By Rei Tanotsuka, 30 May 2019
The Land Down Under to The Land of Rising Sun
So I came to Japan on 19th July 2001, from a splintering winter in Australia to mid summer heat in Japan. A whirlwind adventure for me at that time, which saw me packing 60 packets of ‘healthy’ (low fat) Maggi noodles in a suitcase along with all my worldly possessions – clothes…..lots of them. I had bought my plane ticket, secured a job with NOVA, and had $300 in my Australian bank account accessible in Japan.
English Conversation Schools in Japan
NOVA, for those of you who are not familiar with the English conversation school (Eikaiwa) industry, was one of the largest employers of native English speaking nationals at that time.
NOVA hired a motley crew of foreigners from every industry, gave them an apartment, a one week training course and officially told them, ‘Congratulations, you are now qualified to teach!’ It did not matter that they were a mix bag of desperate young and old western men looking for a multitude of hookups with the local women, nor it did matter if they were western culture missionaries with an intent to change the Japanese into Americans. The only qualifications were that you had to have a pulse and be a native English speaker.
I was an accountant in Australia. I worked for a little while in a national bank, then for the Australian Government as an auditor. Those jobs did not fit my personality or temperament at that time, so I skipped the country and opted for something much more lucrative (at that time anyway) and fun…….you will eventually learn that taking the easy route, always ends up being the hardest.
Meaning of Woke
When people use the ‘woke’ expression, a term originating from the African American community, it meant to have ‘taken the red pill’ which enabled you to see the truth. If you follow social media, it has now morphed into minority groups suddenly realising that in fact, the discrimination against them has been valid all along ie. Candace Owen, Kanye West, Dave Rubin and Every Asian American who has a YouTube channel.
I am an Australian with an Asian lineage. I grew up on a steady diet of feminism, western values variegated with eastern principles and an Australian vernacular which allowed me to express my myopic opinions proudly. I was adamantly sure I was right, after all, weren’t Australian values universal?
Trigger 1: Identity. Terminated.
After a brief stint at NOVA, I changed companies and started working as a ‘dispatch or soccer ball teacher’ (constantly bouncing from one place to another for work).Through my company, I was assigned work at a high school in Japan.
The High School
I had to work in a small team comprised of 3 main teachers and half a dozen Japanese co teachers. The decisions however, were to be made by 3 people. The main Japanese teacher who was the English department coordinator, an American teacher, who was stationed full time there, and me, on a part time schedule.
The Japanese teacher did not like me in the least. The saga of that episode in my life I will detail in another blog. I thought the American teacher and I got along famously but alas, that friendship was only construed from my end. A charred experience of misplaced confidence in what a friendship should entail. Back to the trigger…..
So, the American and Japanese teacher decided without me, that all the students needed a western nickname in order for them to feel more ‘comfortable’ with the language. I did not object at that time because I didn’t see any thing wrong with it.
I was very easy going back then and never wanted to rock the boat. Not socially, not professionally. I only expounded my life philosophies at home where I knew, despite how crazy I may actually be, I will always be loved.
So we set the plan in motion and gave every student a choice of western nicknames which they could choose from a names list. Every student was fine with the idea, except for one girl. She would have been, maybe 13 – 14 years old at that time. She did not want a western nickname. I was teaching her along with the Japanese teacher who didn’t like me, when the confrontation occurred.
The Stand Off
After all the other students chose their nick names, the student remained seated. I asked her to come and chose a name, she shook her head. Then the Japanese teacher lost her patience and demanded she take a name. She refused again. I then said to her that it was okay if she didn’t want a nickname but the Japanese teacher said no, she must take one. She then proceeded to shout at the girl til she started crying. I was rendered impotent at the time, I did not know how to behave, I did not know what else to say.
After that debacle, we had a staff meeting and I asked the American and Japanese teacher to maybe make it optional rather than mandatory to have a western name. They both fired back at me and asked what’s the big deal? I was really easy to intimidate back then because I didn’t want to lose my job and the Japanese teacher could ask for me to be replaced. I then asked the American teacher if she ever studied another language, she said yes. She studied Spanish in high school and Japanese in university. I asked her if she ever had to change her identity to learn the languages, she said no.
That was the first time I understood what it meant to be, for lack of a better term, colonised. It means not having any rights to exercise the option of not giving up your identity, you are coerced to by authorities you cannot override.
Imagine, if during adolescence, a time when you are asserting and discovering who you are in your world, to have teachers tell you, you will be who ever they decide you should be. Any notion that you have the power, to one day voice your opinion and have that matter, is quickly aborted.
Foreigners, especially those who carry western values always lament how subservient and indecisive the Japanese are but they are never willing to admit that they had a hand in shaping them.
Click here to see SCAPIN -16 where the Allied Powers censor free speech in Japan after World War 2. The reverberations of this, is still felt in 2019 where there is almost no negative news regarding Western countries, especially American.
I often think about that girl……she would be a young woman now. I meet a lot of adult students and quite a few would openly admit to not liking English. I wonder how big a role we play in forming that opinion with our self perceived superior Western values in conjunction to the actual fact, that learning anything is difficult.
To read trigger 2, please click here . False Idolisation and demonisation.
To read trigger 3, please click here. Unchangeable Human Nature
8 comments on “Getting Woke – Triggers that will change your perspective”Add yours →
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Unbelievable from what I am reading.
I may as well write the same story as you though your prose is more academic.
I have experienced White Racism of the Australian kind from the day I was born and so was my father before me.
Thank Christ, it has stopped affecting my two grown children, a son and a daughter.
I am an overseas born Chinese from Papua New Guinea born before WW2 and my family have undergone privations and hardship of the kind you would not believe from the hands of the Australian overlords.
I can write a book on my life story.
I find I have much in common with you and I loathe the incumbent government for its racism and misgovernment.
I like to be your friend and co-communicator.
Hi Richard, I thought you my story would resonate!
My parents are Singapore and Malaysian and I was raised in Australia. I never had issues with being discriminated against in Australia, not because it didn’t happen, but because it was expected.
Now in Japan? This wasn’t expected at all. The Western supremacy continues here, none of the smug pompous attitude has dwindled with them becoming a minority.
I have so many stories it’s not funny.
I think you have alot to say too. My advice? Do it. It’s cathartic to express yourself in an unbridled way.
If you don’t want to start up a blog but want to say something, lmk. I will post it here. You can a contributor writer.
Please keep in touch! Any ideas you come up with to raise awareness, I’m all ears!
I like what I’m reading. Very interesting. Keep up the good work, I’ll have to try and return to explore your efforts more. I have an Irish name but am not Irish, so know a little about how it feels to be reverse “colonized”, if such a term even exists. Thanks for posting.
Interesting, you have an Irish name but you are not Irish, please explain.
Thank you, Rei for your encouragement, support and solidarity.
I admire your writing and your courage in calling out racism for what it is and those for who they are.
You are a truly humanitarian doing good for all people and the world and to boot, you are not ashamed to be called or known as Chinese, the same and I which in my younger Catholic College days often thought and wondered why if God is a God of Justice, wtf did he make me a Chinaman to be the butt of racism and racist jokes and jibes.
I have been writing a whole of shit on FB and no longer interested in Quora because I felt threatened by its biased goon moderators who are anti-China and Chinese who with the stroke of a mouse can wipe hours of my burning the midnight oil to write and craft my posts.
May you grow in greatness and fame and may the force goes with you.
Nice to hear from you again! I have read your posts and frankly, keep at it. I’m glad you are literally going at every mishap the West is making!!!
Quora has edit banned me AGAIN, and yes, I really am getting sick and tired of them.
When I return I will only post in my own space. We need to continue to raise awareness and PLEASE don’t drop out, of Quora completely, but start flagging the assholes. If they flag us, flag them! We either ALL don’t get the right to be heard, or we all do.
Don’t let them take away your voice. Even if you choose not to write anymore, FLAG ANY RACIST POSTS and report the writer. This is what they are doing to us, return the favour.
I read your post from beginning to end (obviously absorbed in it) but still unable to tell your ethnicity or gender, despite the many prompts like your name and the picture of the Japanese woman with an umbrella. I guess I am like you eager to write but finding it hard to locate an ideal platform (meaning become a published writer). I, too, have mixed background, (pre-Malaysia born now living in New Zealand). To me, racism is part and parcel of being born in the past couple of centuries. We live in a materialistic age and materialism (science, capitalism) are basically Western inventions and fortes. But the age is coming to an end now. Now we find Chinese better at inventions and giving the West a run for their money. I believe that eventually (and not too long into the future) we will have a spiritual civilization with materialistic augmentations or supplements. People will be masters and not slaves to material things. There will be no more fighting or hating. They know there is a universal God, not necessary from any existing religious settings. What we are going through is the storm before the calm.
I’m an Asian Australian woman who is married to a Japanese guy. My mum is Singaporean and dad is Malaysian.
The best way to start, is simply to start. You will find your voice pretty quickly.
Let me know if want to speak. We can talk for free via ZOOM, SKYPE or LINE