Today I read probably one of the most scathing accounts of Japan’s immigration policy that I’ve seen. It had a lot of very valid points about how unfairly people from South America or Southeast Asia have been treated under guest worker schemes. I do agree that Japan will have to “getdafukover” its gaijin-phobia if they are to even remotely maintain population levels, and I do have a healthy distrust for all of the registration and tracking that goes on here. But scroll to the bottom and you find that basically, the author, like many others who live here, is butt-hurt that simply existing in the country for long enough doesn’t automatically entitle him to any kind of continued special treatment, including preferential visas under the new points system which is portrayed in the article as an overarching qualification for everyone who tries to extend a visa… except the policy is un-apologetically elite and not meant for everyone. Then he whines about how he doesn’t qualify. Neither do I–yet. But I’m working on it.
I think a big contributor to long-termer’s culture shock in Japan is that, for the first two years or so (maybe more like five if you’re a straight Caucasian male), you’re treated like royalty–that is, until the point comes where one must proverbially shit or get off the pot. Leave, or start pulling your weight. Although I do have the grievances mentioned above, is it really so bad if a country prefers that its immigrants actually contribute something beyond being willing to settle for a boring, dead-end job that pays just enough for them to spend their weekends getting wasted at the local faux Irish pub whilst letting their dutiful Japanese wife handle all the big, bad kanji. And while we’re on that topic, heavens forbid anyone actually have to learn the language!! Nooooo!!! What an insurmountable barrier of discrimination! Nooooo! We should continue to be entitled to high-paying English teaching jobs in which we do dick-all just for having been born to English speaking parents in an English-speaking country! How DARE Immigration expect such basic levels of assimilation of us! As if the immigration policies of their home countries are the paragon of internationalism and tolerance (Arizona, anyone? Germany? Iceland?)
It’s not that we’re being treated differently from Japanese; it’s the shock of going from dancing on a red carpet to being treated exactly like them (i.e. expectation of contribution) that gets to us. They have hoops to jump through too, just as I would if I were to repatriate. Yes, I’ll be the first to admit to a bad case of recurring butthurtitis every now and then. We’re all susceptible. But you know what? Instead of whining about how unfair it is that we have to work twice as hard to be seen as half as worthy, maybe all we can really do is say “Challenge accepted.”