Disadvantages In Japan As An Asian American

Japanese Culture & Photography
4 min readOct 12, 2020
Asian American Living in Japan for 4 years total

One of the struggles of an Asian American living in Japan is the fact that he/she is assumed to be Japanese the exact opposite of a Caucasian living in Japan. While some people find that this is a good thing, others find it to be negative. Of course there’s the fact that you can speak Japanese whenever people talk to you which helps with the learning Japanese but it also comes with the expectation that you speak perfect Japanese.

I am a Chinese American who was born and raised in Hawaii. My mother tongue is of course English and I started speaking Japanese when I was in intermediate school. Just like most Chinese Americans, I am unable to speak Chinese at all but I can understand a little. I first moved to Japan 5 years ago and studied abroad a Keio University located in Tokyo for 1 year. After graduating college and working at JTB in Hawaii, I returned back to Japan in 7/2017 and have worked here ever since. I took over 30 interviews until I finally landed a job. I noticed that the interviewer would always ask me if my parents are Japanese or what part of Japan my family is from.

The expectation that I speak perfect Japanese because I look Japanese comes with various disadvantages. I worked at a Japanese company and when I talked to business partners sometimes they are very rude. The reason for this is that they think that I haven’t been educated enough or that I am purposely being rude. This occurs not only in the business field but also when making friends as well.

I even applied with a Japanese American friend to teach English with AEON but we couldn’t pass. I found out later that the reason for this is because AEON has Japanese customers who complain that they are not getting a quality English lesson. It is like if you were to learn Japanese from a Caucasian or a Chinese teacher. One of my Asian American friends is actually trying to become a voice actor and model in Japan but she is having difficulty because she doesn’t look foreign. That’s why we have model agencies in Japan that only hire Caucasians. Asian Americans have it more difficult in applying to both English teach jobs and also Japanese jobs.

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Japanese Culture & Photography

Japanese culture, food, sightseeing spots, and photography. Tokyo based Asian American professional photographer born and raised in Hawaii.