Gai外 – Koku国 – Jin人 is the Japanese word for foreigner and can be literally translated as outside 外 – country 国 – people 人.
As everything in Japan gets streamlined and shortened, e.g. personal computer → pasocon, pocket monsters → pokemon, unless it is deeply revered and given the polite respect of a full title, the Japanese often shorten gaikokujin to simply gaijin, i.e. outside people.
Whether intentionally or not, this expression captures something true about the attitude of many Japanese people towards foreigners; namely that of an insurmountable difference.
For many, the outsider is more than just from outside of the country, but rather outside of humanity itself, which they consider to be only Japanese.
As in America, the outsider is referred to as an alien by the immigration services, but in this homogenic society, unlike in America, the outsider is actually seen as so otherworldly that many consider them impossible to integrate, regardless of how well they learn the language and adapt to the culture.
The Japanese national identity values the group above the individual and often considers individualism to be in bad taste. It’s not about you, it’s about how well you fit into the group and contribute to its harmony. And as they say, the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.
In this country, the great homogenising force of schooling considers even a naturally dark brown shade of black hair too rebellious to permit, and requires some children to dye their hair black in order not to stand out.
These demands of physical uniformity are of course unattainable to other ethnicities and, on some level, they are therefore eternally excluded.
Yet this position outside of the group is actually quite a comfortable one. The fear that seems to drive a lot of the conformity is unfounded, there are no predators hunting down those that stray from the pack.
And the view from outside, free from the social pressures and expectations, bears a lot of insights invisible to those within.
The “gaijin forever” could be highly valuable to Japanese society by suggesting improvements and demonstrating viable alternatives for those, and there are many, that feel trapped and stifled within.
This what gaijinforever.com is all about. Constructive criticism is an expression of love and far more valuable than sanctimonious praise. The intention is to improve life for the wonderful people of Japan, especially those for whom the current setup is just not working out..
Very usefull articles! I hope that the Japanese people also accept them.