June 21, 2024

As Japan debates what to do about overtourism, social media is filled with images of foreign inbound tourists behaving like jackasses. These eye-catching stories support the belief that only foreigners are responsible for the worst manner violations.

However, as some people in Japan point out, citizens shouldn’t be left off the hook. Indeed, some argue that foreign tourists imitate what they see Japanese citizens doing.

The myth of the well-behaved Japanese person

A sign in Japanese warning people not to pee in the Meguro River – which happens at least often enough that it warranted a sign. (Picture by the author)

With over three million people visiting Japan from abroad every month, there are bound to be more than a few bad apples. Indeed, over the past years, we’ve had reports of tourists doing everything from clogging up streets to punching out locals.

But is it just foreigners breaking the rules?

There’s a perception outside of Japan that “everyone in Japan always follows the rules.” But this is an urban legend verging on a weird sort of reverse racism. Japan is made of people – and people are capable of anything. The key is whether they think they can get away with it.

The fact is that, most of the time, you can’t get away with it. Japan is well-known for its relatively low crime and safety. (That excludes sexual assaults, sadly, which are chronically underreported.) There are several factors that contribute to this. First, there are cops and cameras everywhere. Second, committing a serious or even a not-so-serious crime can lead to ostracism and loss of employment. Just ask the guy who lost his job for pouring a large convenience store coffee into a regular-sized cup.

Spend any amount of time here and you’ll see everyone – nationals and foreigners – bending the rules when they think no one’s looking. From dangerous cyclists to people sleeping/urinating in the street to illegal garbage disposal. And that’s not even getting into the crimes committed by the country’s politicians.

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Foreigners to Japanese: We learned it by watching you!

As someone who once went after Logan Paul for his antics here, I can’t say I’m displeased when badly behaved foreigners draw negative attention for their outrageous acts in Japan. On the other hand, it does create a perception that it’s only foreigners violating Japan’s wa.

Some Japanese commentators are challenging that perception. Writing for News Post Seven, writer Miyazoe Yuu talks to a TV director who creates video segments for Japanese TV programs. Lately, a number of these fall into the “tourists behaving badly” genre. However, when he’s gone on scene to record one segment, he’s noticed something that’s taken him aback.

“When I go to a tourist spot in Kyoto or a shopping center in Tokyo to check it out, the ones getting drunk and tossing garbage are mostly Japanese people. Foreigners see that and gladly drink or smoke on the street. Now, there are few foreign tourists doing that. But there’s no doubt they’re influenced by and imitating Japanese people.”

Hearing this, Miyazoe went out themselves to Roppongi, Shibuya, and Shinjuku to observe. They report during the day seeing none of the behavior from foreign tourists that news programs lately decry. However, the evening was a different story.

One Canadian that Miyazoe talked to was excited to be drinking and smoking on the streets of Roppongi. “There are few other developed countries where you can do this,” he exclaimed. He says he feels he’s just imitating the behavior of Japanese people he’s seen in the area.

Some in Kyoto also blame the locals

A geisha walks in kimono down a Kyoto street, a paper umbrella obscuring her face.

Miyazoe also interviewed a 50-year-old Kyoto sushi shop owner, Mazda Yoko (pseudonym). Kyoto has seen its fair share of manners violations, especially in the form of people trespassing on private streets in the geisha district of Gion. However, Mazda says her own thinking has shifted lately.

“At first, I mistakenly thought it was foreign tourists not protecting Japanese manners or tossing garbage….But the more I observed, the ones causing a riot, tossing trash and leaving it behind were mostly Japanese. Foreigners will laugh while filming the garbage and then later leave behind the plastic coffee bottles from which they drank.”

Mazda says when she’s asked foreigners to pick up after themselves, they’ve done so with apologies. They thought that, because Japanese people did it, it was fine, she said.

A 60-year-old Japanese chef in Roppongi put it even more bluntly: “I say there are bad foreign tourists because there are bad Japanese people.”

Sources

全国各地で浮上するオーバーツーリズム問題 訪日外国人たちだけが問題なのではなく「そこにダメな日本人がいる」. News Post Seven

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