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Japan’s Fascination With Foreigners in Art

In many images from Japan, we can see the Japanese fascination with foreigners appearances. That’s why ancient artists created prints of foreigners, because they looked so different from the native Japanese that they had to document it. Japan has always been a homogeneous country so the fascination with foreigners continues even into modern day. As a foreigner, when you walk around Japan, especially the countryside, little children will point to you and cry out “gaijin”. (Gaijin is term for an outsider, one who is not Japanese.) Many people will want to talk with you as well because you’re clearly foreign and many will try out their English on you. Even if you’re, let’s say, French and don’t know English! This is amped up even further if you’re a foreigner whose African or Muslim (ie woman with a hijab). How can we still see this fascination with the foreigner? Just turn to Japanese pop culture. In dramas and animes, foreigners are always seem to be depicted with white-as-snow skin and long blonde hair or light brown hair. Or with a “hood” accent and large afro. Japan is still cut off from the outside world, not because they can’t access us, but because they choose not to. Hence the reason they design us foreigners with ridiculous caricatures in their media.

Screencap from Azumanga Daioh

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