recommend a book, though I don't know whether it's still in print. The Road Through Miyama, by Leila Philip (Vintage Books 1989) is a very nice example of how it is possible to be accepted into a culture, even in Japan.

Ms. Philips was an apprentice to a family of potters in the pottery-artisan village of Miyama in southern Japan. The book is a charming and quite interesting account of how she came to train there, how she adapted to daily life, and how, by the time she had completed her apprenticeship, the people of Miyama thought of her as "one of them," and it scarsely registered that she was a blonde, blue-eyed Caucasian foreigner.



Hello Cady,

Yes. It is interesting that her teacher was Japanese, but the original potters were Korean. I wonder if any tensions have lingered in the community as a result of this.

In Hiroshima there is a large Korean community, basically split in allegiance between the north and the south. They did not originally come to Japan of their own free will, but were brought here after Korea was annexed in 1910. Now, a few generations later, their descendants are native-born and speak Japanese like natives, but they refuse to take Japanese passports and abandon their nationality. They are something of a thorn in the side of the Hiroshima city government, which likes to proclaim Hiroshima as an 'international city of peace and culture'.

For the past ten years I chaired a committee of foreign residents here, set up by the Hiroshima city government, and one of the constantly recurring themes at the meetings was the difference between 'newcomers' and 'old-timers': basically, between those who come for a fixed period, for whatever reason, and those who are here for life. Given the fact that all are foreign residents, the needs and expectations of the latter group are quite different. For a start, they do not feel at all like guests in someone else's house: they act and feel exactly like Japanese, except for the one crucial difference.

An important factor here is Nihonjinron, mentioned before. When Japan was an empire, spreading the South-east Asian Co-prosperity Sphere, the so-called cultural differences were not emphasized too much. This is really a postwar phenomenon and the interesting thing is that some of my Japanese friends, who believe they get on with foreigners very easily, deny that it really exists. My experience of dealing with city officials on the residents committee suggests otherwise.

Best wishes,

PAG

Carl Thompson
09-02-2011, 02:30 AM
First of all, I don't think I really stated it that extremely. However, just because some people feel accepted in the society doesn't mean that the problem doesn't exist as a whole. There are many members of minorities that never feel discrimination - that doesn't mean that the problem doesn't exist.

Sure, and there are members of minorities who insist that their lives are a daily racist onslaught when they are actually very well off and are totally misreading people's intentions and blowing things out of proportion. For someone moving to (or staying long term in) Japan, facts and figures and an unbiased cross-section of opinions would give a better indication of the potential difficulties.

Going to Japan "as an Aikido person" gives you a role, a group, and a way for Japanese people to understand who you are that is more comfortable for them than directly trying to figure you out. This will help with some people and situations.

That wasn't how I meant it. In my experience most people here are just as ignorant of aikido as in other countries.

I was referring to the Japanese cultural aspect of aikido. I think the etiquette, terminology and philosophy that are usually featured in the training are helpful in understanding life in Japan. In the short term I think it gives a head start when initially fitting in and in the long term, the more global concepts of the art, as found in the philosophy of its creator, can make adaptation to any different culture easier IMO.

Carl

Cady Goldfield
09-02-2011, 11:16 AM
Hello Peter,

Thank you for your points.

I have to confess that I intentionally neglected to mention that Miyama was established as a Korean community 400 years ago, because the way the inhabitants are described in the book, it seems they are pretty much Japanese in lifestyle and culture, and all have Japanese names. There is likely some Korean ancestry in some of the inhabitants, but I did not get the impression that any of the people in the book saw themselves as "Korean." So, they seemed to be a safe example of a foreigner being able to integrate into a Japanese community.

The larger point, in my opinion, is that a foreigner being accepted comes more from living intimately within a community -- over an extended period of time -- than from just living and working in a country and never having to truly integrate with a people.

Living in a large city or even a mid-sized town where there is less opportunity even for locals to know each other well, is not conducive to developing bonds or cultural understanding. Even in the professional circles, there can be a barrier because individuals can set limits on how deeply their social roots will extend to a foreigner. They still live separately and only come together for work or (by choice) socially.

By contrast, village and small-town life foists people on each other for better or worse. I think that greater intimacy forces individuals to focus on the more pressing aspects of life -- interdependency being a key one -- bypassing "trivialities" such as nationality. Binding human relationships, which start with respect and trust, tend to form more solidly on the up-close-and-personal level, where the trials and tribulations of daily life are shared.

Regards,
Cady

Hello Cady,

Yes. It is interesting that her teacher was Japanese, but the original potters were Korean. I wonder if any tensions have lingered in the community as a result of this.

In Hiroshima there is a large Korean community, basically split in allegiance between the north and the south. They did not originally come to Japan of their own free will, but were brought here after Korea was annexed in 1910. Now, a few generations later, their descendants are native-born and speak Japanese like natives, but they refuse to take Japanese passports and abandon their nationality. They are something of a thorn in the side of the Hiroshima city government, which likes to proclaim Hiroshima as an 'international city of peace and culture'.

For the past ten years I chaired a committee of foreign residents here, set up by the Hiroshima city government, and one of the constantly recurring themes at the meetings was the difference between 'newcomers' and 'old-timers': basically, between those who come for a fixed period, for whatever reason, and those who are here for life. Given the fact that all are foreign residents, the needs and expectations of the latter group are quite different. For a start, they do not feel at all like guests in someone else's house: they act and feel exactly like Japanese, except for the one crucial difference.

An important factor here is Nihonjinron, mentioned before. When Japan was an empire, spreading the South-east Asian Co-prosperity Sphere, the so-called cultural differences were not emphasized too much. This is really a postwar phenomenon and the interesting thing is that some of my Japanese friends, who believe they get on with foreigners very easily, deny that it really exists. My experience of dealing with city officials on the residents committee suggests otherwise.

Best wishes,

PAG

Diana Frese
09-02-2011, 02:43 PM
Although some people in cities (and especially towns in Vermont) were affected by the east coast hurricane, we ourselves just had a couple of days of power outage, so I am returning to this fascinating thread. Here's hoping the others recover soon.

I was in Japan many, many years ago and have maybe a couple of stories that may be of interest. There was a police headquarters near Aikikai hombu -- whenever we could make it to early morning class we could hear the Japanese national anthem on the loudspeakers. Some of the women college students I met in the daytime classes said they didn't like the special police, I think it was because these were used for "riot control" when there were student demonstrations.

But I had some friends who ran a nearby sushi shop. They were young but still felt free to give advice to me on the order of it's nice you Americans like sushi, but don't eat it too often on a student budget! So I didn't go there very often. When I did, there were sometimes members of the police there and they had in common an interest in martial arts, especially kendo. I had only studied it a couple of months in New York, two of my friends, Cassandra and Valerie had studied it for quite some time.

One evening one of the special police had drunk quite a bit and was able to speak better English than before. He said the Americans who left their country to study budo in Japan had real Frontier Spirit (I guess we call it Pioneer Spirit more often over here in the US, but maybe both equally often) He said we reminded him of the Japanese of a hundred years ago. (this was in the mid 1970's so we have to add another thirty five years or so to his statement) He meant it as a compliment.

Just thought I'd throw this little story into the discussion, that we were recognized as sort of kindred spirits by some of the young martial arts people over there.

Cady Goldfield
09-02-2011, 08:31 PM
Since it hasn't been brought up yet, it is probably worth mentioning that Japanese themselves often feel a stigma when they move to another region or interact with people from another region. It isn't so much a homogenous culture as it is a cultural system that tends towards homogeneity.
(snip)

There are also the "hisabetsu burakumin" (formerly called "hinin" and "eta") -- a stigmatized group within Japan. They are the Japanese equivalent of India's Dalet ("untouchable") caste. They are the descendents of individuals who somehow were cast from society -- either for crimes they committed or were alleged to have committed, for having foreign ancestry such as Korean, or for having somehow ticked off some high-status official with the power to declare them "hinin" (non-person). Their families and descendents were thereafter condemned to be in the same caste and the stigma persists to this day, although discrimination against the burakumin was made illegal decades ago.

Burakumin were restricted to specific settlements and villages (Hachioji City, on the west border of Tokyo, was once a burakumin settlement and many burakumin still live there; the village of Wabuka in Wakayama prefecture, remains fully a burakumin settlement). Like the Dalet, they were, and often still are, limited to doing types of work considered unclean (leather tanneries, slaughterhouses, handling human remains, garbage removal, etc.), and are rejected as suitors by "higher" status Japanese families. Even today, the first thing a family will do when their offspring are dating someone, is go to city hall and check that person's ancestry to make sure they are not "hinin."

It's just bizarre that even in a country where the majority of people are of the same ethnic ancestry, they can still find a way to separate out and discriminate against their fellows. Go figger.

Lorel Latorilla
09-02-2011, 09:32 PM
There are also the "hisabetsu burakumin" (formerly called "hinin" and "eta") -- a stigmatized group within Japan. They are the Japanese equivalent of India's Dalet ("untouchable") caste. They are the descendents of individuals who somehow were cast from society -- either for crimes they committed or were alleged to have committed, for having foreign ancestry such as Korean, or for having somehow ticked off some high-status official with the power to declare them "hinin" (non-person). Their families and descendents were thereafter condemned to be in the same caste and the stigma persists to this day, although discrimination against the burakumin was made illegal decades ago.

Burakumin were restricted to specific settlements and villages (Hachioji City, on the west border of Tokyo, was once a burakumin settlement and many burakumin still live there; the village of Wabuka in Wakayama prefecture, remains fully a burakumin settlement). Like the Dalet, they were, and often still are, limited to doing types of work considered unclean (leather tanneries, slaughterhouses, handling human remains, garbage removal, etc.), and are rejected as suitors by "higher" status Japanese families. Even today, the first thing a family will do when their offspring are dating someone, is go to city hall and check that person's ancestry to make sure they are not "hinin."

It's just bizarre that even in a country where the majority of people are of the same ethnic ancestry, they can still find a way to separate out and discriminate against their fellows. Go figger.

Ideological cannibalism. Where there is nothing feed on, the Japanese self starts to eat itself.

Carl Thompson
09-03-2011, 03:13 AM
Even today, the first thing a family will do when their offspring are dating someone, is go to city hall and check that person's ancestry to make sure they are not "hinin."
This kind of nihonjinron misrepresents people with genuine problems. Also you are not providing accurate information to anyone who wishes to move to Japan and train in aikido. In India it is estimated that over 250 million people have unequal rights due to their hereditary social designation (and if I were to use that fact to tar all Indians with the same brush I would also be guilty of discrimination). It is a far cry from the Burakumin case: the caste was abolished in 1871 - which for comparison is about a hundred years before the end of the White Australia policy. Both have lingering effects in the present but your implication that checking out a person's ancestry is normal for Japanese families, even for just a date is pure fantasy. One's ancestral address (by which one would deduce Buraku status) isn't even on the family register anymore.

Obviously Japan is a unique country, and the kind of bigotry in which one group of humans places themselves above another here only happens with this particular combination of cultural and demographic factors. That may make problems more special (and prone to exaggeration) to some Westerners, but Japan is not uniquely unique.

Carl

Cady Goldfield
09-03-2011, 09:00 AM
Carl,
Regarding India's caste and Japan's, my words were poorly chosen, or at least unclear; I did not intend to imply that burakumin were on the same level of abuse that India's caste is, but that it's the Japanese equivalent in that a group of people within a society were similarly separated out and discriminated against, and that their classification became hereditary. You are quite right that the degree is not the same, and I apologize for the inaccuracy.

However, as I have direct, personal relationships with individuals who are burakamin, I can attest that despite the illegality of discrimination, burakumin are still very much recognized, discriminated against and screened-for in Japanese society. It is all done "under the radar," and it is quite easy for any family in-the-know to look at the registry at their city hall and deduce, from the villages and areas from which a person's ancestors came -- or sometimes even the Buddhist sect/temple to which they belonged -- whether they are burakumin.

By the same token, one can say that racial discrimination is illegal in the U.S., but if anyone thinks for one minute that this means racism doesn't persist, he or she is sorely deluded.

As for accurate information related to aikido study in Japan, my original response had nothing to do with burakumin, but was a book recommendation in support of your argument that a foreigner could be accepted into Japanese society on some level. The thread spun off temporarily into another direction when Cliff commented on the Japanese feeling a stigma when moving to another region and provided an anecdote; my anecdotal comments on burakumin were simply a response to that.

Best,
Cady

This kind of nihonjinron misrepresents people with genuine problems. Also you are not providing accurate information to anyone who wishes to move to Japan and train in aikido. In India it is estimated that over 250 million people have unequal rights due to their hereditary social designation (and if I were to use that fact to tar all Indians with the same brush I would also be guilty of discrimination). It is a far cry from the Burakumin case: the caste was abolished in 1871 - which for comparison is about a hundred years before the end of the White Australia policy. Both have lingering effects in the present but your implication that checking out a person's ancestry is normal for Japanese families, even for just a date is pure fantasy. One's ancestral address (by which one would deduce Buraku status) isn't even on the family register anymore.

Obviously Japan is a unique country, and the kind of bigotry in which one group of humans places themselves above another here only happens with this particular combination of cultural and demographic factors. That may make problems more special (and prone to exaggeration) to some Westerners, but Japan is not uniquely unique.

Carl

Peter Goldsbury
09-03-2011, 11:49 AM
Going back to the thread topic and the question posed by the opening post, I had the idea of going to Japan to study when I was a student in the US. My initial idea was to go to the Aikikai Hombu, but I was disabused of this idea by a shihan, who was affiliated to the very same Hombu. He strongly advised finding suitable employment first, whether in Tokyo or elsewhere, and then think about aikido. He was strongly against going solely for aikido: by which he meant asking the Hombu to sponsor a visa and then doing odd jobs. (The Hombu no longer do this.)

So, I looked for university jobs and found three: at Tohoku in Sendai, at Hiroshima, and at Oita in Kyushu. I was lucky to obtain tenure very quickly, and thereby entered the 'system'--but had to learn Japanese quite intensively, in order to teach my classes in Japanese and participate in the meetings. This was quite a struggle but was well worth it. Aikido training was never a problem, because of the very small number of classes and the flexible teaching schedule.

In Hiroshima there are a number of foreign communities, all having devised systems of mutual support. If we consider only native English speakers, there are Ford & Mazda employees, many of whom are here for three years and inhabit a kind of ex-pat bubble, so do not have much incentive to get to know the culture at a deepening level; there are the English teachers at local schools (including the international schools), again on fixed contracts; there are the university people. All of whom tend to live in separate groups with fairly limited interaction.

And there are those from all three groups who have learned how to live with(in) the system and found their niche. All these people are committed to Japan for the long term and have put their kids through the Japanese school system. They also have good abilities in Japanese. I think members of this group also tend to have a good number of close Japanese friends with whom Japanese is the normal language of communication. They are well aware of the omote and ura aspects of Japan--and also the BS levels of some nihonjinron.

I know that this situation is also replicated with the Chinese, Korean (two groups), Brazilian and Filipino communities.

This has been my experience FWIW.

Carl Thompson
09-03-2011, 11:25 PM
It is all done "under the radar," and it is quite easy for any family in-the-know to look at the registry at their city hall and deduce, from the villages and areas from which a person's ancestors came -- or sometimes even the Buddhist sect/temple to which they belonged -- whether they are burakumin.
This simply isn't true.

I'll say it again more clearly: The present day registration system does not have this information and it is illegal to look at old family registers which did have it.

By the same token, one can say that racial discrimination is illegal in the U.S., but if anyone thinks for one minute that this means racism doesn't persist, he or she is sorely deluded.
I totally agree. Japan is not special.

Carl

Lorel Latorilla
09-04-2011, 02:27 AM
Japan is special in the sense that its racism is probably a result of several key factors that ARE unique to Japan.

But it is not special in the sense that it has racism. Nobody is saying that.

But I think we would be doing a service to people by showing them beyond the veil, and showing the real Japan, and to help them not see Japan as a place of rustic scenery, beautiful frolicking Japanese girls, very polite people, and sakura blossoms.

There was this one Chinese guy I knew, who enjoyed Judo and anime and Japanese language (if I remember well) and I asked him "why don't you just move to Japan and experience all this?" to which he answered "nah, the Japanese treat Chinese differently there". I never really wondered why he said that...I could've saved a lot of grief by taking his words into consideration.

HL1978
09-06-2011, 10:36 AM
Japan is special in the sense that its racism is probably a result of several key factors that ARE unique to Japan.

But it is not special in the sense that it has racism. Nobody is saying that.

But I think we would be doing a service to people by showing them beyond the veil, and showing the real Japan, and to help them not see Japan as a place of rustic scenery, beautiful frolicking Japanese girls, very polite people, and sakura blossoms.

There was this one Chinese guy I knew, who enjoyed Judo and anime and Japanese language (if I remember well) and I asked him "why don't you just move to Japan and experience all this?" to which he answered "nah, the Japanese treat Chinese differently there". I never really wondered why he said that...I could've saved a lot of grief by taking his words into consideration.

Lorel,

You never heard the comment "Remember Hunter, Japan is not a themepark!"

Surely rob repeated the second half.

Lorel Latorilla
09-06-2011, 11:25 AM
Lorel,

You never heard the comment "Remember Hunter, Japan is not a themepark!"

Surely rob repeated the second half.

Haha. That advice came a bit too late. Hanging with Rob and Adam, hell, I'd consider it a theme park.

HL1978
09-06-2011, 01:15 PM
Haha. That advice came a bit too late. Hanging with Rob and Adam, hell, I'd consider it a theme park.

Its even more funny if you know the guy who said it originally and in what context.

Lorel Latorilla
09-06-2011, 01:40 PM
Yeah the guys told me the story. I forget what it was about though? I just remember one time in the mean streets of Ikebukuro, I was pretty tipsy, took a piss on the streets, and Adam (or was it Rob?) was like "Remember Lorel, Japan is not a theme park!"

Cady Goldfield
09-06-2011, 07:36 PM
This simply isn't true.

I'll say it again more clearly: The present day registration system does not have this information and it is illegal to look at old family registers which did have it.


I wish I could agree with you that it's no longer possible to track burakumin heritage, or that burakumin are no longer identified or discriminated against as a specific group. I know individuals who were indeed screened out as potential spouses expressly because of their buraku background.
Younger people are more likely to "intermarry" with burakumin, and the number of such marriages is growing, but their parents' generation (in their 50s and 60s) are still reticent and are less likely to approve of such a match. A survey of the population of Osaka in, I believe, 2007, revealed that 78% would consider marriage to burakumin to be "problematic"(from the Abduction Politics blog link provided below).

Though things have improved considerably, and in fact it is harder to access personal records now (it has been only 3 years since a new law was introduced to limit access to copies of family records @ city halls), it is still quite easy to do background checks on individuals, and even to get around restrictions on national koseki access -- and it is often done. My comment about checking a person out at city hall was just a bit of hyperbole to express the very real point that, even today, many Japanese families are bigoted against burakumin and will screen potential marriage matches to filter them out. It's amazing what lengths such people go through and how they find loopholes to obtain the information they want.

Here's an interesting snip from the Harvard Human Rights Journal: In 1968, after protests by the BLL to the Justice Ministry, the koseki ceased to be an item freely available for public perusal. Permission of the family whose vital statistics were involved became requisite, except that in infrequent cases, the permission of the Minister of Justice was sufficient. Unfortunately, refusing to grant permission to view one's family's records sets off an alarm, "suspicion is aroused," and usually a private detective is able to do other investigations, perhaps in the subject's hometown, to make a decision on his or her family background

In the mid-1970s, the Buraku Chimei Sokan, a contraband list of hisabetsu villages and districts along with the identities many of the families who lived in them, was published by some unscrupulous opportunists and made available for purchase by anyone who wished to buy it, and it was snapped up by countless individuals and corporations, including Toyota and Nissan. It raised quite a scandal and was quashed, but the list resurfaced years later on the Internet -- leaked onto an Internet chat site in 2006 -- and members of burakumin activist groups state that it is not hard to get hold of a copy even now.

That there would be this much interest today in determining who is "burakumin" is pretty damning evidence that the prejudice is still alive and kicking.

Anyway, here are some links to studies on burakumin history, current status, and other interesting information related to burakumin caste and other forms of discrimination in Japan:

A study in the Harvard Human Rights Journal:
http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/hrj/iss12/reber.shtml#Heading170

A 2009 interview with Shigeki Yasuda, of the Kyoto Buraku Liberation League:
http://www.japanvisitor.com/index.php?cID=419&pID=1976

An interesting blog (Abduction Politics) with anecdotal stuff as well as notes about recent research and data on the status of burakumin:
http://ishingen.wordpress.com/2007/04/06/burakumin/

Article on JapanProbe concerning the Buraku Chimei Sokan being leaked onto the Internet in 2006: http://www.japanprobe.com/2006/10/27/discrimination-list-leaked-and-a-story-from-my-personal-experiences/

New York International Law Review (2007): An assessment of discrimination in Japan (including Burakumin):
http://www.debito.org/canonpenceilrsummer07.pdf

###

Richard Stevens
09-07-2011, 09:03 AM
I have a few friends who are considered burakumin. They come from a family of lumberjacks who live in work up in a small mountain town in in northern Okayama prefecture. It took a few years, and plenty of shochu, but they eventually opened up about the societal stigma associated with their heritage.

All three of them dropped out of middle/high school to go to work to help support their families. Two of them ended up in the family lumberjack trade and the other is an auto mechanic.

They never told me any stories of being specifically persecuted because of their heritage, but they have made specific choices in life out of fear of being "discovered" as they put it. They very rarely venture out of their local environment and interact on a social level with others of their group almost exclusively. It seems that they've accepted that they are lower on the societal pecking order and try to operate within those constraints.

It turned out that the repair shop one of them worked for as a mechanic was a good friend of mine and was well aware that he was employing a burakumin. He told me that he would never let his employee know he knew he was burakumin, because he didn't want him to be uncomfortable. I asked him how he knew his employee was burakumin and he said, "around here, if they are dark and from the mountains, they are burakumin."

These are isolated cases in an isolated area and I want to make it clear that I am not implying that these examples are mirrored across the burakumin community as a whole. However, it's always interesting to hear someone's first hand experience with an issue.

Carl Thompson
09-08-2011, 02:18 AM
Looks like things have gone way off topic.

Japan is special in the sense that its racism is probably a result of several key factors that ARE unique to Japan.

But it is not special in the sense that it has racism. Nobody is saying that.

But I think we would be doing a service to people by showing them beyond the veil, and showing the real Japan, and to help them not see Japan as a place of rustic scenery, beautiful frolicking Japanese girls, very polite people, and sakura blossoms.

That was my point regarding problems manifesting differently. I don't object to people warning about their negative experiences of Japan if that is what you are saying. I agree that it can still be good advice. We could argue all day about what the "real Japan" is. Pointing out the negatives with exaggerated theories about the local ethnic/cultural group is the problem here.

I wish I could agree with you that it's no longer possible to track burakumin heritage, or that burakumin are no longer identified or discriminated against as a specific group. I know individuals who were indeed screened out as potential spouses expressly because of their buraku background.

I didn't say it was impossible to track Burakumin heritage by means other than what you stated. Nor have I said that the prejudice does not exist or cannot happen.

I disagreed that it is possible to "look at the registry at their city hall and deduce, from the villages and areas from which a person's ancestors came -- or sometimes even the Buddhist sect/temple to which they belonged " .

You have yet to prove that there are family registers available at city hall containing this information.

Your original "hyperbole" (http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/hyperbole) as you put it made out that discrimination in this way is a normal thing that families do in Japan. You didn't mention the need to look up illegal records or hire private detectives. You said it was "quite easy" to look at the family register in city hall. I agree that these new illegal methods you have described could work, particularly in an area that actually has a Buraku population. I disagree that this is easy or the first thing Japanese families do when their offspring has a date. To me it sounds significantly harder than just popping into city hall and paying a few thousand yen and it's unlikely to happen at all in areas with no Buraku communities or little awareness of them.

For example, the OP wanted to train in Tokyo. There are no Buraku communities in Tokyo (http://blhrri.org/nyumon/yougo/nyumon_yougo_02.htm). If you'd like to check the official surveys (not blogs), some people there have never even heard of the Buraku issue and the majority of those that have would not change their behaviour towards them. I would agree that it is more of a problem in other specific areas. One of my points is that the existence and extent of the problem should be represented correctly and not used to back up blanket assertions about an ethnic group or culture (bad nihonjinron).

I do appreciate that this is something you probably did not intend to do and that you have made subsequent attempts to clarify your meaning.

Carl

Cady Goldfield
09-08-2011, 10:50 AM
Carl, I think you are belaboring something that I thought had been clarified. As I pointed out in my previous post, I was using a touch of casual hyperbole when I referred to folks running to their local city hall to screen potential "undesireables" out of their kids' marriage prospects. I then went on to further clarify just how people actually do go about doing such research.

Again, the larger point is that it is still quite easy for such research. My clarification illustrated how that is done. It is an unfortunate reality that burakumin are still actively disdained, screened-for and discriminated against -- under the radar -- in Japan.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming. :)

Diana Frese
09-08-2011, 11:44 AM
Hi Cady,

Just a little background on our pre-Japan introduction to Japanese culture: The American Buddhist Academy on Riverside Drive in addition to having martial arts classes (kendo, judo, and possibly naginata at one time) and hosting the annual Obon Dance in Riverside Park (dancers wore yukata, except for the Tanko Bushi dance at the conclusion in which any spectators were invited to participate even if wearing regular clothes)

there were other events like possibly bingo and bazaars, I'm not sure, but I am sure there were Japanese movies every Saturday night, one Chambara Eiga (samurai movie) and one modern, and in the intermission an American style raffle of the ticket stubs....

This was way back in the late sixties I believe, and one of the modern movies was about the burakumin. The actor was very attractive looking probaby by any standards and it showed his suffering due to the prejudice. Unfortunately it was long ago and I don't remember the name of the movie or the names of the actors. And I'm not sure of the story line, but maybe he wanted to marry someone who was not burakumin, and that someone wanted to marry him but there was family opposition. Anyway, I think the hiding one's ancestry you mentioned was a theme, and the suffering such prejudice causes.... Well, hopefully you can somehow find the movie. All I am sure of is it seemed to be a "major motion picture" and it was probably the late l960's.

For "Senor Queso" going to Japan, I guess my points would be, you can learn a lot about Japan before going there, and you might be able to observe some delightful things when you get there. On a lighter note, we were at a summer camp and I heard a village festival passing through some trees on a path and they gave me a couple of rustic wooden drumsticks covered with plain pieces of pink cloth tied on with a string and let me beat the drum a couple of times. Sure I never became Japanese, and I was only there for a period of several months, but some people are remarkably willing to let foreigners share in the culture....

All the best, Daian (Japanese spelling I used there, given to me previously by Tai Chi friends from the Aikido dojo in NY....

Cady Goldfield
09-08-2011, 05:11 PM
Hi Diana/Daian (couldn't that mean "Great Tranquility"? What a lovely name that would be!),
Thank you for the lead about the movie. I'll see if I can track it. There are some literary works that have come out of the hisabetsu buraku, notably Kenji Nakagami's The Cape and Other Stories from the Japanese Ghetto. It's a kind of depressing collection of stories, but well-written. It has won some prestigeous awards in Japan.

I share your sense that many Japanese are open to sharing their culture with outsiders, and I truly believe that one can achieve a degree of acceptance -- perhaps even leading to being able to "blend in" -- within Japanese culture, if one finds the right niche and setting. Thanks to a quirk of fate, I may eventually be living there and spending my old age in a burakumin village, so it is helpful to hear from outsiders who have found such a niche in Japan.