I touched on this in my post about cultural appropriation and Japan studies, but one of the reasons I got irritated in Japan with the constant “where are you from?” questions, especially if they occurred before anyone really heard my accent, is that they indicated that I couldn’t be from Kanazawa–and even then, it was still awkward. The idea that I had to be from a foreign country because I’m white bothered me, because although it’s true that I was neither born nor raised in Japan, it’s a burden that the children of my friends and coworkers raised in Japan have to bear.
Kanadajin3′s “White Japanese People – 白人系日本人” is video with commentary from several white people raised in Japan and the challenges they face as racial Others. The video is bilingual and very well done, highlighting the perceived connection between race and nationality in Japan. Don’t think that Americans and other nationalities don’t do this, too–see “What kind of Asian are you?” for a great response to Americans who do this. That still doesn’t make it okay in Japan–it means we need to think more seriously about how subtle and insidious racism can be.
I’d love to see more stories, especially from non-white minorities in Japan. Also, don’t read the comments.