Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
Paul Gaysford’s reflection on his life in Japan (“The joy of not being accepted,” April 18) felt familiar because it’s tone is congruent with similar ideas expressed repeatedly since Lafcadio Hearn. I remember the letter “Revel in being a misfit” (August 3, 1997) which was a reply to “Misfit foreigners in Japan” (July 13, 1997). The latter, by Tokyo resident Susan McCaffery, was a response to a spate of letters at that time related to the matter of foreigners’ cries of racism among Japanese landlords who rejected their tenant applications. But she moved the debate away from a mere consideration of rental difficulties associated with foreign tenants and towards a more existential consideration of foreigners’ misfit natures even in their home countries. She openly made the often privately ribald claim that at least some of us immigrate to Japan for being failures in our home countries. She didn’t probe the reasons other than to say that many of the foreigners she encountered here struck her as misfits of any society. The former basked in the charge.
Who we are and how we feel about ourselves are evolving things, and probably complicated because of it. But I agree with Gaysford’s pride in being a gaijin, and with the writer of “Revel in being a misfit” whom I am accustomed to defining by means of the perpendicular pronoun.
Published on Thursday, May 2, 2013 as “The image of ourselves in Japan.”
I was a little disappointed with the published letter because of the way it was edited for publication. My original letter was better written than what was printed. Names were deleted and the humor was removed. Of course, referring to letters printed so long ago is risky because they aren’t current. I am not very impressed, though, when people talk and write about old stuff as if it’s new. The sentiment of Paul Gaysford’s April 18th letter is nothing new under the sun.
I think the decision to run this letter now anyway is due to the recent story about Belgian university student Victor Rosenhoj, a student at Ryukoku University in Kyoto, whose failure to find an apartment because he is a foreigner was reported in “Student seeking Kyoto flat told: No foreigners allowed,” Tuesday, April 23, 2013 . Suddenly the topic is timely again.