“I have a hard time finding an apartment in Japan. And it’s because I’m a foreigner. My Japanese friends tell me people here are just shy or it’s because of something else. But I speak Japanese so I’m sure it’s not a language problem. When I lived in the countryside, I actually got the response: ‘We don’t accept foreigners.’ So I got depressed. Being rejected so many times is not fun. It didn’t help that nobody wanted to sit next to me on a bus, even when it’s crowded. Sometimes at stores, people panic when I say hello in Japanese and ask a question. That’s why I moved to Tokyo. At least most people here don’t care. But I still can’t get an apartment. I found this really good place and sent them an email. I was told the owner didn’t want foreigners in that place. So I’m staying at a shared house now.
Whenever I bring up this topic some people tell me to just go home if I’m not happy. But the reason why I stay is because I love Japan and I love my life here.
“I’m also surrounded by awesome people at work. I think if you criticize a place but decide to stay, it’s out of love. You can love a place and still find room for improvement. When you give feedback, it’s because you want to make something better. One time I took to social media about my situation. Then a random Japanese guy told me it’s only ‘normal to get rejected’ because I’m a foreigner. Turns out he actually owns properties and wouldn’t want me in his building. So it seems he was justifying that kind of biased practice because he himself is doing it.
“I’m French. I notice how places in France with no foreigners tend to be really xenophobic. When there are more immigrants, people learn to accept you. They realize you’re not such a bad person and we can co-exist. So my hope for Japan, especially for future generations, is for them to go abroad and experience what it’s like being a foreign person. When you come back, you’ll see us in a different light. I mean let’s face it, you’re not an island nation anymore.You have to deal with the world now. Isolation is a big myth that’s still being perpetuated. Let’s be more open-minded.”
(Lana is from Martinique, a French island in the Caribbean. Currently a PhD student at Tokyo University, she conducts research on artificial intelligence and artificial life. She thinks job automation from robots along with a universal basic income will benefit Japan in the long run.)