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2012.02.27

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L

Your son is one of the cutest babies ever and it has nothing to do with nationality. He just is.

It must be hard dealing with the insular island mentality. I have never been to Japan although I am of Japanese descent and I appreciate your blog. It gives me a window into Japanese culture that I can relate to being 4th gen American.

But it is also a reality check - your son will face prejudice for being mixed. Those children (parents really) were ignorant and ill mannered and there will always be people like that no matter where you go.

My daughter is mixed and depending on where her travels take her in the world will depend on how much prejudice she experiences this even in her own country.

You're so right about it being the parents, not the child. The kid in this case obviously learned about being mean at home.

-Amy

kat

I also have a problem with the word "gaijin" and would rather they use "gaikokujin", seems to me a lot of the words in Japanese are racist, like how they call people of color "kokujin" which is literally black person.

Ooh, that's a tough one, because I don't know of an alternative to "kokujin". I think in a lot of countries "black" is a perfectly acceptable term.

-Amy

Vicki

My heart hurts for you as I read this story. I do think you're right to object to being pointed at and loudly commented on when you're out in public; that's just plain rude, regardless of what the child was actually saying. I hope some of your readers will have some tips for what you should do in this situation so that next time you'll feel better prepared. Japan is such a racially homogeneous society that you and Shuma DO need a strategy for dealing with these types of comments. My reading of many expat blogs for a number of years suggests that idiotic comments and assumptions are, unfortunately, not rare for families like yours.

You're right, we do need a strategy. I'm just surprised that I need it so soon!

-Amy

lil

In australia, the land of many races my 17m old toddler was playing with a same aged girl of inxian decent. Her grandpa came over and asked how old my daughter is. When he found out same age as his grandaughter he asked increxulously...why so weak?? I was shockedhe cojld ask that so i said excuse me? And he says do u understand english? Why your daughter so weak and small? Seriously some socially awkward penguins out there! And i picked up dd and walked away, i wish i had the indecency to ask why so ugly? Lol. Ur story highlights the ignorance, but also shows how shumas gonna have to deal with it one idiot at a time. Hes so freaking cute anyway so hell get it from pure jealousy of othera lol. Good luck! U can never prepare for outright rudeness

Yup, there are idiots and rude people from all over!

-Amy

Lori

Good for you! You have a right to be mad. Regardless of what word they chose to call him they were doing it in a derogatory manner. They should be corrected. You are your son's advocate and well done for sticking up for him. Regardless of your grammar or level of Japanese I'm sure they got the point. And why worry what they think? I know it matters, even though it shouldn't. I understand you want a pleasant environment at the park for you and your son. Unfortunately you may have to deal with this type of ignorance again. You don't need the approval of people like these. You do what's right and set a good example for your son and that's all you can do. Stay encouraged!

Yeah, I hate that I have to worry what others think, but like you said I do want a pleasant environment for my son and so I have to be pleasant myself. It's not that I need peoples' approval, but I don't want Shuma be be stigmatized for being the son of the mean crazy gaijin.

-Amy

Diana

So sorry to hear your bad experience. My only advice would be to teach sweet cute Shuma that being different is a good thing and make it something completely positive for him. That will help him a lot later on.
Also making him understand how stupid people who pick on others because of nationalities or looks is will help him lots.
And you too, take it positively! Once he starts understanding things give him lots of weapons such as to give rational arguments against bullies and be strong and proud of his heritage, to be friendly and open. Another weapon is humor, teach him to fight back with a witty word and turn the conversation around.
My baby is also mixed, and our nationalities are not even popular as yours, Iranian and Romanian, yet these are few things which I plan to teach her as she grows up. One thing which I will tell her is that each individual is not made up of looks and nationalities but of their own deeds, words and intelligence.
All the best to you guys, lots of love and please take it easy! No more tears! He will just be stronger and wittier than all of them :)

Thanks! I do have to make being biracial a positive thing for Shuma, but there's a fine line we need to be aware of. "Hafu" are considered cool by most and if he seems too proud people will dislike him for being a snob.

-Amy

suzy

That would have been so upsetting, and I remember getting so frustrated in Japan when I didn't have the words to say what I needed to & the sheer frustration would make me cry.

It sounds like a that was a really nasty little kid. I know "Gaijin" is an espeically fraught and potentially upsetting word, but if you were Japanese he probably just would have thought of something else rude to say. Unfortunately rude playground children seem to be an international phenomenon, I got called a "Bum Head" by a nasty kid in the park here last week when I asked him (nicely) to let my toddler past on the play equipment.

That is so true, kids like that will find something mean to say about anyone. But bum head? That's harsh!

-Amy

sherdie

It's so tricky. As a mixie I came to Japan as a teenager thinking that finally I would find a place where I would be accepted for that part of my heritage (after a not-particularly-awful but still a bit painful childhood of looking a bit different to the mainstream and all of that). I was wrong and it definitely caused me some heartache (so much so that I wrote a thesis on it!).

I think the idea of the Japanese nation is bound up in the idea that you are either Japanese or not, and if you're not 'fully' Japanese then you're completely not Japanese. I also think that's changing, so there's hope.

I suppose I've realised (a little sadly) that to many Japanese people, I'm really a gaijin who happens to have a mother born in Japan. But there's more and more people thinking about this and talking about it, and I like to think that every time I interact with someone who thinks in that way, I might be changing their mind a little bit about what it means to be Japanese and what it means to be mixed. It's extra tough for you because you're at the front line, and my heart goes out to you guys - but you should also know that I'm really inspired by you too!

KatK

If you haven't already, I'd urge you to make friends with other mixed couples with children. It's easier to deal with this stuff if there are other people in the same situation to commiserate, share strategies, hang out with. My friend with mixed kids lives in a pretty multi-ethnic neighborhood in Tokyo, and finds that that makes things a little easier.

Christy

My kids actually *are* foreigners, so when a little kid says, "Gaijin da", it's actually accurate. But it still isn't nice for my kids. But after years of going here and there with my kids, I can say that:

1) It hasn't happened so often, at least not so overtly. I have more often overheard kids saying covertly to their moms, "Eigojin da" or "Eigo no hito da", etc., or saying "Eigo da" when they hear us speaking English. Normally it's the age group around 4 to 6 that feels the need to comment.

2) Kids who say something maliciously have been *very* few and far between. The worst I can remember was a kid at swimming who used to shout, "Eigo dakara wakaranai!!!" when he heard me speaking with my son. We eventually won him over... and his family was nice.

It sounds like you ran into a particularly nasty kid-and-mom pair. There may not be much hope for them, but hopefully your reaction may have caused the other kids and moms there to think about how words can hurt when used like that.

Please don't worry about being the "crazy gaijin". It is stressful sometimes, and we all have moments like that.

You will probably have a lot more "teachable moments" with kids saying "gaijin" (but normally not in a malicious way) to Shuma, since to a little kid there is no way really for them to know he is not a foreigner, and they tend to blurt things out. Before long, lots of kids in the park will know him, and you will probably hear kids you know telling other kids, "No, he's not a gaijin! His name is Shuma. He's Japanese. His dad's Japanese!" or whatever. Just greet that nasty kid and/or mom like nothing happened, next time, and carry on playing. Then if he says something, you can do your teachable moment thing!! "Gaijin da, gaijin da, o yamemashou ne. Reigi tadashikunai shi, Jitsu wa, kono ko wa gaijin de wa nakute, nihonjin desu yo" or whatever. I wouldn't have high hopes for that one kid, though.. but it should get through to the other kids!!

And keep praising Shuma's differences to him, since kids do start wishing they looked more like everyone else, from a very young age. We had this experience with my younger son in Japan, and also with my older son when we lived in England (my kids are mixed white and Indian). At five, my older son told me he didn't like himself and wished he had pink skin like the other kids. We had not mentioned race to him until then -- a big mistake!!

Lean body Extreme

It's just like a game of pick up sticks. Or close your eyes and just point. Everyone is going to have a favorite.

ai

Hi Amy! I love your blog and visit often. Shuma is adorable.

I'm also like Shuma. Adorable. No, wait... :) Mom is north American, Dad Japanese, and I was raised just outside Tokyo.

I got pointed at when I was a kid too, as did my mother and sister. When I got old enough to understand this was a bad kind of pointing, I would get embarrassed. I *was* different... I *was* a gaijin... nooo! But then I grew up. And everything--the differences, the similarities, etc-- all luckily built my self-confidence.

I think the most important thing for any kid's self esteem is family support. If everything is okay at home, he'll be able to roll with the punches outside of it.

I think very rarely can we change the way others think.

You're probably already helping Shuma understand his identity, ie 'what' he is--a bit of you, a bit of your husband, a bit of Canada, a bit of Japan... i.e., something completely brand spanking new! He probably already understands that he's a bit different from other kids. But in a good way. In a special way. I don't think he thinks that is a problem... yet. He may learn that from someone else's actions/reactions though.

I thought your first attempt was great. If you have to say something, say it calm and collected. And if you can't find the right words for the slide-hoggers in Japanese, why not explain to your son what's going on? 'What nincompoops! They think you're a foreigner, when you and I know you have a Japanese passport! Oh well, Shuma, not everyone can be as lucky as you. High five!" High five optional.

But you get my drift, right? If it's okay with you, it's okay with Shuma. Here's the catch, though, I don't have kids on my own! So I'd love to hear what you think.

Good luck!

Grace

I feel terrible for you. But don't be so sad. There are just too many ignorant people in the world, and if you feel bad for stupid things they do, they win.

I grew up in China, a monoethic society like Japan. In that kind of environment one just don't get to learn the kind of culture sensitivity that's the norm in North America. But I think it is especially easy for most Japanese to label someone who is different from them, because Japanese society has such an innate concept of 'soto' and 'uchi'. By pointing out your outsider's differences it strengthen their own position on their own group. Even a little kid gets this concept. Granted a stupid loud-mouth kid in your case, but I think a kid learn from their adult role model.

This probably doesn't help you or Shuma, but it may be comforting to know that I don't think they are malicious toward you, but just stupid, ignorant, and blindly following social custom. Be strong.

Sylke

Hi Amy, this is something I so relate to - and I think you've got some really good comments and advice here from your readers!
I'm still waiting for my son to be called German in a bad way by other children. We blend in perfectly (a German family in the UK) and all speak pretty good English but obviously there are times people will notice, and children love to 'tease' each other. I haven't really experienced much prejudice myself luckily and whatever we get is usually said jokingly so I can live with it and just joke back. There is a number of foreign/mixed children in my son's school year and parents tend to be quite well educated in this area, so hopefully it won't be too bad when they get to the topic of WWII.
It's just so painful because at some point our children will have to fend for themselves and all we can do is hope that they can think of a clever reaction.

J. B. Rainsberger

I'm sorry that I don't have the ability to relate to this situation and offer you any sage advice tailored to it. I can only offer the usual platitudes: consider the source, cultural norms are often more different than we expect, sometimes you're always going to be an outsider. It doesn't really compare, but something similar happens in Atlantic Canada. You could live there 30 years, but you're always a CFA ("come from away"). To some people your last name is a sign of whether your belong -- if their great-grandparents didn't know your great-grandparents, then you're always kept just a little more at arm's length. I find it easy not to mind, because it's just Sarah and me -- no kids to worry about. When we're home, we stay home, and so this kind of ignorance doesn't affect us much. I feel bad that this invades your life, Shuma's and Hideaki's lives. It's such a complete waste of energy.

So I can only offer love, hugs, and sympathy. The Universe has decided that you need to practise indifference here. Good luck with that.

Ladylurker

Lurker here unlurking to chime in: kids point, stare and make impolite comments about people in every country. You have every right to be upset because it's racist and backwards, but remember that really what this kid said had nothing to do with you and your son. Rather, it was an unattractive reflection of the casual xenophobia that still exists in modern Japanese culture. As someone said above, the racial sensitively that exists in most of North America just hasn't happened in Japan yet. I mean, turn on the tv and the "English teacher" is a Japanese guy in a blond wig and big plastic nose, and sometimes comidians are literally in blackface because it's oh so hilarious and not one vapid person in the studio sees anything wrong with it. So that is where this kid and his parents get the idea that there is nothing strange or rude about pointing and yelling "gaijin!"

Your son is adorable and willprobably recieve a lot of positive and a little negative attention. People are ignorant. Don't let the ignorant xenophobes get to you, and when he gets old enough they won't get to him either.

Julie

I just have to say that your son is absolutely adorable!

You'll get ignorant comments pretty much anywhere. When I first came to Canada I went to the library with my nephew. He was playing with a little girl in the children's section. Her Dad came in and shouted very loudly that she could not play with him because he's black. Her Dad dragged her out of the library after that. I left the library in tears that day because it was the first time I had experienced such blatant racism. My nephew was the one consoling me... he said it happened to him all the time and you find out who the good people are. He was all of 4 years old at the time but he had so much wisdom.

I've gotten used to a lot since first coming here, but when it comes to my son - it bothers me too. My husband is Chinese and we've gotten all sorts of comments from all angles because it's not common for a mixed Jamaican woman to be married to a Chinese man. My son takes his cues on how to react from me, so I'm careful that he doesn't see me take anything personally. So far he's been taking things in stride.

Anyway, I guess my point is that people will comment, but don't let them get to you.

NL

we are vietnamese parents to 2 adult boys : through out their childhood , they have faced this kind of situation ,sometimes they were called chinese in a very mean way ...at first they tried to explain to people that they were not chinese but vietnamese , in fact they were french citizens but quickly , they noticed that people were just ignorant , they even couldn't manage to locate China or Viêt nam; So they ended up asking them how they would react if they were told they were german , belgium or else ...
Nowadays , they don't even bother to reply ....
What's left to do for you is to prepare Shuma to this . you have to explain that people are just ignorant .

NL

oops , I forgot to say that my boys are born in France and are currently living in France .

Jeanie

First of all, I have to say I love your blog. I loved all the food entries and since I have young kids too, I love hearing you talk about shuma on your blog. I think you're a great parent.

I completely understand how you feel! As a parent, we want to protect our children from suffering. And kids are so mean. Shuma is so lucky to have such loving parents who care so deeply for him. The Japanese way of not really disciplining and teaching your children is not great for teaching kids about the complexities of the world we live in. I try to tell my daughter, things like, in france, you would be expected to do things this way, but I think it's fine to do it this way.... etc.

We all know that the bratty name-calling kid will be the one to suffer from his mom's ignorance. Shuma is being raised to be a citizen of the world. Lucky Shuma!

I also have two hapa kids and they're being raised by me and my wife (two moms!) in San Francisco. I often fantasize about a family trip to Japan, but I can imagine many scenarios where I would be left fuming after hearing someone say something about my kids.

gabriella

Maybe partly because you were still unwell from having the flu, the whole situation was more difficult. We all feel more vulnerable when we are not feeling well.

Possibly if you had been feeling well and had the energy.....

um, drop kicked the kid....;)

mariko

What an awkward and horrible situation! You know, I bet Shuma wouldn't have been called out as a gaijin if he had been with your husband. I think people see you first then just assume Shuma is not Japanese. I know it's kind of tacky for me to say this, but I am guessing the boy who blurted gaijin is not particularly bright, and you know, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Shuma, I think, is going to be just fine. He is being raised in a warm and loving environment with lots of family, gaijin included!

Fiddlerchick

I know this isn't particularly constructive while your approach certainly was, but if it were me, I probably would have taken my child and left, glaring at them and audibly cursing them out, which I happen to have the fluency to do just as well in Japanese as in English. Not that it would have changed the outcome, but might perhaps have gotten the point across that such behavior is obnoxious and annoying.

The blatant pointing out and remarking on anything different from the homogeneous mass was so prevalent when I lived in Japan, recently for quite a few years in Tokyo, and earlier in Fukuoka and Yokohama, that I had always assumed it was considered perfectly socially acceptable there. In fact, I was taken aback more than once at being introduced to someone who without even so much as greeting me, opened with the statement (in Japanese or broken English): "You have long legs!" or "You have a tall nose!" My response was a polite, wan smile and "Hajimemashite" through gritted teeth, but after reading your post I realize that feigning shock, touching my nose and answering with "Ah, sou nan desu ka! Shiranakatta...." might have been more effective for educating the etiquette-challenged. And it wasn't limited to children, which I never much cared for having to interact with for that very reason. One time my (Japanese) husband (boyfriend at that time) and I were seated in a cozy bar in in Shin-Koenji (W. Tokyo) we were considering buying when an older couple came in and upon rolling back the door, the man pointed at me and bellowed, "Ah! Gainin da!" "Hallo!" Chi was mortified and I was of course disgusted, and then they sat down beside us and started asking Chi questions about me to which he replied, "Ask her. She speaks Japanese." That shut them up, and they actually had the grace to apologize when Chi and I got up to leave.

Your remark about getting more sensitive the longer you live in Japan makes perfect sense, as that stuff keeps building up over time. It sure got fatiguing being made to feel like a walking zoo exhibit whenever I left my home, and it really hurts me when I think about the constant living hell that children are routinely subjected to, and not only the "foreign" ones, but even the 100% ethnic locals when they don't happen to precisely fit their peers' definition of "normal". It's easier to cope with as an adult.

On the other side of this coin, I am at my wits' end trying to communicate to my husband (who doesn't speak much English and while well-mannered, is not "foreign-savvy") how extremely offensive and incendiary the word "nigger" is, which he sometimes uses to identify people of colour in the same way that the Japanese (benignly) use the word "gaijin" or "gaikokujin" to identify "foreigners". Even here in L.A. Even in SOUTH CENTRAL L.A. where we used to live! He just doesn't get it that there is absolutely no case in which use of the "N-word" is ever acceptable.

Final thoughts: I have found the Japanese in general to be every bit as ethnocentric and xenophobic as Americans are. That said, I have of course met plenty of exquisitely lovely Japanese people too. Not sure that was helpful, but it's my thoughts and experience with that touchy topic, and sorry this comment ended up almost as long as your original post! Very best wishes to you and your lovely family! Shuma obviously has a super-awesome mom on his side!

P.S. About the term "hafu", while on a trip with Chi's family to an onsen, I was mistakenly identified by a nearsighted elderly woman as a "nyuu hafu" (new half). That was so hysterically funny that it wasn't even annoying. It had everyone at our table rolling on the floor during dinner after the baths ;)

Margaret

I could feel your hurt and anger. I have a 15 month boy who is also mixed (I am Chinese Singaporean and hist father is Canadian), and I dread the day he will face such an ugly situation.

I think you are a great mom and have done everything you can. I love your blog and Shuma is absolutely adorable! I also love the fact that my boy and yours often have the same outfits (when you get gifts from your family in Canada, some of them are the same as the ones I got from family in Canada for my boy Francis).

Hope you had a nice holiday and looking forward to your next update.

crella

Argh! I'm so sorry that happened to you and Shuma. Peers won't see there's anything different until about 4 or so. It's older kids who can be a pain.

When responding to the nasty kind of 'gaijin da!' comment, I found repeating 'Sore de?' (and?) every time they said it put an end to stupid conversations quickly. They can't get a rise out of you, so it's no longer fun. They can't explain themselves either, and eventually give up.

Although I would like to try Kanpei's 'Doko ga?' 'Dare jya?' 'Doushite jya' routine just once...

Strangeattractor

That's a tough one.

I'm wondering if what you're upset about is not so much the name-calling (which is an issue) but the parenting style displayed by the Japanese moms. They didn't intervene in the name-calling, but they also didn't intervene in the water on the slide situation, except for the ineffective scolding you mentioned. You might be expecting, culturally, that they will intervene in ways that they aren't going to. Or if they do intervene, it might be in a way you don't like, as with the mother who hit the kid. Even if the other parents agreed with you that calling Shuma "gaijin" in that way was inappropriate, and had witnessed the event, do you think it would have changed the way they acted? From reading your story, I'm doubtful.

Sophie

Most of the people your son interacts with casually will probably not recognise him as Japanese. It's frustrating but I wonder if it will be harder for him if his identity gets caught up in constant arguments with strangers about whether or not he is Japanese, as though NOT being Japanese (like his mother)is something negative. I'm not trying to criticise you, I would probably have reacted the same way, I don't have children yet and I am just a random stranger on the internet XD I just wondered, from your story, what lessons he would have learned from the situation if he had been old enough to understand.

Michelle

I can certainly understand how you feel. My dad is Chinese and my mom is Japanese...I grew up in Singapore. So you would think I fit right in. Well, growing up I always felt not really accepted in either community. All my friends knew my mom was Japanese and treated me a little different. Not bad just different. My paternal grandma and aunts would point out any Japanese tourists they see and exclaim loudly "Hey, there's your people. What are they saying?"...really?? They definitely disliked the fact that my mom spoke Japanese to us. To help with our Japanese, my mom had us join a Japanese softball team. The kids treated us as Gaijin (foreigner)...the only kid who was nice to me was a girl whose mom was Swedish. She has it worse at school since she went to Japanese school and she looked Swedish...she eventually transferred to an American school. And Singapore is a country of multi-cultures.

I always found it funny when I tell my mom I wish my Japanese was more fluent, her response is that it's ok...you're not Japanese so they won't care if it's fluent. Not sure how to take her comments...

Anyway, my point is with yours and your husband's strong support, your son will grow up to be confident, well-rounded and more tolerant than other people around him.

Renata

Sorry to hear that... my husband is half Japanese, half English and he doesn't look like Japanese at all. But he 'feels' more Japanese than English. It's sad that even his Japanese grandmother call him 'Englishman' sometimes. He doesn't get really offended for being called Gaijin because he said that if you don't look Japanese in Japan you will be called Gaijin and that shouldn't be an offense but he wishes people knew he has some Japanese blood in him.
I guess when you live in a country where there is only one race and very particular features, this terms will always exist...

kate

I too have a 17month old baby, I am english and my husband japanese. We will be moving back to Japan soon and I worry about situations like this and how I will handle them and how I will teach my baby to be confortable and confident and strong against small minded people.
love reading your blog

Jena Lee Noguchi

Hi, Amy. I read your blog from time to time.. I found it when I was searching for how-tos on Umeshu last year. (Good news, it turned out great! :D)

I worry about reaching this stage, too. I'm American, though halfie myself (white and Amerindian) so I grew up being labelled by both sides and confused as to where exactly I was supposed to sit for lunch.. Now my son, who is half American and half Japanese, is 6 months old. He's very clearly "hafu" so I knoew it'll come up eventually.. but maybe if we stay here in Okinawa it's not such a big deal. There are loads of kids like him.
I think you did everything you could, and you're totally right in that the best you can do is raise him well and not to act like those kids or parents in the park. They can look at him all kinds of cross-eyed if they want, but it matters more that he's well behaved and well adjusted. (or at least better behaved than they were!)

re: fiddlerchick
I don't know how that works in the Hondo, but that sort of response (cursing and storming off) isn't very helpful in Okinawa. It just reinforces the "bad-mannered Gaijin" image that a lot of people already have. Rather we should show better courtesy than people like that. Not worth it to stoop below them to make a point.

Allie Mcneil

First off Shuma is a beautiful baby....he is a baby...and I think it is hard when kids and parents don't respond with empathy and kindness....to a baby at a playground...you are on a path with your son, you as a mom are the main person that will teach him to be proud of ALL his heritage and WHO he is....and as long as you treasure him and are proud of him, that is what will make a huge difference in his life. In the end he won't remember some of these incidents, but you will have to learn a response that you also can teach him. I had a baby that was huge, I mean it, off the charts, and constantly everywhere we went he was started at called names and mocked, I was stunned how insensitive people could be. But finally one time at a playground bigger kids called my "giant" names and my son, 4 at the time, turned and said" well, atleast I am not small minded, I know that being big is not a big deal".....I was so proud of him in that moment..he stood up for himself....and he walked away from the insults...he knew he did not have to stay and take it, or explain to them or make nice with them.....and he taught me, that sometimes people do act small minded, and when that happens, you just have to walk away...and carry on....Walk Tall....

So to both of you I say Walk Tall...Stay Strong....you both are beautiful...and well, other people are not always evolved, mature or well, kind....

Randi

Shuma is adorable, so freaking cute. Technically though, he is half Japanese and Half Canadian. I lived in Ontario, Canada for 7yrs and I was constantly referred to as The American. It wasnt said in a nice way either. It was downright rude. Are you teaching Shuma Japanese?

anya

aww what a story. i know how it feels. although i'm not japanese nor have i been to asia. I am middle eastern and my mother is french. i dont look french at all. i actually look exactly like my middle eastern cousins. i speak arabic and know the culture. growing up there still wasnt easy. I was always the foreign kid. it sucked. so my parents decided to immigrate to usa for a better life. it didnt help. although i had a perfect american accent and learned the culture quickly, i was stilllll the foreigner. but eventually as a female i learned to embrace it. as a young mother and wife I use my being 'foreign' to my advantage. it makes me exotic and thats who i am. i've realised that the hardest thing for me growing up was that my mother was going through her own struggle with being 'foreign' and she still is today. If she would have been confident and ignored the ignorant fools (who are probably jealous of your big eyes or hair colour) and embraced herself, it would have been so much easier for me. Its not like i was the only one. the most popular girl in my middle school back in the mid east had a british mom. the difference was her mom was proud of being brit and strutted her stuff. she embraced not being able to comunicate and turned it into a cute hand gesture language until she became fluent. Anyway, my point is stay strong for your sons sake. children radiate their parents emissions.(if that makes sense) And maybe one day when i get my dream trip to japan i'll bring my 2 year old daughter 'kenzi' to have a play date with your adorable son! lol.

i know this was unsolicited advise but I totally felt your point and had to share my experience!

I love your blog. i'm going to bookmark it and visit everyday. maybe it'll inspire me to get back blogging myself someday.

xoxo
anya and baby kenzi

Gina

I'm sorry to hear that you had a horrible incident in the park. We've experienced similar, but this kind of thing is rare. I'm lucky in that there is a park right outside our apartment and have no koen debut horror story to relate. Quite the opposite in fact so when I run into ignorant, rude Japanese mums it gets my back up.

As somebody mentioned above, the attitude of the mothers is what lies at the root of the problem. Ineffective discipline and an indifference to the bad behaviour is what stands out in my mind. The kids were just being kids.

Now my kids are bit older and can speak Japanese, they seem to have no problems fitting in and making friends. I haven't heard anybody refer to them as "gaijin" (my son is blond, too) or "hafu" for ages. When they were babies I used to worry that they would have a hard time because they looked different and could not understand Japanese. I am English and speak to them exclusively in English, which used to always get comments from people. "Eigo da!" Or people would assume that you would be sending your kids to an "American" school and I would have to explain that we are not American and the kids would go to Japanese school because they are Japanese. Sigh!

I think there will always be Japanese people who struggle to see the benefits of multiculturalism and multiligualism, but there are many that feel differently and embrace it as a positive thing.

You have a beautiful baby boy. Don't let other people's prejudices get to you. Easier said than done, I know!

Janet

As a daughter of a Japanese mother and American father post WW2, I have experienced this prejudice from both sides. I can see it now (in retrospect), that it was bigotry. But I never thought much of it as a child. I never associated or defined the word Gaijin as a trashy word. I guess what I'm trying to say mother to mother, is that your hurt is not felt by your son. He is not aware of it. Keep building his self esteem thru what you see in him. I am so very proud of both my heritages and so are my children. My blue eyed daughter gets many surprised responses when she tells them she is 1/4 Japanese. Only 1/4 but she is so proud of that 1/4!

Mona

It's bad in Japan but I think it's getting better.

After my friend's daughter attended a Japanese public school for four years, she moved back to France with her family because she couldn't stand the idea that her daughter would be singled out. There were a couple of incidents of a classmate picking on her. The PTA got involved and tried to ease things which helped a bit. My other friend who is Japanese placed his daughter at the international school after an incident at a playground where a boy made his daughter cry. She's in her thirties now and thriving in Europe.

Russell

Your experience sounds, unfortunately, all too common for Japan.

Have a read of this: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120501ad.html

がんばれ!

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