Japan Talk 1: Is there a Gaijin Pecking Order in Japan?

By Donald Ash | Japan Talk

Video Transcript

Hey, this is Donald with the thejapanguy.com and welcome to the very first session of Japan Talk. Just really quick, what I want to do with this…the Japan Talk Videos, posts, etc. are gonna be purely about discussion: topics that may be a little bit touchy here in Japan, things that I read in my comments section or things I might come across on the web, things that I think we can have interesting discussion/feedback about. That way people can be get a better idea of what’s really going on here.

I try to keep things positive but living here, it’s not always gonna be positive. There are gonna be things that will be bit tough people, a little bit weird for people, and that’s the kinda stuff I wanna talk about as well. I wanna try to make my blog my, my YouTube channel, etc. a platform for that [discussion].

My question to you today is:

Is there a Gaijin Pecking Order Among Foreigners in the Workplace?

For those of you who don’t know the word gaijin (外人|がいじん*), it means foreigner in Japanese. What is my personal opinion? My personal opinion is…it depends on the company. For some companies, there ABSOLUTELY is a pecking order when it comes to foreigners, 100%, hands down. I’ll give you two different examples:
*Gaijin (外人|がいじん) is a shortened version of the word Gaikokujin (外国人|がいこくじん)


Two years ago I decided to stop teaching to do the acting and modeling thing full-time here in Japan because I was starting to get more and more work. It didn’t turn out well because I was still a little bit too far from Tokyo and even now, I just made it a part-time thing. If I’m able to go to these kind of jobs I go, but if not, I don’t worry about it.

I had some decent months, and I had some months that were really bad financially. If I was in my early 20’s maybe it would be cool. I need to make money and start thinking about family and the future. So I decided to go back and get a regular job.

I don’t know if it was my timing or what, but I had the most difficult time finding a job. When I tell you I sent out at least 30 applications, I’m not joking (it was probably more than that). And it wasn’t me just sending off emails. I was calling, I was going to offices, I was doing interviews in Japanese, just trying to get anything I could get. Even when the interview would go well…it was just a tough time. 

Running down this checklist [of things that might be wrong] the first thing I thought was “Okay, maybe it was my recommendations.” No! I had glowing recommendations from everyone that I asked.They even let me read them before they sent them. So I had great recommendations from good sources. I think I had about four strong recommendations. And they were current! So that wasn’t the problem.

Was it my resume? I didn’t really think so. On my resume I had plenty of experience, I had already had 4 years of teaching experience here in Japan at the time (more now). I taught in the U.S. as well, so I had plenty of experience. That wasn’t the issue.

If your resume is good, if your recommendations are good, why can’t you get a job? I really started to wonder about that.

One thing I do not like about the whole Japanese job application process is that they make you send pictures. They make you send pictures of your face along with your resume. I’m sure they’ll come up with excuses to tell you why they make you do it, but I don’t like because I think it’s a way for Japanese companies to weed you out. That’s my personal opinion. I really do believe that.

The way I know it happens is because I played Devil’s Advocate. I was just so frustrated at that point. I thought “you know what? I’m gonna change the picture and name and see what happens.”

I found a royalty free photo of a Caucasian man in a suit.

So I changed the name, I didn’t change anything else about the resume. I changed the face, changed the name and I kid you not, within a day’s time, maybe even sooner…12-14 hours? I had gotten two or three calls back from the very same companies I applied to as myself.

Now, it could be a coincidence, MAYBE! But, that was my first experience that really made the red flags go up for me. That seems kinda weird to me. I asked the companies about it and they were like “We have black people that work for us…” Right. Okay. Then why is it that I never even had the chance to interview? I understand you taking me out of the process based on an interview or something. If I screw up on the interview, that’s my fault. If I have just as much experience, if my recommendations are just as good as anyone in your applicant pool, why did I get weeded out? I think it was based on the pictures.

That being said. Those are isolated companies. There are definitely companies here that do it. But that is NOT to say there aren’t good companies here. There are some really good companies that don’t discriminate at all.

I never felt discriminated against when I was working for Interac
I never felt discriminated against when I was working for JIEC.
Or some of these other companies that do ALT work. Interac. I never felt discriminated against when I was working for Interac. I felt underpaid! But I never felt discriminated against.


Outside of teaching, like modeling and entertainment, I do think there’s a pecking order. But there’s a pecking order in the U.S. as well. There are just gonna be more roles for certain kinds of people. But when it comes to entertainment, it’s a little bit different than say teaching or something like that.

In either case, I don’t really get mad at it. That’s those people’s money, that’s those people’s job. They control it. They do what they wanna do with their money. And whether they tell you you’re gonna do it or not is kind of on them. “Yeah, yeah, We don’t like you because you’re black…” they’re not gonna say that to you. They’re not gonna be like “We’re gonna hire you because you’re white.” They’re not gonna say that. You’re not gonna see what’s going on behind the scenes or in someone’s head. It’s just gonna happen.


Do you think there’s a pecking order among foreign professionals in Japan?

Share your thoughts in comments section below!

I’ve had this discussion with people, some people say it’s true. To an extent, I believe it’s true.

Well I gonna stop rambling because I really really really really wanna hear what you think. In your opinion, and you can be as vocal as you like/say as much as you want or a simple answer, but I want you to answer.

Is it more beneficial to be a white male or female that it is to be a black male or female, a hispanic male or female, Chinese male or female? Any foreigner that is not Japanese.

Please leave your comments and share. Thanks a lot guys…bye.


About the Author

Donald Ash is an Atlanta, Georgia-born, American expat who has been living in a Japanese time warp for the last eleven years. While in that time warp, he discovered that he absolutely loves writing, blogging, and sharing. Donald is the creator of thejapanguy.com blog. Wanna know more about this guy? Check out his "What's Your Story" page.

  • Tricia says:

    Hey, I am happy you have new posts! I hope you are doing good now. If you have a new teaching job,please share more stories because I really missed it. I am sorry if you were treated that way, I hope it won’t affect your resilience.

    • thejapanguy says:

      Tricia. Thank you so much for your kind words! I appreciate them more than you know. I’m doing okay these days. That whole thing happened quite some time ago and it took me a while to even consider writing about it. For a while it really did bother me, but I realized that the frustration I was feeling was just keeping me in a bad place. So I used the bad experience as a way to learn and adapt, and as fuel to blog about. I’m glad to be blogging again, too! 🙂

      Thanks again for the words of encouragement.

      P.S.-While I’m not teaching in the traditional way right now, I do get to interact with kids on a regular basis and I will be sharing my stories along the way. Cheers!

  • Charlotte says:

    I think in the entertainment business there is a pecking order anyway, especially in America. I don’t think this is to do with being a gaijin. There was a black American guy in my small town in Japan and he was always loved by the locals. There was this baseball themed bar that flat out refused to let us in, but would always welcome him with open arms.

  • Everybody knows a Black guy that works for a company or school, or a Brotha that’s made it on TV or modeling, or something else in Asia. However, there are many that suffer with qualifications, while under-qualified Whites (some that don’t even have degrees or don’t speak English as their native language) that use Asia as a playground of women and easy money to escape their lives back home. There certainly is a racial pecking order in Japan, all of Asia, and this entire world. There are exceptions and there are a few “reversals”, but in general, White is on top, Black is on the bottom. White = good, Black = bad. This is why White guys still slay with Japanese girls even after Julien Blanc, but Black guys will be celibate for months after some Black guy does something heinous.

    • Cuddles says:

      It’s such a relief that the Japanese don’t pander to your whining banter as North America does. It was such to see quite blacks for once, but as always they screw up at the office.

      Unintentionally offending students with their usual African American cultural traits and most of all with their incompetence (lateness, lack of knowledge and poor judgement).

      Now if you think it’s better elsewhere? Forget it! They absolutely loathe Blacks and Arabs in all of South Easy Asia to the point of openly insulting them with monkey references and chants in public! I’ve seen it in person!

      Work on learning how to be a human being with manners, that’ll help you immensely.

      • Yet you whites, latinos, etc. get away with almost anything there. As far as incompetence, lack of knowledge, lack of teaching ability, and lateness, I saw it firsthand in China practiced by whites that knew that they could get away with almost anything. There are several forums where white foreigners brag about this issue. Of course, given the positions that we are in and our relationship on this earth, I expect such banter from you ad your ilk. Seeing this time and again makes me callous towards the few times when whites really are victims.

        • Cuddles says:

          I don’t believe a word you say and I believe Chinese even less. I could care less that you pity whites just as long as you feel unwelcome in Asia like everywhere else.

          At least the Entire planet is getting firsthand knowledge and experience from Bantu (especially American negro) incompetence and ineptitude. At least they know whites weren’t exaggerating and making it up.

        • Cuddles says:

          Strike 3 Go fuck yourself

          • Cuddles you don’t scare anybody with that.

            Just a person sitting behind a computer screen, letting their fingers run wild.

            You’re being blatantly racist, offensive and demeaning to everybody you’ve talked to in this thread.
            Your comments are doing absolutely NOTHING to provide value to this discussion.

            I sincerely do not want (or need) you here in any way, shape or form. Please take that silly ass, “I can hide behind this avatar and say whatever I want,” nonsense somewhere else.

            Your racist bullsh%t is truly not welcome here.

            Good riddance

          • Cuddles says:

            Bing? Didn’t you get the last message? Go fuck yourself porch monkey.

          • Before I hit the blacklist button, I just wanted to say that I’m so sorry…

            I know why you have all this anger towards me and why you’re demeaning the people here…

            Cuddles, Being violently a%s-raped as a child isn’t something you have control of per se (Donnie snickers). I’m sure your insides probably still hurt, hence the lashing out. It’s okay…I know it’s hard…let the pain go.

            The GOOD NEWS is that there are great medical facilities that can stitch you up good as new and there are psychiatrists to help you deal with the mental trauma.

            Godspeed my friend, Godspeed (Donnie can’t hold anymore…BWAAHAHAHAHAH!)

          • Cuddles says:

            Oh by the way your black hide is even more worthless over here american negro.

          • Hate to disappoint you bro, but I’m doing quite well for myself over here.

  • sleepyhead says:

    It’s a fact that there is a pecking order, but who is really doing the pecking? Most of the recruiters I have come across recruiting in the education field are whites. Never had a Japanese only interview. Some private schools have a preference for white males, as they use it as a lure for getting women clients/students. Most are opportunities for jaded Japanese men and women to seek prospective partners. Some attend with the hope of forming a relationship. The schools that are really interested in education have no pecking policy, and these are few and far between.

    Where it concerns children, a white guy will be a lure for single mothers, which is a catalyst for enrolling their kids and possibly hitting it off with the guy. More money for the company. Whites are supposed to be rich and are gentlemen in the eyes of Japanese females. Japanese women are becoming enlightened about this farce, but there seems to be an underlying force pushing this ‘white better’ train of thought.

  • Cuddles says:

    Get used it to it. The world (whether European influence or not) is always geared to lighter features, whether it’s East Asia, India or Africa.

    You’re from people who were sold by fellow Africans because your ancestor happened to be from an opposing ethnic group. You also have between 15~20% Ulster Scots ancestry maybe some English. In that sense you’re similar to Afrikaans speaking Coloureds in mixing but not ethnicity.

    That is how the world will always be the more contact people of the world have with your people the more they’ll dislike you. An example of that is your constant bellyaching about perceived or imagined slights.

    • Bullitt says:

      Your writing is almost unintelligible, but, from what little I can decipher, you appear to have some idiotic (and demonstrably false) ideas.

      • Cuddles says:

        You can’t understand because it offends your sensibilities. Like other leftist you’ll never accept reality, it goes against all the rubbish you learnt in your gender/ ethnic studies courses.

        You sound like the usual white fools who yearn to sacrifice their well being for the Coloureds of the world. So as I now know what you, your blithering comments are irrelevant.

      • Cuddles says:

        Your grammar is atrocious by the way. Layoff off the bong for at least a week.

  • Bullitt says:

    Yes, there is certainly discrimination here. But in my experience, it is not as bad (or at least as overt) as it is in China. I lived in China for 10 years before moving to Tokyo and heard some straight up Mississippi-in-1930 type thinking (I’m a white guy, so people would often feel comfortable sharing some remarkably vile viewpoints with me). It’s so commonplace that most Chinese people don’t even feel the need to sugarcoat their racism (you never hear people say rubbish like, “I don’t mean to racist but, [insert racist comment]”; they just come out and say what they mean).

  • Cool as Cucumber says:

    New here, just wanted to say your videos are amazing. Keep up the good work~ Hope you have a great future waiting for you because you seem to be a very decent person. I bet you were a great English teacher because you speak so eloquently. Best wishes to ya~ You are still young so get out there and kick some butts~!

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