Gaijin (外人, [ɡai(d)ʑiɴ]; "outsider", "alien") is a Japanese word for foreigners and non-Japanese citizens in Japan, specifically non-Asian foreigners such as white and black people. The word is composed of two kanji: gai (外, "outside") and jin (人, "person"). Similarly composed words that refer to foreign things include gaikoku (外国, "foreign country") and gaisha (外車, "foreign car"). The word is typically used to refer to foreigners of non-Asian ethnicities.
Some feel the word has come to have a negative or pejorative connotation, while other observers maintain it is neutral. Gaikokujin (外国人, [ɡaikokɯꜜ(d)ʑiɴ]; "foreign-country person") is a more neutral and somewhat more formal term widely used in the Japanese government and in media. Gaijin does not specifically mean a foreigner that is also a white person; instead, the term hakujin (白人, "white person") can be considered as a type of foreigner. Kokujin (黒人, "black person") would be the black equivalent (but the term can also mean a leader of a clan in feudal Japan).
Etymology and history
The word gaijin can be traced in writing to the 13th-century Heike Monogatari:
Here, gaijin refers to outsiders and potential enemies. Another early reference is in Renri Hishō (c. 1349) by Nijō Yoshimoto, where it is used to refer to a Japanese person who is a stranger, not a friend. The Noh play, Kurama tengu has a scene where a servant objects to the appearance of a traveling monk:
A gaijin doesn't belong here, where children from the Genji and Heike families are playing.
Here, gaijin also means an outsider or unfamiliar person.
The Portuguese in the 16th century were the first Europeans to visit Japan; they were called nanbanjin ("southern barbarians"), and trade with them was known as the Nanban trade. When British and Dutch adventurers such as William Adams arrived in the early 17th century, they were usually known as kōmōjin ("red-haired people"), a term cognate to one used in modern Hokkien Chinese.
When the Tokugawa shogunate was made to open Japan to foreign contact after two centuries of self-isolation, Westerners were commonly called as ijin ("different people"), a shortened form of ikokujin ("different country person") or ihōjin ("different motherland people").
The word gaikokujin (外国人) is composed of gaikoku (foreign country) and jin (person). Early citations exist from c. 1235, but it was largely non-extant until reappearing in 1838. The Meiji government (1868–1912) further popularized the term, which came to replace ijin, ikokujin and ihōjin. As the Empire of Japan extended to Korea and to Taiwan, the term naikokujin ("inside country people") came to refer to nationals of other imperial territories. While other terms fell out of use after World War II, gaikokujin remained the official term for non-Japanese people. Some hold that the modern gaijin is a contraction of gaikokujin.
While all forms of the word mean "foreigner" or "outsider", in practice gaijin or gaikokujin are commonly used to refer to foreigners of non-Asian ethnicities. For example, other Asians such as ethnic Chinese and Koreans residing in Japan are not referred to as gaijin, but by their nationality directly, such as 星嘉波人 for Singapore or 印度尼西亜人 for Indonesia, however katakana versions are now more widely used ever since the end of World War II. Zainichi (在日), or for ethnic Chinese specifically, kakyō (華僑), are also used.
The term may also sometimes be applied to Wajin born and raised in other countries. Gaijin is also commonly used within Japanese events such as baseball (there is a limit to non-Japanese players in NPB) and professional wrestling to collectively refer to the visiting performers from the West who will frequently tour the country.
Japanese speakers commonly refer to non-Japanese people as gaijin even while they are overseas. Also, people of Japanese descent native to other countries (especially those countries with large Japanese communities) might also call non-descendants gaijin, as a counterpart to nikkei. This interpretation of the term as neutral in tone continues for some. However, though the term may be used without negative intent by many Japanese speakers, it is seen as derogatory by some and reflective of exclusionary attitudes.
While the term itself has no derogatory meaning, it emphasizes the exclusiveness of Japanese attitude and has therefore picked up pejorative connotations that many Westerners resent.— Mayumi Itoh (1995)
In light of these connotations, the more neutral and formal gaikokujin is often used as an alternative term to refer to non-Japanese people. Nanette Gottlieb, Professor of Japanese Studies at the School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies at the University of Queensland, suggests that the term has become controversial and is avoided now by most Japanese television broadcasters.
Gaijin appears frequently in Western literature and pop culture. It forms the title of such novels as Marc Olden's Gaijin (New York: Arbor House, 1986), James Melville's Go gently, gaijin (New York : St. Martin's Press, 1986), James Kirkup's Gaijin on the Ginza (London: Chester Springs, 1991) and James Clavell's Gai-Jin (New York: Delacorte Press, 1993), as well as a song by Nick Lowe. It is the title of feature films such as Tizuka Yamazaki's Gaijin – Os Caminhos da Liberdade (1980) and Gaijin – Ama-me Como Sou (2005), as well as animation shorts such as Fumi Inoue's Gaijin (2003).
Foreign residents in Japan
|Look up gaijin in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Look up gaikokujin in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- List of terms for ethnic exogroups
- Alien (law)
- Japanese abbreviated and contracted words
- Sonnō jōi
- The 13th-century pronunciation of the characters 外人 is debated; it may have been kotobito (ことびと), udokihito (うどきひと) or gwaijin (ぐゎいじん). The spelling gaijin is used here for continuity.
- Lee, So im (2006). The cultural exclusiveness of Ethnocentrism: Japan's treatment of foreign residents. New York: iUniverse. p. 102.
Foreigners are called gaijin or gaikokujin in Japanese (...). Gaijin or Gaikokujin commonly refers to racially different groups, and foreigners from Asian countries are called by words that add jin to the counrty's name, for example, Chosen (Korean) jin for Koreans in general, including both North and South Koreans.
- March, Robert M. (1992). Working for a Japanese company. Tokyo: Kodansha International. p. 41.
Today, gaijin has a more truly international meaning, including blacks as well as whites
- Ferguson, John (1988). The Berkeley Undergraduate Journal. Berkeley: University of Berkeley Press. p. 33.
The 'gaijin,' or the foreigners who have either white, brown, or black skin, are often considered separate from the Oriental
- Satoshi, Ishii (2001). "The Japanese Welcome-Nonwelcome Ambivalence Syndrome toward "Marebito/Ijin/Gaijin" Strangers: Its Implications for Intercultural Communication Research". 13. Japan Review. pp. 145–170.
whites and blacks are socially categorized as gaijin
- Onoda, Natsu (2009). God of Comics: Osamu Tezuka and the Creation of Post-World War II Manga. Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi. p. 167.
There are categories such as hakujin (literally 'white people') and kokujin ('black people') within the gaijin category
- Suzuki, David (1990). Metamorphosis: Stages in a Life. Toronto: Stoddart. pp. 282-283[, dead link], .
To people in Japan, all non‐Japanese—black, white or yellow— are gaijin or foreigners. While gaijin is not derogatory, I find that its use is harsh because I sense doors clanging shut on me when I'm called one. The Japanese do have a hell of a time with me because I look like them and can say in perfect Japanese, 'I'm a foreigner and I can't speak Japanese.' Their reactions are usually complete incomprehension followed by a sputtering, 'What do you mean? You're speaking Japanese.' And finally a pejorative, 'Oh, a gaijin!'
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- "外人". Kōjien (5 ed.). Iwanami. 1998. ISBN 4-00-080111-2.
がいじん【外人】① 仲間以外の人。疎遠の人。連理秘抄「外人など上手多からむ座にては」② 敵視すべきな人。平家一「外人もなき所に兵具をととのへ」
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- 正法眼蔵随聞記 (1235-1238):[...]衆中ニ具眼ノ人アリテ、外國人トシテ大叢林ノ侍者タランコト、國ニ人ナキガ如シト難ズルコトアラン、尤モハヅベシ
- 鳩舌或問 (1838): されとこれらの事情は容易に外国人に知らせし事ならねは
- Gottlieb, Nanette (2005). Language and Society in Japan. Cambridge University Press. pp. 117–8. ISBN 978-0-521-53284-6. "Gaikokujin is uncontroversial and simply means a person who does not hold Japanese citizenship; it is the more common contracted version that has been the subject of irritated complaint: people may be pointed at by children and have the word gaijin either shouted or whispered though this is much less common in Japan today than it was thirty years ago. At a deeper level, though, it is the connotation of exclusion and oddity that irks, particularly when the term is combined with the adjective hen na to mean 'peculiar foreigner,' a term once often heard on Japanese television shows. The term gaijin itself is included these days by most broadcasters on their list of terms best avoided."
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gaijin second world war.