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Approach of Japanese people to foreigners.

This is my first blog post. I would like to discuss my thinking in regard to the approach of Japanese people to foreigners. When I talk of foreign countries here, I am referring to all countries other than Japan. Also, Japanese people refers to average, typical Japanese people, so please bear in mind that there will, of course, be many different people to those described below.
I would like to say this at the outset to prevent any misunderstandings, but I love foreign culture. Foreign culture, including tourism, food, clothes, movies, and work, are deeply entwined with, and support, my everyday life.

Personally, I believe that the approach of Japanese people to foreigners differs greatly depending on “whether money is involved or not”.
Japan is a developed country, but the speed of its economic growth is slow. For this reason, Japanese people are very grateful for the fact that many foreigners are visiting Japan, purchasing large numbers of items, and revitalizing the economy. In Tokyo, stores targeting foreign visitors have been established in many areas, and Japanese corporations are putting effort into trade that will please foreigners. In terms of trade, Japan is sending a “love call” to foreigners.
However, in areas other than trade, their approach to foreigners appears somewhat cold. We often hear of foreigners being ignored when asking directions on the street or being stared at and made to feel uncomfortable. I almost never hear of Japanese people actively speaking to foreigners in the town.

Based on this, foreigners may think that Japanese people have the selfish approach of “wanting money in terms of trade, but wanting foreigners to keep their distance outside of trade”. Do Japanese people dislike foreigners and foreign culture? The answer is “No”.
In fact, so many Japanese people like foreign culture that it makes me wonder whether such a liking for foreign culture exists in any other country. Foreign culture here refers specifically to tourism, food, apparel, movies, and artists. There are an extremely high number of stores with foreign themes in Tokyo. This is because there are many Japanese people that love foreign culture and are prepared to pay a lot of money to experience that for themselves. When foreign restaurant chains and apparel brands open in Japan, the fact is instantly reported in the news. Instagram contains many posts saying “I ate there right away” or “I already bought something there”.

In that case, why is it that Japanese people seem to adopt a cold stance toward foreigners? I think the causes of this are that Japanese people are shy and lack sufficient English ability.

It is often said that Japanese people are shy. In particular, they keep their distance from people that they do not know. As a result, many people feel bewildered when spoken to by foreigners. I would like to discuss these national traits in more detail on another occasion.

Next, there is the issue of English ability. It is also often said that despite being a developed country, Japan is a country with an overwhelmingly small number of people who can speak English. I think the reasons Japanese people find English difficult compared to people in other developed countries relate to educational policy and economic circumstances.
Let me first discuss educational policy. English education in Japan is seen as being for the purpose of “understanding university entrance examination questions”. The thing primarily required for university entrance examinations is reading ability. Listening ability is also needed, but this is much less important than reading ability. The ability to speak English, which is so important for communications, can be said to be virtually irrelevant. The result is that very few Japanese people can hold a conversation using English.
Next, let us look at the economic circumstances. Japan is a relatively affluent country, so a certain amount of revenue is created through only domestic trading. There are people who trade by using English to do business overseas, but the ratio of this population is low compared to other countries. In summary, in many cases, it is possible to do business without any problem, even if you cannot speak English at all. The result of this is that the necessity to learn English is low at a national level.

What I would like to communicate to foreigners is this. “Do not mistake Japanese people even if their approach seems cold. Japanese people actually want to enjoy having conversations with you. However, as they are shy and cannot speak English well, they are forced to respond in a very blunt way”. I think that there are many Japanese people who, if they could speak English well or were not shy, would enjoy having conversations with foreigners.
I believe that whereas there are currently foreigners who are enjoying Japanese things and services, very few foreigners come to Japan to enjoy people. I think that this is a shame and very sad.
Japan is trying to review and change educational policies related to English. To increase the population of those who do business using English, we need to put effort into educating people in a way that enables them to speak English. In 10-20 years’ time, I expect there to be many people in towns enjoying speaking English to foreigners. A day will definitely come soon in which foreigners can enjoy interacting with Japanese people. I hope you can wait a little longer, without despairing of Japan.